Isaiah 14

1The Lord will certainly have compassion on Jacob;
The sentence begins with כִּי (ki), which is understood as asseverative (“certainly”) in the translation. Another option is to translate, “For the Lord will have compassion.” In this case one of the reasons for Babylon’s coming demise (13:22b) is the Lord’s desire to restore his people.
he will again choose Israel as his special people
The words “as his special people” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
and restore
Or “settle” (NASB, NIV, NCV, NLT).
them to their land. Resident foreigners will join them and unite with the family
Heb “house.”
of Jacob.
2Nations will take them and bring them back to their own place. Then the family of Jacob will make foreigners their servants as they settle in the Lord’s land.
Heb “and the house of Jacob will take possession of them [i.e., the nations], on the land of the Lord, as male servants and female servants.”
They will make their captors captives and rule over the ones who oppressed them.
3When the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and anxiety,
The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
and from the hard labor which you were made to perform,
4you will taunt the king of Babylon with these words:
Heb “you will lift up this taunt over the king of Babylon, saying.”

“Look how the oppressor has met his end!
The word in the Hebrew text (מַדְהֵבָה, madhevah) is unattested elsewhere and of uncertain meaning. Many (following the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa) assume a dalet-resh (ד-ר) confusion and emend the form to מַרְהֵבָה (marhevah, “onslaught”). See HALOT 548 s.v. II *מִדָּה and HALOT 633 s.v. *מַרְהֵבָה.
has ceased!
5 The Lord has broken the club of the wicked,
the scepter of rulers.
6 It
Or perhaps, “he” (cf. KJV; NCV “the king of Babylon”). The present translation understands the referent of the pronoun (“it”) to be the “club/scepter” of the preceding line.
furiously struck down nations
with unceasing blows.
Heb “it was striking down nations in fury [with] a blow without ceasing.” The participle (“striking down”) suggests repeated or continuous action in past time.

It angrily ruled over nations,
oppressing them without restraint.
Heb “it was ruling in anger nations [with] oppression without restraint.” The participle (“ruling”) suggests repeated or continuous action in past time.

7 The whole earth rests and is quiet;
they break into song.
8 The evergreens also rejoice over your demise,
Heb “concerning you.”

as do the cedars of Lebanon, singing,
The word “singing” is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. Note that the personified trees speak in the second half of the verse.

‘Since you fell asleep,
Heb “lay down” (in death); cf. NAB “laid to rest.”

no woodsman comes up to chop us down!’
Heb “the [wood]cutter does not come up against us.”

9 Sheol
Sheol is the proper name of the subterranean world which was regarded as the land of the dead.
below is stirred up about you,
ready to meet you when you arrive.
It rouses
Heb “arousing.” The form is probably a Polel infinitive absolute, rather than a third masculine singular perfect, for Sheol is grammatically feminine (note “stirred up”). See GKC 466 #145.t.
the spirits of the dead for you,
all the former leaders of the earth;
Heb “all the rams of the earth.” The animal epithet is used metaphorically here for leaders. See HALOT 903 s.v. *עַתּוּד.

it makes all the former kings of the nations
rise from their thrones.
Heb “lifting from their thrones all the kings of the nations.” הֵקִים (heqim, a Hiphil perfect third masculine singular) should be emended to an infinitive absolute (הָקֵים, haqem). See the note on “rouses” earlier in the verse.

10 All of them respond to you, saying:
‘You too have become weak like us!
You have become just like us!
11 Your splendor
Or “pride” (NCV, CEV); KJV, NIV, NRSV “pomp.”
has been brought down to Sheol,
as well as the sound of your stringed instruments.
Or “harps” (NAB, NIV, NRSV).

You lie on a bed of maggots,
with a blanket of worms over you.
Heb “under you maggots are spread out, and worms are your cover.”

12 Look how you have fallen from the sky,
O shining one, son of the dawn!
The Hebrew text has הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר (helel ben-shakhar, “Helel son of Shachar”), which is probably a name for the morning star (Venus) or the crescent moon. See HALOT 245 s.v. הֵילֵל.
What is the background for the imagery in vv. 12–15? This whole section (vv. 4b–21) is directed to the king of Babylon, who is clearly depicted as a human ruler. Other kings of the earth address him in vv. 9ff., he is called “the man” in v. 16, and, according to vv. 19–20, he possesses a physical body. Nevertheless the language of vv. 12–15 has led some to see a dual referent in the taunt song. These verses, which appear to be spoken by other pagan kings to a pagan king (cf. vv. 9–11), contain several titles and motifs that resemble those of Canaanite mythology, including references to Helel son of Shachar, the stars of El, the mountain of assembly, the recesses of Zaphon, and the divine title Most High. Apparently these verses allude to a mythological story about a minor god (Helel son of Shachar) who tried to take over Zaphon, the mountain of the gods. His attempted coup failed and he was hurled down to the underworld. The king of Babylon is taunted for having similar unrealized delusions of grandeur. Some Christians have seen an allusion to the fall of Satan here, but this seems contextually unwarranted (see J. Martin, “Isaiah,” BKCOT, 1061).

You have been cut down to the ground,
O conqueror
Some understand the verb to from חָלַשׁ (khalash, “to weaken”), but HALOT 324 s.v. II חלשׁ proposes a homonym here, meaning “to defeat.”
of the nations!
In this line the taunting kings hint at the literal identity of the king, after likening him to the god Helel and a tree. The verb גָדַע (gada’, “cut down”) is used of chopping down trees in 9:10 and 10:33.

13 You said to yourself,
Heb “you, you said in your heart.”

“I will climb up to the sky.
Above the stars of El
In Canaanite mythology the stars of El were astral deities under the authority of the high god El.

I will set up my throne.
I will rule on the mountain of assembly
on the remote slopes of Zaphon.
Zaphon, the Canaanite version of Olympus, was the “mountain of assembly” where the gods met.

14 I will climb up to the tops
Heb “the high places.” This word often refers to the high places where pagan worship was conducted, but here it probably refers to the “backs” or tops of the clouds. See HALOT 136 s.v. בָּמָה.
of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High!”
Normally in the OT the title “Most High” belongs to the God of Israel, but in this context, where the mythological overtones are so strong, it probably refers to the Canaanite high god El.

15 But you were brought down
The prefixed verb form is taken as a preterite. Note the use of perfects in v. 12 to describe the king’s downfall.
to Sheol,
to the remote slopes of the pit.
The Hebrew term בּוּר (bor, “cistern”) is sometimes used metaphorically to refer to the place of the dead or the entrance to the underworld.

16 Those who see you stare at you,
they look at you carefully, thinking:
The word “thinking” is supplied in the translation in order to make it clear that the next line records their thoughts as they gaze at him.

“Is this the man who shook the earth,
the one who made kingdoms tremble?
17 Is this the one who made the world like a desert,
who ruined its
The pronominal suffix is masculine, even though its antecedent appears to be the grammatically feminine noun “world.” Some have suggested that the form עָרָיו (’arayv, plural noun with third masculine singular suffix) should be emended to עָרֶיהָ (’areha, plural noun with third feminine singular suffix). This emendation may be unnecessary in light of other examples of lack of agreement a suffix and its antecedent noun.
and refused to free his prisoners so they could return home?”’
Heb “and his prisoners did not let loose to [their] homes.” This really means, “he did not let loose his prisoners and send them back to their homes.’ On the elliptical style, see GKC 366 #117.o.

It is unclear where the quotation of the kings, begun in v. 10b, ends. However, the reference to the “kings of the nations” in v. 18 (see also v. 9) seems to indicate that the quotation has ended at this point and that Israel’s direct taunt (cf. vv. 4b–10a) has resumed. In fact the references to the “kings of the nations” may form a stylistic inclusio or frame around the quotation.
As for all the kings of the nations,
all of them
The phrase “all of them” does not appear in the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa.
lie down in splendor,
This refers to the typically extravagant burial of kings.

each in his own tomb.
Heb “house” (so KJV, ASV), but in this context a tomb is in view. Note the verb “lie down” in the preceding line and the reference to a “grave” in the next line.

19 But you have been thrown out of your grave
like a shoot that is thrown away.
Heb “like a shoot that is abhorred.” The simile seems a bit odd; apparently it refers to a small shoot that is trimmed from a plant and tossed away. Some prefer to emend נֵצֶר (netser, “shoot”); some propose נֵפֶל (nefel, “miscarriage”). In this case one might paraphrase: “like a horrible-looking fetus that is delivered when a woman miscarries.”

You lie among
Heb “are clothed with.”
the slain,
among those who have been slashed by the sword,
among those headed for
Heb “those going down to.”
the stones of the pit,
בּוֹר (bor) literally means “cistern”; cisterns were constructed from stones. On the metaphorical use of “cistern” for the underworld, see the note at v. 15.

as if you were a mangled corpse.
Heb “like a trampled corpse.” Some take this line with what follows.

20 You will not be buried with them,
Heb “you will not be united with them in burial” (so NASB).

because you destroyed your land
and killed your people.
The offspring of the wicked
will never be mentioned again.
21 Prepare to execute
Or “the place of slaughter for.”
his sons
for the sins their ancestors have committed.
Heb “for the sin of their fathers.”

They must not rise up and take possession of the earth,
or fill the surface of the world with cities.”
J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 1:320, n. 10) suggests that the garrison cities of the mighty empire are in view here.

22 “I will rise up against them,”
says the Lord who commands armies.
“I will blot out all remembrance of Babylon and destroy all her people,
Heb “I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant” (ASV, NAB, and NRSV all similar).

including the offspring she produces,”
Heb “descendant and child.”

says the Lord.
23 “I will turn her into a place that is overrun with wild animals
Heb “I will make her into a possession of wild animals.” It is uncertain what type of animal קִפֹּד (qippod) refers to. Some suggest a rodent (cf. NASB, NRSV “hedgehog”), others an owl (cf, NAB, NIV, TEV).

and covered with pools of stagnant water.
I will get rid of her, just as one sweeps away dirt with a broom,”
Heb “I will sweep her away with the broom of destruction.”

says the Lord who commands armies.
Having announced the downfall of the Chaldean empire, the Lord appends to this prophecy a solemn reminder that the Assyrians, the major Mesopotamian power of Isaiah’s day, would be annihilated, foreshadowing what would subsequently happen to Babylon and the other hostile nations.
The Lord who commands armies makes this solemn vow:
“Be sure of this:
Just as I have intended, so it will be;
just as I have planned, it will happen.
25 I will break Assyria
Heb “to break Assyria.”
in my land,
I will trample them
Heb “him.” This is a collective singular referring to the nation, or a reference to the king of Assyria who by metonymy stands for the entire nation.
underfoot on my hills.
Their yoke will be removed from my people,
the burden will be lifted from their shoulders.
Heb “and his [i.e., Assyria’s] yoke will be removed from them [the people?], and his [Assyria’s] burden from his [the nation’s?] shoulder will be removed.” There are no antecedents in this oracle for the suffixes in the phrases “from them” and “from his shoulder.” Since the Lord’s land and hills are referred to in the preceding line and the statement seems to echo 10:27, it is likely that God’s people are the referents of the suffixes; the translation uses “my people” to indicate this.

26 This is the plan I have devised for the whole earth;
my hand is ready to strike all the nations.”
Heb “and this is the hand that is outstretched over all the nations.”

27 Indeed,
Or “For” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
the Lord who commands armies has a plan,
and who can possibly frustrate it?
His hand is ready to strike,
and who can possibly stop it?
Heb “His hand is outstretched and who will turn it back?”

The Lord Will Judge the Philistines

28 In the year King Ahaz died,
Perhaps 715 b.c., but the precise date is uncertain.
this message was revealed:
Heb “this oracle came.”

29 Don’t be so happy, all you Philistines,
just because the club that beat you has been broken!
The identity of this “club” (also referred to as a “serpent” in the next line) is uncertain. It may refer to an Assyrian king, or to Ahaz. For discussion see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:331–32. The viper/adder referred to in the second half of the verse is his successor.

For a viper will grow out of the serpent’s root,
and its fruit will be a darting adder.
Heb “flying burning one.” The designation “burning one” may allude to the serpent’s appearance or the effect of its poisonous bite. (See the note at 6:2.) The qualifier “flying” probably refers to the serpent’s quick, darting movements, though one might propose a homonym here, meaning “biting.” (See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 1:332, n. 18.) Some might think in terms of a mythological flying, fire breathing dragon (cf. NAB “a flying saraph”; CEV “a flying fiery dragon”), but this proposal does not make good sense in 30:6, where the phrase “flying burning one” appears again in a list of desert animals.

30 The poor will graze in my pastures;
The Hebrew text has, “the firstborn of the poor will graze.” “Firstborn” may be used here in an idiomatic sense to indicate the very poorest of the poor. See BDB 114 s.v. בְּכוֹר. The translation above assumes an emendation of בְּכוֹרֵי (bekhorey, “firstborn of”) to בְּכָרַי (bekharay, “in my pastures”).

the needy will rest securely.
But I will kill your root by famine;
it will put to death all your survivors.
Heb “your remnant” (so NAB, NRSV).

31 Wail, O city gate!
Cry out, O city!
Melt with fear,
Or “despair” (see HALOT 555 s.v. מוג). The form נָמוֹג (namog) should be taken here as an infinitive absolute functioning as an imperative. See GKC 199-200 #72.v.
all you Philistines!
For out of the north comes a cloud of smoke,
and there are no stragglers in its ranks.
Heb “and there is no one going alone in his appointed places.” The meaning of this line is uncertain. בּוֹדֵד (boded) appears to be a participle from בָּדַד (badad, “be separate”; see BDB 94 s.v. בָּדַד). מוֹעָד (moad) may mean “assembly” or, by extension, “multitude” (see HALOT 558 s.v. *מוֹעָד), but the referent of the third masculine pronominal suffix attached to the noun is unclear. It probably refers to the “nation” mentioned in the next line.

32 How will they respond to the messengers of this nation?
The question forces the Philistines to consider the dilemma they will face – surrender and oppression, or battle and death.

Indeed, the Lord has made Zion secure;
the oppressed among his people will find safety in her.
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