Isaiah 29

Ariel is Besieged

1Ariel is as good as dead
Heb “Woe [to] Ariel.” The meaning of the name “Ariel” is uncertain. The name may mean “altar hearth” (see v. 2) or, if compound, “lion of God.” The name is used here as a title for Mount Zion/Jerusalem (see v. 8).

Ariel, the town David besieged!
Heb “the town where David camped.” The verb חָנָה (khanah, “camp”) probably has the nuance “lay siege to” here. See v. 3. Another option is to take the verb in the sense of “lived, settled.”

Keep observing your annual rituals,
celebrate your festivals on schedule.
Heb “Add year to year, let your festivals occur in cycles.” This is probably a sarcastic exhortation to the people to keep up their religious rituals, which will not prevent the coming judgment. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:527.

2 I will threaten Ariel,
and she will mourn intensely
and become like an altar hearth
The term אֲרִיאֵל (’ariel, “Ariel”) is the word translated “altar hearth” here. The point of the simile is not entirely clear. Perhaps the image likens Jerusalem’s coming crisis to a sacrificial fire.
before me.
3 I will lay siege to you on all sides;
The Hebrew text has כַדּוּר (khadur, “like a circle”), i.e., “like an encircling wall.” Some emend this phrase to כְּדָוִד (kedavid, “like David”), which is supported by the LXX (see v. 1). However, the rendering in the LXX could have arisen from a confusion of the dalet (ד) and resh (ר).

I will besiege you with troops;
The meaning of מֻצָּב (mutsav) is not certain. Because of the parallelism (note “siege works”), some translate “towers.” The noun is derived from נָצַב (natsav, “take one’s stand”) and may refer to the troops stationed outside the city to prevent entrance or departure.

I will raise siege works against you.
4 You will fall;
while lying on the ground
Heb “from the ground” (so NIV, NCV).
you will speak;
from the dust where you lie, your words will be heard.
Heb “and from the dust your word will be low.”

Your voice will sound like a spirit speaking from the underworld;
Heb “and your voice will be like a ritual pit from the earth.” The Hebrew אוֹב (’ov, “ritual pit”) refers to a pit used by a magician to conjure up underworld spirits. See the note on “incantations” in 8:19. Here the word is used metonymically for the voice that emerges from such a pit.

from the dust you will chirp as if muttering an incantation.
Heb “and from the dust your word will chirp.” The words “as if muttering an incantation” are supplied in the translation for clarification. See the parallelism and 8:19.

5 But the horde of invaders will be like fine dust,
the horde of tyrants
Or “violent men”; cf. NASB “the ruthless ones.”
like chaff that is blown away.
It will happen suddenly, in a flash.
6 Judgment will come from the Lord who commands armies,
Heb “from the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts] there will be visitation.” The third feminine singular passive verb form תִּפָּקֵד (tippaqed, “she/it will be visited”) is used here in an impersonal sense. See GKC 459 #144.b.

accompanied by thunder, earthquake, and a loud noise,
by a strong gale, a windstorm, and a consuming flame of fire.
7 It will be like a dream, a night vision.
There will be a horde from all the nations that fight against Ariel,
those who attack her and her stronghold and besiege her.
8 It will be like a hungry man dreaming that he is eating,
only to awaken and find that his stomach is empty.
Or “that he [or “his appetite”] is unsatisfied.”

It will be like a thirsty man dreaming that he is drinking,
only to awaken and find that he is still weak and his thirst unquenched.
Or “that he is faint and that he [or “his appetite”] longs [for water].”

So it will be for the horde from all the nations
that fight against Mount Zion.

God’s People are Spiritually Insensitive

9 You will be shocked and amazed!
The form הִתְמַהְמְהוּ (hitmahmehu) is a Hitpalpel imperative from מָהַהּ (mahah, “hesitate”). If it is retained, one might translate “halt and be amazed.” The translation assumes an emendation to הִתַּמְּהוּ (hittammehu), a Hitpael imperative from תָּמַה (tamah, “be amazed”). In this case, the text, like Hab 1:5, combines the Hitpael and Qal imperatival forms of תָּמַה (tamah). A literal translation might be “Shock yourselves and be shocked!” The repetition of sound draws attention to the statement. The imperatives here have the force of an emphatic assertion. On this use of the imperative in Hebrew, see GKC 324 #110.c and IBHS 572 #34.4c.

You are totally blind!
Heb “Blind yourselves and be blind!” The Hitpalpel and Qal imperatival forms of שָׁעַע (shaa’, “be blind”) are combined to draw attention to the statement. The imperatives have the force of an emphatic assertion.

They are drunk,
Some prefer to emend the perfect form of the verb to an imperative (e.g., NAB, NCV, NRSV), since the people are addressed in the immediately preceding and following contexts.
but not because of wine;
they stagger,
Some prefer to emend the perfect form of the verb to an imperative (e.g., NAB, NCV, NRSV), since the people are addressed in the immediately preceding and following contexts.
but not because of beer.
10 For the Lord has poured out on you
a strong urge to sleep deeply.
Heb “a disposition [or “spirit”] of deep sleep.” Through this mixed metaphor (sleep is likened to a liquid which one pours and in turn symbolizes spiritual dullness) the prophet emphasizes that God himself has given the people over to their spiritual insensitivity as a form of judgment.

He has shut your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).
11 To you this entire prophetic revelation
Heb “vision” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).
is like words in a sealed scroll. When they hand it to one who can read
Heb “one who knows a/the scroll.”
and say, “Read this,” he responds, “I can’t, because it is sealed.”
12Or when they hand the scroll to one who can’t read
Heb “and if the scroll is handed to one who does not know a scroll.”
and say, “Read this,” he says, “I can’t read.”
Heb “I do not know a scroll.”

13 The sovereign master
The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonai).
“These people say they are loyal to me;
Heb “Because these people draw near to me with their mouth.”

they say wonderful things about me,
Heb “and with their lips they honor me.”

but they are not really loyal to me.
Heb “but their heart is far from me.” The heart is viewed here as the seat of the will, from which genuine loyalty derives.

Their worship consists of
nothing but man-made ritual.
Heb “their fear of me is a commandment of men that has been taught.”

14 Therefore I will again do an amazing thing for these people –
an absolutely extraordinary deed.
Heb “Therefore I will again do something amazing with these people, an amazing deed, an amazing thing.” This probably refers to the amazing transformation predicted in vv. 17–24, which will follow the purifying judgment implied in vv. 15–16.

Wise men will have nothing to say,
the sages will have no explanations.”
Heb “the wisdom of their wise ones will perish, the discernment of their discerning ones will keep hidden.”

15 Those who try to hide their plans from the Lord are as good as dead,
Heb “Woe [to] those who deeply hide counsel from the Lord.” This probably alludes to political alliances made without seeking the Lord’s guidance. See 30:1–2 and 31:1.

who do their work in secret and boast,
Heb “and their works are in darkness and they say.”

“Who sees us? Who knows what we’re doing?”
The rhetorical questions suggest the answer, “no one.” They are confident that their deeds are hidden from others, including God.

16 Your thinking is perverse!
Heb “your overturning.” The predicate is suppressed in this exclamation. The idea is, “O your perversity! How great it is!” See GKC 470 #147.c. The people “overturn” all logic by thinking their authority supersedes God’s.

Should the potter be regarded as clay?
The expected answer to this rhetorical question is “of course not.” On the interrogative use of אִם (’im), see BDB 50 s.v.

Should the thing made say
Heb “that the thing made should say.”
about its maker, “He didn’t make me”?
Or should the pottery say about the potter, “He doesn’t understand”?

Changes are Coming

17 In just a very short time
The Hebrew text phrases this as a rhetorical question, “Is it not yet a little, a short [time]?”

Lebanon will turn into an orchard,
and the orchard will be considered a forest.
The meaning of this verse is debated, but it seems to depict a reversal in fortunes. The mighty forest of Lebanon (symbolic of the proud and powerful, see 2:13; 10:34) will be changed into a common orchard, while the common orchard (symbolic of the oppressed and lowly) will grow into a great forest. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:538.

18 At that time
Or “In that day” (KJV).
the deaf will be able to hear words read from a scroll,
and the eyes of the blind will be able to see through deep darkness.
Heb “and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.”
Perhaps this depicts the spiritual transformation of the once spiritually insensitive nation (see vv. 10–12, cf. also 6:9–10).

19 The downtrodden will again rejoice in the Lord;
the poor among humankind will take delight
Or “will rejoice” (NIV, NCV, NLT).
in the Holy One of Israel.
See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.

20 For tyrants will disappear,
those who taunt will vanish,
and all those who love to do wrong will be eliminated
Heb “and all the watchers of wrong will be cut off.”

21 those who bear false testimony against a person,
Heb “the ones who make a man a sinner with a word.” The Hiphil of חָטָא (khata’) here has a delocutive sense: “declare a man sinful/guilty.”

who entrap the one who arbitrates at the city gate
Legal disputes were resolved at the city gate, where the town elders met. See Amos 5:10.

and deprive the innocent of justice by making false charges.
Heb “and deprive by emptiness the innocent.”

22 So this is what the Lord, the one who delivered Abraham, says to the family of Jacob:
Heb “So this is what the Lord says to the house of Jacob, the one who ransomed Abraham.” The relative pronoun must refer back to “the Lord,” not to the immediately preceding “Jacob.” It is uncertain to what event in Abraham’s experience this refers. Perhaps the name “Abraham” stands here by metonymy for his descendants through Jacob. If so, the Exodus is in view.

“Jacob will no longer be ashamed;
their faces will no longer show their embarrassment.
Heb “and his face will no longer be pale.”

23 For when they see their children,
whom I will produce among them,
Heb “for when he sees his children, the work of my hands in his midst.”

they will honor
Or “treat as holy” (also in the following line); NASB, NRSV “will sanctify.”
my name.
They will honor the Holy One of Jacob;
Holy One of Jacob is similar to the phrase “Holy One of Israel” common throughout Isaiah; see the [S] at Isa 1:4.

they will respect
Or “fear,” in the sense of “stand in awe of.”
the God of Israel.
24 Those who stray morally will gain understanding;
Heb “and the ones who stray in spirit will know understanding.”

those who complain will acquire insight.
Heb “will learn instruction”; cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT “will accept instruction.”

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