Isaiah 32

Justice and Wisdom Will Prevail

1Look, a king will promote fairness;
Heb “will reign according to fairness.”

officials will promote justice.
Heb “will rule according to justice.”

2 Each of them
Heb “a man,” but אִישׁ (’ish) probably refers here to “each” of the officials mentioned in the previous verse.
will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from a rainstorm;
like streams of water in a dry region
and like the shade of a large cliff in a parched land.
3 Eyes
Heb “Eyes that see.”
will no longer be blind
The Hebrew text as vocalized reads literally “will not gaze,” but this is contradictory to the context. The verb form should be revocalized as תְּשֹׁעֶינָה (teshoenah) from שָׁעַע (shaa’, “be blinded”); see Isa 6:10; 29:9.

and ears
Heb “ears that hear.”
will be attentive.
4 The mind that acts rashly will possess discernment
Heb “the heart of rashness will understand knowledge”; cf. NAB “The flighty will become wise and capable.”

and the tongue that stutters will speak with ease and clarity.
5 A fool will no longer be called honorable;
a deceiver will no longer be called principled.
6 For a fool speaks disgraceful things;
Or “foolishness,” in a moral-ethical sense. See 9:17.

his mind plans out sinful deeds.
Heb “and his heart commits sin”; KJV, ASV “his heart will work iniquity”; NASB “inclines toward wickedness.”

He commits godless deeds
Heb “in order to do [or “so that he does”] what is godless [or “defiled”].”

and says misleading things about the Lord;
he gives the hungry nothing to satisfy their appetite
Heb “so that he leaves empty the appetite [or “desire”] of the hungry.”

and gives the thirsty nothing to drink.
Heb “and the drink of the thirsty he causes to fail.”

7 A deceiver’s methods are evil;
Heb “as for a deceiver, his implements [or “weapons”] are evil.”

he dreams up evil plans
Or “he plans evil things”; NIV “he makes up evil schemes.”

to ruin the poor with lies,
even when the needy are in the right.
Heb “to ruin the poor with words of falsehood, even when the needy speak what is just.”

8 An honorable man makes honorable plans;
his honorable character gives him security.
Heb “and he upon honorable things stands.”

The Lord Will Give True Security

9 You complacent
Or “self-assured”; NASB, NRSV “who are at ease.”
get up and listen to me!
You carefree
Or “self-confident”; NAB “overconfident.”
pay attention to what I say!
10 In a year’s time
Heb “days upon a year.”

you carefree ones will shake with fear,
for the grape
Or perhaps, “olive.” See 24:13.
harvest will fail,
and the fruit harvest will not arrive.
11 Tremble, you complacent ones!
Shake with fear, you carefree ones!
Strip off your clothes and expose yourselves –
put sackcloth on your waist!
The imperatival forms in v. 11 are problematic. The first (חִרְדוּ, khirdu, “tremble”) is masculine plural in form, though spoken to a feminine plural addressee (שַׁאֲנַנּוֹת, shaanannot, “complacent ones”). The four imperatival forms that follow (רְגָזָה, regazah, “shake with fear”; פְּשֹׁטָה, peshotah, “strip off your clothes”; עֹרָה, ’orah, “expose yourselves”; and חֲגוֹרָה, khagorah, “put on”) all appear to be lengthened (so-called “emphatic”) masculine singular forms, even though they too appear to be spoken to a feminine plural addressee. GKC 131-32 #48.i suggests emending חִרְדוּ (khirdu) to חֲרָדָה (kharadah) and understanding all five imperatives as feminine plural “aramaized” forms.

12 Mourn over the field,
The Hebrew text has “over mourning breasts.” The reference to “breasts” would make sense in light of v. 11, which refers to the practice of women baring their breasts as a sign of sorrow (see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 1:585). However, one expects the preposition עַל (’al) to introduce the source or reason for mourning (see vv. 12b–13a) and the participle סֹפְדִים (sofedim, “mourning”) seems odd modifying “breasts.” The translation above assumes a twofold emendation: (1) שָׁדַיִם (shadayim, “breasts”) is emended to [ם]שָׂדַי (saday[m], “field,” a term that also appears in Isa 56:9). The final mem (ם) would be enclitic in this case, not a plural indicator. (The Hebrew noun שָׂדֶה (sadeh, “field”) forms its plural with an וֹת- [-ot] ending). (2) The plural participle סֹפְדִים is emended to סְפֹדָה (sefodah), a lengthened imperatival form, meaning “mourn.” For an overview of various suggestions that have been made for this difficult line, see Oswalt, 586, n. 12).

over the delightful fields
and the fruitful vine!
13 Mourn
“Mourn” is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text vv. 12–13 are one long sentence.
over the land of my people,
which is overgrown with thorns and briers,
and over all the once-happy houses
Heb “indeed, over all the houses of joy.” It is not certain if this refers to individual homes or to places where parties and celebrations were held.

in the city filled with revelry.
This same phrase is used in 22:2.

14 For the fortress is neglected;
the once-crowded
Or “noisy” (NAB, NIV, NCV).
city is abandoned.
Hebrew עֹפֶל (’ofel), probably refers here to a specific area within the city of Jerusalem. See HALOT 861 s.v. II עֹפֶל.
and watchtower
are permanently uninhabited.
The Hebrew text has בְעַד מְעָרוֹת (vead mearot). The force of בְעַד, which usually means “behind, through, round about,” or “for the benefit of,” is uncertain here. HALOT 616 s.v. *מְעָרָה takes מְעָרוֹת (mearot) as a homonym of “cave” and define it here as “cleared field.” Despite these lexical problems, the general point of the statement seems clear – the city will be uninhabited.

Wild donkeys love to go there,
and flocks graze there.
Heb “the joy of wild donkeys, a pasture for flocks.”

15 This desolation will continue until new life is poured out on us from heaven.
Heb “until a spirit is emptied out on us from on high.” The words “this desolation will continue” are supplied in the translation for clarification and stylistic purposes. The verb עָרָה (’arah), used here in the Niphal, normally means “lay bare, expose.” The term רוּחַ (ruakh, “spirit”) is often understood here as a reference to the divine spirit (cf. 44:3 and NASB, NIV, CEV, NLT), but it appears here without an article (cf. NRSV “a spirit”), pronominal suffix, or a genitive (such as “of the Lord”). The translation assumes that it carries an impersonal nuance “vivacity, vigor” in this context.

Then the desert will become an orchard
and the orchard will be considered a forest.
The same statement appears in 29:17b, where, in conjunction with the preceding line, it appears to picture a reversal. Here it seems to depict supernatural growth. The desert will blossom into an orchard, and the trees of the orchard will multiply and grow tall, becoming a forest.

16 Justice will settle down in the desert
and fairness will live in the orchard.
This new era of divine blessing will also include a moral/ethical transformation, as justice and fairness fill the land and replace the social injustice so prevalent in Isaiah’s time.

17 Fairness will produce peace
Heb “and the product of fairness will be peace.”

and result in lasting security.
Heb “and the work of fairness [will be] calmness and security forever.”

18 My people will live in peaceful settlements,
in secure homes,
and in safe, quiet places.
Or “in safe resting places”; NAB, NRSV “quiet resting places.”

19 Even if the forest is destroyed
Heb “and [?] when the forest descends.” The form וּבָרַד (uvarad) is often understood as an otherwise unattested denominative verb meaning “to hail” (HALOT 154 s.v. I ברד). In this case one might translate, “and it hails when the forest is destroyed” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV). Perhaps the text alludes to a powerful wind and hail storm that knocks down limbs and trees. Some prefer to emend the form to וְיָרַד (veyarad), “and it descends,” which provides better, though not perfect, symmetry with the parallel line (cf. NAB). Perhaps וּבָרַד should be dismissed as dittographic. In this case the statement (“when the forest descends”) lacks a finite verb and seems incomplete, but perhaps it is subordinate to v. 20.

and the city is annihilated,
Heb “and in humiliation the city is laid low.”

20 you will be blessed,
you who plant seed by all the banks of the streams,
Heb “by all the waters.”

you who let your ox and donkey graze.
Heb “who set free the foot of the ox and donkey”; NIV “letting your cattle and donkeys range free.”
This verse seems to anticipate a time when fertile land is available to cultivate and crops are so abundant that the farm animals can be allowed to graze freely.

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