Isaiah 33

The Lord Will Restore Zion

1The destroyer is as good as dead,
Heb “Woe [to] the destroyer.”
In this context “the destroyer” appears to refer collectively to the hostile nations (vv. 3–4). Assyria would probably have been primary in the minds of the prophet and his audience.

you who have not been destroyed!
The deceitful one is as good as dead,
Heb “and the deceitful one”; NAB, NIV “O traitor”; NRSV “you treacherous one.” In the parallel structure הוֹי (hoy, “woe [to]”) does double duty.

the one whom others have not deceived!
When you are through destroying, you will be destroyed;
when you finish
The form in the Hebrew text appears to derive from an otherwise unattested verb נָלָה (nalah). The translation follows the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa in reading ככלתך, a Piel infinitival form from the verbal root כָּלָה (kalah), meaning “finish.”
deceiving, others will deceive you!
2 Lord, be merciful to us! We wait for you.
Give us strength each morning!
Heb “Be their arm each morning.” “Arm” is a symbol for strength. The mem suffixed to the noun has been traditionally understood as a third person suffix, but this is contrary to the context, where the people speak of themselves in the first person. The mem (מ) is probably enclitic with ellipsis of the pronoun, which can be supplied from the context. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:589, n. 1.

Deliver us when distress comes.
Heb “[Be] also our deliverance in the time of distress.”

3 The nations run away when they hear a loud noise;
Heb “at the sound of tumult the nations run away.”

the nations scatter when you spring into action!
Heb “because of your exaltation the nations scatter.”

4 Your plunder
The pronoun is plural; the statement is addressed to the nations who have stockpiled plunder from their conquests of others.
disappears as if locusts were eating it;
Heb “and your plunder is gathered, the gathering of the locust.”

they swarm over it like locusts!
Heb “like a swarm of locusts swarming on it.”

5 The Lord is exalted,
Or “elevated”; NCV, NLT “is very great.”

Or “for” (KJV, NASB, NIV).
he lives in heaven;
Heb “on high” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); CEV “in the heavens.”

he fills Zion with justice and fairness.
6 He is your constant source of stability;
Heb “and he is the stability of your times.”

he abundantly provides safety and great wisdom;
Heb “a rich store of deliverance, wisdom, and knowledge.”

he gives all this to those who fear him.
Heb “the fear of the Lord, it is his treasure.”

7 Look, ambassadors
The meaning of the Hebrew word is unknown. Proposals include “heroes” (cf. KJV, ASV “valiant ones”; NASB, NIV “brave men”); “priests,” “residents [of Jerusalem].” The present translation assumes that the term is synonymous with “messengers of peace,” with which it corresponds in the parallel structure of the verse.
cry out in the streets;
messengers sent to make peace
Heb “messengers of peace,” apparently those responsible for negotiating the agreements that have been broken (see v. 8).
weep bitterly.
8 Highways are empty,
Or “desolate” (NAB, NASB); NIV, NRSV, NLT “deserted.”

there are no travelers.
Heb “the one passing by on the road ceases.”

Treaties are broken,
Heb “one breaks a treaty”; NAB “Covenants are broken.”

witnesses are despised,
The Hebrew text reads literally, “he despises cities.” The term עָרִים (’arim, “cities”) is probably a corruption of an original עֵדִים (’edim, “[legal] witnesses”), a reading that is preserved in the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa. Confusion of dalet (ד) and resh (ר) is a well-attested scribal error.

human life is treated with disrespect.
Heb “he does not regard human beings.”

9 The land
Or “earth” (KJV); NAB “the country.”
dries up
Or “mourns” (BDB 5 s.v. I אָבַל). HALOT 6–7 lists homonyms I אבל (“mourn”) and II אבל (“dry up”). They propose the second here on the basis of parallelism. See 24:4.
and withers away;
the forest of Lebanon shrivels up
Heb “Lebanon is ashamed.” The Hiphil is exhibitive, expressing the idea, “exhibits shame.” In this context the statement alludes to the withering of vegetation.
and decays.
Sharon was a fertile plain along the Mediterranean coast. See 35:2.
is like the desert;
Or “the Arabah” (NIV). See 35:1.

Bashan and Carmel
Both of these areas were known for their trees and vegetation. See 2:13; 35:2.
are parched.
Heb “shake off [their leaves]” (so ASV, NRSV); NAB “are stripped bare.”

10 “Now I will rise up,” says the Lord.
“Now I will exalt myself;
now I will magnify myself.
Or “lift myself up” (KJV); NLT “show my power and might.”

11 You conceive straw,
The second person verb and pronominal forms in this verse are plural. The hostile nations are the addressed, as the next verse makes clear.

you give birth to chaff;
your breath is a fire that destroys you.
The hostile nations’ plans to destroy God’s people will come to nothing; their hostility will end up being self-destructive.

12 The nations will be burned to ashes;
Heb “will be a burning to lime.” See Amos 2:1.

like thorn bushes that have been cut down, they will be set on fire.
13 You who are far away, listen to what I have done!
You who are close by, recognize my strength!”
14 Sinners are afraid in Zion;
Or “trembling” (ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “shake with fear.”
grips the godless.
Or “the defiled”; TEV “The sinful people of Zion”; NLT “The sinners in Jerusalem.”

They say,
The words “they say” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
‘Who among us can coexist with destructive fire?
Who among us can coexist with unquenchable
Or “perpetual”; or “everlasting” (KJV, ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV).
15 The one who lives
Heb “walks” (so NASB, NIV).
Or, possibly, “justly”; NAB “who practices virtue.”

and speaks honestly;
the one who refuses to profit from oppressive measures
and rejects a bribe;
Heb “[who] shakes off his hands from grabbing hold of a bribe.”

the one who does not plot violent crimes
Heb “[who] shuts his ear from listening to bloodshed.”

and does not seek to harm others
Heb “[who] closes his eyes from seeing evil.”

16 This is the person who will live in a secure place;
Heb “he [in the] exalted places will live.”

he will find safety in the rocky, mountain strongholds;
Heb “mountain strongholds, cliffs [will be] his elevated place.”

he will have food
and a constant supply of water.
17 You will see a king in his splendor;
Heb “your eyes will see a king in his beauty”; NIV, NRSV “the king.”

you will see a wide land.
Heb “a land of distances,” i.e., an extensive land.

18 Your mind will recall the terror you experienced,
Heb “your heart will meditate on terror.”

and you will ask yourselves,
The words “and you will ask yourselves” are supplied in the translation for clarification and stylistic reasons.
“Where is the scribe?
Where is the one who weighs the money?
Where is the one who counts the towers?”
The people refer to various Assyrian officials who were responsible for determining the amount of taxation or tribute Judah must pay to the Assyrian king.

19 You will no longer see a defiant
The Hebrew form נוֹעָז (noaz) is a Niphal participle derived from יָעַז (yaaz, an otherwise unattested verb) or from עָזָז (’azaz, “be strong,” unattested elsewhere in the Niphal). Some prefer to emend the form to לוֹעֵז (loez) which occurs in Ps 114:1 with the meaning “speak a foreign language.” See HALOT 809 s.v. עזז, 533 s.v. לעז. In this case, one might translate “people who speak a foreign language.”
whose language you do not comprehend,
Heb “a people too deep of lip to hear.” The phrase “deep of lip” must be an idiom meaning “lips that speak words that are unfathomable [i.e., incomprehensible].”

whose derisive speech you do not understand.
Heb “derision of tongue there is no understanding.” The Niphal of לָעַג (laag) occurs only here. In the Qal and Hiphil the verb means “to deride, mock.” A related noun is used in 28:11.

20 Look at Zion, the city where we hold religious festivals!
Heb “your eyes” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).
will see Jerusalem,
a peaceful settlement,
a tent that stays put;
Or “that does not travel”; NASB “which shall not be folded.”

its stakes will never be pulled up;
none of its ropes will snap in two.
21 Instead the Lord will rule there as our mighty king.
Heb “But there [as] a mighty one [will be] the Lord for us.”

Rivers and wide streams will flow through it;
Heb “a place of rivers, streams wide of hands [i.e., on both sides].”

no war galley will enter;
Heb “a ship of rowing will not go into it.”

no large ships will sail through.
Heb “and a mighty ship will not pass through it.”

22 For the Lord, our ruler,
the Lord, our commander,
the Lord, our king –
he will deliver us.
23 Though at this time your ropes are slack,
The words “though at this time” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The first half of the verse is addressed to Judah and contrasts the nation’s present weakness with its future prosperity. Judah is compared to a ship that is incapable of sailing.

the mast is not secured,
Heb “they do not fasten the base of their mast.” On כֵּן (ken, “base”) see BDB 487 s.v. III כֵּן and HALOT 483 s.v. III כֵּן.

and the sail
Or perhaps, “flag.”
is not unfurled,
at that time you will divide up a great quantity of loot;
Heb “then there will be divided up loot of plunder [in] abundance.”

even the lame will drag off plunder.
Judah’s victory over its enemies will be so thorough there will be more than enough plunder for everyone, even slow-moving lame men who would normally get left out in the rush to gather the loot.

24 No resident of Zion
The words “of Zion” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
will say, “I am ill”;
the people who live there will have their sin forgiven.
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