Isaiah 46

The Lord Carries His People

Bel was the name of a Babylonian god. The name was originally associated with Enlil, but later was applied to Marduk. See HALOT 132 s.v. בֵּל.
kneels down,
Nebo is a variation of the name of the Babylonian god Nabu.
bends low.
Their images weigh down animals and beasts.
Heb “their images belong to animals and beasts”; NIV “their idols are borne by beasts of burden”; NLT “are being hauled away.”

Your heavy images are burdensome to tired animals.
Heb “your loads are carried [as] a burden by a weary [animal].”

2 Together they bend low and kneel down;
they are unable to rescue the images;
Heb “[the] burden,” i.e., their images, the heavy burden carried by the animals.

they themselves
נַפְשָׁם (nafsham, “their souls/lives”) is equivalent here to a third masculine plural suffix, but the third feminine singular verb הָלָכָה (halakhah, “they go”) agrees with the feminine noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul, life”).
head off into captivity.
The downfall of Babylon is depicted here. The idols are carried off by the victorious enemy; the gods are likened to defeated captives who cower before the enemy and are taken into exile.

3 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob,
Heb “house of Jacob”; TEV “descendants of Jacob.”

all you who are left from the family of Israel,
Heb “and all the remnant of the house of Israel.”

you who have been carried from birth,
Heb “from the womb” (so NRSV); KJV “from the belly”; NAB “from your infancy.”

you who have been supported from the time you left the womb.
Heb “who have been lifted up from the womb.”

4 Even when you are old, I will take care of you,
Heb “until old age, I am he” (NRSV similar); NLT “I will be your God throughout your lifetime.”

even when you have gray hair, I will carry you.
I made you and I will support you;
I will carry you and rescue you.
Unlike the weary idol gods, whose images must be carried by animals, the Lord carries his weary people.

5 To whom can you compare and liken me?
Tell me whom you think I resemble, so we can be compared!
6 Those who empty out gold from a purse
and weigh out silver on the scale
Heb “the reed,” probably referring to the beam of a scales. See BDB 889 s.v. קָנֶה 4.c.

hire a metalsmith, who makes it into a god.
They then bow down and worship it.
7 They put it on their shoulder and carry it;
they put it in its place and it just stands there;
it does not
Or perhaps, “cannot,” here and in the following two lines. The imperfect forms can indicate capability.
move from its place.
Even when someone cries out to it, it does not reply;
it does not deliver him from his distress.
8 Remember this, so you can be brave!
The meaning of the verb אָשַׁשׁ (’ashash, which appears here in the Hitpolel stem) is uncertain. BDB 84 s.v. אשׁשׁ relates it to a root meaning “found, establish” in Arabic; HALOT 100 s.v. II אשׁשׁ gives the meaning “pluck up courage.” The imperative with vav (ו) may indicate purpose following the preceding imperative.

Think about it, you rebels!
Heb “return [it], rebels, to heart”; NRSV “recall it to mind, you transgressors.”

9 Remember what I accomplished in antiquity!
Heb “remember the former things, from antiquity”; KJV, ASV “the former things of old.”

Truly I am God, I have no peer;
Heb “and there is no other” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).

I am God, and there is none like me,
10 who announces the end from the beginning
and reveals beforehand
Or “from long ago”; KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV “from ancient times.”
what has not yet occurred,
who says, ‘My plan will be realized,
I will accomplish what I desire,’
11 who summons an eagle
Or, more generally, “a bird of prey” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV; see 18:6).
from the east,
from a distant land, one who carries out my plan.
Yes, I have decreed,
Heb “spoken”; KJV “I have spoken it.”

yes, I will bring it to pass;
I have formulated a plan,
yes, I will carry it out.
12 Listen to me, you stubborn people,
Heb “strong of heart [or, mind]”; KJV “stouthearted”; NAB “fainthearted”; NIV “stubborn-hearted.”

you who distance yourself from doing what is right.
Heb “who are far from righteousness [or perhaps, “deliverance”].”

13 I am bringing my deliverance near, it is not far away;
I am bringing my salvation near,
Heb “my salvation.” The verb “I am bringing near” is understood by ellipsis (note the previous line).
it does not wait.
I will save Zion;
Heb “I will place in Zion salvation”; NASB “I will grant salvation in Zion.”

I will adorn Israel with my splendor.”
Heb “to Israel my splendor”; KJV, ASV “for Israel my glory.”

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