Isaiah 50

1This is what the Lord says:
“Where is your mother’s divorce certificate
by which I divorced her?
Or to which of my creditors did I sell you?
The Lord challenges the exiles (Zion’s children) to bring incriminating evidence against him. The rhetorical questions imply that Israel accused the Lord of divorcing his wife (Zion) and selling his children (the Israelites) into slavery to pay off a debt.

Look, you were sold because of your sins;
The Lord admits that he did sell the Israelites, but it was because of their sins, not because of some debt he owed. If he had sold them to a creditor, they ought to be able to point him out, but the preceding rhetorical question implies they would not be able to do so.

because of your rebellious acts I divorced your mother.
The Lord admits he did divorce Zion, but that too was the result of the nation’s sins. The force of the earlier rhetorical question comes into clearer focus now. The question does not imply that a certificate does not exist and that no divorce occurred. Rather, the question asks for the certificate to be produced so the accuser can see the reason for the divorce in black and white. The Lord did not put Zion away arbitrarily.

2 Why does no one challenge me when I come?
Why does no one respond when I call?
The present tense translation of the verbs assumes that the Lord is questioning why Israel does not attempt to counter his arguments. Another possibility is to take the verbs as referring to past events: “Why did no one meet me when I came? Why did no one answer when I called?” In this case the Lord might be asking why Israel rejected his calls to repent and his offer to deliver them.

Is my hand too weak
Heb “short” (so NAB, NASB, NIV).
to deliver
Or “ransom” (NAB, NASB, NIV).
Do I lack the power to rescue you?
Look, with a mere shout
Heb “with my rebuke.”
I can dry up the sea;
I can turn streams into a desert,
so the fish rot away and die
from lack of water.
Heb “the fish stink from lack of water and die from thirst.”

3 I can clothe the sky in darkness;
I can cover it with sackcloth.”

The Servant Perseveres

4 The sovereign Lord has given me the capacity to be his spokesman,
Heb “has given to me a tongue of disciples.”
Verses 4–11 contain the third of the so-called servant songs, which depict the career of the Lord’s special servant, envisioned as an ideal Israel (49:3) who rescues the exiles and fulfills God’s purposes for the world. Here the servant alludes to opposition (something hinted at in 49:4), but also expresses his determination to persevere with the Lord’s help.

so that I know how to help the weary.
Heb “to know [?] the weary with a word.” Comparing it with Arabic and Aramaic cognates yields the meaning of “help, sustain.” Nevertheless, the meaning of עוּת (’ut) is uncertain. The word occurs only here in the OT (see BDB 736 s.v.). Various scholars have suggested an emendation to עָנוֹת (’anot) from עָנָה (’anah, “answer”): “so that I know how to respond kindly to the weary.” Since the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa and the Vulgate support the MT reading, that reading is retained.

He wakes me up every morning;
he makes me alert so I can listen attentively as disciples do.
Heb “he arouses for me an ear, to hear like disciples.”

5 The sovereign Lord has spoken to me clearly;
Or perhaps, “makes me obedient.” The text reads literally, “has opened for me an ear.”

I have not rebelled,
I have not turned back.
6 I offered my back to those who attacked,
Or perhaps, “who beat [me].”

my jaws to those who tore out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from insults and spitting.
7 But the sovereign Lord helps me,
so I am not humiliated.
For that reason I am steadfastly resolved;
Heb “Therefore I set my face like flint.”

I know I will not be put to shame.
8 The one who vindicates me is close by.
Who dares to argue with me? Let us confront each other!
Heb “Let us stand together!”

Who is my accuser?
Heb “Who is the master of my judgment?”
Let him challenge me!
Heb “let him approach me”; NAB, NIV “Let him confront me.”

9 Look, the sovereign Lord helps me.
Who dares to condemn me?
Look, all of them will wear out like clothes;
a moth will eat away at them.
10 Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys
Heb “[who] listens to the voice of his servant?” The interrogative is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).
his servant?
Whoever walks in deep darkness,
The plural indicates degree. Darkness may refer to exile and/or moral evil.

without light,
should trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
11 Look, all of you who start a fire
and who equip yourselves with
Several more recent commentators have proposed an emendation of מְאַזְּרֵי (meazzere, “who put on”) to מְאִירִי (meiri, “who light”). However, both Qumran scrolls of Isaiah and the Vulgate support the MT reading (cf. NIV, ESV).
flaming arrows,
On the meaning of זִיקוֹת (ziqot, “flaming arrows”), see HALOT 268 s.v. זִיקוֹת.

The imperative is probably rhetorical and has a predictive force.
in the light
Or perhaps, “flame” (so ASV).
of the fire you started
and among the flaming arrows you ignited!
Perhaps the servant here speaks to his enemies and warns them that they will self-destruct.

This is what you will receive from me:
Heb “from my hand” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

you will lie down in a place of pain.
The imagery may be that of a person who becomes ill and is forced to lie down in pain on a sickbed. Some see this as an allusion to a fiery place of damnation because of the imagery employed earlier in the verse.

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