Isaiah 57

1The godly
Or “righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “the just man”; TEV “Good people.”
but no one cares.
Or perhaps, “understands.” Heb “and there is no man who sets [it] upon [his] heart.”

Honest people disappear,
Heb “Men of loyalty are taken away.” The Niphal of אָסַף (’asaf) here means “to die.”

when no one
The Hebrew term בְּאֵין (been) often has the nuance “when there is no.” See Prov 8:24; 11; 14; 14:4; 15:22; 26:20; 29:18.
Or “realizes”; Heb “understands” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).

that the godly
Or “righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “the just man.”
Heb “are taken away.” The Niphal of אָסַף (’asaf) here means “to die.”
because of
The term מִפְּנֵי (mippene, “from the face of”) often has a causal nuance. It also appears with the Niphal of אָסַף (’asaph, “gather”) in 2 Chr 12:5: אֲשֶׁר־נֶאֶסְפוּ אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלַם מִפְּנֵי שִׁישָׁק (’asher-neesphu el-yerushalam mippeney shishaq, “who had gathered at Jerusalem because of [i.e., due to fear of] Shishak”).
The translation assumes that this verse, in proverbial fashion, laments society’s apathy over the persecution of the godly. The second half of the verse observes that such apathy results in more widespread oppression. Since the next verse pictures the godly being taken to a place of rest, some interpret the second half of v. 1 in a more positive vein. According to proponents of this view, God removes the godly so that they might be spared suffering and calamity, a fact which the general populace fails to realize.

2 Those who live uprightly enter a place of peace;
they rest on their beds.
Heb “he enters peace, they rest on their beds, the one who walks straight ahead of himself.” The tomb is here viewed in a fairly positive way as a place where the dead are at peace and sleep undisturbed.

3 But approach, you sons of omen readers,
you offspring of adulteresses and prostitutes!
The Hebrew text reads literally, “offspring of an adulterer [masculine] and [one who] has committed adultery.” Perhaps the text has suffered from transposition of vav (ו) and tav (ת) and מְנָאֵף וַתִּזְנֶה (menaef vattizneh) should be emended to מְנָאֶפֶת וְזֹנָה (menaefet vezonah, “an adulteress and a prostitute”). Both singular nouns would be understood in a collective sense. Most modern English versions render both forms as nouns.

4 At whom are you laughing?
At whom are you opening your mouth
and sticking out your tongue?
You are the children of rebels,
the offspring of liars,
Heb “Are you not children of rebellion, offspring of a lie?” The rhetorical question anticipates the answer, “Of course you are!”

5 you who practice ritual sex
Heb “inflame yourselves”; NRSV “burn with lust.” This verse alludes to the practice of ritual sex that accompanied pagan fertility rites.
under the oaks and every green tree,
who slaughter children near the streams under the rocky overhangs.
This apparently alludes to the practice of child sacrifice (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT).

6 Among the smooth stones of the stream are the idols you love;
they, they are the object of your devotion.
Heb “among the smooth stones of the stream [is] your portion, they, they [are] your lot.” The next line indicates idols are in view.

You pour out liquid offerings to them,
you make an offering.
Because of these things I will seek vengeance.
The text reads literally, “Because of these am I relenting?” If the prefixed interrogative particle is retained at the beginning of the sentence, then the question would be rhetorical, with the Niphal of נָחָם (nakham) probably being used in the sense of “relent, change one’s mind.” One could translate: “Because of these things, how can I relent?” However, the initial letter he may be dittographic (note the final he [ה] on the preceding word). In this case one may understand the verb in the sense of “console oneself, seek vengeance,” as in 1:24.

7 On every high, elevated hill you prepare your bed;
you go up there to offer sacrifices.
8 Behind the door and doorpost you put your symbols.
The precise referent of זִכָּרוֹן (zikkaron) in this context is uncertain. Elsewhere the word refers to a memorial or commemorative sign. Here it likely refers to some type of idolatrous symbol.

Or “for” (KJV, NRSV).
you depart from me
The Hebrew text reads literally, “from me you uncover.” The translation assumes an emendation of the Piel form גִּלִּית (gillit, “you uncover”), which has no object expressed here, to the Qal גָּלִית (galit, “you depart”).
and go up
and invite them into bed with you.
Heb “you make wide your bed” (NASB similar).

You purchase favors from them,
Heb “and you [second masculine singular, unless the form be taken as third feminine singular] cut for yourself [feminine singular] from them.” Most English translations retain the MT reading in spite of at least three problems. This section makes significant use of feminine verbs and noun suffixes because of the sexual imagery. The verb in question is likely a 2nd person masculine singular verb. Nevertheless, this kind of fluctuation in gender appears elsewhere (GKC 127-28 #47.k and 462 #144.p; cf. Jer 3:5; Ezek 22:4; 23:32; cf. J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 2:473, n. 13). Secondly, when this verbal root signifies establishing a covenant, it is normally accompanied by the noun for “covenant” (בְּרִית, berit). Finally, this juxtaposition of the verb “to cut” and “covenant” normally is followed by the preposition “with,” while here it is “from.” The translation above assumes an emendation of וַתִּכְרָת (vatikhrah, “and you cut”) to וְכָרִית (vekharit, “and you purchase”) from the root כָּרָה (kharah); see HALOT 497 s.v. II כרה.

you love their bed,
and gaze longingly
The Hebrew text has simply חָזָה (khazah, “gaze”). The adverb “longingly” is interpretive (see the context, where sexual lust is depicted).
on their genitals.
Heb “[at] a hand you gaze.” The term יָד (yad, “hand”) probably has the sense of “power, manhood” here, where it is used, as in Ugaritic, as a euphemism for the genitals. See HALOT 387 s.v. I יָד.

9 You take olive oil as tribute
Heb “you journey with oil.”
to your king,
Heb “the king.” Since the context refers to idolatry and child sacrifice (see v. 5), some emend מֶלֶך (melekh, “king”) to “Molech.” Perhaps Israel’s devotion to her idols is likened here to a subject taking tribute to a ruler.

along with many perfumes.
Heb “and you multiply your perfumes.”

You send your messengers to a distant place;
you go all the way to Sheol.
Israel’s devotion to her idols is inordinate, irrational, and self-destructive.

10 Because of the long distance you must travel, you get tired,
Heb “by the greatness [i.e., “length,” see BDB 914 s.v. רֹב 2] of your way you get tired.”

but you do not say, ‘I give up.’
Heb “it is hopeless” (so NAB, NASB, NIV); NRSV “It is useless.”

You get renewed energy,
Heb “the life of your hand you find.” The term חַיָּה (khayyah, “life”) is here used in the sense of “renewal” (see BDB 312 s.v.) while יָד (yad) is used of “strength.”

so you don’t collapse.
Heb “you do not grow weak.”

11 Whom are you worried about?
Whom do you fear, that you would act so deceitfully
and not remember me
or think about me?
Heb “you do not place [it] on your heart.”

Because I have been silent for so long,
Heb “Is it not [because] I have been silent, and from long ago?”

you are not afraid of me.
God’s patience with sinful Israel has caused them to think that they can sin with impunity and suffer no consequences.

12 I will denounce your so-called righteousness and your deeds,
Heb “I, I will declare your righteousness and your deeds.”

but they will not help you.
13 When you cry out for help, let your idols
The Hebrew text has קִבּוּצַיִךְ (qibbutsayikh, “your gatherings”), an otherwise unattested noun from the verbal root קָבַץ (qavats, “gather”). Perhaps this alludes to their religious assemblies and by metonymy to their rituals. Since idolatry is a prominent theme in the context, some understand this as a reference to a collection of idols. The second half of the verse also favors this view.
help you!
The wind blows them all away,
Heb “all of them a wind lifts up.”

a breeze carries them away.
Heb “a breath takes [them] away.”

But the one who looks to me for help
Or “seeks refuge in me.” “Seeking refuge” is a metonymy for “being loyal to.”
will inherit the land
and will have access to
Heb “possess, own.” The point seems to be that he will have free access to God’s presence, as if God’s temple mount were his personal possession.
my holy mountain.”
14 He says,
Since God is speaking throughout this context, perhaps we should emend the text to “and I say.” However, divine speech is introduced in v. 15.

“Build it! Build it! Clear a way!
Remove all the obstacles out of the way of my people!”
15 For this is what the high and exalted one says,
the one who rules
Heb “the one who dwells forever.” שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhen ad) is sometimes translated “the one who lives forever,” and understood as a reference to God’s eternal existence. However, the immediately preceding and following descriptions (“high and exalted” and “holy”) emphasize his sovereign rule. In the next line, he declares, “I dwell in an exalted and holy [place],” which refers to the place from which he rules. Therefore it is more likely that שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhen ad) means “I dwell [in my lofty palace] forever” and refers to God’s eternal kingship.
forever, whose name is holy:
“I dwell in an exalted and holy place,
but also with the discouraged and humiliated,
Heb “and also with the crushed and lowly of spirit.” This may refer to the repentant who have humbled themselves (see 66:2) or more generally to the exiles who have experienced discouragement and humiliation.

in order to cheer up the humiliated
and to encourage the discouraged.
Heb “to restore the lowly of spirit and to restore the heart of the crushed.”

16 For I will not be hostile
Or perhaps, “argue,” or “accuse” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV).
or perpetually angry,
for then man’s spirit would grow faint before me,
Heb “for a spirit from before me would be faint.”

the life-giving breath I created.
17 I was angry because of their sinful greed;
I attacked them and angrily rejected them,
Heb “and I struck him, hiding, and I was angry.” פָּנַיִם (panayim, “face”) is the implied object of “hiding.”

yet they remained disobedient and stubborn.
Heb “and he walked [as an] apostate in the way of his heart.”

18 I have seen their behavior,
Heb “his ways” (so KJV, NASB, NIV); TEV “how they acted.”

but I will heal them and give them rest,
and I will once again console those who mourn.
Heb “and I will restore consolation to him, to his mourners.”

19 I am the one who gives them reason to celebrate.
The Hebrew text has literally, “one who creates fruit of lips.” Perhaps the pronoun אֲנִי (’ani) should be inserted after the participle; it may have been accidentally omitted by haplography: נוּב שְׂפָתָיִם[אֲנִי] בּוֹרֵא (bore [’ani] nuv sefatayim). “Fruit of the lips” is often understood as a metonymy for praise; perhaps it refers more generally to joyful shouts (see v. 18).

Complete prosperity
Heb “Peace, peace.” The repetition of the noun emphasizes degree.
is available both to those who are far away and those who are nearby,”
says the Lord, “and I will heal them.
20 But the wicked are like a surging sea
that is unable to be quiet;
its waves toss up mud and sand.
21 There will be no prosperity,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
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