Isaiah 91[Heb. 8:23] ▼ The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious. ▼
▼ The Hebrew text reads, “Indeed there is no gloom for the one to whom there was anxiety for her.” The feminine singular pronominal suffix “her” must refer to the land (cf. vv. 22a, 23b). So one could translate, “Indeed there will be no gloom for the land which was anxious.” In this case the statement introduces the positive message to follow. Some assume an emendation of לֹא (lo’, “no”) to לוֹ (lo, “to him”) and of לָהּ (lah, “to her”) to לוֹ (lo, “to him”), yielding this literal reading: “indeed there is gloom for him, for the one to whom there was anxiety for him.” In this case the statement concludes the preceding description of judgment.
In earlier times he ▼
▼ The Lord must be understood as the subject of the two verbs in this verse.humiliated
the land of Zebulun,
and the land of Naphtali; ▼
▼ The statement probably alludes to the Assyrian conquest of Israel in ca. 734–733 b.c., when Tiglath-pileser III annexed much of Israel’s territory and reduced Samaria to a puppet state.
but now he brings honor ▼
▼ Heb Just as in earlier times he humiliated…, [in] the latter times he has brought honor.” The main verbs in vv. 1b–4 are Hebrew perfects. The prophet takes his rhetorical stance in the future age of restoration and describes future events as if they have already occurred. To capture the dramatic effect of the original text, the translation uses the English present or present perfect.
to the way of the sea,
the region beyond the Jordan,
and Galilee of the nations. ▼
▼ These three geographical designations may refer to provinces established by the Assyrians in 734–733 b.c. The “way of the sea” is the province of Dor, along the Mediterranean coast, the “region beyond the Jordan” is the province of Gilead in Transjordan, and “Galilee of the nations” (a title that alludes to how the territory had been overrun by foreigners) is the province of Megiddo located west of the Sea of Galilee. See Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 374.
2 [Heb. 9:1] The people walking in darkness
see a bright light; ▼
on those who live in a land of deep darkness. ▼
▼ Traditionally צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet) has been interpreted as a compound noun, meaning “shadow of death” (so KJV, ASV, NIV), but usage indicates that the word, though it sometimes refers to death, means “darkness.” The term should probably be repointed as an abstract noun צַלְמוּת (tsalmut). See the note at Ps 23:4.
3 You ▼ have enlarged the nation;
you give them great joy. ▼
▼ The Hebrew consonantal text reads “You multiply the nation, you do not make great the joy.” The particle לֹא (lo’, “not”) is obviously incorrect; the marginal reading has לוֹ (lo, “to him”). In this case, one should translate, “You multiply the nation, you increase his (i.e., their) joy.” However, the parallelism is tighter if one emends הַגּוֹי לוֹ (hagoy lo, “the nation, to him”) to הַגִּילָה (haggilah, “the joy,” a noun attested in Isa 65:18), which corresponds to הַשִּׂמְחָה (hasimkhah, “the joy”) later in the verse (H. Wildberger, Isaiah, 1:386). As attractive as this reading is, it has not textual evidence supporting it. The MT reading (accepting the marginal reading “to him” for the negative particle “not”) affirms that Yahweh caused the nation to grow in population and increased their joy.
They rejoice in your presence
as harvesters rejoice;
as warriors celebrate ▼ when they divide up the plunder.
4 For their oppressive yoke
and the club that strikes their shoulders,
the cudgel the oppressor uses on them, ▼
▼ Heb “for the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the scepter of the oppressor against him.” The singular pronouns are collective, referring to the people. The oppressed nation is compared to an ox weighed down by a heavy yoke and an animal that is prodded and beaten.
you have shattered, as in the day of Midian’s defeat. ▼
5 Indeed every boot that marches and shakes the earth ▼
▼ Heb “Indeed every boot marching with shaking.” On the meaning of סְאוֹן (se’on, “boot”) and the related denominative verb, both of which occur only here, see HALOT 738 s.v. סְאוֹן.
and every garment dragged through blood
is used as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been ▼ born to us,
a son has been given to us.
He shoulders responsibility
and is called: ▼
▼ Or “and dominion was on his shoulders and he called his name.” The prefixed verbs with vav (ו) consecutive are used with the same rhetorical sense as the perfects in v. 6a. See the preceding note. There is great debate over the syntactical structure of the verse. No subject is indicated for the verb “he called.” If all the titles that follow are ones given to the king, then the subject of the verb must be indefinite, “one calls.” However, some have suggested that one to three of the titles that follow refer to God, not the king. For example, the traditional punctuation of the Hebrew text suggests the translation, “and the Extraordinary Strategist, the Mighty God calls his name, ‘Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’”
Extraordinary Strategist, ▼
▼ Some have seen two titles here (“Wonderful” and “Counselor,” cf. KJV, ASV). However, the pattern of the following three titles (each contains two elements) and the use of the roots פָּלַא (pala’) and יָעַץ (ya’ats) together in Isa 25:1 (cf. כִּי עָשִׂיתָ פֶּלֶא עֵצוֹת מֵרָחוֹק אֱמוּנָה אֹמֶן) and 28:29 (cf. הִפְלִיא עֵצָה) suggest otherwise. The term יוֹעֵץ (yo’ets) could be taken as appositional (genitive or otherwise) of species (“a wonder, i.e., a wonder as a counselor,” cf. NAB “Wonder-Counselor”) or as a substantival participle for which פָּלַא provides the direct object (“one who counsels wonders”). יוֹעֵץ is used as a royal title elsewhere (cf. Mic 4:9). Here it probably refers to the king’s ability to devise military strategy, as suggested by the context (cf. vv. 3–4 and the following title אֵל גִּבּוֹר, ’el gibor). In Isa 11:2 (also a description of this king) עֵצָה (’etsah) is linked with גְּבוּרָה (gevurah, the latter being typically used of military might, cf. BDB 150 s.v.). Note also עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה לַמִּלְחָמָה in Isa 36:5. פֶּלֶא (pele’) is typically used of God (cf. however Lam 1:9). Does this suggest the deity of the messianic ruler? The NT certainly teaches he is God, but did Isaiah necessarily have this in mind over 700 years before his birth? Since Isa 11:2 points out that this king will receive the spirit of the Lord, which will enable him to counsel, it is possible to argue that the king’s counsel is “extraordinary” because it finds its source in the divine spirit. Thus this title does not necessarily suggest that the ruler is deity.
Mighty God, ▼
▼ גִּבּוֹר (gibbor) is probably an attributive adjective (“mighty God”), though one might translate “God is a warrior” or “God is mighty.” Scholars have interpreted this title is two ways. A number of them have argued that the title portrays the king as God’s representative on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way (see J. H. Hayes and S. A. Irvine, Isaiah, 181–82). They contend that this sense seems more likely in the original context of the prophecy. They would suggest that having read the NT, we might in retrospect interpret this title as indicating the coming king’s deity, but it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way. Ps 45:6 addresses the Davidic king as “God” because he ruled and fought as God’s representative on earth. Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). According to proponents of this view, Isa 9:6 probably envisions a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself. The other option is to regard this title as a reference to God, confronting Isaiah’s readers with the divinity of this promised “child.” The use of this same title that clearly refers to God in a later passage (Isa 10:21) supports this interpretation. Other passages depict Yahweh as the great God and great warrior (Deut 10:17; Jer. 32:18). Although this connection of a child who is born with deity is unparalleled in any earlier biblical texts, Isaiah’s use of this title to make this connection represents Isaiah’s attempt (at God’s behest) to advance Israel in their understanding of the ideal Davidic king for whom they long.
Everlasting Father, ▼
▼ This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the “Son” is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the “Father.”) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of “father” see Isa 22:21 and Job 29:16. This figurative, idiomatic use of “father” is not limited to the Bible. In a Phoenician inscription (ca. 850–800 b.c.) the ruler Kilamuwa declares: “To some I was a father, to others I was a mother.” In another inscription (ca. 800 b.c.) the ruler Azitawadda boasts that the god Baal made him “a father and a mother” to his people. (See ANET 499–500.) The use of “everlasting” might suggest the deity of the king (as the one who has total control over eternity), but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king’s long reign or enduring dynasty (for examples of such hyperbolic language used of the Davidic king, see 1 Kgs 1:31; Pss 21:4–6; 61:6–7; 72:5, 17). The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title “Mighty God”) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, for Jesus will rule eternally.
Prince of Peace. ▼
▼ This title pictures the king as one who establishes a safe socio-economic environment for his people. It hardly depicts him as a meek individual, for he establishes peace through military strength (as the preceding context and the first two royal titles indicate). His people experience safety and prosperity because their invincible king destroys their enemies. See Pss 72 and 144 for parallels to these themes.
7 His dominion will be vast ▼
▼ The Hebrew text has לְםַרְבֵּה (lemarbeh), which is a corrupt reading. לם is dittographic; note the preceding word, שָׁלוֹם (shalom). The corrected text reads literally, “great is the dominion.”
and he will bring immeasurable prosperity. ▼
He will rule on David’s throne
and over David’s kingdom, ▼
▼ Heb “over the throne of David, and over his kingdom.” The referent of the pronoun “his” (i.e., David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
establishing it ▼
▼ The feminine singular pronominal suffix on this form and the following one (translated “it” both times) refers back to the grammatically feminine noun “kingdom.”and strengthening it
by promoting justice and fairness, ▼
▼ Heb “with/by justice and fairness”; ASV “with justice and with righteousness.”
from this time forward and forevermore.
The Lord’s intense devotion to his people ▼
▼ Heb “the zeal of the Lord.” In this context the Lord’s “zeal” refers to his intense devotion to and love for his people which prompts him to vindicate them and to fulfill his promises to David and the nation.will accomplish this.
God’s Judgment Intensifies8 ▼
▼ The following speech (9:8–10:4) assumes that God has already sent judgment (see v. 9), but it also announces that further judgment is around the corner (10:1–4). The speech seems to describe a series of past judgments on the northern kingdom which is ready to intensify further in the devastation announced in 10:1–4. It may have been written prior to the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in 734–733 b.c., or sometime between that invasion and the downfall of Samaria in 722 b.c. The structure of the speech displays four panels, each of which ends with the refrain, “Through all this, his anger did not subside; his hand remained outstretched” (9:12b; 17b; 21b; 10:4b): Panel I: (A) Description of past judgment (9:8); (B) Description of the people’s attitude toward past judgment (9:9–10); (C) Description of past judgment (9:11–12a); (D) Refrain (9:12b); Panel II: (A) Description of the people’s attitude toward past judgment (9:13); (B) Description of past judgment (9:14–17a); (C) Refrain (9:17b); Panel III: (A) Description of past judgment (9:18–21a); (B) Refrain (9:21b); Panel IV: (A) Woe oracle announcing future judgment (10:1–4a); (B) Refrain (10:4b).The sovereign master ▼ decreed judgment ▼
▼ Heb “sent a word” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV); NASB “sends a message.”on Jacob,
and it fell on Israel. ▼
▼ The present translation assumes that this verse refers to judgment that had already fallen. Both verbs (perfects) are taken as indicating simple past; the vav (ו) on the second verb is understood as a simple vav conjunctive. Another option is to understand the verse as describing a future judgment (see 10:1–4). In this case the first verb is a perfect of certitude; the vav on the second verb is a vav consecutive.
9 All the people were aware ▼ of it,
the people of Ephraim and those living in Samaria. ▼
▼ Heb “and the people, all of them, knew; Ephraim and the residents of Samaria.”
Yet with pride and an arrogant attitude, they said, ▼
▼ Heb “with pride and arrogance of heart, saying.”
10 “The bricks have fallen,
but we will rebuild with chiseled stone;
the sycamore fig trees have been cut down,
but we will replace them with cedars.” ▼
11 Then the Lord provoked ▼
▼ The translation assumes that the prefixed verb with vav (ו) consecutive continues the narrative of past judgment.their adversaries to attack them, ▼
▼ The Hebrew text reads literally, “adversaries of Rezin against him [i.e., them].” The next verse describes how the Syrians (over whom Rezin ruled, see 7:1, 8) and the Philistines encroached on Israel’s territory. Since the Syrians and Israelites were allies by 735 b.c. (see 7:1), the hostilities described probably occurred earlier, while Israel was still pro-Assyrian. In this case one might understand the phrase צָרֵי רְצִין (tsare retsin, “adversaries of Rezin”) as meaning “adversaries sent from Rezin.” However, another option, the one chosen in the translation above, is to emend the phrase to צָרָיו (tsarayv, “his [i.e., their] adversaries”). This creates tighter parallelism with the next line (note “his [i.e., their] enemies”). The phrase in the Hebrew text may be explained as virtually dittographic.
he stirred up ▼
▼ The prefixed verbal form is understood as a preterite, used, as is often the case in poetry, without vav consecutive. Note that prefixed forms with vav consecutive both precede (וַיְשַׂגֵּב, vaysaggev, “and he provoked”) and follow in v. 12 (וַיֹּאכְלוּ, vayyo’khelu, “and they devoured”) this verb.their enemies –
12 Syria from the east,
and the Philistines from the west,
they gobbled up Israelite territory. ▼
▼ Heb “and they devoured Israel with all the mouth”; NIV “with open mouth”; NLT “With bared fangs.”
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again. ▼
▼ Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched.” One could translate in the past tense here (and in 9:17b and 21b), but the appearance of the refrain in 10:4b, where it follows a woe oracle prophesying a future judgment, suggests it is a dramatic portrait of the judge which did not change throughout this period of past judgment and will remain unchanged in the future. The English present tense is chosen to best reflect this dramatic mood. (See also 5:25b, where the refrain appears following a dramatic description of coming judgment.)
13 The people did not return to the one who struck them,
they did not seek reconciliation ▼ with the Lord who commands armies.
14 So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail,
both the shoots and stalk ▼
▼ The metaphor in this line is that of a reed being cut down.in one day.
15 The leaders and the highly respected people ▼ are the head,
the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 The leaders of this nation were misleading people,
and the people being led were destroyed. ▼
▼ Heb “and the ones being led were swallowed up.” Instead of taking מְבֻלָּעִים (mebulla’im) from בָּלַע (bala’, “to swallow”), HALOT 134 s.v. בלע proposes a rare homonymic root בלע (“confuse”) here.
17 So the sovereign master was not pleased ▼
▼ The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has לא יחמול (“he did not spare”) which is an obvious attempt to tighten the parallelism (note “he took no pity” in the next line). Instead of taking שָׂמַח (samakh) in one of its well attested senses (“rejoice over, be pleased with”), some propose, with support from Arabic, a rare homonymic root meaning “be merciful.”with their young men,
he took no pity ▼ on their orphans and widows;
for the whole nation was godless ▼
▼ Or “defiled”; cf. ASV “profane”; NAB “profaned”; NIV “ungodly.”and did wicked things, ▼
▼ מֵרַע (mera’) is a Hiphil participle from רָעַע (ra’a’, “be evil”). The intransitive Hiphil has an exhibitive force here, indicating that they exhibited outwardly the evidence of an inward condition by committing evil deeds.
every mouth was speaking disgraceful words. ▼
▼ Or “foolishness” (NASB), here in a moral-ethical sense.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again. ▼
▼ Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched.”▼
18 For ▼ evil burned like a fire, ▼
▼ Evil was uncontrollable and destructive, and so can be compared to a forest fire.
it consumed thorns and briers;
it burned up the thickets of the forest,
and they went up in smoke. ▼
▼ Heb “and they swirled [with] the rising of the smoke” (cf. NRSV).
19 Because of the anger of the Lord who commands armies, the land was scorched, ▼
▼ The precise meaning of the verb עְתַּם (’etam), which occurs only here, is uncertain, though the context strongly suggests that it means “burn, scorch.”
and the people became fuel for the fire. ▼
People had no compassion on one another. ▼
▼ Heb “men were not showing compassion to their brothers.” The idiom “men to their brothers” is idiomatic for reciprocity. The prefixed verbal form is either a preterite without vav (ו) consecutive or an imperfect used in a customary sense, describing continual or repeated behavior in past time.
20 They devoured ▼
▼ Or “cut.” The verb גָּזַר (gazar) means “to cut.” If it is understood here, then one might paraphrase, “They slice off meat on the right.” However, HALOT 187 s.v. I גזר, proposes here a rare homonym meaning “to devour.”on the right, but were still hungry,
they ate on the left, but were not satisfied.
People even ate ▼
▼ The prefixed verbal form is either a preterite without vav consecutive or an imperfect used in a customary sense, describing continual or repeated behavior in past time.the flesh of their own arm! ▼
▼ Some suggest that זְרֹעוֹ (zero’o, “his arm”) be repointed זַרְעוֹ (zar’o, “his offspring”). In either case, the metaphor is that of a desperately hungry man who resorts to an almost unthinkable act to satisfy his appetite. He eats everything he can find to his right, but still being unsatisfied, then turns to his left and eats everything he can find there. Still being desperate for food, he then resorts to eating his own flesh (or offspring, as this phrase is metaphorically understood by some English versions, e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, NLT). The reality behind the metaphor is the political turmoil of the period, as the next verse explains. There was civil strife within the northern kingdom; even the descendants of Joseph were at each other’s throats. Then the northern kingdom turned on their southern brother, Judah.
21 Manasseh fought against ▼
▼ The words “fought against” are supplied in the translation both here and later in this verse for stylistic reasons.Ephraim,
and Ephraim against Manasseh;
together they fought against Judah.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again. ▼
▼ Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched” (KJV and ASV both similar); NIV “his hand is still upraised.”▼
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