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Isaiah 41

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The Lord Challenges the Nations

41:1 “Listen to me in silence, you coastlands! 1 

Let the nations find renewed strength!

Let them approach and then speak;

let us come together for debate! 2 

41:2 Who stirs up this one from the east? 3 

Who 4  officially commissions him for service? 5 

He hands nations over to him, 6 

and enables him to subdue 7  kings.

He makes them like dust with his sword,

like windblown straw with his bow. 8 

41:3 He pursues them and passes by unharmed; 9 

he advances with great speed. 10 

41:4 Who acts and carries out decrees? 11 

Who 12  summons the successive generations from the beginning?

I, the Lord, am present at the very beginning,

and at the very end – I am the one. 13 

41:5 The coastlands 14  see and are afraid;

the whole earth 15  trembles;

they approach and come.

41:6 They help one another; 16 

one says to the other, ‘Be strong!’

41:7 The craftsman encourages the metalsmith,

the one who wields the hammer encourages 17  the one who pounds on the anvil.

He approves the quality of the welding, 18 

and nails it down so it won’t fall over.”

The Lord Encourages His People

41:8 “You, my servant Israel,

Jacob whom I have chosen,

offspring of Abraham my friend, 19 

41:9 you whom I am bringing back 20  from the earth’s extremities,

and have summoned from the remote regions –

I told you, “You are my servant.”

I have chosen you and not rejected you.

41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you!

Don’t be frightened, for I am your God! 21 

I strengthen you –

yes, I help you –

yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand! 22 

41:11 Look, all who were angry at you will be ashamed and humiliated;

your adversaries 23  will be reduced to nothing 24  and perish.

41:12 When you will look for your opponents, 25  you will not find them;

your enemies 26  will be reduced to absolutely nothing.

41:13 For I am the Lord your God,

the one who takes hold of your right hand,

who says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am helping you.’

41:14 Don’t be afraid, despised insignificant Jacob, 27 

men of 28  Israel.

I am helping you,” says the Lord,

your protector, 29  the Holy One of Israel. 30 

41:15 “Look, I am making you like 31  a sharp threshing sledge,

new and double-edged. 32 

You will thresh the mountains and crush them;

you will make the hills like straw. 33 

41:16 You will winnow them and the wind will blow them away;

the wind will scatter them.

You will rejoice in the Lord;

you will boast in the Holy One of Israel.

41:17 The oppressed and the poor look for water, but there is none;

their tongues are parched from thirst.

I, the Lord, will respond to their prayers; 34 

I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.

41:18 I will make streams flow down the slopes

and produce springs in the middle of the valleys.

I will turn the desert into a pool of water

and the arid land into springs.

41:19 I will make cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees grow in the wilderness;

I will make evergreens, firs, and cypresses grow together in the desert.

41:20 I will do this so 35  people 36  will observe and recognize,

so they will pay attention and understand

that the Lord’s power 37  has accomplished this,

and that the Holy One of Israel has brought it into being.” 38 

The Lord Challenges the Pagan Gods

41:21 “Present your argument,” says the Lord.

“Produce your evidence,” 39  says Jacob’s king. 40 

41:22 “Let them produce evidence! Let them tell us what will happen!

Tell us about your earlier predictive oracles, 41 

so we may examine them 42  and see how they were fulfilled. 43 

Or decree for us some future events!

41:23 Predict how future events will turn out, 44 

so we might know you are gods.

Yes, do something good or bad,

so we might be frightened and in awe. 45 

41:24 Look, you are nothing, and your accomplishments are nonexistent;

the one who chooses to worship you is disgusting. 46 

41:25 I have stirred up one out of the north 47  and he advances,

one from the eastern horizon who prays in my name. 48 

He steps on 49  rulers as if they were clay,

like a potter treading the clay.

41:26 Who decreed this from the beginning, so we could know?

Who announced it 50  ahead of time, so we could say, ‘He’s correct’?

Indeed, none of them decreed it!

Indeed, none of them announced it!

Indeed, no one heard you say anything!

41:27 I first decreed to Zion, ‘Look, here’s what will happen!’ 51 

I sent a herald to Jerusalem. 52 

41:28 I look, but there is no one,

among them there is no one who serves as an adviser,

that I might ask questions and receive answers.

41:29 Look, all of them are nothing, 53 

their accomplishments are nonexistent;

their metal images lack any real substance. 54 

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1 tn Or “islands” (KJV, NIV, CEV); TEV “distant lands”; NLT “lands beyond the sea.”

2 tn The Hebrew term מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) could be translated “judgment,” but here it seems to refer to the dispute or debate between the Lord and the nations.

3 sn The expression this one from the east refers to the Persian conqueror Cyrus, as later texts indicate (see 44:28-45:6; 46:11; 48:14-16).

4 tn The interrogative particle is understood by ellipsis.

5 tn Heb “[in] righteousness called him to his foot.”

6 tn Heb “he [the Lord] places before him [Cyrus] nations.”

7 tn The verb יַרְדְּ (yardÿ) is an otherwise unattested Hiphil form from רָדָה (radah, “rule”). But the Hiphil makes no sense with “kings” as object; one must understand an ellipsis and supply “him” (Cyrus) as the object. The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has יוֹרִד (yorid), which appears to be a Hiphil form from יָרַד (yarad, “go down”). Others suggest reading יָרֹד (yarod), a Qal form from רָדַד (radad, “beat down”).

8 sn The point is that they are powerless before Cyrus’ military power and scatter before him.

9 tn Heb “[in] peace”; KJV, ASV “safely”; NASB “in safety”; NIV “unscathed.”

10 tn Heb “a way with his feet he does not come [or “enter”].” One could translate, “by a way he was not [previously] entering with his feet.” This would mean that he is advancing into new territory and expanding his conquests. The present translation assumes this is a hyperbolic description to his speedy advance. He moves so quickly he does not enter the way with his feet, i.e., his feet don’t even touch the ground. See C. R. North, Second Isaiah, 94.

11 tn Heb “Who acts and accomplishes?”; NASB “Who has performed and accomplished it.”

12 tn The interrogative particle is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).

13 tn Heb “I, the Lord, [am with] the first, and with the last ones I [am] he.”

14 tn Or “islands” (NIV, CEV); NCV “faraway places”; NLT “lands beyond the sea.”

15 tn Heb “the ends of the earth,” but this is a merism, where the earth’s extremities stand for its entirety, i.e., the extremities and everything in between them.

16 tn Heb “each his neighbor helps”; NCV “The workers help each other.”

17 tn The verb “encourages” is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).

18 tn Heb “saying of the welding, ‘It is good.’”

19 tn Or perhaps, “covenantal partner” (see 1 Kgs 5:15 HT [5:1 ET]; 2 Chr 20:7).

20 tn Heb “whom I have taken hold of [i.e., to lead back].”

21 tn According to BDB (1043 s.v. שָׁעָה), the verb תִּשְׁתָּע (tishta’) in the second line of the poetic couplet is a Hitpael form from the root שָׁעָה (shaah, “gaze,” with metathesis of the stem prefix and the first root letter). Taking the Hitpael as iterative, one may then translate “do not anxiously look about.” However, the alleged Hitpael form of שָׁעָה (shaah) only occurs here and in verse 23. HALOT 1671 s.v. שׁתע proposes that the verb is instead a Qal form from the root שׁתע (“fear”) which is attested in cognate Semitic languages, including Ugaritic (discovered after the publishing of BDB), suggests the existence of this root. The poetic structure of v. 10 also supports the proposal, for the form in question is in synonymous parallelism to יָרֵא (yare’, “fear”).

22 tn The “right hand” is a symbol of the Lord’s power to deliver (Exod 15:6, 12) and protect (Ps 63:9 HT [63:8 ET]). Here צֶדֶק (tsedeq) has its well-attested nuance of “vindicated righteousness,” i.e., “victory, deliverance” (see 45:8; 51:5, and BDB 841-42 s.v.).

23 tn Heb “the men of your strife”; NASB “those who contend with you.”

24 tn Heb “like nothing”; NAB “come to nought.”

25 tn Heb “the men of your struggle”; NASB “those who quarrel with you.”

26 tn Heb “the men of your battle”; NAB “who do battle with you.”

27 tn Heb “O worm Jacob” (NAB, NIV). The worm metaphor suggests that Jacob is insignificant and despised.

28 tn On the basis of the parallelism (note “worm”) and an alleged Akkadian cognate, some read “louse” or “weevil.” Cf. NAB “O maggot Israel”; NRSV “you insect Israel.”

29 tn Heb “your kinsman redeemer.” A גָּאַל (gaal, “kinsman redeemer”) was a protector of the extended family’s interests.

30 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.

31 tn Heb “into” (so NIV); ASV “have made thee to be.”

32 tn Heb “owner of two-mouths,” i.e., double-edged.

33 sn The mountains and hills symbolize hostile nations that are obstacles to Israel’s restoration.

34 tn Heb “will answer them” (so ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

35 tn The words “I will do this” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The Hebrew text has here simply, “in order that.”

36 tn Heb “they”; NAB, NRSV “that all may see”; CEV, NLT “Everyone will see.”

37 tn Heb “hand” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

38 tn Or “created it” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); TEV “has made it happen.”

39 tn Heb “strong [words],” see HALOT 870 s.v. *עֲצֻמוֹת.

40 sn Apparently this challenge is addressed to the pagan idol gods, see vv. 23-24.

41 tn Heb “As for the former things, tell us what they are!”

42 tn Heb “so we might set [them to] our heart.”

43 tn Heb “and might know their outcome.”

44 tn Heb “Declare the coming things, with respect to the end.”

45 tc The translation assumes the Qere (וְנִרְאֶה [vÿnireh], from יָרֵא [yare’], “be afraid”).

tn Heb “so we might be frightened and afraid together.” On the meaning of the verb שָׁתָע (shata’), see the note at v. 10.

46 tn Heb “an object of disgust [is he who] chooses you.”

47 sn That is, Cyrus the Persian. See the note at v. 2.

48 tn Heb “[one] from the rising of the sun [who] calls in my name.”

49 tn The Hebrew text has וְיָבֹא (vÿyavo’, “and he comes”), but this is likely a corruption of an original וַיָּבָס (vayyavas), from בּוּס (bus, “step on”).

50 tn The words “who announced it” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The interrogative particle and verb are understood by ellipsis (see the preceding line).

51 tn The Hebrew text reads simply, “First to Zion, ‘Look here they are!’” The words “I decreed” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

52 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

53 tc The Hebrew text has אָוֶן (’aven, “deception,” i.e., “false”), but the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has אין (“nothing”), which forms a better parallel with אֶפֶס (’efes, “nothing”) in the next line. See also 40:17 and 41:12.

54 tn Heb “their statues are wind and nothing”; NASB “wind and emptiness”; NIV “wind and confusion.”



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