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Isaiah 44

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The Lord Will Renew Israel

44:1 “Now, listen, Jacob my servant,

Israel whom I have chosen!”

44:2 This is what the Lord, the one who made you, says –

the one who formed you in the womb and helps you:

“Don’t be afraid, my servant Jacob,

Jeshurun, 1  whom I have chosen!

44:3 For I will pour water on the parched ground 2 

and cause streams to flow 3  on the dry land.

I will pour my spirit on your offspring

and my blessing on your children.

44:4 They will sprout up like a tree in the grass, 4 

like poplars beside channels of water.

44:5 One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord,’

and another will use 5  the name ‘Jacob.’

One will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’

and use the name ‘Israel.’” 6 

The Absurdity of Idolatry

44:6 This is what the Lord, Israel’s king, says,

their protector, 7  the Lord who commands armies:

“I am the first and I am the last,

there is no God but me.

44:7 Who is like me? Let him make his claim! 8 

Let him announce it and explain it to me –

since I established an ancient people – 9 

let them announce future events! 10 

44:8 Don’t panic! Don’t be afraid! 11 

Did I not tell you beforehand and decree it?

You are my witnesses! Is there any God but me?

There is no other sheltering rock; 12  I know of none.

44:9 All who form idols are nothing;

the things in which they delight are worthless.

Their witnesses cannot see;

they recognize nothing, so they are put to shame.

44:10 Who forms a god and casts an idol

that will prove worthless? 13 

44:11 Look, all his associates 14  will be put to shame;

the craftsmen are mere humans. 15 

Let them all assemble and take their stand!

They will panic and be put to shame.

44:12 A blacksmith works with his tool 16 

and forges metal over the coals.

He forms it 17  with hammers;

he makes it with his strong arm.

He gets hungry and loses his energy; 18 

he drinks no water and gets tired.

44:13 A carpenter takes measurements; 19 

he marks out an outline of its form; 20 

he scrapes 21  it with chisels,

and marks it with a compass.

He patterns it after the human form, 22 

like a well-built human being,

and puts it in a shrine. 23 

44:14 He cuts down cedars

and acquires a cypress 24  or an oak.

He gets 25  trees from the forest;

he plants a cedar 26  and the rain makes it grow.

44:15 A man uses it to make a fire; 27 

he takes some of it and warms himself.

Yes, he kindles a fire and bakes bread.

Then he makes a god and worships it;

he makes an idol and bows down to it. 28 

44:16 Half of it he burns in the fire –

over that half he cooks 29  meat;

he roasts a meal and fills himself.

Yes, he warms himself and says,

‘Ah! I am warm as I look at the fire.’

44:17 With the rest of it he makes a god, his idol;

he bows down to it and worships it.

He prays to it, saying,

‘Rescue me, for you are my god!’

44:18 They do not comprehend or understand,

for their eyes are blind and cannot see;

their minds do not discern. 30 

44:19 No one thinks to himself,

nor do they comprehend or understand and say to themselves:

‘I burned half of it in the fire –

yes, I baked bread over the coals;

I roasted meat and ate it.

With the rest of it should I make a disgusting idol?

Should I bow down to dry wood?’ 31 

44:20 He feeds on ashes; 32 

his deceived mind misleads him.

He cannot rescue himself,

nor does he say, ‘Is this not a false god I hold in my right hand?’ 33 

44:21 Remember these things, O Jacob,

O Israel, for you are my servant.

I formed you to be my servant;

O Israel, I will not forget you! 34 

44:22 I remove the guilt of your rebellious deeds as if they were a cloud,

the guilt of your sins as if they were a cloud. 35 

Come back to me, for I protect 36  you.”

44:23 Shout for joy, O sky, for the Lord intervenes; 37 

shout out, you subterranean regions 38  of the earth.

O mountains, give a joyful shout;

you too, O forest and all your trees! 39 

For the Lord protects 40  Jacob;

he reveals his splendor through Israel. 41 

The Lord Empowers Cyrus

44:24 This is what the Lord, your protector, 42  says,

the one who formed you in the womb:

“I am the Lord, who made everything,

who alone stretched out the sky,

who fashioned the earth all by myself, 43 

44:25 who frustrates the omens of the empty talkers 44 

and humiliates 45  the omen readers,

who overturns the counsel of the wise men 46 

and makes their advice 47  seem foolish,

44:26 who fulfills the oracles of his prophetic servants 48 

and brings to pass the announcements 49  of his messengers,

who says about Jerusalem, 50  ‘She will be inhabited,’

and about the towns of Judah, ‘They will be rebuilt,

her ruins I will raise up,’

44:27 who says to the deep sea, ‘Be dry!

I will dry up your sea currents,’

44:28 who commissions 51  Cyrus, the one I appointed as shepherd 52 

to carry out all my wishes 53 

and to decree concerning Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’

and concerning the temple, ‘It will be reconstructed.’” 54 

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1 sn Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel; it occurs here and in Deut 32:15; 33:5, 26.

2 tn Heb “the thirsty.” Parallelism suggests that dry ground is in view (see “dry land” in the next line.)

3 tn Heb “and streams”; KJV “floods.” The verb “cause…to flow” is supplied in the second line for clarity and for stylistic reasons.

4 tn The Hebrew term בֵין (ven) is usually taken as a preposition, in which case one might translate, “among the grass.” But בֵין is probably the name of a tree (cf. C. R. North, Second Isaiah, 133). If one alters the preposition bet (בְּ) to kaf (כְּ), one can then read, “like a binu-tree.” (The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa supports this reading.) This forms a nice parallel to “like poplars” in the next line. חָצִיר (khatsir) is functioning as an adverbial accusative of location.

5 tn The Hebrew text has a Qal verb form, “and another will call by the name of Jacob.” With support from Symmachus (an ancient Greek textual witness), some read the Niphal, “and another will be called by the name of Jacob.”

6 tn Heb “and by the name of Israel he will title.” Some, with support from several ancient versions, prefer to change the Piel (active) verb form to a Pual (passive), “and he will be titled by the name of Israel.”

7 tn Heb “his kinsman redeemer.” See the note at 41:14.

8 tn Heb “let him call” or “let him proclaim” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV); NAB “Let him stand up and speak.”

9 tc The Hebrew text reads, “from (the time) I established an ancient people, and the coming things.” Various emendations have been proposed. One of the options assumes the reading מַשְׁמִיעִים מֵעוֹלָם אוֹתִיּוֹת (mashmiim meolamotiyyot); This literally reads “the ones causing to hear from antiquity coming things,” but more idiomatically would read “as for those who predict from antiquity what will happen” (cf. NAB, NEB, REB). The emendation directs the attention of the reader to those who claim to be able to predict the future, challenging them to actually do what they claim they can do. The MT presents Yahweh as an example to whom these alleged “predictors of the future” can compare themselves. Since the ancient versions are unanimous in their support of the MT, the emendations should be set aside.

10 tn Heb and those things which are coming let them declare for themselves.”

11 tn BDB 923 s.v. רָהָה derives this verb from an otherwise unattested root, while HALOT 403 s.v. יָרָה defines it as “be stupefied” on the basis of an Arabic cognate. The form is likely a corruption of תיראו, the reading attested in the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa.

12 tn Heb “rock” or “rocky cliff,” a title that depicts God as a protective refuge in his role as sovereign king; thus the translation “sheltering rock.”

13 tn The rhetorical question is sarcastic. The sense is, “Who is foolish enough…?”

14 tn The pronoun “his” probably refers to the one who forms/casts an idol (v. 10), in which case it refers to the craftsman’s associates in the idol-manufacturing guild.

15 sn The point seems to be this: If the idols are the mere products of human hands, then those who trust in them will be disappointed, for man-made gods are incapable of helping their “creators.”

16 tn The noun מַעֲצָד (maatsad), which refers to some type of tool used for cutting, occurs only here and in Jer 10:3. See HALOT 615 s.v. מַעֲצָד.

17 tn Some English versions take the pronoun “it” to refer to an idol being fashioned by the blacksmith (cf. NIV, NCV, CEV). NLT understands the referent to be “a sharp tool,” which is then used by the carpenter in the following verse to carve an idol from wood.

18 tn Heb “and there is no strength”; NASB “his strength fails.”

19 tn Heb “stretches out a line” (ASV similar); NIV “measures with a line.”

20 tn Heb “he makes an outline with the [?].” The noun שֶׂרֶד (shered) occurs only here; it apparently refers to some type of tool or marker. Cf. KJV “with a line”; ASV “with a pencil”; NAB, NRSV “with a stylus”; NASB “with red chalk”; NIV “with a marker.”

21 tn Heb “works” (so NASB) or “fashions” (so NRSV); NIV “he roughs it out.”

22 tn Heb “he makes it like the pattern of a man”; NAB “like a man in appearance.”

23 tn Heb “like the glory of man to sit [in] a house”; NIV “that it may dwell in a shrine.”

24 tn It is not certain what type of tree this otherwise unattested noun refers to. Cf. ASV “a holm-tree” (NRSV similar).

25 tn Heb “strengthens for himself,” i.e., “secures for himself” (see BDB 55 s.v. אָמֵץ Pi.2).

26 tn Some prefer to emend אֹרֶן (’oren) to אֶרֶז (’erez, “cedar”), but the otherwise unattested noun appears to have an Akkadian cognate, meaning “cedar.” See H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena (SBLDS), 44-45. HALOT 90 s.v. I אֹרֶן offers the meaning “laurel.”

27 tn Heb “and it becomes burning [i.e., firewood] for a man”; NAB “to serve man for fuel.”

28 tn Or perhaps, “them.”

29 tn Heb “eats” (so NASB); NAB, NRSV “roasts.”

30 tn Heb “for their eyes are smeared over so they cannot see, so their heart cannot be wise.”

31 tn There is no formal interrogative sign here, but the context seems to indicate these are rhetorical questions. See GKC 473 §150.a.

32 tn Or perhaps, “he eats on an ash heap.”

33 tn Heb “Is it not a lie in my right hand?”

34 tc The verb in the Hebrew text is a Niphal imperfect with a pronominal suffix. Although the Niphal ordinarily has the passive sense, it can have a reflexive nuance as well (see above translation). Some have suggested an emendation to a Qal form: “Do not forget me” (all the ancient versions, NEB, REB; see GKC 369 §117.x). “Do not forget me” would make a good parallel with “remember these things” in the first line. Since the MT is the harder reading and fits with Israel’s complaint that God had forgotten her (Isa 40:27), the MT reading should be retained (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, ESV). The passive has been rendered as an active in the translation in keeping with contemporary English style (so also NIV, NCV, TEV, NLT).

35 tn Heb “I blot out like a cloud your rebellious deeds, and like a cloud your sins.” “Rebellious deeds” and “sins” stand by metonymy for the guilt they produce. Both עָב (’av) and עָנָן (’anan) refer to the clouds in the sky. It is tempting for stylistic purposes to translate the second with “fog” or “mist” (cf. NAB, NRSV “cloud…mist”; NIV “cloud…morning mist”; NLT “morning mists…clouds”), but this distinction between the synonyms is unwarranted here. The point of the simile seems to be this: The Lord forgives their sins, causing them to vanish just as clouds disappear from the sky (see Job 7:9; 30:15).

36 tn Heb “redeem.” See the note at 41:14.

37 tn Heb “acts”; NASB, NRSV “has done it”; NLT “has done this wondrous thing.”

38 tn Heb “lower regions.” This refers to Sheol and forms a merism with “sky” in the previous line. See Pss 63:9; 71:20.

39 tn Heb “O forest and all the trees in it”; NASB, NRSV “and every tree in it.”

40 tn Heb “redeems.” See the note at 41:14.

41 tn That is, by delivering Israel. Cf. NCV “showed his glory when he saved Israel”; TEV “has shown his greatness by saving his people Israel.”

42 tn Heb “your redeemer.” See the note at 41:14.

43 tn The consonantal text (Kethib) has “Who [was] with me?” The marginal reading (Qere) is “from with me,” i.e., “by myself.” See BDB 87 s.v. II אֵת 4.c.

44 tc The Hebrew text has בַּדִּים (baddim), perhaps meaning “empty talkers” (BDB 95 s.v. III בַּד). In the four other occurrences of this word (Job 11:3; Isa 16:6; Jer 48:30; 50:36) the context does not make the meaning of the term very clear. Its primary point appears to be that the words spoken are meaningless or false. In light of its parallelism with “omen readers,” some have proposed an emendation to בָּרִים (barim, “seers”). The Mesopotamian baru-priests were divination specialists who played an important role in court life. See R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel, 93-98. Rather than supporting an emendation, J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 2:189, n. 79) suggests that Isaiah used בַּדִּים purposively as a derisive wordplay on the Akkadian word baru (in light of the close similarity of the d and r consonants).

45 tn Or “makes fools of” (NIV, NRSV); NAB and NASB both similar.

46 tn Heb “who turns back the wise” (so NRSV); NIV “overthrows the learning of the wise”; TEV “The words of the wise I refute.”

47 tn Heb “their knowledge” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).

48 tn Heb “the word of his servant.” The following context indicates that the Lord’s prophets are in view.

49 tn Heb “counsel.” The Hebrew term עֵצָה (’etsah) probably refers here to the divine plan as announced by the prophets. See HALOT 867 s.v. I עֵצָה.

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

51 tn Heb “says to.” It is possible that the sentence is not completed, as the description of Cyrus and his God-given role is developed in the rest of the verse. 45:1 picks up where 44:28a leaves off with the Lord’s actual words to Cyrus finally being quoted in 45:2.

52 tn Heb “my shepherd.” The shepherd motif is sometimes applied, as here, to a royal figure who is responsible for the well-being of the people whom he rules.

53 tn Heb “that he might bring to completion all my desire.”

54 tn Heb “and [concerning the] temple, you will be founded.” The preposition -לְ (lÿ) is understood by ellipsis at the beginning of the second line. The verb תִּוָּסֵד (tivvased, “you will be founded”) is second masculine singular and is probably addressed to the personified temple (הֵיכָל [hekhal, “temple”] is masculine).



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