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Isaiah 11:4-5

Context

11:4 He will treat the poor fairly, 1 

and make right decisions 2  for the downtrodden of the earth. 3 

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, 4 

and order the wicked to be executed. 5 

11:5 Justice will be like a belt around his waist,

integrity will be like a belt around his hips. 6 

1 tn Heb “with justice” (so NAB) or “with righteousness” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

2 tn Heb “make decisions with rectitude”; cf. ASV, NRSV “and decide with equity.”

3 tn Or “land” (NAB, NCV, CEV). It is uncertain if the passage is picturing universal dominion or focusing on the king’s rule over his covenant people. The reference to God’s “holy mountain” in v. 9 and the description of renewed Israelite conquests in v. 14 suggest the latter, though v. 10 seems to refer to a universal kingdom (see 2:2-4).

4 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “and he will strike the earth with the scepter of his mouth.” Some have suggested that in this context אֶרֶץ (’erets, “earth”) as an object of judgment seems too broad in scope. The parallelism is tighter if one emends the word to ץ(י)עָרִ (’arits, “potentate, tyrant”). The phrase “scepter of his mouth” refers to the royal (note “scepter”) decrees that he proclaims with his mouth. Because these decrees will have authority and power (see v. 2) behind them, they can be described as “striking” the tyrants down. Nevertheless, the MT reading may not need emending. Isaiah refers to the entire “earth” as the object of God’s judgment in several places without specifying the wicked as the object of the judgment (Isa 24:17-21; 26:9, 21; 28:22; cf. 13:11).

5 tn Heb “and by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.” The “breath of his lips” refers to his speech, specifically in this context his official decrees that the wicked oppressors be eliminated from his realm. See the preceding note.

6 tn Heb “Justice will be the belt [or “undergarment”] on his waist, integrity the belt [or “undergarment”] on his hips.” The point of the metaphor is uncertain. If a belt worn outside the robe is in view, then the point might be that justice/integrity will be readily visible or that these qualities will give support to his rule. If an undergarment is in view, then the idea might be that these characteristics support his rule or that they are basic to everything else.



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