1:15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I look the other way; 1
when you offer your many prayers,
I do not listen,
because your hands are covered with blood. 2
Remove your sinful deeds 4
from my sight.
1:17 Learn to do what is right!
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate! 5
Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow! 6
“Though your sins have stained you like the color red,
you can become 9 white like snow;
though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet,
then you will again eat the good crops of the land.
1:20 But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured 13 by the sword.”
Know for certain that the Lord has spoken. 14
1 tn Heb “I close my eyes from you.”
2 sn This does not just refer to the blood of sacrificial animals, but also the blood, as it were, of their innocent victims. By depriving the poor and destitute of proper legal recourse and adequate access to the economic system, the oppressors have, for all intents and purposes, “killed” their victims.
3 sn Having demonstrated the people’s guilt, the Lord calls them to repentance, which will involve concrete action in the socio-economic realm, not mere emotion.
4 sn This phrase refers to Israel’s covenant treachery (cf. Deut 28:10; Jer 4:4; 21:12; 23:2, 22; 25:5; 26:3; 44:22; Hos 9:15; Ps 28:4). In general, the noun ַמעַלְלֵיכֶם (ma’alleykhem) can simply be a reference to deeds, whether good or bad. However, Isaiah always uses it with a negative connotation (cf. 3:8, 10).
5 tn The precise meaning of this line is uncertain. The translation assumes an emendation of חָמוֹץ (khamots, “oppressor [?]”) to חָמוּץ (khamuts, “oppressed”), a passive participle from II חָמַץ (khamats, “oppress”; HALOT 329 s.v. II חמץ) and takes the verb II אָשַׁר (’ashar) in the sense of “make happy” (the delocutive Piel, meaning “call/pronounce happy,” is metonymic here, referring to actually effecting happiness). The parallelism favors this interpretation, for the next two lines speak of positive actions on behalf of the destitute. The other option is to retain the MT pointing and translate, “set right the oppressor,” but the nuance “set right” is not clearly attested elsewhere for the verb I אשׁר. This verb does appear as a participle in Isa 3:12 and 9:16 with the meaning “to lead or guide.” If it can mean to “lead” or “rebuke/redirect” in this verse, the prophet could be contrasting this appeal for societal reformation (v. 17c) with a command to reorder their personal lives (v. 17a-b). J. A. Motyer (The Prophecy of Isaiah, 47) suggests that these three statements (v. 17a-c) provide “the contrast between the two ends of imperfect society, the oppressor and the needy, the one inflicting and the other suffering the hurt. Isaiah looks for a transformed society wherever it needs transforming.”
6 tn This word refers to a woman who has lost her husband, by death or divorce. The orphan and widow are often mentioned in the OT as epitomizing the helpless and impoverished who have been left without the necessities of life due to the loss of a family provider.
7 sn The Lord concludes his case against Israel by offering them the opportunity to be forgiven and by setting before them the alternatives of renewed blessing (as a reward for repentance) and final judgment (as punishment for persistence in sin).
8 tn Traditionally, “let us reason together,” but the context suggests a judicial nuance. The Lord is giving the nation its options for the future.
9 tn The imperfects must be translated as modal (indicating capability or possibility) to bring out the conditional nature of the offer. This purification will only occur if the people repent and change their ways.
10 tn The imperfects must be translated as modal (indicating capability or possibility) to bring out the conditional nature of the offer. This purification will only occur if the people repent and change their ways.
11 tn Heb “though your sins are like red, they will become white like snow; though they are red like scarlet, they will be like wool.” The point is not that the sins will be covered up, though still retained. The metaphorical language must be allowed some flexibility and should not be pressed into a rigid literalistic mold. The people’s sins will be removed and replaced by ethical purity. The sins that are now as obvious as the color red will be washed away and the ones who are sinful will be transformed.
12 tn Heb “listen”; KJV “obedient”; NASB “If you consent and obey.”
13 sn The wordplay in the Hebrew draws attention to the options. The people can obey, in which case they will “eat” v. 19 (תֹּאכֵלוּ [to’khelu], Qal active participle of אָכַל) God’s blessing, or they can disobey, in which case they will be devoured (Heb “eaten,” תְּאֻכְּלוּ, [tÿ’ukkÿlu], Qal passive/Pual of אָכַל) by God’s judgment.
14 tn Heb “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The introductory כִּי (ki) may be asseverative (as reflected in the translation) or causal/explanatory, explaining why the option chosen by the people will become reality (it is guaranteed by the divine word).