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Isaiah 24:4-6

Context

24:4 The earth 1  dries up 2  and withers,

the world shrivels up and withers;

the prominent people of the earth 3  fade away.

24:5 The earth is defiled by 4  its inhabitants, 5 

for they have violated laws,

disregarded the regulation, 6 

and broken the permanent treaty. 7 

24:6 So a treaty curse 8  devours the earth;

its inhabitants pay for their guilt. 9 

This is why the inhabitants of the earth disappear, 10 

and are reduced to just a handful of people. 11 

1 tn Some prefer to read “land” here, but the word pair אֶרֶץ/תֵּבֵל (erets/tevel [see the corresponding term in the parallel line]) elsewhere clearly designates the earth/world (see 1 Sam 2:8; 1 Chr 16:30; Job 37;12; Pss 19:4; 24:1; 33:8; 89:11; 90:2; 96:13; 98:9; Prov 8:26, 31; Isa 14:16-17; 34:1; Jer 10:12; 51:15; Lam 4:12). According to L. Stadelmann, תבל designates “the habitable part of the world” (The Hebrew Conception of the World [AnBib], 130).

2 tn Or “mourns” (BDB 5 s.v. אָבַל). HALOT 6-7 lists the homonyms I אבל (“mourn”) and II אבל (“dry up”). They propose the second here on the basis of parallelism.

3 tn Heb “the height of the people of the earth.” The translation assumes an emendation of the singular form מְרוֹם (mÿrom, “height of”) to the plural construct מְרֹמֵי (mÿrome, “high ones of”; note the plural verb at the beginning of the line), and understands the latter as referring to the prominent people of human society.

4 tn Heb “beneath”; cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV “under”; NAB “because of.”

5 sn Isa 26:21 suggests that the earth’s inhabitants defiled the earth by shedding the blood of their fellow human beings. See also Num 35:33-34, which assumes that bloodshed defiles a land.

6 tn Heb “moved past [the?] regulation.”

7 tn Or “everlasting covenant” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “the ancient covenant”; CEV “their agreement that was to last forever.”

sn For a lengthy discussion of the identity of this covenant/treaty, see R. Chisholm, “The ‘Everlasting Covenant’ and the ‘City of Chaos’: Intentional Ambiguity and Irony in Isaiah 24,” CTR 6 (1993): 237-53. In this context, where judgment comes upon both the pagan nations and God’s covenant community, the phrase “permanent treaty” is intentionally ambiguous. For the nations this treaty is the Noahic mandate of Gen 9:1-7 with its specific stipulations and central regulation (Gen 9:7). By shedding blood, the warlike nations violated this treaty, which promotes population growth and prohibits murder. For Israel, which was also guilty of bloodshed (see Isa 1:15, 21; 4:4), this “permanent treaty” would refer more specifically to the Mosaic Law and its regulations prohibiting murder (Exod 20:13; Num 35:6-34), which are an extension of the Noahic mandate.

8 sn Ancient Near Eastern treaties often had “curses,” or threatened judgments, attached to them. (See Deut 28 for a biblical example of such curses.) The party or parties taking an oath of allegiance acknowledged that disobedience would activate these curses, which typically threatened loss of agricultural fertility as depicted in the following verses.

9 tn The verb אָשַׁם (’asham, “be guilty”) is here used metonymically to mean “pay, suffer for one’s guilt” (see HALOT 95 s.v. אשׁם).

10 tn BDB 359 s.v. חָרַר derives the verb חָרוּ (kharu) from חָרַר (kharar, “burn”), but HALOT 351 s.v. II חרה understands a hapax legomenon חָרָה (kharah, “to diminish in number,” a homonym of חָרָה) here, relating it to an alleged Arabic cognate meaning “to decrease.” The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has חורו, perhaps understanding the root as חָוַר (khavar, “grow pale”; see Isa 29:22 and HALOT 299 s.v. I חור).

11 tn Heb “and mankind is left small [in number].”



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