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Isaiah 44:6-23

Context
The Absurdity of Idolatry

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

their protector, 1  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! 2 

Let him announce it and explain it to me –

since I established an ancient people – 3 

let them announce future events! 4 

44:8 Don’t panic! Don’t be afraid! 5 

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; 6  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? 7 

44:11 Look, all his associates 8  will be put to shame;

the craftsmen are mere humans. 9 

Let them all assemble and take their stand!

They will panic and be put to shame.

44:12 A blacksmith works with his tool 10 

and forges metal over the coals.

He forms it 11  with hammers;

he makes it with his strong arm.

He gets hungry and loses his energy; 12 

he drinks no water and gets tired.

44:13 A carpenter takes measurements; 13 

he marks out an outline of its form; 14 

he scrapes 15  it with chisels,

and marks it with a compass.

He patterns it after the human form, 16 

like a well-built human being,

and puts it in a shrine. 17 

44:14 He cuts down cedars

and acquires a cypress 18  or an oak.

He gets 19  trees from the forest;

he plants a cedar 20  and the rain makes it grow.

44:15 A man uses it to make a fire; 21 

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. 22 

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

over that half he cooks 23  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. 24 

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?’ 25 

44:20 He feeds on ashes; 26 

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?’ 27 

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! 28 

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. 29 

Come back to me, for I protect 30  you.”

44:23 Shout for joy, O sky, for the Lord intervenes; 31 

shout out, you subterranean regions 32  of the earth.

O mountains, give a joyful shout;

you too, O forest and all your trees! 33 

For the Lord protects 34  Jacob;

he reveals his splendor through Israel. 35 

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

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

3 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.

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

5 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.

6 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.”

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

8 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.

9 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.”

10 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.

11 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.

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

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

14 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.”

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

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

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

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

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

20 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.”

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

22 tn Or perhaps, “them.”

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

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

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

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

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

28 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).

29 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).

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

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

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

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

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

35 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.”



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