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Isaiah 51:2-11

Context

51:2 Look at Abraham, your father,

and Sarah, who gave you birth. 1 

When I summoned him, he was a lone individual, 2 

but I blessed him 3  and gave him numerous descendants. 4 

51:3 Certainly the Lord will console Zion;

he will console all her ruins.

He will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the Garden of the Lord.

Happiness and joy will be restored to 5  her,

thanksgiving and the sound of music.

51:4 Pay attention to me, my people!

Listen to me, my people!

For 6  I will issue a decree, 7 

I will make my justice a light to the nations. 8 

51:5 I am ready to vindicate, 9 

I am ready to deliver, 10 

I will establish justice among the nations. 11 

The coastlands 12  wait patiently for me;

they wait in anticipation for the revelation of my power. 13 

51:6 Look up at the sky!

Look at the earth below!

For the sky will dissipate 14  like smoke,

and the earth will wear out like clothes;

its residents will die like gnats.

But the deliverance I give 15  is permanent;

the vindication I provide 16  will not disappear. 17 

51:7 Listen to me, you who know what is right,

you people who are aware of my law! 18 

Don’t be afraid of the insults of men;

don’t be discouraged because of their abuse!

51:8 For a moth will eat away at them like clothes;

a clothes moth will devour them like wool.

But the vindication I provide 19  will be permanent;

the deliverance I give will last.”

51:9 Wake up! Wake up!

Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord! 20 

Wake up as in former times, as in antiquity!

Did you not smash 21  the Proud One? 22 

Did you not 23  wound the sea monster? 24 

51:10 Did you not dry up the sea,

the waters of the great deep?

Did you not make 25  a path through the depths of the sea,

so those delivered from bondage 26  could cross over?

51:11 Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return;

they will enter Zion with a happy shout.

Unending joy will crown them, 27 

happiness and joy will overwhelm 28  them;

grief and suffering will disappear. 29 

1 sn Although Abraham and Sarah are distant ancestors of the people the prophet is addressing, they are spoken of as the immediate parents.

2 tn Heb “one”; NLT “was alone”; TEV “was childless.”

3 tn “Bless” may here carry the sense of “endue with potency, reproductive power.” See Gen 1:28.

4 tn Heb “and I made him numerous.”

5 tn Heb “found in” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

6 tn Or “certainly.”

7 tn Heb “instruction [or “a law”] will go out from me.”

8 tn Heb “and my justice for a light to the nations I will cause to rest.”

9 tn Heb “my righteousness [or “vindication”] is near.”

10 tn Heb “my deliverance goes forth.”

11 tn Heb “and my arms will judge [on behalf of] nations.”

12 tn Or “islands” (NIV); TEV “Distant lands.”

13 tn Heb “for my arm” (so NIV, NRSV).

14 tn Heb “will be torn in pieces.” The perfect indicates the certitude of the event, from the Lord’s rhetorical perspective.

15 tn Heb “my deliverance.” The same Hebrew word can also be translated “salvation” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); cf. CEV “victory.”

16 tn Heb “my righteousness [or “vindication”].”

17 tn Heb “will not be shattered [or “dismayed”].”

18 tn Heb “people (who have) my law in their heart.”

19 tn Heb “my vindication”; many English versions “my righteousness”; NRSV, TEV “my deliverance”; CEV “my victory.”

20 tn The arm of the Lord is a symbol of divine military power. Here it is personified and told to arouse itself from sleep and prepare for action.

21 tn Heb “Are you not the one who smashed?” The feminine singular forms agree grammatically with the feminine noun “arm.” The Hebrew text has ַהמַּחְצֶבֶת (hammakhtsevet), from the verbal root חָצַב (khatsav, “hew, chop”). The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has, probably correctly, המחצת, from the verbal root מָחַץ (makhats, “smash”) which is used in Job 26:12 to describe God’s victory over “the Proud One.”

22 tn This title (רַהַב, rahav, “proud one”) is sometimes translated as a proper name: “Rahab” (cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). It is used here of a symbolic sea monster, known elsewhere in the Bible and in Ugaritic myth as Leviathan. This sea creature symbolizes the forces of chaos that seek to destroy the created order. In the Bible “the Proud One” opposes God’s creative work, but is defeated (see Job 26:12; Ps 89:10). Here the title refers to Pharaoh’s Egyptian army that opposed Israel at the Red Sea (see v. 10, and note also Isa 30:7 and Ps 87:4, where the title is used of Egypt).

23 tn The words “did you not” are understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line). The rhetorical questions here and in v. 10 expect the answer, “Yes, you certainly did!”

24 tn Hebrew תַּנִּין (tannin) is another name for the symbolic sea monster. See the note at 27:1. In this context the sea creature represents Egypt. See the note on the title “Proud One” earlier in this verse.

25 tn The Hebrew text reads literally, “Are you not the one who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made…?”

26 tn Heb “the redeemed” (so ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); KJV “the ransomed.”

27 tn Heb “[will be] on their head[s].” “Joy” may be likened here to a crown (cf. 2 Sam 1:10). The statement may also be an ironic twist on the idiom “earth/dust on the head” (cf. 2 Sam 1:2; 13:19; 15:32; Job 2:12), referring to a mourning practice.

28 tn Heb “overtake” (so NIV); NASB “they will obtain.”

29 tn Heb “grief and groaning will flee.”



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