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Isaiah 56:9--57:21

Context
The Lord Denounces Israel’s Paganism

56:9 All you wild animals in the fields, come and devour,

all you wild animals in the forest!

56:10 All their watchmen 1  are blind,

they are unaware. 2 

All of them are like mute dogs,

unable to bark.

They pant, 3  lie down,

and love to snooze.

56:11 The dogs have big appetites;

they are never full. 4 

They are shepherds who have no understanding;

they all go their own way,

each one looking for monetary gain. 5 

56:12 Each one says, 6 

‘Come on, I’ll get some wine!

Let’s guzzle some beer!

Tomorrow will be just like today!

We’ll have everything we want!’ 7 

57:1 The godly 8  perish,

but no one cares. 9 

Honest people disappear, 10 

when no one 11  minds 12 

that the godly 13  disappear 14  because of 15  evil. 16 

57:2 Those who live uprightly enter a place of peace;

they rest on their beds. 17 

57:3 But approach, you sons of omen readers,

you offspring of adulteresses and prostitutes! 18 

57:4 At whom are you laughing?

At whom are you opening your mouth

and sticking out your tongue?

You are the children of rebels,

the offspring of liars, 19 

57:5 you who practice ritual sex 20  under the oaks and every green tree,

who slaughter children near the streams under the rocky overhangs. 21 

57:6 Among the smooth stones of the stream are the idols you love;

they, they are the object of your devotion. 22 

You pour out liquid offerings to them,

you make an offering.

Because of these things I will seek vengeance. 23 

57:7 On every high, elevated hill you prepare your bed;

you go up there to offer sacrifices.

57:8 Behind the door and doorpost you put your symbols. 24 

Indeed, 25  you depart from me 26  and go up

and invite them into bed with you. 27 

You purchase favors from them, 28 

you love their bed,

and gaze longingly 29  on their genitals. 30 

57:9 You take olive oil as tribute 31  to your king, 32 

along with many perfumes. 33 

You send your messengers to a distant place;

you go all the way to Sheol. 34 

57:10 Because of the long distance you must travel, you get tired, 35 

but you do not say, ‘I give up.’ 36 

You get renewed energy, 37 

so you don’t collapse. 38 

57:11 Whom are you worried about?

Whom do you fear, that you would act so deceitfully

and not remember me

or think about me? 39 

Because I have been silent for so long, 40 

you are not afraid of me. 41 

57:12 I will denounce your so-called righteousness and your deeds, 42 

but they will not help you.

57:13 When you cry out for help, let your idols 43  help you!

The wind blows them all away, 44 

a breeze carries them away. 45 

But the one who looks to me for help 46  will inherit the land

and will have access to 47  my holy mountain.”

57:14 He says, 48 

“Build it! Build it! Clear a way!

Remove all the obstacles out of the way of my people!”

57:15 For this is what the high and exalted one says,

the one who rules 49  forever, whose name is holy:

“I dwell in an exalted and holy place,

but also with the discouraged and humiliated, 50 

in order to cheer up the humiliated

and to encourage the discouraged. 51 

57:16 For I will not be hostile 52  forever

or perpetually angry,

for then man’s spirit would grow faint before me, 53 

the life-giving breath I created.

57:17 I was angry because of their sinful greed;

I attacked them and angrily rejected them, 54 

yet they remained disobedient and stubborn. 55 

57:18 I have seen their behavior, 56 

but I will heal them and give them rest,

and I will once again console those who mourn. 57 

57:19 I am the one who gives them reason to celebrate. 58 

Complete prosperity 59  is available both to those who are far away and those who are nearby,”

says the Lord, “and I will heal them.

57:20 But the wicked are like a surging sea

that is unable to be quiet;

its waves toss up mud and sand.

57:21 There will be no prosperity,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

1 sn The “watchmen” are probably spiritual leaders, most likely prophets and priests, responsible for giving the people moral direction.

2 tn Heb “they do not know”; KJV “they are all ignorant”; NIV “they all lack knowledge.”

3 tn The Hebrew text has הֹזִים (hozim), which appears to be derived from an otherwise unattested verbal root הָזָה (hazah). On the basis of alleged cognates, BDB 223 s.v. הָזָה offers the definition “dream, rave” while HALOT 243 s.v. הזה lists “pant.” In this case the dog metaphor of the preceding lines continues. The reference to dogs at the beginning of v. 11 favors the extension of the metaphor. The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has חזים (“seers”) here. In this case the “watchmen” are directly identified as prophets and depicted as lazy.

4 sn The phrase never full alludes to the greed of the leaders.

5 tn Heb “for his gain from his end.”

6 tn The words “each one says” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

7 tn Heb “great, [in] abundance, very much,” i.e., “very great indeed.” See HALOT 452 s.v. יֶתֶר.

8 tn Or “righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “the just man”; TEV “Good people.”

9 tn Or perhaps, “understands.” Heb “and there is no man who sets [it] upon [his] heart.”

10 tn Heb “Men of loyalty are taken away.” The Niphal of אָסַף (’asaf) here means “to die.”

11 tn The Hebrew term בְּאֵין (bÿen) often has the nuance “when there is no.” See Prov 8:24; 11;14; 14:4; 15:22; 26:20; 29:18.

12 tn Or “realizes”; Heb “understands” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).

13 tn Or “righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “the just man.”

14 tn Heb “are taken away.” The Niphal of אָסַף (’asaf) here means “to die.”

15 tn The term מִפְּנֵי (mippÿne, “from the face of”) often has a causal nuance. It also appears with the Niphal of אָסַף (’asaph, “gather”) in 2 Chr 12:5: אֲשֶׁר־נֶאֶסְפוּ אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלַם מִפְּנֵי שִׁישָׁק (’asher-neesphuel-yÿrushalam mippÿney shishaq, “who had gathered at Jerusalem because of [i.e., due to fear of] Shishak”).

16 tn The translation assumes that this verse, in proverbial fashion, laments society’s apathy over the persecution of the godly. The second half of the verse observes that such apathy results in more widespread oppression. Since the next verse pictures the godly being taken to a place of rest, some interpret the second half of v. 1 in a more positive vein. According to proponents of this view, God removes the godly so that they might be spared suffering and calamity, a fact which the general populace fails to realize.

17 tn Heb “he enters peace, they rest on their beds, the one who walks straight ahead of himself.” The tomb is here viewed in a fairly positive way as a place where the dead are at peace and sleep undisturbed.

18 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “offspring of an adulterer [masculine] and [one who] has committed adultery.” Perhaps the text has suffered from transposition of vav (ו) and tav (ת) and מְנָאֵף וַתִּזְנֶה (mÿnaef vattizneh) should be emended to מְנָאֶפֶת וְזֹנָה (mÿnaefet vÿzonah, “an adulteress and a prostitute”). Both singular nouns would be understood in a collective sense. Most modern English versions render both forms as nouns.

19 tn Heb “Are you not children of rebellion, offspring of a lie?” The rhetorical question anticipates the answer, “Of course you are!”

20 tn Heb “inflame yourselves”; NRSV “burn with lust.” This verse alludes to the practice of ritual sex that accompanied pagan fertility rites.

21 sn This apparently alludes to the practice of child sacrifice (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT).

22 tn Heb “among the smooth stones of the stream [is] your portion, they, they [are] your lot.” The next line indicates idols are in view.

23 tn The text reads literally, “Because of these am I relenting?” If the prefixed interrogative particle is retained at the beginning of the sentence, then the question would be rhetorical, with the Niphal of נָחָם (nakham) probably being used in the sense of “relent, change one’s mind.” One could translate: “Because of these things, how can I relent?” However, the initial letter he may be dittographic (note the final he [ה] on the preceding word). In this case one may understand the verb in the sense of “console oneself, seek vengeance,” as in 1:24.

24 tn The precise referent of זִכָּרוֹן (zikkaron) in this context is uncertain. Elsewhere the word refers to a memorial or commemorative sign. Here it likely refers to some type of idolatrous symbol.

25 tn Or “for” (KJV, NRSV).

26 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “from me you uncover.” The translation assumes an emendation of the Piel form גִּלִּית (gillit, “you uncover”), which has no object expressed here, to the Qal גָּלִית (galit, “you depart”).

27 tn Heb “you make wide your bed” (NASB similar).

28 tc Heb “and you [second masculine singular, unless the form be taken as third feminine singular] cut for yourself [feminine singular] from them.” Most English translations retain the MT reading in spite of at least three problems. This section makes significant use of feminine verbs and noun suffixes because of the sexual imagery. The verb in question is likely a 2nd person masculine singular verb. Nevertheless, this kind of fluctuation in gender appears elsewhere (GKC 127-28 §47.k and 462 §144.p; cf. Jer 3:5; Ezek 22:4; 23:32; cf. J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 2:473, n. 13). Secondly, when this verbal root signifies establishing a covenant, it is normally accompanied by the noun for “covenant” (בְּרִית, bÿrit). Finally, this juxtaposition of the verb “to cut” and “covenant” normally is followed by the preposition “with,” while here it is “from.” The translation above assumes an emendation of וַתִּכְרָת (vatikhrah, “and you cut”) to וְכָרִית (vÿkharit, “and you purchase”) from the root כָּרָה (kharah); see HALOT 497 s.v. II כרה.

29 tn The Hebrew text has simply חָזָה (khazah, “gaze”). The adverb “longingly” is interpretive (see the context, where sexual lust is depicted).

30 tn Heb “[at] a hand you gaze.” The term יָד (yad, “hand”) probably has the sense of “power, manhood” here, where it is used, as in Ugaritic, as a euphemism for the genitals. See HALOT 387 s.v. I יָד.

31 tn Heb “you journey with oil.”

32 tn Heb “the king.” Since the context refers to idolatry and child sacrifice (see v. 5), some emend מֶלֶך (melekh, “king”) to “Molech.” Perhaps Israel’s devotion to her idols is likened here to a subject taking tribute to a ruler.

33 tn Heb “and you multiply your perfumes.”

34 sn Israel’s devotion to her idols is inordinate, irrational, and self-destructive.

35 tn Heb “by the greatness [i.e., “length,” see BDB 914 s.v. רֹב 2] of your way you get tired.”

36 tn Heb “it is hopeless” (so NAB, NASB, NIV); NRSV “It is useless.”

37 tn Heb “the life of your hand you find.” The term חַיָּה (khayyah, “life”) is here used in the sense of “renewal” (see BDB 312 s.v.) while יָד (yad) is used of “strength.”

38 tn Heb “you do not grow weak.”

39 tn Heb “you do not place [it] on your heart.”

40 tn Heb “Is it not [because] I have been silent, and from long ago?”

41 sn God’s patience with sinful Israel has caused them to think that they can sin with impunity and suffer no consequences.

42 tn Heb “I, I will declare your righteousness and your deeds.”

43 tn The Hebrew text has קִבּוּצַיִךְ (qibbutsayikh, “your gatherings”), an otherwise unattested noun from the verbal root קָבַץ (qavats, “gather”). Perhaps this alludes to their religious assemblies and by metonymy to their rituals. Since idolatry is a prominent theme in the context, some understand this as a reference to a collection of idols. The second half of the verse also favors this view.

44 tn Heb “all of them a wind lifts up.”

45 tn Heb “a breath takes [them] away.”

46 tn Or “seeks refuge in me.” “Seeking refuge” is a metonymy for “being loyal to.”

47 tn Heb “possess, own.” The point seems to be that he will have free access to God’s presence, as if God’s temple mount were his personal possession.

48 tn Since God is speaking throughout this context, perhaps we should emend the text to “and I say.” However, divine speech is introduced in v. 15.

49 tn Heb “the one who dwells forever.” שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhenad) is sometimes translated “the one who lives forever,” and understood as a reference to God’s eternal existence. However, the immediately preceding and following descriptions (“high and exalted” and “holy”) emphasize his sovereign rule. In the next line, he declares, “I dwell in an exalted and holy [place],” which refers to the place from which he rules. Therefore it is more likely that שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhenad) means “I dwell [in my lofty palace] forever” and refers to God’s eternal kingship.

50 tn Heb “and also with the crushed and lowly of spirit.” This may refer to the repentant who have humbled themselves (see 66:2) or more generally to the exiles who have experienced discouragement and humiliation.

51 tn Heb “to restore the lowly of spirit and to restore the heart of the crushed.”

52 tn Or perhaps, “argue,” or “accuse” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV).

53 tn Heb “for a spirit from before me would be faint.”

54 tn Heb “and I struck him, hiding, and I was angry.” פָּנַיִם (panayim, “face”) is the implied object of “hiding.”

55 tn Heb “and he walked [as an] apostate in the way of his heart.”

56 tn Heb “his ways” (so KJV, NASB, NIV); TEV “how they acted.”

57 tn Heb “and I will restore consolation to him, to his mourners.”

58 tc The Hebrew text has literally, “one who creates fruit of lips.” Perhaps the pronoun אֲנִי (’ani) should be inserted after the participle; it may have been accidentally omitted by haplography: נוּב שְׂפָתָיִם[אֲנִי] בּוֹרֵא (bore’ [’ani] nuv sÿfatayim). “Fruit of the lips” is often understood as a metonymy for praise; perhaps it refers more generally to joyful shouts (see v. 18).

59 tn Heb “Peace, peace.” The repetition of the noun emphasizes degree.



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