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Isaiah 9:8--10:4

Context
God’s Judgment Intensifies

9:8 1 The sovereign master 2  decreed judgment 3  on Jacob,

and it fell on Israel. 4 

9:9 All the people were aware 5  of it,

the people of Ephraim and those living in Samaria. 6 

Yet with pride and an arrogant attitude, they said, 7 

9:10 “The bricks have fallen,

but we will rebuild with chiseled stone;

the sycamore fig trees have been cut down,

but we will replace them with cedars.” 8 

9:11 Then the Lord provoked 9  their adversaries to attack them, 10 

he stirred up 11  their enemies –

9:12 Syria from the east,

and the Philistines from the west,

they gobbled up Israelite territory. 12 

Despite all this, his anger does not subside,

and his hand is ready to strike again. 13 

9:13 The people did not return to the one who struck them,

they did not seek reconciliation 14  with the Lord who commands armies.

9:14 So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail,

both the shoots and stalk 15  in one day.

9:15 The leaders and the highly respected people 16  are the head,

the prophets who teach lies are the tail.

9:16 The leaders of this nation were misleading people,

and the people being led were destroyed. 17 

9:17 So the sovereign master was not pleased 18  with their young men,

he took no pity 19  on their orphans and widows;

for the whole nation was godless 20  and did wicked things, 21 

every mouth was speaking disgraceful words. 22 

Despite all this, his anger does not subside,

and his hand is ready to strike again. 23 

9:18 For 24  evil burned like a fire, 25 

it consumed thorns and briers;

it burned up the thickets of the forest,

and they went up in smoke. 26 

9:19 Because of the anger of the Lord who commands armies, the land was scorched, 27 

and the people became fuel for the fire. 28 

People had no compassion on one another. 29 

9:20 They devoured 30  on the right, but were still hungry,

they ate on the left, but were not satisfied.

People even ate 31  the flesh of their own arm! 32 

9:21 Manasseh fought against 33  Ephraim,

and Ephraim against Manasseh;

together they fought against Judah.

Despite all this, his anger does not subside,

and his hand is ready to strike again. 34 

10:1 Those who enact unjust policies are as good as dead, 35 

those who are always instituting unfair regulations, 36 

10:2 to keep the poor from getting fair treatment,

and to deprive 37  the oppressed among my people of justice,

so they can steal what widows own,

and loot what belongs to orphans. 38 

10:3 What will you do on judgment day, 39 

when destruction arrives from a distant place?

To whom will you run for help?

Where will you leave your wealth?

10:4 You will have no place to go, except to kneel with the prisoners,

or to fall among those who have been killed. 40 

Despite all this, his anger does not subside,

and his hand is ready to strike again. 41 

1 sn The following speech (9:8-10:4) assumes that God has already sent judgment (see v. 9), but it also announces that further judgment is around the corner (10:1-4). The speech seems to describe a series of past judgments on the northern kingdom which is ready to intensify further in the devastation announced in 10:1-4. It may have been written prior to the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in 734-733 b.c., or sometime between that invasion and the downfall of Samaria in 722 b.c. The structure of the speech displays four panels, each of which ends with the refrain, “Through all this, his anger did not subside; his hand remained outstretched” (9:12b; 17b; 21b; 10:4b): Panel I: (A) Description of past judgment (9:8); (B) Description of the people’s attitude toward past judgment (9:9-10); (C) Description of past judgment (9:11-12a); (D) Refrain (9:12b); Panel II: (A) Description of the people’s attitude toward past judgment (9:13); (B) Description of past judgment (9:14-17a); (C) Refrain (9:17b); Panel III: (A) Description of past judgment (9:18-21a); (B) Refrain (9:21b); Panel IV: (A) Woe oracle announcing future judgment (10:1-4a); (B) Refrain (10:4b).

2 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in v. 17 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

3 tn Heb “sent a word” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV); NASB “sends a message.”

4 tn The present translation assumes that this verse refers to judgment that had already fallen. Both verbs (perfects) are taken as indicating simple past; the vav (ו) on the second verb is understood as a simple vav conjunctive. Another option is to understand the verse as describing a future judgment (see 10:1-4). In this case the first verb is a perfect of certitude; the vav on the second verb is a vav consecutive.

5 tn The translation assumes that vv. 9-10 describe the people’s response to a past judgment (v. 8). The perfect is understood as indicating simple past and the vav (ו) is taken as conjunctive. Another option is to take the vav on the perfect as consecutive and translate, “all the people will know.”

6 tn Heb “and the people, all of them, knew; Ephraim and the residents of Samaria.”

7 tn Heb “with pride and arrogance of heart, saying.”

8 sn Though judgment (see v. 8) had taken away the prosperity they did have (symbolized by the bricks and sycamore fig trees), they arrogantly expected the future to bring even greater prosperity (symbolized by the chiseled stone and cedars).

9 tn The translation assumes that the prefixed verb with vav (ו) consecutive continues the narrative of past judgment.

10 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “adversaries of Rezin against him [i.e., them].” The next verse describes how the Syrians (over whom Rezin ruled, see 7:1, 8) and the Philistines encroached on Israel’s territory. Since the Syrians and Israelites were allies by 735 b.c. (see 7:1), the hostilities described probably occurred earlier, while Israel was still pro-Assyrian. In this case one might understand the phrase צָרֵי רְצִין (tsare rÿtsin, “adversaries of Rezin”) as meaning “adversaries sent from Rezin.” However, another option, the one chosen in the translation above, is to emend the phrase to צָרָיו (tsarayv, “his [i.e., their] adversaries”). This creates tighter parallelism with the next line (note “his [i.e., their] enemies”). The phrase in the Hebrew text may be explained as virtually dittographic.

11 tn The prefixed verbal form is understood as a preterite, used, as is often the case in poetry, without vav consecutive. Note that prefixed forms with vav consecutive both precede (וַיְשַׂגֵּב, vaysaggev, “and he provoked”) and follow in v. 12 (וַיֹּאכְלוּ, vayyokhÿlu, “and they devoured”) this verb.

12 tn Heb “and they devoured Israel with all the mouth”; NIV “with open mouth”; NLT “With bared fangs.”

13 tn Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched.” One could translate in the past tense here (and in 9:17b and 21b), but the appearance of the refrain in 10:4b, where it follows a woe oracle prophesying a future judgment, suggests it is a dramatic portrait of the judge which did not change throughout this period of past judgment and will remain unchanged in the future. The English present tense is chosen to best reflect this dramatic mood. (See also 5:25b, where the refrain appears following a dramatic description of coming judgment.)

14 tn This verse describes the people’s response to the judgment described in vv. 11-12. The perfects are understood as indicating simple past.

15 sn The metaphor in this line is that of a reed being cut down.

16 tn Heb “the elder and the one lifted up with respect to the face.” For another example of the Hebrew idiom, see 2 Kgs 5:1.

17 tn Heb “and the ones being led were swallowed up.” Instead of taking מְבֻלָּעִים (mÿbullaim) from בָּלַע (bala’, “to swallow”), HALOT 134 s.v. בלע proposes a rare homonymic root בלע (“confuse”) here.

18 tn The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has לא יחמול (“he did not spare”) which is an obvious attempt to tighten the parallelism (note “he took no pity” in the next line). Instead of taking שָׂמַח (samakh) in one of its well attested senses (“rejoice over, be pleased with”), some propose, with support from Arabic, a rare homonymic root meaning “be merciful.”

19 tn The translation understands the prefixed verbs יִשְׂמַח (yismakh) and יְרַחֵם (yÿrakhem) as preterites without vav (ו) consecutive. (See v. 11 and the note on “he stirred up.”)

20 tn Or “defiled”; cf. ASV “profane”; NAB “profaned”; NIV “ungodly.”

21 tn מֵרַע (mera’) is a Hiphil participle from רָעַע (raa’, “be evil”). The intransitive Hiphil has an exhibitive force here, indicating that they exhibited outwardly the evidence of an inward condition by committing evil deeds.

22 tn Or “foolishness” (NASB), here in a moral-ethical sense.

23 tn Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched.”

sn See the note at 9:12.

24 tn Or “Indeed” (cf. NIV “Surely”). The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

25 sn Evil was uncontrollable and destructive, and so can be compared to a forest fire.

26 tn Heb “and they swirled [with] the rising of the smoke” (cf. NRSV).

27 tn The precise meaning of the verb עְתַּם (’ÿtam), which occurs only here, is uncertain, though the context strongly suggests that it means “burn, scorch.”

28 sn The uncontrollable fire of the people’s wickedness (v. 18) is intensified by the fire of the Lord’s judgment (v. 19). God allows (or causes) their wickedness to become self-destructive as civil strife and civil war break out in the land.

29 tn Heb “men were not showing compassion to their brothers.” The idiom “men to their brothers” is idiomatic for reciprocity. The prefixed verbal form is either a preterite without vav (ו) consecutive or an imperfect used in a customary sense, describing continual or repeated behavior in past time.

30 tn Or “cut.” The verb גָּזַר (gazar) means “to cut.” If it is understood here, then one might paraphrase, “They slice off meat on the right.” However, HALOT 187 s.v. I גזר, proposes here a rare homonym meaning “to devour.”

31 tn The prefixed verbal form is either a preterite without vav consecutive or an imperfect used in a customary sense, describing continual or repeated behavior in past time.

32 tn Some suggest that זְרֹעוֹ (zÿroo, “his arm”) be repointed זַרְעוֹ (zaro, “his offspring”). In either case, the metaphor is that of a desperately hungry man who resorts to an almost unthinkable act to satisfy his appetite. He eats everything he can find to his right, but still being unsatisfied, then turns to his left and eats everything he can find there. Still being desperate for food, he then resorts to eating his own flesh (or offspring, as this phrase is metaphorically understood by some English versions, e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, NLT). The reality behind the metaphor is the political turmoil of the period, as the next verse explains. There was civil strife within the northern kingdom; even the descendants of Joseph were at each other’s throats. Then the northern kingdom turned on their southern brother, Judah.

33 tn The words “fought against” are supplied in the translation both here and later in this verse for stylistic reasons.

34 tn Heb “in all this his anger is not turned, and still his hand is outstretched” (KJV and ASV both similar); NIV “his hand is still upraised.”

sn See the note at 9:12.

35 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who decree evil decrees.” On הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) see the note on the first phrase of 1:4.

36 tn Heb “[to] the writers who write out harm.” The participle and verb are in the Piel, suggesting repetitive action.

37 tn Or “rob” (ASV, NASB, NCV, NRSV); KJV “take away the right from the poor.”

38 tn Heb “so that widows are their plunder, and they can loot orphans.”

sn On the socio-economic background of vv. 1-2, see the note at 1:23.

39 tn Heb “the day of visitation” (so KJV, ASV), that is, the day when God arrives to execute justice on the oppressors.

40 tn Heb “except one kneels in the place of the prisoner, and in the place of the slain [who] fall.” On the force of בִּלְתִּי (bilti, “except”) and its logical connection to what precedes, see BDB 116 s.v. בֵלֶת. On the force of תַּחַת (takhat, “in the place of”) here, see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:258, n. 6.

41 tn Heb “in all this his anger was not turned, and still his hand was outstretched”; KJV, ASV, NRSV “his had is stretched out still.”

sn See the note at 9:12.



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