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Isaiah 28:7-13

Context

28:7 Even these men 1  stagger because of wine,

they stumble around because of beer –

priests and prophets stagger because of beer,

they are confused 2  because of wine,

they stumble around because of beer;

they stagger while seeing prophetic visions, 3 

they totter while making legal decisions. 4 

28:8 Indeed, all the tables are covered with vomit;

no place is untouched. 5 

28:9 Who is the Lord 6  trying to teach?

To whom is he explaining a message? 7 

Those just weaned from milk!

Those just taken from their mother’s breast! 8 

28:10 Indeed, they will hear meaningless gibberish,

senseless babbling,

a syllable here, a syllable there. 9 

28:11 For with mocking lips and a foreign tongue

he will speak to these people. 10 

28:12 In the past he said to them, 11 

“This is where security can be found.

Provide security for the one who is exhausted!

This is where rest can be found.” 12 

But they refused to listen.

28:13 So the Lord’s word to them will sound like

meaningless gibberish,

senseless babbling,

a syllable here, a syllable there. 13 

As a result, they will fall on their backsides when they try to walk, 14 

and be injured, ensnared, and captured. 15 

1 tn Heb “these.” The demonstrative pronoun anticipates “priests and prophets” two lines later.

2 tn According to HALOT 135 s.v. III בלע, the verb form is derived from בָּלַע (bala’, “confuse”), not the more common בָּלַע (“swallow”). See earlier notes at 3:12 and 9:16.

3 tn Heb “in the seeing.”

4 tn Heb “[in] giving a decision.”

5 tn Heb “vomit, without a place.” For the meaning of the phrase בְּלִי מָקוֹם (bÿli maqom, “without a place”), see HALOT 133 s.v. בְּלִי.

6 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn Heb “Who is he teaching knowledge? For whom is he explaining a message?” The translation assumes that the Lord is the subject of the verbs “teaching” and “explaining,” and that the prophet is asking the questions. See v. 12. According to some vv. 9-10 record the people’s sarcastic response to the Lord’s message through Isaiah.

8 tn Heb “from the breasts.” The words “their mother’s” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The translation assumes that this is the prophet’s answer to the questions asked in the first half of the verse. The Lord is trying to instruct people who are “infants” morally and ethically.

9 tn The meaning of this verse has been debated. The text has literally “indeed [or “for”] a little there, a little there” ( כִּי צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו, ki tsav latsav, tsav latsav, qav laqav, qav laqav). The present translation assumes that the repetitive syllables are gibberish that resembles baby talk (cf v. 9b) and mimics what the people will hear when foreign invaders conquer the land (v. 11). In this case זְעֵיר (zÿer, “a little”) refers to the short syllabic structure of the babbling (cf. CEV). Some take צַו (tsav) as a derivative of צָוָה (tsavah, “command”) and translate the first part of the statement as “command after command, command after command.” Proponents of this position (followed by many English versions) also take קַו (qav) as a noun meaning “measuring line” (see v. 17), understood here in the abstract sense of “standard” or “rule.”

10 sn This verse alludes to the coming Assyrian invasion, when the people will hear a foreign language that sounds like gibberish to them. The Lord is the subject of the verb “will speak,” as v. 12 makes clear. He once spoke in meaningful terms, but in the coming judgment he will speak to them, as it were, through the mouth of foreign oppressors. The apparent gibberish they hear will be an outward reminder that God has decreed their defeat.

11 tn Heb “who said to them.”

12 sn This message encapsulates the Lord’s invitation to his people to find security in his protection and blessing.

13 tn Heb “And the word of the Lord will be to them, ‘tsahv latsahv,’ etc.” See the note at v. 10. In this case the “Lord’s word” is not the foreigner’s strange sounding words (as in v. 10), but the Lord’s repeated appeals to them (like the one quoted in v. 12). As time goes on, the Lord’s appeals through the prophets will have no impact on the people; they will regard prophetic preaching as gibberish.

14 tn Heb “as a result they will go and stumble backward.” Perhaps an infant falling as it attempts to learn to walk is the background image here (cf. v. 9b). The Hebrew term לְמַעַן (lÿmaan) could be taken as indicating purpose (“in order that”), rather than simple result. In this case the people’s insensitivity to the message is caused by the Lord as a means of expediting their downfall.

15 sn When divine warnings and appeals become gibberish to the spiritually insensitive, they have no guidance and are doomed to destruction.



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