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Isaiah 40:18-26

Context

40:18 To whom can you compare God?

To what image can you liken him?

40:19 A craftsman casts 1  an idol;

a metalsmith overlays it with gold

and forges silver chains for it.

40:20 To make a contribution one selects wood that will not rot; 2 

he then seeks a skilled craftsman

to make 3  an idol that will not fall over.

40:21 Do you not know?

Do you not hear?

Has it not been told to you since the very beginning?

Have you not understood from the time the earth’s foundations were made?

40:22 He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon; 4 

its inhabitants are like grasshoppers before him. 5 

He is the one who stretches out the sky like a thin curtain, 6 

and spreads it out 7  like a pitched tent. 8 

40:23 He is the one who reduces rulers to nothing;

he makes the earth’s leaders insignificant.

40:24 Indeed, they are barely planted;

yes, they are barely sown;

yes, they barely take root in the earth,

and then he blows on them, causing them to dry up,

and the wind carries them away like straw.

40:25 “To whom can you compare me? Whom do I resemble?”

says the Holy One. 9 

40:26 Look up at the sky! 10 

Who created all these heavenly lights? 11 

He is the one who leads out their ranks; 12 

he calls them all by name.

Because of his absolute power and awesome strength,

not one of them is missing.

1 tn Heb “pours out”; KJV “melteth.”

2 tn The first two words of the verse (הַמְסֻכָּן תְּרוּמָה, hamsukan tÿrumah) are problematic. Some take מְסֻכָּן as an otherwise unattested Pual participle from סָכַן (sakhan, “be poor”) and translate “the one who is impoverished.” תְּרוּמָה (tÿrumah, “contribution”) can then be taken as an adverbial accusative, “with respect to a contribution,” and the entire line translated, “the one who is too impoverished for such a contribution [i.e., the metal idol of v. 19?] selects wood that will not rot.” However, מְסֻכָּן is probably the name of a tree used in idol manufacturing (cognate with Akkadian musukkanu, cf. H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena [SBLDS], 133). מְסֻכָּן may be a scribal interpretive addition attempting to specify עֵץ (’ets) or עֵץ may be a scribal attempt to categorize מְסֻכָּן. How an idol constitutes a תְּרוּמָה (“contribution”) is not entirely clear.

3 tn Or “set up” (ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); KJV, NASB “to prepare.”

4 tn Heb “the circle of the earth” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT).

5 tn The words “before him” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

6 tn The otherwise unattested noun דֹּק (doq), translated here “thin curtain,” is apparently derived from the verbal root דקק (“crush”) from which is derived the adjective דַּק (daq, “thin”; see HALOT 229 s.v. דקק). The nuance “curtain” is implied from the parallelism (see “tent” in the next line).

7 tn The meaning of the otherwise unattested verb מָתַח (matakh, “spread out”) is determined from the parallelism (note the corresponding verb “stretch out” in the previous line) and supported by later Hebrew and Aramaic cognates. See HALOT 654 s.v. *מתה.

8 tn Heb “like a tent [in which] to live”; NAB, NASB “like a tent to dwell (live NIV, NRSV) in.”

9 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.

10 tn Heb “Lift on high your eyes and see.”

11 tn The words “heavenly lights” are supplied in the translation for clarification. See the following lines.

12 tn Heb “the one who brings out by number their host.” The stars are here likened to a huge army that the Lord leads out. Perhaps the next line pictures God calling roll. If so, the final line may be indicating that none of them dares “go AWOL.” (“AWOL” is a military acronym for “absent without leave.”)



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