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Isaiah 9:18-21

Context

9:18 For 1  evil burned like a fire, 2 

it consumed thorns and briers;

it burned up the thickets of the forest,

and they went up in smoke. 3 

9:19 Because of the anger of the Lord who commands armies, the land was scorched, 4 

and the people became fuel for the fire. 5 

People had no compassion on one another. 6 

9:20 They devoured 7  on the right, but were still hungry,

they ate on the left, but were not satisfied.

People even ate 8  the flesh of their own arm! 9 

9:21 Manasseh fought against 10  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. 11 

1 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.

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

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

4 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.”

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.”

8 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.

9 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.

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

11 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.



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