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Isaiah 26:12-19

Context

26:12 O Lord, you make us secure, 1 

for even all we have accomplished, you have done for us. 2 

26:13 O Lord, our God,

masters other than you have ruled us,

but we praise your name alone.

26:14 The dead do not come back to life,

the spirits of the dead do not rise. 3 

That is because 4  you came in judgment 5  and destroyed them,

you wiped out all memory of them.

26:15 You have made the nation larger, 6  O Lord,

you have made the nation larger and revealed your splendor, 7 

you have extended all the borders of the land.

26:16 O Lord, in distress they looked for you;

they uttered incantations because of your discipline. 8 

26:17 As when a pregnant woman gets ready to deliver

and strains and cries out because of her labor pains,

so were we because of you, O Lord.

26:18 We were pregnant, we strained,

we gave birth, as it were, to wind. 9 

We cannot produce deliverance on the earth;

people to populate the world are not born. 10 

26:19 11 Your dead will come back to life;

your corpses will rise up.

Wake up and shout joyfully, you who live in the ground! 12 

For you will grow like plants drenched with the morning dew, 13 

and the earth will bring forth its dead spirits. 14 

1 tn Heb “O Lord, you establish peace for us.”

2 tc Some suggest emending גַּם כָּל (gam kol, “even all”) to כִּגְמֻל (kigmul, “according to the deed[s] of”) One might then translate “for according to what our deeds deserve, you have acted on our behalf.” Nevertheless, accepting the MT as it stands, the prophet affirms that Yahweh deserved all the credit for anything Israel had accomplished.

3 sn In light of what is said in verse 14b, the “dead” here may be the “masters” mentioned in verse 13.

4 tn The Hebrew term לָכֵן (lakhen) normally indicates a cause-effect relationship between what precedes and follows and is translated, “therefore.” Here, however, it infers the cause from the effect and brings out what is implicit in the previous statement. See BDB 487 s.v.

5 tn Heb “visited [for harm]” (cf. KJV, ASV); NAB, NRSV “you have punished.”

6 tn Heb “you have added to the nation.” The last line of the verse suggests that geographical expansion is in view. “The nation” is Judah.

7 tn Or “brought honor to yourself.”

8 tn The meaning of this verse is unclear. It appears to read literally, “O Lord, in distress they visit you, they pour out [?] an incantation, your discipline to them.” פָּקַד (paqad) may here carry the sense of “seek with interest” (cf. Ezek 23:21 and BDB 823 s.v.) or “seek in vain” (cf. Isa 34:16), but it is peculiar for the Lord to be the object of this verb. צָקוּן (tsaqun) may be a Qal perfect third plural form from צוּק (tsuq, “pour out, melt”), though the verb is not used of pouring out words in its two other occurrences. Because of the appearance of צַר (tsar, “distress”) in the preceding line, it is tempting to emend the form to a noun and derive it from צוּק (“be in distress”) The term לַחַשׁ (lakhash) elsewhere refers to an incantation (Isa 3:3; Jer 8:17; Eccl 10:11) or amulet (Isa 3:20). Perhaps here it refers to ritualistic prayers or to magical incantations used to ward off evil.

9 tn On the use of כְּמוֹ (kÿmo, “like, as”) here, see BDB 455 s.v. Israel’s distress and suffering, likened here to the pains of childbirth, seemed to be for no purpose. A woman in labor endures pain with the hope that a child will be born; in Israel’s case no such positive outcome was apparent. The nation was like a woman who strains to bring forth a child, but can’t push the baby through to daylight. All her effort produces nothing.

10 tn Heb “and the inhabitants of the world do not fall.” The term נָפַל (nafal) apparently means here, “be born,” though the Qal form of the verb is not used with this nuance anywhere else in the OT. (The Hiphil appears to be used in the sense of “give birth” in v. 19, however.) The implication of verse 18b seems to be that Israel hoped its suffering would somehow end in deliverance and an increase in population. The phrase “inhabitants of the world” seems to refer to the human race in general, but the next verse, which focuses on Israel’s dead, suggests the referent may be more limited.

11 sn At this point the Lord (or prophet) gives the people an encouraging oracle.

12 tn Heb “dust” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

13 tn Heb “for the dew of lights [is] your dew.” The pronominal suffix on “dew” is masculine singular, like the suffixes on “your dead” and “your corpses” in the first half of the verse. The statement, then, is addressed to collective Israel, the speaker in verse 18. The plural form אוֹרֹת (’orot) is probably a plural of respect or magnitude, meaning “bright light” (i.e., morning’s light). Dew is a symbol of fertility and life. Here Israel’s “dew,” as it were, will soak the dust of the ground and cause the corpses of the dead to spring up to new life, like plants sprouting up from well-watered soil.

14 sn It is not certain whether the resurrection envisioned here is intended to be literal or figurative. A comparison with 25:8 and Dan 12:2 suggests a literal interpretation, but Ezek 37:1-14 uses resurrection as a metaphor for deliverance from exile and the restoration of the nation (see Isa 27:12-13).



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