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Isaiah 31:1-6

Context
Egypt Will Disappoint

31:1 Those who go down to Egypt for help are as good as dead, 1 

those who rely on war horses,

and trust in Egypt’s many chariots 2 

and in their many, many horsemen. 3 

But they do not rely on the Holy One of Israel 4 

and do not seek help from the Lord.

31:2 Yet he too is wise 5  and he will bring disaster;

he does not retract his decree. 6 

He will attack the wicked nation, 7 

and the nation that helps 8  those who commit sin. 9 

31:3 The Egyptians are mere humans, not God;

their horses are made of flesh, not spirit.

The Lord will strike with 10  his hand;

the one who helps will stumble

and the one being helped will fall.

Together they will perish. 11 

The Lord Will Defend Zion

31:4 Indeed, this is what the Lord says to me:

“The Lord will be like a growling lion,

like a young lion growling over its prey. 12 

Though a whole group of shepherds gathers against it,

it is not afraid of their shouts

or intimidated by their yelling. 13 

In this same way the Lord who commands armies will descend

to do battle on Mount Zion and on its hill. 14 

31:5 Just as birds hover over a nest, 15 

so the Lord who commands armies will protect Jerusalem. 16 

He will protect and deliver it;

as he passes over 17  he will rescue it.

31:6 You Israelites! Return to the one against whom you have so blatantly rebelled! 18 

1 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who go down to Egypt for help.”

2 tn Heb “and trust in chariots for they are many.”

3 tn Heb “and in horsemen for they are very strong [or “numerous”].”

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

5 sn This statement appears to have a sarcastic tone. The royal advisers who are advocating an alliance with Egypt think they are wise, but the Lord possesses wisdom as well and will thwart their efforts.

6 tn Heb “and he does not turn aside [i.e., “retract”] his words”; NIV “does not take back his words.”

7 tn Heb “and he will arise against the house of the wicked.”

8 sn That is, Egypt.

9 tn Heb “and against the help of the doers of sin.”

10 tn Heb “will extend”; KJV, ASV, NASB, NCV “stretch out.”

11 tn Heb “together all of them will come to an end.”

12 tn Heb “As a lion growls, a young lion over its prey.” In the Hebrew text the opening comparison is completed later in the verse (“so the Lord will come down…”), after a parenthesis describing how fearless the lion is. The present translation divides the verse into three sentences for English stylistic reasons.

13 tn Heb “Though there is summoned against it fullness of shepherds, by their voice it is not terrified, and to their noise it does not respond.”

14 tn Some prefer to translate the phrase לִצְבֹּא עַל (litsbo’ ’al) as “fight against,” but the following context pictures the Lord defending, not attacking, Zion.

15 tn Heb “just as birds fly.” The words “over a nest” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

16 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

17 tn The only other occurrence of this verb is in Exod 12:13, 23, 27, where the Lord “passes over” (i.e., “spares”) the Israelite households as he comes to judge their Egyptian oppressors. The noun פֶּסַח (pesakh, “Passover”) is derived from the verb. The use of the verb in Isa 31:5 is probably an intentional echo of the Exodus event. As in the days of Moses the Lord will spare his people as he comes to judge their enemies.

18 tn Heb “Return to the one [against] whom the sons of Israel made deep rebellion.” The syntax is awkward here. A preposition is omitted by ellipsis after the verb (see GKC 446 §138.f, n. 2), and there is a shift from direct address (note the second plural imperative “return”) to the third person (note “they made deep”). For other examples of abrupt shifts in person in poetic style, see GKC 462 §144.p.



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