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Isaiah 50:1-11

Context

50:1 This is what the Lord says:

“Where is your mother’s divorce certificate

by which I divorced her?

Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? 1 

Look, you were sold because of your sins; 2 

because of your rebellious acts I divorced your mother. 3 

50:2 Why does no one challenge me when I come?

Why does no one respond when I call? 4 

Is my hand too weak 5  to deliver 6  you?

Do I lack the power to rescue you?

Look, with a mere shout 7  I can dry up the sea;

I can turn streams into a desert,

so the fish rot away and die

from lack of water. 8 

50:3 I can clothe the sky in darkness;

I can cover it with sackcloth.”

The Servant Perseveres

50:4 The sovereign Lord has given me the capacity to be his spokesman, 9 

so that I know how to help the weary. 10 

He wakes me up every morning;

he makes me alert so I can listen attentively as disciples do. 11 

50:5 The sovereign Lord has spoken to me clearly; 12 

I have not rebelled,

I have not turned back.

50:6 I offered my back to those who attacked, 13 

my jaws to those who tore out my beard;

I did not hide my face

from insults and spitting.

50:7 But the sovereign Lord helps me,

so I am not humiliated.

For that reason I am steadfastly resolved; 14 

I know I will not be put to shame.

50:8 The one who vindicates me is close by.

Who dares to argue with me? Let us confront each other! 15 

Who is my accuser? 16  Let him challenge me! 17 

50:9 Look, the sovereign Lord helps me.

Who dares to condemn me?

Look, all of them will wear out like clothes;

a moth will eat away at them.

50:10 Who among you fears the Lord?

Who obeys 18  his servant?

Whoever walks in deep darkness, 19 

without light,

should trust in the name of the Lord

and rely on his God.

50:11 Look, all of you who start a fire

and who equip yourselves with 20  flaming arrows, 21 

walk 22  in the light 23  of the fire you started

and among the flaming arrows you ignited! 24 

This is what you will receive from me: 25 

you will lie down in a place of pain. 26 

1 sn The Lord challenges the exiles (Zion’s children) to bring incriminating evidence against him. The rhetorical questions imply that Israel accused the Lord of divorcing his wife (Zion) and selling his children (the Israelites) into slavery to pay off a debt.

2 sn The Lord admits that he did sell the Israelites, but it was because of their sins, not because of some debt he owed. If he had sold them to a creditor, they ought to be able to point him out, but the preceding rhetorical question implies they would not be able to do so.

3 sn The Lord admits he did divorce Zion, but that too was the result of the nation’s sins. The force of the earlier rhetorical question comes into clearer focus now. The question does not imply that a certificate does not exist and that no divorce occurred. Rather, the question asks for the certificate to be produced so the accuser can see the reason for the divorce in black and white. The Lord did not put Zion away arbitrarily.

4 sn The present tense translation of the verbs assumes that the Lord is questioning why Israel does not attempt to counter his arguments. Another possibility is to take the verbs as referring to past events: “Why did no one meet me when I came? Why did no one answer when I called?” In this case the Lord might be asking why Israel rejected his calls to repent and his offer to deliver them.

5 tn Heb “short” (so NAB, NASB, NIV).

6 tn Or “ransom” (NAB, NASB, NIV).

7 tn Heb “with my rebuke.”

8 tn Heb “the fish stink from lack of water and die from thirst.”

9 tn Heb “has given to me a tongue of disciples.”

sn Verses 4-11 contain the third of the so-called servant songs, which depict the career of the Lord’s special servant, envisioned as an ideal Israel (49:3) who rescues the exiles and fulfills God’s purposes for the world. Here the servant alludes to opposition (something hinted at in 49:4), but also expresses his determination to persevere with the Lord’s help.

10 tc Heb “to know [?] the weary with a word.” Comparing it with Arabic and Aramaic cognates yields the meaning of “help, sustain.” Nevertheless, the meaning of עוּת (’ut) is uncertain. The word occurs only here in the OT (see BDB 736 s.v.). Various scholars have suggested an emendation to עָנוֹת (’anot) from עָנָה (’anah, “answer”): “so that I know how to respond kindly to the weary.” Since the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa and the Vulgate support the MT reading, that reading is retained.

11 tn Heb “he arouses for me an ear, to hear like disciples.”

12 tn Or perhaps, “makes me obedient.” The text reads literally, “has opened for me an ear.”

13 tn Or perhaps, “who beat [me].”

14 tn Heb “Therefore I set my face like flint.”

15 tn Heb “Let us stand together!”

16 tn Heb “Who is the master of my judgment?”

17 tn Heb “let him approach me”; NAB, NIV “Let him confront me.”

18 tn Heb “[who] listens to the voice of his servant?” The interrogative is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).

19 tn The plural indicates degree. Darkness may refer to exile and/or moral evil.

20 tc Several more recent commentators have proposed an emendation of מְאַזְּרֵי (mÿazzÿre, “who put on”) to מְאִירִי (mÿiri, “who light”). However, both Qumran scrolls of Isaiah and the Vulgate support the MT reading (cf. NIV, ESV).

21 tn On the meaning of זִיקוֹת (ziqot, “flaming arrows”), see HALOT 268 s.v. זִיקוֹת.

22 tn The imperative is probably rhetorical and has a predictive force.

23 tn Or perhaps, “flame” (so ASV).

24 sn Perhaps the servant here speaks to his enemies and warns them that they will self-destruct.

25 tn Heb “from my hand” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

26 sn The imagery may be that of a person who becomes ill and is forced to lie down in pain on a sickbed. Some see this as an allusion to a fiery place of damnation because of the imagery employed earlier in the verse.



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