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Isaiah 51:1--52:12

Context
There is Hope for the Future

51:1 “Listen to me, you who pursue godliness, 1 

who seek the Lord!

Look at the rock from which you were chiseled,

at the quarry 2  from which you were dug! 3 

51:2 Look at Abraham, your father,

and Sarah, who gave you birth. 4 

When I summoned him, he was a lone individual, 5 

but I blessed him 6  and gave him numerous descendants. 7 

51:3 Certainly the Lord will console Zion;

he will console all her ruins.

He will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the Garden of the Lord.

Happiness and joy will be restored to 8  her,

thanksgiving and the sound of music.

51:4 Pay attention to me, my people!

Listen to me, my people!

For 9  I will issue a decree, 10 

I will make my justice a light to the nations. 11 

51:5 I am ready to vindicate, 12 

I am ready to deliver, 13 

I will establish justice among the nations. 14 

The coastlands 15  wait patiently for me;

they wait in anticipation for the revelation of my power. 16 

51:6 Look up at the sky!

Look at the earth below!

For the sky will dissipate 17  like smoke,

and the earth will wear out like clothes;

its residents will die like gnats.

But the deliverance I give 18  is permanent;

the vindication I provide 19  will not disappear. 20 

51:7 Listen to me, you who know what is right,

you people who are aware of my law! 21 

Don’t be afraid of the insults of men;

don’t be discouraged because of their abuse!

51:8 For a moth will eat away at them like clothes;

a clothes moth will devour them like wool.

But the vindication I provide 22  will be permanent;

the deliverance I give will last.”

51:9 Wake up! Wake up!

Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord! 23 

Wake up as in former times, as in antiquity!

Did you not smash 24  the Proud One? 25 

Did you not 26  wound the sea monster? 27 

51:10 Did you not dry up the sea,

the waters of the great deep?

Did you not make 28  a path through the depths of the sea,

so those delivered from bondage 29  could cross over?

51:11 Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return;

they will enter Zion with a happy shout.

Unending joy will crown them, 30 

happiness and joy will overwhelm 31  them;

grief and suffering will disappear. 32 

51:12 “I, I am the one who consoles you. 33 

Why are you afraid of mortal men,

of mere human beings who are as short-lived as grass? 34 

51:13 Why do you forget 35  the Lord, who made you,

who stretched out the sky 36 

and founded the earth?

Why do you constantly tremble all day long 37 

at the anger of the oppressor,

when he makes plans to destroy?

Where is the anger of the oppressor? 38 

51:14 The one who suffers 39  will soon be released;

he will not die in prison, 40 

he will not go hungry. 41 

51:15 I am the Lord your God,

who churns up the sea so that its waves surge.

The Lord who commands armies is his name!

Zion’s Time to Celebrate

51:16 I commission you 42  as my spokesman; 43 

I cover you with the palm of my hand, 44 

to establish 45  the sky and to found the earth,

to say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” 46 

51:17 Wake up! Wake up!

Get up, O Jerusalem!

You drank from the cup the Lord passed to you,

which was full of his anger! 47 

You drained dry

the goblet full of intoxicating wine. 48 

51:18 There was no one to lead her

among all the children she bore;

there was no one to take her by the hand

among all the children she raised.

51:19 These double disasters confronted you.

But who feels sorry for you?

Destruction and devastation,

famine and sword.

But who consoles you? 49 

51:20 Your children faint;

they lie at the head of every street

like an antelope in a snare.

They are left in a stupor by the Lord’s anger,

by the battle cry of your God. 50 

51:21 So listen to this, oppressed one,

who is drunk, but not from wine!

51:22 This is what your sovereign master, 51  the Lord your God, says:

“Look, I have removed from your hand

the cup of intoxicating wine, 52 

the goblet full of my anger. 53 

You will no longer have to drink it.

51:23 I will put it into the hand of your tormentors 54 

who said to you, ‘Lie down, so we can walk over you.’

You made your back like the ground,

and like the street for those who walked over you.”

52:1 Wake up! Wake up!

Clothe yourself with strength, O Zion!

Put on your beautiful clothes,

O Jerusalem, 55  holy city!

For uncircumcised and unclean pagans

will no longer invade you.

52:2 Shake off the dirt! 56 

Get up, captive 57  Jerusalem!

Take off the iron chains around your neck,

O captive daughter Zion!

52:3 For this is what the Lord says:

“You were sold for nothing,

and you will not be redeemed for money.”

52:4 For this is what the sovereign Lord says:

“In the beginning my people went to live temporarily in Egypt;

Assyria oppressed them for no good reason.

52:5 And now, what do we have here?” 58  says the Lord.

“Indeed my people have been carried away for nothing,

those who rule over them taunt,” 59  says the Lord,

“and my name is constantly slandered 60  all day long.

52:6 For this reason my people will know my name,

for this reason they will know 61  at that time 62  that I am the one who says,

‘Here I am.’”

52:7 How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains 63 

the feet of a messenger who announces peace,

a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance,

who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 64 

52:8 Listen, 65  your watchmen shout;

in unison they shout for joy,

for they see with their very own eyes 66 

the Lord’s return to Zion.

52:9 In unison give a joyful shout,

O ruins of Jerusalem!

For the Lord consoles his people;

he protects 67  Jerusalem.

52:10 The Lord reveals 68  his royal power 69 

in the sight of all the nations;

the entire 70  earth sees

our God deliver. 71 

52:11 Leave! Leave! Get out of there!

Don’t touch anything unclean!

Get out of it!

Stay pure, you who carry the Lord’s holy items! 72 

52:12 Yet do not depart quickly

or leave in a panic. 73 

For the Lord goes before you;

the God of Israel is your rear guard.

1 tn Or “righteousness” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NAB “justice”; NLT “hope for deliverance.”

2 tn Heb “the excavation of the hole.”

3 sn The “rock” and “quarry” refer here to Abraham and Sarah, the progenitors of the nation.

4 sn Although Abraham and Sarah are distant ancestors of the people the prophet is addressing, they are spoken of as the immediate parents.

5 tn Heb “one”; NLT “was alone”; TEV “was childless.”

6 tn “Bless” may here carry the sense of “endue with potency, reproductive power.” See Gen 1:28.

7 tn Heb “and I made him numerous.”

8 tn Heb “found in” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

9 tn Or “certainly.”

10 tn Heb “instruction [or “a law”] will go out from me.”

11 tn Heb “and my justice for a light to the nations I will cause to rest.”

12 tn Heb “my righteousness [or “vindication”] is near.”

13 tn Heb “my deliverance goes forth.”

14 tn Heb “and my arms will judge [on behalf of] nations.”

15 tn Or “islands” (NIV); TEV “Distant lands.”

16 tn Heb “for my arm” (so NIV, NRSV).

17 tn Heb “will be torn in pieces.” The perfect indicates the certitude of the event, from the Lord’s rhetorical perspective.

18 tn Heb “my deliverance.” The same Hebrew word can also be translated “salvation” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); cf. CEV “victory.”

19 tn Heb “my righteousness [or “vindication”].”

20 tn Heb “will not be shattered [or “dismayed”].”

21 tn Heb “people (who have) my law in their heart.”

22 tn Heb “my vindication”; many English versions “my righteousness”; NRSV, TEV “my deliverance”; CEV “my victory.”

23 tn The arm of the Lord is a symbol of divine military power. Here it is personified and told to arouse itself from sleep and prepare for action.

24 tn Heb “Are you not the one who smashed?” The feminine singular forms agree grammatically with the feminine noun “arm.” The Hebrew text has ַהמַּחְצֶבֶת (hammakhtsevet), from the verbal root חָצַב (khatsav, “hew, chop”). The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has, probably correctly, המחצת, from the verbal root מָחַץ (makhats, “smash”) which is used in Job 26:12 to describe God’s victory over “the Proud One.”

25 tn This title (רַהַב, rahav, “proud one”) is sometimes translated as a proper name: “Rahab” (cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). It is used here of a symbolic sea monster, known elsewhere in the Bible and in Ugaritic myth as Leviathan. This sea creature symbolizes the forces of chaos that seek to destroy the created order. In the Bible “the Proud One” opposes God’s creative work, but is defeated (see Job 26:12; Ps 89:10). Here the title refers to Pharaoh’s Egyptian army that opposed Israel at the Red Sea (see v. 10, and note also Isa 30:7 and Ps 87:4, where the title is used of Egypt).

26 tn The words “did you not” are understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line). The rhetorical questions here and in v. 10 expect the answer, “Yes, you certainly did!”

27 tn Hebrew תַּנִּין (tannin) is another name for the symbolic sea monster. See the note at 27:1. In this context the sea creature represents Egypt. See the note on the title “Proud One” earlier in this verse.

28 tn The Hebrew text reads literally, “Are you not the one who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made…?”

29 tn Heb “the redeemed” (so ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); KJV “the ransomed.”

30 tn Heb “[will be] on their head[s].” “Joy” may be likened here to a crown (cf. 2 Sam 1:10). The statement may also be an ironic twist on the idiom “earth/dust on the head” (cf. 2 Sam 1:2; 13:19; 15:32; Job 2:12), referring to a mourning practice.

31 tn Heb “overtake” (so NIV); NASB “they will obtain.”

32 tn Heb “grief and groaning will flee.”

33 tc The plural suffix should probably be emended to the second masculine singular (which is used in v. 13). The final mem (ם) is probably dittographic; note the mem at the beginning of the next word.

34 tn Heb “Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who [as] grass is given up?” The feminine singular forms should probably be emended to the masculine singular (see v. 13). They have probably been influenced by the construction אַתְּ־הִיא (’at-hi’) in vv. 9-10.

35 tn Heb “and that you forget.”

36 tn Or “the heavens” (also in v. 16). The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.

37 tn Heb “and that you tremble constantly all the day.”

38 tn The question anticipates the answer, “Ready to disappear!” See v. 14.

39 tn Heb “who is stooped over” (under a burden).

40 tn Heb “the pit” (so KJV); ASV, NAB “die and go down into the pit”; NASB, NIV “dungeon”; NCV “prison.”

41 tn Heb “he will not lack his bread.”

42 tn The addressee (second masculine singular, as in vv. 13, 15) in this verse is unclear. The exiles are addressed in the immediately preceding verses (note the critical tone of vv. 12-13 and the reference to the exiles in v. 14). However, it seems unlikely that they are addressed in v. 16, for the addressee appears to be commissioned to tell Zion, who here represents the restored exiles, “you are my people.” The addressee is distinct from the exiles. The language of v. 16a is reminiscent of 49:2 and 50:4, where the Lord’s special servant says he is God’s spokesman and effective instrument. Perhaps the Lord, having spoken to the exiles in vv. 1-15, now responds to this servant, who spoke just prior to this in 50:4-11.

43 tn Heb “I place my words in your mouth.”

44 tn Heb “with the shadow of my hand.”

45 tc The Hebrew text has לִנְטֹעַ (lintoa’, “to plant”). Several scholars prefer to emend this form to לִנְטֹת (lintot) from נָטָה (natah, “to stretch out”); see v. 13, as well as 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; cf. NAB, NCV, NRSV. However, since the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa, LXX (and Aquila and Symmachus), and Vulgate support the MT reading, there is no need to emend the form. The interpretation is clear enough: Yahweh fixed the sky in its place.

46 tn The infinitives in v. 16b are most naturally understood as indicating the purpose of the divine actions described in v. 16a. The relationship of the third infinitive to the commission is clear enough – the Lord has made the addressee (his special servant?) his spokesman so that the latter might speak encouraging words to those in Zion. But how do the first two infinitives relate? The text seems to indicate that the Lord has commissioned the addressee so that the latter might create the universe! Perhaps creation imagery is employed metaphorically here to refer to the transformation that Jerusalem will experience (see 65:17-18).

47 tn Heb “[you] who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his anger.”

48 tn Heb “the goblet, the cup [that causes] staggering, you drank, you drained.”

49 tc The Hebrew text has אֲנַחֲמֵךְ (’anakhamekh), a first person form, but the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa reads correctly יִנַחֲמֵךְ (yinakhamekh), a third person form.

50 tn Heb “those who are full of the anger of the Lord, the shout [or “rebuke”] of your God.”

51 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

52 tn Heb “the cup of [= that causes] staggering” (so ASV, NAB, NRSV); NASB “the cup of reeling.”

53 tn Heb “the goblet of the cup of my anger.”

54 tn That is, to make them drink it.

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

56 tn Heb “Shake yourself free from the dirt.”

57 tc The Hebrew text has שְּׂבִי (shÿvi), which some understand as a feminine singular imperative from יָשַׁב (yashav, “sit”). The LXX, Vulgate, Syriac, and the Targum support the MT reading (the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa does indirectly). Some interpret this to mean “take your throne”: The Lord exhorts Jerusalem to get up from the dirt and sit, probably with the idea of sitting in a place of honor (J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 2:361). However, the form is likely a corruption of שְׁבִיָּה (shÿviyyah, “captive”), which appears in the parallel line.

58 tn Heb “and now what [following the marginal reading (Qere)] to me here?”

59 tn The verb appears to be a Hiphil form from the root יָלַל (yalal, “howl”), perhaps here in the sense of “mock.” Some emend the form to יְהוֹלָּלוֹ (yÿhollalo) and understand a Polel form of the root הָלַל meaning here “mock, taunt.”

60 tn The verb is apparently a Hitpolal form (with assimilated tav, ת) from the root נָאַץ (naats), but GKC 151-52 §55.b explains it as a mixed form, combining Pual and Hitpolel readings.

61 tn The verb is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).

62 tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

63 tn Heb “How delightful on the mountains.”

64 tn Or “has become king.” When a new king was enthroned, his followers would give this shout. For other examples of this enthronement formula (Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular מָלַךְ [malakh], followed by the name of the king), see 2 Sam 15:10; 1 Kgs 1:11, 13, 18; 2 Kgs 9:13. The Lord is an eternal king, but here he is pictured as a victorious warrior who establishes his rule from Zion.

65 tn קוֹל (qol, “voice”) is used at the beginning of the verse as an interjection.

66 tn Heb “eye in eye”; KJV, ASV “eye to eye”; NAB “directly, before their eyes.”

67 tn Or “redeems.” See the note at 41:14.

68 tn Heb “lays bare”; NLT “will demonstrate.”

69 tn Heb “his holy arm.” This is a metonymy for his power.

70 tn Heb “the remote regions,” which here stand for the extremities and everything in between.

71 tn Heb “the deliverance of our God.” “God” is a subjective genitive here.

72 tn Heb “the vessels of the Lord” (so KJV, NAB).

73 tn Heb “or go in flight”; NAB “leave in headlong flight.”



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