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Isaiah 29:9-16

God’s People are Spiritually Insensitive

29:9 You will be shocked and amazed! 1 

You are totally blind! 2 

They are drunk, 3  but not because of wine;

they stagger, 4  but not because of beer.

29:10 For the Lord has poured out on you

a strong urge to sleep deeply. 5 

He has shut your eyes (the prophets),

and covered your heads (the seers).

29:11 To you this entire prophetic revelation 6  is like words in a sealed scroll. When they hand it to one who can read 7  and say, “Read this,” he responds, “I can’t, because it is sealed.” 29:12 Or when they hand the scroll to one who can’t read 8  and say, “Read this,” he says, “I can’t read.” 9 

29:13 The sovereign master 10  says,

“These people say they are loyal to me; 11 

they say wonderful things about me, 12 

but they are not really loyal to me. 13 

Their worship consists of

nothing but man-made ritual. 14 

29:14 Therefore I will again do an amazing thing for these people –

an absolutely extraordinary deed. 15 

Wise men will have nothing to say,

the sages will have no explanations.” 16 

29:15 Those who try to hide their plans from the Lord are as good as dead, 17 

who do their work in secret and boast, 18 

“Who sees us? Who knows what we’re doing?” 19 

29:16 Your thinking is perverse! 20 

Should the potter be regarded as clay? 21 

Should the thing made say 22  about its maker, “He didn’t make me”?

Or should the pottery say about the potter, “He doesn’t understand”?

1 tn The form הִתְמַהְמְהוּ (hitmahmÿhu) is a Hitpalpel imperative from מָהַהּ (mahah, “hesitate”). If it is retained, one might translate “halt and be amazed.” The translation assumes an emendation to הִתַּמְּהוּ (hittammÿhu), a Hitpael imperative from תָּמַה (tamah, “be amazed”). In this case, the text, like Hab 1:5, combines the Hitpael and Qal imperatival forms of תָּמַה (tamah). A literal translation might be “Shock yourselves and be shocked!” The repetition of sound draws attention to the statement. The imperatives here have the force of an emphatic assertion. On this use of the imperative in Hebrew, see GKC 324 §110.c and IBHS 572 §34.4c.

2 tn Heb “Blind yourselves and be blind!” The Hitpalpel and Qal imperatival forms of שָׁעַע (shaa’, “be blind”) are combined to draw attention to the statement. The imperatives have the force of an emphatic assertion.

3 tc Some prefer to emend the perfect form of the verb to an imperative (e.g., NAB, NCV, NRSV), since the people are addressed in the immediately preceding and following contexts.

4 tc Some prefer to emend the perfect form of the verb to an imperative (e.g., NAB, NCV, NRSV), since the people are addressed in the immediately preceding and following contexts.

5 tn Heb “a disposition [or “spirit”] of deep sleep.” Through this mixed metaphor (sleep is likened to a liquid which one pours and in turn symbolizes spiritual dullness) the prophet emphasizes that God himself has given the people over to their spiritual insensitivity as a form of judgment.

6 tn Heb “vision” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).

7 tn Heb “one who knows a/the scroll.”

8 tn Heb “and if the scroll is handed to one who does not know a scroll.”

9 tn Heb “I do not know a scroll.”

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

11 tn Heb “Because these people draw near to me with their mouth.”

12 tn Heb “and with their lips they honor me.”

13 tn Heb “but their heart is far from me.” The heart is viewed here as the seat of the will, from which genuine loyalty derives.

14 tn Heb “their fear of me is a commandment of men that has been taught.”

15 tn Heb “Therefore I will again do something amazing with these people, an amazing deed, an amazing thing.” This probably refers to the amazing transformation predicted in vv. 17-24, which will follow the purifying judgment implied in vv. 15-16.

16 tn Heb “the wisdom of their wise ones will perish, the discernment of their discerning ones will keep hidden.”

17 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who deeply hide counsel from the Lord.” This probably alludes to political alliances made without seeking the Lord’s guidance. See 30:1-2 and 31:1.

18 tn Heb “and their works are in darkness and they say.”

19 tn The rhetorical questions suggest the answer, “no one.” They are confident that their deeds are hidden from others, including God.

20 tn Heb “your overturning.” The predicate is suppressed in this exclamation. The idea is, “O your perversity! How great it is!” See GKC 470 §147.c. The people “overturn” all logic by thinking their authority supersedes God’s.

21 tn The expected answer to this rhetorical question is “of course not.” On the interrogative use of אִם (’im), see BDB 50 s.v.

22 tn Heb “that the thing made should say.”

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