There is some exotic Hebrew in this chapter, with pronouns abruptly changing gender, pointing to antecedents that can only be guessed at, and several peculiar and mysterious phrases. Please understand that I have translated the Hebrew precisely, and no other translation I am familiar with comes close to mine in a number of these verses. Others have taken many liberties with and made assumptions about the Hebrew and freely mistranslated it. I am unsure of my interpretation, primarily because it is so different from the accepted and agreed upon interpretation. So I won’t be too cavalier in my criticisms. Nevertheless, I will present my arguments forthrightly and probably exhibit a conviction I don’t completely feel. I must say, though, at least they’re consistent, which is more than I can say for most other interpretations.
בַּיֹּום הַהוּא יִפְקֹד יְהוָה בְּחַרְבֹו הַקָּשָׁה וְהַגְּדֹולָה וְהַחֲזָקָה עַל לִוְיָתָן נָחָשׁ בָּרִחַ וְעַל לִוְיָתָן נָחָשׁ 27:1 עֲקַלָּתֹון וְהָרַג אֶת־הַתַּנִּין אֲשֶׁר בַּיָּם
Isai. 27:1 In that day the Lord shall pay a visit
with His cruelest and greatest and strongest sword
upon leviathan, the fleeing serpent,
and upon leviathan, the tortuous serpent,
and slay the dragon that is in the sea.
This verse is thought to refer to three great nations of that time. Is this a repetition or summary of the last three chapters? I don’t know, and I’m not sure what is being described in this verse.
בַּיֹּום הַהוּא כֶּרֶם חֶמֶד עַנּוּ־לָהּ׃ 27:2
Isai. 27:2 “In that day, a beautiful vineyard,
sing out to her!”
Here a beautiful vineyard (a masculine noun) is a metaphor for Israel, although Israel is given a feminine pronoun -- the her at the end of the verse. The quotation marks are my way of indicating that I believe Isaiah is mouthing the words of God, with which he continues for part of the next verse.
אֲנִי יְהוָה נֹצְרָהּ לִרְגָעִים אַשְׁקֶנָּה פֶּן יִפְקֹד עָלֶיהָ לַיְלָה וָיֹום אֶצֳּרֶנָּה׃ 27:3
Isai. 27:3 “I, the Lord, will be guarding her.
Every moment I shall water her.”
Lest He would bring destruction on her,
I shall guard her night and day.
The first part of this verse continues the words I suspect Isaiah is attributing to God. In fact, I believe that Isaiah is actually hoping that God is saying these words -- wishful thinking on his part, for he knows that Israel backslides and will continue to do so and continually “angers” Him. So Isaiah has to view himself and be seen as nurturing and protecting Israel.
חֵמָה אֵין לִי מִי־יִתְּנֵנִי שָׁמִיר שַׁיִת בַּמִּלְחָמָה אֶפְשְׂעָה בָהּ אֲצִיתֶנָּה יָּחַד׃ 27:4
Isai. 27:4 Fury is not mine.
Would that He would give me
a thorny bramble in the battle,
I would stride through it,
I would burn it all together.
Here I believe Isaiah is saying he would end all the destruction. He doesn’t seem to care for it. He is not angry.
אֹו יַחֲזֵק בְּמָעוּזִּי יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלֹום לִי שָׁלֹום יַעֲשֶׂה־לִּי׃ 27:5
Isai. 27:5 Or let Him strengthen with my strength,
make peace for me; peace may He make for me.
This verse lends support for my interpretation of the last verse. I believe Isaiah is saying let God use his (Isaiah’s) strength rather that His own strength (which is much more formidable and destructive), letting peace come more quickly and with less destruction.
הַבָּאִים יַשְׁרֵשׁ יַעֲקֹב יָצִיץ וּפָרַח יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמָלְאוּ פְנֵי־תֵבֵל תְּנוּבָה׃ 27:6
Isai. 27:6 In the future Jacob would take root,
Israel would bloom and flourish,
and produce would fill the surface of the world.
הַכְּמַכַּת מַכֵּהוּ הִכָּהוּ אִם־כְּהֶרֶג הֲרֻגָיו הֹרָג׃ 27:7
Isai. 27:7 Has He smitten him like his smiter who smote him?
Or did He slay like the slaying of his slaughterer?
I believe Isaiah’s questions are like an Aristotelian or more generally Greco-Roman form of argument: He is saying here that God has not smitten Israel like Israel’s enemies have smitten it. Notice that Isaiah uses masculine pronouns for Israel in this verse.
בְּסַאסְּאָה בְּשַׁלְחָהּ תְּרִיבֶנָּה הָגָה בְּרוּחֹו הַקָּשָׁה בְּיֹום קָדִים׃ 27:8
Isai. 27:8 In full measure by sending her away
You shall have rebuked her;
He took away with His harsh breath
in the day of the east wind.
I think this verse lends support for my interpretation of the previous verse. The Lord rebuked Israel by dispersing her rather than by total annihilation. Observe that Isaiah uses feminine pronouns for Israel in this verse. Could it be that he chooses feminine pronouns when he is pitying Israel and masculine pronouns when he is critical of Israel?
לָכֵן בְּזֹאת יְכֻפַּר עֲוֹן־יַעֲקֹב וְזֶה כָּל־פְּרִי הָסִר חַטָּאתֹו בְּשׂוּמֹו כָּל־אַבְנֵי מִזְבֵּחַ כְּאַבְנֵי־גִר מְנֻפָּצֹות 27:9 לֹא־יָקֻמוּ אֲשֵׁרִים וְחַמָּנִים׃
Isai. 27:9 Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob shall be pardoned,
and this all shall be the reward of the removal of his sin.
With his making all the stones of the altar
like stones of chalk beaten to pieces,
the Asherim or the sun images cannot rise.
כִּי עִיר בְּצוּרָה בָּדָד נָוֶה מְשֻׁלָּח וְנֶעֱזָב כַּמִּדְבָּר שָׁם יִרְעֶה עֵגֶל וְשָׁם יִרְבָּץ וְכִלָּה סְעִפֶיהָ׃ 27:10
Isai. 27:10 For the fortified city is desolate,
a habitation cast away and forsaken like a wilderness.
There shall feed the calf
and there shall it repose and consume her branches.
The city being referred to here is Jerusalem. This is the widely accepted view among the commentators. The city is feminine in gender, and feminine pronouns are used here and in the next verse.
בִּיבֹשׁ קְצִירָהּ תִּשָּׁבַרְנָה נָשִׁים בָּאֹות מְאִירֹות אֹותָהּ כִּי לֹא עַם־בִּינֹות הוּא עַל־כֵּן לֹא־יְרַחֲמֶנּוּ 27:11 עֹשֵׂהוּ וְיֹצְרֹו לֹא יְחֻנֶּנּוּ׃
Isai. 27:11 When her harvest dries up,
You shall bring her
to the coming birth of the women causing her to shine,
for it is not a people of wisdom.
Therefore its Maker might not pity it,
and its Fashioner might not grant it grace.
Well! I believe Isaiah is giving the future female inhabitants of Jerusalem (and Israel) a backhanded compliment.
וְהָיָה בַּיֹּום הַהוּא יַחְבֹּט יְהוָה מִשִּׁבֹּלֶת הַנָּהָר עַד־נַחַל מִצְרָיִם וְאַתֶּם תְּלֻקְּטוּ לְאַחַד אֶחָד בְּנֵי 27:12 יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
Isai. 27:12 And it shall be in that day,
the Lord shall beat off from the flood of the River
as far as the Brook of Egypt,
and you shall be gathered up one by one, O children of Israel.
The commonly accepted interpretation of the first part of this verse is that the Lord will be beating off His produce, as mentioned in v. 27:6, that is, the survivors of the dispersion. The word translated as shall beat off is meant to convey the idea of a threshing of the harvest corn. The concept that Isaiah is conveying in these verses is that Israel has been planted by the Lord in foreign lands, and when the time comes He will harvest His crop, prepare it for his purpose, and return it to its promised soil.
וְהָיָה בַּיֹּום הַהוּא יִתָּקַע בְּשֹׁופָר גָּדֹול וּבָאוּ הָאֹבְדִים בְּאֶרֶץ אַשּׁוּר וְהַנִּדָּחִים בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם 27:13 וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לַיהוָה בְּהַר הַקֹּדֶשׁ בִּירוּשָׁלִָם׃
Isai. 27:13 And it shall be in that day,
He shall blow on a great horn,
and those lost in the land of Assyria shall come,
and the outcasts in the land of Egypt,
and they will bow down to the Lord
on the holy mount in Jerusalem.
As can be readily seen, almost from the start of this chapter Isaiah has now returned to addressing Israel, which will be his main subject from this point forward.
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