Isaiah 41

 

הַחֲרִישׁוּ אֵלַי אִיִּים וּלְאֻמִּים יַחֲלִיפוּ כֹחַ יִגְּשׁוּ אָז יְדַבֵּרוּ יַחְדָּו לַמִּשְׁפָּט נִקְרָבָה׃   41:1

Isai. 41:1   “Stop speaking to Me, islands,

                             but let the peoples gain strength.

                    Let them draw near, then let them speak.”

                             Together let us draw near for judgment!

I believe that throughout this chapter Isaiah changes voices and also those he is addressing.  Sometimes he is speaking God’s words; sometimes he is speaking for himself; and sometimes he is speaking for the Israelites.  Sometimes he speaks to the nations; sometimes he speaks to the people of Israel.  And I believe that sometimes he engages in beautiful metaphors.  In this verse I have him starting out with God’s words to all the nations of the world.  Then he exhorts them to approach the Lord.

מִי הֵעִיר מִמִּזְרָח צֶדֶק יִקְרָאֵהוּ לְרַגְלֹו יִתֵּן לְפָנָיו גֹּויִם וּמְלָכִים יַרְדְּ יִתֵּן כֶּעָפָר חַרְבֹּו כְּקַשׁ נִדָּף   41:2 קַשְׁתֹּו׃

Isai. 41:2   Who rouses a Righteous One from the east?

                             He can pronounce it at His “foot.”

                    He can set nations before Him,

                             and He can rule kingdoms.

                    He can apply His sword like dust,

                             driving His bow like stubble.

There is no agreement among the scholars and commentators as to who the righteous one is.  Some (disregarding the adjective “righteous”) believe it to be Cyrus, while some believe it to be Abraham, although he doesn’t fit into this context.  I am not sure that this is a reference to the world of Isaiah’s time.  The rest of the verse seems to refer to the Lord, so I believe He is the Righteous One.  Isaiah is asking a rhetorical question.  Notice that after the first line, the verbs are all of imperfect (future) tense.

Please also notice the interesting simile in the next-to-last English line:  “He can apply His sword like dust.”  The implication is that His sword will be everywhere (like dust).  And understand the last line in a similar manner.

ִרְדְּפֵם יַעֲבֹור שָׁלֹום אֹרַח בְּרַגְלָיו לֹא יָבֹוא׃   41:3

Isai. 41:3   He can pursue, can pass over a way peacefully;

                             He need not go with His “feet.”

This certainly sounds like the Lord.

מִי־פָעַל וְעָשָׂה קֹרֵא הַדֹּרֹות מֵרֹאשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה רִאשֹׁון וְאֶת־אַחֲרֹנִים אֲנִי־הוּא׃   41:4

Isai. 41:4   Who ordains and can do?

                             The Proclaimer of generations from the beginning:

                     “I, the Lord, am the First,

                             and I will be the Same with the last ones.”

רָאוּ אִיִּים וְיִירָאוּ קְצֹות הָאָרֶץ יֶחֱרָדוּ קָרְבוּ וַיֶּאֱתָיוּן׃   41:5

Isai. 41:5   The islands see, and they are afraid!

                             The ends of the earth shall tremble.

                    They approach and arrive.

אִישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵהוּ יַעְזֹרוּ וּלְאָחִיו יֹאמַר חֲזָק׃   41:6

Isai. 41:6   Let them help each his neighbor,

                             and let him say to his brother, “Have courage!”

וַיְחַזֵּק חָרָשׁ אֶת־צֹרֵף מַחֲלִיק פַּטִּישׁ אֶת־הֹולֶם פָּעַם אֹמֵר לַדֶּבֶק טֹוב הוּא וַיְחַזְּקֵהוּ בְמַסְמְרִים לֹא   41:7 יִמֹּוט׃

Isai. 41:7   So the craftsman encourages the goldsmith,

                             making the hammer smooth,

                    the striker of the anvil,

                              saying about the soldering, “It is good.”

                    And he fastens it with nails, it should not move.

I believe these two verses, v. 41:6 and 7, are a metaphor for the nations coming together and helping each other in the end times.  I also believe there will be an even better, more beautiful, and more revealing metaphor for this prophecy later.

וְאַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר בְּחַרְתִּיךָ זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם אֹהֲבִי׃   41:8

Isai. 41:8   “And you, Israel,

                              My servant, Jacob,

                    you whom I have chosen,

                              seed of Abraham, My friend,

אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱזַקְתִּיךָ מִקְצֹות הָאָרֶץ וּמֵאֲצִילֶיהָ קְרָאתִיךָ וָאֹמַר לְךָ עַבְדִּי־אַתָּה בְּחַרְתִּיךָ וְלֹא מְאַסְתִּיךָ׃   41:9

Isai. 41:9   whom I take hold of

                              from the ends of the earth

                    and call from its extremities,

                              and I say to you, ‘You are My servant.’

                     I have chosen you and do not reject you.”

In these two verses, v. 41:8 and 9, I believe Isaiah is speaking God’s words in a future time, some time after all the exiles in which Israel will find itself.  He continues in this vein in the next four verses.

אַל־תִּירָא כִּי עִמְּךָ־אָנִי אַל־תִּשְׁתָּע כִּי־אֲנִי אֱלֹהֶיךָ אִמַּצְתִּיךָ אַף־עֲזַרְתִּיךָ אַף־תְּמַכְתִּיךָ בִּימִין צִדְקִי׃   41:10

Isai. 41:10   “You need not be afraid,

                               for I am with you.

                      You need not be dismayed,

                               for I am your God.

                       I give you strength. I also help you.

                               Yes, I sustain you

                      with the right hand of My righteousness.”

הֵן יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִכָּלְמוּ כֹּל הַנֶּחֱרִים בָּךְ יִהְיוּ כְאַיִן וְיֹאבְדוּ אַנְשֵׁי רִיבֶךָ׃   41:11

Isai. 41:11   “Behold, all incensed with you

                                shall be so ashamed

                       that they are confounded.

                                The persons of your strife

                       shall become as nothing

                                so that they perish.”

תְּבַקְשֵׁם וְלֹא תִמְצָאֵם אַנְשֵׁי מַצֻּתֶךָ יִהְיוּ כְאַיִן וּכְאֶפֶס אַנְשֵׁי מִלְחַמְתֶּךָ׃   41:12

Isai. 41:12   “You may seek them

                                but you will not find them,

                       the persons of your strife.

                                The persons of your wars

                       shall be as nothing and like a ceasing.

כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מַחֲזִיק יְמִינֶךָ הָאֹמֵר לְךָ אַל־תִּירָא אֲנִי עֲזַרְתִּיךָ׃   41:13

Isai. 41:13   “For I am the Lord your God,

                                Who holds your right hand,

                      Who says to you,

                                 ‘Do not be afraid, I am your Helper.’”

אַל־תִּירְאִי תֹּולַעַת יַעֲקֹב מְתֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי עֲזַרְתִּיךְ נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְגֹאֲלֵךְ קְדֹושׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל׃   41:14

Isai. 41:14   Do not be afraid,

                                 dewormed of Jacob, few of Israel!

                      “I am your Helper,”

                                 declares the Lord and your Redeemer,

                       the Holy One of Israel.

Here I think Isaiah injects himself for this verse, then goes on with God’s words until he does it again in v. 41:17.

הִנֵּה שַׂמְתִּיךְ לְמֹורַג חָרוּץ חָדָשׁ בַּעַל פִּיפִיֹּות תָּדוּשׁ הָרִים וְתָדֹק וּגְבָעֹות כַּמֹּץ תָּשִׂים׃   41:15

Isai. 41:15   “Behold, I set you to be a threshing sledge,

                                 a new owner of sharp teeth.

                      You shall thresh the mountains that you beat small,

                                 and the hills you shall make like chaff.”

תִּזְרֵם וְרוּחַ תִּשָּׂאֵם וּסְעָרָה תָּפִיץ אֹותָם וְאַתָּה תָּגִיל בַּיהוָה בִּקְדֹושׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל תִּתְהַלָּל׃   41:16

Isai. 41:16   “You shall spread them

                                 and the wind shall carry them away,

                      and the whirlwind shall scatter them.”

                                Then you shall rejoice in the Lord.

                       In the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

הָעֲנִיִּים וְהָאֶבְיֹונִים מְבַקְשִׁים מַיִם וָאַיִן לְשֹׁונָם בַּצָּמָא נָשָׁתָּה אֲנִי יְהוָה אֶעֱנֵם אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא   41:17 אֶעֶזְבֵם׃

Isai. 41:17   The poor and the needy are seeking water

                                but there is none;

                       their tongue has dried up with thirst.

                                “I, the Lord, shall answer them.

                       I, the God of Israel, shall not forsake them.”

אֶפְתַּח עַל־שְׁפָיִים נְהָרֹות וּבְתֹוךְ בְּקָעֹות מַעְיָנֹות אָשִׂים מִדְבָּר לַאֲגַם־מַיִם וְאֶרֶץ צִיָּה לְמֹוצָאֵי   41:18

 מָיִם׃

Isai. 41:18   “I shall open rivers on the high hills,

                                 and fountains in the midst of the valleys.

                       I shall make the desert to be a pool of water

                                 and the barren land to have springs of water.”

אֶתֵּן בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶרֶז שִׁטָּה וַהֲדַס וְעֵץ שָׁמֶן אָשִׂים בָּעֲרָבָה בְּרֹושׁ תִּדְהָר וּתְאַשּׁוּר יַחְדָּו׃   41:19

Isai. 41:19   “I shall put the cedar in the desert,

                                 acacia and myrtle, and tree of oil.

                       I shall set the cypress, pine, and box tree

                                  together in the plain,

לְמַעַן יִרְאוּ וְיֵדְעוּ וְיָשִׂימוּ וְיַשְׂכִּילוּ יַחְדָּו כִּי יַד־יְהוָה עָשְׂתָה זֹּאת וּקְדֹושׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּרָאָהּ׃   41:20

Isai. 41:20   so that they may see and know

                                  and consider and understand together

                       that the ‘hand’ of the Lord is doing this,

                                  and the Holy One of Israel creates it.”

Above in v. 41:19 is the metaphor I mentioned earlier.  I believe the trees, all of different kinds, represent the peoples of the world.  This verse, v. 41:20, seems to support that belief.  Trees won’t be able to do this (even in the end times?), only people.

קָרְבוּ רִיבְכֶם יֹאמַר יְהוָה הַגִּישׁוּ עֲצֻמֹותֵיכֶם יֹאמַר מֶלֶךְ יַעֲקֹב׃   41:21

Isai. 41:21   “Present your cause,”

                                 the Lord shall say.

                      “Offer your arguments,”

                                 the King of Jacob shall say.

At this point Isaiah shifts to a totally different approach.  Here he begins “taunting” Israel, and he does this by addressing their idols.  It is not too apparent in this verse, but carefully read the next three verses to see what I mean.

יַגִּישׁוּ וְיַגִּידוּ לָנוּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרֶינָה הָרִאשֹׁנֹות מָה הֵנָּה הַגִּידוּ וְנָשִׂימָה לִבֵּנוּ וְנֵדְעָה אַחֲרִיתָן אֹו   41:22 הַבָּאֹות הַשְׁמִיעֻנוּ׃

Isai. 41:22   Let them come near and declare to us

                                what will come to pass,

                       the beginnings, what they were.

                                Explain, that we may set our hearts,

                       and know their end;

                                or tell us the things to come.

הַגִּידוּ הָאֹתִיֹּות לְאָחֹור וְנֵדְעָה כִּי אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם אַף־תֵּיטִיבוּ וְתָרֵעוּ וְנִשְׁתָּעָה (וְנִרָא) [וְנִרְאֶה]   41:23 יַחְדָּו׃

Isai. 41:23   Declare the things to come hereafter,

                               so we may know that you are gods.

                      Also you might do good and might do evil,

                               that we may be dismayed and experience together.

Aside from the message it conveys, this verse has possible anomalies in the Hebrew.  First the word in parentheses is considered to be in error, thought to be missing a heh.  The addition of the letter is made in the brackets.  Of more concern to me is an apparent exception to my theory of inverting vavs.  There are three instances of the phrases containing we may (so we may know, that we may be dismayed, and [we may] experience) with first-person imperfect verbs having a non-inverting vav prefix (in accordance with the theory).  But the second verb in the third line (and might do evil) is a second-person imperfect verb and its vav is not inverting.  This is an exception that may have been either an oversight by Isaiah or, more likely, a deliberate parallelism in the Hebrew poetry, as the first phrase in the second line (you might do good) is also a second-person imperfect verb but with no vav prefix.

הֵן־אַתֶּם מֵאַיִן וּפָעָלְכֶם מֵאָפַע תֹּועֵבָה יִבְחַר בָּכֶם׃   41:24

Isai. 41:24   Behold, you are nothing,

                               and your work is nothing.

                      An abomination would be the choice with you.

הַעִירֹותִי מִצָּפֹון וַיַּאת מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁמֶשׁ יִקְרָא בִשְׁמִי וְיָבֹא סְגָנִים כְּמֹו־חֹמֶר וּכְמֹו יֹוצֵר יִרְמָס־טִיט׃   41:25

Isai. 41:25   “I raise one up from the north

                                and he will come.

                      From the rising of the sun he will call on My name.

                                And he will come into rulers like mortar,

                      and like a potter would tread clay.”

Now Isaiah uses God’s words again in this and the next two verses.  I have to ask, who is the one from the north?  Some believe it is Cyrus, king of Persia, which was to the northeast of Jerusalem.  I don’t think anyone really knows.  It’s conjecture at best.  I have a feeling, the one from the east (v. 41:2) and the one from the north symbolize something or someone of which or whom we are unaware.

מִי־הִגִּיד מֵרֹאשׁ וְנֵדָעָה וּמִלְּפָנִים וְנֹאמַר צַדִּיק אַף אֵין־מַגִּיד אַף אֵין מַשְׁמִיעַ אַף אֵין־שֹׁמֵעַ   41:26 אִמְרֵיכֶם׃

Isai. 41:26   “Who has declared from the start that we know it?

                                And from times before, that we may say he is right?

                       Rather there is none who declares.

                                Yes, there is none who declares.

                       Yes, there is none hearing your utterances.”

רִאשֹׁון לְצִיֹּון הִנֵּה הִנָּם וְלִירוּשָׁלִַם מְבַשֵּׂר אֶתֵּן׃   41:27

Isai. 41:27   “First to Zion!

                               Behold, behold them!

                      Then to Jerusalem!

                                I will deliver one of good tidings.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that the one referred to here may be Isaiah.

וְאֵרֶא וְאֵין אִישׁ וּמֵאֵלֶּה וְאֵין יֹועֵץ וְאֶשְׁאָלֵם וְיָשִׁיבוּ דָבָר׃   41:28

Isai. 41:28   And I look, but there is not a one,

                               and among them,

                      and there is no counselor

                                that I may ask of them and they would return a word.

Now I imagine Isaiah is speaking of the Judeans in this and the next verse.  Aside from that observation, the Hebrew here contains more anomalies.  First there seems to be an extra and (a vav prefix) in the second or third line.  Either the second line should be among them (with no comma in the first line), or the third line should be there is no counselor.  Then in the last line, the Hebrew word, ~lea'v.a,w, translated as that I may ask of them, is appropriate, being a first-person imperfect verb with a non-inverting vav prefix.  But the next word, Wbyviy"w>, translated as and they would return, is a third-person imperfect verb, and its vav prefix is also non-inverting.  This appears to be another exception, which may also be explained by the two possibilities I suggested in the remarks relating to v. 41:23..

הֵן כֻּלָּם אָוֶן אֶפֶס מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם רוּחַ וָתֹהוּ נִסְכֵּיהֶם׃   41:29

Isai. 41:29   Behold all of them!

                               Idolatry, of nothing are their works,

                      wind and vanity their molten images.

 

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