Isaiah 54

 

רָנִּי עֲקָרָה לֹא יָלָדָה פִּצְחִי רִנָּה וְצַהֲלִי לֹא־חָלָה כִּי־רַבִּים בְּנֵי־שֹׁומֵמָה מִבְּנֵי בְעוּלָה אָמַר יְהוָה׃   54:1

Isai. 54:1   Sing, barren one not bearing young!

                            Break forth shouting and rejoice, not giving birth!

                    “For the children of the desolate one

                            shall be more than the children of the married woman,”

                    says the Lord.

הַרְחִיבִי מְקֹום אָהֳלֵךְ וִירִיעֹות מִשְׁכְּנֹותַיִךְ יַטּוּ אַל־תַּחְשֹׂכִי הַאֲרִיכִי מֵיתָרַיִךְ וִיתֵדֹתַיִךְ חַזֵּקִי׃   54:2

Isai. 54:2   Enlarge the space of your tent,

                            and the curtains of your habitations

                     let them stretch forth!

                            Do not hold back.

                    Lengthen your cords,

                            and strengthen your stakes!

כִּי־יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול תִּפְרֹצִי וְזַרְעֵךְ גֹּויִם יִירָשׁ וְעָרִים נְשַׁמֹּות יֹושִׁיבוּ׃   54:3

Isai. 54:3   For to the right and to the left you shall spread out

                           and your seed shall take possession of nations

                    and they shall inhabit cities laid waste.

אַל־תִּירְאִי כִּי־לֹא תֵבֹושִׁי וְאַל־תִּכָּלְמִי כִּי לֹא תַחְפִּירִי כִּי בֹשֶׁת עֲלוּמַיִךְ תִּשְׁכָּחִי וְחֶרְפַּת אַלְמְנוּתַיִךְ   54:4 לֹא תִזְכְּרִי־עֹוד׃

Isai. 54:4   Do not be afraid,

                             for you shall not be disappointed,

                    and do not be confounded,

                             for you shall not be ashamed.

                    But you shall forget the shame of your youth,

                             and you shall remember the disgrace of your widowhood no more.

Wow, what a metaphor!  Before its redemption, Zion was a widow.  Is Isaiah implying (actually saying) that God was as if dead to Israel?  It appears so.

כִּי בֹעֲלַיִךְ עֹשַׂיִךְ יְהוָה צְבָאֹות שְׁמֹו וְגֹאֲלֵךְ קְדֹושׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֱלֹהֵי כָל־הָאָרֶץ יִקָּרֵא׃   54:5

Isai. 54:5   For your Husband is your Maker.

                             The Lord of hosts is His name.

                    And He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

                             He shall be called the God of all the earth.

If Isaiah predates the Song of Songs, this verse could be a source and inspiration for it, God’s love song to Zion.  If, on the other hand, the Song of Songs came first, Isaiah may have been inspired by it to call Zion the wife of God.  When you get to v. 54:10, you will see that Isaiah calls God Zion’s Lover.  Perhaps also, this verse and the next one reveal the meaning of v. 54:1.

כִּי־כְאִשָּׁה עֲזוּבָה וַעֲצוּבַת רוּחַ קְרָאָךְ יְהוָה וְאֵשֶׁת נְעוּרִים כִּי תִמָּאֵס אָמַר אֱלֹהָיִךְ׃   54:6

Isai. 54:6   For as a wife forsaken and grieved of spirit

                             has the Lord called to you.

                    “And a wife of one's youth,

                             how can she be rejected?” says your God.

בְּרֶגַע קָטֹן עֲזַבְתִּיךְ וּבְרַחֲמִים גְּדֹלִים אֲקַבְּצֵךְ׃   54:7

Isai. 54:7   “During a short moment I forsook you,

                              but with great compassion will I take you up.”

בְּשֶׁצֶף קֶצֶף הִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי רֶגַע מִמֵּךְ וּבְחֶסֶד עֹולָם רִחַמְתִּיךְ אָמַר גֹּאֲלֵךְ יְהוָה׃   54:8

Isai. 54:8   “In an outburst of ‘anger’

                              I suddenly hid My presence from you,

                    but with everlasting mercy have I compassion on you,”

                              says your Redeemer, the Lord.

כִּי־מֵי נֹחַ זֹאת לִי אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי מֵעֲבֹר מֵי־נֹחַ עֹוד עַל־הָאָרֶץ כֵּן נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי מִקְּצֹף עָלַיִךְ וּמִגְּעָר־בָּךְ׃   54:9

Isai. 54:9   “For this is the water of Noah to Me that I vowed

                              not to pass the water of Noah again upon the earth.

                    So I vow not to be provoked to ‘wrath’ by you

                             and not to rebuke you.”

There are two important points in this verse.  First, the Lord is saying that the rebuke of Zion was in a way similar to the Flood.  A flood of destruction has befallen (and continues to befall) Zion.  And as He vowed after the Flood to not bring it again, He vows now to not bring that degree of destruction upon Zion again.  Second, If indeed Zion will never again see this degree of destruction, how may we account for the destruction of the second Temple and the subsequent 2,000 years of exile?  We can’t, if we accept the general understanding that Isaiah is writing here about the redemption after the Babylonian exile.  Therefore we have to conclude that this cannot be a true vow of God’s.  I don’t accept that, however.  As I’ve already said, I believe Isaiah is writing throughout and in an unspecified time frame.  His prophecies are not for a given moment or event -- they are timeless.  Their accuracy and meaning will be known only when all is revealed to us.

כִּי הֶהָרִים יָמוּשׁוּ וְהַגְּבָעֹות תְּמוּטֶנָה וְחַסְדִּי מֵאִתֵּךְ לֹא־יָמוּשׁ וּבְרִית שְׁלֹומִי לֹא תָמוּט אָמַר   54:10 מְרַחֲמֵךְ יְהוָה׃

Isai. 54:10   “For the mountains may withdraw

                              and the hills be removed,

                      but My mercy from you shall not depart,

                              and the covenant of My favor shall not be removed,”

                      says your Lover, the Lord.

עֲנִיָּה סֹעֲרָה לֹא נֻחָמָה הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מַרְבִּיץ בַּפּוּךְ אֲבָנַיִךְ וִיסַדְתִּיךְ בַּסַּפִּירִים׃   54:11

Isai. 54:11   “O afflicted, tempest tossed, without comfort,

                               behold, I am imbedding your stones with fine colors,

                      as I lay your foundation with sapphires.”

וְשַׂמְתִּי כַּדְכֹד שִׁמְשֹׁתַיִךְ וּשְׁעָרַיִךְ לְאַבְנֵי אֶקְדָּח וְכָל־גְּבוּלֵךְ לְאַבְנֵי־חֵפֶץ׃   54:12

Isai. 54:12   “And I will make rubies of your pinnacles,

                                and your gates for stones of carbuncles,

                      and all of your borders for precious stones.”

 וְכָל־בָּנַיִךְ לִמּוּדֵי יְהוָה וְרַב שְׁלֹום בָּנָיִךְ׃   54:13

Isai. 54:13   “And all your children shall be disciples of the Lord,

                                and the peace of your children shall be great.”

בִּצְדָקָה תִּכֹּונָנִי רַחֲקִי מֵעֹשֶׁק כִּי־לֹא תִירָאִי וּמִמְּחִתָּה כִּי לֹא־תִקְרַב אֵלָיִךְ׃   54:14

Isai. 54:14   “In righteousness shall you be established.

                                Be so far from oppression that you need not be afraid,

                      and from destruction,

                                 for it shall not come near to you.”

הֵן גֹּור יָגוּר אֶפֶס מֵאֹותִי מִי־גָר אִתָּךְ עָלַיִךְ יִפֹּול׃   54:15

Isai. 54:15   “If a stranger shall sojourn without being from Me,

                               who has gathered with you against you, he shall fall.”

The Hebrew in this verse is very terse, and is difficult to translate understandably.  Many other translations record something like this:  “Behold, they may gather together, but not by Me; whosoever shall gather together against you shall fall because of you.”  The root of the second Hebrew word in this verse can be a noun or a verb.  As a noun, it can mean stranger, sojourner, temporary dweller.  As a verb it can mean to sojourn, to gather together, to remain, to dwell temporarily, and other varied meanings.  I have translated the Hebrew as accurately as possible, while the other translations have taken some liberties with the Hebrew grammar.  For example, the third word in the verse, a verb translated by others as they may gather together, is singular, not plural, so it should be translated as he may gather or assemble together, a meaningless phrase.  However, the subject of the phrase is there in the Hebrew, the second word; it is a stranger, and this is ignored by the other translators, I suppose because it doesn’t fit with their interpretation of the rest of the verse.  For another example, the word translated as shall gather in the other translations is perfect, not imperfect, so it should be more accurately translated as has gathered.  Beyond this, I suspect the first word is not Behold, but If, thereby introducing a conditional clause.  Some similar criticisms can apply to the next two verses as well.

הֵן אָנֹכִי בָּרָאתִי חָרָשׁ נֹפֵחַ בְּאֵשׁ פֶּחָם וּמֹוצִיא כְלִי לְמַעֲשֵׂהוּ וְאָנֹכִי בָּרָאתִי מַשְׁחִית לְחַבֵּל׃   54:16

Isai. 54:16   “If I create the smith, the kindler in fire of coal,

                                and bringing forth a weapon for his labor,

                      and I create the spoiler to destroy,

כָּל־כְּלִי יוּצַר עָלַיִךְ לֹא יִצְלָח וְכָל־לָשֹׁון תָּקוּם־אִתָּךְ לַמִּשְׁפָּט תַּרְשִׁיעִי זֹאת נַחֲלַת עַבְדֵי יְהוָה   54:17 וְצִדְקָתָם מֵאִתִּי נְאֻם־יְהוָה׃

Isai. 54:17   no fashioned weapon can prosper against you,

                                 and every tongue you shall raise up with you for judgment

                      you shall condemn.

                                 This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord

                      and their true judgment from Me,” declares the Lord.

 

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