We are first speaking of ethnic Israel and then speaking of both ethnic Israel and the redeemed among the nations. To neglect the former negates the latter.
Chapters 34 and 35 detail the doom of Edom and the return to the land of the redeemed people of Israel. These chapters are act as an epilogue of what some call the “Book of Wows”.
In these chapters the prophet looks beyond the punishing of Assyria and its judgement and eventual destruction to the judgement of all the ungodly nations of the world. Edom, a brother to Israel, had acted in an unbrotherly way toward Israel during her distress. Edom, while a literal ethnic title, is also used as a personification of all those who have come against God and His people. Edom is seen as a representation of that which is evil within the human race and is prophesied to share the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Chapter 34 details the fate of Edom which is almost identical to that of Babylon. Some critiques mistakenly presume that this is proof of a post exilic dating for this text, however, it is more reasonable to conclude that the similar themes in Zechariah and Ezekiel are simply proof that Isaiah’s prophecies were well known to the latter prophets and that it was Isaiah’s scroll that influenced the latter prophets and not the other way around.
Chapter 35 is an exceptional poetic picture of the future redemption and return of Israel both spiritual and physical. It provides a stark contrast to the judgement, punishment and desolation of Edom, the evil nations of world who have sought come against God and His redemptive purpose for humanity.
Isa 35:1 Ye’susum Rejoice midbar wilderness (from the Word) and tziyah dryness (dry place) vetageil and be glad aravah desert plain; ve’tifrach and blossom kachavatztzalet as the rose, meadow saffron, crocus.
The previous chapter ends with Edom’s (Enemies of God and Israel) land being turned into a place of perpetual desolation, dryness. Whereas this chapter begins and ends with Israel’s desert and wilderness being transformed into well-watered blossoming pasture land.
The Hebrew word midbar (Wilderness), as previously discussed in my commentary on Isaiah 32, is a contraction meaning “from the Word, essence, thing”. Thus, rejoicing comes from the Word (John 1), and from within Zion.
The Hebrew tziyah “dryness”, is the root for the noun Tziyon (Zion: parched land). Therefore, the dry land of the desert is a personification of Tziyon. Zion is to rejoice and be glad from her interaction with the Word (The Messiah Yeshua). As a result she will blossom like the rose or meadow saffron, both beautiful and fragrant blooms.
The wilderness is a place of nourishment for the people of Israel. Her journey through the wilderness after escaping her captivity in Egypt resulted in her spiritual formation, and prepared her for what was ahead of her in the promised land. Revelation 12:14 describes Israel’s original exodus retrospectively and leaves open the possibility that the future may yet hold a wilderness experience for the ethnic people of Israel.
As a remez (hint) from the Hebrew text we can read “Rejoice from the Word in your wilderness experience, and you dry ones (Tziyah: residents of Zion) be glad even as far as the arabah (the desert parts of your God given land), behold, God is making you blossom and prosper.”
Rav Moses Hakkohen writes that there are two opinions as to the specific nature of this prophecy. One opinion suggests that this describes the state of Israel in the time of the Messiah’s reign, and the other suggests that it refers to the peaceful state of Judah following the Assyrian withdrawal in 704 BCE. In fact both interpretations are valid. The perpetual nature of Hebrew prophecy allows for both.
Isa 35:2 Paroach buding, sprouting, tifrach bud, sprout, (abundantly), vetageil and be glad with giylat joy veranein and overcome, shout: Kevod the glory of ha-levanon the Lebanon (witness) nitan-lah will be given to her, hadar the splendour of ha-Carmel the Carmel (Garden land) and ha-Sharon the Sharon (plain north of Jaffa between the central mountains of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea), they will see Khevod-YHVH the glory of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), the splendour of Eloheiynu our God (Judge).
We note that the “budding, sprouting” from the root parach, is doubled at the beginning of this verse and infers abundance while also reminding the reader that the future blossoming and rejoicing of Israel has been firmly established by God.
Ibn Ezra is right in saying that this text refers to the land of Israel or Jerusalem itself, and that the “They” of the final clause refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is affirmed by the 2nd century Targum Yonatan which reads;
“the house of Israel, to whom these things are said, they shall see,''
We further observe that while the favoured English translation is “With great joy and singing”, the Hebrew root ranan literally means to overcome and can mean to shout or cry out but at best can only be rendered as singing in a figurative sense. Therefore, I have chosen to translate the Hebrew as an “overcoming shout” rather than as “singing”.
“The Lebanon (witness)” in this context probably refers to a specific mountain in Judea famous for its tall cedars and green appearance rather than to Israel’s northern neighbours. It alludes to both the physical appearance of the mountain and perhaps also to the future physical appearance of the “witness” who will precede the Messiah, that is Elijah. The kevod glory is associated with the Lebanon, whereas hadar beauty, which infers a more earthly affiliation, is connected to the Carmel and the Sharon (two locations within the territory of Judah famous for their fruitful pasture land).
In using all three locations to refer to the coming redemption of the land, the prophet is showing that this redemption will cover the entire land of Israel.
The kevod (heavenly glory) and the hadar (earthly beauty) will be united and as a result the people will see the Khevod HaShem the glory of Mercy and the Hadar Elohiym the beauty of His judgement. The couplets within the Hebrew poetic-prophetic text are intended to give a sense of something established outside of time and space that is to take place within time and space.
Isa 35:3 Chazeku Strengthen you yadiym the hands of rafot the weak, uvirkayim and the knees of koshelot the stumbling ones ameitzu make strong, alert, courageous, brave, bold, solid, secure.
By far the majority of Jewish commentators attribute this verse to the Messianic age. These things did not occur during the reign of Hezekiah, it is therefore intellectually dishonest to suggest that they did.
Strength and courage are the result of the coming King’s (Isaiah 32) redeeming work. Hashem Himself will hold firm the shaking hands of the weak and give courage and stability to the stumbling ones. This applies both to the weakness of the body and that of the spirit, mind, and soul being. Hashem and His Mashiyach King will affect this transformation and regenerate the people of Israel and her land.
The hands symbolize human action and the legs represent the way we walk or live in a moral sense. Thus the coming Redeemer will replace the shaky and morally dubious actions of His people with the firm right action of His Spirit and will give His people the courage to walk rightly before Him in the presence of the Messianic King.
Isa 35:4 Say lenimhareiy to them that have an anxious, hurried, fearful lev core being (heart), “Chizku Be strong, al-tiyrau don’t fear (be afraid): hinei behold, Eloheiychem your God (Judge) nakam with vengeance will come, with a recompense Elohiym God (Judge); Hu yavo veyosha’achem He will come and save you (plural).
Ibn Ezra suggests that this verse is spoken to those who don’t believe this miracle could happen.
This wonderful message of assurance spoken to the ethnic people of Israel then and now is also available to all who would put their trust in Israel’s Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). What a wonderful encouragement it is to hear these words from the mouth of the Messiah:
“You who are anxious, hurried, fearful within your core being, be strong, don’t fear, listen to Me, your God is coming with vengeance against your enemies and His: your God, the Judge of the universe is coming to repay the wicked in justice; He will come and save you!”
I’m reminded of the comforting words chanted as we complete each book of the Torah and at the end of the Torah cycle:
“Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik.” Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened!”
Some shy away from talking about the vengeance of the Lord because they are under the delusion that this somehow impugns God’s character, it does not. God is just and His vengeance is just. There is security in knowing that the God in Whom we have placed our trust will be fierce in His administration of justice and in His protection over us His children, both redeemed ethnic Israel and Messiah following Gentiles. The Scriptures speak of the vengeance of God on many occasions and often in conjunction with His deliverance of ethnic religious Israel: Isaiah 61:2; Luke 21:22; Revelation 18:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
Recompense is reward to the righteous and punishment to the wicked (Rev. 11:18).
“He will come and save you”. The King Messiah came for the first time to perform the redeeming act of death and resurrection in order to make eternal deliverance possible for ethnic Israel and all humanity. And, although it is true that He has come to save you, it is also true that “He will come and save you”! In this context the prophet is speaking specifically to the ethnic people of Israel His chosen people. Yeshua the King Messiah has come to deliver us from sin and is coming again with vengeance and in order to bring judgement and recompense.
Notice that verse 4 uses only the Name of God that denotes judgement. Mercy (YHVH) and Judgement (Elohiym) begin this redemptive process (v. 2), but it is God as Judge Who saves (Yeshua) in the present verse. The King Messiah is coming again as a warrior, a fierce King, with judgement and recompense He will bring about the salvation of His brothers and sisters ethnic Israel. Make no mistake, God will keep His promises to ethnic Israel, not because of our righteousness but because of His. The Prince of Peace will again come to save us but this time He will be wearing the garments of war.
Isa 35:5 Then opened will be the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
These words taken literally refer to the physical events that directly correlate to this prophecy, those being the healing miracles of the King Messiah at His first coming, recorded in the Brit-Chadashah (New Testament): Matthew 9:27; John 9:1; Matthew 11:5.
We must however, go a step further, for this verse is also speaking of a time when this will happen in a general sense. Meaning that the eyes of all who are blind in Israel will be opened along with the unstopping of the ears of all in Israel who have been deaf. This refers without doubt to a spiritual blindness and a spiritual rebellion. These events, while having occurred in part in both the physical and spiritual due to Messiah’s saving work at His first coming, are yet to be fully filled. This yet future event is described in Romans 11 and will bring about the redemption of all of ethnic Israel.
Isa 35:6 Then yedaleig leaping like a deer piseiach a lame man, ve’taron and overcoming, shouting, leshon the tongue of ileim the dumb, silent, mute: ciy-nivkeu for breaking open, tearing, bamidbar in the wilderness (in and from the Word), mayim waters: unechaliym and a torrent ba’aravah in the steppe desert.
Once again the physical healing of the lame within Israel saw its fulfilment in the days of Yeshua the King Messiah’s first coming (Matthew 15:30; Acts 3:1). Likewise the healing of those unable to speak (Matthew 9:32; Matthew 12:22). However, the Targum rightly understands this as referring not only to physical healing but also to the spiritual redemption that the Messiah was to bring to ethnic Israel and the nations:
"then shall the eyes of the house of Israel be opened, who were as blind men as to the law; and the ears of them that are as deaf men, to attend to the words of the prophets shall hear; then when they shall see the captives of Israel gathered to go up to their own land as the swift harts, and not tarry,'' -Targum Yonatan (2 century BCE)
The lame man is symbolic of one whose purpose has been hindered by the sin affected world. His healing brings him into a place that exceeds all hope and causes him not just to walk but to leap. The one unable to speak has an impaired tongue or language. This is representative of a restriction that has been imposed upon his ability to communicate. Thus, the loosing of his tongue or language sets him free to communicate the righteousness of God to others. In one sense we might say that the Hebrew language had itself been restricted during the Hellenistic period and parts of later history but has now been loosed once more, this time as an everlasting language.
The Hebrew nechaliym (torrent) is from the root nachal “inherit, possess”.
The wording of the latter clause is beautiful and revealing:
“for breaking open, tearing, out of the wilderness ( from the Word), waters: and a torrent in the steppe desert.”
The waters will of course literally break forth to water crops and bring flowers into blossom, but the prophet intends much more and the prophetic meta-narrative of God demands it. Water is life and that life is born of God, poured out to us through His Messiah Yeshua Who said:
“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!” -Yochanan (John) 4:13-14 TLV
Notice that this water comes from our wilderness experience, from that time when we dwelt alongside the Mishkhan (Tent of the Presence). Wilderness life is hard but intimate, a trial that binds us together out of necessity. It is mi-from davar-the Word Himself, He Who bore our wilderness and suffered as we have, that the living water comes forth.
Look closely at the language. It is dishonest to translate nechaliym as streams: nachlah is a tearing, a torrent, a bursting forth. This is not a description of a trickling stream or otherwise, rather it is a an image of a gushing, bursting, fierce, unrelenting rush of waters that will forever silence the thirst of the desert and satisfy the thirst of the soul. Isaiah is prophesying a torrent of eternal life, something that we inherit nachal through Messiah.
Isa 35:7 And it has come to pass ha-sharav the burning (scorched) ground, mirage, will become la’agam a troubled pool, and the thirsty ground springs of mayim water: binveh in the habitation (shepherds hut) of taniym serpents/dragons, where each lay, shall be chatziyr grass, Leeks, herbs with reeds and rushes.
The plain meaning indicates that while once the scorching heat of the desert produced the illusion of an oasis within a mirage, now there will really be a place of refreshing waters and palm trees, and where there was once nothing but dry thirsty ground there would now be springs of water. The environment that had been ideal for snakes will now be too wet for them and will become a green well-watered land, lush with leeks, rushes and herbs.
On the other hand the symbolic language also conveys some deeper spiritual truths. The mirage produced by the conditions of Israel’s desert experience had become their focus so that they had chosen to pursue the mirage of unsatisfying water offered by false gods, waters that weren’t really there. Now, in the Messianic age they will behold the real living waters of God and His Messiah.
The regeneration of the land will make it impossible for the serpent to make his home there. The shepherd housing, once occupied by the false shepherd, symbolized by the serpent, will now be occupied by the righteous and rightful shepherd of Israel, the King Messiah Yeshua. Thus, the serpent Satan and his minions will be removed from the land completely and forever.
Isa 35:8 And it has come to pass sham there maslul a highway vaderekh and a way, vederekh and the way of ha-Kodesh the holiness, she (lah) will be called; and no tame unclean, impure thing will pass over it; but it (he) will be for those choleich going forth, derekh a way ve’eviliym that fools (despise wisdom) will not err in, wander from.
“There” means through the once barren lands of the southern and parts of the eastern borders of the land of Israel. A maslul highway will be made to carry and return the redeemed of ethnic Israel, both physically and spiritually. A highway is a wide main road that is unmistakably clear to all who seek it.
This “Highway” will be vaderekh “the Way”. The Hebrew text repeats the phrase “vaderekh vederekh ha-kodesh” literally “and a way and the way of Holiness”. The text explains that the second phrase is a title for this “way”. In other words, while this is a literal highway it is also a spiritual path, one that has a name “Vederekh Ha-Kodesh” The Way of Holiness. It is therefore, no coincidence that the spiritual path pursued by the Jewish followers of the King Messiah Yeshua became known as “The Way” a Jewish sect (Acts 19:9-23). Thus, this “Way of Holiness” refers to ethnic Israel’s path to salvation through the King Messiah Yeshua and his blood atoning sacrifice and resurrection.
“No unclean thing” refers not only to ritual uncleanness but to moral uncleanness. This way will be only for those who have returned to God through the Redeemer and Messiah Yeshua. In historical context this must first be understood to refer specifically to the Jewish people, however, it will also become true of those among the nations who accept Israel’s Messiah Yeshua. He is of course “Ha-derekh, ha-emet ve’chayim” The way, the truth, and the life.
Such is the clarity of the highway and its “way” that even the one who was once foolish, who now chooses “The Way”, will no longer be able to walk in error due to the transformative work of God through the Messiah.
Isa 35:9 There will not come there any aryeih lion, nor any ravenous chaiyot animal shall go up there, it shall not be found sham there vehalechu and walking geuliym the redeemed:
The lion and ravenous beast are symbolic of harm that comes against travellers, especially in a land that has become unruly and left desolate. Thus, the text is conveying the idea that all the previous threats which resulted from sin and lawlessness will be removed from Tziyon (Parched land) and that only the redeemed (Through Messiah) will walk in this place.
Isa 35:10 Upeduyeiy And the ransomed of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yeshuvun will return, and come to Tziyon (Zion: parched land) berinah with shrill ringing cries (overcoming) vesimchat and joy olam everlasting al rosham upon their heads: sason gladness vesimchah and joy yasigu they will obtain, take hold of, venasu and flee yagon grief, sorrow, anguish va’anachah and sighing, groaning.
Notice that it is only the ransomed of Hashem who will return. No one will return unless his ransom has been paid. Thank God, Yeshua gave of Himself to be that ransom for all ethnic Israel and for the nations. Here though we are first speaking of a physical return and then a spiritual one. Therefore, we are first speaking of ethnic Israel and then speaking of both ethnic Israel and the redeemed among the nations. To neglect the former negates the latter.
We see that this chapter ends by referring to God’s ethnic chosen people using the designation it began with, “Tziyon” from tziyah (Parched Land). He was there in the wilderness, He is here in the regenerated land.
“Berinah” is more akin to the shrill wailing of middle eastern women than it is to singing. Mizrachi Jewish women still make this shrill cry at weddings and festivals in celebration of the goodness of God.
This returning to Zion is one of the greatest of joys. The prophet says that ethnic Israel will be filled with everlasting joy, and that joy will rest upon our heads. The rosh (head) is the ruler of the body. Thus the joy that is everlasting will rule us both individually and corporately. We will obtain this through the King Messiah from God the Father and what’s more, all that once resulted in sadness, sorrow and suffering will flee away.
This will begin as a complete restoration of the ethnic people of Israel, God’s chosen, and culminate with the resurrection of the righteous from every ethnicity of humanity and the unification of the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, and the regeneration of all things through Messiah Yeshua our King and Redeemer unto the Glory of HaShem the Merciful King of the universe.
Copyright 2018 Yaakov Brown
Even when God goes to war against His people, He does so proportionately and for the sake of their redemption. Therefore, even the harsh rebuke of God toward His people is heard by the righteous as “wonderful counsel, and great wisdom.”
Chapter 28 of Isaiah begins a section (28-33) of the scroll sometimes referred to as “The Book of Woes” because each oracle begins with the Exclamation “Oy”, a Hebrew expression with diverse meaning. In many ways it is a nigun-like (vocalization of spiritual emotion) expression that takes on the emotion of the speaker and his or her circumstance and or expectations. In each of the pursuant chapters the expression is one of mourning mixed with warning, anticipation fused with certain gloom.
This first “Oy (woe)” is spoken against the “drunkards of Ephraim”, who have been doubly fruitful in their sin against HaShem. God then warns the rulers of Jerusalem that unless they repent they will share the fate of Samaria. Ephraim represents fallen Israel and is linked to Samaria in league with those who oppose God. However, Judah and Benjamin are now also rebuked and warned in light of Judah’s role in producing the coming Messiah: the “Stone” who Hashem will establish in her.
Each of these “Oy’s (woes)” are equally applicable today. Beginning with His ethnic-religious chosen people (Israel) God continues to warn all of humanity (including the Church) against descent into destruction.
Isa 28:1 Oy (Alas, Woe), crown of majesty, drunken Ephrayim (Doubly fruitful), ve’tzitz and your flower (bloom, shiny thing) of noveil senseless (foolish) beauty, whose glorious beauty is on the head of the valleys of shemaniym (oil, fat, fig: abundance) conquered with wine!
This beautiful poetic description of Ephraim’s (10 tribes) abundance is a testimony of the prosperity that will soon be lost if Ephraim fails to repent of idolatry.
The produce and wine of the region of the 10 tribes was renowned. The inhabitants of Samaria and the adjacent territories were said to be especially addicted to the vice of alcohol. The ancient city Sichem, thought to be the same as Sychar (John 4:5) is said to be named for the drunkenness of the inhabitants.
The drunkenness of Ephraim is both literal and metaphorical. The 10 tribes have engaged in literal drunkenness associated to sinful practices while also becoming drunk on the practices of heathen worship, adopted from ancient beliefs attached to the land and from the strong oppressors that have surrounded Israel. The two calves that had been set up in Dan and Bethel testify against Ephraim along with the more recent idolatries adopted from other nations.
Isa 28:2 Hinei Now (Behold, Pay attention) strong and mighty is Adonay (Lord), a tempest of hail, a storm of destruction, as a flood of many mighty waters overflowing (washing), hiniyakh resting on la’aretz the land beyad in the hand. Isa 28:3 Be’raglayim By many feet trampling the crown of majesty, of drunken Ephrayim:
God Himself is against Ephraim’s idolatry. God will soon use Shalmaneser king of Assyria to bring down the lofty pride of Ephraim and pillage her beauty and fruitfulness.
Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 BCE: therefore, this prophecy was pronounced some time prior to that date.
Isa 28:4 And it has come to pass your flower (bloom, shiny thing) of noveil senseless (foolish) beauty, whose glorious beauty is on the head of the valleys of shemaniym (oil, fat, fig: abundance), will be as the fruit that ripens before the summer; which when looked upon the inspection will continually remain in hand and be swallowed up.
The prophet describes the literal beauty of the lands of the 10 tribes and especially of Samaria, the region which is chief among them: using this description as a living representation of the seasonal and temporary nature of the abundance they have enjoyed. Her fruitfulness is described for the second time in identical terms as an affirmation of her certain desolation. Ephraim/Samaria is called a “senseless beauty”, the glory she enjoys is temporary, here today and gone tomorrow. Why? Because it is born of the worship of temporal and worthless things.
The fruit that ripens early is unexpected and comes in small amounts that are quickly eaten due to the grower’s anticipation of the tree fruiting in abundance at the proper time. When a time of famine or war follows, the grower regrets having hastily eaten the small amount of fruit he had formerly enjoyed. The grower is left with nothing. This is a “mashal” parable warning the inhabitants of Ephraim and Samaria of the coming desolation.
Isa 28:5 Ba’yom In the day ha-hu that (he) one, it has come to pass that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (of hosts) Who goes to war, will be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of splendour, unto the remainder of amo His people,
“In the day” usually refers either to a new era or to a specific day or period of judgement that is yet future. The qualifying phrase “that one” means that that the prophet has a specific day or time period in mind. In this case it refers specifically to the day when Assyria will invade and conquer, albeit temporarily. However, because Hebrew prophecy allows for cyclical fulfilment, it can also be seen to prophecy something still yet future in our time.
“It has come to pass” means that from HaShem’s perspective outside of time and space, these events have already been made complete.
It is “YHVH Tzevaot” Mercy going to war, Who will replace Ephraim’s defiled temporary crown with Himself, The Crown of her glory, the God of Mercy Going to War will be the Crown and Ruler over the remnant of Ephraim. Ephraim are the 10 tribes who have resisted God’s rightful King Who comes forth from Judah. Therefore, God is disciplining her in order to reunite her to Himself and to His appointed King Messiah, the descendant of David.
Note that even in judgement, God calls the wayward tribes of Ephraim “Amo” His people. He has never completely rejected or turned away from any of the tribes of ethnic religious Israel.
The Jewish commentator Yarchi interprets the present verse of those righteous among the 10 tribes that were left in Samaria, or in the region of Ephraim: while Kimchi believes that the two tribes Judah and Benjamin are the remnant, because pursuant to the trouble of Assyria they remained in their own land while others were carried away as captives.
The Targum paraphrases it:
"In that day shall the Messiah of the Lord of hosts be for a crown of praise to the remnant of His people'' -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE/AD)
The Messiah then is returning as a Warrior King. It is a mistake to teach, as some do, that the Messiah will return in peace. He will bring about peace but He will return in war in order to both physically and spiritually redeem His people, ethnic-religious Israel.
The Jewish commentator Kimchi says the ancient Rabbis recognise this text as referring to the King Messiah, and the inception of the Olam Haba world to come, when both the kingly and priestly glory will be revealed as having been restored; the one being signified by the "crown of glory", the other by the "diadem of splendour".
Isa 28:6 Uleruakh And for a spirit (wind, breath) of mishpat judgment (justice) upon hamishpat the one sitting in judgement, and for strength meshiveiy from turning, for those battling at the gate.
While this may well refer to a specific ruler of Israel in the days following the prophecy, it also concerns the coming King Messiah Who is filled with the Spirit of God, a Spirit of judgement and discernment, of counsel and comfort. This same Spirit being poured out from heaven of both the Father and the Son upon His faithful servants of the latter days. A spirit of courage that will strengthen each one to defend the gate of Jerusalem both literally and metaphorically/spiritually.
Isa 28:7 Ve’gam And also they in wine shagu go astray, and in strong drink stagger in error; cohen priest and navi prophet go astray in strong drink, they are swallowed up by the wine, they stagger in error through strong drink; in seeing (vision) they go astray, stumbling vision, they make pronouncements of stumbling.
“And also” should be understood as “Meanwhile”.
The spiritual leaders of the people of Ephraim and the region of Samaria, both priests (counsellors) and prophets (guides) are literally drunk and spiritually full of idolatry. Thus, they lead the people to stumble in syncretistic worship: compromising the purity of Biblical Judaism with the desecrations of foreign gods.
Drunkenness is particularly heinous for a priest according to the instruction of Leviticus 10:9.
On the other hand, if we interpret “And also” as Yarchi does, then we must apply the drunkenness of the cohenim and the nevi’im to the tribes that still seek to pursue the appointed place of worship on Moriah in Jerusalem. Thus, Judah and Benjamin would be indicted and the prophecy must be referring to their captivity at a later date nearer the Babylonian captivity and still further following the Roman decimation of Jerusalem in 70 CE/AD.
It should be noted that these accusations are specifically levelled against the false priest and the false prophet. They clearly do not apply to Isaiah and his righteous contemporaries.
“For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” -Malachi 2:7 (KJV)
Drunkenness, be it literal or metaphorical, is in direct contradiction to the role of priesthood. This remains true today for those who lead God’s people, both Jew and Gentile.
Isa 28:8 For all tables are full of vomit, tzoah excrement, wearing out the place.
This graphic reality is also a metaphor for the fact that what is coming out of the mouths of the false priests and prophets, is of equal value to excrement.
The phrase “Wearing out the place” is sometimes interpreted to mean “Leaving no place clean” and thus signifies that the place is “without the touch of God’s sanctity”. This idea comes from the literal interpretation of the phrase “Beli Makom” (In no place), which acts as a sort of counterpoint to the Temple Mount title “Ha-Makom” The Place. Therefore, The Place is sacred and sanctified by God by the placing of His Name, whereas No Place must be the opposite.
Isa 28:9 To who will he yoreh throw, pour out deiah knowledge? and who will receive yavin understanding, discernment that is announced? Those weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
The “he” spoken of here is neither the drunken priest or prophet, but is either the righteous priest or prophet, or the King Messiah previously alluded to, or God Himself. I have not capitalized the “he” because it is not clear from the text which of these the determiner applies to. What is clear is that this teaching of knowledge and understanding ultimately comes from God because it is the enemy who teaches confusion and misunderstanding.
The weaned child and the infant are the only ones among the idolatrous people who are able to receive the good teaching of God because they have not yet encountered (at an age of understanding) the sinful and idolatrous teaching of their parents.
Isa 28:10 For tzav command la’tzav upon command, tzav command la’tzav upon command; kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line, kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line; a little here, a little here:
These words read as a simplistic taunt. The prophet must speak simply and clearly to Ephraim and Samaria, as if to young children who are not yet able to chew meat.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” -Hebrews 5:12 (KJV)
Isa 28:11 For bela’ageiy with mocking sapah language (lips, speech, binding) uvlashon and a tongue that’s different will he yedabeir declare to ha-am this tribe (people).
This is another reference to baby talk, the kind of “Doo do do, da da da” talk that one speaks to a new born.
Ultimately God will discipline His people using the language (tongue) of a different nation, when He sends His people into exile at the hands of their enemies (Jeremiah 5:15; 1 Corinthians 14:21). As a sobering reminder the Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) warns the Corinthian believers (and us) not to fall into the same sin lest they (we) also fall under the same discipline.
The term “am” people/tribe is used here rather than “goy” nation, because this rebuke is specifically aimed at Ephraim, the 10 tribes and the inhabitants of Samaria.
Isa 28:12 To those He said, “This is the resting place where you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the place of refreshing”: yet they were not willing shemoa to listen, hear, receive, understand.
“To whom the prophets said” -Targum Yonatan
God had offered peace and security to His people through the instruction of the Torah and the prophets and yet they had refused His good instruction and instead turned to idolatry and self-indulgence: refusing to listen to and live out of sound understanding in righteousness. Therefore, they had rejected the resting place of refreshing that God had offered them, forsaking it for the empty promises of false gods.
Isa 28:13 Vehayah And it has come to pass that to these, the Devar Word (essence) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) is, “tzav command la’tzav upon command, tzav command la’tzav upon command; kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line, kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line; a little here, a little here:” purposed that they might walk, and stumble, fall backward, and be broken to pieces, and lured into a trap, and captured.
These words repeat the back to basics warning of verse 10 so as to make known to the people that God had firmly established the outcome.
The “Devar” Word (John 1) has come to them with the simplest and clearest of instruction. But because they have refused even this basic instruction He will give them over to their own self-induced confusion, stumbling and bondage.
‘Then He said:
“Go! Tell this people:
‘Hear without understanding,
and see without perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people fat,
their ears heavy, and their eyes blind.
Else they would see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and return, and be healed.”’
-Isaiah 6:9-10 TLV
‘For this reason I speak to them in parables,
because seeing they do not see,
and hearing they do not hear nor do they understand.
“And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘You will keep on hearing
but will never understand;
you will keep looking,
but will never see.
15 For the heart of this people has become dull,
their ears can barely hear, and they have shut their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts.
Then they would turn back,
and I would heal them.’”
-Matthew 13:14-15 TLV
In many ways the prophet Isaiah was a forerunner to the Messiah Yeshua, even sharing a name of the same meaning.
Isa 28:14 Therefore, shem’u listen, hear, receive, understand the Devar word (essence) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “You bragging men, that rule ha-am this tribe (people) which is biyerushalayim in Jerusalem (downpour of peace).
This verse is pivotal in what comes next. The Devar (Word) has been alluded to prior to this: now the people are called to listen to and receive the Word. Refusal to do so will result in both physical and spiritual desolation. Note that it is the person of YHVH Mercy, Who is offering the Word (Yeshua: John 1) as the means by which Israel (ethnic-religious empirical) might understand and find reconciliation to God.
This warning will be judgement to the unrepentant but salvation to the repentant. This Word is coming, not to Ephraim but specifically to the tribe that is in Jerusalem, that is Judah and by implication Benjamin.
The Hebrew “Anshei Latzon” (Men of bragging) is a play on words against the phrase “Anshei Tziyon” (Men of Zion). The prophet infers that the arrogance of the rulers of Jerusalem has tarnished the honour of the title “Men of Zion”, that is, “Men of the place where God has placed His Name”.
Isa 28:15 Because you have said, “We have cut a covenant with death, and with sheol (holding place of the departed) we have an agreement; when the overflowing scourge shoteiph engulfs (washes, overflows) ya’avorek to alienate, pass through, it shall not come to us: for we have samenu appointed cazav lies (Falsehood, untruth, a deceptive thing) our refuge, u’vakesher deception (disappointment) our hiding place:”
As is true in many other places in Scripture, the wicked condemn themselves with their own words. Thus, the prophet reminds the people of Judah of their claim to be protected from death and the place of the dead through occult practices that sought to make bargains with demons through blood sacrifice. While the people of Judah may not have literally claimed to have made lies their refuge, they had made the teachings of false religions their refuge, and while they may not have literally claimed to have made deception their hiding place, they had invested their time in heathen practices and occult rituals that had blinded them to the truth of God. Therefore, the words of the prophet are an accurate representation of what the people thought, said, believed and lived.
The people of Judah had rejected God as their Rock and Foundation and had instead made the false gods and religious practices of the enemies of God their rocks and foundations.
Isa 28:16 Therefore thus says Adonay Lord Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), “Hineni Now, Behold (Make yourselves ready), I yesad fix, establish (lay a foundation), be’Tziyon in Zion (Parched land) a aven even stone, stone, bochan tested, proved (tried), pinat a pinnacle, angled, chief (corner, Ruler) yikrat precious, valuable, weighty, rare, splendid, a musad musad foundation, foundation: hama’amiyn the supporter, faithful, believer will not hurry.
Therefore thus says Adonai Elohim:
‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a tested stone,
a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation--
whoever trusts will not flee in haste. TLV
Targum Yonatan 2nd Century Aramaic Paraphrase:
Therefore, thus says the Lord God, Behold, I appoint a King in Zion; a King mighty, powerful, and terrible: I will make Him powerful, and I will strengthen Him, says the prophet. But the righteous, who believe these things shall not be moved, when distress shall come.
The commentator Rashi agrees with the Targum, that the stone is the “King Messiah”.
In light of the false foundations of Judah (Idolatry, occult practices, death covenants etc.) that had lead them into self-destruction and a false sense of security, God offers the ultimate solution and their only true means of reconciliation and life. Where Judah had fooled herself into thinking she was protected from death (though she was not), God offers an established stone (Messiah) that will bring eternal life.
It is God as “Lord of Mercy” Who comes to Judah with a proclamation of hope in the midst of her disobedience. Hineni is both an attention grabber and a warning, an emotional plea for the ears of the people.
“I firmly fix and establish a foundation in Zion”: we can understand this as “I have, I am, I will” because the foundation is eternally past, present and future. It is founded in the established sense but not necessarily in the locational sense.
God establishes this stone in a parched land (Zion). Why? Because it is the parched land that is most in need of living water (Num. 20) from the stone.
The Hebrew says “aven even” stone, stone. This stone is an immutable reality. What’s more it is a tried and tested, proven thing. One looks at the Hebrew word even (stone) and sees the Hebrew words for father and son present within it: “Av” and “Ben”. This stone is understood by the rabbis as being the stone through which the universe was created: the stone upon which Avraham sought to slay Isaac and Jacob lay his head: the stone that lay at the threshing floor purchased by David and became the foundation of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew even (stone) contains both father and son and is centred on the Hebrew character for House “Beit”. This word alone illuminates what is to come, but it is only the smallest part of the whole.
The Hebrew “yesad” means to fix, establish, and is rendered as “foundation” in a figurative sense. The Hebrew “pinat” means, sharp, angle, pinnacle, and corner, but not only corner. Likewise, it can be rendered figuratively to represent a chief or ruler. The stone in question is most certainly a chief, a ruler, but what is less certain from the Hebrew text, is whether this stone should be understood as a corner stone. While “corner stone” is an acceptable translation, I believe we are better to understand it in the sense of a firmly established entity upon which both the earthly (literal) and divine (heavenly) Temples are built.
Further to our discussion of the placement of the stone, we should consider that the psalmist uses the same language to describe the stone the builders rejected as the “Head Pinnacle” from the Hebrew “Lerosh pinah”. Pinah shares it’s root with “Pinat” which is used in Isaiah 28:16. In fact this is the same stone, alluded to by both these Hebrew prophetic/poetry writings, recorded centuries apart. The Hebrew Pinah, while it can by implication mean corner, is more literally rendered as pinnacle or angle. This is why English versions like the TLV choose to call it a capstone rather than a corner stone.
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone.” -Psalm 118:22 TLV
When Yeshua is quoted in Matthew as referring to Psalm 118:22, the Greek word used is “gonia” which carries the same ambiguous meaning as its Hebrew counterpart “pinah”. Thus we can read:
“Yeshua said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’” -Matthew 21:42 (Psalm 118:22)
Some Christian commentators offer the false choice that this is either the foundation stone of the Temple (As some of the rabbis say) or the capstone of the Temple, or Yeshua, but it can’t be all three. This is nonsense, it can be all three because of the nature of the Hebrew Scriptures and the way that the Hebrew language is used to convey ideas. It is both a literal stone (Yeshua is not literally a stone), as either the corner foundation or the established stone of the pinnacle and at the same time it is metaphorically Yeshua (the stone is not metaphorically a stone). Therefore, I suggest that we not be sucked into making false choices. Rather, we should make discerning interpretations according to the unity of the Spirit and the Word and sound judgement.
We note that the stone is “yikrat precious, valuable, weighty, rare, splendid” and that it is “musad musad foundation, foundation” an immutable foundation, something that can be said of no earthly stone.
“The faithful believer will not hurry” seems to convey the idea that the revelation of this stone must be accepted in its time. That the servant of HaShem must not be anxious in seeking the revelation of it but must trust in Hashem’s timing. The more traditional translations suggest that the one who trusts in this stone will not be put to shame. This is due to comparisons with the Septuagint and New Testament versions of the same text, and is also an acceptable interpretation.
What is this stone, or, who does it represent? Given that much of Isaiah and in particular this chapter, uses metaphorical and poetic language that conveys much more than simple literal ideas.
In the blessing pronounced of Joseph, Jacob prophecies the coming Messiah using the metaphor of the “even” (stone), and implicitly acknowledges the fact that the coming Messiah, like Joseph, will be crowned and set apart from His brothers (Jews, ethnic Israelites).
“Yet his bow was always filled,
and his arms quick-moving--
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.
From there a Shepherd,
the Stone of Israel…
The blessings of your father surpassed
the blessings of the ancient mountains,
the desire of the everlasting hills.
May they be upon Joseph’s head,
upon the crown of the one set apart from his brothers.” -Genesis 49:24, 26 TLV
The writers of the Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) reveal in unison the meaning of the stone of Isaiah 28:
“Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;” -Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11 (Psalm 118:22)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation (establishment) of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) himself as the chief (Head) capstone.” -Ephesians 2:19-20
In each of the Gospel quotes Yeshua is identifying Himself as the stone, and in the letter to the Ephesians Yeshua is named as the Head of the Pinnacle (capstone).
We must remember that the words established and foundation are both accurate translations of the Hebrew and Greek texts but both give an entirely different meaning. Even so, both meanings convey the essence of Messiah, given that He is both the foundation of all things and the Head of all things under the Father God. Therefore, the ambiguity is intentional because it further illuminates a truth that is beyond human understanding.
Further to these NT quotes are the quotes regarding. The second half of Isaiah 28:16:
“As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” -Romans 9:33 (10:11); 1 Peter 2:6 NIV
Once again the New Testament writers are referring to Yeshua as the stone of Isaiah 28:16. There is therefore, no doubt in the mind of the disciple of Yeshua. He is the stone of Isaiah 28:16. He is both the foundation of all things and the Head of the Temple (Worship) of God and of ethnic-religious Israel and the community of faith (Ecclesia: Church).
Isa 28:17 And I will appoint judgement (justice) le’kav as a measuring line, u’tzedakah and righteousness as a levelling tool: sweep away with hail, the refuge of cazav lies (Falsehood, untruth, a deceptive thing), and the hiding place will be engulfed (washed), in waters.
This verse is the counterpoint to verse 15 and the false security and refuge of deception that Judah had trusted in.
A measuring or plumbline is used by builders to ensure that subsequent stones line up with the foundation and or corner stone. Additionally a measuring line ensures the placement of the capstone. Thus the justice of God keeps the stones of the building connected to and in line with the corner, foundation, or capstone described in the previous verse.
The levelling tool is used to makes sure that once in place, the stones of the building remain level, so as not to compromise the structural integrity of the building. Thus righteousness born of justice maintains the soundness of the building.
This metaphor is applied to the house of Israel, specifically Judah, under the reign of the stone, that is, the King Messiah, Who is referred to in the previous verse as the stone. When Judah (Israel) sees Him established, those false things she once trusted in will be swept away before His justice and the righteousness that results from the firm foundation of His faithful rule.
Isa 28:18 And your covenant with death will be made null and void (covered over/purged), and your agreement with sheol will not arise (stand); when the overflowing scourge shoteiph engulfs (washes, overflows) ya’avorek to alienate, pass through, it will come to pass that you will be trodden down by it.
The occult covenant that the inhabitants of Jerusalem had made with death will be nullified, both in the sense that they will die regardless and in the sense that the King Messiah will bring freedom from death and eternal life through the covering He makes. This is why the Hebrew literally reads, “Your covenant with death will be covered.” Meaning that although humanity chose to sin against God in the beginning and through sin allowed death entry into the world, the King Messiah would make covering (purging) atonement for humanity and render the power of death null and void.
Isa 28:19 From the time it takes to pass through (alienate) and take hold of you: because morning by morning it will pass through (alienate), by day and by night: and it has come to pass that it will surely horrify you, alone you will discern, understand the report.
In an historical sense the sweeping away of Judah’s idolatry and trust in false things will occur at the hand s of invading armies who will carry her inhabitants away as captives. Though the Assyrians only besieged Jerusalem, both the Babylonians and ultimately the Romans (at a much later date) decimated the city.
The poetic language “morning by morning” and “by day and night” indicates that when this happens it will come upon Israel abruptly when she is unprepared and will be unrelenting until she is carried away.
Isa 28:20 For the bed is shorter than the length of a man nor can he stretch himself out on it: and the covering to narrow to cover, so that he cannot wrap himself in it.
These proverbs affirm the discomfort of a people under siege and again find their historical fulfilment in the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian army and eventually the Babylonian captivity and the much later Roman destruction of the city.
A person under siege cannot sleep, his bed seems too short, his nights restless and wakeful. He is unable to keep warm because his blanket is too narrow to cover his body, so that one part is warmed only to be woken by another part exposed to the cold.
In a spiritual sense this is true of all who trust in false gods and beliefs. The bed of the false god is too short and the blanket of false belief will never keep us warm. The result being a life of spiritual torment, unrest and discomfort.
Isa 28:21 For as in mount Peratziym (breeches) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will arise, as in the valley of Giveon (hill city) He shook with rage, to accomplish, (fashion, do) His work, His strange work; and to serve His service (labour), His strange service (labour).
The Lord fought on the side of David against the Philistines at Mount Perazim (2 Samuel 5:20), and with Joshua in the valley of Gibeon (Joshua 10:10). Now He will do the strange thing of fighting against the very people He has helped in the past. What a terrible realization for Israel. The prophet is saying that because they have rejected the security of the God of their fathers they will now be treated, albeit temporarily, as His enemies.
Isa 28:22 Now therefore don’t be mockers, lest your bonds be strengthened: for kalah termination (full end, destruction) and cutting I have heard from Adonay Lord HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (of hosts) Who goes to war, upon all Ha-aretz the land.
The right response to the prophet’s words is repentance. Thus he warns Judah not to mock the words of the Lord lest their discipline become greater. When a captive seeks to escape and is recaptured, he is subjected to greater torment and his bonds are strengthened so that there is no hope for escape.
These words are spoken specifically against Ha-aretz, the land of Israel.
In a spiritual sense this same warning applies to those who would mock God’s word and the redemption offered through His Son the King Messiah:
“How much more severe do you think the punishment will be for the one who has trampled Ben-Elohim underfoot, and has regarded as unholy the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” -Hebrews 10:29 TLV
Isa 28:23 listen, u’shimeu and hear (receive, understand) koliy My voice; hearken, and ve’shimeu and hear (receive, understand) my speech, utterance (Torah, Word of God).
Here Isaiah speaks words that echo through history and have indeed come to him from the mouth of the pre-existent Messiah. Words that call Israel and all humanity to take note and listen lest anyone find himself unable to hear (Jeremiah 6:10; Ezekiel 12:2; Matthew 13:15; Romans 11:8):
“And Yeshua said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’” -Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35
These words precede the mashal (parable) that Isaiah is about to tell. He depicts God as a farmer apportioning grain and threshing each crop according to its unique qualities.
The Messiah that Isaiah has been prophesying about will also speak in similar mashaliym (parables), referring to God as a farmer (Matthew 13:1-52).
Isa 28:24 The whole day the ploughman cuts a furrow to seed the opening and break the clods of his ground.
In the same way that the farmer prepares the soil by ploughing, God prepares the soil of the hearts of His people by ploughing. Ploughing breaks up the soil and busts open the thick clods that might hinder the growth of the plants that the soil will be seeded with. In the same way God, through discipline and with forethought, breaks up the soil of the hearts and minds of His people: preparing them for the good seed that will deliver a rich crop.
Isa 28:25 When he has prepared the face of the soil, does he not scatter abroad the black cumin, and cast the cumin, and throw in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place?
After ploughing the soil is harrowed, refined further and smoothed until it is ready to receive the seed. Thus the face of the soil looks upon the face of the farmer, ready to receive what the farmer has to offer. Hard unploughed earth is unable to receive anything.
Each crop is seeded at the appropriate time and in the appropriate soil type in order to yield the best results. Likewise God seeds the lives of His people with the appropriate instruction and the primary crop of salvation.
The Targum further illuminates the practice of the sower:
“as wheat is sown in an uncultivated field, and barley by the signs, and rye by the borders;”
Each crop is seeded in a different field according to the Torah (Lev. 19:19).
Isa 28:26 For he is instructed with good judgement, his God casts (seeds) teaching him.
The farmer receives his wisdom and good judgement from God. In other words, the greatest of farmers teaches His people how best to seed their own land. In a spiritual sense this means seeding the soil of our soul existence with the seed of God’s Messiah and the instruction of His word.
Isa 28:27 For the black cumin is not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cumin; but the black cumin is beaten out ba’mateh (branch, tribe) with a staff, and the cumin ba’shavet with a rod (Sceptre, branch).
This is an allegory of mercy. God does not over discipline His people. Rather He apportions discipline with grace, afflicting His people according to what they can bear and for the purpose of their redemption.
Isa 28:28 Bread is bruised; because he will never tread on it, threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
The Hebrew “Lechem” can mean bread, grain, food etc. Here is refers to the grain that bread or food is produced from.
Isa 28:29 This also comes forth from HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (of hosts) Who goes to war, going forward with wonderful counsel, and great tushiyah wisdom (sound knowledge, abiding success, ).
Even when God goes to war against His people, He does so proportionately and for the sake of their redemption. Therefore, even the harsh rebuke of God toward His people is heard by the righteous as “wonderful counsel, and great wisdom.”
Ultimately, as fierce as this text may seem, it is seeded with mercy and grace and has in mind the goal of Israel’s redemption.
Copyright 2018 Yaakov Brown
The context for the following song of praise and gratitude is twofold. First, it follows on the heels of God’s promise to deliver and return the tribes of Israel a second time (Isaiah 11:11). The previous chapter concludes with Israel being returned to her God and her land after suffering exile and bondage among the nations. Second, this deliverance is likened to Israel’s former redemption from physical bondage and slavery in Egypt. It is equally clear from the text of Isaiah 11 that Israel will be delivered from spiritual bondage and idolatry.
As in the case of her deliverance from Egypt, Israel will offer a song of praise and gratitude to God. In fact there are a number of parallels to be drawn between the song of Exodus 15:2-21 and the present text.
“Adonai is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will glorify Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Adonai is a warrior—Adonai is His Name! Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has hurled into the sea, and his chosen captains have sunk into the Sea of Reeds. The deeps cover them. They sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Adonai, is glorious in power. Your right hand, Adonai, dashes the enemy to pieces. In the greatness of Your excellency You overthrow those who resist You. You send forth Your wrath—it consumes them as stubble. With the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up. The floods stood upright as a heap. The deeps became firm ground in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. My lust shall gorge on them! I will draw my sword—my hand will destroy them.” You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You, Adonai, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, awesome in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. You in Your lovingkindness led the people You have redeemed. You guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. When the peoples hear, they will tremble—anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom are terrified. Trembling grips Moab’s mighty men. All of Canaan’s inhabitants will melt away. Terror and dread will fall on them. By the greatness of Your arm they become still as a stone, till Your people cross over, Adonai, till the people whom You purchased cross over. You bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, Adonai, that You have made for Yourself to dwell in—the Sanctuary, Adonai, which Your hands have prepared. Adonai will reign forever and ever! For Pharaoh’s horses with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, but Adonai brought the waters of the sea back over them. Yet Bnei-Yisrael walked in the midst of the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing, as Miriam sang to them: Sing to Adonai, for He is highly exalted! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” –Shemot (Exodus) 15:2-21
Parallels between Exodus 15 and Isaiah 12:
Isa 12:1 And you will say bayom in/on/with the day ha-hu (Literally: the he [Yom being masculine]) that one: “Odecha I will give thanks (throw, confess) to You, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), for though You were angry with me, You turned away aph’cha Your flaring nostril, ute’nachameiniy and You comfort me.
In, on and with the day, on that specific day, you will say, “I confess my sin and give thanks to You Merciful God, for though you were justified in Your anger toward me, You have turned away your fierce, nostril flaring expression of anger and now You comfort me.
"And you shall say at that time, ‘I will confess before the Lord; because I have sinned before You, Your anger is upon me; but when I am turned to the Torah, Your anger will turn from me, and You will have mercy on me;'' -1st Century Targum
“And you shall say”. The second person refers to returned Israel. It is as a returned, united and repentant nation that Israel will offer these words and songs.
Odecha “Give thanks to you” or, “confess to you”. Both are valid translations and both play a central role in returning to God by accepting His offer of redemption.
“I will give thanks”. This first person phrasing reveals the personal nature of Israel’s deliverance both corporate and individual. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” –Yeshua the King Messiah
The various allusions to “saying” and “singing” throughout Isaiah 12 are an emulation of the song of Israel pursuant to her deliverance through the Red Sea. This is in keeping with the summation of the previous chapter.
Bayom (In the day), is a reference to the day when Israel will for a second time be delivered: as recorded in the previous chapter. It is a day that will begin with the physical return and deliverance of the Jewish people from their bondage under the nations of the earth, and will culminate in deliverance from their bondage to sin: the redemption of the entire remnant of the ethnic religious Jewish people unto life everlasting. In one sense it is the figurative day that began with Messiah’s birth into time and space. In another sense it is a twenty four our day yet future, and the beginning of an age yet to come.
Isa 12:2 Hinei Now, Behold, El (God: Judge) is yeshuatiy my salvation! I will evtach trust and will not be ephchad afraid. For oziy my strength vezimrat and my song (first fruit) is Yah (God: Merciful) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). He also has become liy’shuah my salvation.”
Now, behold, pay attention, Judgement Himself is my Yeshua! I will trust and not be terrified. For my strength and my song, my first fruit is Mercy the Merciful Personal Name. He also has been, is being and will be my Yeshua.
"Behold, in the Word of God my salvation I trust, and shall not be moved:'' -1st Century Targum
The word yeshuah (Salvation) appears three times in verses 2 to 3 and is the central theme of the entire chapter. It is no coincidence that Messiah Yeshua is named according to this Hebrew root.
Therefore, the use of the word yeshuah in the present text is a remez (hint) of deeper meaning and a sod (mystery) of great significance: while also being a drash (comparative) teaching that invokes a halakhic (the way we walk) principal concerning strength and song in HaShem. One could read Yeshua’s name in every instance where yeshuah occurs in these verses. Through His messenger HaShem commanded Miriyam (Mary) to call her baby boy Yeshua:
“You shall call His name Yeshua, for He shall save His people from their sins” –Mattitiyahu 1:21b
It is important to note that while Israel is to share the good news of salvation with the nations according to her mandate to be “A light to the goyim” (Isaiah 49:6), it is none the less glaringly obvious from the text of Matthew, that Yeshua has come to save His own people ethnic, religious, empirical Israel. This is important because Matthew 1:21b is alluding to the present chapter of Isaiah by issuing the instruction for the naming of the Messiah.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” –Yeshua (Mattitiyahu) Matthew 15:24
The order of strength and song is important. Israel’s song is a response to God’s strengthening of her. He is the subject of both her strength and song. In another sense He has given her strength to sing and a song to strengthen her.
The Hebrew zimrat (song) denotes pruning and the giving of choice fruit (First fruits). See my commentary on verse 5 for the qualification of these concepts as they apply to the song of Israel in Isaiah 12.
Isa 12:3 Ushe’avtem mayim You will draw waters besason in/on/with gladness/ exultation/joy/rejoicing; mima’ay’nei from the springs/eyes/fountains/wells of Ha-Yeshuah The Salvation.
You will draw forth waters in, from and with joyous exaltation; from the eyes of the earth, fresh springs and fountains, wells of The Yeshua.
The 1st Century Targum likens the wells of the Salvation to a new teaching:
"And you shall receive a new doctrine from the chosen, the righteous;'' -1st Century Targum
We note that this same Targum views “the Salvation” as being a title for the Branch/Messiah, the chosen and righteous One.
Notice that the Hebrew text does not simply say, “Wells of salvation” but rather, “Wells of The Salvation” (Ha-Yeshuah). This is not referring to a temporal saving act but an eternal saving source. It is not salvation in a generic sense but rather the title of a person Who embodies Salvation. This is why the Jewish Sages who wrote the Targum (paraphrase of the first Century CE) compared the wells of the Salvation to the Chosen Righteous One, the King Messiah, who we know to be Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
Once again the “you” in this verse is Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), God’s chosen. While the drawing forth of waters from salvation is offered to all, it is first and always firstly offered to Israel alone.
Who or what are the waters of the Salvation?
“My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me—the spring of living water—and they dug their own cisterns—cracked cisterns that hold no water.” – Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 2:13 TLV
‘Yeshua replied to her, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!”’ –Yochanan (John) 4:14
Mayim chayim, living or life giving waters are used throughout Scripture to symbolize the Word (D’var) of God (D’var being used in John 1 to refer to Yeshua Himself as the pre-existent Word of HaShem, in the beginning with God). This is seen in passages such as Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13; Ezekiel 36:25, John 3:5, 4:14. In the days of Messiah Israel will no longer drink from the idolatrous wells of false gods and humanism but will return to the life giving water of God through Yeshua our King Messiah.
Isaiah 12:5 is cited by the sages as confirmation of the ceremony of drawing of water at the feast of Sukkot (Booths); a ceremony practised during the second Temple period which signified the drawing of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the outpouring of God’s grace upon Israel both in material and spiritual blessing (T. Bab. Succa, fol. 48. 2. & 50. 2. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 70. fol. 62. 3. T. Hieros. Succa, fol. 55. 1).
This drawing of water is figurative: it makes a comparison between the joy experienced by one who has been without water for a long period and the people of Israel, who have been without the spiritual water of God’s Word, grace, blessing etc. Like one who is desperately thirsty, Israel will be sated with water that will become within her a spring that flows eternally. All this through the source of her redemption, the Branch, Yeshua, the King Messiah Who is “The Salvation” and Imanu-El (With us, God).
Think for a moment of a time when you were desperately thirsty, perhaps even to the point of passing out from dehydration, and then, in the nick of time, you received water. The first panicked gulps of the cool clean liquid flooded your dry mouth, cascading down your throat, sending a euphoric signal to your nervous system as it was absorbed into the lining of your oesophagus and began to hydrate your body. Your parched lips borrowed a few spilled drops to moisten themselves as you continued to swallow back the life giving fluid without pausing for breath. As your mind began to clear and your body regained strength, you slowed your intake and started to consider what might have happened had you not had access to this water in time. Relief floods your being and unbridled joy and thankfulness overflow from the illuminated countenance of your rehydrated body and soul.
Now consider how this physical experience conveys in so many ways the journey of redemption from sin through Yeshua our King Messiah. Try to recall the relief and elation you first experienced as you realised that you had become a recipient of God’s promise to blot out all your sin through His own blood, that is the blood of Imanu-El (God with us), Yeshua. Try to focus on the sense of cleansing and hope filled motivation that began to increase as you studied God’s Word and saw things you had never seen before. Now consider that these living waters born of God through Yeshua, are everlasting. Ask yourself, am I continuing to drink from them? Or, have I forgotten the taste of life and freedom in Messiah? These waters remain available to every follower of Yeshua the King Messiah. They are available to you right now. Drink deeply of the springs of the Salvation Himself.
It is certainly no coincidence that “Ushe’avtem mayim” is sung in many observant Jewish homes on the eve of Shabbat prior to Kabbalat Shabbat prayers. As we approach God in order to receive His rest (Shabbat) each week, we are also seeking the means by which we find eternal rest in Him, that is, the mayim chayim living waters of the Salvation, our Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 12:4 Va’amartem And with speaking bayom in/on/with the day ha-hu (Literally: the he [Yom being masculine]) that one: “Hodu (Throw, cast, confess) Give thanks to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). Kiru Proclaim/call/cry out/recite bishmo His Name! Hodiyahu (Hodu [Give thanks, cast throw] + Yada [know, knowledge]) Declare (Publically thank/throw/cast His knowledge, aliylotayu His works/deeds/desire, ba’amiym to (or in) the peoples, so they remember, because nesgav inaccessibly high is His Name.
By speaking, in, on and with the day, that specific day, you will say, “Throw, cast and confess your sin and give thanks, casting forth His knowledge, His works, actions and desire, to and in the presence of the tribes of Israel: so that they remember that His Name is inaccessibly high, His flawless character, attributes and Holiness are far above the understanding of humanity.
In that day, that day being both the figurative day born of Messiah and the yet future 24 hour day that remains a mystery outside our grasp, redeemed Israel will say to her own people (amyim: tribes), “Confess your sin, give thanks, and cast forth the knowledge of, the testimony of His right actions and of His desire for His tribes”. Amyim is a plural form for peoples or tribes and not nations (goyim). Therefore, while this text may be used as a drash (comparative teaching) concerning the spread of the good news of the Messiah to the nations; in the present context it refers specifically to the peoples (tribes) amyim, that make up the Goy (Nation) of Israel.
Isa 12:5 Zamru Sing to Him HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), for geiut majesty/a rising up/swelling/gloriously. Muda’at from knowledge (or Let this be known) zot this (she) in all ha-aretz the land.
Sing to Him, the Merciful God, acknowledge His majesty, rising like smoke, an ocean of swelling glory. From Knowledge herself let all the land of Israel partake.
Sing to Adonai, for He is highly exalted! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” –Shemot (Exodus) 15:2-21
The Hebrew Zamru (Sing) shares its root Zamar (prune) with Zimrah/Zimrot (Fruit, first fruits). Ibn Ezra quotes Genesis 43:11 in connection with the present use of Zamru, suggesting that in this context the word sing denotes the giving of first fruits, that is, the very best of the fruit. It is also worth noting that the root Zamar adds the idea of a spiritual pruning process that takes place when we sing of God’s glory. Thus, through redemption, pruning, offering our best, and in songs of praise, we participate in the filling of the land with the knowledge of God’s glory and majesty.
Knowledge alone is not the goal. It is specifically the knowledge of HaShem that brings living waters, joy and majesty into the land. Knowledge devoid of HaShem brings only death.
A strong argument can be made for translating ha-aretz as “the land” meaning the land of Israel. The nearest reference prior to its use is to amiym (peoples, tribes), rather than goyim (nations). In addition the overall context of the passage and the following clause in verse 6 denotes “the land” of Israel and Zion.
Isa 12:6 Tzachaliy Cry out varoniy and overcome/shout for joy/a ringing cry, yoshevet sit/abide/remain/dwell/inhabitant of Tziyon (parched land)! For gadol great bekirbech in your inner part/among/midst is the Kadosh Holy One of Yisrael (Israel: Yisra = overcome El = God).”
Cry out and overcome, shouting for joy, let your cry ring on, inhabitants who abide, sitting securely in the parched land of Zion. For great, in your inner parts is the Holy set apart One of those who overcome in Judgement, the ethnic, religious, empirical nation of Yisrael.
‘Thus says Adonai, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am Adonai your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”’ –Isaiah 48:17 TLV
The introduction of the Branch (Isaiah 11) and the second redemption through the Messiah (Isaiah 11) will birth a cry of gratitude and glory that will ring out from the centre of the earth in Jerusalem and upon the Holy mount of HaShem. Israel will overcome in God (Yisra-El). The K’vod HaShem glory of God and His manifest light presence (Shekhinah) in the midst and within His chosen people Israel (ethnic) will be a bright light to the entire world: a redemption of both Israel and her calling to be “A light to the nations” (49:6). For Messiah, The Light, is an ethnic Jew and God with us.
“Salvation (Yeshua) s from the Yehudiym (Jews: Praise)” –Yeshua (Yochanan) John 4:22
© Yaakov Brown 2018
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