False comfort is found in temporal things and bears the fruit of selfish dissatisfaction. The comfort of God is everlasting, eternally present in those who have turned to Him, and overflows into the lives of others.
3 1Vayomer And said YHVH (Mercy) the Lord to me (Hosea), “Eilay od leicha Walk continually toward and, ehav-ishah love a woman ahuvat who is beloved by/as an reia intimate friend, umena’afet and yet continues to commit adultery, ke’ahavat because of the love YHVH (Mercy) the Lord bestows on et-beneiy Yisrael the children of Israel, ve’hem and they poniym look/turn (continually) el-elohiym acheiriym toward other gods veohaveiy and love ashiysheiy fire pressed anaveiym fruit/grapes (raisin cakes, wine libation).”
“go, deliver a prophecy against the house of Israel, who are like a woman dear to her husband; and though she commits fornication against him, yet he so loves her that he will not put her away:” -Hosea 3:1 Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Centruy CE Aramaic paraphrase translation)
We note that in the previous chapter HaShem has promised to show compassion upon Israel and to seed righteousness in them through His sacrificial love. Their future is belonging and right relationship but their present was the antithesis of these things. The stark contrast between the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel is illuminated in the living mashal (parable) of Hosea’s life.
Hosea (Salvation) is tasked with physically showing the northern tribes and by extension all Israel (including Judah and Benjamin) the abhorrent nature of her condition. Consider the gut wrenching heartbreak the prophet must suffer in order to act out these instructions, the self-sacrificing obedience to God, the forsaking of an opportunity for marriage to a faithful bride of the remnant in order to continue to offer grace to the wayward wife Gomer (Perfect, beautiful), who has wilfully chosen to seek her own pleasure over the secure love of her husband. Are we willing to be obedient in the face of suffering? To forgo just outcomes in this temporary world in order to expose wickedness and offer redemption to the wicked? What would that look like in our lives?
“And Mercy said to me, ‘Walk continually toward and love a woman who is loved by/as an intimate friend, and yet continues to commit adultery…”
There are two ways to understand this verse. First, the intimate friend is the wayward women and second, the intimate friend is a friend of the prophet who has cheated with the wayward woman (Gomer). If the latter is the intended meaning the weight of Hosea’s task becomes exponentially greater. Regardless, the woman is intentionally and flamboyantly adulterous and thus her actions both break her husband’s heart privately and humiliate her husband publicly. The fact that she is clearly (according to the social norms that had developed through sin practices and in opposition to the Torah) not being held accountable by society at large, places the righteous prophet in an extremely vulnerable position.
“for the love the Lord bestows on the children of Israel, and they look/turn (continually) toward other gods and love fire-pressed grapes.”
The plain meaning shows that HaShem’s relationship with Israel is being reflected in what Hosea has been instructed to do.
The last phrase (description) is difficult to translate into English. The Hebrew ashiysheiy essential means “to press down” and appears to come from the root ish (fire) and the plural anaveiym refers to fruit and in particular grapes. Therefore the phrase may refer to raisin cakes offered to Ba’al [Husband, Master, Lord] (Canaanite deity of the harvest and fruitfulness in general), but could just as easily refer to libation offerings of wine made on a fiery altar to any number of other false deities (Ba’al is not mentioned specifically here, though is mentioned in the surrounding text along with the many ba’aliym). The Talmud Bavliy (Babylonian Talmud) contains a dispute between two rabbis, one of whom explains the Hebrew “ashiysheiy” to mean “a cake prepared from one-sixth of an eipha of flour” and the other as “a jug of grapes”, or “excessive wine” (Pesachim 36b:15).
2 Va’ekereah And I purchased her liy to me bachamishah asar for fifteen pieces kasef of silver, vechomer and a portion of se’oriym barley veleitech and a half portion of se’oriym barley.
It is highly unlikely that the purchase of Gomer was a transaction related to her price as a prostitute for two reasons: first, the price was too high (being half the worth of a servant/bond servant Ex.21:23), and secondly, being a figure for God’s relationship with Israel it would impugn God’s character were His proxy (Hosea) to validate the price of prostitution. Therefore, this “purchase, trade” is most likely the result of a discounted sale of a slave/bondservant (Ex.21:23).
Due to her lifestyle Gomer had apparently been left with no other option but to sell herself into slavery to an Israelite household. They seem to have placed little value on her and were thus willing to sell her for half the accepted price (Ex.21:23) along with a portion and a half of barley to compensate them for the remainder (15 shekelim).
It’s impossible to accurately equate the value of ancient Biblical silver to modern silver values. Therefore, it is far better to qualify our understanding of the value being placed based on the relevant Biblical texts.
The Targum Yonatan suggests a figurative connection between the purchase of Gomer and the feast of unleavened bread which is convergent with Passover and lasts seven days. The Targum paraphrases this verse as follows:
“And I redeemed them at My command on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan, and I made shekalim of silver an atonement for their souls, and I declared that they offer before me an ‘omer’ as heave-offering from the barley harvest; that is to say, I did not weary you with difficult duties.” -Hosea 3:2 Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Centruy CE Aramaic paraphrase translation)
This is consistent with the fact that barley is the first grain crop and its first appearance when coming up from the ground coincides with yom habikkurim (the day of first fruit), not to be confused with the later “first fruits” offering associated with Shavuot (Pentecost). At very least the price being partially paid in barley gives seasonal context, and seasonal context allows for the connection to the Biblical moedim (appointed times), the one most closely associated with barley being Pesach (Passover). Additionally the Hebrew denotes a portion of grain alluding to the counting of the “omer”(portion) for the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost).
A “chomer” of barley is thought to be approximately 6.5 bushels and is equivalent to 230 litres.
Barley being the early crop, was generally eaten by the poor and or lower middle class, who had no means of either purchasing or storing large amounts of wheat from the previous year’s latter harvest: whereas wheat was the latter crop and was consumed by the upper class due to their wealth and ability to store wheat from the previous year’s harvest to be enjoyed in the subsequent year. Bread made from barley being rougher and bread made from wheat being more refined and at that time preferred by the upper class. In short, Gomer was purchased cheaply based on the price she set upon her body when selling herself to other men. This is figurative of the cheap price Israel (the northern kingdom) sold herself for to her false gods and foreign political “friends”.
The price paid in these verses is a price of redemption intended to return wayward Israel to her true Husband YHVH.
3 Vayomer And I said to her, “Yamiym rabiym For many days teisheviy liy sit, abide, dwell with me. Lo don’t tizniy sell your body (practice prostitution), velo and don’t have le’ish another man; Vegam-aniy and also eilaych I will be toward you.”
“Many days” denotes a temporary period. (v.5) Rashi understands this phrase to refer to a period of 5 days in total:
“The plural “days” refers to (a minimum) of two, “many” to (a minimum of) three, making a total of five. This (the forty-five of the previous verse added to the five of this verse) alludes to the fifty days between Passover and Pentecost. On that day I offered her the Torah, admonishing her:” -Rashi
“and don’t have le’ish another man” is a figurative way of saying “You shall have no other gods before Me” -Exodus 20:3
Gomer, and therefore Israel is being asked not to continue to worship false gods (practice prostitution). Rashi interprets the pretext “many days” to be a promise of the longevity of the children of Israel in the land provided they do as HaShem asks.
God will be as He has always been toward Israel, and she is being asked to use her opportunity of redemption to change her behaviour and dwell with her Husband in purity.
“I will be toward you” is a continued offer of fidelity from God to Israel (from Hosea to Gomer). Essentially it means, “I will not replace you with another woman, I will continue to be faithful to you despite having every reason to divorce you.”
4 Kiy For yamiym rabiym many days yeishevu beneiy Yisrael the children of Israel will be without melekh a king ve’eiyn and without sar a prince, ve’eiyn and without zevach a slaughter (sacrifice) matzeivah a memorial stone (pillar, idol, stump), ve’eiyn and without an eiphod (seamless priestly garment) uterafiym or household idols/healers.
Once again and by means of firmly establishing the fact, “Many days” denotes a temporary period. (v.5).
“the children of Israel will be without a king and without a prince”
It’s important to remember that in the context of Hosea this refers to the northern kingdom seeing an end to her kings. To be without both king and prince means to be without the hope of an heir coming into power. It means an end to the line of a king. In this case it means an end to the kingship of a divided kingdom and points to a return to the kingship of a united kingdom [all 12 tribes under David’s greater Son (the King Messiah) of Judah].
“without a slaughter (sacrifice), a memorial stone (pillar, idol, stump), and without an (seamless priestly garment) or household idols/healers.”
Each of these is associated with Israel’s idolatry. Either because the godly forms are missing or because the ungodly forms are present. However. The last descriptor “household idols (teraphim)” indicates that God will remove all worship tools including both those divinely appointed and those associated to false gods.
Iben Ezra understands this to refer to the lack of godly representations:
“without a king of the house of David, and without a ruler over Israel; without sacrifice for acceptance in Jerusalem; and without a high place in Samaria; and without an ephod, and him that shows;” -Iben Ezra
Whereas Rashi combines the two ideas, seeing this as representing both the absence of godly forms and the introduction of idolatrous alternatives.
“In the Temple in Judah. nor pillar The pillar of Baal in Samaria of the kings of Israel. nor ephod of the Urim and Tummim, which discloses to them hidden things. teraphim They are images constructed, having in mind a particular hour established, at which time they speak of their own accord and tell of hidden things. So does Jonathan translate: and there shall be no ephod or oracle.” -Rashi
Modern readers often ask “What exactly are these teraphim?” Jewish tradition answers:
“what are the ‘teraphim?’ they slay the firstborn of a man, cut off his head, and pickle it with salt and oil, and inscribe on a plate of gold the name of an unclean spirit, and put that under his tongue; then they place it in a wall, and light candles before it, and pray unto it, and it talks with them.’” - Pirke Eliezer, c. 36. fol. 40. 1.
This combines the occult practice of speaking with the dead to demonic spirits and in some cases ancestral idolatry, where the idol itself is an ancestor under whose tongue the name of a demon is placed. Based on this understanding the teraphim therefore, are the ultimate convergence of self-deification and witchcraft. An abhorrent form of idolatry.
5 Achar Afterward yashuvu he will return beneiy Yisrael the sons of Israel uvikshu and they will seek, desire et the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord Eloheiyhem their God/Judge ve’et-daveed and David malkam their king; ufachadu and they will fear, tremble, be in awe el before YHVH (Mercy) the Lord ve’el-tovu and before His goodness be’acharit hayamiym in the latter days.
“and seek the worship of the Lord their God, and obey Messiah the Son of David their King;” -Hosea 3:5 Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Centruy CE Aramaic paraphrase translation)
The return of Israel (the northern tribes) to the LORD will be marked by their return to the greater heir to David’s throne. The kings of Israel (northern kingdom) were never going to endure because to deny the God appointed succession of David’s throne was to deny the greater Son of David, the King Messiah, Who was to be a descendant of David by blood and to rule on David’s throne forever over all Israel (12 tribes).
Therefore, the King of Judah was to be King of the Jews and all the remaining tribes would come under His authority and be known as Y’hudim. This began in a practical historical sense upon the return of the 12 tribes to dwell in Judea as Judeans (Jews) following the Babylonian exile, joining the remnant of Judah that had remained in the land.
“The latter days” refers to the olam haba (world to come). We note that it is in the goodness of God that all Israel will tremble. Terror and security united in love through the redemptive work of God in Messiah Yeshua the greater Son of David.
“the Rabbis say this is the King Messiah; if of the living, David is his name; if of the dead, David is his name.” - T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1.
“it is said, when Jerusalem is built, David comes; that is, the Son of David, the Messiah; which is proved by this passage, ‘afterwards the children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their King’” - Talmud Bavliy Megillah, fol. 18. 1.
“the holy blessed God is well pleased with him in this world, and in the world to come; in this world, as it is written, ‘and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake’, 2 Kings 20:6, and in the world to come, as it is written, ‘they shall seek the Lord their God, and David their King,’” - Zohar in Exod. fol. 93. 3.
“It was taught in the name of R. Shimon the son of Yochai: The children of Israel rejected three things during the reign of Rehoboam; the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the House of David, and the Holy Temple, as it is written: “What portion have we in David” (1 Kings 12:16) which may be understood literally; “to your tents O’ Israel” (ibid.), do not read, “to your tents” (Heb. לְאֹהָלֶךָ) but “to your gods” (Heb.לֵאלֹהֶך) “now see your own house, David” (ibid.), refers to the Holy Temple (see Rashi 1 Kings 12:16). R. Shimon the son of Menassiah said: Israel shall not be shown any omen of good until they repent by seeking out all three; “Afterwards shall the children of Israel return, and seek their Lord their God,” which refers to the Kingdom of Heaven; “and David their king” is self-explanatory; “and shall come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness,” which refers to the Holy Temple, as it is written “that good mount” (Deut. 3:7) (a reference to the Temple Mount. [from Midrash Samuel 13:4]” -Rashi
Introduction to Chapter 4:
Throughout my commentary of chapter 4 I will give a secondary rendering of the text with the poetic couplets and mechanisms highlighted for emphasis.
Once again the poetic couplets, word play and synonymous terms of Hebrew poetry are employed in this chapter. Take note of the emphasis on connected attributes, practices, ideas, and principles.
This chapter essentially addresses the spiritual prostitution of Israel, her idolatry (worship of Canaanite deities) and her political adultery (courting the aid of foreign powers and their gods).
4 1Shimu Hear, listen, receive, understand, comprehend devar a word of YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, beneiy Yisrael you children of Israel, for YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has riyv a case, dispute im with yosheveiy those who dwell in ha-aretz the land/earth (Land of Israel), kiy For eiyn there is no emet truth, ve’eiyn and no chesed goodness, kindness, mercy, practical love, ve’eiyn and no da’at knowledge Elohiym of God/the Judge ba-aretz in the land/earth (Land of Israel).
4 1Listen to a word of the Lord, you children of Israel,
Because the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land of Israel,
For there is no truth, nor practical love,
Nor knowledge of God in the land of Israel.
a. The Word of the LORD and the LORD are echad (One)
b. Israel (northern tribes) must “listen” to “the case”
c. Truth, practical love (mercy), and knowledge of God are connected in unity
The LORD has a legitimate case against Israel according to Torah (moral law). His case is not (in this instance) against all inhabitants of the earth but against the inhabitants of the land of the northern tribes.
While it’s true that haaretz can be translated “the earth”, it is not contextually true in this case. Here haaretz refers specifically to the land of Israel. God’s indictment against Israel begins by explaining that by ignoring God and His attributes the people of the land have lost their knowledge of God, a knowledge given by Him for their good.
“For there is no truth, and no goodness, kindness, mercy, practical love, and no knowledge of God/the Judge in the Land of Israel.”
The popular English translation “there is no faithfulness” does not reflect the Hebrew text. The Hebrew word emet means “truth”. Faithfulness is born of truth but it does not convey the fullness of truth.
Each of the attributes listed as missing from among the people of the land are manifestations of God’s character. Therefore, the fact that these attributes are not present among the people means that the people have wilfully rejected God and as a result have no knowledge of His role as Judge (Elohiym). The word Elohiym (the Judge) is used because the situation regards judgement of a crime.
2 Aloh oath-taking, vechacheish and deception, veratzoach and murder, veganov and stealing, venaof and adultery. Paratzu They break out (in violence), vedamiym and bloodshed bedamiym follows bloodshed nagau (at their) touch.
2 Oath-taking, and deception, and murder, and stealing, and adultery.
They break out (in violence), and bloodshed follows bloodshed (at their) touch.
a. Deceptive oath taking, murder, stealing, adultery, are all sins against fellow human beings. Therefore, because they have forsaken their God and lack knowledge of His right judgement they have also forsaken the second of the greatest commandments “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev.19:18). One cannot love one’s self if one does not recognize the fact that human worth is defined by the Creator and His love, and without true love for self it is impossible to love someone else.
b. Sinful violence, and bloodshed upon bloodshed, denotes an intrinsic murderous nature (Cain).
c. All of these actions ultimately lead to death.
“Oath taking” is not the problem. “Oath taking and deception” together are the problem.
“blood touches blood They multiply transgression upon transgression (Targum Jonathan). Now according to its more apparent meaning: they broke down all bounds and increased bloodshed until the blood of one murdered person touches the blood of another.” -Rashi
3 Al-kein Therefore upon this te’eval ha-aretz the land mourns,
Veumlal kol-yosheiv And all who dwell in it languish
Bah b’chayat It’s in the animals hasadeh of the field uve’of and in the birds hashamayim of the sky, ve’gam and also degeiy the fish of hayam the waters ye’asefu which are gathered.
3 Therefore upon this the land mourns,
And all who dwell in it languish
Mourning is in the animals of the field, and in the birds of the sky,
And also the fish of the waters, which are gathered.
a. As a result of the sinful practices of human beings, in particular the northern tribes of Israel, the land of Israel (ha-aretz) mourns. Humanity were tasked from the beginning of creation with being caretakers of creation (the earth), through humanity’s choice to sin death entered the world and in the perpetuation of sin death reigned over creation.
b. The mention of land animals, birds, and water life reflects the creation narrative (Gen.1).
4 Yet let no iysh man (person) yarev complain, and let no one rebuke another iysh man (person); ve’amecha for your people kimriyveiy are like those who argue with kohein a priest.
4 Yet let no one complain, and let no one rebuke another person; for your people are like those who argue with a priest.
a. Complaining about the repercussions of one’s sin is ludicrous, like those who know God’s Torah but argue with a priest about how it should be observed
In a greater sense the northern kingdom “argues against the true priesthood” which has remained true to the Temple cult instructed by Torah (Mt Zion, Jerusalem).
The opening clause is quite simply an admonishment against hypocrisy.
“‘let no man strive’ You forewarn the true prophets not to strive with you nor to reprove you, as it is written concerning Amos 7:16, that Amaziah the priest of Bethel said to him (i.e. to Amos): “Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” This transpired in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash in whose time Hosea prophesied.” -Rashi
“‘them who strive with the priest’ They strive with their instructors, for the priests were the instructors, as it is written [concerning the priestly tribe of Levi]: “They shall teach Your judgments to Jacob, etc.” (Deut. 33:10).
5 Vechashalta And you will stagger hayom during the day,
vechashal And staggering gam also, naviy will be a prophet imecha (with ayin) with you Laylah at night; vedamiytiy and I will put a stop to imecha (with aleph) your mother.
5 And you will stagger during the day,
And staggering also, will be a prophet along with you at night;
And I will put a stop to your mother.
a. Staggering is the couplet to destruction. Thus staggering from sin leads to being cut off.
b. The “mother” here is generally speaking Israel (the northern kingdom) as allegorised in the living parable of Gomer, Hosea’s wife. However “mother” may refer to Shomron (Samaria) one of the main cities of the northern tribes, and a hotbed of idolatry and sexual immorality.
c. “Put a stop to” is the better translation of the Hebrew text. It means that God will “put a stop to” her sinful behaviour.
Staggering is associated with drunkenness, a self-imposed state of disorder. Staggering during the day is a sign of an extreme state of perpetual drunkenness given that even those given to drunkenness tend to limit their behaviour to the cover of darkness. Such is the extent of the people’s pride and haughty outlook that they brazenly flaunt their sinful chaos in the daylight.
The result of the common people staggering during the day is that they eventually lure in the priest. Alternatively, the priests in question are priests of Ba’al and are staggering at night due to the drunken worship of the false god.
6 Nidmu Cut off, destroyed are amiy My people mibeliy from lack of hada’at the knowledge. Kiy For atah you (singular) hada’at ma’asta have refused the knowledge,
Ve’emasecha And I refuse you mikahein liy from being My priest.
vatishkach Since you have ignored Torah the Instruction Eloheycha of your God,
Eshkach baneycha gam-Aniy I also will ignore your children.
6 Cut off, destroyed are My people from lack of the knowledge.
For you (singular) have refused the knowledge,
And I refuse you from being My priest.
Since you have ignored the Instruction of your God,
I also will ignore your children.
a. Destruction is the result of a lack of the knowledge and the lack of the knowledge is the result of wilful ignorance.
b. Lack of the knowledge is disobedience to Torah.
c. God ignores the children of sin in order to bring about repentance. To prosper the children of sin would be to enable their sinful lifestyle.
Notice, not just “knowledge” but “the knowledge”. The people are not cut off for lack of knowledge but for the lack of “the knowledge” of God. “Knowledge (human) puffs up, Love (of God) builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1).
The word “forgotten” used in some English versions is a poor translation. Israel had not “forgotten” Torah, to the contrary, they had intentionally “ignored” Torah. Or, more precisely, had neglected the remembrance of Torah.
God speaks through Hosea using the singular to refer to Israel (northern kingdom) as a priest who has neglected to pass on the Instruction of God and will therefore produce offspring that do not know the truth about the God of Israel or of the judgement and mercy He offers.
God had called all Israel a “priesthood”:
“and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” -Exodus 19:6 NASB
It’s important to note that the priests of the northern kingdom appointed by Jeroboam were not Levites and therefore were illegitimate priests.
“And he (Jeroboam) made a house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” -1 Kings 12:31 KJV
7 Kerubam Because of abundance, kein so chateu-liy they sinned (missed the mark) against Me; kevodam their glory, honour bekalon amiyr I will change into shame, dishonour.8 Chatat The sin (missing the mark) Amiy of My people, yocheilu they eat up, devour, burn up ve’el-avonam And perversity, depravity, iniquity yisu they set nafsho their souls (entire functioning being) on.
7 Because of abundance, so they sinned (missed the mark) against Me;
Their glory, honour I will change into shame, dishonour.
8 The sin (missing the mark) of My people, they eat up, devour, burn up
And perversity, depravity, iniquity they set their souls (entire functioning being) on.
a. Abundance (material) has resulted in sin born of false comfort.
b. The glory (idolatry) of abundance will bear the fruit of shame.
c. Sin is delighted in, consumed with passion.
d. The soul being of the people respectively seeks out depravity. “The heart (lev, inner being) of man deceitful and desperately wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).
With the exception of Abraham very few Biblical characters remained faithful during times of abundance. It seems that the nature of human beings causes us to be prone to wander when we are comfortable (in material things). Our faith undergoes its greatest refining, not in the furnace of poverty but in the trial of abundance.
False comfort is found in temporal things and bears the fruit of selfish dissatisfaction. The comfort of God is everlasting, eternally present in those who have turned to Him, and overflows into the lives of others.
“The sin of My people, they eat up, devour, burn up And perversity, depravity, iniquity they set their souls (entire functioning being) on.”
This refers to the illegitimate priests of the former verse. Those priests who were not Levites but were appointed by Jeroboam from other tribes. The sin offerings were meant as a means of symbolic propitiation and were to be offered properly before God in order to cover the sins of the people. The illegitimate priests of the northern kingdom were desecrating these offerings with syncretised idolatry and drunkenness and as a result the sin of the northern tribes remained upon them before God’s judgement.
9 Vehayah And it will be, cha’am like people, kakohein like priest;
Ufakadtiy And I will punish them alayv according to derachayv their ways
Uma’alalayv ashiyv lo And repay them for their practices.
9 And it will be, like people, like priest;
And I will punish them according to their ways
And repay them for their practices.
a. Both the priests and common people of the northern kingdom were apostate. The fact that Levites were worshipping at altars outside of Jerusalem and non-Levites were being appointed priests (1 Kings 12:31) was abominable by Torah standards.
b. The punishment of the LORD is just and is according to the sinful actions of the people. It is repeated because it is firmly established.
10 Ve’achelo And they will eat, velo yisba’u and not have enough;
Hiznu They practice prostitution, velo and don’t yifrotzu break out (give birth, prosper), kiy-et-YHVH because YHVH (Mercy) the Lord azevu they have forsaken, lishmor and have ceased watching for Him, alt. guarding, observing the things of Him.
10 And they will eat, and not have enough;
They practice prostitution, and not break out (give birth, prosper),
Because YHVH (Mercy) the Lord they have forsaken,
And have ceased watching for Him,
a. To eat and not have enough is a figure of excess rather than want. Gluttony eventually lessens the effectiveness of the palate and causes all food to seem common (familiarity breeds contempt), meaning that one is always seeking something more even while being full to overflowing. Thus obesity gives way to want for more, an insatiable appetite. This is also reflected in the prostitution metaphor which sees the practice become fruitless due to its proliferation (disease, infertility etc.)
b. This is happening not because God has forsaken Israel (northern kingdom) but because she has intentionally and consistently forsaken Him and has ceased looking for Him or observing His Word.
We are all potentially guilty of these same practices in spiritual form if not physical. When we neglect the reading and observance of God’s Word on a daily basis we become less and less interested in the things of God and thus, perhaps at first in small ways, forsake Him Who has redeemed us. What might it mean for the modern believer who is otherwise chased in their behaviour to ask, “Have I ceased to watch for Him?”
11 Zenut Prostitution, veyayin and wine, vetiyrish and new wine yikach-leiv take away the heart (inner being, core being). 12 Amiy My people be’eitzo yishal seek counsel from their wooden idol, umaklo and their magic wand yagid speaks to them;
Kiy For ruach a spirit zenuniym of prostitutions hit’ah has caused them to err, stagger, wander, go astray, vayiznu and they prostitute themselves, mitachat coming out from under Eloheiyhem their God.
11 Prostitution, and wine, and new wine take away the heart (inner being, core being).
12 My people seek counsel from their wooden idol, and their magic wand speaks to them; for a spirit of prostitutions has caused them to err, stagger, wander, go astray, and they prostitute themselves, coming out from under their God.
"there shall not be found among you any that use divination" -Deuteronomy 18:10
a. Prostitution and excessive alcohol are vehicles for the destruction of the inner being of a person. Sexual immorality being a sin that one sins against one’s self (1 Cor. 6:18), and drunkenness (stoned, high etc. Eph. 5:18) causing one to become out of control and therefore lacking self-control, which gives way sins a sober mind is able to withstand. Inevitably intoxication leads a person into a spiral of self-destructive behaviour.
b. Demonic spirits are involved in the tempting of the people but it is people who are responsible for giving in to temptation. Israel have chosen to come out from under the covering of God their Husband.
The NASB translation “understanding” in place of “heart” albeit possibly a choice which follows the Septuagint, is nonetheless extremely poor. “Understanding” in a Greco-Roman or modern English sense is an insufficient representation of what is meant. Mental acuity is not what’s being spoken of here, but the complete breakdown of the core person.
The heart of the people is taken away by the false comfort of material things. The wine in this context is from the abundance of the previous harvest and the new wine reflects the belief that Ba’al the Canaanite deity of fertility is at work.
Verse 12 describes the occult practices of the northern tribes and reveals that through their intentional and repeated sin choices they have given access to a demonic spirit of prostitution because they have come out (of their own free will) from under the covering of their Husband HaShem and have made themselves fair game for the powers of darkness. The modern “Church” is in no position to pass judgement. We are guilty of the same. We have allowed access to the demonic through perpetual sin practices, small compromises that when proliferated open wide the gates of destruction.
“14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death.” -Yaakov (James) 1:14-15 NASB
13 Al Upon rasheiy the summits of hehariym mountains yezabechu they slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices) ve’al and upon hagevaot the hills they yekateru burn incense, tachat under alon oaks, velivneh and poplars, ve’eilah and terebinth, kiy because tov tzilah their shade is good. Al-kein Therefore tizneynah benoteiychem your daughters practice prostitution, vechaloteiychem And your brides/daughter’s in law tena’afnah commit adultery.
13 Upon the summits of mountains they slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices) and upon the hills, they burn incense, under oaks, and poplars, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters practice prostitution, And your brides/daughter’s in law commit adultery.
a. Here the worship of false gods and the practice of divination are linked to prostitution and adultery. The repetitions affirm the prolific and deep seeded nature of the sin being practiced among the people.
It was not just certain woman but the majority of women who were practicing sexual immorality.
14 I will lo-efkod not punish benoteiychem your daughters kiy when they tizneiynah practice prostitution, or your kaloteiychem brides/daughters in law when they commit tena’afnah adultery, kiy because the men hem themselves hazonot yefareidu separate, divide (themselves) with the prostitutes, veim-hakedeishot and with shrine prostitutes yezabeichu slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices); ve’am lo-yaviyn and the people don’t understand yilaveit and are cast down, ruined.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they practice prostitution, or your brides/daughters in law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves separate, divide (themselves) with the prostitutes, and with shrine prostitutes slaughter/kill (offer sacrifices); and the people don’t understand and are cast down, ruined.
a. Punishment or lack thereof is mitigated equitably. God does not hold the misplaced patriarchal view that men should be allowed to keep mistresses but women should be punished for having lovers. To the contrary, inevitably the fruit of sexual immorality and idolatry will be poison to both sexes.
b. Sexual sin separates, which is the opposite of godly unity.
c. Sexual sin is intrinsically connected to idolatry.
d. Sexual sin and idolatry numb the consciousness and result in self destruction. Sexual sin itself being a form of self-harm (1 Cor. 6:18).
The punishment concerning “bitter waters” (Numbers 5:11-29) will not be enforced because the men are as guilty as the women.
“‘I will not punish your daughters’ anymore, to test them with the ‘bitter waters’ should they commit adultery. Why? Because their husbands join with harlots; for once the man is not free of sin, the waters do not test his wife.” [based on Sifrei Num. 5:82 and Sotah 47a] -Rashi
15 Im-zoneh With a prostitute atah Yisrael you Israel are al upon
Yesham Y’hudah (Judah, Praise) must not become an offender in HaGilgal The Gilgal (rolling wheel); ve’al-ta’alu And don’t go into to Beit Aven (Beth-aven, House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity), ve’al-tishave’u and don’t take an oath saying, “Chay-YHVH (Mercy) Life is in YHVH alt. As the Lord lives!”
15 With a prostitute you Israel are upon
Judah (Praise) must not become an offender in the Gilgal (rolling wheel);
And don’t go into to Beth-Aven (House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity),
And don’t take an oath saying, “As the Lord lives!”
a. Israel are in the midst of the act of idolatry (sexual immorality). That is, it has become a perpetual practice.
b. Judah is warned not to do as the northern tribes are doing: “Don’t become offenders like them, don’t desecrate the righteous heritage of Samuel by participating in the idolatry practiced at Gilgal, don’t go to the house of vanity and wickedness, and don’t swear oaths as hypocrites who, while worshipping other gods, say ‘As YHVH lives!’” “for if they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ they, nevertheless, swear falsely” (Jer. 5:2).
Giglal is the first site of the Israelite camp west of the Jordan and east of Jericho. It is where Samuel the prophet was judge and Saul was made king. It was also a main centre for Israel’s (the northern kingdom) idolatrous worship practices (Hosea 9:15; Amos 4:4).
“Beit-Aven” (House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) is a sarcastic way of referring to Bethel (House of God)[Talmud], and or a place very close to Bethel (Joshua 7:2), it was a main centre of northern apostate worship located in the territory of Ephraim/Benjamin. A place that has a strong connection to both the physical and spiritual journeys of the Patriarchs and in particularly to Jacob, who became Israel. It was on the border of the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (according to the interpretation that equates it to Bethel it is technically located in the territory of Benjamin to the east of the border between the two territories).
It seems likely, given Hosea 4:15, that Beth Aven was considered to be part of the territory of Ephraim (northern tribes):
“Judah must not become an offender in the Gilgal; and don’t go into to Beth-Aven” -Hosea 4:15
16 Kiy For kefarah like a cow soreiram that rebels, pulls away, slides back, is stubborn sarar with stubbornness, rebellion, pulling away, is Yisrael (Israel)[northern kingdom]
Atah (Ayin not Aleph) Now yireim YHVH (Mercy) will the Lord feed them kecheves like a lamb bamerchav in a large field?
16 For like a cow that rebels, with rebellion, is Israel (northern kingdom)
Now will the Lord feed them like a lamb in a large field?
a. The rebellion of the northern kingdom is firmly established (rebels with rebellion). Therefore, the LORD cannot feed them because rather than being like a gentle, vulnerable lamb that is entirely reliant on the shepherd (and or its mother) for milk, Israel is like a hyper stubborn cow that will not receive food from the herdsman’s hand.
The figurative reference to God as Shepherd (herdsman) is well established in Scripture.
17 Chavur Joined, bound together, coupled atzabiym to idols is Efrayim (Doubly fruitful, Ephraim); hanach-lo rest him (leave him to it).
18 Sar Sour saveam is their liquor, fortified drink, strong drink,
Hazneh They prostitute themselves hiznu in the act of prostitution;
Ahavu heivu Loving to love kalon shame, disgrace, dishonour magineyah is her shield.
17 Coupled to idols is Ephraim; leave him to it.
18 Sour is their liquor,
They prostitute themselves in the act of prostitution;
Loving to love shame, is her shield.
a. The quadruple ideas of coupling to idols, strengthened liquor, doubled prostitution, and loving to love a shame shield, are an horrific indictment against the wilful unrepentant nature of the northern kingdom. By extension, these are an horrific indictment against the modern body of believers, given that these same things are ratified and practiced prolifically throughout the modern “Church” under the guise of syncretism.
Ephraim is an alternative name for the northern kingdom (Israel). This is because Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26) the northern kingdom’s first king and founder was from Ephraim.
19 Tzarar Bind her ruach otah with a miraculous sign of wind, spirit, breath bichnafeyah that wraps them in her wings, ve’yeivoshu And they will be ashamed mizivchotam because of their sacrifices.
19 Bind her with a miraculous sign of wind that wraps them in her wings,
And they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
The traditional Jewish and Christian scholarship interpretations of this verse see the wind as likened to the sifting of wheat on a threshing floor. That wind being the invading Assyrian Empire and the resulting shame brought upon Israel as she’s dragged into exile. However, the Hebrew text indicates something quite different and in a plain sense presents the wind as a redemptive sign which convicts unto godly sorrow rather than a punishing wind that forces shame upon the people.
I have researched this extensively and find that my interpretation is unique. However, as I read the Hebrew text I find it difficult to conclude otherwise (it is of course quite possible that I’ve misunderstood what is meant, given that so many others have concluded a contrary interpretation).
“Bind her” is reminiscent of the binding of Torah and of tefillin in order to remember and act righteously. This is a binding that produces freedom.
“With a miraculous sin of spirit that wraps them in her wings” How could this refer to the threshing floor or to a destructive wind, except by way of refining. The wind “wraps them” it does not agitate them or thresh them.
“And they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices” This is a godly repentant response to a manifest garment of God’s Spirit. The sacrifices are the defiled, syncretised and idolatrous sacrifices of the northern kingdom. As a result of the coming of this miraculous sign of “Ruach” (Spirit, Wind, Breath) Israel becomes ashamed, seeing the wickedness of her idolatry for what it really is.
To follow this rhythm of redemptive hope after stern rebuke fits the pattern of Hosea and indeed of Isaiah and numerous other prophetic voices of the Tanakh.
“Put to shame” is a poor translation that infers shame forced upon them. This is not what the Hebrew is saying. It literally reads “and they will be ashamed”. This is a response born of sober self-reflection and not one forced upon them. It is to be a genuine form of shame leading to repentance and not forced shame leading to a return to shame. Artificial shame is a satanic separation, whereas godly shame (sorrow over a sin act) leads to reconciliation.
“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” -2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Sefer Yochanan (Gospel According to John) Chapter 6 Pt.1The Work of God is to Believe in the One Whom He Has Sent (John 6:1-33)
“For near to you all is Ha-Davar (The Word), meod, very much so, in your mouth, and in your inner being, so that you might accomplish, do, act accordingly.” -D’variym (Words) Deuteronomy 30:14
All that follows is pursuant to the rebuke that Yeshua has leveled toward His Judean religious accusers following the making whole of the lame man at the pool of Beit Chasda in Jerusalem on the weekly Shabbat during Purim celebrations.
6:1 After these things Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) went away over (peran[G]) the body of water, lake (thalassa[G], yam[H]) of the Galilee (Galilaias[G], ha-Galiyl[H]) the Tiberias (ho Tiberiados[G]). 2 A large (polus[G], ha-mon[H], rav[H]) crowd of common people (ochlos[G], am[H]) followed Him, because they saw the signs (semeion[G], otot[H]) which He was making, constructing, causing (poieo[G], asah[H]) on those being sick, weak (astheneo[G], ha-choliym[H]).
“These things” are the miraculous healing of the lame man at the pool of Beit Chasda in Jerusalem, and the rebuke that Yeshua had levelled at His religious opponents regarding the legitimacy of His identity, His teaching and His authority regarding the Shabbat.
Therefore, Yeshua and His talmidim (disciples), followed by a large number of common people, had made the journey from Jerusalem to the Galilee region following Purim (see my commentary on John 5). They had arrived in the Galilee region at least three days after the cessation of Purim celebrations and it was now close to the time of Pesach (Passover), which occurs just over a month after Purim. The text says that Yeshua went over the lake, probably to an area several kilometres south-east of Bethsaida (Philip’s home town), across the lake and east of Capernaum, north east of and a greater distance away from Tiberias, which is situated at approximately the half way point on the western shore of the lake of Galilee.
The Gospel writer’s allusion to “The Tiberias” is, contrary to popular opinion, not a concession to non-Jewish readers but rather an allusion to the illegitimate authority of the Emperor Tiberias after whom the location was named, and the subsequent illegitimate authority of Rome in general. To usurp the native name of this area (Rakkat “shore” - Joshua 19:35) is an act of occupation on the part of Rome. The Hebrew Galiyl means “circuit, perpetuity”. HaShem has promised this land to Israel (Ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) [Naphtali] in perpetuity.
“because they saw the signs” This means that those who followed Yeshua had either seen the signs He had previously performed in the Galilee region or had seen Him perform signs at the Regaliym (Going up festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot) or both. The crowd was a crowd of Jews, Israelis (Ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen), seeking the physical redemption of the people of Israel from Roman oppression. We note that the people were following Him “because they saw the signs” and not necessarily because they believed in Him. This is made evident in their request for a further sign in order to prove His identity as the delivering “Prophet” promised by God through Moses (John 6:30; Deut.18:15-19).
“Signs” Not just miracles but “otot” signs plural, of God’s manifest power designed to point Israel to repentance and reconciliation to God. The same Hebrew word is used to describe the signs performed by God in Egypt and through His prophets.
3 Then Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) went up on the mountain (ha-har[H]) , and there He sat down with His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]).
“The mountain” Whichever mountain this is it is a significant land mark of the Galilee. It is not called “a mountain” but “the mountain”. It is very likely one of the peeks on the upper eastern shore of the Galilee just below Bethsaida (Beiyt Tzaida: House of the hunt).
Mountains were places of solitude and introspection, and are connected to the expounding of God’s Word (Moses Exodus 19:3; Elijah 1 Kings 19:11). The sides of hills and mountains are also an ideal location to teach from. Situated on the side of a mountain or high hill, a first century Jewish teacher could speak at a moderate volume and be heard by a large crowd gathered at the foot of the mountain in a natural amphitheatre. This type of scenario can be seen as far back as the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The Galilee was an ideal location for this style of teaching given the mountain ranges on both sides of the lake and the natural amphitheatres that have formed in the terrain nearby.
It was Yeshua’s practice to draw aside with His core group of disciples for a period of solace and teaching prior to public speaking and sign working (Matt.5:1; Luke 9:10 etc). Yeshua shows concern for the whole health and well-being of His talmidim, knowing that public ministry takes its toll mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yeshua leads by example, often going away by Himself to commune with the Father in order to refuel and refocus His energies (Matt.14:23; Luke.6:12 etc). In this also He was not unlike Moses (Exodus 19:3-25).
A great deal can be learned by modern believers from this practice of Yeshua. We are fools to work tirelessly without rest when HaShem has commanded (not suggested) regular rest. God does not need our help but He allows us to participate in His work according to His guidelines. Failure to obey God’s rhythms of rest results in burn out and disillusionment.
Sitting was the preferred position from which the religious teachers of first century and later rabbinical Judaism taught their adherents.
“"The master sits at the head, or in the chief place, and the disciples before him in a circuit, like a crown; so that they all see the master, and hear his words; and the master may not sit upon a seat, and the scholars upon the ground; but either all upon the earth, or upon seats: indeed from the beginning, or formerly, היה הרב יושב "the master used to sit", and the disciples stand; but before the destruction of the second temple, all used to teach their disciples as they were sitting.'' -Maimonides, Hilch. Talmud Torah, c. 4. sect. 2.
4 Now the Passover (Pascha[G], ha-Pesach[H]), the festival (Chag[H]) of the Judeans, religious Jews (Ioudaios[G], Ha-Yehudiym[H]), was coming near (lavo[H]).
Note that the observance of Pesach and its intrinsic connection to Yeshua is of utmost importance to the Gospel writer.
Why does the Gospel writer mention this? First, it is because of Yeshua’s intrinsic link to the Passover and His role as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world”. Second, it places the chronology in firm order, Purim having just passed and Pesach (Passover) being the next closest festival. Third, the pursuant event, the sign of the feeding of the five thousand men of Israel is premised by a perceived inability to purchase and provide bread. In the weeks prior to Passover Jewish homes would have been slowly reducing their bread supplies, using up excess yeast and setting aside grain to be used for matzot (unleavened bread). Subsequently only a small amount of bread would have been available at the time of these events, this in addition to the cost of feeding so many. All of this is pretext to the sign which Yeshua was about to perform.
Five Loaves, Two Small Fishes
(Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15)
To set the stage for this miraculous sign (the only miraculous sign that is recorded in all four Gospels) we must look at where it falls in relation to the surrounding text of each account.
Matthew’s version is preceded by the unbelief of Yeshua’s home town synagogue and the description of the beheading of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist, the cousin of Yeshua), then following the sign of the loaves and fishes Peter attempts to walk on water.
Mark’s account is preceded by the unbelief of Yeshua’s home town synagogue and the sending out of the twelve, two by two, after which the beheading of Yochanan (John) is described, then the twelve return; the miracle of the loaves and fishes is followed by the walking on water sign.
Luke’s narrative has the sending out of the twelve, the description of Yochanan’s (John’s) beheading, and the return of the twelve: then the loaves and fishes followed by the “Who do you say I am,” statement of Yeshua and later the transfiguration.
John’s version is unique in that it is preceded by Yeshua attending a feast (Purim) in Jerusalem and being rejected by those who opposed him there, Yeshua explains the Father God’s testimony of Messiah and that Moses will judge the people for their rejection of Him. The writer of the Gospel According to John then alerts the reader to the fact that Passover is at hand. The loaves and fishes event is still followed by the crossing to Capernaum and the walking on water, but is then proceeded by an extensive discussion concerning Moses and the manna from heaven which is to be understood as a metaphor in reference to Messiah Yeshua, “the bread of life.”
While we don’t know the exact time frames associated to the ordering of these events we can still deduce the writers’ intended theological and contextual meanings in relation to their accounts of the sign of the loaves and fishes. All the surrounding events and meanings give insight as to the reason for this important (even pivotal) event in Yeshua’s ministry.
Prior to looking at the specific details of John’s Gospel account I will address the chronological and thematic elements using the main themes from each of the four accounts as a combined whole. This of course presumes that this was a singularly unique event recorded by each of the Gospel writers.
Both Matthew and Mark record a second event that took place in the region of the Decapolis, a predominantly Gentile location. The feeding of the five thousand, the sign of the loaves and fishes took place near the city of Bethsaida (House of the hunt or House of fishing), a predominantly Jewish area, and close to Yeshua’s home in the Galilee region. The fact that the four Jewish writers of the Gospels (I am not alone in seeing Luke as a Jew) all saw fit to include this sign, indicates it’s importance: symbolically, historically, religiously, prophetically, nationally, spiritually and metaphorically.
The united themes of this event read chronologically as follows:
· Yeshua in Jerusalem for a Jewish feast (Purim)
· The testimony of the Father God (on behalf of the Son) Yeshua (a firstborn)
· Yeshua warns that Moses will judge the disbelief of the religious leaders
· Rejection of Yeshua by the people of His home town
· Yeshua sends out the twelve disciples, two by two
· Yeshua grieves over the loss of John the Immerser (Baptist) His cousin (a firstborn)
· The disciples return from their travels throughout Israel’s Jewish towns
· The time of Passover was at hand
· The sign of the loaves and fishes
· The sign of walking on water
· The discussion concerning manna, “the bread of life,” back in Capernaum (Links Yeshua to Moses)
· The transfiguration recorded in Luke’s account (Links Yeshua to Moses)
Overview of the chronology of events:
Yeshua in Jerusalem for a feast (Purim):
A number of scholars suggest that this was the Passover feast of the previous year, meaning that what follows took place at the beginning of the Passover of the following year. However, this is extremely unlikely given the consistent chronology of John’s Gospel and the language used. As I have shown in my commentary on John 4 and 5, the feast in question is almost certainly Purim.
Yeshua was affirmed by the Father’s testimony:
God the Father has testified throughout Scripture concerning His Son Yeshua. He had also poured out the Holy Spirit in a public show of glory over His Son and had testified saying, “this is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” Yeshua need not explain Himself to the people on the basis of the required Torah instruction concerning two or three human witnesses. His witnesses were God the Father and the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the signs He performed. God the Father had given comprehensive testimony to the validity of Yeshua’s ministry, authority and Kingship over Israel and all the earth. Following the sign of the loaves and fishes, Yeshua’s command over the raging waters was proof yet again to His disciples, of God’s testimony of Him.
Yeshua warns that Moses will be Israel’s judge regarding their disbelief in Him:
The centrality of the Jewish reliance on the Torah of Moses is key to understanding the sign of the loaves and fishes. The Jewish people of Yeshua’s time expected a prophet, a miracle worker and a Messiah who presented in accordance to their understanding of the words of Moses as taught to them by their religious leaders. The man they were looking for would perform miracles similar to those of Elijah and Elisha, he would show signs like those of Moses and He would reign in power as the son of David, over Israel and all the nations of the earth according to the prophecies of the Tanakh (OT). Many of these expectations were about to be manifested before their eyes. Therefore Moses would be their judge, for he had written clearly the prophetic words that would prove Yeshua’s rightful position as the one who would be like Moses (Deut.18:15-19).
Rejection of Yeshua in His home town:
His own friends and wider family/community rejected Him because they believed Him to be of common birth, they were jealous of Him. This is not an uncommon response to the prophets of Israel as testified to by the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and so on. Their treatment of Him later became a testimony to His identity.
Yeshua sends out His disciples, two by two:
This was a ministering of the twelve to Israel, hence twelve disciples. Later in Luke’s Gospel narrative (Luke 10:1-17; ) a new Sanhedrin of sorts is sent out to minister to the wider towns and spread the good news to other nationalities, thus seventy, the Hebrew number representing the nations. However the events surrounding the sign of the loaves and fishes pertain specifically to Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) and not to the Decapolis and other surrounding areas.
Two by two may be a correlation with the Ark: used as a metaphor here for the repopulating of the earth with immersed (baptized, a type for the flood) spiritual children. The news of God’s kingdom as taught by Messiah Yeshua was to be made known to the tribes of Israel prior to the sign of the loaves and fishes. When Israel was in slavery in Egypt, word of Moses actions needed time to spread to them prior to their coming out of Egypt into the wilderness.
Yeshua grieves over the loss of John the Immerser (Baptist):
When Yeshua heard of the death of John the Immerser (Baptist) we are told that He retreated to a deserted place by Himself. He was clearly greatly grieved by the death of His cousin and perhaps reminded of His own destiny. He shows us an example of turning to the only one who can truly comfort us in times of great sorrow. The Father is often beheld in deserted places of solitude (Exodus 3; 1 Kings 17:1-5). The disciples must have returned to the vicinity with Him because Mark’s version of events has them retreat with Him after the death of John. It is interesting to note that John’s disciples came and took his body away for burial, while Yeshua’s disciples fled after His death.
Passover is at Hand:
Barley is the first grain harvested in Israel at this time of the year. Leaven/yeast is removed from homes, and food without leaven is eaten. Leaven/yeast symbolizes sin in Judaism. Jews from all over the known world would head up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, which is one of the three Regaliym (Aliyot Moadim—going up festivals/Sabbaths).
The sign of the Loaves and Fishes:
The Passover was near, Jews from the known world were on their way to Jerusalem and had heard of this mysterious prophet of God. Perhaps some detoured to find Him? What is certain is that all had cleaned their homes and traveling gear of yeast (the Biblical symbol of sin) and were preparing their hearts to celebrate deliverance from slavery. They were also hoping for deliverance from Roman rule.
Luke tells us that following the sign the day was drawing to a close, so that it was toward the late afternoon.
Upon seeing the crowd Yeshua says to Philip (the obvious person to ask because he came from the nearby town of Bethsaida—John 1:44), “Where can we buy bread for all these people?” He said this to prove Philip. Does that mean Yeshua wasn’t sure of Philip’s loyalty and so had to test him? No, of course not. When God with us/Yeshua seeks to prove someone it is for that person’s benefit. We could say, “Yeshua sought to make Philip aware of the extent of his own faith in Yeshua/God with us.” Philip’s response sets up the sign, by his reasoning that the request is humanly impossible. Andrew adds to the confusion by saying, “Hey, there’s a young boy here with five (probably unleavened, because Passover is at hand) loaves and a couple of small fish (probably the local sardines), but that’s not going to feed all these people.”
Yeshua doesn’t miss a beat, “Have the people recline (Passover terminology) together in groups.” There was a large grass area there, probably at the base of the hill/mountain where the disciples had been with Yeshua (thus creating a natural amphitheatre for what would come next).
Yeshua took the loaves and said the b’rakha for bread (ha-motzi) and began to distribute them to the crowd. He then did the same with the fish. All accounts indicate that either Yeshua alone or both Yeshua and the disciples were involved in distributing the food directly to the people, this would dispel the foolish conjecture that suggests the people simply brought out their lunches and shared them. Most Jews attending an Aliyah festival like Passover would travel light, expecting to buy food on the way, hence Yeshua’s question to Philip prior to the miracle. In addition, the fact that Yeshua suggested the crowd go and buy food infers that they did not already have food.
This miraculous feeding of such a large group of Jewish men (5,000), plus women and children, a total of approx. 19-28,000 (Matt.14:21); is reminiscent of Moses’ (God’s) feeding of Israel with manna and quail in the desert. Manna being the miraculous bread of heaven and quail being the common bird of that area. Here the manna will be later explained figuratively as referring to Messiah Yeshua Himself. The small fish (probably sardines) is a common catch from the Lake.
Three types of fish were primarily sought by fishermen in antiquity in these waters. Sardines are the most likely candidates for the, “two small fish" that the young man brought to the feeding of the five thousand. Sardines and bread were the staple food and traded product of the locals. The second type of fish, Barbels receive their name from the barbs at the corners of their mouths. The third type is called Musht but is more popularly known today as "St. Peter's Fish." This fish has a long dorsal fin which looks like a comb and can be up to 45cm long and 1.5 kgs. in weight.
The barley bread (eaten predominantly by the poorer classes) brought by the young boy was most likely unleavened, given that Passover was at hand (the leaven is always cleaned from Jewish homes and meals prior to Passover), and that the miracle is followed by a discussion that relates manna (unleavened heavenly bread) to the body of Messiah Yeshua (who is without sin, remembering that in first century Judaism yeast is seen as a symbol of sin).
After the meal Yeshua says, “Gather up the fragments that are left over so that none of them may be lost.” Why is the gathering of the left overs so important to Yeshua? Perhaps the number of baskets is a clue, there are twelve, the number of disciples, but more importantly, the number of the tribes of Israel. It is possible that this was meant as a symbol or metaphor for the reconciliation of Israel to God at the end of time. Shaul/Paul the shaliach (apostle) tells us that when the allotted number of the members of the nations have come to faith, that the entire remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)
The Sign of Walking on Water:
This shows Messiah’s authority over creation (as the second Adam). This sign affirms Him again as the prophesied one. Elisha, in a somewhat lesser sense also exhibited the authority of God over the natural order of creation when he made the axe head float. (2 Kings 6:4-7) Similarities to the great prophets in the ministry of Yeshua were proofs of His authenticity.
The Discussion (back in Capernaum) Concerning Moses, Manna, and the Bread of Life:
The link between the sign of the manna in the desert and the feeding of the five thousand is unmistakable. The “Bread of life,” discourse was intended to be strengthened by the recently performed sign of the loaves and fishes. Yeshua was revealing Himself as the manna from heaven, the bread of life. The crowd asks for a sign, seemingly immune to the obvious sign that has just been performed. Yeshua points them away from Moses and toward the Father God saying, “It was not Moses that gave you the manna, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They respond, “Give us this bread from heaven.” Yeshua answers, “I am the bread of life!”
Yeshua reminds His people that their fathers ate manna and died (the death unto judgment). Yeshua was now offering Himself, the bread of life. Those who eat the life of Messiah will never die. Why did the forefathers die? Through disobedience. Therefore Yeshua is warning that failure to accept His manna will result in eternal death. This He had already pretexted prior to the miracle when He was in Jerusalem warning the people that Moses would be their judge. It was Moses who stood as a mediator regarding the manna in the desert. Now Messiah Yeshua is claiming to be the manifest manna and mediator of God, all wrapped up in one.
It is interesting to note the words of Rabbi Isaac who wrote:
“as the former redeemer caused manna to descend (referring to Moses)… so will the later Redeemer cause manna to descend.” Ecclesiastes Rabbah on Ec. 1:9
The bread of life discourse does not refer to pagan magic practice regarding the consummation of power through blood drinking as some have supposed. Yeshua is talking to Jews who despise their Roman rulers and abhor the pagan Roman worship practices however this discourse is offensive to them, not because of pagan links, but because of its seeming direct contradiction to the Torah. Yeshua, did not act outside of rabbinical practice when he used the metaphor of his flesh and blood as a teaching tool. What is clear is that Yeshua was miss understood, not only by the crowd but also by His own disciples.
Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36):
This event links Yeshua again to both Elijah and Moses, affirming the theme of the narrative surrounding the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This event may well have taken place months later, perhaps even during the feast of Sukkot (booths), given the offer of Peter to build shelters/Sukkot.
5 Therefore Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves), lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large (polus[G], rav[H]) crowd (ochlos[G], am[H]) of common people was coming to Him, said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]) to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread (artos[G], lechem[H]) so that these may eat?”
As stated previously, it is likely that Yeshua asked Philip this question in part because these events were taking place close to Philip’s home town of Bethsaida.
In the natural the question “Where are we to buy bread…” is reasonable given that Passover is approaching and bread supplies are diminished among those traveling to Jerusalem for the Aliyah Festival.
6 This He was saying to prove, raise a banner for, give a directive sign to (peirazo[G], nasot[H]) him (Philip), for He Himself knew (eido[G], yada[H]) what He was about to do (poieo[G], ya’asah[H]).
“Therefore” means, because it was close to Passover and the crowd was large in size. Why is the proximity of Passover important? Because it infers that many of those gathered were pilgrims heading toward Jerusalem for Passover and thus lacking yeast and keeping grain set aside for matzot (unleavened bread). As mentioned earlier Yeshua was not “testing” Philip, Yeshua already knew what the outcome would be, rather He was proving to Philip the nature of his faith and the reality of Yeshua’s identity. Philip would later ask Yeshua to reveal the Father God to him:
“7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? -John 14:7-9 (NASB)
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii (half a year’s wages) worth of bread (artos[G], lechem[H]) is not enough for them, not even for everyone to receive a small piece each.” 8 One (heis[G], echad[H]) of His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]), Andrew, Shimon Kefa (Simon: Hears God Peter’s: Rock) brother (achiy[H]), said to Him, 9 “Behold (hinei[H]) there is a young boy (paidarion[G], na’ar[H]) here who has five barley (krithinos[G]), loaves (artos[G]) and two small fish (opsarion[G]), dagiym[H]) but what are these for so many?”
Barley loaves indicate two things: first, the wheat harvest had not yet come and second, those present were predominantly lower class. The higher class had wheat grain remaining from the previous year’s harvest whereas the lower class lived from yield to yield and ate what was seasonally available.
The five loaves amounted to a loaf for each group of a thousand men.
10 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]), “Have the people (ha-am[H]) recline (anapipto[G], lashevet[H]).” Now there was much grass (chortos[G]) in the place. So the men (aner[G]) reclined (anapipto[G]), numbering about five thousand. 11 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) then took the loaves (artos[G]), and having said the b’rakha[H] blessing [given thanks] (eucharisteo[G]), He distributed to those who were reclining; He did the same with the small fish (opsarion[G], dagiym[H]) as much as they wanted.
Note that Yeshua says a blessing prior to the bread but that no mention is made of a blessing over the fish, this is in keeping with Jewish religious practice. The blessing for the bread is always said prior to eating it whereas the blessing for the meal (including the fish) is said following the meal in accordance with Deut. 8:10. Note further that in John’s account it is Yeshua Who personally distributes the bread and fish to the crowd, continuing to do so until they’d had “as much as they wanted”.
Five thousand Jewish men plus women and children, a total of approx. 19-28,000 (Matt.14:21).
Five loaves, one loaf for every thousand Jewish men. Two small fish,
12 When they were fully satisfied (empiplemi[G]), He said to His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]), “Gather together the leftover broken pieces (klasma[G]) so that nothing will perish, be destroyed, be lost, (apollumi[G]).” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (klasma[G]) from the five barley loaves which were left by those who had eaten.
Notice that all present were Jews (Israelites) and that 12 baskets of broken pieces representing the twelve tribes of Israel were collected after they had eaten by the twelve disciples of Yeshua. This is a figure for the redemption of all ethnic religious Israel at the end of the age, through Yeshua the King Messiah (Romans 11:25-26).
The collection of food remnants was a rabbinical practice, the destruction of food over a certain size being prohibited in Jewish Halakhic law (Talmud Bavliy Shabbat 50b, 147b). The principal being that nothing is to be wasted.
14 Therefore when the people (anthropos[G], ha-anashiym[H]) saw the sign (semeion[G], et-ha-ot[H]) which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet (prophetes[G], ha-navi[H]) who is to come into the world.”
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16 This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ 17 The Lord said to me, ‘they have spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.”
D’varim/Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (NASB)
15 So Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves), perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king (basileus[G], melekh[H]), withdrew again to the mountain (ha-har[H]) by Himself alone.
Yeshua could not allow His people to make Him King or force Him to lead a rebellion against Rome because He had come according to Isaiah 53 to be the suffering servant Who would take away their sin. Yeshua will one day come as the victorious King to rule over Israel and the nations on the throne of David according to the wealth of prophecy from the Tanakh. But this could not happen until He had made a way for the reconciliation of the souls of Israel. Why? Because God’s victorious King Messiah is to reign over Israel for all eternity, something that can only happen if Israel is made right with God and enabled to live forever.
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Judean religious leaders; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world.” -John 18:36
The view of the people was desperate and temporal, whereas Yeshua’s view was redemptive and everlasting. He ached because of the temporal suffering of His people but understood that if He were to submit to their plan, their eternal suffering would far outweigh their temporal suffering.
Yeshua’s withdrawal to the higher elevation of the mountain was common practice for Him. When faced with the plans of men He sought the counsel of God. When faced with the temptations of man He sought the righteousness of God. When faced with the weakness and exhaustion of man He sought the strength and comfort of God. All this as an example to us that we might practice the rhythms of God’s rest in our walk with the Messiah.
16 Now when evening came, His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]) went down to the sea, lake (yam[H]) 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea, lake (yam[H]) to Capernaum (K’far Nachum[H], village of comfort). It had already become dark, and Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) had not yet come to them.
The disciples had respected Yeshua’s need for private space and had trusted that He would return home to Capernaum when He was ready. Thus they headed for Capernaum a number of hours after sunset, knowing that it was a short journey across the lake of not more than 7 kilometres.
18 The sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) became stirred up because a strong (megas[G]) wind (anemos[G], ruach gedolah[H]) was blowing (pneo[G], hayatah[H]).
It is quite possible that the lake was perfectly calm when they set out. To this day lake Galilee experiences rapid shifts in countenance as a result of sudden changes in weather. On one of my many trips there I was seated by a perfectly calm Galilee at midday only to see the water turn into raging surf blown by a storm front a matter of hours later.
It is also worth noting that the Galilee is known for its unique seemly randomly forming whirlpools. These whirlpools have been the cause of many drowning deaths in the Lake over the years.
19 Then, when they had rowed about five or six kilometres, they saw Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) He was walking (peripateo[G], mehaleich[H]) on the sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) and coming near to the boat; and they were afraid, alarmed, in awe (phobeo[G], vayiyrau[H]).
“When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost’(Apparition or spirit is understood here from a Hebrew cultural perspective, it does not refer to the disembodied spirit of a human being—which is the common modern understanding of this English term) And they cried out in fear.” -Matthew 14:26
It is clear from the Matthew account that the disciples were afraid because they had presumed that this was a spirit or apparition, possibly (but not certainly) an omen of doom. They were not afraid because Yeshua was walking on water (at this point they weren’t even sure it was Yeshua). Of course it is natural for human beings to assume that when something defies the laws of the natural world or seems to be humanly impossible, it is an apparition or of supernatural origin. The lesson soon becomes, what is impossible for human beings is possible with God (perhaps even possible in God). The storm had caused them concern, but the appearance of the apparition had left them terrified.
At the five kilometre point they were still at least 2 kilometres away from their destination and it was approximately 4am (Matt.14:25). In the darkness and squall it would have been difficult to see clearly.
Yeshua was certainly aware of the storm much earlier in the night. So why did He wait? Perhaps He was proving the disciples? Not testing them to see if they were faithful, He was already aware of their character, rather He was taking this opportunity to show them that they were faithful. This is possibly one of the reasons for His gentle rebuke to Peter regarding his being small of faith (not saying that Peter’s faith lacked entirely, he had faith, he simply lacked it in greater volume).
God is pictured walking on the waters in Job 9:8 and Psalm 77:19, in the latter He is walking amidst a storm. Yeshua is Immanuel (God with us). Yeshua is revealing Himself here as God with us; firstly by doing what only God is recorded as having done and secondly by simply stating in Matthew’s account (14:27) “Take courage, I AM, don’t be afraid.” This results in the disciples worshipping Him at the conclusion of the episode.
The text states, “He was walking on the lake.” John clearly has no intention of dwelling on what to him was a natural progression: walking on water was just the next sign in the ordinal march toward the revealing of the King Messiah Yeshua.
Yeshua had now feed Israel (5,000 men 28,000 total) in the wilderness, delivered Israel (12 disciples) through the waters…
It was in the morning watch (3am to 6am) that God manifest His power to Israel at the Red Sea. Exodus 14:24
20 But He (Yeshua) said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]) to them, “I Am He (ego eimi[G], Aniy Hu[H]); do not be afraid (al-tiyrau[H]).”
“I Am” is an expression of divinity (Exodus 3:14; John 1:1-3; 6:35; 8:58). Therefore, “Because I Am God with you, you have no need to fear”. The fear of God is an end to all fear.
It is at this point in Matthew’s narrative that Peter asks Yeshua to call him out onto the water to meet Him.
“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’” -Matthew 14:28
Peter has plenty chutzpa (courage and tenacity)! Peter initially takes Yeshua at His word and exhibits great courage. Why does Peter appear to use a subjective question to determine whether this is truly Yeshua who is speaking to him? The answer comes in the question itself, it’s rhetorical, Peter calls Yeshua “Lord,” it’s as if he were saying “Yeshua, if you’re who I know you are, ask me to come out to You.”
“And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Yeshua.” -Matthew 14:29
Yeshua called, “Bo (Come),” and Peter didn’t think twice, you could say he responded to Yeshua immediately.
“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” - Matthew 14:30
Perhaps he said, “Adonai, Hoshanah!” Lord, save me now!
Like Peter we all take our eyes off Yeshua at times, focusing on our present circumstances instead of seeing the eternal nature of our Messiah, who is before us. There is no shame here, just an opportunity for a lesson. Faith the size of a mustard seed moves great obstacles. Small faith is the beginning of a journey, it is a stepping stone to great faith, born of Messiah.
“Immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of small faith, why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:31
Peter began to sink and immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him. Yeshua doesn’t wait until we’ve sunk, He sees us begin to sink and immediately He takes hold of us.
While it is true that Yeshua observed small faith in Peter, the emphasis is on the phrase, “why did you doubt?” Yeshua knows why Peter doubted. The question is one that Peter is meant to ask himself. We too need to question our doubt and find the motivation behind it. Faith is born in the heart (core being), doubt is manufactured in the mind. Many modern proponents of healthy mind teaching neglect to remember that the Hebrew Leiv (heart) refers to the core being, where heart, mind and spirit converge. It is to be understood in a similar way to nefesh (soul), which indicates the whole of our parts. So we understand that the soul encompasses the whole and the heart is where the parts of the whole converge. When the Scripture says that “the heart is wicked above all things,” it is also addressing the mind. It is not a case of the mind being superior to the heart, rather the heart and mind are both wicked above all things. Humanity is inclined toward evil, we will not overcome this inclination by controlling our own minds and thus our wicked hearts. We will overcome only when we submit all control to Yeshua. That is, when we realize that He is in control regardless.
21 So they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately, at once (eutheos[G]) the boat was at the land (ho ge[G], la-aretz[H]) at the part of the coastline they were going to.
“When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.”- Matthew 14:32
In the same instant the wind stops and the waters bring the boat instantaneously to its destination. All creation obeys the Master of the universe and is immediately quiet as a testimony to the deity of Yeshua (God with us).
This immediacy is not explainable in natural terms. This is a case of the unbound Kingdom of God seeding freedom in the midst of the sin affected creation. A sinless Adam walks the earth anew, and this Adam will set free that which the former Adam allowed to come under bondage.
“And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son—Ben Elohim!’” -Matthew 14:33
“Even the wind and waves obey Him.” (Matthew 8:27) The witness of this sign is the seed that births a greater faith in the Leiv (heart) of the disciples. If Peter, who had faith enough to begin to walk on water, is said to have “Small faith,” then the faith of those who wouldn’t even get out of the boat was smaller still. Now, having identified the Messiah as King of creation, their faith grew and they worshipped Him.
May the storms and failures of our own journey with God produce such great growth spurts as we witness the present acts of God in our lives and the lives of those around us.
22 The next day the crowd of common people (ochlos[G], am[H]) that stood on the other side of the sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) had not boarded with His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]) into the boat, but that His disciples had left alone.
This is the crowd that had witnessed the sign of the loaves and fishes and had camped the night in the region below Bethsaida. The record of their observation is testimony to the fact that Yeshua could not have crossed the Lake by natural means.
23 Other small boats (ploiarion[G]) came from Tiberias close to the place where they had eaten the bread (ho artos[G], ha lechem[H]) after the Lord, Master (ho Kurios[G], ha Adon[H]) had made the b’rakha[H] blessing (given thanks). 24 So when the crowd of common people (ho ochlos[G], ha am[H]) saw that Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) was not there, nor His disciples (mathetes[G] [pupils], talmidim[H] [religious students, followers]), they themselves got into the small boats (ploiarion[G]), and came to Capernaum (K’far Nachum[H], village of comfort) seeking Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves).
Tiberias is approximately 10 km south-west of the location of the loaves and fishes sign. More people had come from Tiberias following the news of the sign and were seeking out Yeshua.
The Gospel writer explains that “the Lord” was not there. The use of the term Adon is more than a colloquial allusion to masterly status, the Gospel writer is saying that these signs are evidence of Yeshua’s divine nature.
Once the existing crowd and the newcomers determined that Yeshua had probably gone to His home town by some other way, they all took their boats to Capernaum seeking Him out.
It’s important to remember that many of these were pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for Pesach (Likewise, as was His custom, Yeshua too would have attended Pesach in Jerusalem following these events). These pilgrims were sufficiently awed by Yeshua’s sign so as to delay their journey to Jerusalem in order to find out more about Him.
We note once more that they were seeking Salvation (Yeshua) in the village of comfort (K’far Nachum).
25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, lake (thalassa[G], ha-yam[H]) they said to Him, “Rabbi (lit. My Great One; Religious Teacher), when did You get here?” 26 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) answered them and said, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say (Aniy omeir[H]) to you all (lachem[H] PL), you seek Me, not because you saw the signs (semeion[G], ha otot[H]), but because you ate of the loaves (ho artos[G], ha lechem[H]) and were satisfied, filled (chortazo[G]).
The crowd found Yeshua in Capernaum (John 6:59). Calling Him “Rabbi” showed some degree of respect on the part of the crowd. The crowd ask “when” not “how”, the knowledge of “how” is at this time kept by the disciples.
Yeshua does not even bother to answer their question. As is His custom He gets to the heart of the matter, that being their lack of faith and their misinterpretation of the events unfolding.
Note that Yeshua refers to “signs” plural. Those seeking Him have witnessed numerous signs in addition to the most recent one.
Yeshua now makes a statement that is firmly established by the double “Amen”. He is essentially saying, “You’re interested in me for carnal (physical) earth born reasons, the satiating of physical hunger etc. You have misunderstood the signs that God has given through Me to point to His redemptive purpose and present coming Kingdom, and instead of seeking God you are seeking to fill the desires of your flesh (fallen humanity).”
27 Do not work for the food (ho brosis[G], achal[H], makultha[A]) which perishes, is destroyed, dies (apollumi[G]), but for the food (ho brosis[G], achal[H], makultha[A]) which endures, remains, abides (meno[G]) to life unending (zoe aionios[G], le’chayeiy olam[H]), which the Son of the Man (ho huios ho anthropos[G], ben ha-adam[H]) will give to you, for on/in Him the Father (ho Pater[G], ha Av[H]), the God (ho Theos[G], ha-Elohiym[H]), has set His seal (sphragizo[G]).”
This is pretext for the discussion regarding Moses and the Manna from the heavens.
It is likely that the Aramaic text uses the word “makultha” meaning food or nourishment, as a wordplay linking the Aramaic word for kingdom “malkutha” to the message of the text. In other words, as a drash (comparative teaching) we could read, “Do not work for the kingdom which perishes (olam hazeh: this present world), but for the Kingdom that endures forever (Olam haba: World to come)…”
The Hebrew “chotam” meaning seal, sign, endorse is consistent with the Greek “sphragizo” used in the past tense to mean “has sealed, set a seal upon, made a private signet mark, preserved etc”. A seal is set to keep something hidden until those it has been sent to are ready to receive it and open it. Therefore, Yeshua is the message and God’s Kingly seal is upon Him so that He alone can open Himself and give the salvation He carries to His people.
It is as if the people are beholding the sealed scroll but are unable to open it because in order to open it one must first be seeking God and His Kingdom rather than the fallen kingdom of humanity. In fact, Yeshua is the only One worthy to open the seal that God has placed upon Him (Rev. 5:1-6:2).
28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, make (poieo[G], ba’aseh[H]), so that we may be working, trading in, performing (ergazomai[G], lif’ol[H]) the works, tasks, deeds (ergon[G], p’ulot[H]) of the God (ho Theos[G], ha Elohiym[H])?” 29 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) answered and said to them, “This is the work, task, deed (ergon[G]), p’ulat[H]) of the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), that you continue to believe, trust, have faith (pisteuo[G], ta’amiynu[H]) in Him whom He has sent (apostello[G], shelachu[H]).”
“Therefore” Because Yeshua had offered eternal life above and beyond the miraculous sign they had witnessed of Him. And, because they had some sense of Yeshua’s authority based on His signs and words.
“What shall we do, make, so that we may be working, trading in, performing the works, tasks, deeds of the God?” The question shows that they have not understood Yeshua at all. Yeshua is offering redemption, relationship, eternal life, the strength of God at work in them, a gift to be received, but the people are looking for something they can build, accomplish, achieve in their own strength in order to make them right with God. Their focus is on “doing” rather than “being”. They say, “What shall we do, so that we can accomplish the works of God” and Yeshua completely reverses their question and defeats their paradigm with a very simple and eternally profound instruction:
“The works of God are this, that you continue to believe in Him Whom He has sent”. In short, “Be in Me, don’t do for Me. Your doing must come from Me.” Objects are for use, persons are for relationship. Many fall from the faith because they do not understand this simple truth. Many more retain faith but become burned out and unfruitful because they don’t understand this simple truth.
Yeshua is pointing His hearers back to the Torah and the Word (ha-Davar: John 1:1) of God spoken to their forebears through Moses:
“For near to you all is Ha-Davar (The Word), meod, very much so, in your mouth, and in your inner being, so that you might accomplish, do, act accordingly.” -D’variym (Words) Deuteronomy 30:14
Notice that The Word is offered to the inner person and that it is from the strength of The Word in each one that each one works, accomplishes, acts. Yeshua is Ha-Davar, the Word, Essence, Substance of God, with us.
It is interesting to note that by summing up the 613 commandments of the Torah with this one phrase “the just shall live by his faith” (Hab.2:4), the Talmud agrees with Yeshua’s assertion that to have faith is the work of God (Talmud Bavliy Makkot, fol. 23. 2. & 24. 1.).
30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do (poieo[G], ta’aseh[H]) for the sign (semeion[G], ha ot[H]), so that we may see, and believe (pisteuo[G], na’amiyn[H]) You? What work (tif’al[H], ergazomai[G]) do You perform? 31 Our fathers (ho pater[G], avoteiynu[H]), ate (achlu[H]) the manna (What is it? ha-man[H]) in the wilderness (bamidbar[H]); as it is written (kakatuv[H]), ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat (lechem min-hashamayim natan-lamo le’echol).’”
Almost as if they had not listened at all they demand that Yeshua “do” something to prove His identity. In spite of the fact that they have already witnessed Him perform many signs. The signs being directive and for their benefit. Yeshua need not prove His identity, to the contrary, it is they who need to consider their own identity and return to God.
As proof of their corporate tribal pride the people site the sign of the manna given to their forbears by the hand of Moses. As if to say, “Moses provided bread for hundreds of thousands, You provided bread for only five thousand men (28,000 people).
‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’ Exodus 16:4, 15; Num. 11:8; Psalm 78:24; 105:40 etc.
However, Yeshua disagrees with their exegesis. Ultimately, God is the “He” of the text.
32 Yeshua[H] [A] (Iesous[G] YHVH Saves) then said (lego[G], vayomeir[H]) to them, ““Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say (Aniy omeir[H]) to you all (lachem[H] PL), it is not Moshe[H] (Moses, Drawn out) who has given (notein[H]) you the bread (ho artos[G], ha-lechem[H]), out of the heavens (ouranos[G], ha-shamayim[H]), but it is My Father (ho Pater ego[G], Aviy[H]), Who gives you the bread (ho artos[G], ha-lechem[H]) out of the heavens (ouranos[G], ha-shamayim[H]) that is true (alethinos[G], ha’amitiy[H]).
Once again the double “Amen” denotes established truth. Yeshua explains that Moses was the mediator but that the bread (manna) from the heavens was “From the heavens” from God and not from Moses. Nor did Moses merit it.
Yeshua’s teaching is in direct opposition to the teaching of our rabbis on this subject:
מן בזכות משה, "the manna, by the merits of Moses".'' -Talmud. Bavliy. Taanit, fol. 9. 1. Seder Olam Rabba, p. 28.
33 For the bread (lechem[H]) of God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) is Him (hu[H]) Who comes down (hayoreid[H]) out of the heavens (ouranos[G], ha-shamayim[H]), and gives (notein[H]) living (zoe[G], chayiym[H]) to the world (kosmos[G], laolam[H]).”
Yeshua identifies Himself as the “bread of God” Who has “come down from the heavens” and “gives living to the world”. Not the temporal bread for the physical body, bread that will perish fed to a body that will perish, but the living and everlasting bread of Yeshua’s transcendent resurrected body, His life essence, His nature, His character, the very substance of God. This He offers continually to a spiritually starving Israel and also subsequently to the nations.
The sign Yeshua gives them is the sign of the manna (bread of the heavens), that sign being Himself.
© 2020 Yaakov Brown
HaShem is not like the comforters of Job who made demands but offered no assistance, to the contrary, when HaShem says “Stand up!” He means, “Respond to my loving arm, and I will lift you up. Embrace My strength, and choose to stand in it. You are no longer a victim, in Me, and through My Messiah, you have overcome!”
This portion of the scroll of Isaiah focuses on HaShem’s comfort of His people. The prophet alludes to future deliverance through the redemptive strength of HaShem’s mighty arm, and reveals the counterpoint to Israel’s suffering at the drinking of God’s wrath. Ultimately it will be Israel’s captors who drink the cup of God’s wrath.
Isa 51:1 Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to me, you who rodefeiy pursue, chase after tzedek righteousness, you mevaksheiy that seek from HaShem (YHVH : Mercy): look to tzur a rock chutzavtem from which you were hewn (cut), and to the excavation from which you were dug.
“Hearken to my Word, ye that follow after truth, who seek instruction from the Lord; consider that ye were cut out like a stone hewn from a rock, that ye were cut out like a mass hewn out of a hollow cistern.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This is either Isaiah or the Servant speaking (Ultimately all Biblical prophecy is God breathed). The call to listen, hear and obey is firmly established in the first seven verses, where the opening word “Shimu” (Hear you [plural]) is used three times.
This call to pay attention and listen carefully is specific to that remnant among the captives of Israel who diligently pursue right action and seek God wholeheartedly.
“Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” -Romans 11:2b-5 (TLV) [1 Kings 19:10-14]
The “remnant” is alluded to frequently throughout the scroll of Isaiah (Isa.10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 17:3; 28:5; 37:4, 31, 32; 46:3). The prophet makes a clear distinction between the righteous among ethnic Israel and the unrighteous. Both are ethnic Israel but only the former are truly Jews inwardly. This is why the shaliach (apostle) Shaul (Paul) writes:
“For not all those who are descended from Israel are Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s seed; rather, “Your seed shall be called through Isaac.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God; rather, the children of the promise are counted as seed.” -Romans 9:6b-8
He is not inferring (as some foolishly suggest) that there is such a thing as a spiritual (non-ethnic, non-religious, non-empirical) Jew, nor is Paul saying that gentiles who believe are Israel, rather, as the context clearly shows, he is making a distinction between the Jew that has faith in Messiah and the Jew that does not. Both are Jews, ethnic, religious, empirical. One is part of the redeemed remnant, the other is not.
For obvious reasons the faithful among the captives of Israel need comforting. Thus, HaShem comforts them with the imagery of being hewn from solid rock and dug from a dry cistern. While the rock (tzur) refers ultimately to The Rock of Israel HaShem, in the context of this passage (see next verse) it more specifically refers to Abraham (the father of faith) and the cistern refers to Sarah, whose womb produced Isaac, from whom came Jacob (Israel) ethnic, religious, empirical.
Iben Ezra infers that “the Rock” which Israel’s righteous remnant are to look to is that of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, from which the Torah came through Moses. This is consistent with the other interpretations of the rock, and connects the opening verse of this chapter to verse 7 where the Torah is said to be known to the righteous among Israel, even in their core being (Lev).
Isa 51:2 Look to Avraham (Father of a great number of people) aviychem your father, and unto Sarah (Noblewoman) who carried you in her womb; for when he was but echad one I called him, va’avarecheihu and I blessed him, ve’arbeihu and he became great (many).
“Consider Abraham your father, and Sarah who conceived you: for Abraham was one alone in the world, and I brought him to my service, I also blessed him, and multiplied him.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This is an admonition to remember that God took the singular man Abraham and made him the father of many nations and in particular, the father of Isaac and Jacob, who became the people Israel. If God could cause the impregnation of Sarah, a barren elderly woman by an elderly man (Abraham), He can also deliver the remnant among Israel’s afflicted captive children.
“So from one—and him as good as dead—were fathered offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and as uncountable as the sand on the seashore.” -Hebrews 11:12 (TLV)
The righteous remnant are also being asked to remember the character of each of their forebears. Abraham, whose faith was so simple and so powerful that he became the father of all who believe by faith (Galatians 3:6-8), and Sarah, who fiercely guarded the inheritance of her son Isaac from the illegitimate son Ishmael. The remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) are to have the faith of Abraham, and to fiercely guard Israel’s position as heir to the promises of God.
Isa 51:3 Kiy Because HaShem (YHVH : Mercy) has nicham, consoled, comforted Tziyon (Zion: parched land); He has nicham, consoled, comforted all her waste places, and has made midbarah her wilderness ke’eiden like Eden (delight), ve’arvatah and her desert ke’gan-HaShem (YHVH) like the garden of Adonay; sason gladness vsimchah and joy will be found her, thanksgiving, ve’kol and the voice zimrah of melody, music, song.
The past tense “has comforted” is spoken into Israel’s captive present in order to affirm to her that God has already delivered and comforted her in the established prophetic future. Thus, what follows has already been established outside of the boundaries of time and space. God sees her delivered and her desolation replaced by fruitful abundance and joy.
Notice that Zion means parched land. This denotes the absence of water, a symbol of the living presence of God, Whose Messiah is Mayim Chayim living waters. Thus, Israel is in need of the Servant King Messiah and the redemptive, restoring waters of living poured out by HaShem. Therefore, the poetic couplets follow:
These are both practical physical future realities and redemptive spiritual allegories. They are followed by:
Therefore, our delivered state of gladness is one of thanksgiving, and our redeemed state of joy produces singing.
“Joy and gladness shall be found therein, they that offer thanksgiving, and the voice of them that praise.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The imagery shows a need lashuv (to return) to the sinless state of Eden, the Lord’s garden. This is consistent with the metanarrative of Scripture regarding God’s redemptive purpose for all humanity.
Isa 51:4 Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to Me, amiy My people; uleumiy and My nation, eilay to Me give ear: kiy for Torah (Instruction) mei’itiy from Me teitzei will proceed, umishpatiy and My judgement, leor for a light amiym to peoples (tribes, ethnicities) argiya will happen in an instant, will be rest, I will establish.
“Listen to my Word, my people, and give ear, my congregation, to my service; for the law shall go forth from me, and my judgment like a light; the nations which, I led into captivity shall praise it.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The Targum poses an interesting counterpoint to Israel’s captivity, alluding to the leading into captivity of the nations. In other words, like Israel, any among the nations who wish to receive the light of HaShem, will be required to look upon it from a position of captivity and praise the light of Hashem.
This is HaShem speaking (“The first person in this verse refers to God”-Iben Ezra). Isaiah does not qualify, nor any mere man for that matter: Torah proceeds from God alone, as does judgement and divine light.
Notice, “My people and My nation”. HaShem is declaring his connection to both the tribe of Judah and the nation of Israel as a unified entity.
Some Christian commentators unnecessarily pose a false choice concerning the interpretation of Torah in this verse. The Hebrew can be understood as either “Torah” or “A Torah”, both are acceptable translations. However, some commentators claim that the present text can only refer to the message of the Gospel and does not refer to the Law of Moses. Ironically Iben Ezra follows similar thinking, saying “A law. The word of the Lord spoken by the prophet (Isaiah)”.
None the less, this is a needless debate, after all, Yeshua is the Author of the Torah (Law of Moses) and the goal of it. Thus, the Torah in question is both the Torah of Sinai and the living Torah of Messiah. In fact, unless we recognise the Torah of Sinai, we have no grounds for the “Judgement” that follows, which relies on the Law of Moses, in order to bring a just indictment against the wicked.
In fact the former words of Isaiah affirm the dual interpretation:
“Then many peoples will go and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of Adonai,
to the House of the God of Jacob!
Then He will teach us His ways,
and we will walk in His paths.”
For Torah will go forth from Zion
and the word of Adonai from Jerusalem.” -Isaiah 2:3 (TLV)
Furthermore, Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle) qualifies the Torah (Law) written on the hearts of gentiles by using the Torah of Moses as its reference point. Thus, affirming that there is an intrinsic connection between the two (Romans 2:14-15).
Notice that the Torah and judgement that proceed from Hashem (through His Servant Messiah) will be a light for many tribes (ethnicities, not nations), and will happen in an instant, catching them by surprise, but also establishing rest. The Hebrew argiya translated “suddenly” or “in an instant” also means “rest, quiet, repose etc”. It comes from the root rega, which in modern usage is used to say “one moment” or “wait a minute”. There is a sense here that the sudden redemption being spoken of, though it will be unexpected by many, must none the less be waited on by the remnant, and will result in rest, a quiet repose.
Isa 51:5 Karov tzidkiy My righteousness is near, yatza yishiy My salvation is gone forth, u’zeroay and My arms amiym yishpotu will judge peoples (tribes, ethnicities); eilay for Me iyiym the islands, coastlands (Mediterranean) yekavu will wait, look for, hope in, expect, ve’el-zeroiy and on My arm they will yeyacheiliun wait, hope, expect.
“My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and the nations shall be judged by the strength of the arm of my might; the isles shall hope for my Word, and they shall wait for the strength of the arm of my might.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
In the previous verse Torah went forth from HaShem (In the form of His Mashiach) and judgement (That is the judgement that the Torah afforded) became a light to the peoples (amiym). In the present verse God (or the Mashiach’s) righteousness is near as a result of Torah and salvation precedes judgement so that those among the peoples (amiym: tribes) of the earth who have waited on, and placed their hope in Hashem, will see the arm (strength of His redemptive work), and expect the promised outworking of it.
We notice that the Targum makes the “Word” of God synonymous with the “Arm” of God in this verse. Thus, we see an intrinsic link between the Living Word our Messiah and the attribute of strength.
Isa 51:6 Lift up your eyes lashamayim to the heavens, and look to ha-aretz the earth (land) beneath; kiy-shamayim for the heavens ke’ashan like smoke nimlachu will dissipate, tear away, ve’ha-aretz and the earth (land) will kabeged tivleh wear out like a garment; and they that dwell therein yemutum will die in like manner: viyshustiy but My salvation le’olam for ever tihyeh will come to pass, ve’tzidaktiy and My righteousness will lo not techat be abolished, shattered, dismayed, broken, afraid.
Simply put, “This sin (death) affected world will pass away, and those who dwell in it will die, but My salvation is forever and My righteousness immutable.”
The Lord’s Salvation (Yeshua) will bear eternal fruit, and HaShem’s righteousness is immutable, His character and attributes never change.
“looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. In that day the heavens will be dissolved by fire, and the elements will melt in the intense heat.” -2 Peter 3:12 (TLV)
“And once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” -Hebrews 5:9 (TLV)
Speaking of the words of His Gospel message of salvation, Yeshua said:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” -Matthew 24:35 (TLV)
Isa 51:7 Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to Me, yode’eiy you that know tzedek righteousness, am a people toratiy ve’libam in whose core being (heart) is My Torah (Instruction); tireu fear you not the reproach of enosh men, neither be you umigidufoam al-teichatu afraid, shattered, broken, at their reviling words (abusive rhetoric, accusatory slander etc).
This is the third time in this chapter that a section begins with the phrase “Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to Me”. In the opening verse (51:1) HaShem is spoken of in the third person, thus, it seems likely that either Isaiah or the Servant is the speaker. However, in the two subsequent sections, the words “Listen to Me” are clearly spoken by Hashem Himself.
HaShem is reminding the faithful remnant among His people, that they know what it means to walk in righteousness and that He has placed His Torah in the hearts of a people (Israel). He further reminds the discouraged faithful remnant, that the abuse and insults and political or theological rhetoric spoken against them is not worthy of fear. The fear of HaShem is an end to fear!
“No longer will each teach his neighbour
or each his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai,’
for they will all know Me,
from the least of them to the greatest.”
it is a declaration of Adonai.
“For I will forgive their iniquity,
their sin I will remember no more.” -Jeremiah 31:33 (TLV)
Isa 51:8 Kiy chabeged Like a garment yochlem ash a moth will eat them up, and like wool, yochlem sas a worm will eat them; vetzidkatiy but My righteousness will be le’olam for ever, viyshuatiy and My salvation ledor doriym from generation to generations.
Those who persecute God’s elect remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), will perish, eaten away slowly, like a moth eating a wool garment. They will be eaten by the worms, an image associated with Gehenna (Mark 9:48). On the other hand, those redeemed and made righteous in the Salvation of Hashem, will dwell forever, from generation to generations in this world and in the Olam Haba (World to Come), life everlasting. The Olam Haba is hinted at by the plural form doriym (generations; or, a perpetually intense generation [eternal]). To say generation to generation (singular) the text would be “ledor ve’dor”, using the singular in both instances of the word “dor”. This is not the case in the present text.
Isa 51:9 Uriy uriy, An awaking (a laying bare, an eye opening, a rousing, an exposing) of Me, an awaking of Me, livshiy-oz put on strength, zeroa arm, shoulder, strength of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy); uriy, an awaking (a laying bare, an eye opening, a rousing, an exposing) of Me, kiymeiy for like days kedem ancient, dorot olamiym the generations of old. For was it not You (God) Who cut Rahab (storm, arrogance, mythical sea beast, Egypt fig.) in pieces, You who mecholelet pierced, defiled, profaned Taniyn the serpent, dragon?
“Reveal thyself, reveal thyself, put on the strength of might from the Lord; reveal thyself as in the days of old, in the generations which were at the beginning: was it not for thy sake, congregation of Israel, that I broke the mighty, that I destroyed Pharaoh and his host, who were strong as a dragon?” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This is an awakening from God, an exposing, and a laying bare of the faithful remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical). A reminder that Hashem has given them His strength. Thus, “Put on strength….the arm of HaShem…” that is, God’s might and deliverance. In reality the arm of God is the very work of the Messiah (The Servant).
Perhaps the afflicted and disillusioned remnant had allowed their turmoil to cloud their memory of God’s past faithfulness to Israel. Therefore, HaShem reminds them of His delivering them from Rahab (a figure representing Egypt ref. Isa. 30:7). Mitzrayim (Egypt) means “Double distress”. God had delivered Israel from double distress and bondage in the past and He will do it again.
In the later part of verse 9 Isaiah (or the Servant) says, “Was it not you Hashem, Who cut Rahab in pieces and pierced the serpent?” This rhetorical question alludes to the deliverance from Egypt (Rahab) and the Pharaoh (Serpent/Dragon) [Ezekiel 29:3]. It may also be seen to represent the deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Rahab) and from the plague of the serpents, suffered by Israel in the wilderness as a result of her disobedience. However, in addition to these historical examples of deliverance, it is also possible to interpret these symbolic entities as a figurative representation of the deliverance from bondage to sin (Egypt) and the defeat of the ancient Serpent (Satan). Both these forms of redemption are made possible by the Servant King Messiah and His substitutionary sacrifice, His death and resurrection, in the power of HaShem.
Isa 51:10 Is it not You that dried up yam the sea, the meiy waters of the great deep; You Who turned the depths of the yam sea into derekh a way la’avor geuliym for the redeemed to pass over?
The prophet, or the Servant, acknowledge that it is HaShem Who created the inhabitable land of the earth, collecting the waters together to form an area of dry ground (Genesis 1:9), and made the Red Sea crossing possible by pulling back the ocean and leaving a dry path through which Israel crossed over (Exodus 14:21). Additionally, the same mighty arm of God that created the inhabitable land and parted the Red Sea will also dry up the Euphrates river in the latter days as part of the plagues He will bring against the enemies of God and of Israel (Rev. 16:12).
Isa 51:11 Ufeduyeiy And the ransomed of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yeshuvun will return, and come to Tziyon (Zion, parched land) berinah in crying out; vesimchat and joy olam everlasting will be al upon rosham their heads: sason vesimchah yasiygun they will obtain gladness and joy; nasu yagon va’anachah and sorrow and mourning will flee away.
“Thus the redeemed of the Lord shall be gathered together out of their captivity, and come to Zion with singing; and everlasting joy shall be theirs, which shall not cease: and a cloud of glory shall shadow over their heads; they shall find joy and gladness, and there shall be an end of sorrow and sighing for the house of Israel.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
These words elevate the deliverance of God beyond Israel’s freedom from Babylonian captivity to a yet future point in history when God will deliver Israel from all her enemies and from the ultimate consequence of sin, death. This is why the text speaks not of temporal joy but of everlasting joy, not of relief from sorrow but the complete removal of sorrow.
“He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.” -Isaiah 25:8 (NIV)
Isa 51:12 Anochiy I, anochiy even I, am He Who menachem’chem comforts you (plural): miy-at who are you, vatireiy that you should be afraid me’enush of man who yamut will die, umiben-adam and of the son of man that will be made as grass;
Isa 51:13 vatishkach and have you forgotten Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) asecha your Maker, Who stretched forth shamayim the heavens, and laid the foundations of the aretz earth (land); and you fear tamiyd continually kol-hayom all the day mipeneiy from faces chamat of the fury of ha-metziyk the oppressor, when he makes ready to destroy? Veayeih and where is the chamat fury of ha-metziyk the oppressor?
The pronoun “I” cannot refer to the prophet Isaiah as some suggest. Isaiah has the words of Hashem’s comfort but the prophet is not the Comforter of Israel. To say so is to blaspheme. God alone (God with us the Messiah) is the Comforter of Israel’s remnant. In fact, our ancient rabbis consider the word Menachiym (Comforter) to be a title of the King Messiah.
The message here is an affirmation of the truth that the fear of God is an end to fear. Those who faithfully serve Him need not fear the insults and persecutions of human beings because all human beings meet their end as a result of sin. On the other hand, God is without beginning or end and His reward is everlasting.
Isa 51:14 Mihar Hurry the tzoeh exiled one lehipateach to be loosed; velo-yamut and he will not die lashachat in the pit, velo and neither will yechsar he lack lachmo bread.
The prophet inspires hope with the promise that the freedom of the Babylonian exiles will soon come about and they will not die in the pits of their imprisonment. This is an equally powerful figurative message for those trapped in sin: for the Servant King Messiah is near to all those who genuinely seek Him, and is always ready to speedily deliver those who in repentance turn to God through Him.
Isa 51:15 Ve’anochiy For I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Eloheycha your God (Judge), who roga instantly stirred up ha-yam the sea, so that the waves roared: HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) tzevaot Who goes warring (of heavens armies) is His Name.
This is a reminder that Israel’s God is the only God and the Creator Who is in control of all things. When He speaks, by metathesis, the creation responds. One is reminded of the Messiah’s actions on the Yam Kinneret (the Lake of Galilee):
“37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Yeshua was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The talmidim woke him and said to him, ‘Instructor, don’t you care if we drown?’ 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Sheket! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to His talmidim, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” -Mark 4:37-41 (Matt. 8:26)
This may also be another reminder of the miracle of the Red sea (Psalm 106:9), and a figurative reminder that God silences both the seas and those who raise a tumult of accusation against His people (Psalm 65:7).
Isa 51:16 And I have put My devariy words in your mouth, u’vetzeil and shaded you in yadiy My hand, kisiytiycha concealing, covering, hiding you, in order to plant the shamayim heavens, veliysod and establish the foundations of aretz earth (land), and say leTziyon to Zion (parched land), You are My people.
“21 ‘As for Me, this is My covenant with them,’ says Adonai: ‘My Ruach who is on you,[a] and My words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, or from the mouth of your offspring, or from the mouth of your children’s offspring,’ says Adonai, ‘from now on and forever.’” -Isaiah 59:21 (TLV)
The Words of God have been placed in the mouth of both the prophet and the faithful remnant of Israel. These Words (Devariym) proceed from HaShem’s Word (Davar), Who is Yeshua, Ha-Davar Emet (The Word of Truth) [John 1].
Verse 6 told of the passing away of the present created order (the heavens and the earth). Now the prophet alludes to a new planting of heavens and earth that will follow the covering and protection of God’s people Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical). Following all this the world will know (Including those parts of the Christian Church who make claims to the contrary) that Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) remain God’s chosen people.
Isa 51:17 Hitoriy hitoriy An awaking (laying bare, eye opening, exposing) from Me, an awaking from Me, kumi stand up, arise Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, outpouring of peace) who has shatiyt drunk miyad from the hand of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) et-cos the cup of chamato His fury; et-kuba’at the dregs of a cos cup ha-tareilah of the staggering you have drunk, matziyt and drained it.
The need for an awakening, a laying bare, an exposing of things by God is affirmed here. The first call to awaken was directed at all of Israel’s remnant, now the call is made specifically to Jerusalem, the city where God desires to pour out His peace, wholeness, protection and well-being. For years she has laboured under the cup of God’s fury because of her rejection of Him and His loving Instruction (Torah). Now however, Hashem calls her to awaken from her sinful slumber and affliction and stand up. He is not like the comforters of Job who made demands but offered no assistance, to the contrary, when HaShem says “Stand up!” He means, “Respond to my loving arm, and I will lift you up. Embrace My strength, and choose to stand in it. You are no longer a victim, in Me, and through My Messiah, you have overcome!”
“31 What then shall we say in view of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? It is Messiah, who died, and moreover was raised, and is now at the right hand of God and who also intercedes for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.” -Romans 8:31-39 (TLV)
Some ask, “Why does Hashem discipline His children so harshly, and why does He address their sin first rather than the sin of their enemies?”
“29 See, I am beginning to bring evil on the city where My name is called, and should you go completely unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth.” It is a declaration of Adonai-Tzva’ot.” -Jeremiah 25:29 (TLV)
“Hear this word that Adonai has spoken against you, Bnei Yisrael, against the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
2 “Only you have I known from among
all the families of the earth.
Therefore, I will punish you
for all your iniquities.” -Amos 3:1-2 (TLV)
“For the time has come for judgment to begin with the house of God.[a] If judgment begins with us first, what will be the end for those who disobey the Good News of God?” -1 Peter 4:17 (TLV)
Only a hypocrite disciplines the children of others after having failed to discipline of His own children. God is no hypocrite!
Isa 51:18 Eiyn-menaheil There is none to guide, lead with care, give rest, lah to her mikol-baniym among all the sons (children) whom she has yaladah brought forth; ve’eiyn and none that take her beyadah by the hand mikol-baniym among all the sons (children) gideilah that she has brought up, made great.
Iben Ezra notes that Israel had no king or judge to be guided by at the time of her captivity in Babylon.
In truth, “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Eccl. 7:20).
“15 Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” -Isaiah 59:15-17 (NIV)
Isa 51:19 Shetayim heinah These two things are befallen you, miy yanud who will have compassion lach on you? Hashod desolation, havoc, violence ve’hashever and crushing, breaking, ruin, ve’hara’av and the famine, hunger ve’hacherev and the sword; miy by whom anachameich will I comfort you?
The two things befallen Israel are the affliction from the hand of God via her enemies and the lack of help or comfort within her own ranks. These are the two things previously mentioned in verses 17 and 18. The cup of God’s wrath (v.17) and the lack of guidance (v.18).
Alternatively, the two things concern that which follows, the famine and the sword. However, this seems unlikely given that four things follow: desolation, destruction, famine and sword. Thus, the Targum correctly understands that the former two things give way to four things:
“Two tribulations have come upon thee, Jerusalem, thou art not able to arise; when four shall come upon thee, spoiling, and destruction, and famine, and sword, there shall be none to comfort thee beside me.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isa 51:20 Banayich Your sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as an keto antelope michmar in a snare; they are filled with the wrath of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), ga’arat the rebuke of elohayich your God (Judge).
The sons of Israel’s remnant have no strength to save her because they are reeling from the discipline of Hashem’s wrath against Israel’s sin. The debate over whether the text refers to an ox, an antelope or a bird is moot. If the Hebrew michmar is rendered as snare, then either ox or antelope are acceptable, whereas, if the Hebrew michmar is rendered net (Iben Ezra), then to interpret “bird” is also plausible, although not consistent with the Hebrew to (wild ox, antelope, oryx). The imagery offers the same figurative meaning regardless: Israel’s strong young men are unable to save her because they are bound and weak, caught in the snare laid by their enemies as a result of God’s disciplining of them.
Isa 51:21 Therefore shimiy-na hear Me please, zot you aniyah afflicted, and drunk, but not with wine:
HaShem’s constant Mercy is seen again, offering a conciliatory word to the despondent remnant of Israel. “Please listen, you afflicted and drunk (on the cup of wrath)…”
Isa 51:22 Thus says Adonayich your Lord (Master) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), veilohayich and your God (Judge) Who yariyv contends amo for His people, Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, lakachtiy I have taken miyadeich from your hand et-cos the cup of hatareilah staggering, et-kuba’at the dregs of cos a cup of chamatiy My fury; you lo tosiyfiy will no more (never) drink it od again, (going round perpetually):
This is what Israel’s God says to Israel. HaShem calls Himself “The Master, Your Mercy, your Judge, Who contends for His people (Israel: ethnic, religious, empirical). Now pay attention, I have taken the cup of My wrath from out of your hand, you will never drink it again!” This is a promise of the future redemption of the entire nation (remnant) of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) [Romans 11:25-26]. In an immediate historical prophetic sense it applies to the freeing of Israel from Babylonian captivity, however, this cannot be its ultimate prophetic meaning or its plain meaning, why? Because the text reads, “My fury you will never drink again”. We know that Israel has been disciplined since: we also know that there is a time coming when having received our King Messiah Yeshua as an entire remnant nation, we will never again drink the cup of God’s wrath.
Isa 51:23 and I will put it beyad-mogayich in the hand of them that afflict you, who have said lenafsheich to your soul, “Bow down, that we may trample you (go over)”; and you had laid your back out as the ground, vechachutz and as the street, to those who trampled you (go over).
Not only did God put the cup of His wrath in the hands of the Babylonians historically speaking, He also has and will place the cup of His wrath in the hands of Confusion Himself (Bavel, Ha-Satan), and in the hands of all who reject God’s love and pursue the course of the father of lies (Ha-Satan, the Devil). As is seen from the context of the present passage, those who receive this cup are also the enemies of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), which means that any within the modern Church community who hold to a theology that rejects God’s continued plan for His chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), are placing themselves in one of two positions: that of severe discipline and a need for repentance, or, that of perpetual condemnation without recourse.
As the text says, those who have walked over the backs of the Jewish people, trampling us and subjugating us throughout history, will receive the cup of God’s wrath.
The imagery used here is more than just figurative, it is literally the way the historical empires of Assyria and Babylon treated their captives. Where is Babylon today? Where is Assyria today? Though they no longer exist as empires, Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live! This in and of itself testifies to the faithfulness of HaShem YHVH, El Elohay Yisrael (God the God of Israel).
Copyright 2019 Yaakov Brown
The comfort of the revelation of fearless existence follows the poetic description of the choosing, conceiving and forming of the people of Israel. We do well to remember that these words apply to Israel as a nation, and while there is a spiritual principle here that can be applied to every believer, it is only so based on the plain application to the nation of Israel, ethnic, religious, chosen.
Isa 44:1 And now shema hear, listen, receive, understand, Yaakov (follower, Jacob) avdiy My servant; and Yisrael (overcome in God, Israel), whom I have chosen:
This chapter begins with the familiar refrain identifying Israel’s journey from inception to service and culminating in her chosen identity. Following the explanation of Israel’s terrible plight in the previous chapter the prophet now conveys a message of unsurpassed blessing. Therefore, “Listen carefully Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen”.
Isa 44:2 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Who osecha (from asah) fashioned you, ve’yotzer and formed (framed, bound together) you from the womb, who will help you; “Al tiyra No fear, Yaakov (follower, Jacob), avdiy My servant; and you, Yeshurun (upright, lawful, smooth, integrity), whom barchatiy I have chosen (elected, decided for).
The comfort of the revelation of fearless existence follows the poetic description of the choosing, conceiving and forming of the people of Israel. We do well to remember that these words apply to Israel as a nation, and while there is a spiritual principal here that can be applied to every believer, it is only so based on the plain application to the nation of Israel, ethnic, religious, chosen.
God is revealed as “Mercy, Helper, Creator, Artisan” and the One through Whom Israel is called Yeshurun “Upright One”.
The title Yeshurun is used elsewhere only three times (Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26). The first of the three other instances, like the present example, places the “Upright One” in a state of unrighteousness. The second reference alludes to Moses as king in Yeshurun and the third proclaims the uniqueness of the God of Yeshurun, Who has no equal. Collecting these four occurrences of the name Yeshurun, we’re able to conclude that her uprightness is the state in which God sees her complete outside of circumstance and through His redemptive work. She is not upright of her own accord, nor have her actions made her that way, to the contrary, it is because God has chosen her that He has made certain of her redemption. This is the very essence of the Gospel of our King Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 44:3 For I will pour mayim water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour ruachiy My Spirit upon your seed (progeny, offspring), u’virchatiy and My blessing upon your offspring:
The poetic form of repetition connects the figure of water poured onto dry ground to the Spirit of God poured out upon the seed of Israel. Both the water and the Spirit bear the fruit of blessing, physical and spiritual.
The Hebrew mayim even in its singular form, denotes an intensity found in plural use. Therefore, water carries the sense of waters.
The water is first poured out upon the thirsty, this with the purpose of satisfying the thirst of the desperately repentant. Subsequently the water floods the dry ground, something that results in sweeping away the transient layer of top soil. To this day in Israel’s desert region, when there is a torrential rainfall, flooding and mudslides cause great damage in the Negev and elsewhere, sometimes resulting in the deaths of residents and hikers caught in the deluge. Therefore, there is at least a sense in which the present verse reveals the Spirit of God as a double edged sword bringing deliverance and life to the repentant while sweeping away those who continue to wander from the truth.
“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water;” -Psalm 63:1
Isa 44:4 And they will spring up in the midst of grass, as willows in the water courses (streams, irrigation etc.)
The seed of Israel will spring up in the midst of a revived and green land, both literally and figuratively. Like the willows that grow in water ways with access to a constant supply of water, so too Israel’s progeny will grow immersed in the constant supply of God’s Spirit.
Isa 44:5 Zeh This one will yomar say, “to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) ani I am;” ve’zeh and this one will yikra call (proclaim) besheim-Yaakov in the name of Jacob (follower); and ve’zeh and this one will yichtov inscribe his hand to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), u’vesheim and in the name of Yisrael (Israel, overcome in God) ye’khaneh a (future) title (actionable identity).
Each of the titles alluded to in this verse are chosen by individuals from among the people of Israel to show the desire of each one to be identified as belonging to the God of Israel. Thus, this verse is revealing the fact that in the future Israel will return to God both individually and corporately, each one delighting in the uniqueness of a personal and national identity found only in the redemptive work of God through the Messiah.
“To HaShem I am.” In other words, “I belong to HaShem” or, “I belong to Mercy”. This is similar to the identifying mark on the forehead plate of the High Priest of Israel, Kadosh YHVH, “Holy unto HaShem” or, “Holy, set apart to Mercy”. Thus in some sense there is a connection to the priesthood of the nation of Israel.
“In the name of Jacob”. In other words, “I’m proud to be called a Jew” or, “I’m unashamed of the fact that I’m a follower of God”.
“Inscribe his hand to HaShem.” To inscribe one’s hand is to commit all action to that which is inscribed upon it. Thus, this is an act of devotion to God and to a life of service in His kingdom. This last identifier is followed by “In the name of Israel yet to be titled.” This is not a “surname” in the traditional English sense, rather the Hebrew prefix “ye” denotes something yet future and “Khaneh” refers to a title or secondary name. Therefore, it is an affirmation of Israel’s continued ethnic religious identity and a restating of her “overcoming in God”. Thus, her willingness to inscribe her actions to HaShem and her subsequent ministry as the servant of God will affirm her chosen status and reveal her completeness as Yeshurun, the beloved and upright one of God. Made upright through His redemptive work.
I have chosen to explain the so called “surname” in terms of “actionable identity”.
Isa 44:6 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Melekh-Yisrael the King of Israel, ve’goalo and his (kinsman) redeemer HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) tzeva’ot who goes warring (of hosts); “Ani I am rishon first, va’ani and I am acharon last (lasting); and beside me (without me) eiyn elohiym there is no god (there are no gods/judges).”
Corresponding to the titles adopted by Israel in verse 5 are the titles of HaShem in verse 6:
Verse 5 Verse 6
Belonging to Hashem Israel is subject to the King of Mercy. Jacob the follower finds redemption in a kinsman. Having been redeemed Israel is inscribed with freedom and Hashem goes to war for her. Israel chosen before creation by the One God, first and lasting.
Iben Ezra makes a correlation between Israel in the land and the title King of Israel: likewise he connects Israel’s exile with the title Redeemer.
Isa 44:7 And who, cha’moniy is like Me, who will call, and will declare it, and set it in order for Me, since I appointed am-olam a people forever (in worlds perpetual)? and the coming things, and that which will come, let them show.
“Am-olam (A people forever)” is applied elsewhere to those who have already gone on to Sheol (holding place of the departed). The epithet is evidence of the ancient Jewish understanding of the everlasting nature of the soul.
The God of Israel is like no other. The rhetorical questions posed expose the inability of the false gods and idols of Israel to accurately predict the future or establish Israel as a people.
Isa 44:8 “Al-tifchadu Don’t tremble (dread), ve’al-tirhu and don’t be afraid: have I not told you me’az from that time? and I have declared it! And you are certainly eidaiy My witnesses. Is there a god beside (without) Me? And, there is no tzur rock; I know not any.”
HaShem directs Israel to neither tremble or be afraid of that which He has foretold through His prophet Isaiah: the catastrophe coming on the nations at the hand of Cyrus. Thus, as Israel watches nation after nation crumble along with their deaf, dumb and incompetent idols, Israel is to rest in the knowledge that her God had foreseen and planned all these things (including her exile) for her ultimate benefit.
God reminds Israel that He has chosen her to bear witness of His redemptive wonders, and that He is her Rock (tzur: an immovable cliff face).
Isa 44:9 They that form an idol are all of them tohu formless; and their coveted things will not profit; and they are their own witnesses; don’t see, and don’t know; so that they may be ashamed. Isa 44:10 Who has formed el a god, or forged a graven image, which profits nothing?
Verses 9 through 20 explain the illogic and folly of idolatry.
We note that the opening phrase calls the idol maker “formless”. The verse goes on to explain that lusting after things (Something Rav Shaul called “the love of earthly wealth [mammon]”), bears no fruit. In counter distinction to Israel, who are chosen witnesses to God’s redemptive wonders, those who fashion idols and pursue worldly wealth are invalid witnesses because they testify to their own deeds. Added to this, they are blind and ignorant, giving eye witness accounts of what they can’t see and applying knowledge they haven’t learned. All this is allowed by God in order to bring them to a point of shame and repentance.
“For the love of worldly wealth is the root of all evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1Timothy 6:10
The first of the idols of verses 9-20 is forged. Subsequently hammered idols and wooden idols are also mentioned in order to cover the variety of idols created and worshipped by the surrounding nations.
Isa 44:11 Hein Now, behold, all chaveirav his companions will be ashamed: and the workmen, they are me’adam from humanity: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they will fear, and they will be ashamed together.
Fellow idol makers stand together and will likewise be ashamed of their futile work. Every idol maker described is a human being me’adam “from a man, from humanity”. They will fear and be ashamed together when they realize their error. The question remains, “Will they repent?”
Isa 44:12 The shaper with the axe both works in the coals, and fashions with hammers, and works with the strength of his arms: also, he gets hungry, and his strength fails: he drinks no water, and is faint.
This same ironical language is used in Jeremiah 10:3 to expose the futility of the human propensity for creating our own gods using created things and expending our energy to the point of exhaustion in order to complete something which will never complete us.
Isa 44:13 The cutter of eitziym trees stretches out his ruler; he marks out with a line; he fashions with planes, and he marks it out with the compass, and makes the figure of iysh a man, ke’tiferet according to the beauty, glory, adornment of adam humanity (a man); la’shevet to dwell in bayt a house.
Here the idol made of wood from the forest is made in the likeness of a man “iysh”, and the Hebrew “iysh” is connected to the Hebrew “eish” meaning “fire”. Thus, the irony of the same wood used to make the idol being burned in fire (v.15-16).
The second descriptor adam, meaning man or humanity, is thought by some to distinguish between iysh man and adam woman (human form). The Targum follows this understanding:
“according to the praise of a woman;'' -Targum Yonatan
Yarchi also understands the Hebrew text this way:
“this is a woman, who is the glory of her husband;''
If this is correct, both male and female idols are being alluded to in their distinct roles as symbolic governors of the land (male) and the home (female). Hence the Hebrew bayt (house) in reference to the adorned adam “dwelling in bayt”.
Isa 44:14 He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and is strengthened among the trees of the forest: he plants an ash, and the rain brings nourishment.
All the trees mentioned here are pleasant to look at and good for fuel but none bear fruit. Thus the spiritual truth that idolatry is fruitless, a self-defeating act that offers no progeny.
Isa 44:15 Then it becomes fuel for a man to burn: for he will take from them, and warm himself; he kindles it, and bakes bread; he makes el a god, and worships it; he fashions an idol, and prostrates before it.
The irony here goes beyond the simple lack of logic involved in worshipping something one uses for fuel. The wood born of creation is, like the human being himself, a created thing. This wood is created for the purpose of warming the human being and for use in food preparation, all this being a gift from the Creator. Therefore, having enjoyed the gift of warmth and sustenance from God, the human being chooses to worship the gift instead of the giver. Some today in the Christian Church do the same, so enamoured are they by miracles and manifestations, that they have begun to worship the gifts of God rather than the Giver.
Isa 44:16 Half saraph He burns b’mo in eish fire; al-chetzyo upon half basar flesh yocheil he eats; he roasts the roast, and is satisfied: indeed, he warms himself, and says, heach “Now aha, I am warm, I have seen Ur the light:”
“Ur” is light of the fire (also the name of the city from which Abraham came), not fire as in the burning flames but the light that emanates from it. It is spelled the same way as the uncreated light of the beginning “Or”. This is therefore, equivalent to the exclamation of epiphany made in colloquial English, “I have seen the light.” However, in this context the worshipper of an idol has not seen “The Light”, rather he has seen a false “light” that is born of darkness. Thus, he blasphemes the true “Light” by likening Him to the demonic light of the wood born idol.
Isa 44:17 And the remainder he makes a god, his graven image: he prostrates himself before it, and worships it, and prays to it, and says, “Deliver me; for you are eiliy my god.”
Here the idol is called an el “god”. Thus, while inanimate objects have no power of their own, none the less, spiritual entities are often associated with them and dwell near them in order to deceive and bind idolaters.
“And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,” -Psalm 106:36-37
“And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the demons, and for the calves which he had made.” -2 Chronicles 11:15
“What say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” -1 Corinthians 10:19-20
“The rest of humanity, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,” -Revelation 9:20
In the case of Israel, any one among the people of Israel who is asking a false god to “deliver” them is in direct opposition to the Deliverer of Israel, Hashem.
Isa 44:18 They have not yadeu known nor yaviynu discerned: for He has shut their eyes, so they cannot see; and livotam their hearts, so they cannot yashiyv turn.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” -Romans 1:18-25
Isa 44:19 And none yashiv turns back in li’bo his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned part of it in fire; certainly, also I have baked bread upon the coals from it; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and will I now make the remainder of it le’toeivah into an abomination (disgusting thing)? Will I prostrate myself before the stock of a tree?”
There is heartbreak in these words, “And none turns back”. HaShem longs for right relationship with these idolaters, and yet they resist His love. With incredulity the prophet describes the idolaters lack of ability to apply basic logic to the situation. Thus he quotes what he sees as the appropriate revelation of the situation, “I’ve made a god out of a tree, which I also used for warmth and food and now like a fool am I going to bow down to what’s left of it?”
Isa 44:20 He feeds on eipher ashes: a deceived leiv heart has turned him aside, so he can’t deliver nafsho his soul, nor say, “Is this not a lie in my right hand?”
The Hebrew eipher meaning ashes is also used figuratively to refer to a worthless practice. We note that it is the idolaters own deceived heart (core being) that has turned him away from God, and that he is unable to deliver his own soul, not even by simply recognizing that “this idol built with the strength of my right hand is a lie”.
Isa 44:21 “Zechor Remember these, Yaakov (follower, Jacob) and Yisrael (overcomes in God, Israel); for you are avdiy My servant: I have formed you; you are eved-liy My servant: you Yisrael (Israel), will not be forgotten by Me.”
Having explained the futility of idolatry the prophet now repeats the words of HaShem that began the chapter. HaShem implores Israel to remember the futility of the idolatrous practices that she herself has been engaged in and instead accept the role of witness to HaShem’s wonderous acts of deliverance and redemption.
All would do well to remember the promise of Hashem here:
“Israel will not be forgotten by Me!”
Isa 44:22 “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, peshaeicha your rebellion (transgressions) and, as a dark cloud, chatoteicha your sins (missing the mark): shuvah return to Me; for ge’altiycha (from goel, a kinsman) I have redeemed you.”
Ultimately it is Hashem’s desire that Israel return to Him in love. Having exposed the worthless practices of Israel and the surrounding nations He now offers forgiveness with open arms, through the redeeming act of blotting out the rebellion and sin of His chosen people. He reminds Israel that it is He Himself who has redeemed her as a kinsman redeemer redeems a family member.
Isa 44:23 Ranu He overcomes, shamayim you heavens; for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has done it: ha-riu give a blast (shout), you lowest parts of aretz land (earth): break forth hariym the mountains rinah in a ringing cry, O forest, and every tree therein: for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has ga’al redeemed Yaakov (Jacob), and in Yisrael (Israel) yitpa’ar adorned (glorified) himself.
We notice that for all the worthless uses of creation observed in the practice of idolatry there is a counterpoint here. The heavens which had given the rain for the growth of the trees (cut down to make idols) are now called upon to witness the spiritual overcoming of Israel in the One true God HaShem. The land and soil beneath which had provided nutrients for the trees from which the idols were made is now called on to witness the works of God, and the mountains on which the idols were worshipped (at the high places) are called on to give a ringing cry along with the trees themselves, announcing that HaShem has redeemed Jacob and has adorned Himself in Israel with glory: all this in direct opposition to the adorning of the idolatrous humanoid figures of verse 13.
Creation celebrates the redemption of humanity and the renewal of all things:
“For the earnest expectation of created thing waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the created thing was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the created thing itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” -Romans 8:19-23
Isa 44:24 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), go’alecha your redeemer, and He that yotzercha formed (bound together) you from the womb, “I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) that oseh makes all things; that stretches forth the shamayim heavens levadiy Myself; and spreads abroad ha’aretz the earth (land) water;”
HaShem is affirmed again as Kinsman Redeemer, Creator and the One intimately involved in Israel being knitted together from her conception. He alone is Creator of the universe, and it is He alone Who has provided the waters of the heavens to bring life to the soil of the earth, providing sustenance to His creation.
Isa 44:25 That frustrates otot the signs (omens) of the badiym liars, and makes diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish;
HaShem intentionally frustrates the omens offered by spiritualists and mediums, false prophets and Sooth Sayers. Specifically badiym “Babbling liars” and those who consult spirits and pretend to control demonic forces. Those who think themselves wise are turned back and made to look foolish because their wisdom is of men and not of God.
Isa 44:26 Me’kiym Continually raising de’var a word avdo of His servant, and the counsel of His messengers yashliym makes peace; Who says to Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace, Jerusalem), “You will be inhabited;” and to the cities of Yehudah (praise, Judah), “You will be built, and I will raise up the decayed places there:”
“Me’kiym” is a contraction made up of “me” from, and “kum” arise, and in this plural form denotes a continual arising of something. In this case that something is “de’var” a word for God’s servant (singular) and a counsel that comes from His messengers “malachaiv” (angels, prophets etc). His servant Isaiah brings a word (Messiah) and that word (Messiah) is also imparted through the prophets and messengers of God to Israel. He promises to restore Jerusalem (literally and figuratively), and the cities of Judah. He promises to rebuild the people of Israel and the decayed land of her idolatrous practices.
Isa 44:27 Who says latzulah to the deep (ocean), “Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers:”
This is an idiom referring to Sheol (in a figurative way). The deep (Sheol), will one day be dried up (emptied), and the rivers of decay that result from death (fruit of sin) will no longer affect humanity.
Isa 44:28 Who says of Koresh Cyrus (you possess the furnace), “Roiy My shepherd, and all that I desire, yashliym makes peace:” even saying to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), “You will be built; and to the temple, your foundation will be laid (established).”
“Koresh” Cyrus, is mentioned by name here some 150 years before his birth. There can be no doubt that the God of Israel knows the end from the beginning.
Cyrus is called “My Shepherd” by HaShem because HaShem has appointed him to bring discipline to Israel and restore her again to the land of Israel following her exile. In fact, it was to be Cyrus who issued the decree for the Jews of Persia to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1 through 3; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
Josephus the Jewish historian of the first century CE (AD) writes that when Cyrus was made aware of this portion of the scroll of Isaiah, that he immediately decreed the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and gave them permission to rebuild the temple (Josephus Antiquities 11:2).
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
When we fail to wait on the Lord, we're like children charging lions: finding ourselves bloodied we begin to doubt God.
Following the prediction of the Babylonian captivity prophesied in the previous chapter, the prophet speaks as from the mouth of God, a message of comfort and relief to the people of Israel (ethnic, religious). This chapter of Isaiah emphasises the omnipotence and omniscience of God and His attributes of mercy and judgement. While its principles may be applied to every believer it is none the less written specifically and always firstly to the ethnic religious chosen people Israel (Jews). Any attempt to make it retrospectively symbolic of the Church is ludicrous. The theme of this chapter is comfort born of the Comforter, it begins, continues and concludes as a message of comfort for Israel (ethnic, religious).
Isa 40:1 You, Nachamu Comfort, console, turn toward, suffer with, grieve with, offer relief to: you, nachamu comfort, console, turn toward, suffer with, grieve with, offer relief to ami My people, yomar says (continues to say) Eloheichem your God (Judge).
The opening verse is the premise for the 30 remaining verses. HaShem has neither forgotten nor rejected His people Israel (ethnic, religious). The Lord (YHVH) God (Elohim, Judge) is seen throughout this section of Isaiah’s work as the Omnipotent, Omnipresent Comforter of Israel. Both YHVH and Elohim are employed eight times in chapter 40, giving a sense of new birth from that which has already been made complete outside of time and space. The Comforter speaks in Mercy (YHVH) and Judgement (Elohim), His mercy is shown to Israel and His judgement is revealed against the nations.
The Hebrew “Nachamu” is an admonition to Israel’s prophets, in particular in this context, to Yeshayahu (Isaiah), to constantly and perpetually remind Israel that Hashem is always ready to offer comfort to His chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical). The Targum reads “O you prophets, prophesy comforts to My people…” While the Septuagint (Greek OT) refers to “Priests”. Both alternatives have strong implications for all who believe, first and always among the Jews and also for the nations.
The Hebrew “Nacham” carries a great wealth of meaning. It includes, but is not limited to: comfort, grief, turning, repentance, suffering, consolation etc. In a literal sense it is born of a primitive root meaning to sigh or breathe heavily, thus, relief is also inferred.
The Jewish commentator Kimchi observes that the comfort alluded to will be made manifest in the times of the Messiah. This is consistent with one of the rabbinical names for the Messiah “Menachim” (Comforter), a title Yeshua applies to Himself by implication when He says, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever;” (John 14:16). “Another Comforter” infers that the disciples had been in the presence of the Comforter Yeshua and will receive another Comforter when Yeshua ascends to the right hand of the Father. Thus, Yeshua refers to two Comforters: The Messiah Menachim (Himself) and the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit). With this in mind we see one of the reasons for the repetition of the Hebrew “Nachamu” at the beginning of this chapter. God is sending two Comforters and is affirming the immutable nature of His comfort toward Israel (ethnic, religious).
We note that in spite of Israel’s disobedience HaShem continues to call her “My people”
Isa 40:2 You Daberu speak to, convey essence, words, things upon lev the heart, core being of Yerushalayim (Yeru-flood shalayim-Peace, wholeness: Jerusalem), and cry out to her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her avonah perversity is pardoned: for she has received from the hand of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) double for all her sinful missing the mark.
“Speak and continue to speak kindly to Jerusalem.” The words of kindness come forth from the Davar Word, and are spoken through the prophet to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, which Iben Ezra interprets to be the congregation of Israel, though it is probably spoken specifically to the tribe of Judah, in her role as the Kingly tribe. It is most certainly not meant to be understood of the Church as some retrospectively dishonest Christian commentators claim.
These words of kindness are spoken to the lev, the very core of the peoples’ existence and identity, at the heart of the city which is named for a flood of peace (Jerusalem). Thus, comfort, comfort (v.1) kindness, and a flood of peace (v.2).
“Her warfare is accomplished” or as the Targum Yonatan puts it “her captivity by the people (nations) is filled up.”
Iben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melekh read, "her set or appointed time", by comparing the present text with the Hebrew text of Job 7:1. It is understood to refer either to the time of deliverance from captivity or of the age of the Messiah's coming.
“Her perversity is pardoned” bears no mention of Jerusalem’s repentance or atoning worship but alludes to the pardon born of God’s grace through His provision of substitutionary sacrifice (Messiah).
“She has received of the Lord’s hand…” Meaning she has received her just punishment.
“Double for all her missing the mark.” This does not mean that she received twice the fair punishment for a single act, to the contrary, Israel received double because her sins were double, and ongoing. God is just, He does not punish inequitably.
Note that the double received for her sin is mitigated by the double comfort that is offered to her at the beginning of the chapter. Thus, once again, mercy precedes judgement.
Isa 40:3 Kol A voice crying out bamid’bar (ba-in mi-from dabar-the word, essence) in the wilderness, “Prepare you derek a way of (for) Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), make straight ba-aravah in the desert (In the evening: from erev) mesillah a highway (exalted, lifted up) leiloheiynu to (for) our God (Judge).”
“A voice crying out…” Yarchi interprets the voice of the Holy Spirit, and the writers of the Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) quote Yochanan (John) saying, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, according to what the prophet Isaiah said.”(John 1:23). Both are true: Yochanan the Immerser spoke by the Holy Spirit.
“For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”
-Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 3:3
“In the desert (wilderness).” Specifically in the desert of Judea (Matt. 3:1).
We note that the contraction “Bamidbar”, translated as “In the desert”, is made up of the three Hebrew words “Ba” (in the), “Mi” (from the), and “Davar” (essence, word, thing). Thus, we can also read “A voice crying out in and from the Word (Essence)”: the Word being Messiah Yeshua (Yochanan [John] 1).
“In the past, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through His Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world.” -Hebrews 1:1-2
“Prepare you a way of HaShem, make straight in the desert a lifted up path to our God.” Notice the preparation is made both “for” and “of” HaShem, “for” and “to” our God. The way in the desert is of Hashem and the lifted up path is to Him. It is also made for Him (as King Messiah). Therefore, the ambiguity of the Hebrew determiners allows for us to understand that the way is both from God and for Yeshua (God with us).
Therefore, by identifying Yochanan the Immerser as “A voice crying out”, the Gospel writers point to The Lord Who has come to lead Israel into everlasting freedom. That Lord being Imanu (with us) El (God), Yeshua the King Messiah.
The figurative language also connects us to the historical journey of Israel’s escape from Egyptian captivity, when she was led by God in cloud and flame through the desert toward the promised land (Ha-Aretz). Thus, this prophecy points to a future redemption that will involve God Himself leading Israel from bondage to freedom.
The contraction “Ba-aravah” in the desert is from the root erev and hints at these events occurring in the evening of Israel’s historical journey, that is the latter days (as seen from Isaiah’s perspective in the seventh century BCE).
Isa 40:4 Ve’col and every valley yinase will be exalted, lifted up ve’col and every mountain and hill yishpalu will be made low, sink, be humbled: ve’hayah and it has come to pass that the crooked will lemishor be made straight, upright, level, ve’harechasim and the rough, impassable places of binding le’vikah made a plain (wide level valley):
The picture language of verse 4 conveys a central truth of God’s redemptive work. That which is lowly (valley) will be exalted (lifted up) and that which is deceitful (crocked) will be brought into the light (made straight). The contrite and humble heart will receive mercy, while the prideful and self-exalting person will be humbled.
“The rough impassable places of bondage will be made plain,” (a way will be opened up). The latter clause of verse 4 relates back to the imagery of Israel being freed from bondage and led through the impassable Red Sea into a plain road to the promised land. Likewise, God Himself will come to Israel to deliver her from spiritual bondage and through His self-sacrifice, He will make the impassable passable.
Isa 40:5 Ve’niglah And revealed, uncovered will be kevod the glory of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) dibeir speaks (conveys essence, thing).
All the works of God reveal His glory, however, this verse refers to a time when the glory of God will be uncovered and revealed, not only to the Jews but to all flesh. This happened in part at the first coming of the Messiah Yeshua, and will be made complete at His return.
The prophet emphasizes the certainty of the future fulfilment of these words with the phrase “The mouth of HaShem speaks!”
Isa 40:6 Kol A voice said, “Cry out.” And He said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and its goodness as the flower of the field:”
It appears that a voice from God cries out for a second time to the prophet Isaiah and he answers “What shall I cry (proclaim)?” The proclamation is against the temporary fallen nature of humanity and begins by comparing humanity to the plants of the field that grow and die off according to the seasons, soil and climate conditions.
Isa 40:7 The grass withers, the flower fades: because ruach a spirit of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) blows upon it: surely ha-am the people is grass.
While the Hebrew “Am” can refer to all people, it is qualified here by the determiner “Ha”: thus, “Ha-am” refers specifically to the people of Israel, who are also the subject of the double comfort offered in verse 1. While the principles present can be applied to all believers, they are first and always specifically (contextually) spoken to the people of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical).
Isa 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades: ve’devar and the word (essence) of Eloheiynu our God (Judge) will yakum stand (arise) le’olam for ever (to worlds perpetual).
Quite simply, Sinful humanity withers and fades, and the Word (Messiah) of our Judge will arise to condemn or reward forever. If the grass that withers, withers in the Word, it will by the nature of the Word within it, remain. This is why Yeshua says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” (John 11:25-26).
Isa 40:9 All of you, go up to the high mountain; you who bring good news, Tziyon (Zion: Parched land) lift up with strength your voice; you who bring good news to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Yeru-flood of Shalayim-Peace) rise up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Yehudah (Praise: Judah), “Hineih Look, now, behold Eloheiychem your God (Judge)!”
“All of you” refers to Israel (ethnic, religious).
“The high mountain” is Mt Zion, the Temple mount, Mt Moriah, in Jerusalem.
“You who bring good news” must refer to those in Israel who receive the Lord and His redemptive act, and carry it first and perpetually to their own people and subsequently to the nations. This is an allusion to Israel’s calling to be “A light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). This refers to Israel being those who have received the Torah and through the Torah, the goal of the Torah, the King Messiah Yeshua (Romans 10:4). Where are they to carry this message? To the high mountain of Zion where God has placed His Name. It is with the strength of God through His Spirit that they are to lift up their voices to proclaim the Redeemer of Israel. They bring this good news to the city where peace will be poured out (Jerusalem).
“Say to the cities of Judah…”
“For the law will go forth from Zion, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” -Isaiah 2:1
From Zion and Jerusalem the good news is to be proclaimed to all the cities of Judah and subsequently to all Israel and all nations.
“Look, now, behold Your God!” Look, God is with us (Immanuel).
Isa 40:10 Hineih Look, now, behold, the Adonai (Lord) Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) be’chazak in strength will come, and His arm will rule for Him: Hineih Look, now, behold, His reward, wages are with Him, and His work before Him.
Hineih means “Pay attention!” The Lord YHVH is coming in strength, pay attention, His reward is with Him. He is bringing the rightful wages of the righteous with Him and the work of forgiveness, redemption, and right action is before Him. These are words of encouragement to those made righteous through the straightway of Messiah.
Isa 40:11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them enclosing them in His bosom, and those with young He will gently lead.
HaShem is first spoken of in fierce strength, as Ruler, coming with just reward and work (v.10). Now He is seen as the Shepherd, gathering His lambs in that same mighty arm, carrying them and drawing them to His breast like a doting father, and leading the developing young ones gently onward.
We are reminded of Psalm 23, and of the Good Shepherd of John 10:11.
Isa 40:12 Who has measured the mayim waters in the hollow of His hand, and estimated the span of shamayim the heavens, and comprehended ba-shalish in (musical instrument, a third) volume the dust of the earth, and weighed the mountains and hills in scales?
HaShem is omnipotent (all powerful).
This series of rhetorical questions set HaShem apart as unique, omnipotent, omniscient, incomparable, and Ruler over all of creation. God alone is capable of these things.
There is a sense in the Hebrew ba-shalish of a Divine and triune comprehension of a music that holds all things together. This music essence also falls under the greater meaning of Ha-Davar (The Word), Yeshua.
Isa 40:13 Who has directed et Ruach the Spirit of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), or which man by giving advice has taught Him? Isa 40:14 With whom has He taken counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?
HaShem is omniscient (all knowing). None can introduce Him to counsel or knowledge because He is the source and Ruler of all knowledge.
Isa 40:15 Hein Behold, Goyim nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the scales: Hein behold, the small islands He bears up.
Israel had undergone attack after attack from seemingly unbeatable foreign powers. Jerusalem was always under threat from both waning and rising Empires. It is fair to say that Israel was weary and afraid of the potential for other nations to destroy her. It is to this that God speaks. He imparts to Israel His view of things. “These nations that you’re so afraid of are nothing to Me, they barely touch the scales, they weigh next to nothing at all.”
Note that it is great nations that God calls the “small dust of the scales” whereas the small Islands he “bears up”. This is yet another allusion to the Gospel and the use of weak things to shame the strong (proud ones) of this sin affected world.
Isa 40:16 And Levanon (witness) is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts there sufficient for a burnt offering.
“The trees of Lebanon”, as the Targum Yonatan says, are not sufficient to burn on the altar, nor does she have any animals without blemish for a sacrifice suitable to honour the Torah requirements. Thus, Lebanon in the north is left without the means for making atonement according to the requirements of Torah.
Isa 40:17 Col All ha-Goyim the nations are ke’ayin nothing, before Him; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, ve’tohu and formless, empty, confused.
The Hebrew “tohu” links the state of the nations to the formless state of the earth in the beginning (Genesis 1:2). The nations are formless and confused as a result of their idolatry. God is bringing into view a new creation.
Isa 40:18 To whom then will you liken El God (The Judge)? or what likeness will you compare to Him?
Nothing and no one in all creation can compare to YHVH the God of Israel.
Isa 40:19 The workman melts a graven image, and the goldsmith beats out gold over it, and casts silver chains.
The idolatry of the nations is exposed for the farce that it is. Human beings worshipping the work of their own hands.
Isa 40:20 Hamesukan The self-harmer’s terumah offering is a tree not rotting; he chooses a skilful craftsman seeking him to prepare a pesel graven image (idol), not to be moved.
Note that the Hebrew “Ha-me’sukan” from the root “sakan” literally means “self-endangerment. This is a description of an idolater from among the nations. Simply put, idolatry is self-harm.
Isa 40:21 Have you not known? have you not heard? has it not been told to you merosh from the beginning (head)? Have you not understood from the foundations of Ha-Aretz the land (the earth)?
This can be understood to refer specifically to the understanding gained when Israel entered the land (Ha-Aretz). Meaning “Haven’t you seen how I brought you into the land as I promised?”
Alternatively it could be a more general admonition challenging the people in a similar way to that of Romans 1:18-21.
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In unrighteousness they suppress the truth, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them—for God has shown it to them. 20 His invisible attributes—His eternal power and His divine nature—have been clearly seen ever since the creation of the world, being understood through the things that have been made.[a] So people are without excuse-- 21 for even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. Instead, their thinking became futile, and their senseless hearts were made dark.” -Romans 1:18-21 TLV
Isa 40:22 He sits upon the circle of Ha-Aretz the land (earth), and the inhabitants there are like grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out ca-ohel as a tent lashavet to dwell in:
This is a poetic way of conveying the fact that God is El-elyon (God above gods), and that comparatively speaking human beings are like grasshoppers viewed from the outer atmosphere. God is great and we are miniscule (But loved by God).
Isa 40:23 That brings the rulers to nothing; He makes the judges of Ha-Aretz the land (earth) to become ca-tohu emptiness, formless, confused.
The judges/rulers of the land of Israel who have mislead the people are made formless, confused, incapable.
Isa 40:24 Scarcely are they planted; yes, scarcely are they sown: yes, before they can take root in the land (earth): when He blows upon them, and they wither, and the whirlwind will take them away as stubble.
The same judges/rulers of Israel spoken of in the previous verse scarcely gain power and are removed.
Isa 40:25 To whom then will you liken Me, or will I be like? says Kadosh the Holy One.
Once again, there is none like YHVH the God of Israel.
Isa 40:26 Lift up on high your eyes, and behold who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number: He calls them all by name by the meirov multiplication of oniym His generative power, for He is strong in vigour; iysh a man lo not nedar failing.
This rhetorical question alludes to God as Creator, Master, and as a continued Participant in His creation.
Isa 40:27 Why do you say, O Yaakov (Follower, Jacob), and speak, O Yisrael (Overcome in God, Israel), “My way is hidden from Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), umei’eolohay and from my God (Judge), my judgment is alienated?
This complaint of Israel is made either under the oppression of a foreign army or from exile. It is a disillusioned cry of abandonment.
Isa 40:28 Have you not known? have you not heard, Eloheiy God (Judge) olam eternal, Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), the Creator of the ends of Ha-aretz the land (earth), doesn’t pass out, neither is He weary? His understanding is beyond searching.
HaShem reminds Israel that He is omnipotent. That He never grows weary. Why does He remind her of this? It is because He is always working out the redemption of His chosen people. He is reminding her that He has loved and chosen her and is always able to deliver her.
Isa 40:29 He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength.
Once again HaShem empowers the faint and strengthens the weak. Perpetually offering twofold comfort to His children.
Isa 40:30 Even the youths will pass out and be weary, and the young men will utterly fall:
All will eventually tire regardless of youthfulness or physical prowess.
Isa 40:31 But they that wait upon Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will renew their strength; they will ya’alu ascend with wings like eagles; they will run, and not grow weary; they will walk, and not pass out.
We note that it is those who wait on YHVH (Mercy) that receive renewed strength. This is an admonition against striving. Where the idolaters of the nations worked to create deity and connect with it through vain delusion, the servant of Hashem is challenged to simply wait on Him.
God does not say “Those who recite prayers constantly will renew their strength”, nor does he say “Those who keep my commandments will renew their strength”. To the contrary, the strength of God is received and not earned.
When we fail to wait on the Lord, we're like children charging lions: finding ourselves
bloodied we begin to doubt God.
By waiting on the Lord the servant of HaShem receives renewed strength which in turn produces the fruit of a resurrected life. The actions born of waiting on God are of an everlasting nature: running without growing weary, walking in the mid-day sun without growing faint.
Therefore, acting with eternal stamina is the result of waiting on God and not the other way round.
“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Yeshua answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.’” (John 6:28-29)
The voice crying in the wilderness (Isaiah 4:3; John 1:23; Matt. 3:3) proclaims the “One Whom God will send”, thus, waiting on Messiah’s coming is evidence of belief in the One Who is to come. Therefore, waiting is an act of faith that receives the strength to act.
Comfort immutable is offered, that we might learn to wait on the Lord and not grow weary.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.