Isa 56:1 Koh In this manner amar says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy): “Shomru Guard (Keep) mishpat justice (Judgement), va’asu and do (make, fashion) tzedakah right action, (charity, righteousness), Kiy-kerovah for near is yeshuatiy My salvation lavo to come, vetzidkatiy and My right action, (charity, righteousness) lehigalot to be uncovered (revealed).
Referring to the last verse of Isaiah 55, which is a redemptive figure describing the transformation of fallen humanity and in particular idolatrous Israel, HaShem now affirms the mechanism by which the repentant of Israel (and of the tribes) might practically outwork the aforementioned redemption. Therefore, He says “In this manner guard justice and act rightly for My Salvation is near, and My right action is about to be revealed.”
“In this manner” refers both to the manner of transformation from thorn-bush (wickedness) to cypress (righteousness) and brier (barreness) to myrtle (fruitfulness) and to the practice that follows:
Why is the remnant of Israel challenged to guard justice and walk in righteousness? Because HaShem’s Salvation is near to her and His right action of redemptive vicarious sacrifice and resurrection is to be uncovered. Meaning that Israel will see that which she has blinded herself to through her sinful actions. Therefore, HaShem will lift the cover off the eyes of Israel. A covering which she herself placed over her vision through wilful disobedience.
Covenant relationship is almost always (with the exception of God’s covenant with Abraham concerning the land) a two way street. Israel is to practice justice and right action as a result of God practicing salvation and revealing His right action of redemption which was formulated prior to the foundation of the world and the fall of humanity.
We must maintain our contextual and historical understanding of this passage as a start point for any figurative or metaphorical elements that may proceed from it. These words are spoken by Israel’s prophet to Israel (ethnic, religious). They were primarily heard by Israel in the land of Israel, and in particular Judah, living in Judea, Jerusalem etc. prior to the Babylonian exile which occurred tens of years after the prophet spoke and had these words recorded. Thus, we must keep in mind that it is pre-exilic Judah who are the primary initial recipients of this word from God.
Iben Ezra concludes wrongly that the present verse teaches “that the coming of Messiah is delayed because of our sin.” This is contrary to the Word of God which says:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.” -Romans 5:8 (TLV)
Chomat Anakh on Isaiah agrees with Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle), explaining that the justice and right action of Israel must be the result of the redemption brought about by the Messiah and not the other way around.
“‘Keep judgment and do charity.’ The interpretation of Leichad Tifferet with Tzedakah Malchut ‘Because my salvation is near,’ because it comes from the redemption:” -Chomat Anakh on Isaiah
Here we must take courage to address the predominant view and unbiblical mis-teaching of our rabbis in regard to “Tikkun Olam” repairing the world. The false view that says we must work to do right action in order to “earn” the coming of the Messiah (as per Iben Ezra and others), has distorted our view of both God and His redemptive action (which is born of His love). In fact the opposite is true. “Tikkun olam” repairing of the world occurs as a result of our receiving the redemptive work of Yeshua the King Messiah. God does not hold us captive to our own inability to achieve righteousness, rather He empowers us through Messiah to walk in justice and right action. If we accept Yeshua the King Messiah we receive the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and are thus empowered to work with God in the repairing of the world through the vicarious sacrifice of His Son the King Messiah. God doesn’t need our help, but we are invited to participate with Him in His redemptive work.
Isa 56:2 Ashreiy Happy is enosh a man ya’aseh-zot who does (fashions, accomplishes) this, uven-adom and a son of man yachazik who in strength, shomeir guards (keeps) Shabbat meichalelo from being defiled (profaned, desecrated), ve’shomeir guards (keeps) yado his hand mei’asot from doing (fashioning, accomplishing) kol-ra all (every, any) evil (bad).”
“Happy is a man who does this…” “This” refers to both the former keeping of justice and right action, and to the proceeding keeping of Shabbat and refraining from evil. Therefore, the justice (judgement) of verse 1 corresponds to the Shabbat of verse 2 and the right action of verse 1 corresponds to the refraining from wrong action in verse 2.
Verse 1 Verse 2
Why “Enosh: a man” and “Ben-Adom: a son of man”? The former represents an Israeli, a Jew and the latter a Gentile. “Ben Adom” is synonymous with Adam (unqualified in the sense of humanity). This is done to prepare the listener/reader for the introduction of the proselytes of the latter verses.
We must remember that these Gentile proselytes are complete converts, circumcised and (in the context of the present chapter of Isaiah 700 BCE) have become part of the Jewish ethnic DNA pool. It is unwise to apply these words to all Gentile followers of God throughout the world today. This misses the historical context of the text and reinterprets it to teach something it does not.
“Guards the Shabbat…” The weekly Sabbath denotes God’s sovereignty over all creation. Therefore, the Jew and the proselyte who guard (keep) it are testifying to their belief in the fact that the God of Israel Alone is God and the Creator of all things.
“Guards (keeps) his hand from fashioning any and every kind of evil…” The hand is the symbol of action. Belief and faith are embodied in the former practice of keeping Shabbat: now action, the outworking of belief and faith is symbolized by the hand of one who intentionally refrains from doing any kind of evil. None of this is possible without the transformation described in the last verse of Isaiah 55. The transformation that results from the redemptive work of the King Messiah Yeshua (the Greater Son of David, the Servant King) is the only means by which a Jew or a human being in general can truly know what it means to keep the eternal present rest (Shabbat) of God and walk in perfect right action. God does not command the impossible in order to disillusion us, rather He instructs the teachable and provides the means by which they might apply His teaching.
We notice that in each of these instructions we are commanded to “Guard”. It is misleading to read “keep” the Shabbat. Nor is it right to read “keep” his hand from doing any and every kind of evil. Why? Because we are incapable of keeping or holding fast to the immutable elements of rest (Shabbat) and right action (righteousness). The Hebrew “Shomeir” means “Guard”. Within time and space and through Messiah we become guardians of that which He “keeps”. This is the counterpoint to the unfaithful “Watchmen” of the latter verses, who keep themselves in drunkenness while failing to guard that which God is keeping for Israel (ethnic, religious), and the nations in perpetuity.
“Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy. You are to work six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to Adonai your God. In it you shall not do any work—not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates.” Exodus 20:8-10 (TLV)
Note that this commandment, given specifically to Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) is to be observed by all Jews but only by foreigners (Gentiles) who live within the Jewish (gates) community: specifically among the people of Israel on their way to and within the land of Israel. This does not apply to today’s Christians who worship the God of Israel but live outside of Israel and further still, outside of the Jewish communities within the diaspora. The commandment to keep Shabbat is specifically a sign on the ethnic, religious chosen people of Israel (Jews):
“So Bnei-Yisrael is to keep the Shabbat, to observe the Shabbat throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and Bnei-Yisrael forever, for in six days Adonai made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.’” -Exodus 31:16-17 (TLV)
We note that the Shabbat is a sign between God and the ethnic, religious people of Israel (Jews). It is not a sign upon the nations. When Yeshua said “the Shabbat was made for man and not man for the Shabbat” (Mark 2:23-28) the only “men” present were Jews. Further, He used an example from the Tanakh in which only Jews participated. If we interpret His words to apply to all human beings, we are ignoring the historical and Scriptural context of what He said and impugning His character by suggesting that He contradicted the Torah (Exodus 31:16-17). To the contrary, He is making a drash on a commandment given specifically to Israel (ethnic, religious , empirical) and not to the nations. Thus, when He says “man” He means “man” within the context of Israel (Jews) and not humanity in general. If we go further and interpret His words figuratively to apply the Shabbat to all nations, we must by reason of logical progression be speaking of the eternal Shabbat at the end of the age, that is the Olam Haba (world to come) and not to the literal weekly Shabbat commanded specifically to the Jews. All figurative interpretation must submit to the plain meaning of the text. In the context of Yeshua’s words the command to keep Shabbat is not made incumbent on Gentile Christians, who did not yet exist at the time Yeshua spoke, rather He was explaining to the Pharisees that the sign of the Shabbat upon Israel’s “men” was one of rest and restoration through the work of God and was not a form of rest purchased by either the restraint or the actions of Jewish “men” (and women).
All this is done to keep the Shabbat as a sign on the ethnic, religious Jewish people until the end of the age, when:
“‘it will come to pass,
that from one New Moon to another,
and from one Shabbat to another,
all flesh will come to bow down before Me,’
says Adonai.” -Isaiah 66:23 (TLV)
The prophet Isaiah is clearly prophesying a time yet future, and is not, as some suggest, inferring that all nations should keep the Shabbat in the present age. This is also seen in Zechariah 14:16 where, at the end of the age (not now), the survivors of the defeated nations will repent and go up to Jerusalem to join with ethnic, religious Israel in celebration of the festival (signs) placed on the Jews. Neither passage denotes a requirement for weekly Shabbat observance by Gentile Christians.
When Yeshua says “The Son of Man is Lord of the Shabbat” He is alluding to the Messianic title given to the Messiah in the prophecy of Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14) in order that He might be recognized as Messiah by His disciples and any among the Pharisees who might understand and repent. While it is true that He is the Messiah over all men, we do not glean this understanding from the context of Mark 2:23-28.
Those who teach that Gentile Christians must keep the Shabbat are in fact teaching Gentile Christians to usurp one of the signs that sets ethnic, religious Israel apart from the nations. Ironically, in doing so, these “Seventh Day Adventists”, “Hebrew roots Christians” and so called “Messianic Gentiles” are literally practicing the “Replacement Theology” they claim to detest. I stand in opposition to those movements who seek to place Gentile Christians under bondage to commandments that were never incumbent upon them. I am a Jew and a follower of Yeshua the King Messiah, Who has set us free for freedom, that we might not return again to bondage.
This is not to say that Gentile Christians can’t choose to keep the Shabbat as free members of the body of Messiah Yeshua, rather it is to say that the weekly Shabbat is not incumbent upon Gentile Christians.
Isa 56:3 Ve’al-yomar ben-haneichar And don’t let a son of the foreigner speak, hanilvah who has joined el-YHVH to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) leimor to say, “Havdeil This is the separation yavdiylaniy by which I’m separated HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) mei’al from among amu His people”; ve’al yomar hasariys and don’t let the eunuch (emasculated man) say, “Hein Behold, pay attention, Aniy I am eitz a tree yaveish that is dried up.”
Before addressing this verse we need to have an understanding of the significance of the proselyte (foreign convert to Judaism) and the eunuch (castrated, emasculated man).
“16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your [a]offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. 18 For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a [b]disfigured face, or any deformed limb, 19 or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a [c]defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles.21 No man among the [d]descendants of Aaron the priest who has a defect is to come near to offer the Lord’s offerings by fire; since he has a defect, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the food of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy, 23 only he shall not go in to the veil or come near the altar because he has a defect, so that he will not profane My sanctuaries. For I am the Lord who sanctifies them.’” 24 So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel.” -Leviticus 21:16-26 (NASB)
We note that the descendant of Aaron with crushed testicles is not denied a place in the congregation of Israel, rather he is specifically excluded from priestly duties regarding the offering of sacrifices on the altar beyond the veil of the entry to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting). This instruction is intended to protect those with physical defects that might cause them to inadvertently stumble into the manifest Divine presence and die.
“No one who is [a]emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. 2 No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. 3 No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord,” -Deuteronomy 23:1-3 (NASB)
The emasculated male may not enter the “bikhal” (in the convocation, holy gathering) of HaShem. Once again, this does not mean that this person may not be present in the community, rather it means that this person cannot participate in the appointed times and Sabbaths, and the sacrificial worship practices of God, imparted to Israel. If this were not the case the Scripture Deuteronomy 23:1-3 would be in contradiction of Leviticus 21:16-26.
It is thought that Ruth the Moabitess who became an Israelite through marriage to Boaz entered Israel’s holy community in the eleventh generation following the instruction against Moabite entry (Deut. 23:1-3). Thus, there was always revealed grace concerning those who appeared to be excluded. This is not the result of progressive revelation but rather it is evidence of progressive understanding on our part. It’s interesting to note that Ruth became the mother of Obed, King David’s grandfather.
“Moreover concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a distant country because of Your Name— 42 for they will hear of Your great Name, of Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when he comes to pray toward this House, 43 then may you hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner asks of You. So all the peoples of the earth may know Your Name, to fear You as Your people Israel do, and know that this House that I have built is called by Your Name.” -1 Kings 8:41-43 (NASB)
We see that the Name of YHVH is intrinsically connected to Jerusalem and in particular the Temple, and the Temple Mount. Thus, there is a requirement for the foreigner to acknowledge the God of Israel and seek Him out in worship. Foreigners who reject God are not welcomed by King Solomon in this prayer of supplication during the inauguration of Solomon’s Temple.
“20 Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “Peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will again come. 21 The inhabitants of one city will go to another saying ‘Let us go to entreat the favor of Adonai and to seek Adonai-Tzva’ot. I also am going.’ 22 Indeed, many peoples and powerful nations will come to seek Adonai-Tzva’ot in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of Adonai.” 23 Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “In those days it will come to pass that ten men from every language of the nations will grasp the corner of the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” -Zechariah 8:20-23 (TLV)
Like Isaiah in the present passage, Zechariah also prophecies of a time yet future when foreigners will acknowledge that God is with the Jewish people and will seek out devote Jews and ask them to lead them to Jerusalem because they have heard of Israel’s God YHVH.
“But if an outsider dwells with you, who would keep the Passover for Adonai, all his males must be circumcised. Then let him draw near and keep it. He will be like one who is native to the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat from it.” -Exodus 12:48 (TLV)
We note that a foreigner living among the Israelites was able to participate in Passover only providing he became a full proselyte through circumcision. These are the foreigners that Isaiah is referring to in the present passage.
“5 Now Jewish people were staying in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound came, the crowd gathered. They were bewildered, because each was hearing them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “All these who are speaking—aren’t they Galileans? 8 How is it that we each hear our own birth language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those living in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya toward Cyrene, and visitors from Rome 11 (both Jewish people and proselytes), Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring in our own tongues the mighty deeds of God!” 12 And they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to each other, “What does this mean?” -Acts 2:5-12 (TLV)
The New Testament confirms the fact that the “foreigners” of Isaiah’s prophecy are in fact converts to Judaism, full proselytes. Given that, the account of Acts 2 is one of the fulfilments of Isaiah’s prophecy.
The fact that those being spoken of are proselytes to Judaism is evident in the following verses where they are seen to observe the central practices and signs of God’s covenant relationship to Israel.
Therefore, in addition to the instructions of verses 1 and 2, Israel is instructed not to allow the foreign proselyte to speak of himself as being separate from God and from Israel (ethnic, religious).
Likewise, don’t allow either the eunuch who is an ethnic Israelite or the converted eunuch of another nation, be he an official or otherwise, say of himself that he will have no offspring (a tree without sap). Why? Because the God of Israel is promising everlasting offspring through the passing on of faith. Thus, even the eunuch can become a spiritual father through the redemptive work of God in Messiah. All this follows the transformational imagery of Isaiah 55.
Iben Ezra rightly identifies the foreigners of this passage as “true proselytes”, and notes that the text uses the past tense to say that these foreigners have already become devoted followers of the God of Israel and members of the community.
“You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” -Ezekiel 47:22 (ESV)
The eunuchs in this passage are predominantly those of Israelite descent. We know this because the text specifies “the son of a foreigner” but says only “eunuch”. Hebrew eunuchs were not made that way by Jews for obvious reasons. This would have been a grave desecration of the Torah. Therefore, the eunuchs alluded to here are most likely returned exiles who had previously been emasculated by their captors. Thus the inclusion of them is an act of mercy that is consistent with the redemptive theme of the Torah.
The language of “separation” used here is significant. The primary motivation of the cry of the proselyte is one seeking inclusion beyond the court of the Gentiles. Isaiah is offering a prophetic future beyond that of the future historical fulfilment of this prophecy, to a time when there would no longer be a wall of separation.
“13 But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. 14 For He is our shalom, the One who made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation. Within His flesh He made powerless the hostility-- 15 the law code of mitzvot contained in regulations. He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom,” -Ephesians 2:13-15 (TLV)
Isa 56:4 For thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy): “La-sariysiym To the eunuchs (castrated men) who yishmeru guard (keep) et-shabetotay My Sabbaths, uvacharu and who decide (choose, elect) ba’asher on that which chafatzetiy delights (pleases) Me umachaziykiym and who do so from strengthening biveriytiy in My covenant,
Now Hashem speaks directly to the eunuchs of Israel who are devoted in their religious observance and in keeping both the weekly Shabbat, one of the signs of God’s covenant (Ex. 31:16; Lev. 24:8) with Israel (ethnic, religious), and the holy convocations of God Shabbatot (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 19:3, 30; 23:15, 38 Eze. 20:12, 19-20).
“So Bnei-Yisrael is to keep the Shabbat, to observe the Shabbat throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” -Exodus 31:16 (TLV)
“Every Yom Shabbat he is to set it in order before Adonai continually. It is an everlasting covenant on behalf of Bnei-Yisrael.” -Leviticus 24:8 (TLV)
“I also gave them My Shabbatot, as a sign between Me and them, so that they would know that I am Adonai who made them holy.” -Ezekial 20:12 (TLV)
“19 I am Adonai your God. Walk in My statutes, keep My ordinances and do them. 20 Keep My Shabbatot holy, so they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am Adonai your God.’” -Ezekiel 20:19-21 (TLV)
“Who holds fast to My covenant” This refers to the covenant God has made with Israel from the covenant made with Abraham concerning the land, through circumcision, and as a result of deliverance through the blood of the Pesach Lamb, the signs of the convergence of these covenants are seen in circumcision, Torah observance, guarding the weekly Sabbath, and keeping the festivals (Shabbatot) etc.
Isa 56:5 Ve’natatiy For I will give lahem to them be’veiytiy in My house uvechomotay and within My walls yad a hand (memorial, strength, sign) vasheim and a name tov that is good (pleasant) mibaniym from sons u’mibanot and from daughters; sheim a name olam everlasting eten-lo I will give them that will not be yikareit cut off.
“Even unto them will I give in the house of my sanctuary, and in the land of the house of my Shekinah a place, and a name that is better than that of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
We note that the Targum understands the House of the manifest presence of God “Shekinah” to be the location of the eunuchs’ names. Thus the Targum at least, is referring to the Heavenly court. We know this because the manifest presence is not recorded after the inauguration of Solomon’s Temple.
“I will give to them…” Who are the “them”? The precedent subjects are the eunuchs (Jews) of Israel who had previously been looked down upon or pitied due to their emasculation and inability to produce children and continue their family name. This was considered the highest physical blessing in Biblical Judaism. Those whose names were cut off for their lack of progeny were considered accursed. Now, through His prophet Isaiah, God is revealing the greater blessing of spiritual progeny to all Israel by restoring the honour of the devout emasculated Jewish men in Israel’s midst.
I am able to use myself as a modern example in order to share the spiritual principle at work. As a younger man, after fathering two beautiful daughters, I decided with my wife, and for her health’s sake that I would undergo a vasectomy. For all intents and purposes, regarding the production of children, I had become a type of modern eunuch (albeit my parts still attached). The point I’m making is that I had come to terms with the idea that I would have no further children to bear my name, and indeed, in a Judeo Biblical sense, no son to carry on my name. However, as a follower of Messiah redeemed unto eternity I have since been privileged to become a spiritual father to a number of people whom I now consider sons and daughters in the faith. Thus, like the ancient eunuchs of Israel, being unable to physically reproduce does not prevent me from playing my role in the spiritual reproduction of God’s redemptive purposes for humanity. All who are born again in Messiah Yeshua are born into the family of God. He is of course the greatest of father’s and defines what it means to truly be a father.
“In My House” Refers to the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Notice that this is “My (God’s) House”.
“and within My walls” Refers to the city walls of Jerusalem. Notice that these are “My (God’s) walls”.
“a hand (memorial, strength, sign) and a name that is good (pleasant)” In the past the family name of a eunuch was considered accursed, synonymous with disfavour. Now, through God’s redemptive action the names of the Jewish eunuchs would be given honour, not only in the city of Jerusalem but also in the very precincts of the Temple. The Hebrew “yad” literally means “hand” and is figuratively understood as a memorial. The hand imagery is one of strength: in this case it refers to the strength of spiritual progeny in place of the removal of the male sex organ (which was seen to weaken the male). The Hebrew “sheim” means “name” and denotes renown. Thus, not only will the faithful eunuchs of Israel be given an opportunity to produce spiritual progeny, they will also be renowned for it, honoured as priests in spite of the fact that they do not qualify to serve as priests.
The Hebrew phrase “yad vasheim” literally “Hand and a name” or “Memorial and a name”, is the name of the Shoah (Holocaust) Memorial Museum in Jerusalem built overlooking the Judean hills. This is significant, given that the victims of the Shoah were cut off and yet they have been given a memorial and a name in Israel. Like the eunuchs of old they have produced spiritual progeny through their great suffering and remain in the hearts and minds of Jews throughout the world.
“from sons and from daughters; a name everlasting I will give them that will not be cut off. We note the literal Hebrew translation differs significantly from the standard English rendering of the words in most English Bibles. Most English Bibles read something like “Better than sons or daughters”. While it is true that in a spiritual sense the names given to the restored eunuchs are better than those of mere physical progenitors, it is none the less a misreading of the text. The Hebrew literally says, “from sons and from daughters” In other words, the names of the eunuchs will be intrinsically linked to Israel’s sons and daughters so that their names will be carried on in the future heritage of the ethnic religious Jewish people. To put it simply, the eunuchs spoken of are “from” Israel, therefore, their names of renown will also be “from” Israel and will be everlasting because they belong to the transformed Israel pictured in the last verse of Isaiah 55. The poignant poetry of the last phrase is both graphic and redemptive. “That will not be cut off” Though the sex member of the eunuch’s body had been “cut off”, his redeemed and restored name would “not be cut off!”
The correlation to the Gospel of our Messiah is clear. God has no grandchildren, His children are born again of the Spirit and not through the copulation of men and women.
Isa 56:6 “U’veneiy And the sons haneichar of the foreigner hanilviym who join themselves al together with (upon) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), leshareto to minister to Him, u’leahavah and to love et-sheim the Name of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), lihyot to become His la’avadiym servants, kol-shomeir all who guard (keep) Shabbat meichalelo from pollution (defilement) and do not profane it, umachaziykiym and who do so from being strengthened bi’veriytiy in My covenant--
Note that these are not included in the former promise to the Jewish eunuchs, rather they are alluded to in light of the promise that follows. Thus, the prophet makes a clear distinction between the roles of each group.
These foreigners are those who, as the Torah illuminates, are living among the people of Israel, within the community, and are keeping Jewish law and custom as strangers within the camp. These foreigners are proselytes, complete converts to Biblical Judaism, they are not equivalent to modern Gentile Christians. These ones who keep the Shabbat had also entered into the covenant of circumcision. We no this because the Judaism of ancient times did not allow uncircumcised Gentiles to join in worship. This is also affirmed by the last clause “from being strengthened in My covenant”.
“Sons of the foreigner” This indicates children born to foreigners living among the people of Israel. These foreigners had married into Israel and had converted to Judaism. Thus, while the gentile convert who marries a Jew is never considered fully Jewish (being devoid of Jewish blood), the children born to the couple are considered Jewish because one of the parents has Jewish blood and has passed that bloodline on to the child. A Biblical example of this is the marriage of Ruth and Boaz and the Jewish identity of Obed their firstborn, who became the grandfather of David.
“Who join themselves together with (upon) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)” These Gentiles have fully converted to the religion of Israel and have joined themselves through circumcision and immersion to the God of Israel YHVH, forsaking all other gods.
“to minister to Him, and to love the Name of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy),” They actively participate in worship practice and spiritually love the Name of the God of Israel YHVH. That is, the understand and delight in all the character attributes associated with God’s Name and the nature He exhibits to Israel and the nations.
“to become His servants, all who guard (keep) Shabbat from pollution (defilement) and do not profane it” These Gentiles are willing servants of God and therefore, willing servants of His chosen people Israel. Thus, they both serve God (but not as priests) and His people, ethnic, religious, empirical Israel.
“and who do so from being strengthened in My covenant” These Gentiles are full converts who have entered the covenant (cutting) of circumcision. They subsequently bear the fruit of Torah observance.
Isa 56:7 Vahaviyotiym And these I will bring el-har kadshiy to My holy mountain, ve’simachtiym and make them joyful beveiyt tefilatiy in My house of prayer; oloteiyhem their burnt offerings (ascending) ve’zivcheiyhem and their (blood) sacrifices (from zabach, to slaughter) leratzon will be accepted al-mizbechiy on My altar; Kiy beiytiy for My house shall be called beiyt-tefilah a house of prayer lechol-haamiym for all the tribes (peoples).”
“And these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer;” Who are the “these”? They are the “Sons of foreigners” (from the preceding verse) meaning, sons born to foreigners already living in the midst of Israel. It is true that they are brought from the nations to worship among the community of Israel. However, this does not negate the evidence of their conversion and observance.
“their burnt offerings (ascending) and their (blood) sacrifices will be accepted on My altar;” It is important to understand that only full proselytes qualify to offer sacrifices. As is the case in the account of Acts 2, the Gentiles being brought to God’s Holy Mountain (Zion) and His House of Prayer (Temple complex), are converts to Judaism.
“How is it that we each hear our own birth language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those living in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya toward Cyrene, and visitors from Rome 11 (both Jewish people and proselytes), Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring in our own tongues the mighty deeds of God!” -Acts 2:8-11 (TLV)
“for My house shall be called a ‘house of prayer for all the tribes (peoples)’.” King Solomon spoke the following words as a prayer of dedication during the inauguration of the Temple He had built for HaShem atop Mount Zion:
“Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name’s sake 42 (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to [a]fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that [b]this house which I have built is called by Your name.” -1 Kings 8:41-43 (NASB)
Yeshua was incensed when He witnessed money changers and traders in the outer court (court of the Gentiles [nations]) of the Temple precinct (Herod’s reconstruction of the Temple). As a witness against the sinful practices of the traders and money changers He quoted this text from Isaiah:
“16 and He would not permit anyone to carry [a]merchandise through the temple.17 And He began to teach and say to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a robbers’ [b]den.’18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.” -Mark 11:16-18 (NASB)
The Greek text of Mark’s Gospel uses the Septuagint translation of the prophet Isaiah. The Hebrew “amiym” (tribes) being translated by the Greek word “ethnon” from “ethnos” which is the etymological root to the modern English “ethnicity”. Thus, Yeshua is reminding the devout Jews of the first century that HaShem as made a way for people from all the tribes of the earth to come and join with Israel in worship. Note that the Hebrew “amiym” does not allow for the translation “nations”, the Hebrew for nations is “goyim”, therefore, the text is referring to ethnicities, tribes, even peoples, but not to nations.
It is interesting to note that the Babylonian Talmud understands this verse to be speaking of the times of the King Messiah (T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 18. 1.)
Isa 56:8 Thus says Adonay HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) the Lord GOD, mekabeitz Who gathers nidcheiy outcasts (throw-aways; downcast etc.) of Yisrael Israel, “Od Perpetually akabetz I will gather alaiv unto him more lenikbatzayv to those already gathered.”
“Thus says the Lord GOD, Who gathers outcasts (throw-aways; downcast etc.) of Israel,” The prophecy now returns to the subject of gathering Israel’s outcasts: the eunuchs, lame, leprous, blind, disfigured etc. (Leviticus 21:16-26). The outcasts of Israel may also be a reference to the future return of the exiles from Assyria, Babylon etc.
“I will continually gather unto him (Israel, specifically Israel’s outcasts), others besides those already gathered.” Here God speaks of continuing to gather others to join the redeemed of His people Israel. These others will follow the inclusion of the outcasts of Israel so that the new covenant will always be first to the Jew and also always to others (the tribes).
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the [a]barrier of the dividing wall,” -Ephesians 2:14 (NASB)
Yeshua may well have had in mind the present verse when He used the mashal (teaching figure) of the sheep pen in order to explain that He would draw Gentile followers from other tribes to become worshippers of the God of Israel and disciples of Israel’s Messiah.
“ I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” -John 10:16 (NASB)
Isa 56:9 Kol chayto All you living things saday of the field, eitayu arrive le’echol to eat— Kol chayto All you living things baya’ar in the forest (wooded height).
Here the prophet refers to Israel’s enemies as “living things, beasts”. HaShem invites them to come and devour Jerusalem.
“I have forsaken My house,
I have abandoned My inheritance;
I have given the beloved of My soul
Into the hand of her enemies.
8 “My inheritance has become to Me
Like a lion in the forest;
She has [e]roared against Me;
Therefore I have come to hate her.
9 “Is My inheritance like a speckled bird of prey to Me?
Are the birds of prey against her on every side?
Go, gather all the beasts of the field,
Bring them to devour!” -Jeremiah 12:7-9 (NASB)
Isa 56:10 Tzafu His watchers (alt. Tzofav keep watch) ivriym blind ones kulam all lo yadau all without knowledge; kulam all kelaviym dogs ilemiym mute (unable to speak); lo yuchelu linboach they cannot bark, hoziym dreaming, raving, babling shocheviym lying down, ohaveiy lanum loving to slumber.
This is a terrible indictment against those tasked with keeping watch from Jerusalem’s walls. They are described as being blind and without knowledge. They are wilfully blind and unable to see the coming destruction that will be wrought by Israel’s enemies.
“all dogs mute (unable to speak); they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.” This is particularly harsh (for good reason): the dog is used throughout Scripture as a figure for the members of wicked nations. In fact dogs and pigs are both synonymous with the wicked (Matt. 7:6). Yeshua said in response to the request of the Canaanite women, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matt.15:26).
The watchmen of Israel are described here as being unable to speak, unable to bark a warning because they prefer comfort, sleep, dreaming to the reality of the task before them. In their disregard for God they have become negligent in protecting their people Israel. The blind watchers are the fruit of an idolatrous majority within the nation of Israel at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy..
There is an ironic play on words in the Hebrew text. Instead of Israel’s watchmen being “choziym” meaning “seers” they were “hoziym” ravers, babblers, fanciful dreamers, utterly deluded.
Isa 56:11 Ve’hakelaviym And the dogs azeiy-nefesh have a fierce soul; lo yadeu save’ah they never know satisfaction. Ve’heimah But they are roiym shepherds who lo yadeu haviyn don’t know discernment; kulam all ledarkam to their own ways they have panu turned, iysh each man (one) levitzo to his own gain (profit, unjust gain), mikatzeihu to the extreme end.
These dogs (watchmen, leaders) of Israel have mindless and fierce animal hunger. They care only for the things of the flesh (fallen nature) and pursue the desires of the flesh without ever finding satisfaction in that which they consume.
“they are shepherds who don’t know discernment;” This is a heart wrenching statement. The figure of shepherd is best represented in the Good Shepherd Hashem (Yeshua). However, the shepherds of Isaiah’s day were negligent, lazy, selfish and without self-control. They were devoid of discernment because true discernment comes from God through the Holy Spirit and they had chosen to shun God and ignore His precepts.
“all to their own ways they have turned, each man (one) to his own gain (profit, unjust gain), to the extreme end.” Not just some but “all” of Israel’s leaders at that time had turned to their own ways (fallen nature). They had reached a time of greater sin than that of the time of the judges of Israel. During the time of the judges there was a repeated refrain that said. “There was no King in Israel at that time and each man did what was right in his own eyes…” At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy Israel had a king, therefore, the greater indictment, “There was a king over Israel at that time, and yet each man did what was right in his own eyes, including the king…”
We note that each leader desired personal gain and pursued it in excess. This is a description of idolatry.
Yeshua spoke of some of the Parushiym (Pharisees) of the first century in a similar way:
“Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard this saying?”
13 But He replied, “Every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Leave them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” -Matthew 15:12-14 (TLV)
“Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel over land and sea to make one convert. And when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourself. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘Whoever swears by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the Temple, he is obligated.’ 17 O fools and blind ones! Which is greater, the gold or the Temple that made the gold holy?” -Matthew 23:15-17 (TLV)
Isa 56:12 Eitayu He arrives ekchah-yayin to receive wine ve’nisbeah and drink heavily sheichar strong drink (liquor, spirits), ve’hayah and it has come to pass kazeh yom this day will be like machar tomorrow, gadol great (abundant) yeter remainder (excess) meod exceedingly.
"saying, come, let us take wine, and be inebriated with old wine; and our dinner tomorrow shall be better than today, large, very large.'' -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isaiah has previously described the spiritual leaders of Israel in a similar way:
“But these also reel from wine
and stagger from strong drink
—the kohen and the prophet reel from strong drink--
are confused because of wine,
they stagger because of strong drink,
they are muddled in vision,
they stumble in judgment.
8 Since all the tables are full of the filth of vomit,
no place is left.” -Isaiah 28:7-8 (TLV)
The drunkenness of Israel’s watchmen, shepherds, leaders, both spiritual and secular was such that it continued from one day to the next without breaking. They were practicing a lifestyle of debauchery more common to pagan idolatry than to the moral Torah observant culture of a spiritually healthy community.
“But Yeshua said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the material goods he possesses.” [c] 16 And Yeshua told them a parable, saying, “The land of a certain rich man produced good crops. 17 And he began thinking to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do? I don’t have a place to store my harvest!’ 18 And he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do! I’ll tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I’ll store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ’O my soul, you have plenty of goods saved up for many years! So take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! Tonight your soul is being demanded back from you! And what you have prepared, whose will that be?’ [d] 21 So it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich in God.” -Luke 12:14-21 (TLV)
Copyright 2019 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.