The prophet asks and knows the answer “Will You be silent and afflict us excessively?” We know this, that God is just and not excessive, self-controlled and not compulsive, kind and not punitive, ready, able, and willing to save at the appointed time.
NB: The traditional Jewish numbering of this portion of Isaiah differs from the numbering in the Christian Canon. Therefore, I have listed the Jewish order in brackets alongside the Christian order of numbering.
Isa 64:1 (63:19) Aleiyhem Upon them lu-karata tear apart shamayim the heavens, yaradta descend, mipaneycha from Your face hariym the mountains nazolu trembled in insignificance--
“We are Thy people that were of old: not unto the Gentiles hast Thou given the doctrine of Thy law, neither is Thy name invoked upon them; not unto them hast Thou inclined the heavens and revealed Thyself; the mountains quaked before Thee.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isaiah continues his plea on behalf of his people Israel and according to the prompting of the Spirit of God. His cry is the cry of the Living Word of God in him. Like Moses and later Rav Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle), Isaiah cries out for the redemption of Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen). Therefore, ultimately, Isaiah’s words are the words of the Son (Yeshua) pleading with the Father.
It is YHVH Mighty to Save, Whom Isaiah is petitioning. These words are the bold request of one who is in true relationship with the fearsome, terrifying, omnipotent, omniscient God of all creation.
When asked Whom they serve the righteous respond “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth…” (Ezra 5:11; Jonah 1:9) The heaven and earth imagery is of great significance because it connects us to the very beginning of creation and the Originator of all things, while also reminding us of Jacob’s ladder and one of the central aspects of the Gospel, God coming down to redeem humanity. Therefore, in the use of this language all humanity is called to witness the work of the One true God Who is above all gods (El elyon).
The heavens are the garment that shields the heavenly Holy of Holies, they are the curtain that falls between the priesthood of humanity (Levitical) and the Holy God of Israel, the earthly Temple in Jerusalem being a representation of the heavenly Temple (Hebrews 8:5). Only a priesthood of the heavens can perform the sacrifice needed to allow Israel and the nations entry into the heavenly Holy of Holies (Hebrews 7 & 8). Therefore, to ask God to tear the heavens is to ask Him to rend the curtain, the garment, that separates humanity from intimate relationship with our Creator. This must begin and end with Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen) as participant. In effect, Isaiah is asking for the vicarious sacrifice of Yeshua the King Messiah, at which point HaShem tears His garment from neck to floor in the greatest manifestation of divine grief ever to be shown. That garment being represented in the curtain that separates the Holy place of the earthly Temple from the Holy of Holies. All this is symbolic of God’s desire to reconcile humanity to Himself through His own everlasting blood, that blood flowing through the veins of His Son our King Messiah Yeshua.
The phrase “descend, from Your face the mountains trembled in insignificance…” (Rev. 16:20) is repeated in verse 3 and correlates to the trembling nations of verse 2 (inferring that like the mountains that seem beyond conquering, the nations too will be toppled and left trembling before God) but more significantly alludes to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Why? Because Isaiah is acknowledging that Israel alone among the nations has received the written Torah and the redemptive goal of it, and at the same time is in desperate need of God’s direct intervention, that is, the rending of heaven and the impartation of Salvation Himself (God with us), the living Word made manifest for the redemption of Israel and the nations.
Does God hear and respond to Isaiah’s plea on behalf of his people Israel and indeed the entire human race? The answer is a resounding yes! God Himself, manifest in the Person of His Son the promised Servant King Messiah Yeshua, does indeed come down, rending the heavenly curtain of separation even as the earthly curtain is torn, revealing the Holy of Holies and an opportunity for all who would receive His loving vicarious sacrifice and resurrection life to enter into the intimate and everlasting relationship which humanity had in the beginning, when YHVH created the heavens and the earth.
Isa 64:2 (64:1) Kikdoach Like when kindling eish fire hamasiym the brushwood mayim tiveh-eish fire causes water to boil— lehodiya to make known shimcha Your Name letzareycha to your adversaries, mipaneycha from Your face goyim nations yirgazu tremble.
“When Thou didst send forth Thine anger like fire in the days of Elijah, the sea was melted, the waters were flames of fire, to make Thy name known to the enemies of Thy people, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
There is a figurative correlation here to the miracle performed by God at the request of Elijah against the prophets of the Ba’aliym (1 Kings 18:38). The idea being that there is an even greater manifestation of this miracle in which the nations also will be left trembling before God. Judgement always begins with Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen) and then spills over into the nations.
The “tiveh-eish” melting fire, is fire of extreme heat which bursts forth quickly from the ignition of dry stubble. The violent crackling, fierce flame and pulsing heat of such fire is a fearful representation of the vengeance and judgement of the Living God. The result being that YHVH God’s Name is made known to the nations. After all, how can the nations call upon God’s name and be saved unless they are first made aware of His Name. That is, the Name of His King Messiah (Acts 2; 4:11-12).
“And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.” -Joel 2:32a
“Yeshua is ‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’ (Psalm 118:22)
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:11-12
Isa 64:3 (64: 2) Ba’asotcha When You fashioned noraot fearful (awesome) things lo nekaveh that we did not look for, yaradta You descended, mipaneycha from Your face hariym the mountains nazolu trembled in insignificance.
The fearful things of old are the miraculous acts of HaShem in delivering Israel, freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt, manifesting His Word at Sinai, delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians, and many other acts both predating Israel’s captivity in Egypt and yet future from the purview of the Israelites of Isaiah’s generation.
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.” -Judges 5:3-5 (NIV)
These actions of HaShem were not looked for in the sense that Israel was not capable of seeing His glory, nor truly understanding His love for His chosen people. Few sought intimate relationship with God (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua etc.) But in every generation He revealed Himself as Holy, and manifest His power in pursuit of the sacrificial, loving redemption of His chosen people (Israel: ethnic, religious).
The repetition of the descent of His face and the trembling mountains reminds the reader of the giving of the Torah and of the intimate love relationship that Israel’s Creator desires.
“Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.” -Exodus 19:18
Isa 64:4 (64:3) Umeiolam And from perpetuity (the beginning) lo-shame’u none have heard lo he’eziynu none have perceived by the ear, ayin lo-ra’atah no eye has seen Elohiym a God zulatecha except You, ya’aseh Who works limchakeih-lo for those who wait for Him.
“And since the world was, ear hath not heard the report of such mighty deeds, nor hearkened to the speech of rapture, nor hath eye seen, what Thy people saw, the Shekinah of Thy glory, O Lord; for there is none besides Thee, who will do such things for Thy righteous people, who were of old; who hope for Thy salvation.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) paraphrases this text, making the phrases “those who wait for Him” and “those who love Him” synonymous:
“But, as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—1 Corinthians 2:9
In simple terms, there is no God like or other than You HaShem. The expression of His nature that truly sets YHVH apart from all other would be gods, is His devotion to His creation. He is immutably intent on lavishing His love on all who love Him and wait patiently for Him to reveal the fullness of His redemptive purposes for humanity. First for the Jews and also for the nations (Romans 1:16).
Both the present verse and the subsequent quotation of it by Rav Shaul, are an allusion to the Olam Haba (World to come) and the new heavens and earth that await the redeemed of the Lord. This is connected to the afore mentioned, “Upon them tear to pieces the heavens, descend, from Your face the mountains trembled in insignificance…” (verse1). HaShem as Redeemer and God with us (Immanuel) will come, has come, and is yet to come. First as Creator, then as King Messiah, and finally as King Messiah and Re-Creator. Thus, the present portion sets a foundation for the revealing of the new heavens and earth in the latter part of the following portion (Chapter 65).
It is interesting to note that the Talmud understands the present verse to refer to the time of the King Messiah and the Olam Haba (World to come).
"all the prophets say, they all of them prophesied only of the days of the Messiah; but as to the world to come, eye hath not seen…” - Talmud. Babylonian. Sabbat, fol. 63. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 99.
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.” -John 1:18 (ESV)
Isa 64:5 (64:4) Pagata You meet et-sas with the joyful one ve’oseih and work tzedek righteousness, bidracheycha in Your ways yizkerucha you call them to mind; hein-atah Behold, You katzafta were angry, vanecheta and we sinned (missed the way); bahem in them (our sins) olam perpetually, venivashei’a and will we be saved?
This verse continues to illuminate the nature of God manifest in the redeemed nature of His servants. In the previous verse we are told of the wonder that awaits those who wait on (love) Him. Now we are further told that He meets with the one Whom He has filled with joy (a reference to salvation and its fruit), one who subsequently works righteousness from the joy of Salvation Himself (Yeshua). We are also assured that the servants of the Lord are remembered before His face and that they in turn remember His works (the Hebrew is ambiguous for this very reason. The interpretation being twofold).
“Behold, You were angry, and we sinned (missed the way);” This is a tragic self-indictment. Israel witnessed and understood God’s wrath and anger toward her because of her sin and rejection of Him: none the less she chose to continue to sin in spite of her affliction, which was intended to bring her to repentance.
“in them (our sins) perpetually, and will we be saved?” Isaiah, on Israel’s behalf, is saying “We have intentionally continued to sin, is it even possible for us to be saved?” The answer of course is yes, and at great cost to God.
Some of the Jewish sages understand this verse differently to refer to the loss of the righteous in the generation of the wicked. While this is cohesive with other portions of Isaiah, it seems an unlikely conclusion given the context of chapter 64.
"the righteous, who were doing thy commandments with joy, are not now in the world, to stand in the gap for us.'' -Kimchi
Isa 64:6 (64:5) Vanehiy We have become chatamei unclean kulanu all of us, ucheveged and rags idiym of menstration are kol-tzidkoteinu all our righteous deeds. Vanavel And senselessly dropping ke’aleh like a leaf, kulanu all va’avoneinu our depravity, karuach like a wind, yisaunu takes us away.
In one sense the prophet is comparing Israel’s condition to that of a nation of leapers crying out “Unclean, unclean…” (Leviticus 13:45). In fact, according to the Torah regulation regarding a leaper, he was to isolate himself and cry out “unclean, unclean” in order to warn others to stay away from him, so that they might not become unclean from contact with him. This is sadly ironic, given that Israel had been given the role of being light and healing to the nations.
The prophet accepts guilt upon himself, though he is not guilty of the sins of his pairs. This is an example to all who would pray on behalf of a Godless nation. “We have all become unclean”; not just ritually but in every way, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual etc. So unclean in fact that our righteous or good deeds are likened to used menstrual rags. The modern equivalent to this being “Our righteousness is like used tampons”. Graphic, yes, and necessarily so. We are utterly defiled by our own sin and in desperate need of cleansing. A cleansing we are incapable of performing for ourselves.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” -Romans 3:23 (NIV)
“As it is written,
“And senselessly dropping like a leaf, all our depravity, like a wind, takes us away.” It is not God Who has destroyed us but we ourselves. The natural fruit of our sin has come upon us and we are defiled and afflicted by the consequences of our own sin. God does not send people to eternal punishment, people choose to go.
Isa 64:7 (64:6) Ve’eiyn-korei And there is no one who calls veshimcha upon Your Name, mitoreir who awakens himself lehachaziyk bach to take strength in You; kiy-histarta for you have concealed faneycha Your face mimenu from us, vatemugeinu and have melted us beyad-avoneinu in the hand of our perversities.
"there is none that prays in thy name" -Targum
Israel had fallen prey to false gods and even those praying to YHVH were mixing their practice with the practices of heathen worship and thus defiling the use of His Name and therefore in a very real sense, not calling on His Name at all.
“who awakens himself to take strength in You” This can be seen as an allusion to morning prayer (Today called sacharit) that is prayed from a truly devoted heart (core being). Prayed by those who begin every day with their heart (core being), mind and soul set on YHVH. Sadly the opposite is true of the generation of Isaiah.
“you have concealed Your face from us” is in fact a matter of perception and a sad reflection of the inability of Israel to perceive of God’s present help. In fact, Israel had concealed her face from Him.
“have melted us in the hand of our perversities.” Once again, it is Israel who have melted themselves in their own perversity, however it is true that ultimately it is God Who has allowed this for the sake of their disciplining and in order to provoke them to repentance.
Isa 64:8 (64:7) Ve’atah And now, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), Aviynu Our Father atah You are; anachnu we hachomer are the clay, ve’atah and You yotzereinu are our potter (One who forms); uma’aseih yadecha kulanu we are all the work of Your hand.
"and thou, Lord, thy mercies towards us "are" many (or let them be many) as a father towards "his" children.'' -Targum
God’s relationship with Israel as both Creator and Father remains intact in spite of all her disobedience and His disciplining of her. In fact, not in spite of it but as evidenced by it. He is not only the One Who moulds her, He is the One Who made the matter (essence) from which she is moulded. Like a potter Hashem has fashioned Israel for a purpose. Both individually and corporately.
“Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” -Deuteronomy 32:6 (ESV)
Isa 64:9 (64:8) Al-tokztof YHVH ad-meod Don’t be terribly angry perpetually, O LORD (Mercy), ve’lo-la’ad tizkor avon and don’t remember our perversity forever. Hein Behold, habet-na amecha pay attention now, to Your people.
The prophet reminds himself and his hearers that they are God’s chosen, ethnic, religious people. He implores God to search out the hearts of His people in accordance with the plea for Him to tear the heavens and come down. This is an admission of guilt and an acknowledgement of God’s character, in that He is unable to reject Himself and part of Who He is resides within the people of Israel.
“11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV)
Isa 64:10 (64:9) Areiy kodshecha Your holy cities hayu have become midbar a wilderness; Tziyon (Zion, parched land) is midbar a wilderness, hayatah Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Flood of Peace) has become shemamah a desolation.
This is an indictment against Israel who have taken possession of God’s holy places for their false gods and practices, their depravity and immorality. It is true that these are HaShem’s holy places, they do not belong to Israel except by His hand. Therefore He has laid them waste.
“11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
“Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” -Micah 3:11-12 (NIV)
Isa 64:11 (64:10) Beiyt kadesheinu ve’tifarteinu Our holy and beautiful house, asher hillucha avoteinu where our fathers praised You, haya lisreigat has been burned by eish fire, ve’kol-machamadeiynu and all our pleasant things hayah lecharebah have become ruins.
The Holy House is the Temple in Jerusalem. It is likely that at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy this was yet to come to pass. However, the defilement of the Temple had begun with the syncretism of idolatrous practices and thus the burning and ruin of the pleasant things was already a spiritual reality.
The “fathers” who had praised God in the past were the Levitical priesthood, operating at a time when the Torah requirements for worship and sacrifice were being adhered to with integrity.
Isa 64:12 (64:11) Ha’al-eileh Upon these things titapak will You hold back Hashem (YHVH: Mercy)? Techesheh Will You be silent, ute’anenu and afflict us ad-meod excessively, perpetually?
This ends Isaiah’s plea and makes way for Hashem’s indictment against Israel in the following chapter, where He illuminates their future sin and desolation in order to reveal Israel’s redemption and Salvation in Him.
The prophet asks and knows the answer “Will You be silent and afflict us excessively?” We know this, that God is just and not excessive, self-controlled and not compulsive, kind and not punitive, ready, able, and willing to save at the appointed time.
© 2019 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
Speaking to ethnic Israel God says “for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children.” Beware then, you Christians who reject God’s continued purpose for ethnic, religious Israel. For He contends for us!
Chapters 49 – 57 of Isaiah are referred to by some theologians as the second part of Isaiah (Though the scroll in its complete form predates any attempts to claim multiple authors [a revisionist nonsense]). These chapters (although there are no such divisions in the scroll of Yeshayahu) focus on “The Servant of The Lord” (42:1-7; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). However, there is much debate over who the Servant is, not only between Jewish and Christian scholars but also between Jewish scholars and rabbis, and between Christian theologians and pastors. And even, one might say, in the confused minds of those who over think the Scripture and miss its meaning entirely by perpetually debating with themselves.
Almost every debate entered into over the identity of the Servant in these passages offers a choice between the King Messiah and the people of Israel (ethnic, religious), with the less common addition of the prophet Isaiah himself, as the third possible candidate. Thus, proponents of the Messiah (and or Isaiah) school of thought call these chapters the “Servant Prophecies”, while opponents call them “Prophecies of Zion (Israel)”. In some of the following chapters a conclusion to the debate over this false choice “Israel/Isaiah or Messiah?” is hindered by the eclectic poetry, historical context, grammar, pronouns, prophetic nature and dating of the Hebrew text.
While it’s true that some portions of the following chapters (passages) must be clearly defined one way or the other, it’s not true of all of the Servant passages. In some cases, the answer is simply “Both” or “All three”. After all, Messiah is the ultimate Jew, for whom Isaiah is a figure only: as such Messiah is the perfect example of Israel’s calling to be a light to the nations. Therefore, He is both the representative of the entire nation of Israel (including Isaiah), and the unique King Messiah and Redeemer of Israel (ethnic, religious) at the same time. In one sense He is Israel (ethnic, religious), and in another, He is her Savior, Redeemer, and the Mighty One of Yaakov.
Isa 49:1 Shimu Listen, hear, receive, obey iyiym coastlands, Islands (of the Mediterranean), eilay to me; ve’hakshiyvu and pay attention, le’umiym you peoples, from faraway: HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has called me mibeten from the womb; mime’eiy from the inner parts of imiy my mother hizkiyr he has remembered, made mention of shemiy my name:
The first question we ask is, “Who is speaking here?” This first sentence can be applied to Isaiah, Israel and the Messiah. There is no need at this point to demand that it refer to one over the other. However, as we progress we will find that the greater context of Isaiah allows for only one conclusion. As I noted in the introduction, the Servant is both the representative of the entire nation of Israel (including Isaiah), and the unique King Messiah and Redeemer of Israel (ethnic, religious) at the same time. The famous Jewish commentator Iben Ezra adds Isaiah the prophet to the options for “Servant”. Again, Isaiah qualifies at this point, both as the prophet who literally prophesied these words and as one whom God has called from the womb. However, in light of the following verses, Isaiah, like Israel, becomes the subject of the Servant’s redeeming work and is therefore disqualified from being the Servant.
The coastlands/Islands mentioned here are the coastlands of the Mediterranean ocean. The phrase “you peoples far away” is added to include all the nations and peoples of the earth. This proclamation is for all humanity.
“Peoples, from faraway” Iben Ezra rightly notes that these words can also apply to those peoples yet future, who will hear the words of the prophecy in the time to come. This fits perfectly with the Messianic aspects of the prophecy and the redemption of both Israel and the nations through the Servant King Messiah.
“The Lord has called me from the womb” This can be said of each of the Servant candidates. Each has a Divine calling and purpose. However, the servant Israel and the servant Isaiah both owe their very existence to the Servant King Messiah, in Whom all things exist and have their being (Col. 1:16-17; John 1:3).
“From the inner parts of my mother he has remembered, made mention of my name:” In one sense this is true of every human being. We should keep in mind that the Hebrew zachor infers an act of intentional recollection and can be applied to the past, present and future. On the other hand, it is literally true of both Isaiah (whose name was fixed and given to him by the Lord, while he was in his mother's womb [Isaiah 7:14]) and of the Servant King Messiah Yeshua (Jer. 1:5; Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:31).
Having said all this, the Servant mentioned here is clearly the same Servant alluded to in Isaiah 42:1:
“Behold, now, pay attention to My Servant, Whom I uphold; my chosen, in Whom my soul delights: I have put my Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
Therefore, neither Isaiah nor Israel (the people) qualify, for they are both sin affected and are incapable of bringing “Justice to the Nations”.
Isa 49:2 Va’yasem and He has made (placed) piy my mouth ke’cherev like a sword chadah sharpened; betzeil in the shadow of his hand He has hechbiyani withdrawn, hidden, hardened me: vaysiymeiniy and He has made (placed) me le’cheitz as an arrow barur purged, purified, polished, chosen, cleansed, made bright, tested, proved; in His quiver He has histiyraniy hidden, concealed, kept me close:
“And He has put His words in my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His power has He protected me, and He has made me like a choice arrow, which is hidden in the quiver.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century C.E.)
“He has made my mouth like a sword sharpened;” Iben Ezra notes that the sword imagery alludes to the sharpness of the prophet’s words against both Israel and her enemies. He further observes that the shadow of God’s hand gives a picture of the scabbard from which the sword is drawn. This is interesting given the later allusion to cutting into the palms of God’s hands, and the role that the Servant plays in becoming a covenant of the people of Israel (neither instance could be applied to the prophet Isaiah). In short, Iben Ezra’s observation is correct but the subject of his observation is incorrectly identified.
The reality is that while this verse might be applied to Isaiah (Who is himself a type for the Messiah), it is more accurately interpreted of the Servant King Messiah Yeshua, Who is the Davar Emet (Word of Truth [John 1]), and from Whose mouth the sword of God’s actionable word proceeds (Rev. 19:15).
“And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”-Ephesians 6:17
At this point it becomes increasingly difficult to apply the text to the entire nation of Israel: for, while in a general sense one might make allowance for the fact that Israel may one day be redeemed and perform her righteous high calling, it is clear that she is herself the subject of the Servant’s redemptive work. Verse 5 makes it clear that the Servant is tasked with returning Yaakov (Israel) to God, therefore, Israel cannot be the Servant.
“In the shadow of his hand He has withdrawn, hidden, hardened me:” This cannot apply to Isaiah or Israel except in the sense of God’s protection. However, the imagery conveys both protection and secrecy. The Servant is One Who has been kept hidden from both Israel and the nations. Therefore, the Servant cannot be Israel or the prophet Isaiah. This part of verse 2 best describes the promised Servant Messiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), to Whom Isaiah has already alluded (42:1).
"Satan said before the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Master of the World! The light which is hidden under your throne of Glory, for whom is it?’ He said to him, ‘For him who will turn you back and disgrace you, and shame your face.’ He (Satan) said to him, ‘Master of the World! Show him to me.’ He (God) said to him, ‘Come and see him.’ When Satan saw the Messiah, he trembled and fell upon his face and said, ‘Surely this is the Messiah who in the future will cast me and all the princes of the nations of the world into Gehenna.’" -Pesiqta Rabbati page 161a
Iben Ezra notes, that the phrase, "he has hidden me", corresponds to the scabbard of a sword. From a Messianic perspective this shows perfect continuity.
“He has made me as an arrow; purged, purified, polished, chosen, cleansed, made bright, tested, proved;” Once again this is a description of One devoid of blemish and cannot therefore be applied to Israel or the prophet Isaiah.
A tested, sharpened, polished and refined arrow slides through the air with little more than a whisper. Only those who are alert and expecting the arrow’s arrival will note the sound of the wind (Ruach) that accompanies it.
“In His quiver He has hidden, concealed, kept me close:” The quiver, like the shadow of God’s hand, is the hidden place of preparation. The arrow, like the Servant, is hidden from Israel and the nations until the appointed time.
Isa 49:3 Vayomer and He said liy to me, “Avdiy-atah You are My servant; Yisrael (Overcome in God), in whom I will etpa’ar be glorified, seen beautiful, adorned.
“He said to me…” The “He” is HaShem, and the “me” is the Servant.
Up to this point the Servant is clearly an individual and only represents Israel by way of identification with Israel as a representative of her. It would be foolish therefore to conclude (out of context) that the “Israel” of verse 3 is a reference to the entire nation (except of course in relationship to the Servant by way of representation).
Iben Ezra writes:
“That is, ‘You are an Israelite of whom I am proud;’ or, ‘You are Israel, you are esteemed in My eyes, like all Israelites together.’ I prefer this explanation.” -Iben Ezra Commentary on Isaiah
One of the best descriptions regarding an individual representing an entire group of people is recorded in 1 Corinthians:
“ For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of the body—though many—are one body, so also is Messiah. For in one Ruach we were all immersed into one body—whether Jewish or Greek, slave or free—and all were made to drink of one Ruach. For the body is not one part, but many.” -1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (TLV)
It’s worth noting that it’s on Israel’s behalf that the Servant King Messiah affords her the opportunity to overcome and that she overcomes only in God. Therefore, the Servant King Messiah is Imanu-El, with us, God (Isa.7:14), Who causes Israel to Yisra, overcome, El, in God.
“In Whom I will be glorified” God speaks of bringing glory to Himself through the Servant King Messiah (Who is a Jew of the tribe of Judah, of Israel and therefore represents Israel [ethnic, religious]).
“4 I glorified You on earth by finishing the work that You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world came to be.”6 “I have made Your name known to the men of this world that You gave Me. They were Yours; You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” –(Yeshua) John 17:4-6 (TLV)
Isa 49:4 Va’aniy And I said, “I have laboured in vain, le’tohu for emptiness, confusion, unreality ve’hevel and vapour I have spent my strength; yet surely mishpatiy the justice that is mine et is with HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), ufeulatiy and my wages et with Elohay my God, Judge.
Now the Servant speaks, either to himself or in response to God.
The personal pronoun eliminates the possibility that this could be Israel the people speaking. Thus, in light of the varied interpretations, it is either Isaiah the prophet (Iben Ezra) or the Messiah.
The words are not of complaint as some suggest, but rather an observation of fact, either past present, future or all of the aforementioned. In the case of Isaiah, he has proclaimed the word of God to a people who stubbornly refuse to accept it and repent. In the case of the Messiah, the same is true, with the exception of the remnant that received Him.
The Hebrew text conveys in poetic terms, a description of frailty, even death, followed by justice, even resurrection.
“Yet surely the justice that is mine is with HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), and my wages with Elohay my God, Judge.” In one sense this could be applied to Isaiah as a man of integrity and Godly submission. However, it more accurately applies to the Servant King Messiah, Who possesses justice, hence, “justice that is Mine”.
Isa 49:5 And now says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yotzeriy that formed me mibeten from the womb le-eved lo to be His servant, le-shoveiv to return Yaakov (Follower, Jacob) to Him, ve’Yisrael and Israel will be gathered, ve’ekaveid and glorious be’eiyneiy in the eyes of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), veilohay and my God (Judge) hayah has become uziy my strength, my boldness, my power, my security;
“And now says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to return Yaakov (Follower, Jacob) to Him…” It’s at this juncture that all debate over who the Servant might be must end. After all, Israel (Yaakov) cannot return herself to God, nor can she gather herself. Nor has Isaiah been tasked with or manifested the mechanism for Jacob’s (Israel’s) return to God. We know that only by the shedding of blood can Israel be truly reconciled to God. Thus, the Servant must offer a covenant of blood in order to return Jacob to HaShem (49:8). Therefore, neither Israel the nation nor the prophet Isaiah qualify. Verse 5 describes none other than the Servant King Messiah Yeshua.
Yeshua (Though pre-existent, and transcendent post resurrection) was none the less born into time and space. Seeded by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Myriam (Mary) and hence, by way of His humanity, was formed in His mother’s womb. He came to fulfil what the prophet Isaiah had spoken of Him, to offer Himself, sinless, as a covenant for the redemption of Israel (ethnic, religious) and the nations.
“Israel will be gathered, and glorious in the eyes of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), and my God (Judge) has become my strength, my boldness, my power, my security;” This second clause speaks of the redemption of the entire nation of Israel (ethnic, religious) following their return to God through the Servant King Messiah Yeshua (Romans 11:26).
The only way that Israel can be restored to a position of glory in the eyes of HaShem is by blood atonement and the remission of sin.
Alternatively, if the Servant is the subject of the glory, then the text is referring to the glory God imparts to the Messiah as a result of the Messiah giving all glory to the Father God.
Isa 49:6 Vayomer And He said, “nakel It is a light, trifling thing for you to become liy eved My servant le’hakim to raise up et-shivteiy the tribes of Yaakov (Follower, Jacob), unetzureiy and to preserve Yisrael le’hashiv to return her: I will also give you le’or for a light goyim to nations, lihyot to become yeshuatiy My salvation ad as far as ketzeih the end of ha-aretz the earth (land).
The opening clause could be paraphrased as, “It is but a small beginning to My greater redemptive purpose, that you My Servant should be the one to raise up the tribes of Jacob and preserve (among the nations) Israel, returning her to Me: further still I give you as a light (uncreated) [Luke 2:32] to nations, to become My Salvation (yeshuah) to the ends of the earth.”
As can be seen from the use of the verb “yeshuah” (salvation), there is an intrinsic link between the Servant and God’s Salvation. Hence the name of the Servant King Messiah “Yeshua”, Salvation Himself.
It is nonsense to suggest that Cyrus could be meant here. Israel is being returned, not only to the land but to God, in right relationship. Cyrus made it possible (by God’s direction) for Israel to begin her physical return to the land but only a few took up the offer (historical). He did not lead the Jews back to the land, nor did he return them to God. It is therefore ludicrous to suggest that this passage refers to Cyrus. The desperation of those who seek to misinterpret the text this way can be seen as nothing less than an intentional rejection of the obvious, that it refers to the Servant King Messiah Yeshua, Whose life and ministry fit perfectly into the redemptive Messianic form prophesied by Isaiah.
Isa 49:7 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), go’el (Kinsman) Redeemer of Yisrael, and kedosho his Holy One, livzoh-nefesh to a despised soul, to one abhorrent to goy a nation, le-eved to a servant mosheliym of rulers: “Melakhiym Kings will see vakamu and rise up; sariym princes, ve’yishtachavu and they will bow down; le’ma’an for the purposes of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) asher Who ne’eman is faithful, Kedosh Holy One of Yisrael, vayivcharech who has chosen, elected, decided on you.”
These words are pretext to the more extensive prophecy of the despised and suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). As will be seen in our study of the latter prophecy, the suffering Servant can be none other than the King Messiah Yeshua.
While aspects of the present verse may be applied to Isaiah the prophet and to Israel as a people, there are certain details that disqualify them both.
First, the Hebrew says, “a despised soul, one abhorrent to a nation” and not “nations”. Israel has been abhorrent to many nations throughout her history, the Servant however, will be specifically abhorrent to the majority of “a nation” , that is the singular nation of Israel (a goy). This is because He claims to be Imanu-El, with us God, and gives His life for an atoning offering covering all sin. For the majority of Jews of the first Century CE, this made Yeshua abhorrent, a heretic and a blasphemer.
Second, “Kings will see and rise up, princess will bow down.” Kings don’t rise to nations or to prophets but to another King. Likewise princess do not bow down to nations or to prophets but to their betters, in this case, a King of Israel (The Servant Messiah Ben David [Yeshua]). Therefore, the despised soul in question cannot be Israel or Isaiah but is in fact the suffering Servant King Messiah Who will be revealed in greater detail in Isaiah’s latter prophecy 52:13-53:12.
"The Holy One, blessed be He, will tell him (the Messiah) in detail what will befall him... their sins will cause you to bend down as under a yoke of iron and make you like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering and will choke your spirit as with a yoke, and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Are you willing to endure such things?... The Messiah will say: ‘Master of the universe with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself provided that not one person in Israel shall perish, so that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption.’" -Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 36.1; Zohar II. 212a
“25 For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion.
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
27 And this is My covenant with them,
when I take away their sins.” -Romans 11:25-27 (TLV)
Isa 49:8 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “Be’et In a time ratzon acceptable aniytiycha I answered you, u’veyom and in a day of yeshuah salvation azartiycha I have helped you; ve’etztzarecha and I will guard, watch over you, ve’etencha and give you livriyt for a covenant of am a people, le-hakiym to raise up eretz a land, lehanchiyl to cause them to inherit nechalot heritages shomeimot desolated:”
The Servant is still being addressed by God, however, now the focus is clearly on the redemption of Israel, to be affected by the Servant. Therefore, the Servant cannot be Israel because she is being redeemed through the covenant provided in the Servant. Nor can the Servant be Cyrus, who made no such covenant.
“In a time acceptable I answered you, and in a day of yeshuah salvation…” This HaShem says to the Servant Who has been hidden in the shadow of God’s palm awaiting the appointed time which the prophet here writes as “a time acceptable”. Once again the use of the Hebrew “yeshuah” is an allusion to the Messiah whose proper name is Yeshua (Salvation).
“I will guard, watch over you, and give you for a covenant of a people, to raise up a land, to cause them to inherit heritages desolated:” The Servant is to be given as a covenant of a people, that people being Israel (ethnic, religious). As a result of this covenant, they will be returned to God in right relationship and they will see the promises of God concerning the Land of Israel fully filled, and the lost heritage of their dispersion restored in Godly purity for the Olam Haba (World to come).
The Servant is Himself a briyt (covenant, cutting, blood shed). Only Yeshua qualifies.
"Does not atonement come through the blood, as it is said: For it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life!" [Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 5a referring to Vayikra (Leviticus) 17:11 in the Tanakh]
“In the same way, He took the cup after the meal, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.’” -Luke 22:20 (TLV)
Isa 49:9 Say la’asuriym to those in bondage, “tzei’u Go forth; la’asher to them bachoshekh in darkness, higalu uncover (show) yourselves. Al-derachiym On ways (paths, directions) yiru they will feed (graze), u’vechol and upon all shefayiym smooth heights mariytam they will be pastured, shepherded.
“The people walking in darkness
will see a great light.
Upon those dwelling in the land of the shadow of death,
light will shine.” -Isaiah 9:1(2) (TLV)
God commands the Servant to proclaim to those in bondage (physical and spiritual) to go forth out of Babylon (Confusion) and to proclaim light to those in the darkness (both physical and spiritual darkness), commanding them to uncover themselves (an allusion to repentance).
The Servant will feed and shepherd the freed captives of Israel on high table land and return them to security in God in the land (of Israel). This is prophetic of Israel’s escape from Babylonian bondage (historical) and of her deliverance from the confusion of sin through the Servant King Messiah Yeshua (Yet future: Romans 11:26).
Isa 49:10 They will not hunger nor thirst; neither will the heat or sun strike them: kiy for merachamam He that has mercy, compassion on them will lead them, even by mabueiy springs, gushing forth of mayim water (waters) yenahaleim He will guide them, lead them, give them rest.
“14 Then he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His Temple. The One seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They shall never again go hungry, nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them and guide them to springs of living water, and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” -Revelation 7:14-17 (TLV)
“They will not hunger nor thirst; neither will the heat or sun strike them …” The scorching desert winds of the middle east are one of the greatest dangers to travellers. Therefore, the imagery here has great significance. There would have been times in Israel’s journey back from Babylon when water was scarce or supply had run out. This very thing happened to the Israelites on their journey out of Egypt. However, God promises Israel enough food and water for their entire journey. Further to this He assures them that He will provide shelter and shade from the intense heat of the Sun.
“He that has mercy, compassion on them will lead them, even by springs, gushing forth of water (waters) He will guide them, lead them, give them rest.” The Hebrew “Merachamam” is perhaps better translated “mercies, compassions, loving kindnesses…” It is YHVH, Mercy Himself that has compassion on them, and He is present to lead them as the Servant.
Notice that HaShem Himself will lead them. This is an allusion to the cloud of the presence in which the Malakh HaShem the Angel of the Lord (Yeshua) had lead Israel out of bondage and toward the promised land (Exodus 13:21-22).
The present God with us Imanu-El (Isa. 7:14; 8:8; Matt. 1:23), the Servant King Messiah will not only give water but gushing, flowing, unquenchable waters of living that sustain everlasting life beyond the desert journey.
There is something extremely valuable to be learned here. When Hashem sets us free from sin and darkness through the Servant King Messiah, there will be a journey through desert (the remainder of this life) but we will not make this journey alone. Mercy Himself leads us, we will not hunger or thirst, nor will we be tested beyond our ability to bear up under the heat of the sun of this sin affected world: we will be sheltered and warm in the sub-zero night temperatures, and we will be shaded and cool beneath His Sukkah (tent) in the scorching heat of midday. However, in order to enter this provision, we must first uncover our darkness, expose ourselves to the Light of Messiah and accept His hand. For some the alternative of remaining in darkness feels a safer option, it is not. It is better to brave the desert with a faithful guide than to remain in the cool shelter of the cave, with darkness as your only companion.
Isa 49:11 Vesamtiy And I will make (place) col-haray all my mountains ladarech for a way, umesilotay and My raised roads (highways) yerumun will be exalted.
Generally speaking the roads of the middle east are made through passes and on lower ground. Here, the imagery is essentially depicting the lowering of mountains to meet the elevation of the roads in order to create a straight level path to Jerusalem (Zion).
Isa 49:12 Hineih-eileh , Behold, now, pay attention to these (things, ones) meirachok who will come from far, distant, remote (places: Aotearoa, Pacific Islands, Jungles of Peru etc); ve’hineih-eileh and, behold, now, pay attention to these (things, ones), mitzafon from the north (Modern Russia/Europe/Scandinavia etc.) u-miyam and from the body of water/Ocean/ Mediterranean (west: modern Rome, Greece etc.); and these from meieretz the land of Siniym (Thorns: To the East, Modern China, India etc. Or, to the South re: Sinites Gen. 10:17).
This verse illuminates the greater prophetic nature of this passage by showing a deliverance that will supersede that of the deliverances from Egypt and Babylon. Israel (ethnic, religious) is still the subject of this deliverance, however, rather than being delivered from Babylon alone, the people of Israel will one day be delivered back to the Land of Israel from every corner of the earth. Thus, this verse elevates the prophecy to a time yet future, beyond the deliverance from Babylon, when all Israel (ethnic, religious) will be returned and saved, not in a physical sense only but in a spiritual sense also. It will be a deliverance from sin and darkness, and it will be made possible only through the Servant King Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 49:13 Ranu Overcome, cry out, shout, shamayim heavens; ve’giliy and rejoice, aretz earth; u-fitzchu and break out hariym mountains into rinah shouting, overcoming cry: for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has nicham comforted amu His people, and will have yeracheim mercy upon His afflicted.
In the previous chapter we are told of the heavens and the earth standing at the call of Hashem (Isa.48:13). Here, creation cries out for the revealing of the children of God (Rom. 8:19).
Why will creation cry out? She will cry out in joyous exclamation as she watches the Comforter Menachiym comfort amu His people Israel (ethnic, religious), and observes Mercy Himself (YHVH) having mercy on those among them who have been afflicted by sin and bondage. And how will creation overcome? She will overcome through the redemptive work of the Servant King Messiah and the purging, renewing, atoning and restoring power of His eternal blood.
And what is comfort? The Hebrew nacham means, consolation, an opportunity for repentance, a coming along side in sorrow, and an end to regret.
And what is Mercy? The Hebrew racham means, to have compassion, to love deeply, and to show tender affection.
Isa 49:14 And Tzyion (Zion, parched land) said, “HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has forsaken me, vadoniy and my Lord has forgotten me.”
Israel (ethnic, religious and still in Zion pre-exile at the time of this prophecy) responds from her self inflicted suffering and hurt. It is as if she had said, “You give me all these prophetic promises of freedom from affliction but in my present reality all I see is pain and hopelessness, it’s as if you’ve forgotten me.” This is of course tragically ironic, given that it was Israel who had forgotten HaShem, and not the other way around.
Isa 49:15 Can ishah a woman forget her ulah sucking child, and meiracheim not have mercy on ben-bitnah the son of her womb? Gam again, these might forget, ve’anochi yet I will lo not eshcacheich forget you.
The God Who cannot lie or change His mind affirms His faithful and everlasting love for His chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious). The greatest of intrinsic human connections is alluded to and then amplified. Even if it were possible for a nursing mother to forget her suckling child (be it through drug addiction, postpartum depression or by any other means), it is impossible for the all-knowing God of creation to forget His child Israel (ethnic, religious). More so, forgetting here, infers wilfully ignoring one’s child. God intends that it be understood that He wilfully remembers Israel, she is ever before Him. Those who claim that the Church has superseded (replaced) ethnic Israel as the chosen (elect) people of God must take warning. God will not be mocked, repent now before something far worse than delusion overtakes you.
Isa 49:16 Hein Behold, al-capayim on the faces of my hands chakotiych I have cut out, engraved, inscribed, set, governed you: chomotayich your walls negdiy are before Me tamiyd continually.
HaShem takes the woeful complaint of His people very seriously. The imagery of the nursing mother is immediately followed by another inseparable image. We are reminded that when something is doubled in the Hebrew text it denotes the fact that it is firmly established.
“Behold, on the faces of my hands I have cut out, engraved, inscribed, set, governed you…”
It is a desecration to say “tattooed”, as some do. Tattoos are forbidden to the Jewish people (Lev. 19:28), and God (in any form) would never defile Himself this way. The Hebrew text speaks of God cutting into His palms, something that might also be considered forbidden to the Jews (Lev. 19:28) were it not for the counterpoint of atonement and self-sacrifice. Thus, substitution is inferred and the obvious correlation to the nail scared hands of the Messiah is discovered.
“Your walls are before Me continually.” If a concept doubled is firmly established, then a concept tripled is everlasting. Here, HaShem reaffirms the perpetual nature of His undying love and fidelity toward Israel (ethnic, religious). Not only does He show Israel the love of a perfect Mother, He has given Himself as a substitute (Imanu-El) for her sake and further still promises to be her unflinching guardian. The walls of Jerusalem were built for her protection, and rise or fall they were always and will always be before Hashem. He never takes His eyes of the walls that surround His chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious), neither physically nor figuratively.
Biblically speaking, walls are designed to protect the inhabitants of a city from enemies, both physical and spiritual. A modern physical example of a wall that protects Israel is the wall that runs along the border of the (so called) Palestinian Authority. Many well-meaning Christians want to see this wall torn down. They say that it is an obstacle to peace (What ignorant nonsense). Their opinions are not informed by the Bible or the Holy Spirit but by popular world (fallen) opinion, and modern historical events (like the Berlin wall, the construction of which correlates in no way whatsoever to the building of the wall of defence in the conflict between the Israelis [Jews] and the [so called] Palestinians).
In fact, since the construction of the modern Israeli wall thousands of Jewish lives have been saved from the continual anti-Semitic hate crimes of Palestinian terrorists who target and murder Israeli citizens (Through suicide bombs, shootings, stabbings etc) for no other reason than that they are Jews. The Palestinian cry “From the river to the sea” seeks the annihilation of the 6 ½ million Jews living in the land of Israel today: hence the wall. Though many Christians and countless other secular citizens of the world today may call for the tearing down of this wall, God’s eye is on it, why? Because speaking to Zion (The Jewish people) Hashem says “Your walls (plural) are continually before Me”. Make no mistake, those who side against or take a neutral stand toward Israel (the people, the state, the land), are siding against God and His Servant King Messiah. This is the very definition of what it means to be Anti-Christ.
Having said this, the walls that will remain are spiritual, and are born of Salvation (Yeshua) Himself:
“In that day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city.
He appoints salvation
as its walls and ramparts.” -Isaiah 26:1
Isa 49:17 Miharu He hastens nanayich your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren etc; your destroyers and those laid waste to you will go out from you.
He hastens the return of Israel’s children and removes Israel’s enemies from her.
Isa 49:18 Seiy-saviyv Lift up, look in a circuit with einayich your eyes, u’reiy and see: kulam all these (ones, things) gather themselves together, and come to you. Chay-aniy As I live, ne’um declares HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), kiy surely chulam all of them will become ornaments, clothing, utekashsheriym and you will bind yourself with them, kakalah like a bride.
These verses 17 through 24 describe the return of captives to Zion, both historically from Babylon and in a yet future time from all over the earth (of course, this has already begun).
The imagery of binding invokes the practice of donning tefillin (prayer boxes), and adds a prayer element and a sacredness to the return of Israel’s children. The correlation to the ornaments of the bride sheds light on the marriage of the Lamb (Messiah) and the union of all who believe, both Jew and Gentile.
The phrase “Chay-aniy ne’um HaShem” As I live declares YHVH, Is an immutable affirmation of God’s faithfulness to Israel. His eternal uncreated existence is the basis for His oath to her. He will gather her and redeem her, and she will be adorned with her children (Prov. 17:6) le’olam vayid Forever perpetually.
"all these shall be unto thee as a garment of glory, and their works in the midst of thee as the ornament of a bride.'' -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isa 49:19 Kiy For, your waste and your desolate places, ve’eretz and your land that has been destroyed, surely now tetzeriy will be too narrow, distressed, cramped for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
This is a poetic way of saying, “Though the cities and towns of Israel were once left desolate with few Jews inhabiting them, now they will be devoid of enemies and overflowing with Jews so that it seems they are cramped.”
Isa 49:20 Od continually going round, they will say in your ears, beneiy the children you have after those you’ve lost, “Tzar-liy It’s too narrow, cramped for me, Ha-makom The place (Temple Mount); geshah-liy draw near to me, ve’eisheivah and I will sit, remain, dwell, abide.”
Once again, the Temple Mount Ha-Makom (The Place) will overflow with Jews coming to worship, so that the children born to Israel after the ones whom she lost so tragically, will say, “There are so many Jews here it’s cramped.” This is a positive (for lack of a better term) problem. Notice that the “cramped” language is alleviated by the phrase “draw near to me, and I will remain.” This may be attributed to the returned captives and is therefore a statement of repentant contentment. Alternatively it may be attributed to Hashem, in which case it is an invitation to intimacy.
Isa 49:21 Then you will say bilvaveicha in your core, inner being, heart, “Miy Who has begotten me these (things, ones), seeing that I have lost my children, vegalmudah and am barren, golah an exiled one, vesurah and turned aside? and who has gidel grown (brought up) these (ones, things)? Hein Behold, aniy me, nishartiy I was left levadiy alone; these (ones, things), where were they?”
Then the returned captives of Israel will say in awe of God’s goodness, “Who has given me these children in place of those I lost during my time in bondage, when I felt that I had been forgotten and turned aside? And who has brought these children to faithful maturity in HaShem? Where were they when I felt as though I had been abandoned?”
Isa 49:22 Thus says Adonay the Lord HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, I will lift up my hand to the goyim nations, and to amiym peoples, tribes ariym raise up nisiy my ensign, banner, signal pole, sign, standard to the peoples; and they shall bring banayich your sons be’chotzen in their bosom, lap, arms uvenotayich and your daughters will be carried upon their shoulders.”
God’s response to the returned of Israel is spoken under the titles Adonay Lord, Master YHVH the Lord Mercy. “I have heard your awe and incredulity and now say, pay attention! Your return to Zion is just the beginning, I will make My Servant King Messiah a sign to all nations and as a result they will bring the remnant of your children to the land of Israel, cradling them in their bosom, caring for them as if they were sacred vessels, why? For My Names sake!”
Notice that God will make His Hand of Salvation (Yeshua) a sign to both nations (political) and tribes (ethnic, cultural). God will lift up His Son the Servant King Messiah on a pole like the snake adorned pole of Moses (Num. 21:7-9)), and all who look to Him will be saved.
Isa 49:23 “And melachiym kings will be omenayich your faithful, support, vesaroteiyhem and their queens your nursing mothers: they will bow down to you with their apayim faces to the eretz land (earth), and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that Aniy I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy); and they that kovay wait, hope, expect, look for Me will not be put to shame.”
In beautiful poetic form the Hebrew text makes a correlation between the imagery of verse 15 and the Queens of the earth, who will nurse Israel’s young by proxy as instruments of God.
Here, the supplication of the rulers of the nations is seen coming from both the male and female rulers. They will both nurse and bow down to the children of redeemed Israel (ethnic, religious), and will, in repentance, humble themselves to the lowest possible degree (to lick the dust of a former enemy’s feet is the greatest act of humility in ancient middle eastern culture).
Isa 49:24 Will the prey be taken from the mighty, or the tzadik righteous captives be delivered?
Israel, suffering in the land and looking captivity down the barrel at the time this prophecy was spoken, now ask, “How is it possible that we could be delivered from the mighty enemies that surround us? Not even the righteous among us, whose deeds are approved before God could expect to be delivered from their captivity.”
Isa 49:25 Kiy Surely thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “gam Even the captives of the mighty will be taken away, and the prey of the terrible will be delivered; for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save banayich your children.
Again God responds in mercy offering surety, “You ask how it’s possible, I tell you I am that I am and I will do it. The strongest of your captors will be defeated and you will be set free, even those of you already in the jaws of a lion will be delivered and free of injury.”
Speaking to ethnic Israel God says “for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children.” Beware then, you Christians who reject God’s continued purpose for ethnic, religious Israel. For He contends for us!
Isa 49:26 And I will feed them that oppress you with their own flesh; and they will be drunk with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and chol-basar all flesh will know that Aniy I, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), am Moshiyeich your Saviour, ve’goaleich and your Redeemer, aviyr the Mighty One of Yaakov (Follower, Jacob).”
How will all flesh know that HaShem is God, The Messiah and Redeemer of Israel, the Mighty One of Yaakov? He will feed the oppressors of Israel (ethnic, religious) with their own flesh. He will turn the wicked upon each other and they will be consumed in their own hatred.
In the conclusion to this passage we see the union of HaShem and the Servant King Messiah Yeshua. Hashem calls Himself Mashiach Messiah, specifically, speaking to Israel He says “I YHVH am Moshiyeich your Messiah”. Thus, He shows that the Servant Messiah is echad one with Him.
“For they have poured out the blood
of kedoshim and prophets,
and You have given them blood to drink--
they are deserving!” -Revelation 16:6 (TLV)
“17 Then I saw a single angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he cried out to all the birds flying high in the sky, “Come, gather for the great banquet of God--18 to eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of generals and the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and those riding on them, the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great!” 19 Also I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the One who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs before him by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast, as well as those who had worshiped his image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the One riding on the horse. And all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh.” -Revelation 19:17-21(TLV)
Copyright 2019 Yaakov Brown
We are first speaking of ethnic Israel and then speaking of both ethnic Israel and the redeemed among the nations. To neglect the former negates the latter.
Chapters 34 and 35 detail the doom of Edom and the return to the land of the redeemed people of Israel. These chapters are act as an epilogue of what some call the “Book of Wows”.
In these chapters the prophet looks beyond the punishing of Assyria and its judgement and eventual destruction to the judgement of all the ungodly nations of the world. Edom, a brother to Israel, had acted in an unbrotherly way toward Israel during her distress. Edom, while a literal ethnic title, is also used as a personification of all those who have come against God and His people. Edom is seen as a representation of that which is evil within the human race and is prophesied to share the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Chapter 34 details the fate of Edom which is almost identical to that of Babylon. Some critiques mistakenly presume that this is proof of a post exilic dating for this text, however, it is more reasonable to conclude that the similar themes in Zechariah and Ezekiel are simply proof that Isaiah’s prophecies were well known to the latter prophets and that it was Isaiah’s scroll that influenced the latter prophets and not the other way around.
Chapter 35 is an exceptional poetic picture of the future redemption and return of Israel both spiritual and physical. It provides a stark contrast to the judgement, punishment and desolation of Edom, the evil nations of world who have sought come against God and His redemptive purpose for humanity.
Isa 35:1 Ye’susum Rejoice midbar wilderness (from the Word) and tziyah dryness (dry place) vetageil and be glad aravah desert plain; ve’tifrach and blossom kachavatztzalet as the rose, meadow saffron, crocus.
The previous chapter ends with Edom’s (Enemies of God and Israel) land being turned into a place of perpetual desolation, dryness. Whereas this chapter begins and ends with Israel’s desert and wilderness being transformed into well-watered blossoming pasture land.
The Hebrew word midbar (Wilderness), as previously discussed in my commentary on Isaiah 32, is a contraction meaning “from the Word, essence, thing”. Thus, rejoicing comes from the Word (John 1), and from within Zion.
The Hebrew tziyah “dryness”, is the root for the noun Tziyon (Zion: parched land). Therefore, the dry land of the desert is a personification of Tziyon. Zion is to rejoice and be glad from her interaction with the Word (The Messiah Yeshua). As a result she will blossom like the rose or meadow saffron, both beautiful and fragrant blooms.
The wilderness is a place of nourishment for the people of Israel. Her journey through the wilderness after escaping her captivity in Egypt resulted in her spiritual formation, and prepared her for what was ahead of her in the promised land. Revelation 12:14 describes Israel’s original exodus retrospectively and leaves open the possibility that the future may yet hold a wilderness experience for the ethnic people of Israel.
As a remez (hint) from the Hebrew text we can read “Rejoice from the Word in your wilderness experience, and you dry ones (Tziyah: residents of Zion) be glad even as far as the arabah (the desert parts of your God given land), behold, God is making you blossom and prosper.”
Rav Moses Hakkohen writes that there are two opinions as to the specific nature of this prophecy. One opinion suggests that this describes the state of Israel in the time of the Messiah’s reign, and the other suggests that it refers to the peaceful state of Judah following the Assyrian withdrawal in 704 BCE. In fact both interpretations are valid. The perpetual nature of Hebrew prophecy allows for both.
Isa 35:2 Paroach buding, sprouting, tifrach bud, sprout, (abundantly), vetageil and be glad with giylat joy veranein and overcome, shout: Kevod the glory of ha-levanon the Lebanon (witness) nitan-lah will be given to her, hadar the splendour of ha-Carmel the Carmel (Garden land) and ha-Sharon the Sharon (plain north of Jaffa between the central mountains of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea), they will see Khevod-YHVH the glory of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), the splendour of Eloheiynu our God (Judge).
We note that the “budding, sprouting” from the root parach, is doubled at the beginning of this verse and infers abundance while also reminding the reader that the future blossoming and rejoicing of Israel has been firmly established by God.
Ibn Ezra is right in saying that this text refers to the land of Israel or Jerusalem itself, and that the “They” of the final clause refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is affirmed by the 2nd century Targum Yonatan which reads;
“the house of Israel, to whom these things are said, they shall see,''
We further observe that while the favoured English translation is “With great joy and singing”, the Hebrew root ranan literally means to overcome and can mean to shout or cry out but at best can only be rendered as singing in a figurative sense. Therefore, I have chosen to translate the Hebrew as an “overcoming shout” rather than as “singing”.
“The Lebanon (witness)” in this context probably refers to a specific mountain in Judea famous for its tall cedars and green appearance rather than to Israel’s northern neighbours. It alludes to both the physical appearance of the mountain and perhaps also to the future physical appearance of the “witness” who will precede the Messiah, that is Elijah. The kevod glory is associated with the Lebanon, whereas hadar beauty, which infers a more earthly affiliation, is connected to the Carmel and the Sharon (two locations within the territory of Judah famous for their fruitful pasture land).
In using all three locations to refer to the coming redemption of the land, the prophet is showing that this redemption will cover the entire land of Israel.
The kevod (heavenly glory) and the hadar (earthly beauty) will be united and as a result the people will see the Khevod HaShem the glory of Mercy and the Hadar Elohiym the beauty of His judgement. The couplets within the Hebrew poetic-prophetic text are intended to give a sense of something established outside of time and space that is to take place within time and space.
Isa 35:3 Chazeku Strengthen you yadiym the hands of rafot the weak, uvirkayim and the knees of koshelot the stumbling ones ameitzu make strong, alert, courageous, brave, bold, solid, secure.
By far the majority of Jewish commentators attribute this verse to the Messianic age. These things did not occur during the reign of Hezekiah, it is therefore intellectually dishonest to suggest that they did.
Strength and courage are the result of the coming King’s (Isaiah 32) redeeming work. Hashem Himself will hold firm the shaking hands of the weak and give courage and stability to the stumbling ones. This applies both to the weakness of the body and that of the spirit, mind, and soul being. Hashem and His Mashiyach King will affect this transformation and regenerate the people of Israel and her land.
The hands symbolize human action and the legs represent the way we walk or live in a moral sense. Thus the coming Redeemer will replace the shaky and morally dubious actions of His people with the firm right action of His Spirit and will give His people the courage to walk rightly before Him in the presence of the Messianic King.
Isa 35:4 Say lenimhareiy to them that have an anxious, hurried, fearful lev core being (heart), “Chizku Be strong, al-tiyrau don’t fear (be afraid): hinei behold, Eloheiychem your God (Judge) nakam with vengeance will come, with a recompense Elohiym God (Judge); Hu yavo veyosha’achem He will come and save you (plural).
Ibn Ezra suggests that this verse is spoken to those who don’t believe this miracle could happen.
This wonderful message of assurance spoken to the ethnic people of Israel then and now is also available to all who would put their trust in Israel’s Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). What a wonderful encouragement it is to hear these words from the mouth of the Messiah:
“You who are anxious, hurried, fearful within your core being, be strong, don’t fear, listen to Me, your God is coming with vengeance against your enemies and His: your God, the Judge of the universe is coming to repay the wicked in justice; He will come and save you!”
I’m reminded of the comforting words chanted as we complete each book of the Torah and at the end of the Torah cycle:
“Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik.” Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened!”
Some shy away from talking about the vengeance of the Lord because they are under the delusion that this somehow impugns God’s character, it does not. God is just and His vengeance is just. There is security in knowing that the God in Whom we have placed our trust will be fierce in His administration of justice and in His protection over us His children, both redeemed ethnic Israel and Messiah following Gentiles. The Scriptures speak of the vengeance of God on many occasions and often in conjunction with His deliverance of ethnic religious Israel: Isaiah 61:2; Luke 21:22; Revelation 18:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
Recompense is reward to the righteous and punishment to the wicked (Rev. 11:18).
“He will come and save you”. The King Messiah came for the first time to perform the redeeming act of death and resurrection in order to make eternal deliverance possible for ethnic Israel and all humanity. And, although it is true that He has come to save you, it is also true that “He will come and save you”! In this context the prophet is speaking specifically to the ethnic people of Israel His chosen people. Yeshua the King Messiah has come to deliver us from sin and is coming again with vengeance and in order to bring judgement and recompense.
Notice that verse 4 uses only the Name of God that denotes judgement. Mercy (YHVH) and Judgement (Elohiym) begin this redemptive process (v. 2), but it is God as Judge Who saves (Yeshua) in the present verse. The King Messiah is coming again as a warrior, a fierce King, with judgement and recompense He will bring about the salvation of His brothers and sisters ethnic Israel. Make no mistake, God will keep His promises to ethnic Israel, not because of our righteousness but because of His. The Prince of Peace will again come to save us but this time He will be wearing the garments of war.
Isa 35:5 Then opened will be the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
These words taken literally refer to the physical events that directly correlate to this prophecy, those being the healing miracles of the King Messiah at His first coming, recorded in the Brit-Chadashah (New Testament): Matthew 9:27; John 9:1; Matthew 11:5.
We must however, go a step further, for this verse is also speaking of a time when this will happen in a general sense. Meaning that the eyes of all who are blind in Israel will be opened along with the unstopping of the ears of all in Israel who have been deaf. This refers without doubt to a spiritual blindness and a spiritual rebellion. These events, while having occurred in part in both the physical and spiritual due to Messiah’s saving work at His first coming, are yet to be fully filled. This yet future event is described in Romans 11 and will bring about the redemption of all of ethnic Israel.
Isa 35:6 Then yedaleig leaping like a deer piseiach a lame man, ve’taron and overcoming, shouting, leshon the tongue of ileim the dumb, silent, mute: ciy-nivkeu for breaking open, tearing, bamidbar in the wilderness (in and from the Word), mayim waters: unechaliym and a torrent ba’aravah in the steppe desert.
Once again the physical healing of the lame within Israel saw its fulfilment in the days of Yeshua the King Messiah’s first coming (Matthew 15:30; Acts 3:1). Likewise the healing of those unable to speak (Matthew 9:32; Matthew 12:22). However, the Targum rightly understands this as referring not only to physical healing but also to the spiritual redemption that the Messiah was to bring to ethnic Israel and the nations:
"then shall the eyes of the house of Israel be opened, who were as blind men as to the law; and the ears of them that are as deaf men, to attend to the words of the prophets shall hear; then when they shall see the captives of Israel gathered to go up to their own land as the swift harts, and not tarry,'' -Targum Yonatan (2 century BCE)
The lame man is symbolic of one whose purpose has been hindered by the sin affected world. His healing brings him into a place that exceeds all hope and causes him not just to walk but to leap. The one unable to speak has an impaired tongue or language. This is representative of a restriction that has been imposed upon his ability to communicate. Thus, the loosing of his tongue or language sets him free to communicate the righteousness of God to others. In one sense we might say that the Hebrew language had itself been restricted during the Hellenistic period and parts of later history but has now been loosed once more, this time as an everlasting language.
The Hebrew nechaliym (torrent) is from the root nachal “inherit, possess”.
The wording of the latter clause is beautiful and revealing:
“for breaking open, tearing, out of the wilderness ( from the Word), waters: and a torrent in the steppe desert.”
The waters will of course literally break forth to water crops and bring flowers into blossom, but the prophet intends much more and the prophetic meta-narrative of God demands it. Water is life and that life is born of God, poured out to us through His Messiah Yeshua Who said:
“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!” -Yochanan (John) 4:13-14 TLV
Notice that this water comes from our wilderness experience, from that time when we dwelt alongside the Mishkhan (Tent of the Presence). Wilderness life is hard but intimate, a trial that binds us together out of necessity. It is mi-from davar-the Word Himself, He Who bore our wilderness and suffered as we have, that the living water comes forth.
Look closely at the language. It is dishonest to translate nechaliym as streams: nachlah is a tearing, a torrent, a bursting forth. This is not a description of a trickling stream or otherwise, rather it is a an image of a gushing, bursting, fierce, unrelenting rush of waters that will forever silence the thirst of the desert and satisfy the thirst of the soul. Isaiah is prophesying a torrent of eternal life, something that we inherit nachal through Messiah.
Isa 35:7 And it has come to pass ha-sharav the burning (scorched) ground, mirage, will become la’agam a troubled pool, and the thirsty ground springs of mayim water: binveh in the habitation (shepherds hut) of taniym serpents/dragons, where each lay, shall be chatziyr grass, Leeks, herbs with reeds and rushes.
The plain meaning indicates that while once the scorching heat of the desert produced the illusion of an oasis within a mirage, now there will really be a place of refreshing waters and palm trees, and where there was once nothing but dry thirsty ground there would now be springs of water. The environment that had been ideal for snakes will now be too wet for them and will become a green well-watered land, lush with leeks, rushes and herbs.
On the other hand the symbolic language also conveys some deeper spiritual truths. The mirage produced by the conditions of Israel’s desert experience had become their focus so that they had chosen to pursue the mirage of unsatisfying water offered by false gods, waters that weren’t really there. Now, in the Messianic age they will behold the real living waters of God and His Messiah.
The regeneration of the land will make it impossible for the serpent to make his home there. The shepherd housing, once occupied by the false shepherd, symbolized by the serpent, will now be occupied by the righteous and rightful shepherd of Israel, the King Messiah Yeshua. Thus, the serpent Satan and his minions will be removed from the land completely and forever.
Isa 35:8 And it has come to pass sham there maslul a highway vaderekh and a way, vederekh and the way of ha-Kodesh the holiness, she (lah) will be called; and no tame unclean, impure thing will pass over it; but it (he) will be for those choleich going forth, derekh a way ve’eviliym that fools (despise wisdom) will not err in, wander from.
“There” means through the once barren lands of the southern and parts of the eastern borders of the land of Israel. A maslul highway will be made to carry and return the redeemed of ethnic Israel, both physically and spiritually. A highway is a wide main road that is unmistakably clear to all who seek it.
This “Highway” will be vaderekh “the Way”. The Hebrew text repeats the phrase “vaderekh vederekh ha-kodesh” literally “and a way and the way of Holiness”. The text explains that the second phrase is a title for this “way”. In other words, while this is a literal highway it is also a spiritual path, one that has a name “Vederekh Ha-Kodesh” The Way of Holiness. It is therefore, no coincidence that the spiritual path pursued by the Jewish followers of the King Messiah Yeshua became known as “The Way” a Jewish sect (Acts 19:9-23). Thus, this “Way of Holiness” refers to ethnic Israel’s path to salvation through the King Messiah Yeshua and his blood atoning sacrifice and resurrection.
“No unclean thing” refers not only to ritual uncleanness but to moral uncleanness. This way will be only for those who have returned to God through the Redeemer and Messiah Yeshua. In historical context this must first be understood to refer specifically to the Jewish people, however, it will also become true of those among the nations who accept Israel’s Messiah Yeshua. He is of course “Ha-derekh, ha-emet ve’chayim” The way, the truth, and the life.
Such is the clarity of the highway and its “way” that even the one who was once foolish, who now chooses “The Way”, will no longer be able to walk in error due to the transformative work of God through the Messiah.
Isa 35:9 There will not come there any aryeih lion, nor any ravenous chaiyot animal shall go up there, it shall not be found sham there vehalechu and walking geuliym the redeemed:
The lion and ravenous beast are symbolic of harm that comes against travellers, especially in a land that has become unruly and left desolate. Thus, the text is conveying the idea that all the previous threats which resulted from sin and lawlessness will be removed from Tziyon (Parched land) and that only the redeemed (Through Messiah) will walk in this place.
Isa 35:10 Upeduyeiy And the ransomed of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yeshuvun will return, and come to Tziyon (Zion: parched land) berinah with shrill ringing cries (overcoming) vesimchat and joy olam everlasting al rosham upon their heads: sason gladness vesimchah and joy yasigu they will obtain, take hold of, venasu and flee yagon grief, sorrow, anguish va’anachah and sighing, groaning.
Notice that it is only the ransomed of Hashem who will return. No one will return unless his ransom has been paid. Thank God, Yeshua gave of Himself to be that ransom for all ethnic Israel and for the nations. Here though we are first speaking of a physical return and then a spiritual one. Therefore, we are first speaking of ethnic Israel and then speaking of both ethnic Israel and the redeemed among the nations. To neglect the former negates the latter.
We see that this chapter ends by referring to God’s ethnic chosen people using the designation it began with, “Tziyon” from tziyah (Parched Land). He was there in the wilderness, He is here in the regenerated land.
“Berinah” is more akin to the shrill wailing of middle eastern women than it is to singing. Mizrachi Jewish women still make this shrill cry at weddings and festivals in celebration of the goodness of God.
This returning to Zion is one of the greatest of joys. The prophet says that ethnic Israel will be filled with everlasting joy, and that joy will rest upon our heads. The rosh (head) is the ruler of the body. Thus the joy that is everlasting will rule us both individually and corporately. We will obtain this through the King Messiah from God the Father and what’s more, all that once resulted in sadness, sorrow and suffering will flee away.
This will begin as a complete restoration of the ethnic people of Israel, God’s chosen, and culminate with the resurrection of the righteous from every ethnicity of humanity and the unification of the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, and the regeneration of all things through Messiah Yeshua our King and Redeemer unto the Glory of HaShem the Merciful King of the universe.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
“For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives—for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.” –Leviticus 17:11
It is impossible to properly understand the book of Isaiah the prophet outside of the historical context of Isaiah’s life. The events occurring in the land of Israel and throughout the known world at the time of his ministry were tumultuous. Empires battled one another for possession of the Fertile Crescent and Isaiah spoke to God’s chosen people in the midst of the chaos. Therefore, we must ascertain to the best of our ability the approximate period of history in which the prophet lived and ministered. We also need to understand the art of Hebrew prophecy itself and the words used to convey the rich complexity of meaning combined within the Hebrew “Navi” (Prophet).
In addition there is a need for the Spirit filled believer to resist the delusional approach of modern critical scholarship, which often sees no room for the miraculous or the impartation of divine knowledge concerning future events. To study Isaiah as we would any other historical work via historical analysis and literary device alone would be to miss the equally important revelation that is revealed by the Spirit of God and is beyond the reasoning of humanity. We must conclude that the book of Isaiah, like any other divinely inspired prophetic work within the canon of Scripture, can only truly be comprehended spiritually.
The age Isaiah lived in seems to be best summed up by the words Isaiah attributes to the generation he’s addressing, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we will die” (Isaiah 22:13). In many ways these words also reflect the present generation and remind us that the words of Isaiah are timeless, speaking to every subsequent generation that rejects God in favour of its own appetites.
Isaiah lived at a pivotal time in Israel’s history, the two feuding kingdoms of Judah and Samaria were caught between the rival empires of Assyria and Egypt; each bent on consuming the known world and consolidating its territories into a single empire. The relatively small populations of Israel and Judah were in the path of both these kingdoms and represented the only monotheistic culture in the region at the time. In addition to the designs of military conquest, the two main powers of the Fertile Crescent also loosed a spiritual war between their gods and the God of Israel.
While the God of Israel was calling His people to a life of love, justice and righteousness, the gods of Assyria and Egypt who personified the forces of nature, were constantly tempting Israel to forsake her God and pursue her own carnal desires. In the face of such mighty nations, the Israelites looked at their weak position and often concluded that the gods of their enemies must be more powerful than HaShem. Based on this false assumption many Israelites had turned to pagan worship, though rather than embrace it entirely they had simply syncretized their beliefs; offering sacrifices to both Hashem and their new pagan deities. This is seen in the actions of king Ahaz the king of Judah:
“And in the time of his distress he trespassed even more against HaShem (YHVH: Mercy): this is that king Ahaz. For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore I will sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.” –2 Chronicles 28:22-23
Biblical Hebrew prophecy is primarily cyclical in nature. While it has a point of conception in time and space and within the chronology of history, it also sits outside of those boundaries and is often fulfilled multiple times throughout history, past, present and future. Ultimately, this is because Biblical Hebrew prophecy is seeded by the Spirit of God, Who transcends time and space and in Whom time and space exist.
The book of Hebrews uses the Greek Prophetes to describe the prophets of the Tanakh (OT). This Greek word is a composite verb pro-phemi, which means “In advance, before” (pro) and “Speak, say, declare” (phemi). Thus it can be understood to mean either “To speak in advance” or “To speak for another”. This Greek word is a good representation of what the Hebrew Navi came to mean following the days when the term “Seer” was no longer used to describe Israel’s prophets.
During Israel’s early history there were three words used to describe her prophets: Navi, Ro’eh and Chozeh. The word Navi, meaning “Prophet” comes from the root naba, meaning “To well up” or “Speak forth”. Both Roeh and Chozeh are translated “Seer”. There was at one time a distinction between the two types of seeing that a seer practiced, however, the true understanding of that distinction has been lost. Ro’eh comes from the root ra’ah, which means “To see”, and is generally applied to physical sight. Thus it can be understood to refer to a type of visual discernment of present events. On the other hand Chozeh comes from the root chaza, which also means “sight” but seems to infer inward vision, and the ability to see what the physical eye is unable to comprehend (Isaiah 22:1). Each of the three Hebrew terms for prophet are used in the following passage:
“Now the acts of King David, the first and the last, behold, are written in the chronicles of Sh’muel (Hears God) the seer (Ro’eh), in the chronicles of Natan (Giver) the prophet (Navi) and in the chronicles of Gad (Troop) the seer (Chozeh)”
-2 Chronicles 29:29
To some degree the lives of the prophets Samuel, Nathan and Gad reflect the meaning of each of the Hebrew words used to describe their roles. Samuel heard from God and was able to direct Israel according to divine discernment. Nathan’s ministry combined both divine foresight and contemporary discernment, and a harsh declaration in the form of a mashal (parable) directed at Israel’s king David. Thus he is named by the Hebrew word navi which combines ro’eh and chozeh, and adds proclamation. Finally, Gad is given a ministry that foretells or tells beforehand.
The prophets of Israel were also frequently called “Man of God (The Judge)” Ish Elohim. Inferring “Man of Judgement” (1 Sam. 2:27a). They were less frequently called “Holy man of God” (2 Kings 4:9). Which adds holiness, a sense of being “set apart”. There are also times when HaShem calls them “My servants the prophets” (2 Kings 17:13).
1 Samuel 9:9 explains:
“Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let’s go to the seer”—for today’s prophet was formerly called a seer.” (TLV)
In the end all three terms, ro’eh, hozeh and navi became interchangeable and eventually the term navi became the common designation of a Biblical Hebrew prophet of God. Therefore, the Hebrew navi, like its Greek equivalent prohetes, combines all the aforementioned attributes and functions of a prophet of God.
For the Jew, Moses is the ultimate prophet. He is called Moishe Rabbeinu (Moses our great one). His humble, anguished, relational, holy and self-sacrificial character sets the bar high for Israel’s subsequent prophetic voices. Each prophet of Israel must exhibit the essential characteristics of her prophetic prototype Moses.
Beginning with Moses and continuing throughout Israel’s prophetic journey there are key elements present in the lives of God’s prophets that distinguish them from the false prophets that God warned against (Isaiah 8:19-20).
A prophet of God can be best understood when compared with his counterpart the false prophet:
The Prophet of God is both a Preacher and a Messenger of Future Events
The prophet of God has a twofold message:
How does the Prophet of God Receive the Word of The Lord?
The Word (D’var) of The Lord (HaShem)
What the prophet spoke was D’var Elohim “The Word (D’var) of HaShem”, which was made manifest through the prophet’s:
By far the most common method of delivery of God’s message was orally in the hearing of the people (Isaiah 1; Jeremiah 7:1-2; Ezekiel 17:1-2). Often the message was also written down, as is the case with the book Isaiah (Jeremiah 30:2; Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2).
The Life and Work of Isaiah
Yishaiyahu (Isaiah: Salvation of YHVH [Mercy]) could almost be called the halfway prophet. That is, halfway between Moshe (Drawn out) and Yeshua (Salvation). Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) the son of Amotz (Strong) was a contemporary of Amos (Burden [Not the same as Amotz]), Hoshea (Salvation) and Micah (Who is like God?). God had placed each of these men throughout Israel during the 8th to 7th Centuries BCE as a warning and a hope for all the people.
Few details are known about Isaiah’s life. There is a Jewish tradition claiming that Amotz his father was brother to Amaziah, However there is no way to verify this. From the text we can glean that Isaiah was probably a resident of Jerusalem and a member of a prominent family. We also know that Isaiah was married and referred to his wife as “The Prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3).
Isaiah had two sons: Shear Yashub “Remnant shall return” and Maher Shelal hash baz “Hurry spoil, quickly loot” (Mentioned by name in Isaiah 7:3 & 8:1-3). It seems clear that Isaiah’s entire family were united in their devotion to HaShem and that their lives were in submission to the prophetic vocation of the head of their home. As a family they became a living testimony to the truth and faithfulness of God.
“Now! Here I am, I and the children that HaShem (YHVH Mercy) has given me are signs and tokens of future events in Israel, from Hashem-Tzva’ot (YHVH over heavens armies) who dwells on Mount Tziyon (Parched place).” –Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) 8:18
Isaiah’s name unifies the message of all his prophecies. He brings the redemptive message that “YHVH [Mercy] Saves” (Yishaiyahu). Both his name and his message he shares in common with the future Messiah Whom he frequently alludes to in terms of a suffering servant and a victorious King, that is Yeshua (YHVH [Mercy] Saves).
Like Eliyahu (Elijah) and Yochanan (John), Isaiah often wore a garment of hair cloth and sackcloth around his loins and sandals on his feet (Isaiah 20:2-6).
Isaiah’s Birth and Death
We can only approximate the dates of Isaiah’s birth and death. From Isaiah 1:1 we can deduce that the prophet’s ministry covered at least part of the reign of Uzziah during the period of his leprosy when his son Jotham was co-regent (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:21), and all of the reign of Ahaz and that of Hezekiah. Tradition (Both Jewish and Christian) holds that Isaiah was murdered by the ungodly king Manasseh during his reign of terror. In all, Isaiah’s ministry spanned from approximately 750 – 680 BCE.
The prophets of the Tanakh (OT) were usually called to ministry in their youth. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Isaiah was approximately 25-30 years of age at the time of Uzziah’s death (Isaiah 6:1 [740 BCE]). 2 Chronicles 32:32 indicates that Isaiah outlived Hezekiah (687 BCE) and recorded his deeds. Thus the latter years of Isaiah’s life are lived during the beginning of wicked Manasseh’s reign (687-642 BCE). The tradition concerning Isaiah’s martyrdom is based on 2 Kings 21:16a and some of the early Church fathers saw the means of Isaiah’s execution in Hebrews 11:37 “They were sawn in two”. If the ancient tradition is reliable, we can estimate that Isaiah lived to be approximately 92 years of age, 7 years of which were under the reign of Manasseh, making the date of his death approximately 680 BCE. By combining the internal Scriptural evidence and Jewish tradition we can make an educated guess that Isaiah lived approximately 90 plus years from 770 to 680 BCE.
Isaiah the Historian
In addition to the role of prophet it seems that Isaiah also acted as a historian. 2 Chronicles 26:22 reads, “Now the rest of Uzziah’s acts from beginning to end were recorded by Isaiah son of Amoz.” 2 Chronicles 32:32 reads, “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.” The identification of Isaiah as a scribe within these two texts gives weight to the orthodox view that the prophet himself recorded the entire written form of the book that came to be called by his name.
Who Wrote the Book of Isaiah?
As alluded to earlier, I reject outright the assumption ridden theories of the so called “critical” theologians. Much of their conjecture has been disproved by archaeological evidence discovered subsequent to the publishing of their theories. Like the theory of evolution, the theory of multiple authors for Isaiah becomes more and more untenable with every passing year.
One of the most compelling reasons for rejecting the multiple author theory is the fact that both Yeshua (Jesus) and His apostles understood Isaiah to be the author of the entire prophetic work named after him. They did not once attribute Isaiah’s words to an unknown author or authors, nor did they cite an unknown prophet or a disciple of Isaiah as being the author of the prophet’s words. The New Testament as a whole understands Isaiah to be the recorded words of the prophet Isaiah alone, quoting the book of Isaiah in 21 places and calling the prophet by name. The Jewish sages and the early Church fathers also affirm the singular authorship of the book. For an extensive and well-argued refutation of the critical multiple author theory please read the excellent work titled “The Prophet Isaiah” by the Messianic Jewish commentator Victor Buksbazen, Th.D.
We must conclude that (in spite of the assumptions and circular logic of the critical school of theologians) the book of Isaiah in its entirety, contains the words of Isaiah the prophet alone and was either written down by Isaiah himself and or one of his disciples during Isaiah’s lifetime or completed within several years of his passing.
The Literary style of the Book of Isaiah
Isaiah’s book is the work of the one man (notwithstanding the contrary opinions of many theologians). The literary style of Isaiah’s work is characterized by a fondness for word play, alliteration and Hebrew poetic couplings. He also uses allegory and (parables) to emphasize particular points. His writing is not confined to Israel alone but speaks to all humanity, offering God’s mercy universally (Isaiah 19:24, 25).
It’s probable that Micah the younger contemporary of Isaiah, who lived approximately 53 km south of Jerusalem in a town called Moreshet, was a personal friend and one with whom he cooperated. This would explain the almost identical texts of Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3. It is also likely that both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who lived after Isaiah, were familiar with the prophecies of Isaiah.
Josephus the Roman Jewish historian says that Cyrus the Great, the conqueror of Babylon was so impressed by the accuracy of Isaiah’s prophecies, which mentioned him by name (Isaiah 45:1), that in 538 BCE, some 140 years after the prophet’s death, he permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
More than any other Hebrew prophet, Isaiah illuminated the transcendent figure of Israel’s Messiah in His dual role as God Anointed Reigning King and Suffering Servant, pouring out His life for the redemption of many. This 8th to 7th century BCE Seer from the small mountain kingdom of Judah spoke repentance, wrath and life into the ears of his own generation, and in his writings, his voice lives on to challenge us today, almost three thousand years later (Isaiah 34:1-2; 11:1-9).
The Hebrew Text of Isaiah
The manuscripts of Isaiah found in the Qumran caves in 1947, which are over 1000 years older than any previously known text of Isaiah (1st Century BCE), are essentially the same as the Masoretic text (916 CE/AD).
Isaiah came of age during the reign of Uzziah (Also known as Azariah) in the years between 792 and 740 BCE. Uzziah was a “good king” who was overcome by his pride (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).
Uzziah was responsible for restoring the Red Sea port of Eilat to Judah, subduing the Ammorites and Philistines, and developed the agriculture and domestic product of Judah, increasing her ability to trade with other nations. However, during his reign the spiritual climate declined and genuine daily faith was replaced with the appearance of piety and tradition for tradition’s sake. The nation’s labourers and poor were exploited by the rich and Judah became much like her idolatrous neighbour Samaria (As recorded in Amos, Hosea, and Micah). The pagan influences of other stronger nations crept in to Judah’s culture and were soon attached to the worship practices of Judah. There was however a God fearing remnant within Judah. A remnant that inspired Isaiah’s hope in the ultimate regeneration and revival of Israel (Isaiah 6:13; 1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:5).
It seems that the military and economic success experienced by Uzziah went to his head. Unsatisfied with his role as king of Judah he sought to usurp the authority of Israel’s priesthood.
“But when he (Uzziah/Azariah) was strong, his core being was lifted up to destruction: for he transgressed against HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) his Elohim (God: Judge), and went into the temple of HaShem to burn incense upon the altar of incense.” –2 Chronicles 26:16
Due to this sacrilegious action Uzziah contracted leprosy at the hand of God. He lived the final years of his life in isolation while his son Jotham ruled over Judah as co-regent. Upon Uzziah’s death in 740 BCE Jotham became king of Judah. It was at some point near the end of Uzziah’s life during the period of his leprosy that Isaiah began his public ministry (aged approx. 30 years) [Isaiah 6:1].
Prior to Uzziah’s death Assyria had been preoccupied with military campaigns to the north and south of the land of Israel, giving Judah a reprieve from the occupation of the Assyrian armies. However, when Tiglathpileser 3rd became the ruler of Assyria (745-727 BCE) things changed dramatically. The Bible uses Tiglathpileser’s native name Pul (2 Kings 15:19; 1 chronicles 5:26). In order to fulfil his dream to create a world empire Pul needed to consolidate the small kingdoms of the region which included Hamat, Arpad, Damascus, Sidon, Tyre, Samaria, Judah, the cities of the Philistines, Moab. This campaign would end with his seeking to take the land of Egypt.
Pul defeated Hamat and Arpad and subdued Rezin of Damascus (750-732 BCE), and his ally Menachim of Samaria (752-742 BCE) [2 Kings 15:19]. During the reign of Pekah (740-732) of Samaria Pul annexed the Galilee and Gilead and deported the tribes beyond the Jordan to Assyria (2 Kings 15:27-31). By the time Ahaz succeeded to the throne of Judah (735-715 BCE) Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Samaria (Both now vassal kings of Assyria) invaded Judah (2 Kings 16:5-6; Isaiah 7-8). Possibly in the hope of forcing Ahaz into an alliance against their Assyrian overlords. Ahaz made the fatal mistake of asking Pul for help. In order to seal the deal Ahaz made Pul a gift of silver and gold from the Temple of HaShem. However, "He (Pu“) helped him not” (2 Chronicles 28:21). Latter Shalmaneser (727-722 BCE) laid siege to Samaria. The city was eventual captured by his successor Sargon 2nd (722 BCE) and its inhabitants deported. At this time the independent kingdom of Assyria came to an end (2 Kings 17:4-6). The prominent families of Samaria were deported to Assyria and Sargon replaced them with colonists who brought their own native gods into Samaria and eventually syncretized their worship practices with the worship of HaShem, accepting an understanding of the Law of Moses that delegitimized Jerusalem and the temple mount replacing it with Mount Gerizim. They eventually became a mixed ethnic group of part pagan part Israelite people practicing a defiled form of Biblical Judaism (2 Kings 17:41; Jeremiah 40:7; 41:5). The new Samaritan nation with their rival centre of worship (Mt Gerizim) was a thorn in the side of the Jews from the very beginning. This historical knowledge helps us better understand the depth of hatred expressed between Jews and Samaritans at the time of Messiah (John 4:9, 8:48; Luke 9:51-53) [First Century CE].
With the fall of Samaria it was only a question of time before Judah would be overthrown. However the residents of Judah continued to behave as they had been for generations, as if the day of God’s judgement would never come (Isaiah 22:13). When we look back on the history of the divided kingdom during the lifetime of Isaiah we see that the leaders of Judah and Israel seem to have lacked political wisdom and were unable to properly discern the very obvious warnings of their impending doom. Only spiritual men like the prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah were afforded insight and a clear understanding of the events that were unfolding. These prophets warned the people of God’s coming judgement, calling all Israel to teshuva (Turn around in repentance). Regarding national politics both Isaiah and later Jeremiah counselled against becoming entangled with other nations. Isaiah warned his people that Israel’s salvation could only come from God. Early in his ministry Isaiah rebuked Ahaz for calling on the Assyrian Pul for help (Isaiah 8:5-8). Later Isaiah was equally outspoken concerning a proposed alliance with Egypt against Sennacherib (Isaiah 31:1-6). Isaiah’s message was consistent and clear, “For through the voice of HaShem shall the Assyrian who beat with the rod be beaten down” (Isaiah 30:31). However, the rulers of Israel and Judah ignored Isaiah’s warnings preferring their own human understanding to his godly perspective. They practiced a ritual form of syncretized Judaism that was really just a strange mix of paganism and atheism. In spite of Judah’s failure to repent the prophet’s earnest plea on her behalf stayed the hand of God for another century. Thus Jerusalem was spared the wrath of Sennacherib in 701 BCE.
The reign of wicked Ahaz guided Judah toward her destruction but was followed by the God fearing (imprudent) Hezekiah. Under his reign Sennacherib invaded Judah and captured most of her cities with the exception of Jerusalem. The Assyrian history records these events from Sennacherib’s perspective:
“As for Hezekiah the Jew, who did not submit to my yoke, 46 of his strong walled cities, as well as the smaller cities in their vicinity… I besieged and took… As for Hezekiah, the terrifying splendour of my majesty overcame him… his mercenary troops deserted him.”
-[Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia Volume 2, Section 240 (Chicargo 1926)]
God answered the prayers of Isaiah and in response to Hezekiah’s humbling of himself HaShem delivered Jerusalem and destroyed the Assyrian army with a plague (701 BCE). However, Hezekiah’s pride, like that of his grandfather Uzziah, was eventually his undoing (2 Chronicles 32:25-26).
Judah survived precariously for another century finally coming to the end of her independence when Babylon (Once a province of Assyria) became master of the Mesopotamian Empire stretching from the gulf of Persia and just shy of the banks of the Nile.
For over half a century Isaiah witnessed all these events seeing by the revelation of God that which the physical eye could not see. By the Word of HaShem he was able to make detailed and specific prophecies concerning future events, including events that occurred many years after his death (each confirmed by history and or archaeology), the greatest of those being the accuracy with which he prophesied the events concerning Israel’s Messiah, a man who walked the earth approximately 640 years after Isaiah’s death.
The Themes of Isaiah:
Isaiah Chapter 1
The first chapter acts as an introduction to the entire book and forms a prologue to the collection of messages that Isaiah brings to Judah, Israel and the nations.
Verses 2-9 bring the charges of ingratitude, apostasy and corruption against the nation.
Verses 10-31 Describe Israel’s worship practices as hypocritical and an attempt to sweep her moral ineptitude under the rug of vain religious ritual. This is followed by a call to repentance before God’s wrath is unleashed upon the whole nation. A repentant remnant will escape judgement but the remainder of the nation will be destroyed.
As a man who is indigenous to the land of Judah and a citizen of Jerusalem, Isaiah directs his prophecies primarily toward the people of his native land Judah and her spiritual capital Jerusalem. However, within the greater narrative of God’s redemptive purpose, Isaiah’s vision centred on Israel’s ultimate destiny, her restoration and redemption and the subsequent redemption of the nations.
Text of Isaiah 1:
1:1 The chazon vision (perception, seeing) of Yishaiyahu (Salvation of YHVH [Mercy]) son of Amotz (Strength), which he chaza saw (perceived, beheld) concerning Yehudah (Praise) and Yeru-shalaiym (Downpour of Peace), in the days of Uzziyahu (My Strength is YHVH [Mercy]), (YHVH [Mercy] is Perfect, complete, innocent), Achaz (He has grasped), and Y’chezkiyahu (YHVH [Mercy] is my strength), kings of Yehudah (Praise):
The words chaza (to see) and chazon (vision, revelation) are both from a root that describes spiritual perception revealed by God to His chosen servants the prophets of Israel.
We could read, “The revelation given by God to Yishaiyahu (Salvation of YHVH)…”
The opening line of the book of Revelation comes to mind: “The Revelation of Yeshua (Salvation of YHVH) the Mashiyach which God gave to him (John)…” (Revelation 1:1).
The phrase “In the days of” means that Isaiah began his ministry in the (later) days of Uzziah (Approx. 750 BCE) and ministered for approximately 65 years, passing away (Possibly murdered by Manasseh) in 685 BCE.
A reading using the meanings of the Hebrew names is illuminating:
“The vision of Salvation from Mercy, son of Strength, which he saw concerning praise and a downpour of peace, in the days of my strength is Mercy, Mercy is innocent, he has grasped and Mercy is my strength, the kings of praise.”
The fact that the book opens with the phrase “which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” does not as Rashi suggests, mean that this was not the beginning of his ministry. Rashi and others cite 6:1 as evidence for their position along with the fact that Isaiah prophesied concerning other nations as well as Judah. However, we know from 1:1 that he began his ministry while Uzziah lived, whereas 6:1 tells us about a reconfirmation of Isaiah following the death of Uzziah. Why? Because a new king (Jotham) had come to power and the prophet’s authority was being re-established before the new monarch. With regard to the fact that Isaiah prophesied concerning other nations, there is no problem, for “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
2 Shemu Hear, listen, receive, perceive and obey! Shamayim Heavens, v’ha’azini and use your ears, broaden your perspective, eretz earth,
for Hashem (YHVH [Mercy]) d’var speaks:
The alliteration employed here gives a strength of rhythm to the language that draws the attention of the Hebrew audience. The impact of Israel’s sin is so far reaching that HaShem calls out the heavens and the earth as witnesses (Deut. 17:6).
These opening lines reflect the song of Moses:
“Ha’azinu Give ear ha-shamayim you heavens v’a’dabeirah and I will speak, v’tishma and hear ha-etretz O earth, the words of my mouth.” –Deuteronomy 32:1
Moses begins by addressing the ears (ha’azinu) of the heavens and continues by addressing the hearing (v’tishma) of the earth. Whereas Isaiah reverses this order beginning by addressing the hearing (Shemu) of the heavens and continuing by addressing the ears (v’ha’azini ) of the earth.
“The term ha-azinah, give ear, is reserved for the physically more distant listeners, whereas the term shemi-ah, hearing, is reserved for listeners close at hand. For this reason Moses uses the former term when calling on the Heavens and the latter when addressing the earth. When in contrast to Isaiah 1, 2, Moses refers to the origin of the message being himself not G-d, he emphasises the importance of what he is about to say rather than who is saying it. Moreover, “giving ear,” refers to listening done with the mind, whereas “hearing” refers to listening done with one’s senses, one’s physical ears.” –Akeidat Yitzchak 103:33
It seems that at least in a figurative sense Isaiah is alluding to the ability of the heavens (The host of Hashem) to perceive the spiritual message whereas the earth (symbolic of humanity and specifically Israel), is presently unable to hear in the spiritual sense and must therefore listen with the physical ear.
Isaiah makes it abundantly clear that these are HaShem’s words.
“Baniym Sons & daughters I have raised and brought up,
but they have rebelled against Me.
The Hebrew terms gidalti ve-romamti have a dual meaning. While they refer to the raising of children to maturity they can also be understood to mean, “I make great and of high stature”. In other words, “I’ve prospered you and given you a position of honour in the earth”.
The Hebrew poshu meaning to “rebel, revolt, transgress, break away”, is from the root pasha which means to “stride or rush”. Thus the sense here is that the sons and daughters of Hashem (Israel/Judah) have not merely sinned, they have intentionally broken away from relationship to Hashem and have done so in haste in spite of His devotion toward them. This is the heart broken cry of the Father. A charge concerning broken relationship and its consequences.
3 The bull knows koneihu the one who purchased it,
and the donkey its eibus feeding trough,
B’alayn but his husband Yisrael (Overcome in God) does not know,
Ami My people do not hit’bonan discern .”
The couplets of knowledge and discernment are first pictured in the knowledge of the purchased bull and the discernment of the donkey. These dumb animals act more righteously than Israel, who has chosen to reject the authority and bride-price of her Husband Hashem and now lacks the ability to discern where her nourishment comes from. At this time Israel lacked the basic intelligence to acknowledge that she had been redeemed by HaShem and the discernment needed in order to show gratitude toward her Husband. None the less, in His Mercy Hashem calls her Ami (My people).
We note that while the bull knows the price paid for him and the donkey knows where his food comes from, Israel, those who have overcome in God, not only fail to know their Husband (HaShem), they are also lack understanding. They have knowledge of the things of this world but because they are devoid of the knowledge of HaShem they lack the discernment needed to avoid destruction.
4 Hoy, a goy nation who chotei misses the way,
a people weighed down with avon perversity, bent, evil, iniquity, guilt
zera (seed) offspring m’reiym (gone bad) of evildoers,
baniym sons and daughters mash’chiytiym decaying (dealing corruptly)!
The alliteration again emphasizes the weighty charge against Israel. HaShem had called Israel to be a Goy kadosh, a holy nation, but she had become a Goy chotei, a nation who has lost the way. As a people (Am), Israel’s collective actions were beyond generic sin, they were perverse, heavy with guilt. More than that they had become generationally wicked, the progeny of those who have turned a once God fearing culture into a syncretized pagan abomination. Thus they were decaying both physically and spiritually.
They have forsaken Hashem (YHVH [Mercy])
They have shown contempt for k’dosh the Holy One of Yisrael (Overcome in God)
Nazru achor Estranged at the rear (They have turned backwards).
Once more the charge of relational abandonment is levelled against Israel. She has forsaken the Husband of her youth. What’s more she has squeezed lemon juice into the wound by showing contempt for the holy and faithful character of God. In doing so she also shows contempt for her own role as the nation set apart (made holy) for His redemptive purpose. As a result she has become disconnected from the rich spiritual sustenance HaShem offers and has chosen instead to walk in the opposite direction toward the rear, an idiom that conveys the sense of being behind cattle, walking in their excrement.
5 Upon what will you be struck continually,
increasing your turning away more and more?
This text is often mistranslated, taking the Hebrew phrase al mei “On what?” to mean lamah “Why?”
In fact the author is not asking “Why are you being struck?” but “For what reason do you continue to allow yourself to be struck?” This is an incredulous statement which emphasizes again the stupidity and lack of discernment alluded to in verse 2. A dumb animal will respond to being struck by turning in the right direction, whereas Israel has responded to God’s discipline by continuing to turn away in spite of repeated blows.
The whole head is sick,
the whole l’vav core being (heart) faint.
The whole head refers to both the kings and priests of Israel. The political and spiritual leaders of God’s people have become corrupt and are leading the people toward physical and spiritual destruction. Thus the core morale of the people has dropped to an all-time low and their national identity has been made vulnerable to assimilation. The “Heart of the nation” as it were, has become sick due to the wickedness of her leaders and her own acceptance of that same wickedness. Which is at its core, rebellion against God, the sin of idolatry.
6 From the base of the foot to the head
there is no soundness.
Israel is covered entirely in wounds that are the consequences of her sin. From the base of her sinful human nature to the heights of her spiritual pride there is no good in her (With the exception of the remnant).
Blows, bruises and open sores:
no pressure applied, not bandaged,
nor softened with oil.
This description of the lack of care for Israel’s wounds is the counterpoint to the method of care employed in Israel at this time in history. Wounds were often pressed out to clear them of infectious material and then oil was used as a salve prior to the bandaging of the wound to protect from further infection. Isaiah is using this figurative language to express the idea that Israel’s spiritual condition mirrors that of a person whose entire body is affected by infectious open sores that have not been treated in any way. Israel had not acted to cleanse her spiritual wounds when they were first made manifest, nor has she sought to soften her wounds with oil (the Ruach Ha-Kodesh) and as a result her wounds (which represent the consequences of sin) have not been covered (bandaged) and therefore remain as a testimony against her.
7 Your land is desolate;
your cities are burned with fire;
your ground in front of you,
overthrown by strangers.
Having described the decaying state of the nation of Israel, the prophet now describes the desolation of the land. He makes a connection between moral decay and physical decay.
This verse seems to describe the state of the land of Judah during the reign of Hezekiah prior to the birth of Isaiah (701 BCE) soon after Nebuchadnezzar withdrew from Jerusalem having decimated the cities of Judah.
8 So the Daughter of Tziyon (Parched land) is left
as a sukkah temporary dwelling in a vineyard,
like a hammock in a garden of cucumbers,
like a besieged city.
Judah (Jerusalem) had lost the security of her surrounding cities (Ransacked by Nebuchadnezzar) and had been made vulnerable to future invasion. Therefore the prophet explains Israel’s precarious situation in terms of a watchman’s temporary shack positioned in a vineyard to keep an eye on the crop, and a hammock in a cucumber patch that can only be used when the weather is fine. Jerusalem and Mount Zion have become like a besieged city.
9 Unless HaShem (YHVH [Mercy]) Tzva’ot (Host, goes forth)
had left us a small sarid (group of survivors),
we would have been as S’dom (burning),
we would have resembled Amorah (Submersion).
In these lines Isaiah identifies with his people saying, “Unless Hashem of Hosts had left us a small group of survivors”.
The comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah recognizes that these towns were completely wiped out whereas Israel is being left a small holy remnant. In the midst of the charges levelled against her Israel is offered the seed of redemption in the small group of survivors (fugitives).
While some translate sarid as remnant, Isaiah uses a different Hebrew word for remnant, shear (Isaiah 10:21-22; 11:11, 16), even naming one of his sons “Shear–Yashub” A remnant shall return (Isaiah 7:3).
10 Shemu Hear, listen, receive, perceive and obey the d’var Word of HaShem (YHVH [Mercy]), you rulers of S’dom (burning)!
Give ear to the Torah (Instruction) of our Elohiym (God, Judge),
you people of Amorah (Submersion)!
Here the call to Shemu hear is made again, this time rather than calling the heavens and the earth as witnesses, Isaiah calls on the people to pay attention to the two witnesses of HaShem: His living Word (D’var emet) and His written (ketvi) Instruction (Torah). The prophet uses the poetic coupling technique in order to equate the Word (D’var) and the Instruction (Torah).
The rulers are challenged to hear (Shemu) the Word of Mercy that they might be delivered from their burning and the people are challenged to give ear (ha’azinu) to the written Instruction (Torah) of Hashem so that they might be delivered from submersion. In other words, the leaders, both political and spiritual, are to listen to the spiritual instruction of HaShem and encourage the people to hear and practice the written moral code of HaShem. The former is Aggadah (Telling) and the latter is Halakhah (the way we walk) born of Ha-d’var emet (The Word of Truth) and ha-k’tuvim (the writings).
God is described as the Merciful YHVH and as the Judge Elohiym.
Israel are being called to return to a washing in the Word and actions that are weighed righteous before the Judge. Thus the call to repentance comes first and the rebuke follows.
11 “For what is it to Me— many sacrifices?”
Says Hashem (YHVH [Mercy]).
“I’ve received an excessive amount of burnt offerings of rams
and fat of well-fed animals.
And in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs or he-goats, I do not delight.
Isaiah has just called for a return to the Torah, the same Torah that commands the sacrificial offerings. Therefore when HaShem says, “What is it to Me” and “I’ve received an excessive amount”, He is saying that the offerings being brought, though technically correct, are not being offered with pure hands or with a right heart. HaShem is not saying that He despises offerings and sacrifices but rather He despises vain tradition practiced by wicked men.
“Woe to you, scribes and P’rushim, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint, anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Torah: judgment, mercy, and trust: you should have done the former without leaving the latter undone.” –Matthew 23:23
12 When you enter to l’raot to perceive panay My face,
who has required this at your hand--
trampling My courts?
“When you come to appear before me” refers to the Aliyot regalim (The going up festivals) Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot (Exodus 23:17). All the men who were of age and their households were to go up to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate these holy convocations with reverence and awe. Instead Israel had made a foolish spectacle out of their practices at the Aliyot festivals.
“Who has required this?” is a way of saying, “Why do you bring extra sacrifices and offerings instead of appearing before me with contrite hearts in repentance and awe?”
The trampling of the courts of Hashem brings to mind the incredulity expressed by Yeshua when He saw traders profiteering in the outer courts of the temple during His earthly ministry (Matthew 21:12).
13 Don’t bring an increase of offerings of emptiness!
Incense that is an abomination to Me.
The text is very clear. It is empty piety that God rejects, and incense that bears the stench of sin that He abhors.
Chodesh New Moon and Shabbat, the calling of holy gatherings,
—I won’t stand for it (accomplish it)--
avein wickedness, idolatry and iniquity with solemn assembly.
Why does Hashem refuse to stand for the holy convocations He has previously commanded? It is because they have been defiled by other gods and the festering sin of Israel’s priests, rulers and the common man. Israel had mixed idolatry and sin with her solemn assemblies, thus making them an aberration.
14 Chad’sheichem Your New Moons and your Festivals
My nefesh soul (All that I am) hates!
They have become upon me a burden.
I am weary of bearing them.
We note that the text says that it is “Your New Moons and Festivals” which Hashem hates. He does not hate the festivals but the idolatrous syncretized practice that Israel has made of them.
15 When you spread out your hands palm up,
I will conceal My eyes from you.
Also though your prayers are many,
I will hear nothing.
Your hands with bloods will be filled!”
Standing with arms outstretched and palms facing upward was a traditional prayer practice of ancient Judaism. In and of itself there was nothing wrong with the symbolic nature of this position of prayer. However, as the text says, “Your hands with bloods (plural) are filled”. Meaning that those approaching Hashem have shed innocent blood and have come before Him without remorse, nor did they have any intention of changing their behaviour. Thus their religious practices were nothing more than a performance meant for the eyes of men.
16 “Rachatsu Wash and be hizaku pure.
Turn away from your evil practices
those made conspicuous before My eyes.
Cease doing evil.
The Hebrew rachatsu refers to physical cleanliness, used here as a metaphor regarding the need for the people to cleanse themselves from their filthy actions. Whereas hizaku refers to inward cleanliness. The need to examine one’s self with sober moral judgement.
The phrase “made conspicuous” is a way of saying, “You’re flaunting your sin practices in front of Me. Stop it!”
17 Study how to do what is good,
seek mishpat judgement, advance the cause of the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.”
The Scriptures often use the threefold figures the oppressed, orphan and widow to represent all those who in some unique way need the protection and special care of the community.
“You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. If you mistreat them in any way, and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will burn hot, and I will kill you with the sword. So your wives will become widows and your children will become orphans. If you lend money to any of My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act like a debt collector with him, and you are not to charge him interest.” –Shemot (Exodus) 22:21-24
However, in the present case Israel has clearly neglected to pay attention to the weightier matters of the Torah. Failing to protect and care for the destitute has meant that those in need have been crying out to God and He will answer the greed of their oppressors with discipline.
The Hebrew lim’du means to study. The opening phrase, “Study how to do what is good” is both an instruction and a rebuke. Anyone who does not know how to do what is good is not walking in right relationship with Hashem.
“Seek judgement” can also be read, “Seek justice”. Both are needed: sober self-judgement and justice for the oppressed.
18 “Come now, let us reason/decide together,”
says Hashem (YHVH [Mercy]).
L’cho-na “Come now” is a familiar formula for approaching a reasoned conversation regarding volatile issues.
Notice that it is Hashem the Merciful One Who offers this opportunity to parlay.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
they will become like wool.
The use of the colours scarlet, crimson and red is meant to convey both the death (blood loss) that results from sin and the life (blood infusion) that produces life (a reprieve from death) through the sacrificial shedding of the blood offered on the altar.
“For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives—for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.” –Leviticus 17:11
“In fact, the Torah requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” –Hebrews 9:22
We know that the blood of animals was never enough to cleanse us entirely (Hebrews 10:4) and that therefore Hashem sent His Son Yeshua to be the innocent lamb Who would sacrifice Himself in order to impart the gift of eternal life through His own life giving blood.
The white snow refers specifically to newly fallen snow and is a metaphor symbolizing purity. Likewise the wool is that of an innocent lamb.
19 If you accept and hear, understand and obey,
you will eat the good of the land.
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be eaten with the sword.”
For the mouth of Hashem (YHVH [Mercy]) has spoken.
Moses said something similar to the children of Israel when he challenged them to live according to the Instruction of God. He had placed before them the two outcomes of blessing and curse. The former would be experienced by the repentant and obedient, whereas the latter would be the fate of the wilfully sinful and disobedient.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” –Devarim (Deuteronomy) NIV
The blessing is offered first “You will eat the good of the land”. This is a twofold blessing, a promise that if Israel is obedient she will remain in the land and eat of its good crops.
The counter to the blessing gleaned through obedience is the curse that comes as a consequence of disobedience: “You will be eaten by the sword”. This is also a twofold certainty for the disobedient: they will be taken from their land by the sword of their enemies and their very way of life will be consumed, including the crops they had grown for their own consumption.
Thus in obedience to God we eat and are secure but in disobedience to God we are devoid of security and are eaten up.
21 Eiychah How has it come to pass that the Faithful City has become a whore!
She once was full of justice,
righteousness dwelt in her--
but now merachetzim professional murderers!
Eiychah has a sighing quality. It is the opening word of Jeremiah’s Lamentations and here conveys the great mourning in Isaiah’s heart as he begins his lament over Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been wept over by many of God’s prophets, not the least being Yeshua our King Messiah:
“Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace), Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” –Matthew 23:37
By definition a Harlot is not faithful. The words of the prophet seek to break through the delusion created by the people of Israel with their syncretised worship practices and their pretentious false piety.
A nation is in the depths of darkness when it has gone beyond murdering out of blind rage and has sanitized the mechanisms for the murderous elite by allowing for the hire of professional murderers. This may be considered by the rich and powerful to be a sanitary practice, but it is not a pure one. A sanitary sin is the ultimate sin of regression.
22 Your silver has become dross,
your wine diluted by water.
It is literally true that Jerusalem’s riches had been diminished at this point in her history. It is also spiritually true that those symbols of purity and abundance had been replaced with waste and dilution.
23 Your princes are rebellious
and friends with ganavim professional thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
They don’t defend the orphan,
nor is a widow’s case brought before them.
Rav Victor Buksbazen renders this text well when he translates, “Your leaders are misleaders”.
Israel’s rulers had become rebellious toward God and as a result had made friends of those who do evil. Her disgraceful and unjust behaviour toward the poor is now spelled out, “You love taking bribes and pursue unjust rewards. Not only do you intentionally refuse to defend the orphan in his distress, you also refuse to hear the widow’s pleas for justice.”
24 Therefore says ha-Adon the Lord Hashem (YHVH [Mercy]) Tzva’ot (Host, going to war) the Avir Mighty One of Yisrael (Overcome in God):
“Hoy! I will get relief from My foes
and avenge Myself on My enemies.
The title Ha-Adon is used in order to name Hashem as the Lord over all the lords of Israel, which included wicked men, priests, false gods etc.
We can read the Hebrew text as, “Therefore says The Lord over all lords, Mercy Himself, bringing heavens armies to wage war. The Mighty One of those who overcome in Him. Hoy, listen up, I will take out my foes and avenge My enemies Myself!”
25 Then I will turn My hand on you,
purge away your dross,
and remove all your alloy.
Dross/alloys are removed from metals through smelting in a furnace. Therefore, Israel will go through a period of severe disciplining and great suffering in order to have her dross (sin) removed.
26 I will return your judges to the head,
your counsellors as at the beginning.
Thus you will be called
City of Righteousness, Faithful City.
Following the removal of the sin and moral corruption of the Jewish nation Hashem will return righteous judges to the head of Israel’s justice system. Those who give good counsel in the manner of the former days when Israel had once honoured Hashem, will be with her again just as they were with Moses and the righteous kings of Israel.
Once a harlot and a rebel, now cleansed, Jerusalem will again be known as righteous and faithful.
27 Tziyon (Parched land) will be delivered with justice,
her returning with righteousness.”
Tziyon is a proper noun that is used in many different ways to describe numerous aspects of Israel’s identity and her connection to God. Mount Tziyon is the Temple mount, but Tziyon is also the land and the people, even the people themselves. Therefore, the returning of Tziyon is of great significance. The Mount will be returned into the hands of the Jewish people. Likewise the land. And in order for both these things to happen the Jewish people themselves will have to be returned from any exile resulting from her sin.
28 But there will be a breaking of rebels and sinners together.
Forsaking Hashem (YHVH [Mercy]), they will be consumed.
The former promise of return is for the repentant remnant alone. The wilfully wicked are now warned of what awaits them if they continue in their rebellion against Hashem. They will be broken as a result of their own sin. Forsaking Hashem is an act of the will. It is the intentional and continued walking away from relationship with God. Those who continually reject God will be consumed by their own sin and will suffer the just judgement of Hashem. In a very real sense no one is sent to eternal punishment, to the contrary, the one who enters eternal punishment has chosen it for himself.
29 For they will be ashamed of the eilim sacred oaks
that you’ve desired,
and ashamed because of the gardens
that you have chosen.
The Hebrew Eilim means both oaks or terebinths and idols.
The Hebrew text interchanges plural and singular forms in order to show that these sins are both corporate and individual. The oaks are sacred oaks/idols worshipped by the surrounding nations, a practice that Israel had adopted and syncretized with the worship of Hashem. The gardens are likewise places that are designed to honour false gods.
30 For you will become like an oak with languishing leaves,
like a garden that has no water.
Isaiah makes couplets of the oaks and the gardens. In the former verses the oaks and gardens are objects of worship but in the present verse the Israelite himself is called a languishing oak and a waterless garden. In other words the Israelites have not only worshipped false gods they have also taken on the identities of those gods. In the modern vernacular of the new age movement, they had realised the god within them. This is of course the root of all sin, Idolatry, the desire to usurp HaShem. However, in realizing their own deity they had also been met with the weakness of that same realisation. They may be gods (elohiym), but they were languishing feeble gods without the ability to sustain themselves.
31 And it will come to pass that the strong one will become like a dry strand of flax,
and his work will kindle fire--
both will burn together,
and nothing will put it out.
The “Strong one” chozen, is a reference to one who makes an idol and his “work” is a reference to the idol itself.
This is an illuminating verse. It is the work (idol) of the strong one (the maker of the idols [eilim] who finds his strength in temporary idolatrous things) that will ignite his own destruction. Both the wicked (idol makers) and their works (idols) will burn together.
In conclusion we have a description of a fire that will never cease to burn because “nothing will put it out”. This is not possible in the physical realm, for eventually the fire will burn itself out. Therefore, this is a description, not of the temporary consequence of wicked physical deeds but of the eternal consequences of uncovered wicked spiritual deeds.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Genesis 18: HaShem, Three Men, The Promised Son, Sodom’s Demise & the Triumph of Mercy over Judgement
The refusal of the wicked to accept G-d’s mercy is the vehicle of their own demise.
In Rashi’s view the events of Chapter 18 follow directly on from the previous chapter, taking place three days after Avraham’s circumcision. I see no reason for disputing this. Even if understood as a tradition rather than an inspiration, Rashi’s idea adds to our understanding rather than detracting from it. If Rashi is correct, Avraham is now at the most painful stage of the healing process and is sitting, not only due to the heat of the day but also due to his need for rest and recovery.
As in the case of the previous events, this Divine encounter (theophany) and its outcome teach us a number of spiritual principles and further illuminate the character of G-d and the nature of humanity. The Holy Name of G-d YHVH, which denotes mercy, is used eleven times in this account (12 if the rabbinical interpretation of Adonai in verse 3 is accepted). This seems unusual given that the latter emphasis of the account is on the coming judgement against S’dom and Amorrah. However, it seems that G-d appears to Avraham as Mercy Himself for the purpose of conveying the idea that mercy triumphs over judgement. Avraham in turn, trusting the heart of G-d, becomes a type for the Messiah, pleading for justice seasoned with mercy, something that G-d intended all along.
With regard to Avraham and Sarah, a stark contrast is drawn between trust and disbelief. We are challenged by both Avraham’s eager hospitality and loving kindness, and by Sarah’s disbelief and denial.
When compared to chapter 19, this noon encounter stands in stark contrast to the night scene in Sodom. In the full light of midday G-d comes to Avraham for an intimate meeting of promise, sustenance, common unity and intercession. This is both a beginning and a counterpoint to the events of chapter 19, where in the darkness of night, an already condemned city establishes its wickedness by seeking to soil G-d’s messengers with acts of moral decay born of a depraved worldview, thus refusing intercession. The resulting destruction answers the loveless squalor of the citizens of S’dom and Amorrah, who have rejected G-d’s mercy outright. There is a correlation to Yeshua’s (Jesus) Revelation to Yochanan (John) here.
Verses 1-5 add nothing to the promises of 17:15. What differentiates the accounts is the intimate setting and the challenge to Sarah’s faith or lack thereof. The final result will be Sarah’s decision to trust G-d for the child, in response to His disciplining of her by way of a gentle challenge:
“By trust even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be trustworthy.” – Hebrews 11:11
Gen 18:1 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) appeared to him (Avraham) at the trees of Mamrei (strength): and he (Avraham) sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
What is clear from the outset is that HaShem Himself is appearing to Avraham. Regardless of how we interpret what follows, we must not lose sight of this fact. Accepting Rashi’s assertion, I see this scene set with the recovering Avraham seated at midday in the shade of his tent, still in a great deal of pain from having been obedient to G-d’s instruction to circumcise both himself and all the males of his household.
Whether we interpret, “the trees” or, “the plain” of Mamrei (strength), the result is the same. Having been obedient to G-d Avraham finds that in his weakness G-d is his strength.
“By trusting they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness…” –Hebrews 11:33-34a
Gen 18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and prostrated himself on the ground,
“Lifted up his eyes” suggests that Avraham was either at rest or in prayerful meditation prior to this theophany (Divine visitation).
Avraham’s response to the appearance of the three men, whom he obviously sees as being representatives of The L-rd, is both courageous and reverential. Imagine getting up to run in the 45 degree (Celsius) plus heat of midday only three days after a painful operation on your private parts and then prostrating yourself before your guests, coming to rest on those very same parts in the hot sand. It’s safe to say, Avraham was extremely excited to see The L-rd and His messengers. This action shows the wonderful tension between friendship and awe in his relating to the Holy G-d. Avraham runs toward G-d and His messengers like a giddy school girl and then prostrates himself, an awe inspired servant.
It has been popular in Christian circles to try and affix the doctrine of the trinity to this meeting. However, it is clear from the remainder of this account (v.22) and the subsequent arrival of the two messengers at Sodom in 19:1, that at least two of the three men are not G-d.
Or HaChaim (Light of Life) suggests that G-d’s visit to Avraham in this instance was intended to demonstrate that Avraham had become a, “Chariot of the Divine Presence” (Bereshit Rabbah 82:6), meaning that Avraham’s physical being became a resting place for the Divine Presence of G-d (John 14:16-18; Romans 8:10, 15; James 4:5).
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper so He may be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him. You know Him, because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans; I will come to you.” –Yochanan (John) 14:16-18
“Or do you think that in vain the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the Spirit which He made to dwell in us’”? –Yaakov (James) 4:5
Traditional rabbinic Judaism considers each of G-d’s angels to serve a specific purpose. Thus each angel (Messenger) is named for his function. The Midrash says, “One angel does not perform two missions”. Gur Aryeh explains Rashi’s view of the three angels, by providing the following names and functions:
My personal view is that if we are to accept Rashi/Gur Aryeh’s view, we should swap the functions and order of the Malakhim (Angels) so as to match them to their well-documented Biblical roles and functions. Thus my list would read as follows:
Given that we know two of the men (angels) will depart for Sodom (19:1) leaving one angel to remain behind, and adding to this the fact that Avraham speaks to the remaining lord as if he were speaking directly to HaShem; it seems unlikely that the third angel was Raphael (an angel not mentioned directly in Scripture). However, the name Raphael, which is a composite of Rapha (Healing, wholeness, and rescue) and El (G-d), is certainly symbolic of the attribute of healing and wholeness in the G-d head. There is then a healing messenger of G-d Who comes to mind, being represented here as one of the three men, that is Yeshua our Messiah.
It is important to note that the Hebrew anashim meaning men is being used here to describe angelic beings. This is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the Hebrew malakh (angel) means, messenger.
Gen 18:3 And said, “My L-rd (Adonai: Master), if now I have found favour in Your eyes, please, don’t pass away from your servant:
Most rabbinical interpretations of this verse claim that the Hebrew Adonai used here in its standard form refers to YHVH, which is usually pronounced Adonai in respect for the Holy Name HaShem. Based on this view, HaShem: YHVH:Mercy, is referred to directly 12 times in total during this account.
Notice that Avraham rushes out to the three men but addresses only one of them, using the singular, “Adonai” (My lord). If he had intended to address all three as lord he would have said “Adonim”.
Gen 18:4 Please let a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
The washing of the feet of weary travellers is a common Middle Eastern custom that has been practised by Jews and Arabs alike for thousands of years. It refreshes the entire body and in ancient times was usually performed by the lowliest servant in the household, however, it seems that Avraham’s intention was to wash the feet of the travellers himself, an act reminiscent of the Mashiyach (John 13:3-17).
Gen 18:5 And I’ll fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort your hearts; after that go on your way: for it is for this purpose that you’ve come to your servant”. And they said, “So do, as you have said”.
“I’ll fetch a morsel of bread” is a hospitable understatement given the feast that Avraham organizes for the three men. This is part of a rhythm of nomadic custom that is still practised today among Arab Bedouin and Mizrahi Jews. The Hebrew idiom, “comfort your hearts” uses lev in the traditional Hebrew sense to convey the centre of the being where all parts of the being converge. Thus the inference is that they might be refreshed in their entire being based on the complete performance of hospitable practice.
Notice that, “they” respond. This kind of interchangeable tense is familiar to theophany, as is the case in Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of Hashem (Gen. 32) and the meeting the Angel of HaShem has with the parents of Samson (Judges 13). We must not lose sight of the fact that we have significant clues within the text (v.22, 19:1) that allow us to deduct which of the three is being called lord and who the remaining two are.
Michael (Who is like G-d) is known in Scripture as the arch angel who guards Israel and is representative of G-d’s might. He is a warrior messenger (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, Jude 1:9, Rev. 12:7). It seems that he plays a similar role here (Chapter. 19) in protecting Lot, while Gavriel (Mighty one of G-d), who is known in Scripture as a herald of G-d (Daniel 8:16; 9:21, Luke 1:19, 26) is seen here proclaiming blessing for Avraham and then enforcing G-d’s judgement against the people of S’dom and Amorrah. Notice that in the book of Daniel both angels are associated with G-d’s proclamation of blessing for Israel and His judgement against His enemies.
Gen 18:6 And Avraham (Father of a Multitude) hastened into the tent to Sarah (Princess, Noble woman), and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make round bread upon the hearth (convex metal surface)”.
The first thing we observe is the speed with which Avraham operates in order to care for his guests. Second, we see that Avraham does not instruct Sarah to add yeast to the bread, therefore, this is maztot (unleavened bread). It is from this verse and the subsequent reference in 19:3 that the rabbis’ determine that this was the season of Pesach (Passover) and that Avraham was prophetically observing the future deliverance of his progeny. This text was written down by Moses at Sinai following Israel’s first Pesach. Thus the attention to detail with regard to the type of bread being prepared in this story is intended by the author to draw the reader’s attention to this particular season in the Jewish religious year.
The three men, three measures of fine meal and the three days since Avraham’s circumcision all point to an established promise of G-d. The son that is to come has been firmly established and as has the judgement that is to come against the wickedness of S’dom and Amorrah. While the complex unity of G-d is not present in the plain meaning of the text, it is revealed in the remez (hint) of symbolic Biblical numerology. The number three reminding us of the Father (Av), Son (Ben) and Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Kodesh).
Gen 18:7 And Avraham ran to the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man; and he rushed to prepare it.
Avraham is close to 100 years old and still recovering from circumcision, and yet he personally runs to select a calf for his guests. He had any number of servants he could have called upon to perform this act, however, these three men were extremely important to him. In particular, one of the men is G-d with us, the manifest humanoid form of that person of the One G-d we know to be, the Angel of HaShem, The Healer, the Son.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers—for in doing so, some have entertained angels (Messengers) without knowing it.” –Hebrews 13:2
“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in;” –Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 25:35 (TLV)
Gen 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the trees, and they ate.
The custom of standing by while guests eat their fill is still practiced today in many Middle Eastern homes and among the Arab Bedouin and Mizrahi Jews.
They were eating beneath the trees of Mamrei (strength). The strength of G-d had formed a canopy over Avraham in his weakness and his longing for an heir. In his weakness Avraham placed his trust in G-d’s strength.
Gen 18:9 And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold, in the tent.”
Here, “they” speak, asking after Sarah. However, in the following verse, “He” speaks the promise. G-d knows where Sarah is, He need not ask. He asks, all be it through His Angel, in order to show Avraham His desire for relationship with the entire household, beginning with Sarah.
Gen 18:10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life (season); and, behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah heard from inside the tent door, which was behind him.
The, “He” here is clearly not Avraham because the words are being spoken as a promise to Avraham concerning his wife Sarah and the birth of Isaac. Nor is it, “they” speaking together. So who is left? HaShem appeared to Avraham at the beginning of the encounter and has not left. So too the three men arrived and have not left. Therefore the speaker here is one of the three men and is also a manifestation of the person of G-d (18:14). Only one individual in all of Biblical history fits this description, Yeshua the Messiah, Emmanuel (G-d with us).
Sarah, being modest, had stayed within the tent according to protocol, but was listening intently to the conversation of the men outside. The man speaking to Avraham has His back to Sarah.
Gen 18:11 Now Avraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women (She had already experienced menopause).
Gen 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old shall I have fine skin (a return of fertility), my lord (husband) being old also?”
What is clear from Sarah’s response is that either Avraham hadn’t told her of the promise of the child or he had told her and she had maintained disbelief. Either way she responds here in a way that emphasizes her doubt, laughing out of a place of mistrust. Where Avraham laughed in joyous awe asking, “How will this occur?” thus inviting the probability, Sarah laughs in disbelief asking, “Shall it occur?” thus denying the possibility. Notice that Sarah laughs within, her words are thoughts contained in her inner being, no one could have known how she responded unless they could see into her core being. Only G-d is truly capable of this. Picture then the awesome scene that follows when the man responds to Sarah’s inner musings.
According to both Radak and Sforno, Sarah believed that such a radical rejuvenation was as impossible a miracle as the raising of the dead. This is interesting given the fact that Isaac, who is later to be offered by Avraham in sacrifice and then saved by the Ram (A type for Messiah: Genesis 22), is spoken of in the book of Hebrews in relationship to trust in the Messiah Yeshua, Who was raised from the dead for our redemption.
“He (Avraham) reasoned that God was able to raise him (Isaac) up even from the dead—and in a sense, he did receive him back from the dead.” –Hebrews 11:19
Gen 18:13 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I be certain that I’ll bear a child, when I’m old’?”
Gen 18:14 Is anything too hard for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)? At the time appointed I will return unto you, according to the time of life (season), and Sarah shall have a son.
Avraham is perhaps thinking, “What laughter? I didn’t hear her laugh or say anything?” In turn Sarah is probably thinking, “How is it possible that this man knows my inner thoughts?”
We note here that it is HaShem who has heard Sarah and that it is He Who will return in a year’s time at this season (Pesach) to witness the birth of the son.
With the words, “Is anything too hard for HaShem” G-d challenges Sarah’s unbelief (mistrust).
Gen 18:15 Then Sarah denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “Not so; you did laugh.”
Sarah, now caught in her disbelief and being fearful of G-d, choses to lie rather than confess. However, G-d, Who is present in mercy (YHVH), disciplines Sarah as a beloved child, refuting her lie with the simple statement, “Not so; you did laugh”. Here, “laugh” is synonymous with, “doubt”. Therefore, we can read, “Not so; you did doubt”.
Remember that up to this point the man (G-d with us) has had His back turned to Sarah, now He turns to look her in the eye and gently challenge her unbelief.
We know that Sarah took HaShem’s challenge to heart because she eventually found trust in HaShem, and considering Him trustworthy, believed she would give birth to the promised child.
“By trust even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be trustworthy.” – Hebrews 11:11
It is also worth noting here the similarities between the birth of Isaac and the later birth of the Messiah. The Ram which delivers Isaac in Genesis 22 is a type for the Messiah and his sacrificial death and His resurrection. Thus, when we see the proclamation to Sarah, we also hear the proclamation to Miriyam (Mary). When we hear of the miraculous birth that is to take place, we’re also reminded of the miraculous birth of our Messiah. When we see the two angels that accompany G-d with us (Emmanuel: the third man), we also think of the angel that visited Miriyam (Mary) and the angel who brought a legion of angels to announce the Messiah’s birth to the shepherds of Israel’s sacrificial flocks.
Gen 18:16 And the men rose up from there, and turned their faces toward S’dom (burning): and Avraham walked with them on the way.
We know that two of the three men arrived in S’dom, named as messengers (malakhim: angels) 19:1.
It seems that Avraham, went with the men for part of their journey as they began to head toward S’dom.
Gen 18:17 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “Shall I hide from Avraham the thing which I am doing; Gen 18:18 seeing that Avraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Gen 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), to do justice and judgment; that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) may bring upon Avraham that which He has spoken of him.”
This conversation seems to be taking place between HaShem and the men (angels). Given our former deduction regarding Who the third man is, we can suggest that G-d with us (Yeshua), the third man, is conversing with Michael and Gavriel. These two angels already know what G-d has instructed them to do in S’dom, thus, for the reader’s sake the text alludes to a sort of legal tribunal being conducted in line with the attributes of mercy, justice and judgement, which are the attributes G-d is trusting Avraham to pass on to his offspring. This therefore is the reason for the consultation and the subsequent opportunity for Avraham to offer a righteous argument for the consolation of justice and mercy. Not because G-d is unjust or unmerciful but because G-d has imparted His attributes to Avraham a heart of mercy and justice which will be a light to the nations.
“Shall I hide” infers a friendship between G-d and Avraham (Isaiah 41:8). Yeshua illuminates the relationship between G-d and His servants when He says:
“I am no longer calling you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing. Now I have called you friends, because everything I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” –Yochanan (John) 15:15 (TLV)
This friendship is further emphasized by the phrase, “I know him” the Hebrew, “yada” denoting intimate knowledge of a person. In this case it is a knowledge that transcends time and space, an observation of the present eternity spoken into time and space in this conversation between G-d and the angels. In other words, G-d has already seen Avraham’s future righteousness and is speaking it into time and space.
Gen 18:20 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “Because the cry of S’dom (Burning) and Amorrah (Submersion) is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
Ibn Ezra notes that the, “Outcry” is either the outcry of the rebellion of the Sodomites or the outcry of those who had suffered as a result of the evil conduct of the Sodomites. Rambam claims that it is the cry of the oppressed looking for liberation.
The opinion of the Jewish sages is that the cruelty of S’dom stemmed from the maxim, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” (Avot 5:10). A similar modern idiom says, “Neither a borrower or a lender be”. Both colloquialisms offer the pretence inherent in worldly wisdom but directly oppose the charitable mission of G-d’s people.
Gen 18:21 I will descend, and inspect what they have done according to the outcry, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know (I will be known).”
“I will descend” is for the sake of the human audience. G-d uses kinetic terms to convey a sense of His present action within time and space, however, He remains invisible and immutable, existing outside of all things, the eternal G-d.
G-d, within Whom all things exist and have their being, need not descend. Additionally, G-d with us (Emmanuel), the angel, will descend. The inspection of S’dom is intended to emphasize the judicial nature of this judgement. S’dom is being given a just and fair trial, her destruction will not be without merit.
The phrase, “And if not, I will know (yada)” may mean, “If they repent, I will know (yada) them” or, “I will be known by them”.
Gen 18:22 And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward S’dom: but Avraham remained standing before HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
The present reading of verse 22 is according to the Masoretic scribal correction of the text. Possibly intended to avoid conjecture over the position of Avraham in relation to G-d. However, there is a good case for reading the original Hebrew as, “but HaShem remained standing before Avraham”. This reading qualifies the former correlation between the manifestation of G-d in humanoid form and the third man (angel). Regardless, only two men (angels) arrive at S’dom (19:1), leaving the third to remain. Thus it is the L-rd with us (Emmanuel) as the man (angel) Who remains standing before Avraham, or if you like, before Whom Avraham stands.
Gen 18:23 And Avraham drew near (nagash: an intimate closeness), and said, “Will You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
Avraham now draws near, an intimate positioning of himself close to the third man, face to face. This is the intense relational context of the conversation that follows.
In the previous chapter Avraham had received his new name and had become the Father of the nations. He takes this role seriously by drawing near to G-d as an intermediary on behalf of the people of S’dom and the surrounding cities who will be destroyed by the ensuing destruction brought about by G-d’s righteous judgement. G-d has placed in him the desire to see justice tempered with mercy. Thus the G-d of mercy is seen at work within the heart of His servant.
Avraham had intervened on S’dom’s behalf in the past (Genesis 14:14) for the sake of his nephew Lot. His continued concern and deep connection to his nephew can be heard in his pleading for mercy.
Gen 18:24 “What if there were fifty righteous within the midst of the terror (the city): will You also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are there?
“So it was, as God destroyed the cities of the surrounding area, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the upheaval, when He demolished the cities where Lot had dwelt.” –Bereishit (Genesis) 19:29 (TLV)
Based on Genesis 19:29 Rashi suggests that all five of the cities mentioned in Genesis 14:2 are to be condemned in the judgement against S’dom. Thus the plea for the holding back of judgement on account of 50 righteous ones is in fact a plea for 10 (a quorum for worship/prayer—minion) from each of the five condemned cities. This infers that the number of righteous is related to the potential for their faithful worship of G-d, to have a redemptive effect upon those around them and thus cause the cities to repent and turn away from evil. This is consistent with the continual use of the Holy Name YHVH: mercy, throughout the chapter.
Gen 18:25 That be far from You to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from You: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Simply put Avraham is saying, “It is not in Your Character to punish the righteous with the wicked”. In other words, “that be far from You” means, “It’s not Who You are”. Additionally, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” is rhetorical and best understood to mean, “I know that the Judge of the earth will do what is right”.
Gen 18:26 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “If I find in S’dom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
The key phrase here is, “within the city” which means inside the walls, in the midst of the evil behaviour.
Gen 18:27 And Avraham answered and said, “Behold now, I have taken it upon myself to speak unto HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), although I am but dust and ashes: Gen 18:28 If there are five less than fifty righteous: will You destroy all the city for lack of five? And He said, “If I find there forty five, I will not destroy it.”
Notice the humility and respect Avraham pays to G-d as he continues to petition Him for mercy. Given the inference in the Holy Name we could read, “I have taken it upon myself to speak unto Mercy”. Rashi notes according to the Midrash that even with five subtracted from the number of the righteous each city would still have nine and G-d would become the tenth member of the quorum for worship and prayer.
Gen 18:29 And he spoke to Him yet again, and said, “ If there are forty found there?” And He said, “I will not do it for forty's sake.” Gen 18:30 And he said unto him, “Oh let not my Lord (Adonai) be angry, and I will speak: if there are thirty found there?” And He said, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” Gen 18:31 And he said, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto my Lord (Adonai): If there were twenty found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.” Gen 18:32 And he said, “Oh let not my Lord (Adonai) be angry, and I will speak but once more: if ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
We might be tempted to see this dialogue as some sort of haggling over the judgement of the people of S’dom, however, that is not what’s happening. This dialogue between Avraham the advocate and G-d the Merciful Judge is intended to express G-d’s desire to see all come to a saving knowledge of Him (1 Timothy 2:3-5). Avraham is acting as a type for the then future coming of the Messiah, the greatest advocate of all time. One of the key evidences for this being a conversation of friendship, or of Teacher and disciple, is the fact that G-d does not respond with a counter to Avraham’s requests, He simply concedes to each of Avraham’s demands until at last Avraham learns that G-d has shown great mercy already and that the refusal of the wicked to accept G-d’s mercy is the vehicle of their own demise.
The petitioning for mercy ends at the number 10, the number for a single complete quorum of worship and prayer or alternatively, 2 people in each of the five condemned cities grouped together with S’dom and Amorrah. It is interesting to note that Yeshua seems to have used the traditional rabbinical requirement for a quorum of ten as a platform for conveying the reality that G-d is present and active even when two are gathered in His Name (Matthew 18:20).
Gen 18:33 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) went His way (departed), as soon as he had finished communing with Avraham: and Avraham returned unto his place.
G-d didn’t leave until Avraham had finished petitioning Him. This, in and of itself is a clear representation of G-d’s merciful character. Because G-d is everywhere in the sense that all things are in Him, He cannot leave or depart from Himself. However, as explained previously, in order for human beings to read relational interaction in this encounter, kinetic language must be used to convey the tangible sense of relationship that Avraham experienced with G-d. Additionally, the third man still had to depart and did not arrive at S’dom in 19:1, therefore G-d with us (Yeshua), the man (angel), departed.
Avraham returned to his place because he had previously left with the three men toward S’dom and then stopped at a point on the way where he continued to speak with G-d while the two angels (Michael and Gavriel) went to S’dom. He now returned to his tents at the trees of Mamrei.
My daughter’s teachers ask them to put what they term a, “hook” in their essay writing. A repeated phrase, an idea that reconciles each element of the essay. If there is a hook in this theophany, it is this, “Mercy triumphs over judgement”.
“So speak and act as those who will be judged according to a Torah that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless to the one who does not show mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” –Yaakov (James) 2:12-13 (TLV)
© Yaakov brown 2016
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,