We note that the Greek threskos, commonly translated “religious” means to be “a trembling worshipper” and the equivalent Hebrew oveid Elohiym “a servant of God”. How ludicrous it is then to say as many modern Messiah followers do “I’m not religious, I have a personal relationship with God”. This is a statement of hubris, a false choice that pits like things against one another in order to elevate the status of the speaker. It is not religion but vain, defiled religion that is being addressed here. The following verse affirms this by explaining what “Pure and undefiled religion” is.
Yaakov 1:16-27 (Author’s convergent translation from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew)
16 Don’t wander, err, be deceived, my completely loved brothers and sisters. 17 Every good, complete, perfect, full thing given and every perfect gift is from above, descending from the Father of luminaries, lights, with Whom there is no fickleness, transmutation, no state of being in between phases of orbit, or revolving, turning, shadowing. 18 In exercising His will He birthed us in the Word, Essence, Substance, the Truth, so that we would be made a kind of first fruits among His creatures. 19 Wherefore, see, perceive [that which has just been said and that which is about to be said], my completely loved brothers and sisters. Let everyone, individually and collectively be quick to hear, listen, understand, slow to speak, and slow to wrath; 20 for a human being’s wrath does not bring about the righteousness of God, the Judge. 21 Therefore, put aside, lay off, rid yourselves individually and collectively of all filthiness, defilement and the abundance of, surplus (foreskin) of malice, wickedness, evil; and receive with gentle humility the inborn Word, Essence, Substance, which is able to save your soul life, mind, self, heart, core being. 22 For now be made doers, performers of the Word, Essence, Substance and not just hearers who deceive themselves. 23 Because if a certain one is a hearer of the Word, Essence, Substance and not a doer, performer, that person is like a man who looks, considers the face of his nature, his origin in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets, loses from his mind what kind of person he was. 25 But one who bends over, stoops down to look intently into the Torah (law), perfected, complete, whole, the Torah of the freedom, and abides, stays in it, not becoming a hearer who intentionally forgets, puts from his mind, negligent, but is made an intentional doer, a toiler, this person will continue to be blessed, happy in what he does. 26 If a person thinks himself to be religious, a servant of God, yet doesn’t bridle, guide, direct his tongue but deceives his own heart, core being, this person’s religion, service to God is vain, worthless. 27 Pure, clean, clear and undefiled religion, service before the face of the God/Judge and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their distress, trouble, affliction and to keep one’s soul unspotted by this world.
Yaakov 1:16-27 (Line upon line)
16 Don’t wander, err, be deceived (planaō[G], tit’u[H]), my completely loved brothers and sisters (adelphos agapētos[G], achay ahuvay[H]). 17 Every good, complete, perfect, full thing (agathos[G], tovah[H]) given and every perfect gift (dōrēma[G], matanah[H] ) is from above (anōthen[G], haorot[H]), descends (katabainō[G]) from the Father (ho patēr[G], Aviy[H]) of luminaries, lights (phōs[G]), with whom there is no fickleness, transmutation, no state of being in between phases of orbit (parallagē[G]), or revolving, turning (tropē[G]) shadowing (aposkiasma[G], choluf vekol-tzeil shinoy eiyn-imo[H]).
16 Don’t wander, err, be deceived, my completely loved brothers and sisters. 17 Every good, complete, perfect, full thing given and every perfect gift is from above, descending from the Father of luminaries, lights, with whom there is no fickleness, transmutation, no state of being in between phases of orbit, or revolving, turning, shadowing.
“Don’t wander, err, be deceived” This is a warning to those who may be tempted (as described in v. 13-15). Wandering was the result of Israel’s decision to sin against God when He commanded Israel to enter the land of promise (Num. 13-14). The writer employees the same turn of phrase here making it a drash (comparative teaching) concerning entry into the Olam Haba “world to come” through the King Messiah (Yeshua: Joshua). In short, the writer is saying, “Don’t do what our ancestors did when they refused to go into the land”. To wander from intimate relationship with the Father is to place one’s self in jeopardy.
“My completely loved brothers and sisters” In plain English, “My fellow Jewish believers, dearly loved in God”.
“Every good thing” This includes the good inclination yetzer tov, all good comes from God and is in opposition to the temptation that seeds sin and births death (v.13-15). That which is good, complete, perfect, full, comes from El Elyon “the Supreme God”.
HaShem the Father God and Creator of all things, including the orbiting lights of the heavens (Sun, moon etc.), which have been worshipped throughout the millennia by pagans, but are nonetheless subject to the God of Israel, He is the Supreme King over all things and is named here as “Father”. For those Jews who are in Messiah God is not only Creator of, and Ruler over all things, but is also Father, Abba (Daddy). Thus, the Spirit of the Son cries “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
Unlike the created lights of the heavens God is not subject to being in between phases of (orbit), nor is He revolving around anything or anyone.
A light source doesn’t cause shadow. Shadow is caused by an object coming between the recipient of light and the light source. Thus, it is impossible for God to cast shadow (in a figurative sense) because “God is All Existing Light, and in Him there is no darkness”(1 John 1:5). Put concisely, unlike the sun, a created light source, nothing can come between the believer and God. This is why the Scripture says “Even the darkness is as light to You” (Ps. 139:12), meaning “nothing is hidden from You”. This is one of the many ways Scripture explains that “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Ex. 3:14; Ps. 102:27, 103:17; Isa. 41:4, 44:6; Heb. 13:8; Rev. 1:8). Because He is holy and unchanging He is trustworthy.
“descending from the Father of luminaries” Using “above” and “below” as a figures for “that which originates from God” verses “that which originates from fallen humanity”, Yaakov reminds his hearers of the transformative difference that receiving birth from above makes.
The good that God gives, like His nature, does not waver, it is not indecisive like the action of the one who cannot receive wisdom (as described in v. 6-8). On the contrary, by His loving and gracious will God has given the ultimate gift, the gift that connects us again to Truth. He has imparted Himself, God with us (Imanu-El), ha-D’var Emet “the Word of Truth” (Yeshua) [John 1]. Truth Himself has brought us out of darkness into a place without transition or shadow through the “message of truth”. When we receive Yeshua we are no longer planets orbiting the Creator (the All Existing Light Source), rather, we have been made echad (one) in the Creator. We are not God, but we are united as sons and daughters born of His Spirit through the blood of Messiah.
18 In exercising His will (boulomai[G], vecheftzo[H]) He birthed us (apokueō[G], yalad[H]) in the Word, Essence, Substance (logos[G], bidvar[H]), the truth (alētheia[G], haemet[H]), so that we would be made (einai[G]) a kind of first fruits (aparchē[G], reishiyt bikureiy[H]) among His creatures (ktisma[G], yetzurayv[H]).
18 In exercising His will He birthed us in the Word, Essence, Substance, the Truth, so that we would be made a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
There is no need to make the false choice between interpreting “the Word of truth” as referring to Messiah or to the Gospel message. The answer is that “the Word of truth” refers both to Messiah (Hadavar emet) and to His message. Yeshua being the Author and goal of the Gospel message. The Hebrew text reads “The Word, the Truth”.
The first century Messianic Jews of both Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora had been afforded the opportunity to be a first fruits offering (Shavuot[H], Pentecost[G])[Lev. 23:17; Acts 2] as a result of their having been birthed of God in the Word Himself (Yeshua).
“16 For I am not ashamed of the good news, true message: it is the power of God for yeshua (salvation) to everyone who has faith, trust; continually to the Jew first and also continually to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness (the Righteous One) of God is revealed through faith for faith;” -Rav Shaul’s Letter to the Roman Believers 1:16-17 (Author’s translation)
19 Wherefore (hōste[G], al-kein[H]) see, perceive (eidō[G]) [that which has just been said and that which is about to be said], my completely loved brothers and sisters (adelphos agapētos[G], achay ahuvay[H]). Let everyone, individually and collectively (pas[G], kol-iysh[H]) be quick (tachus[G], mahiyr[H]) to hear, listen, understand (akouō[G], lish’moa[H]), slow (bradus[G], kasheh[H]) to speak (laleō[G], ledaveir[H]), and slow (bradus[G], vekasheh[H]) to wrath (orgē[G], lichos[H]); 20 for a human being’s (anēr[G], adam[H]) wrath (orgē[G], ka’as[H]) does not bring about the righteousness (dikaiosunē[G], tzidkat[H]) of God, the Judge (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]).
19 Wherefore, see, perceive [that which has just been said and that which is about to be said], my completely loved brothers and sisters. Let everyone, individually and collectively be quick to hear, listen, understand, slow to speak, and slow to wrath; 20 for a human being’s wrath does not bring about the righteousness of God, the Judge.
“Be quick to hear” This doesn’t mean “be quick to listen to everything and everyone” rather it means “Be quick to listen to and receive that which is from above, from the Father of the luminaries”.
Being quick to hear godly things is an idea found in the Talmud Bavliy (Gloss. in T. Bavliy. Megillah, fol. 21. 1. ). Numerous other ancient Jewish commentators teach that if a word is worth one shekel, silence is worth two. Silence is said to be the spice of speech, and the chief of all spices, the hedge of wisdom. The sage Shammay says, “say little, and do much” (Pirke Avot, c. 1. sect. 15. 17. & 3. 13. T. Bavliy. Megillah. fol. 18. 1. Vayikra Rabbah, sect. 16. fol. 158. 3. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 71. 1.).
“be silent, and hear” -Talmud Bavliy Sanhedrin, fol. 7. 1.
We note that the recipients of this work are admonished to be “slow to wrath”. Wrath is the progeny of anger. Godly wrath is enacted in righteousness as a just response to evil. In this case it is not anger itself, or even wrath itself that the recipients are being warned against but the anger/wrath born of the sin affected nature of human beings. This ungodly wrath is not good because it has not originated from above.
Additionally, and as a general principle, it is in our nature to push for our own agenda in life. We often neglect the helpful conversation of others in order to pronounce our own knowledge. We are (in our fallen state) inclined to allow the temptation to promote our own point of view to give birth to the sin of rash words and when confronted in truth we respond in ungodly anger. Because we are filled with the Spirit of God, we must be tempered by the Instruction of God in this present world. In Messiah we are to instruct ourselves with these words and make a habit of choosing firstly to listen then respond with care and if challenged, to repeat the process so as not to allow fallen human anger to birth unrighteousness.
“ I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without (ungodly) wrath and doubting.” -Rav shaul 1 Timothy 2:8 KJV
21 Therefore (dio[G], lachein[H]), put aside, lay off, rid yourselves (apotithēmi[G])
individually and collectively of all (pas[G]) filthiness, defilement (rhuparia[G], tinuf[H]) and the abundance (perisseia[G], vetarbut[H]) surplus (foreskin) of malice, wickedness, evil (kakia[G], ra’ah[H]); and receive (dechomai[G], vekab’lu[H]) with gentle humility (prautēs[G], va’anavah[H]) the inborn (emphutos[G]) Word, Essence, Substance (logos[G], et-hadavar[H]), which is able (dunamai[G]) to save (sōzō[G], lehoshiya[H]) your (pl.) soul life, mind, self, heart, core being (psuchē[G], et-naf’shteiychem[H]).
21 Therefore, put aside, lay off, rid yourselves individually and collectively of all filthiness, defilement and the abundance of, surplus (foreskin) of malice, wickedness, evil; and receive with gentle humility the inborn Word, Essence, Substance, which is able to save your soul life, mind, self, heart, core being.
The Jewish believer is instructed to intentionally put aside, cast off, strip himself of filthiness and the abundance of grudge holding malice and evil attached to the old way of life which is feed by the yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination, fallen nature).
“Surplus of malice” This may be an allusion to the metaphor of the removal of foreskin used by Jeremiah to warn the people of Judah and Jerusalem to dedicate their hearts to God through the removal of their surplus of wickedness (foreskin).
“Circumcise yourselves to YHVH, and remove the foreskins of your (collective) heart, core being, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, that burns so that nothing can quench it because of the evil of your doings.” Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 4:4
The Targum paraphrases this same passage of Jeremiah as the “removal of the wickedness of your hearts”.
Messiah in us propels us into action. No one can live a truly righteous existence devoid of Messiah, nor can anyone claiming to have received Messiah fail to act in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is pretext to the teaching that follows concerning the unified relationship of faith and action.
Filthiness and wickedness are born of lust and pride, neither of which can receive anything (as explained in v. 6-8) because they compete within us and leave us undecided, we are then unable to choose the good. Humility, the act of recognizing our own spiritual poverty, is the only state in which we are capable of receiving the inborn Word, Essence, Substance (Yeshua), Who is able to save our entire being. This Word of truth is Messiah Himself, the very Essence, Author and Goal of the Torah/Instruction of God.
“And that from a child you’ve known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua.” -Rav shaul, 2 Timothy 3:15
22 For (de[G]) now be made (ginomai[G]) doers, performers (poiētēs[G], oseiy[H]) of the Word, Essence, Substance (logos[G], ha-davar[H]) and not just hearers (akroatēs[G]) who deceive (paralogizomai[G]) themselves. 23 Because (hoti[G]) if a certain one (tis[G], haiysh[H]) is a hearer (akroatēs[G]) of the Word, Essence, Substance (logos[G], ha-davar[H]) and not a doer, performer (poiētēs[G], oseihu[H]), that person is like a man who looks, considers (katanoeō[G]) the face (prosōpon[G]) of his nature, origin (genesis[G]) in a mirror (esoptron[G]);
22 For now be made doers, performers of the Word, Essence, Substance and not just hearers who deceive themselves. 23 Because if a certain one is a hearer of the Word, Essence, Substance and not a doer, performer, that person is like a man who looks, considers the face of his nature, his origin in a mirror;
“Prove yourselves” is a poor translation of the Greek ginomai. In modern English the idea of proving one’s self denotes the work of the individual as the mechanism for proving. This is not what the text says. Rather it says “be made”. By necessity to “be made” requires a maker. In this case it is the “Word” received and the resulting “Salvation” of the previous verse that informs the present text. The Word is the Maker. Yeshua in us makes us “doers of the Word (Himself)”. Therefore, we read “Be made doers of the Word”. We are both from the Word and living examples of the Word in practice.
“Being doers of the Word and not hearers only” This statement has been said to be contrary to the writing of Paul/Shaul and perhaps Yochanan/John. It is however consistent with the teachings of both writers and in addition it is likely a platform for their words, given that this book was likely written between 10 and 20 years prior to other New Testament writings.
Yaakov is not saying that your actions save you, in fact he has just said prior to this that it is “the humble receiving of the Word/Messiah that saves you.”
Yaakov is simply saying:
“Don’t return again to the bondage of self-delusion. Let the inborn Word birth right action. Your actions will be the fruit of your new condition.”
Only those who do not receive the Word of Truth with humility will find themselves in a situation where their actions prove them devoid of Truth. This is self-deception.
Some believe, and I agree, that this letter of Yaakov was a favourite of Yochanan (John) and Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) prior to the writing of their works.
“For it is not the hearers of the Torah who are justified before God, but the doers of the Torah shall be justified.” -Rav Shaul, Romans 2:13
“Study is not the most important thing, but actions; whoever indulges in too many words brings about sin.” -Rav Shimon, Perkei Avot 1:17
24 for once he has looked at (katanoeō[G]) himself and gone away, he immediately (eutheōs[G]) forgets, loses from his mind (epilanthanomai[G]) what kind (hopoios[G]) of person he was. 25 But one who bends over, stoops down to look intently (parakuptō[G]) into the Torah, law (nomos[G], batorah[H]), perfected, complete, whole (teleios[G], hash’leimah[H]), the Torah of the freedom (ho eleutheria[G], hacheirot[H]), and abides, stays in it (paramenō[G]), not becoming a hearer (akroatēs[G]) who intentionally forgets, puts from his mind, negligent (epilēsmonē[G]) but is made (ginomai[G]) an intentional doer (poiētēs[G], oseh[H]), a toiler (ergon[G]), this person will continue to be blessed, happy (makarios[G], ashreiy[H]) in what he does (poiēsis[G], bema’aseihu[H]).
24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets, loses from his mind what kind of person he was. 25 But one who bends over, stoops down to look intently into the Torah (law), perfected, complete, whole, the Torah of the freedom, and abides, stays in it, not becoming a hearer who intentionally forgets, puts from his mind, negligent but is made an intentional doer, a toiler, this person will continue to be blessed, happy in what he does.
The mirror analogy is central to our understanding of this teaching. What kind of use of a mirror would cause a person to immediately forget what they looked like? The answer is, a fleeting use, a passing gaze, long enough to determine the basic outline of one’s features and nothing more. This is the kind of use that results in forgetting one’s self. On the other hand Yaakov suggests (as all great Hebrew poets might) that to gaze intently into the Torah completed (the Goal being Yeshua), the Torah of freedom, and to dwell in its reflection, continually responding to what we see, will bring blessing in all we do.
The plain meaning compares the fickle nature of human recollection by sight with the failure to act in response to God’s Word. The remez (hint) at deeper meaning speaks to the nature of human beings. The reflection in the mirror is the natural face of the sin affected human being. Who, at his origin, chose to rebel against God. The one who looks at this reflection of himself and realizes that action must take place in order to show himself reborn unto righteousness, who then nonetheless walks away and immediately forgets his need, subsequently fails to act. Thus proving that he has not been reborn Why? Because he has looked at his sin nature in the mirror rather than looking at the perfected Torah (Instruction) of God which points to Yeshua, the One Who is both the means and strength of our faith in action.
“one who bends over, stoops down to look intently”. We note that the reflection of the perfected Torah is one that must be “stooped down” to, “bent over” in order to view it. This denotes a reflective surface below or beside the viewer, a body of water perhaps, a mikveh. Additionally, where the one who looks at himself in the mirror is either holding it or viewing it upright in a position of pride, the one who looks into the perfected Torah must humble himself, stoop down, bend over in order to look into it.
In short, change does not come about by looking at the reflected sin affected nature but by receiving the Living Word Yeshua and gazing intently into the “perfected Torah”, not the Torah of Moses, much of which will no longer be necessary in the Olam Haba (World to come) [Because there will be no sin and therefore no need for the negative commandments “Thou shalt not…”], but the “perfected” Torah (Instruction), the “Torah (Instruction) of the freedom” (found in Messiah), that is those parts of the word of God (including certain portions of the Torah of Moses) that are eternally present in Messiah Yeshua. This is why Yeshua says:
“15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, so that He may be with you forever; 17 the Helper is the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” -John 14:15-17 NASB
Rav shaul (Paul the Apostle) calls the “perfected Torah” the “Torah of Faith”.
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what Torah (Instruction, Law)? The law/Torah of works? Absolutely not, but by the Torah/Law of faith, trust.” -Romans 3:27
Properly qualifying the word Torah is essential in understanding what it means to gaze intently into the Torah of freedom in Messiah. Both the Greek nomos and the Hebrew Torah can mean “law” but do not always refer to the Law of Moses. Nor is the Greek nomos necessarily synonymous with the Torah, “Law of Moses” except when properly qualified. Torah[H] is a feminine noun meaning “Instruction”, whereas nomos[G] is a masculine noun meaning “law”. While instruction may include law it does not by necessity contain law. In the interpretation of the present text, and indeed, the texts of Rav Shaul, those who misuse the word Torah to always refer to the five books of Moses make themselves liars and false teachers. Many in the so called “Gentile Messianic, Hebrew Roots and Hyper Law” movements do this to their detriment.
In looking intently it is our eyes that see/hear and the intention of our gaze that either neglects or accepts what we hear/see. When we gaze intently into a reflective surface we see not only our imperfections and flaws (causing us to seek a covering for them) but we also see our inherent value. The Complete Torah of Messiah reveals our sin for the purpose of covering it and shows us our worth so that we will not deceive ourselves into thinking we are worthless. The reflection of God’s Complete Instruction is one into which we should gaze intently until all is complete. Yeshua said, “Not one notation or mark will be removed from the Torah until all is fulfilled.” The reason for this is made clear here in Yaakov’s letter, we need the Torah as instruction in Messiah, it is a guide for those who have the Word (Messiah) born in us. No longer is it seen as the punitive Law of those who merely glance at it, rather for us it has become a reflection of our new nature.
It is worth noting that the earlier allusion to the created heavenly lights, which include the sun and the moon which reflects the sun, connects to the analogy of the reflection of the perfected Torah in Messiah. In a figurative sense, just as the moon reflects the sun so too we reflect the all existing Light of God.
We await the completion of all things, the day when all that exposes sin will evaporate from the Torah, leaving only that which is good. Messiah Himself the Word will be all that remains of the Torah. In the Olam Haba (World to come) we will return (tishuvah) to the state of Adam and Eve prior to the fall. We will again know only the good. Yetzer ha-tov (the good inclination), is the current indicator of a time yet to come when there will be no need to distinguish between good and evil, because there will be only good. In order for this to happen evil must be eternally encased in itself, this being eternal damnation (not temporary hell)[Rev. 20:14-15]. In the Olam haba we will have no need of a reflective surface that exposes our faults because in Messiah in God we will be without fault. Until then we have the Complete Torah of Truth as our present help and guide. The Complete Torah of Truth is the written Torah revealed in the Living Word Messiah Yeshua our King.
We are reminded that we were not saved in order to become law breakers but so that in right relationship with God we might act out of His righteousness and thus be seen to be children of God through Messiah Yeshua our LORD (God with us) and King.
26 If a person (iysh[H]) thinks (yedameh[H]) himself to be religious, a servant of God (thrēskos[G], oveid Elohiym[H]), yet doesn’t bridle, guide, direct (chalinagōgeō[G], sam resen[H]) his tongue (glōssa[G], leshono[H]) but deceives (apataō[G]) his own heart, core being (kardia[G], levavo[H]), this person’s religion, service to God (thrēskeia[G], avodato[H]) is vain, worthless (mataios[G]).
26 If a person thinks himself to be religious, a servant of God, yet doesn’t bridle, guide, direct his tongue but deceives his own heart, core being, this person’s religion, service to God is vain, worthless.
“To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David. I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” -Psalm 39:1 KJV
To “bridle” the tongue is not the same as “binding” the tongue. This is not an admonishment to be silent but rather an instruction to guide one’s words, in the same way a horse is directed by the bridle, bit, and reins. The bridle is pulled over the horses head and a bit placed in the mouth attached to reins that are used by the rider to direct the horse. To bridle one’s tongue means to employ the authority of the head and actively direct what comes out of the mouth. Wicked speech is evidence of a lack of self-control (a fruit of the Spirit)[Gal. 5:22-23].
We note that the Greek threskos, commonly translated “religious” means to be “a trembling worshipper” and the equivalent Hebrew oveid Elohiym “a servant of God”. How ludicrous it is then to say as many modern Messiah followers do “I’m not religious, I have a personal relationship with God”. This is a statement of hubris, a false choice that pits like things against one another in order to elevate the status of the speaker. It is not religion but vain, defiled religion that is being addressed here. The following verse affirms this by explaining what “Pure and undefiled religion” is.
By misusing the word religion we become the vain spiritual practitioners we accuse others of being. When we translate the correct meaning of the word religion the statement “I’m not religious, I have a personal relationship with God” becomes “I am not a servant of God, I have a personal relationship with Him”. A glaring contradiction, an example of self-defeating logic, self-destructive thinking.
A Messiah follower who walks rightly before God can say with confidence “I am in a relationship with God and because of this I practice pure and undefiled religion.”
Consider this, Yeshua was religious, and if it could be said of Him that He was not religious then He would not have been the promised Messiah of Israel.
27 Pure, clean, clear (katharos[G]) and undefiled (amiantos[G]) religion, service (thrēskeia[G], ha’avodah[H]) before the face (para[G], lifneiy[H]) of the God/Judge (Theos[G], haElohiym[H]) and Father (patēr[G], Aviynu[H]) is this: to visit (episkeptomai[G]) the fatherless (orphanos[G]) and widows (chēra[G]) in their distress, trouble, affliction (thlipsis[G]) and to keep one’s soul unspotted (aspilos[G], nafsho[H]) by this world (ho kosmos[G], haolam[H]).
27 Pure, clean, clear and undefiled religion, service before the face of the God/the Judge and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their distress, trouble, affliction and to keep one’s soul unspotted by this world.
Note that God is the Father of the fatherless, so that when we visit the fatherless we are reflecting the Father heart of God, Who places the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6).
Three central Jewish spiritual teachings are alluded to in verses 26 and 27:
Firstly, ancient Biblical Judaism did not have a word for theology prior to the Hellenization of Israel by the Greeks. This means that Judaism always taught faith in action rather than the use of the mind alone to philosophize over God concepts. A Jew cannot separate godly concepts from godly actions: the centre of the Jew, being the heart, is not to be understood as the heart devoid of the mind, rather it is the intersection of all parts of the being made echad (one). Therefore hypocrisy is anti-Jewish, anti-God and anti-Messiah. One who thinks (that is theologizes, talks of God consciousness but does not birth it) that he is righteous, but doesn’t keep his tongue in check, deludes himself and his religion is worthless. Again, this affirms Yaakov’s previous warning not to allow lust to give way to temptation, sin and death. Our idle words are worthless, on the other hand our worthwhile actions are the very words of life.
Secondly, Yaakov reminds us that religion is not the problem, we are. He is reminding Jews in the diaspora to maintain a pure observance of the perfected Torah in Messiah. He is not saying that observance brings salvation (he has already said that humbly receiving the implanted word brings salvation) on the contrary, he is calling the Jewish diaspora to return to their true identity as Jews in Messiah. Many lived in nations that worshipped false deities, practicing abominations against God on a daily basis. Yaakov reminds his fellow Jews of their worth as God’s chosen people.
Thirdly, Yaakov asks that his Jewish brothers and sisters keep themselves separate from the pagan practices that surround them. The Torah gives specific instructions for the care of Israel’s widows, her poor, her orphans and the foreigner living among her. Yaakov is calling the Jews of the diaspora back to these guidelines as a starting point for the all-encompassing loving action of the Gospel as defined as perfected Torah. From the beginning God has asked Israel to be separate, called out ones, set apart, which is the very essence of what it means to be Holy. Here Yaakov reiterates this well-known Torah concept, connecting it to the “unspotted” sacrificial Lamb of God, the Mashiyach (Messiah). In doing so he endears himself to both Messianic and non-Messianic Jews alike. Honouring the tradition of ancient Judaism and belief in Messiah, he then goes on to fill it with hope for the future. That hope is born in Mashiyach, the one we had long awaited. We, like Yeshua, are called to be “unspotted” living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Lev. 22:21; Num. 19:2; Romans 12:1; Eph. 5:27; Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 1:19; ).
The first chapter of Yaakov begins a book of unified spiritual-physical reality. We will see throughout this book the three concepts of shamor (observance) v’zakhor, (remembrance) v’halakhah (and action). These concepts are a unity (echad), they are not able to function properly outside of their connected circle of existence. The Word of life (Messiah) in us, reminds (zakhor) us to observe (shamor), in turn our observance (shamor) causes us to remember (zakhor) what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. By our observance and our remembering we give birth to action. This is Halakhah, the way we walk. There is no longer room for theology (thinking about God devoid of living in Him), because the life we now live in Messiah is a life beyond theology and its limitations. We are worthy because we have worth. God has set the measure of our value in the life of His Son Yeshua before the foundation of the world. You are loved with an everlasting love.
“Therefore, I urge you fellow Jewish brothers and sisters through the mercies, compassion, emotions of the God, that you all present your bodies as a living, breathing sacrifice, holy, pleasing, acceptable to the God, this is your reasonable, logical service (religious practice).”
-Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle), Letter to the Roman Body of Believers 12:1 (Author’s Translation)
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
The oppression of others is born of the oppression of self. Apostasy and rebellion against God results when we forget our value in His eyes.
After addressing the hypocrisy of Israel’s fasting, Isaiah 58 ends with the hope and heritage of Jacob (Israel) illuminated through repentance and redemption. Now the prophet Isaiah begins an additional rebuke concerning the root of Israel’s sin and the resulting separation which Israel has manufactured between herself and HaShem. Thus, the prophetic rhythm of promised Salvation followed by sober rebuke continues the cyclical message of God’s mercy toward Israel preceding His judgement of her. The ultimate result being everlasting life.
59:1 Hein Behold, now, pay attention, lo-katzerah not shortened (small) yad-YHVH is the hand (strength) of HaShem (Mercy) meihoshia from saving ve'lo kavedah and not dull azeno is His ear mishemoa from hearing.
The sense here is that Israel might be wondering why she is not delivered already, given her attention to fasting (albeit hypocritical), and her vain assent to the Torah Instruction of HaShem. Thus, the reminder that God is more than able, and even willing to save, more than able and even willing to hear (Isa.58:3). Therefore, there is another reason for Israel’s predicament.
The Targum puts it beautifully:
“Behold, it is not on account of any deficiency in the power of the Lord that ye are not saved; nor because it is too difficult for Him to hear, that your prayer is not received:” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“And we find (viz.Sanhedrin 98a) that in the days of R. Yehoshua ben Levi he was told (viz. Tehillim 95:6) that the Messiah would come ‘today, if you hearkened to His voice’ — even though the time of the exile decreed for Israel (one thousand years, corresponding to the one thousand year "day" of the Holy One Blessed be He, had not yet passed [viz. Chida, Petach Eiynayim, Sanhedrin, Ibid.])” -Chofetz Chaim Preface 4
59:2 kiy For im-avonoteiychem with your perversity, depravity, hayu has come mavdiliym dividings, separations beineichem among you levein between you and Eloheiychem your God vechatoteiychem and your sins histiyru have hidden His paniym face (faces) from you mikem so as mishemoa not to hear.
“But your iniquities separate between you and your God, and your sins have caused Him to take away the favour of His Shekinah from you, not to receive your prayer.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
We note that the perversity of Israel has produced the fruit of separations and divisions between them and God. Thus, the manifestation of division in their social order is evidence of the separation they have made between them and God in the spiritual order. We note further that the sins of Israel have caused God to appear hidden from them, likewise the appearance that He has not heard them. Therefore, although God is all powerful they have refused to receive His power, and although He is all knowing (hearing), it is they who have blocked their ears to His voice.
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.” -Ezekiel 18:30 (NIV)
“In those days people will no longer say,
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Instead, everyone will die for their own sin;
whoever eats sour grapes--
their own teeth will be set on edge.” -Jeremiah 31:29-30 (NIV)
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Messiah Yeshua.” -Romans 3:23-24
59:3 Kiy For chapeiychem your palms (hands) negoalu are defiled, polluted, desecrated vadam in blood ve'etzbeoteiychem and your fingers beavon in perversity, depravity siftoteiychem your lips, language, diberu-sheker have spoken lies leshonchem your tongue avlah tehgeh plots injustice.
Figuratively speaking the hands denote actions, the fingers accusation, the lips and language sedition.
We note that the palms of the hands are defiled with blood. This denotes contemplation of the aftermath of sinful action. Sins of blood are for the most part capital offenses (according to the Torah): murder, abortion etc. They must be atoned for in blood.
It is interesting to note that the Talmud explains each element in correlation with the several roles of a court of justice; the ‘hands’ are the judges; the ‘fingers’ of, the Scribes; the ‘lips’ are advocates and solicitors; and the ‘tongue’ is the adversaries, or the contending parties. (T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 139. 1.)
Given the obvious correlation between the present passage and the adjudicators of Israel, it is safe to say that Israel’s rulers, judges and Torah scribes are in part, leading Israel in the sins for which she is to be held accountable.
59:4 Eiyn-korei None call out ve'tzedek in righteousness ve'eiyn and none nishpat judges be'emunah in faithfulness; batoach they trust al-tohu upon formless vanity ve'daver-shav and speak empty falsehood haro conceiving amal trouble veholeiyd bringing forth aven wickedness.
“There is none that truly prays, nor any that pleads for faithfulness: they trust in vanity and speak lies; they hasten, and bring forth words of violence out of their heart.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The judicial issues alluded to implicitly in the former verse are now illuminated in the present verse. In a God honouring society righteousness, just judgement, faithfulness, order and truth are essential. In Israel at this time the opposite forces of unrighteousness, unjust judgement, infidelity, disorder, and lies were made manifest as a result of Israel’s rejection of relationship with her God YHVH.
There is a progression of the breaking down of moral society in this verse. A lack of righteousness is at the root of Israel’s problem. Not human righteousness but rather the righteousness that comes from God and is imparted to human beings through blood atonement and redemption. Israel has turned her heart away from HaShem, and as a result the heart of HaShem is unknown to her, in spite of her pious performance. Therefore, no one calls from a righteous inner being and as a result no one judges faithfully. It is of course impossible for someone who has chosen to trust in themselves to act out of the faithfulness of God, rather it is from their fallen nature of unfaithfulness that they judge.
Rather than trusting in HaShem Israel had chosen to trust in “tohu” empty, formless things. This is a figurative reference to idolatry and a reference to the formless void that preceded the creation of the earth (Genesis 1). It is important to note that the uncreated light precedes the created darkness and emptiness of the Genesis account. Further, truth and light are emanations (attributes) of the Creator, and therefore, are not subject to the created order. Whereas, emptiness, vanity and darkness are subject to the created order.
As a result of trusting in false gods Israel bears the fruit of lying lips and her thoughts conceive mischief which results in wickedness.
Therefore, the root causes of unrighteousness and rebellion (idolatry) are wreaking havoc on Israel (Judah) during the reign of Manasseh (lifetime of Isaiah). These are the things Israel had chosen for herself.
59:5 Beiytzeiy Eggs tzifoniy of a poisonous serpent bikeiu they hatch vekureiy and a web akaviysh of a spider ye'erogu they weave: haocheil the eating mibeiytzeiyhem of their eggs yamut has killed vehazureh and the crushed eggs tibaka break open revealing efeh snakes.
The serpent is associated to sin and the demonic forces that seek to ensnare humanity. It is also literally connected to plague (Numbers 21) and the death of the serpent is figurative of an end to sin and death (Numbers 21:8-9; Genesis 3:14-15; Revelation 12:9; 20:2, 10). Israel is said to be enabling the hatchlings of serpents. It is in the perfect tense meaning that it has and continues to be happening in her midst. Therefore, the poison of evil has been invited and has become invasive.
The web of a spider is a snare for its prey. It is also easily torn apart by larger animals and human beings. Therefore, what idolatrous Israel intends as a snare for others will be easily torn apart by the hand of God.
The figurative consumption of the eggs, poisons the inner person and any attempt to crush them results in the birth of more poisonous snakes that in turn lay eggs and perpetuate the cycle of evil in the midst of the people.
59:6 Kureiyhem Their webs lo-yihyu don’t become leveged garments (deceit) velo yitkasu and don't cover be'ma'aseiyhem over their works ma'aseiyhem after works: ma'aseiy-aven works of wickedness ufoal and the deed chamas of violence, cruelty bechapeiyhem is on their palms (hands).
“Behold, like a spider's web, with which no one can be covered, thus there is no profit from the works of the wicked; their works are the works of violence, and the work of a lie is in their hands.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
A spiders web is unsuitable for use as a garment. It is full of holes, therefore, not cover the naked body. Nor is it a suitable shelter from poor weather. Therefore, figuratively speaking it is not able to cover the many wicked works of apostate Israel.
Ultimately this refers back to idolatrous Israel’s blood guilt and the consequence of it, which is death.
59:7 Ragleiyhem Their feet la'ra to evil yarutzu have run viymaharu and make haste lishpoch to shed dam nakiy innocent blood machshevoteiyhem their thoughts machshevot are thoughts aven of wickedness, shod havoc vashever and crushing bimsilotam is in their raised roads.
Not only is Israel guilty of the most heinous of physical sins against her fellow man (bloodletting, murder), she is chasing after opportunities to murder the innocent. In addition her thoughts are focused on plotting wicked acts and the result is that any metaphorical roads she might build become the paths that lead to her own destruction.
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” -Romans 3:15-17 (NIV)
59:8 Derech A way shalom of peace, wholeness, wellbeing lo yadau they don't know ve'eiyn mishpat and no judgement, justice; bemagelotam their tracks netivoteihem trodden with their feet ikeshu are crooked lehem they kol dorech all lead to lo yada shalom no knowledge of peace, wholeness, wellbeing.
Rebellious Israel don’t know the way of peace and wholeness because they have rejected Peace Himself (HaShem). Therefore, they lack judgement and justice as a society. As a consequence of Israel’s lack of peace she treads crooked paths (idolatrous ways), all of which promise peace (spiritual enlightenment, prosperity etc.) but offer none. Thus, idolatrous Israel have no knowledge of Peace Himself.
59:9 Al-kein And truly therefore, rachak we have become far mishpat from justice mimenu as a result ve’lo and nor tasigeinu tzedakah does righteousness overtake us; nekaveh hoping expectantly we look la'or to the light (uncreated) ve'hinei-choshech and behold, pay attention, darkness (created) lingohot to brightness ba'afeilot in gloom nehaleich we walk.
We note that the language usage changes adopting the pronoun “we”. Therefore, the speakers in verse 9 through 13 are those who have soberly accessed the state of Israel in light of God’s Torah Instruction (and by the Word of the Prophets), and have found their people wanting. This is the righteous remnant, who, like the prophets, confess on behalf of their entire nation. The tragic conclusion of their observation bringing heart break to their souls.
“And truly therefore” means, because of our perversity and depravity, and our separating ourselves from God (v.2). Due to the blood on our hands, our mistreatment of our neighbours (pointing of the finger), our lying lips and our plotting wickedness (v.3). In light of the fact that we don’t demand righteousness or judge fairly, and trust in vain idolatry, speaking falsehood and acting wickedly as a result (v.4). Because we release the demonic and clothe ourselves with the worthless covering of the weak traps we set for others (v.5). Due to the fact that we multiply the work of our depravity and continue to do violence to others (v.6). In light of the fact that we run toward evil and rush to shed innocent blood, and that our thoughts are constantly set on perversity as we pursue paths that will crush us under the weight of our own sin (v.7). Finally, because we do not know a way of peace, wholeness and wellbeing, nor do we know Peace Himself (HaShem YHVH, Sar Shalom, The Prince of Peace [King Messiah]): there is no justice and we tread out tracks of unrepentant evil action, ruts that all lead to us having no knowledge of the way of peace (v.8). Thus, we have moved ourselves far from justice, nor does righteousness come to us and surpass us (v.9).
“Hoping expectantly we look to the light and behold, pay attention, darkness to brightness, in gloom we walk.” Idolatrous Israel had wandered so far from God through her own false belief, thoughts and actions, that when she looked for the light (of God) she was unable to see Him, and when she so desperately needed for the path to be lit up, instead it was gloomy, oppressing her steps. All this being self-inflicted blindness, wilful sin, self-destruction. Israel is treasured by Hashem, she has unfathomable worth to Him, and yet she had become blind to her worth through the defiling of herself, and had forgotten the Creator Who alone is able to redeem, sanctify and restore her.
59:10 Negashah We grope, feeling with the hand chaivriym like blind ones kir for a wall uche'eiyn and like those having no eiynayim eyes; negasheishah we grope, feeling with the hand kashalnu we stumble vatzohorayim in the midday kaneshef as if it were twilight ba'ashmaniym in desolation kameitiym as in places of death.
The confession of the righteous remnant continues.
“We grope, feeling with the hand like blind ones for a wall” Such is Idolatrous Israel’s spiritual blindness that she is unable to find a wall against which to steady herself. Instead she gropes about in useless grasping attempts for even the slightest possibility of touching something secure.
“like those having no eyes” This is a reference to Israel’s spiritual state of blindness. Though they have eyes (the potential to see), none the less, they do not see.
“we stumble in the midday as if it were twilight” Like the former simile, the meaning is that while it should be easy, even normal for them to see and walk upright, none the less they stumble.
“in desolation as in places of death” Ultimately all sin leads to the desolation and domain of death.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” -Romans 5:12 (NKJV)
59:11 Nehemeh We growl kadubiym like bears kulanu all of us vechayoniym and like doves hagoh mourning nehgeh murmuring nekaveh we wait, looking with expectant hope lamishpat for judgement va'ayin and there is none, liyshua for salvation rachakah is far off mimenu on account of us.
“We all roar like bears by reason of our enemies, who are gathered against us, and mourn like doves: we hoped for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far removed from us.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Both the growling of bears and the murmuring of doves are responses born of the expectation of something they long for. In the case of Israel they are longing for deliverance from their self-imposed desolation, and quite literally from the approaching Babylonian captivity.
“looking with expectant hope for judgement and there is none, for salvation is far off on account of us.” Idolatrous Israel hopes for a judgement in her favour but none comes. Why? Because God is just and Israel’s just recompense at this point in her history is desolation.
We note that “Salvation is far off on account of us.” Therefore, the righteous remnant recognise that Israel has caused her own demise. However, Salvation may seem far off but He is coming to her, not because Israel deserves salvation but because HaShem, Who gave her worth, is willing to suffer for and redeem her.
59:12 Kiy For rabu great, abundant feshaeiynu are our rebellions negdecha which are conspicuously in front of You vechatoteiynu and our sins anetah testify banu against us kiy-feshaeiynu for our rebellions itanu are with us va'avonoteiynu and our perversity yeda'anum we know.
The confession of the righteous remnant unreservedly acknowledges the guilt of the people. In the midst of Israel’s debauchery, as is still the case today, there is a righteous, God fearing remnant who cry out in confession and repentance on behalf of the people of Israel.
Neither the righteous remnant nor the people in general can deny the conspicuous nature of their individual and national sin. We note again that the root “pesha” meaning rebellion, the root “chat” meaning sin, and the root “avon”, meaning perversity, cover the full gambit of sin born of rebellion, idolatry, witchcraft.
“Our perversity we know” is in stark contrast to “A way shalom of peace, wholeness, wellbeing they don't know”.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
59:13 Pashoa Rebelling vechachesh and lying ba'YHVH against HaShem (Mercy) ve'nasog and sliding backward meiachar from Eloheiynu our God daber-oshek speaking oppression vesarah and defection (apostasy) horo conceiving vehogo and murmuring (meditating) meleiv from the inner person (heart, core being) divreiy-shaker words of falsehood.
“We have rebelled, and acted falsely against the Word of the Lord; we have turned backward from following after the worship of our God; we have spoken falsehood and apostasy, hastening and bringing forth from their hearts lying words.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“Rebelling and lying against HaShem (Mercy) and sliding backward from our God” The tragic irony of rebelling against Mercy and turning away from the Judge that might acquit them, is not lost on Isaiah or the faithful remnant. We notice again that it is the sin of rebellion (idolatry, witchcraft) that is at the root of Israel’s lying against HaShem. Many today persist in trying to convince themselves of God’s demise, and thus turn their backs on their own redemption.
“speaking oppression and defection (apostasy)” The oppression of others is born of the oppression of self. Apostasy and rebellion against God results when we forget our value in His eyes.
“conceiving and murmuring from the inner person words of falsehood.” When the heart is dark the mouth is dark. Clean water cannot be drawn from a polluted well.
59:14 Vehusag And sliding backward achor to the rear mishpat justice utzedakah and righteousness meirachok are far off ta'amod standing, remaining: kiy chashelah varechov emet for the truth has stumbled in the open plaza unechochah and straightness, equity lo-tuchal doesn't prevail lavo to enter.
Here justice, righteousness, truth and equity are personified as forgotten (to the rear), distant (far off), stumbling in public (open plaza), and unable to enter the city (doesn’t prevail to enter). This of course is not because these personifications of the emanations of God’s character are unable to remain present, affecting transformation; rather it is because Israel had refused them a. prominence (to the rear), b. welcome (far off), c. honour (open plaza), d. entry (doesn’t prevail to enter). God forces Himself on no person. Without freewill love cannot exist.
59:15 Vatehiy And it has come about that haemet the truth nederet is lacking vesar and departed mara from evil mishtolel like prey: vayar YHVH and HaShem sees vayera and it is evil be'eiynav in His eyes kiy-eiyn for it is not mishpat justice.
Truth has not “failed” as some English translations so foolishly render the text. To the contrary, Truth is available but it is lacking because Israel is lacking. It has departed because Israel has departed from it. Truth is an attribute of God’s character, it never fails because He never fails.
HaShem is fully aware (He sees) of the injustice and evil that reigns in the hearts of the apostate Israelites.
59:16 Vayar And He saw kiy-eiyn iysh there was no man (one, person) vayishtomeim and was appalled kiy eiyn for there was no mafgiya intercessor vatusha or salvation lo zero'o therefore, with His own arm vetzidkato and His righteousness hiy He semachatehu upheld it.
“He saw there was no man (one, person) and was appalled for there was no intercessor or salvation” Simply put, no human being is righteous of themselves, nor is there anyone who qualifies to save another. God alone saves.
“Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.” -Psalm 143:2 (NKJV)
“Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.” - Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NIV)
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” -Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) appears to be making a drash on Isaiah 59 when he combines passages from the Tanakh (OT) to say:
“As it is written,
The Babylonian Talmud interprets this latter clause of the King Messiah, Who will come in an age when there are none but wicked men (T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1.)
59:17 Vayilbash And He clothed Himself tzedakah with righteousness kashiryan as a breastplate vechova yeshuah and salvation as a helmet be'rosho on His head vayilbash and put on bigdeiy garments nakam of vengeance tilboshet vayat and wrapped Himself in raiment kamiyl as a robe kinah of zeal, jealousy.
“It is revealed, that He will work a great salvation for His people, yea, He will render vengeance to His enemies.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
There is a foundational correlation here between the present verse and the armour of God of Ephesians 6:10-18:
“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you are able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the worldly forces of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist when the times are evil, and after you have done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm then! Buckle the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 Strap up your feet in readiness with the Good News of shalom. 16 Above all, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Ruach on every occasion, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, keep alert with perseverance and supplication for all the kedoshim.” (TLV)
To have the armour of God placed upon us is to be clothed with the nature of the King Messiah: it is to be clothed with the nature of God with us. The armour of God is not the invention of Greco-Roman thought, rather it is firmly rooted in the present text of Isaiah.
When we are endowed with the armour of God we are invested with the zeal and jealousy of God for His people and His redemptive purposes for humanity. The breastplate of righteousness protects our inner person (leiv) and the helmet of Salvation (Yeshua) guards our minds and reminds us that our salvation is secure outside of time and space and cannot be compromised because it is entirely reliant on God. We are wrapped in vengeance against the forces of darkness and their resulting sin, and we are robed with zeal for the kingdom of God.
“He clothed Himself with righteousness as a breastplate” The previous verse explains how and by what means HaShem will uphold salvation for His people. Now HaShem Himself is pictured wearing righteousness as a breastplate. He is going to war for the salvation of His people Israel (and in turn for the nations). Of course, this is a description of both the Father and the Son, our King Messiah.
“And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” -Revelation 19:11 (ASV)
“Salvation as a helmet on His head” The head “rosh” is the ruler of the body and the origin of thought (But not of consciousness). HaShem need not wear either the breastplate or the helmet for protection, rather they are symbolic representations of His character. The protection is for us. Therefore, we don the nature of HaShem through Messiah and are prepared for spiritual war in the present sin affected age.
“and put on garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in raiment as a robe of zeal, jealousy.” We note that His righteousness and salvation come with vengeance against the adversary (Satan) and the demonic forces, against sin and its defiling work, against the wilfully wicked and perpetually rebellious sons and daughters of the evil one. This is a war for the redemption of His people, He is jealous for Israel, just as He is jealous for all who would turn to Him in repentance and receive His redemption, love, mercy, and the grace born of His Holiness.
“And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” -Revelation 19:13 (ASV)
59:18 Ke'al According to gemulot their deeds ke'al so yeshalem He will fully repay (through a covenant of peace) chemah rage letzarav to His adversaries, gemul recompense leoyevayv to His enemies, laiyim to the islands (of the Mediterranean) gemul recompense yeshalem in full (through a covenant of peace).
The peace that had eluded apostate Israel (v.8) is now the mechanism by which judgement comes against the enemies of God both foreign and domestic. The indictment against evil widens to include the Islands of the Mediterranean and in a figurative sense, it includes all who do evil.
59:19 Veyireu And they will fear mima'arav from the west et-sheim the Name YHVH HaShem (Mercy) umimizrach-shemesh and from the eastern sun et-kevodo His glory kiy-yavo for it will come to pass chanahar when like a river tzar the adversary comes, Ruach YHVH the Spirit of HaShem nosesah will raise a sign against him (will cause him to flee).
“They shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the oppressors shall come in like an inundation of the river Euphrates, they shall be broken by the Word of the Lord.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE).
“they will fear from the west the Name YHVH HaShem (Mercy) and from the eastern sun His glory” The western nations will fear and be in awe of the Person of HaShem, His nature, character, redemptive purposes etc. The eastern nations will fear the manifestation of His glory and power.
“for it will come to pass when like a river the adversary comes, Ruach YHVH the Spirit of HaShem will raise a sign against him (will cause him to flee).” This verse has found partial fulfilment on many occasions in Israel’s history, and the Targum supports the idea of a physical enemy from the east being defeated in latter times: something that the Revelation also describes. However, its greatest fulfilment has both come and is yet to come. The ultimate enemy of Israel is not the united anti-Semitic nations of the earth, rather the greatest enemy of Israel is Ha-Satan and the fallen nature of the human soul. Therefore, the “nes” miracle, sign, wonder that HaShem has and will raise up by His Spirit: was, is and will be the King Messiah Yeshua, His vicarious sacrificial death and resurrection through which Israel finds atonement, redemption, salvation and restoration, resulting in everlasting life.
“This verse is in perfect harmony with the prophecy, And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was, etc. (Dan. 12:1). At that time Israel alone will be saved; therefore this verse is followed by the words, And the Redeemer shall come to Zion.” -Iben Ezra
59:20 Uva And will come letziyon to Zion (parched land) Goel a Redeemer uleshaveiy and will turn back fesha the rebellion beyaakov in Jacob (follower) neum declares YHVH HaShem (Mercy).
“And will come letziyon to Zion (parched land) Goel a Redeemer (Kinsman)” We note that the Redeemer will come to Zion, that is Israel (ethnic, religious), the Jewish people.
“This is the Messiah” -Iben Ezra
“For I am not ashamed of the good proclamation, message, news of Messiah, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first perpetually and also perpetually for the Goyim (nations).” -Romans 1:16
“and will turn back the rebellion in Jacob (follower) declares YHVH HaShem (Mercy).” Such will be the power of the Redeemer’s actions, that through Him God will transform the hearts and minds of the Jewish people (Jacob, Israel). So much so that they will turn back from evil, turn back toward HaShem, turn away from the very root of sin itself (rebellion against God) and turn toward Mercy Himself YHVH through the Redeemer, the King Messiah Yeshua.
“’Unto them that turn from transgression.’ Every one that shall be found written in the book (Dan. 12:1)” -Iben Ezra
59:21 Va'aniy And I zot beriytiy this is My covenant otam with them amar says YHVH HaShem Ruachiy My Spirit asher Who aleycha is upon you udevaray and My words asher which samtiy I have put befiycha in your mouth lo-yamushu will not depart mipiycha from your mouth umipiy nor out of the mouth zaracha of your seed umipiy nor out of the mouth zera zaracha of your seed's seed amar says YHVH HaShem, meiatah from now ve'ad-olam and as far as forever, in a world perpetual.
“And I this is My covenant with them says YHVH HaShem” (Romans 11:27) This covenant (bloodshed, cutting) is of God alone. His blood will bind and sustain the covenant.
“My Spirit Who is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth nor out of the mouth of your seed nor out of the mouth of your seed's seed says YHVH HaShem, from now and as far as forever, in a world perpetual.” The Living Word our King Messiah will, by the Spirit of Hashem, come and indwell the redeemed people of Israel and His life will be passed on from generation to generation. This began at Shavuot (Pentecost) 33 CE (AD) and has continued through the redeemed Messianic remnant of Israel to this day as is testified to in my own life according to the passing on of Messianic Jewish faith by my forebears. This will find its ultimate fulfilment in the salvation of the entire remnant of Israel following the fullness of the nations at the end of this age (Romans 11:25-26), and will be sustained forever perpetually through Messiah in Olam Haba (the world to come).
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2019
To be known by Him means to receive His knowing of us... The knowledge of God is not the accumulation of information, rather it is the receiving of His Spirit, Who produces in us the fruit of “Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, integrity, trust, goodness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22), and equips us with the gifts of “Wisdom, knowledge, trust, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, and language”(I Corinthians 12:8-10).
The prophet has just introduced Tzemakh (The Branch) and spoken of a future where Hashem would presence Himself as He once had following Israel’s escape from Egypt (Cloud & Fire), finally covering her with a chuppah (wedding canopy) of His glory, shielding her and dwelling with her perpetually. These certain events are spoken of as if they had already happened because from God’s point of view, they have. The prophet speaks certain hope to a people who have made certain their own suffering through their sin against, and rejection of God.
Now the prophet recites a song about his beloved God and His vineyard (Israel). It is no coincidence that the figurative use of the Branch in the previous chapter matches perfectly the analogy of the vineyard in the present text. In fact, the Branch will come forth from this same vineyard, being both born of it and the root that supports it.
The prophet’s song employs the couplets and rhythms of Hebrew poetry, emphasizing the profound anguish of God over His people and their choice to break relationship with Him. The song quickly turns from the third person to the first person. It opens as a narrative expressed by the prophet but soon progresses to become a direct challenge spoken by God Himself. It reads like the broken cry of a jilted lover, and reflects the deep heart ache experienced by one who has given everything of himself and has been repaid with scorn.
The use of the vineyard as an allegory or living parable (mashal) concerning the people of Israel is a strong theme of Isaiah. The vineyard is seen throughout Scripture as a symbol of provision, abundance, sweetness and celebration. Upon leaving the ark the first thing Noach (comfort) does is to plant a vineyard. The Torah gives numerous instructions regarding the conduct of those who own vineyards (Ex. 22:5, 23:11; Lev. 19:10, 25:3 etc.). The Torah also observes the practices of those who own vineyards (Deut. 6:11, 20:6, 22:9, 23:24, 24:21 etc.). Throughout the books of the Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) the vineyard is observed and commented on in regard to its general nature and its correlation with the people of Israel. Finally Yeshua our King Messiah, alluding to Isaiah, employs the vineyard allegory in order to warn the Jews of the first century CE (AD) that they are living in days like those of Isaiah and the prophets, and that unless they repent they too will suffer the consequences of their wicked and hypocritical actions (Matt. 20, 21; Mark. 12; Luke. 13, 20).
There is both great joy and deep despair in the story of the vineyard of HaShem. However, “Those who go out weeping with seed to sow will return with rejoicing and an abundant harvest will be theirs.” (Psalm 126:6).
The Text Isaiah 5
Isa 5:1 Entreating I will sing to my sole beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My sole beloved has a kerem vineyard b’keren in the horn (strength, flask), ben-shemen son of oil:
Who is the prophet entreating? It seems that he is singing his song in the hearing of the people of Israel, entreating them as he sings first to his one true love, Hashem, and then conveying the words of HaShem’s response. This is a beautiful picture of what it means to pray. Prayer is the conversation that God began with humanity at the inception of creation. A conversation that we are invited to join. All prayer is a response to a relationship and conversation that God initiated from before we were born. The same is true of the prophet Isaiah’s song. The spirit of son-ship cries out to the Father from deep within the believer:
“You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” –Romans 8:15
Who does the song concern? It concern’s the vineyard, planted by the One Whom the prophet is entreating, Hashem.
The second sentence could be read, “My one true love has a vineyard growing in the strong son of oil”.
The traditional English translation, “My well beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:” finds its dynamic equivalent inspiration in the Targum:
"the prophet said, I will sing now to Israel, who is like unto a vineyard, the seed of Abraham, my beloved, a song of my beloved, concerning his vineyard. My people, my beloved Israel, I gave to them an inheritance in a high mountain, in a fat land.''
In light of this others have suggested that the land of Israel is shaped like a horn and that, as a son born of God’s design, Israel is rich with oil (shemen), a land of fruitfulness. However, the plain meaning simply conveys strength and the progeny of oil. Thus this section of the text is open to interpretation. The vineyard is Israel (v.7), therefore, one must conclude that the horn and son of oil are either the foundation of the vineyard or the location of the vineyard, or, both.
Surely the strength (keren, horn) of Israel is her redeemer, the Tzemakh Branch, the son (ben) who pours out oil (shemen), a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Kodesh). He Who was sacrificed before Israel’s creation and who was destined to enter time and space as the Branch (Messiah King), is also the vine, the very root and foundation of the nation.
Therefore, the second clause of the second verse is intentionally ambiguous for the purpose of revealing both a description of the land of Israel and an allusion to the Branch of the previous chapter, who is the Messiah King Yeshua.
Isa 5:2 Vayazkeihu And He dug (fenced) it, gathered and removed the stones, and planted it with the choicest vines, and built a tower in the middle of it, and also made a winepress there: and He looked for it to bring forth anaviym grapes, and it brought forth b’ushiym (stinking, worthless things) wild grapes.
The ancient paraphrase Targum Yonatan has inspired the early rabbis to interpret an allegorical meaning in the poetic mashal (parable) of the Beloved’s vineyard. Given that the plain meaning itself intendeds to convey an allegorical picture of the establishment of Israel in the land, it seems reasonable to extrapolate in the manner of the rabbis.
The text itself explains that, “The vineyard of HaShem Tze’vaot of heavens armies, is Beit the House of Yisrael” (v.7).
“I sanctified them, and I made them glorious, I propped them up as a precious vine; and I built My sanctuary in the midst of them; and I gave also my altar to make an atonement for their sins; and I thought that they should do good works before Me, but they did evil works.” –Targum Yonatan (Isaiah 2)
The Psalmist writes:
“You have brought a vine out of Mitzrayim (Egypt, Double distress): You have cast out the heathen, and planted it.” –Psalm 80:8
The allegorical meaning seems to be best explained as follows:
Each element that makes up the vineyard has a practical application. The Sole Beloved is the vinedresser, the One Who takes care of the vineyard. The vines are said to be the choicest of plants. In order for a vineyard to have good fruit it must be planted with choice vines. The removal of stones from the vineyard means that the vineyard can be easily tended and that the collection of grapes is not impaired by obstacles. The fence helps to protect the vineyard from intruders and wild animals. The tower acts as a means of keeping an eye on the vineyard in case of intruders. The winepress allows the wine maker to produce quality wine from fresh grapes rather than lose quality by having to transport the grapes elsewhere in order to have them pressed.
Isa 5:3 And now, inhabitants of Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace, Jerusalem), and men of Yehudah (Praise, Judah), judge, I plead with you, between Me and My vineyard.
The prophet is not the one who planted the vineyard, nor does the vineyard belong to him. Therefore, it is Hashem Who now speaks directly to Israel, asking her to judge for herself. The prophet Nathan employs a similar tactic when he uses the mashal (parable) of the poor man’s lamb to rebuke king David (2 Sam. 12).
The people of Jerusalem bare the name that says they have been offered the certain peace of God. The inhabitants of Judah owe their praise to the One Who brought them into the good land. Therefore, even their names testify against them.
Isa 5:4 What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? Why therefore, when I looked for it to bring forth anaviym grapes, did it bring forth b’ushiym (stinking, worthless things) wild grapes?
God ends the debate of nature verses nurture, thousands of years before the so called enlightenment. If the nurture of the perfect parent, HaShem, is shunned by His children so that they produce rotten fruit, then the conclusion is this: human nature is flawed, fallen, decaying, and neither nurture nor nature will save us. Our only hope is to turn to God and accept the nature of His perfect Son our Messiah King Yeshua.
The distinction made between the hoped for choice grapes and the wild grapes is a harsh one. The choice grapes are the righteous, God fearing children of Israel. Whereas the wild grapes are symbolic of the heathen nations in the same way that wild olives are symbolic of the Gentile nations (Romans 11). Therefore, the Lord is saying that Israel has produced Godless heathens for progeny. The Torah commands that those who fail to keep the core observances of worship be removed from Israel as if they were heathens (Ex. 31:14). Thus the observation made by the vineyard owner exposes the faithless actions of those Who have been born of His vineyard.
Isa 5:5 And now I’ll give you knowledge of what I’ll do to My vineyard: I will take away the mesukah hedge there, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the gader wall there, and it shall be trodden down:
The mesukah (hedge, natural protection) symbolizes the Torah and the natural protections afforded Israel from God’s creation: rainfall, crops, terrain etc. The gader (wall, stone, built, manmade) is the protection God has provided through the right actions of former generations, and the practical skills to build walls and strengthen Israel’s economy. God is about to take away the provision of His creation, meaning that He will withhold the rains for the crops and allow invaders to eat what’s left of the produce of the land. He is also about to use invaders to tear down what Israel’s forebears have built so that both her spiritual and physical protection are removed.
Isa 5:6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be zamar pruned, nor dug over; but there briers and thorns will come up: I will also command the clouds that they should rain no rain upon it.
The Hebrew zamar meaning pruned, also means, to make music by striking strings. HaShem will remove His fingers from the strings of Israel, her song will not be heard. There is tragic irony in this allusion to song given that this is a song of the Sole Beloved’s vineyard.
This verse makes a correlation between the removal of the wall (physical care and protection) and the pruning, digging and wedding of the vineyard. It also makes a correlation between the hedge (natural, creation, protection) and the command to the clouds not to provide rain. This type of emphasis through couplets is a mainstay of Hebrew poetry, allegory and mashlim (parables).
Isa 5:7 For the vineyard of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tze’vaot (Who goes to war) of heavens armies, is Beit the House of Yisrael (Overcomes in God), and the men of Yehudah (Praise, Judah) are His plantation of delight: and he looked for mishpat judgment (right judgement, discernment), but behold mispach bloodshed; for tzedakah righteousness, but behold tze’akah an out-cry.
The Hebrew word play in these verses places great emphasise on the ironic wickedness of those who make up the vineyard. Hashem looks for mishpat but finds mispach, He looks for tzedakah but finds tze’akah. These Hebrew words with similar sounds are none the less conveying opposing motivations. Each word is altered only slightly, either by adding a consonant or replacing one. This teaches us that it is often in the subtleties that we need to discern our path. After all, the distance between judgement (mishpat) and bloodshed (mispach) is determined by the replacement of a single character.
Isa 5:8 Alas, because of those that join house to house, that add field to field, until there is no place (for others), that they may be the only ones with a place in the midst of Ha-aretz the land!
From verses 8-23 Isaiah denounces six types of evil doers. His words read like observations as much as divine illuminations. He has witnessed the wickedness of his own people first hand.
The Hebrew Hoy, “Alas” usually translated as “Woe”, is an impassioned proclamation of warning and incredulity. It almost always begins a denunciation of some form of evil. Yeshua Himself employed this phrase on many occasions, in some cases referring both explicitly and implicitly to the prophet Isaiah (Matt. 11:21, 23:13-20; Luke. 6:24-26, etc.).
The Hebrew “Ha-aretz” should be rendered “The land”. It is a specific reference to the land of Israel, the Promised Land. It does not refer to the entire earth in this context, as some English translations suggest.
This rebuke is in response to the rich ignoring the Torah instruction to ensure that the tribal lands remain in the hands of the tribes and in the possession of the families that they had been assigned to throughout the generations (Jos. 14:9). It seems that rather than returning rented land during the jubilee year (Lev 27:24), the rich had been taking the land of other Israelites as a permanent possession, thus leaving many in poverty, unable to provide for their families. A classic example of this type of sin can be seen in the actions of the wicked king Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 21). Throughout Scripture Hashem is seen to punish His people most severely for the crimes committed against the poor, the widow and the orphan.
Isaiah is not alone in his description of the conditions experienced by the poor: contemporary prophets like Amos, Hosea and Micah reflect the same terrible conditions in their historical writings.
Isa 5:9 In my ears, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tze’vaot (Who goes to war) of heaven’s armies says, “Oaths notwithstanding, many houses shall become desolate, even in great and toviym pleasant (places), nothing will dwell.
“In my ears” refers to the ears of the prophet. HaShem is speaking these words to Isaiah in order that he might convey them to the people.
“Oaths not withstanding” means HaShem will keep His eternal promises (of land, priesthood and redemption etc.) to ethnic Israel in spite of the temporary need for His disciplining of them.
The events described here have taken place many times throughout the course of Israel’s history. One such event is recorded in 2 Chronicles 28:5-8. During the days of Ahaz 120,000 men were killed in one day by Pekah of Samaria, and 200,000 people were carried off into captivity.
Isa 5:10 For, ten acres (4 Hectares) of vineyard will yield one bat (22 litres), and the seed of an homer (220 litres) shall yield an ephah (22 litres).
In simplified terms the harvest will produce only a tenth of the seed sown. This means that not only will there be little food, there will also be no provision made for saving seed to plant for the following year. This is a description of famine, starvation, desolation.
Isa 5:11 Alas, because of those who rise up early in the morning, pursuing liquor; that continue until night, wine inflames them! Isa 5:12 And it has come to pass that harp, and the guitar, the tambourine, and flute, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), neither consider the work of His hands.
They fail to consider that the very vineyard they are feasting in and the produce they are enjoying is the work of HaShem’s hands. The holy convocations of HaShem are being celebrated as drunken parties rather than as opportunities to commune with God as a nation.
Isa 5:13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no da’at knowledge: and their honourable men are starving, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Captivity results from a lack of knowledge. Not the knowledge of humanity but the knowing of God. To be known by Him means to receive His knowing of us. The Hebrew da’at means: knowledge, perception, skill, discernment, understanding, wisdom. The knowledge of God is not the accumulation of information, rather it is the receiving of His Spirit, Who produces in us the fruit of “Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, integrity, trust, goodness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22), and equips us with the gifts of “Wisdom, knowledge, trust, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, and language”(I Corinthians 12:8-10).
Isa 5:14 Therefore sheol (holding place of the dead, divided into Gan-Eden [Paradise] and Gehinnom [Torment]) has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and descending into it will be their splendour, and their abundance, and their uproar, and he who rejoices. Isa 5:15 Adam humanity will be brought down, and the mighty man will be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty will be brought low:
“Sheol” should be transliterated in this context. It is at best misleading and at worst deception to translate the place of the dead as “Hell”. Sheol is divided into two and is the temporal holding place of the departed spirits of humanity. All those departed enter either Paradise or Gehinnom based on their standing before God. At the end of days the dead will rise and the righteous will enter the Olam Haba (World to come) and eternal life but the unrighteous will be thrown into the lake of fire (eternal torment) along with Satan and his spiritual allies (Rev. 20:10, 14-15).
Neither the Greek “Hades” nor the English “Hell” properly convey the ancient Jewish understanding of the holding place of the dead known to Hebrews as Sheol. Hell should also not be used synonymously with eternal punishment or the lake of fire, as these are descriptions of the eternal torment that awaits the wicked following the judgement, whereas Gehinnom, which is within sheol, is a temporary place of punishment.
The personification of Sheol and her widening mouth is meant to denote a great increase in deaths. The uproar of the wicked, the vain revelry of Israel will be consumed by Sheol. Those rejoicing in their wickedness will be silenced by her. Humanity, used here to indicate the pride of human knowledge, will be brought down into Sheol, all who are wise in their own eyes and take pride in their wickedness.
The juxtaposition of the highs and lows will meet its crescendo in the following chapter where the One Who is High above all and Who created the depths of all things is revealed seated on His throne.
Isa 5:16 But HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tze’vaot (Who goes to war) of heaven’s armies, shall be exalted in judgment (justice, right judgement), and Ha-Elohim (The Judge) The God Ha-Kadosh The Holy One, will prepare tzedakah righteousness.
God is named here for mercy, war and judgement. He is The God (Ha-Elohim), The Holy One (Ha-Kadosh). He alone is worthy to judge. And yet, His warring and judgement are born of love and mercy. He has prepared righteousness (The Branch), He has intended salvation from the beginning. All this judgement is the discipline that precedes redemption.
Isa 5:17 Then the lambs will feed in the pastures, and the waste places of the fat ones will be consumed by strangers.
Wild sheep will feed on what remains of the crops and the lands and left over produce and riches of the wealthy will be consumed by foreigners. This is a tragic picture of Israel’s temporary loss of her inheritance.
Isa 5:18 Alas, because of those that drag avon perversity with strands of falsehood, and sin like a rope drawn cart: Isa 5:19 Who say, “Let Him make speed, and hasten His work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Yisrael (Israel) draw near and come, that we may know it!
The “Woes” increase and the charges grow greater. Each subsequent act of evil is worse than the last. While the ignorant sin without a care for God, the truly wicked either abuse Him or renounce Him altogether. The words of these people are a direct challenge to God. They either don’t believe He exists or they consider Him powerless to resist them. Self-worship is perhaps the ultimate form of Idolatry. These wicked ones even employ the prophet’s own description of God as “Holy One of Israel”. In doing this they insult both God and the Patriarchs of Israel from whom they are descended.
Isa 5:20 Alas, because of those that call rah evil tov good, and tov good rah evil; appointing choshek darkness for Or light, and Or light for choshek darkness; designating mar bitterness for matok sweet, and matok sweet for mar bitter!
Those spoken of here are seeking to tear away at the very fabric of morality. God had seen in His creation from the beginning, that it was good. And following the creation of humanity He saw that it was “Very good”. This people, by changing the meaning of good and evil have pronounced judgement against their own sinful nature, for God had called humanity good but humanity had chosen information (Fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) over relationship.
Again they knock down the very fence that protected them (Torah) by saying that choshek darkness (a symbol for the evil one) is Or light. The Hebrew word Or (Light) is used of the light that predated the creation of the lights of the heavens. This is a direct insult to the pre-existent redeemer, the Light of the world, the King Messiah Yeshua.
Ironically in calling bitter sweet and sweet bitter, they describe their own descent into bitterness and suffering. They had once tasted the sweet provision of God and now in calling God’s provision bitter they have pursued their own inability to provide for themselves, seeing their own bitter character as something sweet.
All these perversions of truth are equally applicable to the post-modern hang over we are experiencing in today’s western culture. What we are reading here in Isaiah, a book written over two and a half thousand years ago, is a description of Relative truth, a so called new concept, concieved during the modern historical period of the enlightenment.
Isa 5:21 Alas, because of those that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Isa 5:22 Alas, because of those that are great at drinking wine, and men of strength who mix strong drink: Isa 5:23 Who justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Idolatry, self-worship and delusions of grandeur bear the fruit of arrogance, delusion, decadence, and injustice. Our modern media is full of stories that applaud the wicked and decry the righteous. Like the prophet Isaiah, we live in a society that detests those who walk rightly with God.
Isa 5:24 Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as decay, and their blossom will rise as dust: because they have cast away the Torat HaShem Instruction of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tze’vaot (Who goes to war) of heaven’s armies, and despised emrat the word of the Holy One of Yisrael (Israel).
Because of all that the prophet has observed God has firmly established the complete burning off of the land both physically and figuratively. Fire is a symbol of judgement and power. It is judgement and torment to the wicked but it is power and light to the righteous.
The reason given for this fire of judgement is that the people of Israel have cast off the loving instruction of God’s written word (Torah Emet) and have despised the spoken word (Emrat) of God. Israel had the Torah but had rejected its teaching, they had the prophets speaking the word (Emrat) but despised and mistreated them. Therefore, the only form of guidance left to them was discipline.
It is true to say that it is the rejection of both the written and living word of God that continues to alienate people today from right relationship with Him. The written word (Bible) and the living Word (Yeshua, D’var, Memra, Emra) are gifted to humanity through the Jewish people, and yet humanity continues to resist relationship with her loving Creator and Father. Therefore, it would be unwise for anyone to point a finger at Israel: we are all guilty.
Isa 5:25 Therefore the anger of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) is kindled against His people, and He has stretched forth His hand against them, and has struck them: and the mountains tremble, and their carcases are torn in the midst of the streets. In spite of all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.
Notice the past tense, “He has stretched forth His hand against them”. Although the prophet is speaking of future events, from God’s perspective outside of time and space they have already taken place. The phrase “His hand is stretched out still” affirms the continued outworking of these things throughout Israel’s history of disobedience. This is not a case of God withholding mercy, rather it is a case of His dispensing justice. A Father who disciplines the children of others without first disciplining his own children is a fool. God is no fool, He has chosen Israel to be a light to the nations, and the light that comes forth from her will not abide darkness. Therefore, she is disciplined for the sake of redemption.
Isa 5:26 And He will lift up a banner to the nations from far off, and will whistle to them from the end of the earth: and, behold, now, with haste they will swiftly come: Isa 5:27 None will become weary or stumble among them; none will slumber or sleep; neither will their loin clothes be loosed, or the straps of their sandals be broken:
The banner or signal that HaShem lifts up will inform the nations of Israel’s weak position and invite them to invade her. He will strengthen their armies and ensure that they don’t grow weary or lack provision. All these privileges were once provided for Israel His chosen, now, in order to discipline Israel He has given their food to the dogs (Heathen nations).
Isa 5:28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs will bring distress, making judgement, and their wheels will be like a whirlwind: Isa 5:29 Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: Yes, they will roar, and lay hold of the prey, and will carry it away safe, and nothing will be able to deliver it.
The sharp arrows and flexible bows speak of strength of arms and the thundering horses and whirling wheels speak of fear and awe.
The Lion is the symbol of Judah (Gen. 49:9) and her Messiah King. Therefore, the allusion to the nations being like lions is an affront to Judah’s identity and an ironic metaphor for the taking away of her strength.
Isa 5:30 And growling on the ground in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one looks to the land, behold choshek darkness and tzar distress, and Or the light chashak grows dark in the clouds.
Just as they have called darkness light and light darkness, so Hashem will turn the natural light that they rely on to darkness and keep from them the spiritual light that they have rejected, leaving them in physical distress and spiritual darkness.
Introduction to Isaiah 6:
Isaiah 6 begins with the end of Uzziah’s reign (approx. 740 BCE/BC) and the ordination of his son Jotham who had already been co-regent for some time due to Uzziah’s sinning against the Lord by desecrating the Temple rite (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
While it may seem odd to place the vision and calling of Isaiah here rather than at the beginning of the book, there is a certain sense of continuity about it. The opening chapter of Isaiah gives an overview of the message of the entire book, and chapters 2-5 offer prophecies that pertain specifically to Uzziah’s reign, notwithstanding the cyclical nature of Hebrew prophecy. Thus, at the death of the reasonably godly but somewhat flawed king Uzziah, at a time when Israel was teetering on the edge of complete moral corruption, the prophet’s calling is affirmed in the vision of HaShem. This is why the prophet is told that the people will be “Ever hearing but not understanding, ever seeing but not perceiving” (v.10). Sadly, Isaiah’s calling, like that of the Messiah he foretells (Chpt. 53), will be the calling of a suffering servant who is deeply grieved by the sin of his people.
Five years prior to the death of Uzziah, Tigalatpileser III (745-727 BCE/BC) the warring king of Asyria came to power, and with him a vision to build an empire that encompassed the known world (Between the Euphrates and the Nile). Thus the kingdoms of Samaria and Judah were about to meet their doom. And yet, rather than repent, they continued to pursue moral decay.
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.” –Isaiah 22:13
The Text of Isaiah 6
Isa 6:1 In the year that king Uziyah (My strength is YHVH) died I saw Adonai my Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the hem of His robe filled Ha-heiycal the temple, palace.
The Scriptures teach that a human being cannot see God in His full glory (the face of God) and live (Ex. 33:20; John 1:18). This does not however prevent God from revealing Himself in other ways. The rabbis agree that while God is echad, yet He has many emanations. We know that the Patriarch’s met God face to face in human form. Abraham called one of the three messengers that met him at Mamre, “Adonai, My Lord” (Gen. 18:1-3) and the text shows us by using the first and third person interchangeably that this was in fact God Himself revealed as a messenger. Likewise Jacob wrestled with a “Man” Who was also God (Gen. 32:24-30). Jacob understood this mysterious man to be God, exclaiming, “I have seen God face to face and am preserved”. Thus we understand that God is echad but reveals Himself in many ways. Speaking of the Messiah Yeshua the letter to the Philippians reads:
“He made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man.” (Phil. 2:7)
Again, speaking of the Messiah Yeshua the letter to the Colossians reads:
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9)
It is noteworthy that Isaiah saw Adonai (My lord) and not HaShem (YHVH). The hem of the robe is an allusion to the High Priest’s garment. With both these things in mind and given that Hashem is invisible, the Lord Whom Isaiah is referring to is a representation of Hashem in human form, wearing a robe (priestly, royal). The symbolic use of the robe unites the Kingship and Priesthood of Israel in the Ministry of the Great High Priest and King Messiah. John’s Gospel affirms the identity of the Lord of Isaiah’s vision when, speaking of Yeshua he writes:
“Therefore they could not believe, because as Isaiah also said, ‘He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him.” – John 12:39-41
Ha-heiycal can mean both Temple and Palace. It can be understood to refer to both the earthly Temple in Jerusalem and the heavenly Temple. There is little point arguing over which is meant because the glory of God is over all the earth.
The throne is that of the King of Mercy (YHVH denotes mercy). It is in fact the mercy seat and He Who sits on it defines mercy.
Isa 6:2 Seraphim (Burning Angelic beings) stood above it: each one had six wings; with two covering the face, and two covering the feet, and two being used to fly.
Our rabbis generally agree that these are the same beings as those who appear in Ezekiel's vision of the living creatures (Ezekiel 1:5); their name Seraphim, means burning, and Ezekiel's living creatures are said to be "like burning coals of fire"(Ezekiel 1:13).
God’s messengers are like flames of fire (Ps. 104:4). Specifically Seraphim. The plural form Seraphim probably also alludes to the four angelic beings who proclaim the holiness of God in the Revelation (Rev. 4:8). The Seraphim cannot be the two guardians of the Ark of the Covenant because those guardians are Cherubim (Ex. 25:22).
The wings covering the face show reverence for the manifest glory of God and the wings covering the feet are a sign of humility.
The fact that these particular messengers are messengers of fire (Seraphim) correlates to the fire of judgement, refining and empowering that HaShem is bringing upon Israel.
“Who makes His malakhim messengers ruachot spirits and His shartayn servants eish loheit fiery flames.” –Psalm 104:4
Isa 6:3 And one cried to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tze’vaot (Who goes to war) of heaven’s armies: kol ha-aretz the whole land/earth is full of His glory.
When something is repeated it is firmly established within time and space, and when something is said three times it is an eternal and immutable truth. Thus the Seraphim cry “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh!” They are speaking of the perfection, purity and absolute otherness of God. Yes, He is also Father, Son and Spirit, and He is echad (A complex unity).
“And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy’, HaShem Lord Elohim God Shaddai Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” –Revelation 4:8
This revelation of God’s holiness correlates to the prophet’s repeated use of the title “Holy One of Israel”. Isaiah uses this title twelve times between chapters 1-39, and seventeen times between chapters 40-66. This is yet another reason to affirm the united view of the book of Isaiah. There is far too much continuity of language for the book to have been written by multiple authors.
Outside of Isaiah the title “Holy One of Israel” occurs infrequently (Psalms 71:22, 78:41, 89:19; Jeremiah 50:29, 51:5).
Isa 6:4 And the threshold shook at the voice of him that cried, and Ha-Beit the house was filled with smoke/cloud/vapour.
Ha-Beit is another name for the Temple in Jerusalem. For the prophet Isaiah and for the people of Israel the manifestation of smoke, cloud and fire recalls the presence of God’s angel with the people following their escape from Egypt. It is a reminder that God Himself is Israel’s hope and freedom. At a time when the Temple service is being dishonoured through syncretism and idolatry, God is showing the prophet a manifestation of hope for the future. Isaiah is witnessing the manifest Messiah, God with us, seated on the throne of mercy and offering Israel hope and a future. Isaiah is gazing, not into a dream or an open vision but through a temporal rupture that allows him to look through the skin of time and space and into the Olam Haba (World to come), the eternal now.
Isa 6:5 Then I said, “Alas for me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tze’vaot (Who goes to war) of heaven’s armies.
Why “Unclean lips”, why not “Unclean lev (heart, inner person)”?
“A good man, out of the good treasure of his lev (heart, inner person) brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his lev (heart, inner person) brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the lev (heart, inner person) his mouth speaks.” –Luke 6:45
Like every righteous person before him and every righteous person after him, Isaiah, when standing in the presence of the revelation of God, becomes profoundly aware of his own sinful state and the greater sin of his people. It is a great indictment against the wicked in Israel that their prophet Isaiah, who is walking in right relationship with Hashem, none the less confesses that he is a man of unclean lips. Isaiah shows contrite humility in owning his sinful nature. No one can come to God without humility.
Isa 6:6 Then one of the Seraphim (Burning Angelic Messenger) flew to me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off Ha-misbeach the altar:
The altar is the altar of blood sacrifice. The Hebrew root zabach means to shed blood, slaughter. Whenever the word mizbeach is used without a qualifying term such as “incense”, it refers to the altar of blood sacrifice. This is important because remission of sin comes only through the shedding of blood (Lev 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).
One need not ask how a burning being can hold a hot coal in its hand.
Isa 6:7 And touched it upon my mouth, and said, “Hinei, Now, this has touched sephateycha your lips, language, speech; and avoncha your perversity is taken away, and chatat’cha your sinful condition t’kupar purged.
The messenger says “Your sinful actions are taken away and your sinful nature is purged”. The Hebrew avon denotes sinful action that perverts and the Hebrew chata denotes the sinful nature or yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination). This is a theophany of redemption. Isaiah is receiving the gift of eternal salvation through Yeshua Whose blood has been shed on the altar and Whose fire of judgement has purged Isaiah and reconciled him to God in perfect love. This is a revelation of the resurrected and transcendent Messiah, made to a prophet who lived some 600 years prior to the Messiah’s being born into time and space.
Isa 6:8 Vaesh’ma and I heard, listened to, received et kol the voice of Adonai (My Lord), saying, “Who shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Hineini (Here am I, ready, willing, trusting, certain); send me”.
Notice again that it is Adonai (My Lord) and not HaShem (YHVH) Who asks the question, “Who shall I send”. This is in fact that person of God with us, the Messiah, the Branch, Who is speaking to His prophet Yishaiyahu (My Salvation is YHVH). Isaiah answers with the voice of a willing servant (Yeshua), “Here I am ready, willing, trusting, certain, send Me!” Isaiah is acting here as a prefigure for the Messiah, Who willingly answered God’s call to go to the people of Israel for the sake of their salvation.
The person of God is echad (a complex unity). This manifestation of the Lord and the plural language lanu (for us) is a revelation of the complex unity of the Godhead.
Isa 6:9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people, indeed you hear, but you don’t understand; and indeed you see, but you don’t perceive.”
HaShem now speaks in a voice of judgement, temporarily preferring the title “This people” over the former “My people”. Yeshua refers to those who reject God as children of Satan, thus they are no longer children of God (John 8:44). However, in repentance they may become children of God again, and with regard to the ethnic people of Israel, they are loved for the sake of the Patriarchs and continue to play an intrinsic role in the salvation of humanity. God has not forsaken the Jewish people whom He foreknew(Romans 11:2).
These words are spoken by the Lord Adonai to Isaiah. They are also spoken by Hashem to Yeshua. In fact, Isaiah, whose name means “My Salvation is YHVH”, is a type for the Messiah, whose name means “YHVH is Salvation”.
Isa 6:10 “The lev inner person (heart) of this people has become fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their lev (inner person, heart), and turn back, and be healed.”
The lev (inner person) is often misunderstood. The English word heart can mislead the reader because it is regularly used in western culture to speak of the seat of emotion. To the Hebrew the lev is the place where all other elements of the person converge: mind, emotion, physiology, soul, senses etc. By calling the lev fat the prophet is saying that like the arrogant rich who are violating the poor, the fat lev is headed toward destruction. “Heavy ears” is a Hebrew idiom that denotes dullness, an inability to receive godly council. The “shut eyes” are a wilful refusal to acknowledge the destructive consequences of sin. If the people were to see their actions and the resulting suffering they have caused, hear the cries of the poor and allow the Spirit of God to convict their inner person, they would turn back to Hashem and be saved. However, like many during the time of Messiah, they were so intent on pursuing destruction that they refused to turn back.
The phrase “Lest they see…etc.” is a mournful note in a tragic song. HaShem knows they will not see. It is not a case of HaShem forcing His people to become blind but rather giving them the freedom to choose their own destruction. Without freewill love cannot exist. How HaShem and His prophet long for the people of Israel to turn back to Him. However, HaShem has already seen the decision of His people. Thus He speaks this mournful outcome into time and space via His prophet Isaiah.
Isa 6:11 Then I said, “Adonai (My Lord), how long?” And He answered, “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without persons, and the land becomes utterly desolate, Isa 6:12 And Hashem will have removed Ha-adam the humanity far away, and there is great desolation in the midst of Ha-aretz the land.
The prophet is overwhelmed with grief for the plight of his people. In his role as an intermediary he calls on God, “My Lord, how long?”
HaShem answers by describing a time yet future when the cities and houses of Judah and Jerusalem will be devoid of inhabitants (Probably a description of the Roman destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in 70 CE/AD). A time when the land too will be laid waste and all human interaction with it will cease.
Isa 6:13 But perpetually in it will be a tenth, and will return, and start burning (or, will eat of the land, consume): they will be as a terebinth tree, and as an oak, whose felling is in them, a stump, memorial, pillar: the holy seed will be a pillar, memorial, stump.
“Holy seed” or “Seed that is holy” is a reference to the remnant of Israel. The tenth is an allusion to the tithe that has gone unoffered in Israel’s wickedness. The number ten is also a symbol of fullness. Thus the tenth, which is a remnant, will again become a full nation.
This verse is characteristic of Isaiah’s message. In the midst of the dire observations and future consequences of Israel’s sin, hope shines through. God reminds the prophet that there will always be a remnant (Tenth) and that even when the returning people fall like trees and are consumed by fire, the remnant will remain as a stump and a memorial before Hashem. The remnant of religio-ethnic Israel will be according to the election of God’s grace (Romans 11:5). The holy seed of Israel will one day produce the Holy One of God, The Branch and Redeemer.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,