Our identity in Messiah informs our actions. When our actions contradict our identity they are not cause for changing our identity, rather they are a sign that we have forgotten who we are. The misuse of something does not define it. Our actions do not define us, we define our actions. In Messiah we have become children of God. Our identity is firmly established in eternal blood.
Psalm 51 is perhaps the most commonly known of the Tehillim (Psalms) of repentance is widely used, and forms a blueprint for the order of approach of a truly repentant believer. It is however, therefore, often decontextualised. It’s use as an order of repentance is admirable and should be encouraged, but without disregard for its context.
Certain phrases from Psalm 51 have become popular mantras among believers, and for the most part are employed to godly effect. However, the decontextualization of these phrases has in some cases led to false or at very least misleading theological conclusions. One such phrase “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” has been sorely abused by some Christian theologians who wrongly conclude that this phrase conveys the possibility that one can lose one’s salvation. Something Scripture utterly refutes. God our Deliverer, saves and makes eternally secure all who come to Him through Yeshua the King Messiah.
“27 My sheep hear, listen to, receive My voice (sound), and I know them intimately, and they follow Me; 28 and I give to them life without end, and they will never be destroyed into the unbroken age; and no one will seize them out of My hand. 29 The Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to seize out of the hand of the Father. 30 I and My Father we are one, a complex unity.” - John 10:27-30 (Author’s translation)
Those whom He has made secure He fills with His Spirit as a guarantee of their eternal security (Eph. 1:13-14).
“13 And you also were included in Messiah when you heard the message of truth, the good news of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is deposited as a guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1:13-14 (Author’s translation)
Therefore a contextual Hebraic understanding of this Psalm is much needed in order to clear up the misunderstandings which have resulted from the presumptive interpretation of certain mainstream Christian theologians.
Tehillim (Psalms) 51: Author’s Translation
(1) For the preeminent director. A Psalm, melody of David, (2) when came Natan the prophet to him, after he had gone in to Bat-sheva. 1 (3) Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, Elohim Judge, according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness; According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of Your womb (compassion); wipe out, obliterate, exterminate my rebellion (transgression). 2 (4) Wash (by treading) me numerous times (thoroughly) from my perversity (depravity), and from my habitual sinful condition (missing the mark) cleanse, purify me. 3 (5) For my rebellion I acknowledge, and my habitual sin is before me continually. 4 (6) Against You, You only, I have missed the mark, habitually sinned and what is evil in Your sight I have done, so that You are justified when You speak, blameless, pure, translucent when You judge. 5 (7) Behold, in perversity I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me. 6 (8) Behold, truth You desire in the innermost being, and in the secret (close to the chest) place, wisdom You make known to me. 7 (9) Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash (tread) me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 (10) Make me hear, listen, obey joy, and transcendent gladness; may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice. 9 (11) Hide, conceal Your face (gaze) from my habitual sins, missing the mark and all my depraved deeds, wipe out, exterminate, obliterate. 10 (12) A heart, core being, centre of purity create (from scratch) in me, Elohim, Judge, and renew a right, willing, free, steadfast spirit within me. 11 (13) Not, Never (won’t) cast me away from Your face (a position of intimacy face to face), and the Spirit of Your holiness not, never (won’t) snatch from me. 12 (14) The turning of me is the joy of Your salvation, and a spirit willing, noble and generous uphold in me. 13 (15) I will teach rebels (wrongdoers) Your way, and sinners (those who miss the mark set by Your holiness) toward You will turn. 14 (16) Deliver (snatch away) me from the guilt of bloodshed, Elohiym, Judge, Eloheiy, God, Judge of my salvation; My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found in Your righteousness. 15 (17) Adonay, open my lips, and my mouth will make known Your praise. 16 (18) For You don’t take pleasure in a sacrifice, and the giving of a whole burnt offering You do not take pleasure in. 17 (19) The sacrifices of Elohiym, Judge, are a broken spirit; a heart broken and contrite, Elohiym, Judge, You will not despise. 18 (20) Do good in Your favour to the Tziyon; build the walls of Yerushalayim. 19 (21) Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering; they will ascend, offering upon Your altar, calves.
A Summation of Tehillim (Psalms) 51:
Tehillim (Psalms) 51 Line Upon Line
(1) (Lamnatzeiach) For the preeminent director. (Mizmor) A Psalm, melody (ledavid) of David [beloved], (2) when came (Natan) Nathan [giver] (Hanaviy) the prophet to him, after he had (ba el) gone in to (Bat-sheva) Bathsheba (daughter of seven, blessing, covenant).
(1) For the preeminent director. A Psalm, melody of David, (2) when came Natan the prophet to him, after he had gone in to Bat-sheva.
It's unfortunate that the Christian tradition of numbering of the Psalms and the positioning of the introductory phrases prior to the main text (making them preamble, or a sort of supplementary title as is the case in many English translations) often detracts from the importance of the introduction.
The introductory phrasing of the Psalms has a unique role as part of the whole and is deserving of its own numbering. While the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, the writers and their stories also inform the text and give it context. We should not brush over the introductory verses.
The Jewish publications of English translations rightly number the introductory verses, giving them position within the Psalm’s whole and thus emphasising their unique role and importance. Therefore, I’ve added the Jewish numbering in brackets, knowing that the majority of our community are English speakers who are more familiar with the Gentile Christian system of numbering.
“For the preeminent director” That is, the director over the priests assigned to the music worship service. This intimate Psalm of desperate repentance concerning David’s private sin was intended for use in public worship as both an individual and corporate cry of penitence.
In repentance David exposes his sin and the grief he feels over his sinful state before the entire nation of Israel. A person of noble character is not only proved in right action but also in the way he repents of wrong action. For the disciple of Messiah there is no such thing as secret sin.
Our identity in Messiah informs our actions. When our actions contradict our identity they are not cause for changing our identity, rather they are a sign that we have forgotten who we are. The misuse of something does not define it. Our actions do not define us, we define our actions. In Messiah we have become children of God. Our identity is firmly established in eternal blood.
“A Psalm, melody of David” This Psalm was composed by David.
“when came Nathan the prophet to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” David composed this Psalm following the rebuke of God through Nathan the prophet concerning David’s adulterous act in going in to (having illicit sexual intercourse with) Bathsheba and his subsequent role in the murder of Uriyah [My light is YAH] Bathsheba’s husband, in an attempt to cover up his initial sexual sin (2 Samuel 12:1-25).
We note that by his adulterous and murderous actions David sinned against God (v.4 ), the nation of Israel over whom he ruled as king (v.18 ), his own soul (1 Cor. 6:18-20), Bat-sheva (daughter of blessing), and therefore, against the blessing of God over his life, and against Uri-yah (my light is YAH), and therefore, David blinded himself to God’s light. Thus, for some time following the act of adultery, David was numb to the conviction of God’s Spirit. As evidenced in his need to receive the rebuke for his sin directly from Nathan the prophet, who spoke by the Holy Spirit.
The composing of this Psalm is likely to have taken place while David besought the LORD regarding the life of the child that had been seeded by his adultery. A child that remains nameless in the text but is nonetheless a child of the daughter of blessing [Bat-sheva] (2 Samuel 12:16).
1 (3) (Choneiniy) Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, (Elohim) God, Judge, (kechasdekha) according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness; (kerov) According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of (rachameykha) Your womb, compassion, (mecheih) wipe [blot] out, obliterate, exterminate (fesha’ay) my rebellion, transgression.
1 (3) Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, Elohim Judge, according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness; According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of Your womb (compassion); wipe out, obliterate, exterminate my rebellion (transgression).
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning*):
*Hebrew poetry uses repetition rather than rhyme. Synonyms are used to emphasize key points.
“Be gracious, pity, show favour to me, (Elohim) God, Judge” David, being convicted of sin does not run from God but toward Him. David is familiar with God’s character and appeals to His grace and favour. It’s important to note that David does not call on God using the Holy unpronounceable Name YHVH, which denotes mercy, rather he calls on God as Elohim the Judge of all. This is because David has become aware of the injustice of his actions and the rightful punishment he deserves in accordance with the moral standard set by God’s holiness. When on trial a repentant criminal asks the Judge (Elohim) for Mercy (YHVH).
The repetition of Elohim (x5) in this Psalm points to the just nature of the Creator and inspires the necessary awe that must accompany repentance. The proper noun YHVH is not used even once in the entirety of this Psalm, while Adonay, the generic title meaning Lord, or Master, is used only once.
“according to Your faithfulness, kindness, goodness” Knowing that God is faithful, good, and kind, David does not appeal only to the common grace of God which allows “the rain to fall upon the wicked and righteous alike”, he also appeals to the saving grace of God for the eternal forgiveness of sin. This is evidenced in the specificity of the confession of David (it is also pointed to by the introduction which places the context firmly in the aftermath of a particularly heinous sin act).
“According to the greatness, abundance, multitude of Your womb, compassion,” In Hebrew this line is powerful. It’s a tragedy that English translations fail to convey it. The Hebrew “racham”, womb, is used metaphorically to denote mercy. Thus, both God’s womb (figuratively) and the mercy that it conveys, are the intended meaning.
The use of the word “racham”, womb, is of great importance because in relationship to God it is the counterpoint to the womb of the human mother which exists in a sin affected world (v.5).
“wipe [blot] out, obliterate, exterminate my rebellion, transgression.” By the Spirit of God David shows that he has come to understand that all sin is the result of the idolatrous root “pasha”, rebellion. Further, David does not only request “kaparah” covering alone, but seeks “machah”, a complete and everlasting blotting out of his rebellion.
Rebellion here is seen as the foundation for “chata”, missing the mark set by God’s holiness. Therefore, David is seeking salvation from his sin nature (a tendency toward the yetzer hara [evil inclination]), and not just forgiveness of the specific sin of adultery and the related sins that followed.
2 (4) (Herev kabeseiniy) Wash [by treading] me numerous times [thoroughly] (mei’avoniy) from my perversity, depravity (umechatatiy) and from my habitual sinful condition [missing the mark] (tahareniy) cleanse, purify me. 3 (5) For (fesha’ay) my rebellion (aniy eida) I acknowledge, (vechatatiy) and my habitual sin (negdiy tamiyd) is before me continually.
2 (4) Wash (by treading) me numerous times (thoroughly) from my perversity (depravity), and from my habitual sinful condition (missing the mark) cleanse, purify me. 3 (5) For my rebellion I acknowledge, and my habitual sin is before me continually.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Wash [by treading] me numerous times [thoroughly] from my perversity, depravity and from my habitual sinful condition [missing the mark] cleanse, purify me.” “Wash me” acknowledges that David cannot wash himself clean of his sin. “Treading” means that the process of cleansing is violent and “Numerous times” acknowledges the need for the purification process to be ongoing within time and space.
Three different Hebrew words are used to describe sin in these verses:
a. avon (depravity)
b. chata (habitual sin, missing the mark set by God’s holiness)
c. pasha (rebellion). The former two are fruit of the sin of rebellion which is the progeny of idolatry.
“For my rebellion I acknowledge,” Idolatry is the root of all sin (1 Tim. 6:10) and is manifest in rebellion. This is why in spite of the use of three different Hebrew words for sin within the first few verses, “pasha” meaning rebellion is mentioned as the primary cause and the root that must be acknowledged in order for it to be rooted out. Rebellion informs the habitual sin nature “yetzer hara”.
“and my habitual sin is before me continually.” Those whose hearts are soft toward God cannot continue to function in peace while carrying the weight of unrepented sin. The Spirit of God plagues the mind and heart of the believer unto repentance and freedom. The grief of the Holy Spirit purposes sanctification in the believer.
David is seeking freedom from what he knows to be fallen human nature, a tendency toward evil in spite of God’s goodness. He realises that as much as he loves God and desires right relationship in Him, he is unable to achieve reconciliation with God in his own strength.
4 (6) (Lecha) Against You, (levadecha) You only, (chatatiy) I have missed the mark, habitually sinned (vehara) and what is evil (be’eiyneycha) in Your sight (asiytiy) I have done, so that (titzdak) You are justified (bedavrecha) when You speak, (tizkeh) blameless, pure, translucent (ve’shafetecha) when You judge.
4 (6) Against You, You only, I have missed the mark, habitually sinned and what is evil in Your sight I have done, so that You are justified when You speak, blameless, pure, translucent when You judge.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Against You, You only, I have missed the mark, habitually sinned” In God all things exist and have their being, therefore, all sin is ultimately against God alone. This does not negate David’s obligation to make restitution to the specific human beings affected by his sin, and to the nation he rules over, rather it addresses sin at its root as a systemic problem within fallen creation.
“and what is evil in Your sight I have done,” In the same way that all sin is ultimately sin against God, all sin is seen by God. There is nowhere to hide from God’s just judgement.
“You are justified when You speak, blameless, pure, translucent when You judge.” God’s nature qualifies Him as Judge over His creation. His judgement is pure, blameless, so much so that in terms of comparison to the seen created things it is described as being translucent, so pure as to be clear, see through, undefiled (Rom. 3:4; 3:25).
5 (7) (Hein) Behold, (beavon) in perversity (cholaltiy) I was brought forth, (uvecheitiy) and in sin (imiy) my mother (yachematniy) conceived me. 6 (8) (Hein) Behold, (emet) truth (chafatzta) You desire (vatuchot) in the innermost being, (uvesatum) and in the secret [close to the chest] place, (chochmah) wisdom (todiyeniy) You make known to me.
5 (7) Behold, in perversity I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me. 6 (8) Behold, truth You desire in the innermost being, and in the secret (close to the chest) place, wisdom You make known to me.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Behold, in perversity I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me.” We note that both this verse and the following verse begin with the Hebrew “Hein”, pay attention, now, listen up!
None of the many and varied attempts to impugn the character of David’s parents hold up to critique, nor do any of the suppositions regarding practical reasons for any perceived prenatal sin of David.
David was born of legitimately married parents and in accordance with pure sexual conduct. We note that elsewhere David acknowledges “I sinned” (4 ), but here he speaks of being conceived and brought forth from the womb in a general environment of depravity (avon) and habitual sin (chata).
Therefore, this verse speaks of the sin affected creation, the world in which David was conceived and birthed. It is an acknowledgement that not only has “sin entered the world… and death through it” (Rom. 5:12) but also that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”(Rom. 3:23).
In short, David was not conceived in a sinful sex act, nor did his pre-conscious inception sin, but he was conceived and born into a sin affected world. Thus, “in perversity (a society prone to sin) I was brought forth, and in sin (a world where the habitual missing of the mark set by God’s holiness is the norm) my mother conceived me.”
“Behold, truth You desire in the innermost being, and in the secret [close to the chest] place, wisdom You make known to me.” Where the former verse says “Behold, all have sinned”, this verse says “Behold, God desires to reconcile all to himself”, making Himself known through the redeeming work of His son our King Messiah Yeshua. “The secret place close to the chest” denotes divine intimacy.
7 (9) (Techate’einiy) Purge me (ve’eizot) with hyssop, (ve’ethar) and I will be clean; (techabeseiniy) wash [tread] me, (umisheleg albiyn) and I will be whiter than snow. 8 (10) (Tashmiyeiniy) Make me hear, listen, obey (sason) joy (vesimshah) and transcendent gladness; (tageilenah atzamot dikita) may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice.
7 (9) Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash (tread) me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 (10) Make me hear, listen, obey joy, and transcendent gladness; may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean” Ancient tribes of the Levant are thought to have used Hyssop as a cure for digestive and intestinal problems, infection of the airways, poor circulation, skin problems, and other conditions. While its use in the healing of these conditions is not supported by empirical scientific data, it nonetheless gives context regarding the symbolism being employed by Scripture.
The Torah refers to hyssop three times in relation to cleansing:
In all three instances Messiah Yeshua and His substitutionary atoning blood sacrifice as Lamb of God is prefigured.
Messiah the Pesach Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7):
Exodus 12 details the redemption of life of the first born sons of Israel purchased by the blood of the Pesach lamb, which is painted on the door frames of Israel’s homes using a branch of hyssop. The meaning is clear, the blood of the lamb redeems the lives of Israel’s first born.
Messiah the Reconciler of Community (2 Cor. 5:18):
Leviticus 14 details the process of the ritual cleansing of a leper. The Torah infers that sin as a present entity which causes all disease, suffering and death, and is therefore, ultimately the cause of leprosy, though this does not mean that an individual’s personal sin is necessarily the cause of his leprosy, or any other disease for that matter.
We note that the inclusion of hyssop in these purification rites for leprosy, is just one aspect of the process. In addition to the hyssop, two birds are used, one sacrificed and one set free. After the rites are performed and the leper has shaved and washed, he may enter the camp of Israel but must remain outside his family tent for seven days, at which point a lamb is offered as a trespass offering and its blood placed on the right ear (hearing, understanding), the right thumb (actions, strength) and the big toe of the right foot (balance, direction, the way we walk). This is done as a symbolic gesture showing the desired restoration of the entire soul of the leper who has been cleansed.
The ultimate goal of these rites is to reconcile the leper, who has been an outcast (having been outside the camp of Israel), to the community of Israel and to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) where Israel worships God. Therefore, the goal is to reconcile the leper to God Himself (both symbolically and literally).
Messiah the Resurrection and the Life [Who Separates the Redeemed unto God] (John 11:25):
Numbers 19 details the cleansing rites of the ashes of the Red Heifer and the water of separation and purification. The combined ashes and water are used for the ritual separation and purification of one who has touched a dead body.
Death is the result of sin and the touching of the dead body a reminder of the fruit of all sin. Therefore the sacrificial ashes of the Red Heifer and the water of separation are symbolic of cleansing the living of the touch of death, a living metaphor of resurrection and eternal life.
In summation, David is calling on every cleansing, redemptive and life giving aspect of these three instances of the use of the hyssop and the atoning blood it carries, which is painted upon Israel, as a symbol of atonement (both individual Israelites and Israel as a community).
“wash [tread] me, and I will be whiter than snow” These words of David used in personal repentance and given for use in corporate repentance (v.0 ) are later employed by Isaiah as an admonishment to the people of Israel.
‘“Come now, and let us debate your case,”
Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet,
They shall become as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.”’ -Yishayahu (Isaiah) 1:18 NASB
“Make me hear, listen, obey joy and transcendent gladness” As a result of God’s redemptive work in Messiah Yeshua and through His substitutionary blood, David’s ears are opened to the transcendent joy of God. A joy and practice of gladness in God’s spirit that is applied through obedience through Salvation (Yeshua).
“may the bones, self, substance You have broken rejoice” In context the plain meaning here is that of transformation of the broken sin affected human soul into the transcendent rejoicing, redeemed person of eternity. God has brought David to a point of brokenness and repentance in order to redeem him and bring him into life everlasting, an outcome of great rejoicing.
“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart: a good report makes the bones healthy.” -Mishlei (Proverbs) 15:30
9 (11) (Hasteir) Hide, conceal (Paneycha) Your face [gaze] (mechata’ay) from my habitual sins, missing the mark (vechol-avontay) and all my depraved deeds (mecheh) wipe [blot] out, exterminate, obliterate. 10 (12) (Leiv tahor) A heart, core being, centre of purity (bera-liy) create [from scratch] in me, (Elohim) God, Judge, (veruach nachon chadeish) and a new, right, willing, free, steadfast spirit (bekirbiy) within me.
9 (11) Hide, conceal Your face (gaze) from my habitual sins, missing the mark and all my depraved deeds, wipe out, exterminate, obliterate. 10 (12) A heart, core being, centre of purity create (from scratch) in me, Elohim, Judge, and renew a right, willing, free, steadfast spirit within me.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Hide, conceal Your face [gaze] from my habitual sins, missing the mark” How is it possible for any deeds to be hidden from the all-knowing, all-seeing God of creation? The answer is in the following clause…
“all my depraved deeds wipe [blot] out, exterminate, obliterate.” God alone has the ability to blot out sin. He created the possibility of sin knowing that love could not exist without freewill. However, In Himself He manifested the obliteration of sin and death before the creation of the worlds. “The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8).
We note that in addition to the metanarrative of redemption, these verses also convey David’s desire for intimate connection with His Creator. David is aptly named “beloved”, a man after God’s own heart. God’s desire being to reconcile humanity to Himself.
“A heart, core being, centre of purity” The Hebrew “Lev”, Heart, is the convergent centre of being rather than the seat of emotion. The seat of emotion in Hebrew thought is the gut or lower abdomen.
It is not pure emotions David is asking for but a state of being that can only be received from God. Purity of the entire being, a purity created by God alone, at its convergent centre of human existence.
“create [from scratch] in me, Elohim, God, Judge,” The Hebrew “bera-liy” from the root “bara” refers to a type of creation that only God can enact. Ex Nihilo (from nothing). In this case it refers to a transforming work that changes the stony heart of sin affected man into the soft heart of an eternally redeemed new creation through Messiah Yeshua the King. David is requesting the saving work of Messiah 1000 years before Yeshua’s birth into time and space.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah that one is a new creation; the old has gone; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:27
“and a new, right, willing, free, steadfast spirit within me.” While the Hebrew can be rendered “renew”, and in one sense the believer is constantly being renewed of spirit, the better and more literal translation is “and a new spirit within me”. Once again David, speaking by the Spirit prophecies the work of Yeshua which will give every believer, past, present and future, unbroken access to the present filling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit being the “new Spirit” that transforms the fallen spirit of the sin affected human being.
11 (13) (Al-tashliycheiy) Not, never (won’t) cast me away (milefaneycha) from Your face (position of intimacy face to face), (veruach kadshecha) and the Spirit of Your holiness (al-tikach) not, never (won’t) snatch from me. 12 (14) (Hashivah) The turning (liy) of me is (seson) the joy (yishecha) of Your salvation, (v’ruach) and a spirit (nediyvah) willing, noble and generous (tismecheniy) uphold in me.
11 (13) Not, Never (won’t) cast me away from Your face (a position of intimacy face to face), and the Spirit of Your holiness not, never (won’t) snatch from me. 12 (14) The turning of me is the joy of Your salvation, and a spirit willing, noble and generous uphold in me.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Not, Never (won’t) cast me away from Your face (position of intimacy face to face), and the Spirit of Your holiness not, never (won’t) snatch from me.” The Hebrew can be translated “Don’t cast me away…” and “don’t take Your Holy Spirit”. However, it is just as accurate to render it “Won’t cast me away” and “won’t take Your Spirit of holiness”. The latter being more consistent with the context and goal of the Psalm.
David is describing what will happen following the transformation of his soul and not as some wrongly interpret, inferring that somehow the salvation established by God’s blood could ever be reversed by human weakness. A curse on that lie!
David is once again affirming prophetically that God our Deliverer, saves and makes eternally secure all who come to Him through Yeshua the King Messiah (John 10:27-30). Those whom He has made secure He fills with His Spirit as a guarantee of their eternal security (Eph. 1:13-14).
“The turning of me is the joy of Your salvation,” This is the literal reading of the Hebrew text and conveys the meaning that the receipt of God’s offer of salvation by a repentant human being is the joy of God’s Salvation (Yeshua). In short, the transcendent joy of salvation is the convergence of the joy of God and the joy of the soul transformed in God through Messiah Yeshua.
“a spirit willing, noble and generous uphold in me.” The continued security of David’s salvation and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit is upheld by God.
God upholds the redeemed. The redeemed do not uphold themselves.
13 (15) (Alamedah) I will teach (foshe’iym) rebels [wrongdoers] (Deracheycha) Your way, (vechataiym) and sinners [those who miss the mark] (eilecha) toward You (yashuvu) will turn. 14 (16) (Hatziyleiniy) Deliver [snatch away] me (midamiym) from the guilt of bloodshed, (Elohiym) God, [Judge] (Eloheiy) God [Judge] (teshuatiy) of my salvation; (teranein leshoniy) My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found (tzidkatecha) in Your righteousness.
13 (15) I will teach rebels (wrongdoers) Your way, and sinners (those who miss the mark set by Your holiness) toward You will turn. 14 (16) Deliver (snatch away) me from the guilt of bloodshed, Elohiym, Judge, Eloheiy, God, Judge of my salvation; My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found in Your righteousness.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“I will teach rebels [wrongdoers] Your way, and sinners [those who miss the mark] toward You will turn.” Because You have saved me, says David, I will share the Good News of how you offer salvation to all those willing to repent. As a result many will turn to God and enter eternal life through the King Messiah Yeshua.
“Deliver [snatch away] me from the guilt of bloodshed, Elohim, God, [Judge] Eloheiy God [Judge] of my salvation;” David acknowledges that his rightful punishment for the murder of Uriyah is death. Therefore, he asks of a repentant heart to be delivered from the temporal death that should be meted out in punishment (something God has already established for him in mercy). David has now also been delivered from eternal death through his acceptance of God’s redemptive work in Messiah (the resurrected and transcendent Messiah unbound by time and space).
David makes his request to Elohim the Judge and God of Yeshua (Salvation), Who is God with us.
“ My tongue will overcome with a cry, proclaiming the joy found in Your righteousness.” The mourning of David’s repentant mouth will overcome in God’s redemptive provision and proclaim the joy found in God’s righteousness.
15 (17) (Adonay) Lord, (sefatay tiftach) open my lips, (upiy) and my mouth (yagid) will make known (tehilatecha) Your praise. 16 (18) For (lo-tachpotz) You don’t take pleasure in (zevach) a sacrifice, (ve’eteinah) and the giving (olah) of a whole burnt offering You (lo) do not (tirtzah) take pleasure in.
15 (17) Adonay, open my lips, and my mouth will make known Your praise. 16 (18) For You don’t take pleasure in a sacrifice, and the giving of a whole burnt offering You do not take pleasure in.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Adonay, open my lips, and my mouth will make known Your praise.” The more intimate title “Adonay” is used only here in Psalm 51. It follows David’s confession, genuine repentance, receipt of God’s judgement and mercy, and his commitment to being upheld in God’s Spirit. Having been transformed from a child of humanity (ben adam) into a child of God (ben Elohim) through Messiah, David now uses the intimate title “Lord”.
God accepts and takes pleasure in the praises of a truly repentant mouth.
“For You don’t take pleasure in a sacrifice, and the giving of a whole burnt offering You do not take pleasure in.” This must be understood contextually and weighed against the pleasure that God clearly takes in the sacrifices and offerings of verse 19 (21).
Some time had passed between David’s adulterous act with Bathsheba, his plotting to kill Uriyah, the death of Uriyah and the receipt of the prophet Nathan’s rebuke from God.
In the interim David likely offered sacrifices and whole burnt offerings in accordance with his custom of keeping Torah. However, they were the sacrifices and offerings of a man who was attempting to hide his sin and at one point even plotting to commit greater sin (Uriyah’s murder). Thus, they were the sacrifices and offerings of a hypocrite, sacrifices that God takes no pleasure in, nor do the unrepentant find merit in them.
17 (19) (Zevacheiy) The sacrifices of (Elohiym) God, Judge, (ruach nishbarah) are a broken spirit; (leiv) a heart (nishbar) broken (venidkeh) and contrite (Elohiym) God, Judge, (lo tivzeh) You will not despise. 18 (20) (Heiytiyvah) Do good (virtzoncha) in Your favor (et Tziyon) to the Zion [parched land]; (tivneh) build (chomot) the walls (yerushalayim) of Jerusalem.
17 (19) The sacrifices of Elohiym, Judge, are a broken spirit; a heart broken and contrite, Elohiym, Judge, You will not despise. 18 (20) Do good in Your favour to the Tziyon; build the walls of Yerushalayim.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“The sacrifices of Elohim, God, Judge, are a broken spirit; a heart broken and contrite Elohim, God, Judge, You will not despise.” David returns here to using Elohim (Judge) because in showing the difference between vain sacrifices and true sacrifices David is recalling his heinous sin in offering sacrifices while planning murder.
However, the Merciful (YHVH) Judge (Elohim) has shown David that He accepts the sacrifices of a broken (repentant) spirit, a broken (repentant) and contrite (mournfully grieved) heart (core being). These sacrifices offered by David have been accepted by God, Elohim has not despised them but has instead welcomed David as a son through the blood of His own Son the King Messiah Yeshua.
“Do good in Your favor to the Zion [parched land]; build the walls of Jerusalem.” David, as King over Israel, realises that his sin has not only affected him, Bathsheba, Uriyah, their households and neighbours, but also all of Israel, both in the hearing of it and by way of the practical and spiritual ramifications (repentance does not always negate the practical outcomes of sin in this temporary world). As head of the people David carries authority over the nation. Therefore, by defiling his own head (authority over his body) he has defiled the entire nation.
Thus, David asks God’s favour upon Israel, her land and her people (Tziyon denotes both), and asks that God build walls (both physical and spiritual) of Flooding Peace (Jerusalem). We note that through God’s grace and mercy Tziyon, parched land, receives Yerushalayim, floods of peace.
19 (21) Then (tachpotz) You will delight (zivcheiy-tzedek) in sacrifices of righteousness, (olah) burnt offering (vecholiyl) and whole burnt offering; (Ya’alu al mizbachacha) They will ascend, offering upon Your altar (pariym) calves.
19 (21) Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering; they will ascend, offering upon Your altar, calves.
Hebrew Poetic Groupings (emphasising meaning):
“Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness, burnt offering and whole burnt offering” A truly repentant people are able to offer sacrifices prescribed by Torah in righteousness. Sacrifices that will be accepted.
Iben Ezra and Kimkhi suggest that the “olah” sacrifice, burnt offering, refers to the daily sacrifice and the additional ones of various beasts and birds (Lev. 1), while the “choliyl”, whole burnt offering refers specifically to the meat offering of the priests which was to be completely consumed (Lev. 6:22). Therefore, both the people of Israel who in repentance brought their sacrifices to the priests, and the repentant priests who received their portion from the people as representatives of the people, and subsequently offered them before God, are represented here together in a corporate repentant practice of sacrifice and offering before HaShem (YHVH).
“They will ascend, offering upon Your altar calves.” 150 years after this psalm was composed this same imagery is employed by Hosea the prophet 14:2 (750-722 BCE)
“Take with you words, and turn to the YHVH (Mercy): say unto Him, ‘Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the (pariym) calves (sacrifices) of our lips.”
Therefore, Hosea connects the imagery of the Torah prescribed sacrificing of calves to the figurative application used by David in this Psalm, as being “the sacrifices of repentant lips”.
All of this points to the heavenly Mishkan (Tent of meeting) and the transcendent altar of God upon which no earthly animal may be sacrificed. The altar which has been sprinkled with Messiah’s eternal blood for the redemption of all who repent (Hebrews 13), always firstly and continually for the Jewish people and also continually for the nations (Rom. 1:16).
Applying the Principles of the Summation of Tehillim (Psalms) 51:
From the summation of this Psalm we can glean an order of repentance and reconciliation, and employ it in practice for working out our faith in Yeshua with fear, awe and trembling before God, Who has made us immutably secure.
“5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that Elohim the Judge is Light, and in Him there is no darkness. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 Yochanan (John) 1:5-10 (Author’s translation)
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
All that we do for God is idolatry (God needs nothing done for Him, nor are we capable of doing anything without Him), all that we do from God is righteousness. Not human righteousness (which God refers to as being like used menstrual cloth [Isaiah 64:6]) but the righteousness of God.
As is the case with all of Hebrew Scripture, there are no chapter breaks in the scroll of the 12 Prophets in which Hosea is located. It’s important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter:
“17 He has cast them off, rejected them My Judge/God, they have not listened, received, comprehended Him; And they have become retreating wanderers in the nations.”
1Gefen bokeik A vine is empty, it is Yisrael; periy fruit yeshaveh-lo He produces for himself. Kerov According to the abundance lefiryo of his fruit hirbah he has increased lamizbechot his altars; ketov due to the goodness leartzo of the land heiytiyvu matzeivot the memorial pillars/idols were made better.
This verse emphasises the idolatrous practices of Israel (northern kingdom) in relationship to their successful grape harvests (corresponding to the appointed time of Sukkot [September-October]).
The tribes of the north had, as we have already seen, been giving credit for their successful harvests to false gods of fertility rather than to YHVH their Provider. The common grace of God that allows all human beings to continue to exist in the sin affected creation is extended for a time unto repentance, however, where there is no repentance punishment is applied to provoke it, for the good of creation. In this case punishment will come upon the northern tribes so as to provoke repentance and position all Israel (including Judah and Benjamin) to become a light to the nations through the King Messiah Yeshua.
The vine is often used as a metaphor for the people of Israel, cared for by the Master Vine Dresser HaShem (Deut. 32:32; Psalm. 80:8-11; Isaiah 5:1; Jer. 2:21; John. 15:1).
“You removed a vine from Egypt (Double distress); You drove out the goyim (nations other than Israel) and planted it. You cleared the way before it, and it took deep root and filled the land (of Israel).” -Tehilim (Psalms) 80:8-9 (Authors translation)
“A vine is empty, it is Israel” A vine devoid of fruit is worthless. At the end of the fruiting season it’s severely pruned in order to provoke fruiting in the future. The ground must also be addressed to ensure drainage and rainfall mitigated so as to cause stress to the vine in order to promote fruiting. All this God will enact toward Israel. The irony of this first phrase in 10:1 is palpable as we read of Israel’s fruitfulness toward other gods.
God is conveying in the prophet the reality that fruit alone is not evidence of a healthy vine, rather good fruit is. “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-23) refers to the nature of the fruit and not the appearance of it. Yeshua further illuminates this explaining that even acts of “ministry” (fruit) can be camouflage for lawlessness. He teaches that His intimate knowledge (relationship) with us is the defining factor and not the action or fruit in and of itself. This is a sobering challenge to believers. Speaking in His Name is not the same as being in Him. Good fruit is that which is the product of a motivation to glorify God, whereas fruit that appears good but is in fact ungodly, is born of a motivation to glorify self.
“15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Therefore, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruit. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Adonay, Adonay’ will enter the kingdom of the heavens, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in the heavens. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Adonay, Adonay, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your Name cast out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS (PSALMS 6:9).’” -Mattisiyahu 7:15-23
This first clause can also be seen as prophetic of what is to come, that being the Assyrian invasion and the removal of the fruit of Israel by the armies of her enemies so that her vine is left empty.
“Israel resembles a vine that casts off all its good fruit. So did they forsake Me, Who is the good and fitting fruit for them.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:1
“fruit He produces for himself.” Idolatry finds a willing companion in the selfishness of humanity. In fact, all sin is the progeny of self-worship. Satan acted on his self-worship at the inception of sin (which is a decision of the will of a created being). This is why Rav Shaul teaches in the New Testament that “The love of worldly wealth is the root of all evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10). The Greek text uses the definite article “ho” which properly translates “the root” and not “a root” as many misleading English translations convey. What is “the love of worldly wealth”? It is of course the love of something other than God. This by definition is idolatry. We notice of course that the result of self-worship is self-harm.
“According to the abundance of his fruit he has increased his altars; due to the goodness of the land the memorial pillars/idols were made better.” In and of themselves “memorial pillars and altars” are not idolatrous (Exodus 24:4-5). The qualifying aspect of idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone other than YHVH (Exodus 20:5). The only exception is where an object depicts a known deity, in which case it is an idol by nature according to the identity of the one it depicts. In the case of the present text the pillars were erected in memory of false gods and those gods were being credited with the fruitfulness of the harvest.
“When I increased their good, they increased for the altars When I lavished good upon them, they made many calves for the altars. Another explanation Israel is a plundered vine; the produce of their deeds brought it about to them. פְּרִי יְשַׁוֶּה לוֹ means ‘will avail them’ to be plundered, for they made the altars and availed their nation for evil. This is the wording of the Targum.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:1
2 Chalak Divided, slippery, deceitful libam is their inner being (core, heart); now ye’shamu they suffer for their offence. Hu He (The Lord) ya’arof will break the neck of mizbechotam their altars, yeshoded violently ruin matzeivotam their memorial pillars/idols.
“Divided, slippery, deceitful is their inner being (core, heart)” The meaning of the Hebrew “chalak” illuminates the demise of the inner person through sin, and the phrasing addresses the “heart, core being, inner person” of collective Israel (northern tribes) by using the plural “libam”. When our inner being is divided, undecided, self-deceiving, we become the authors of our own demise.
“Now they suffer for their offence.” This can also be understood to mean that “they suffer because of their offense”. Their suffering is a result of their “divided, slippery, deceitful inner being”. A wilful condition.
“He (The Lord) will break the neck of their altars, violently ruin their memorial pillars/idols.” The Hebrew “ya’arof” is used of the breaking of an animals neck for sacrifice. The prophet is saying that HaShem will do to the altars that which has been done to the animals placed upon them.
3 Kiy For now yomeru they say, ‘Eiyn melekh lanu We have no king, Kiy For lo yareinu we do not fear et the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord. Ve’hamelekh And the king, mah-ya’aseh lanu what does he do for us?’”
“For now they say, ‘We have no king, For we do not fear the particular YHVH (Mercy) Lord. And the king, what does he do for us?’” Although rebellion and the overthrow of kings was prevalent among the northern tribes at this time (2 Kings 15:30), it is not the then king of the north that is being referred to here but YHVH the King of all. The northern kingdom had historically rejected the line of Davidic kingship and had since rejected YHVH as King.
The northern tribes say “We have no king, we do not fear YHVH (Mercy).” Ironically, as a result of their sin they will be left devoid of their human kingship and will suffer under the oppression of foreign kings, so they’re correct in saying “We have no king”.
“And the king, what does he do for us?” This is a further insult aimed at YHVH. These foolish words confirm what the prophet’s indictment denotes, that the northern tribes consider the success of their harvest to be due to their own efforts and the help of false gods (who are not gods at all), and not the work of YHVH.
4 Diberu They speak devariym words, essences, things, alot taking oaths shav falsely karot cutting beriyt covenants; ufarach and sprouting forth karosh venom (because of, like, associated with the head), noxious weeds mishpat as judgment al upon talmeiy the furrows of saday the field.
“They speak words, essences, things, taking oaths falsely cutting covenants;” Both the kings and the people of the north were making oaths in the names of false gods and or in syncretistic rites combining worship of false gods with that of YHVH. Additionally, the kings of the north had cut covenants with foreign powers, paying tribute to them.
“sprouting forth venom, noxious weeds as judgment upon the furrows of the field.” This ambiguous phrasing conveys the ideas of both the false poisonous judgement born of idolatry and the judgement that comes back on the one who made it. In short, their own noxious assertions and actions seeded poison in the furrows of their ploughed fields, physically and metaphorically.
The prophet Amos, a contemporary of Hosea says something similar:
“Do horses run on rocks?
Or does one ]plow with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into poison,
And the fruit of righteousness into noxious weeds,” -Amos 6:12 (Author’s translation)
“swearing falsely Heb. אָלוֹתשָוְא, swearing falsely. אָלוֹת is, in construction, like כָּרֹת, a present tense. forming a covenant with pagan worship. Therefore, judgment of torments and retribution shall spring up upon them… the furrows Heb. תַּלְמֵי. The furrow of a plowshare is called תֶּלֶם. Another explanation: on the furrows of the field where they erect their altars, as it is said (below 12:12): “like heaps on the furrows of the field.” There the judgment for their iniquity shall spring up on them. Another explanation: swearing falsely Every covenant they form with one another they break. and...shall spring up like hemlock which springs up on the furrows of the field, which is a bitter grass, so do their judgments spring up and bitterness grows for the poor and needy. Amos, too, says: (6:12) “For you have turned judgment into hemlock.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:4
5 Le’eglot For the calves of Beit Aven (Beth-aven, House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) yaguru shechan Shomeron the inhabitants of Samaria will be afraid. Kiy For aval its people will mourn alayv amo over it, uchemarayv and its self-macerated (idolatrous) priests alayv yagilu will tremble over it, al-kevodo over its glory, kiy because galah mimenu it (the glory) has departed from it.
“For the calves of Beth-aven, House of wickedness the inhabitants of Samaria will be afraid.” Invasion is imminent, the day is near when the residents of the northern capital Samaria will tremble in fear as the Assyrians invaders first take the other tribes of the north and then conclude their invasion by taking Samaria and toppling the calf idols. The qualifying phrase “The calves of” confirms the assertion that Beiyt-Aven and Beiyt-El are synonymous, given that the two calf idols of Jeroboam were located at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:26-30).
“Beit-Aven” (House of vanity, wickedness, sorrow, iniquity) is a sarcastic way of referring to Bethel (House of God)[Talmud], and or a place very close to Bethel (Joshua 7:2), it was a main centre of northern apostate worship located in the territory of Ephraim/Benjamin. A place that has a strong connection to both the physical and spiritual journeys of the Patriarchs and in particularly to Jacob, who became Israel. It was on the border of the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (according to the interpretation that equates it to Bethel it is technically located in the territory of Benjamin to the east of the border between the two territories).
It seems likely, given Hosea 4:15, that Beth Aven was considered to be part of the territory of Ephraim (northern tribes):
“Judah must not become an offender in the Gilgal; and don’t go into to Beth-Aven” -Hosea 4:15
“For its people will mourn over it, and its self-macerated (idolatrous) priests will tremble over it, over its glory, because it has departed from it.” “It” refers to the calf idol. The Hebrew used to describe the priests is not the common term “kohen” but rather a diminished term “kamar” which is essentially an ascetic description of the named party. “Kamar” means tender, shrunken, macerated, hot. In short it is a metaphor denoting an idolatrous priest, an illegitimate spiritual guide.
The glory of the calf god will literally depart from Samaria and be carried away into exile.
Seder Olam Rabba records that Tiglathpileser king of Assyria came and took away the golden calf in Dan in the twentieth year of Pekah king of Israel; and a subsequent king of Assyria (Shalmaneser) came in the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Israel and took away the golden calf at Bethel:” ref. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 22. p. 60, 61.
6 Gam Also oto it will le’ashur be taken to Assyria (a step) yuval carried minchah as an offering lemelekh Yarev to King Jareb (contender) alt. to a king of contention; Efrayim (doubly blessed) yikach will be received veyeivosh and ashamed, Yisrael mei’atzato from his own counsel.
“Also it will be taken to Assyria (a step) carried as an offering to King Jareb (contender) alt. to a king of contention;” Once again “it” refers to the calf idol. It is said to become an offering to a king/ruler of Assyria. This makes a mockery of its deity. Gods are offered to, they are not made an offering of.
Rashi says that “Yareb” is another name for Sennacherib.
“Efrayim (doubly blessed) will be received and ashamed, Yisrael from his own counsel.” The kings of the north will be received into exile and thus the kingship of the northern tribes will be no more. This agrees with traditional rabbinic interpretation.
“Ephraim shall take shame Heb. בָּשְׁנָה. Jeroboam, who was from the tribe of Ephraim, shall take shame for himself, that he erected this calf for a deity… and Israel shall be ashamed of that counsel that they took counsel to make them, as it is said (1 Kings 12:28) “The king took counsel and made two golden calves.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:6
7 Nidmeh Shomeron malcah Cut off, left silent will be Samaria without a kingship, queen, her king, keketzef like a splintered twig (wrath) al-peneiy-mayim on the face of the waters.
Samaria, as capital of the northern tribes, here represents all the tribes and the authority over them. The kingship of the northern tribes is to be ended permanently.
“like a splintered twig on the face of the water” This is a metaphor alluding to the temporal nature of human power born of fallen motivations which manifest idolatry. All that is idolatrous will become like worthless flotsam washed away by the punishing waters of HaShem.
“The king of Samaria is silenced Heb. נִדְמֶה. The king of Samaria is silenced, and he is like foam on the surface of the water, which is eskoume (ecume) in Old French.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:7
8 Venishmedu And destroyed are bamot the high places of aven (wickedness, trouble, idolatry), chatat the sinful, missing the mark of Yisrael; kotz thorn vedardar and thistle ya’aleh will come up al-mizbechotam on their altars; veameru and they will say lehariym to the mountains, “Kasunu Conceal us!” velagevaot And to the hills, “niflu aleiynu Fall on us!”
“And destroyed are the high places of aven (wickedness, trouble, idolatry)” This refers to the high places of Bethel according to Rashi. While Iben Ezra understands this to refer to the deaths of those who “owned” or were responsible for the upkeep of the calf idols.
“the sinful, missing the mark of Yisrael; thorn and thistle will come up on their altars;” The altars will be left destroyed and their remnants will be untouched, thus they will be overgrown by fruitless weeds such as thorns and thistles so that anyone who touches them will be pierced by barbs. This is the counterpoint to the fruitfulness of idolatry described in verse 1. This has a startling correlation to the teaching of Yeshua regarding the fruit of vines and the fruitlessness of thorns:
“16 You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 Therefore, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” -Matthew 7:16-19
“and they will say to the mountains, “Conceal us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!” Sadly this is not a cry of repentance but one seeking concealment from God and or a choice of death over exile and suffering. This is the hubris of vulnerability. When this text is quoted by Yeshua as recorded in Luke’s Gospel (23:30) and repeated in the Revelation to John (6:16), it refers to wilfully unrepentant people. People who, even when faced with the reality that it is their sin and rejection of God that has brought their suffering, nonetheless refuse to repent and instead invoke concealment and death, calling on created things to hide and or kill them rather than crying out to the Creator for deliverance.
Ref. Isaiah 2:10; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16
9 Miymeiy From the days of ha-Givah the Gibeah (hill) chatata you have sinned, missed the mark Yisrael; sham there amadu they remain! Lo-tasiygeim Will it not reach them bagivah in Gibeah, milchamah the battle al-beneiy alvah against the sons of injustice?
“Gibeah” may refer to Gibeah of Benjamin (Judges 19) and the abhorrent actions of that tribe regarding the concubine/wife of a Levite from Ephraim. Alternatively it may refer to Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 15) where Israel rebelled against the words of the prophet Samuel and demanded a king like those who ruled the other nations.
While the rebellion against God’s Kingship is wicked and a root of further rebellion, it seems more likely that Gibeah of Benjamin is meant because a process of descent into deep corruption resulting in vile sin is inferred by the context and qualifying language. It was said of the vile nature of the sin in Gibeah Benjamin, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt.” Some liken the sin of the men of Benjamin (Judges 19) to that of the men of Sodom (Genesis 19). This adds weight to my interpretation.
“there they remain.” Israel has remained in the place (sham), both physical and spiritual, of their missing the mark of God’s Instruction. In short, they have wilfully chosen to remain in their sin.
“Will it not reach them in Gibeah, the battle against the sons of injustice?” The spiritual battle against injustice will come against the sons of injustice, thus the sons of the northern tribes who have sown poison (v. 4) will reap poisoned fruit.
10 Beavatiy In My desire, ve’esoreim I will discipline them; veusefu and gather aleihem upon them amiym the peoples be’aseram in binding lishteiy them twice eiynotam their torture onotam glowing. Alt. punished twofold for their double crime.
HaShem desires to discipline Israel for her good. The twofold punishment of exile (Assyria) upon exile (Babylon). The punishment is just and the outcome is repentance (returning).
The binding of the northern tribes can also be seen as pretext to the ploughing metaphor which follows.
“Since Hosea compares them to a heifer as stated further: “Ephraim is a goaded heifer,” he, therefore, compared their chastisement to a cow, which they tire with plowing and they bind it to the yoke of the plowshare, and the pegs of the yoke penetrate it, [i.e., they penetrate the yoke,] one on this side and one on that side, next to the ox’s two eyes. And so did Jonathan render: as one hinds a “padna” on its two eyes. “Padna” is a yoke of oxen.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:10
11 And Efrayim eglah a heifer melumadah taught, ohavtiy I love ladush to tread out (thresh), va’aniy and I avartiy I passed by al-tov tzavarah upon her good, lovely neck; arkiyv I will harness Efrayim, Y’hudah yacharosh will plough, yesaded-lo Yaakov will break up clods of earth for himself.
The opening phrasing speaks of God’s care for Ephraim (the northern kings and their dominion) teaching her, allowing her to feed while she trampled out the grain on the threshing floor.
“I passed by upon her good, lovely neck; I will harness Efrayim” The “good” neck of Ephraim’s younger days of training is made counterpoint to her stiff necked rebellion in her latter days. Her neck once good is now stiff/rebellious.
“I will harness Epharim, Judah will plow, Yaakov will break up clods of earth for himself.” This trifold naming unites all Israel. The order of the ploughing process is seen in each task associated with each named party. Ephraim (kings of the north, people of the north) are harnessed, Judah (southern kingdom, people of Judah and Benjamin) will plough to cover the seed, then, in the following season (after exile) all Israel together as Jacob will break up the hard ground left fallow by their exile. This is a text of prophetic hope for the soon to be punished people of God.
12 Ziru Sow lachem for yourselves, litzdakah to righteousness; kitzru reap lefiy from My mouth chesed kindness, practical love, faithfulness. Niyru lachem Break up your niyr fallow ground, ve’eit for its time lidrosh to seek, enquire of et-YHVH the particular Lord (Mercy) ad-yavo until He comes veyoreh and rains tzedek righteousness lachem on you all.
Mercy precedes judgement and is the fruit of discipline. Here, once again, YHVH offers an opportunity for true repentance, an opportunity for sowing righteousness and reaping kindness, an opportunity for enquiring of the LORD (Mercy) and receiving the cleansing rains of righteousness. Seeing the end from the beginning HaShem knows that Israel will not receive this until after her exile. This is why the final aspect of the order of ploughing in the previous verse denotes the breaking of hard ground following its many years of being left fallow.
Rashi understands this as an admonishment to turn to Torah observance, however, Torah observance does not bear the seed of righteousness, rather godly righteousness bears the fruit of right action which is approved by the Torah, that is, when measured against Torah righteousness is seen as holy (set apart).
Righteousness sown in God enquires of God and thus reaps righteousness from God. Messiah in us outworks righteousness. Therefore, we are not Torah keepers, rather God keeps us through the righteous One (the King Messiah), Who is the Goal of Torah (Romans 10:4). All that we do for God is idolatry (God needs nothing done for Him, nor are we capable of doing anything without Him), all that we do from God is righteousness. Not human righteousness (which God refers to as being like used menstrual cloth [Isaiah 64:6]) but the righteousness of God.
13 Charashtem-resha You have ploughed, engraved wickedness, avlatah injustice ketzartem you have reaped achaltem, you have eaten periy-chachash fruit of deception. Kiy Because vatachta you trusted vedarkecha in your way, bero in great numbers giboreycha of your mighty men (warriors),
Israel, the northern tribes had engraved their soil, both literal and metaphorical, with wickedness and injustice and had therefore deceived themselves. Knowing that the Torah and Prophets say otherwise, they nonetheless concluded that the strength of their own armies was more trustworthy than God’s strength.
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Who goes warring.” -Zechariah 4:6b (Author’s translation)
14 Vekam And raise shaon an uproar be’amecha among your people, vechol-mivtzareycha and all your fortified cities yushad will be ruined, keshod like Shalmaneser (Shalman: fire worshipper) destroyed Beiyt-arbel (house of God’s ambush) beyom in the day milchamah of battle, eim al-baniym mothers upon children rutashah torn to pieces.
The uproar among the people is understood by Yarchi, Rashi and others as an alarm calling out “Flee, flee!”
“Your fortified cities” This means that what is to come will affect both the vulnerable unwalled towns and the fortified cities (like those Judah trusted in). This is a prophecy of all out invasion, one that came soon after at the hand of the Assyrian Empire.
“Beit Arbel” Is a city of the Kinneret (Galilee) region (Antiqu. l. 12. c. 11. sect. 1. & l. 14. c. 15. sect. 4. In Vita sua, sect. 69. p. 922, 934.), situated between Sipphore and Tiberias (Yuchasin, fol. 65. 1.).
“mothers upon children torn to pieces” This horrific language denotes the most heinous of wartime acts which leaves the conquered devoid of their women and children. This imagery is commonly used in Scripture 2 Kings 8:12; Isaiah 13:16; Nahum 3:10; Psalms 137:9; Hosea 14:1.
15 Kachah So asah it will be done lachem to you all at Beiyt-el (house of God/Judge) mipeneiy from the face of your ra’at evil ra’atchem evils. Alt. [of your great wickedness.] Bashachar In the dawn nidmoh nidmah cut off, destroyed will be melekh a king of Yisrael.
This horror will come against all who, at a location named for Jacob’s (Israel) intimate connection with God (Bethel: House of God), had brought evil forth unto evil multiplied. Thus, once again, the self-harming idolatry of evil is emphasised. Bethel (Beth Aven) was home to one of the two calf idols set up by the first king of the northern tribes Jeroboam I.
“The calf in Bethel has brought about all this retribution upon you.” -Rashi on Hosea 10:15
“In the dawn” This makes the destruction of the northern tribes immanent. Both Hoshea (not the prophet) the last king of the northern tribes, and the kingdom itself will be cut off.
As tragic as this is, there is also the future hope in the Greater Son of David, that King of Judah Who will reign over all the tribes of Israel. Therefore, the permanent end of the kingship of the north is a sign pointing to the redemption for all Israel through the King Messiah born of the Davidic line of Judah.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
The prophet asks and knows the answer “Will You be silent and afflict us excessively?” We know this, that God is just and not excessive, self-controlled and not compulsive, kind and not punitive, ready, able, and willing to save at the appointed time.
NB: The traditional Jewish numbering of this portion of Isaiah differs from the numbering in the Christian Canon. Therefore, I have listed the Jewish order in brackets alongside the Christian order of numbering.
Isa 64:1 (63:19) Aleiyhem Upon them lu-karata tear apart shamayim the heavens, yaradta descend, mipaneycha from Your face hariym the mountains nazolu trembled in insignificance--
“We are Thy people that were of old: not unto the Gentiles hast Thou given the doctrine of Thy law, neither is Thy name invoked upon them; not unto them hast Thou inclined the heavens and revealed Thyself; the mountains quaked before Thee.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isaiah continues his plea on behalf of his people Israel and according to the prompting of the Spirit of God. His cry is the cry of the Living Word of God in him. Like Moses and later Rav Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle), Isaiah cries out for the redemption of Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen). Therefore, ultimately, Isaiah’s words are the words of the Son (Yeshua) pleading with the Father.
It is YHVH Mighty to Save, Whom Isaiah is petitioning. These words are the bold request of one who is in true relationship with the fearsome, terrifying, omnipotent, omniscient God of all creation.
When asked Whom they serve the righteous respond “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth…” (Ezra 5:11; Jonah 1:9) The heaven and earth imagery is of great significance because it connects us to the very beginning of creation and the Originator of all things, while also reminding us of Jacob’s ladder and one of the central aspects of the Gospel, God coming down to redeem humanity. Therefore, in the use of this language all humanity is called to witness the work of the One true God Who is above all gods (El elyon).
The heavens are the garment that shields the heavenly Holy of Holies, they are the curtain that falls between the priesthood of humanity (Levitical) and the Holy God of Israel, the earthly Temple in Jerusalem being a representation of the heavenly Temple (Hebrews 8:5). Only a priesthood of the heavens can perform the sacrifice needed to allow Israel and the nations entry into the heavenly Holy of Holies (Hebrews 7 & 8). Therefore, to ask God to tear the heavens is to ask Him to rend the curtain, the garment, that separates humanity from intimate relationship with our Creator. This must begin and end with Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen) as participant. In effect, Isaiah is asking for the vicarious sacrifice of Yeshua the King Messiah, at which point HaShem tears His garment from neck to floor in the greatest manifestation of divine grief ever to be shown. That garment being represented in the curtain that separates the Holy place of the earthly Temple from the Holy of Holies. All this is symbolic of God’s desire to reconcile humanity to Himself through His own everlasting blood, that blood flowing through the veins of His Son our King Messiah Yeshua.
The phrase “descend, from Your face the mountains trembled in insignificance…” (Rev. 16:20) is repeated in verse 3 and correlates to the trembling nations of verse 2 (inferring that like the mountains that seem beyond conquering, the nations too will be toppled and left trembling before God) but more significantly alludes to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Why? Because Isaiah is acknowledging that Israel alone among the nations has received the written Torah and the redemptive goal of it, and at the same time is in desperate need of God’s direct intervention, that is, the rending of heaven and the impartation of Salvation Himself (God with us), the living Word made manifest for the redemption of Israel and the nations.
Does God hear and respond to Isaiah’s plea on behalf of his people Israel and indeed the entire human race? The answer is a resounding yes! God Himself, manifest in the Person of His Son the promised Servant King Messiah Yeshua, does indeed come down, rending the heavenly curtain of separation even as the earthly curtain is torn, revealing the Holy of Holies and an opportunity for all who would receive His loving vicarious sacrifice and resurrection life to enter into the intimate and everlasting relationship which humanity had in the beginning, when YHVH created the heavens and the earth.
Isa 64:2 (64:1) Kikdoach Like when kindling eish fire hamasiym the brushwood mayim tiveh-eish fire causes water to boil— lehodiya to make known shimcha Your Name letzareycha to your adversaries, mipaneycha from Your face goyim nations yirgazu tremble.
“When Thou didst send forth Thine anger like fire in the days of Elijah, the sea was melted, the waters were flames of fire, to make Thy name known to the enemies of Thy people, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
There is a figurative correlation here to the miracle performed by God at the request of Elijah against the prophets of the Ba’aliym (1 Kings 18:38). The idea being that there is an even greater manifestation of this miracle in which the nations also will be left trembling before God. Judgement always begins with Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen) and then spills over into the nations.
The “tiveh-eish” melting fire, is fire of extreme heat which bursts forth quickly from the ignition of dry stubble. The violent crackling, fierce flame and pulsing heat of such fire is a fearful representation of the vengeance and judgement of the Living God. The result being that YHVH God’s Name is made known to the nations. After all, how can the nations call upon God’s name and be saved unless they are first made aware of His Name. That is, the Name of His King Messiah (Acts 2; 4:11-12).
“And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.” -Joel 2:32a
“Yeshua is ‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’ (Psalm 118:22)
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:11-12
Isa 64:3 (64: 2) Ba’asotcha When You fashioned noraot fearful (awesome) things lo nekaveh that we did not look for, yaradta You descended, mipaneycha from Your face hariym the mountains nazolu trembled in insignificance.
The fearful things of old are the miraculous acts of HaShem in delivering Israel, freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt, manifesting His Word at Sinai, delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians, and many other acts both predating Israel’s captivity in Egypt and yet future from the purview of the Israelites of Isaiah’s generation.
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.” -Judges 5:3-5 (NIV)
These actions of HaShem were not looked for in the sense that Israel was not capable of seeing His glory, nor truly understanding His love for His chosen people. Few sought intimate relationship with God (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua etc.) But in every generation He revealed Himself as Holy, and manifest His power in pursuit of the sacrificial, loving redemption of His chosen people (Israel: ethnic, religious).
The repetition of the descent of His face and the trembling mountains reminds the reader of the giving of the Torah and of the intimate love relationship that Israel’s Creator desires.
“Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.” -Exodus 19:18
Isa 64:4 (64:3) Umeiolam And from perpetuity (the beginning) lo-shame’u none have heard lo he’eziynu none have perceived by the ear, ayin lo-ra’atah no eye has seen Elohiym a God zulatecha except You, ya’aseh Who works limchakeih-lo for those who wait for Him.
“And since the world was, ear hath not heard the report of such mighty deeds, nor hearkened to the speech of rapture, nor hath eye seen, what Thy people saw, the Shekinah of Thy glory, O Lord; for there is none besides Thee, who will do such things for Thy righteous people, who were of old; who hope for Thy salvation.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) paraphrases this text, making the phrases “those who wait for Him” and “those who love Him” synonymous:
“But, as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—1 Corinthians 2:9
In simple terms, there is no God like or other than You HaShem. The expression of His nature that truly sets YHVH apart from all other would be gods, is His devotion to His creation. He is immutably intent on lavishing His love on all who love Him and wait patiently for Him to reveal the fullness of His redemptive purposes for humanity. First for the Jews and also for the nations (Romans 1:16).
Both the present verse and the subsequent quotation of it by Rav Shaul, are an allusion to the Olam Haba (World to come) and the new heavens and earth that await the redeemed of the Lord. This is connected to the afore mentioned, “Upon them tear to pieces the heavens, descend, from Your face the mountains trembled in insignificance…” (verse1). HaShem as Redeemer and God with us (Immanuel) will come, has come, and is yet to come. First as Creator, then as King Messiah, and finally as King Messiah and Re-Creator. Thus, the present portion sets a foundation for the revealing of the new heavens and earth in the latter part of the following portion (Chapter 65).
It is interesting to note that the Talmud understands the present verse to refer to the time of the King Messiah and the Olam Haba (World to come).
"all the prophets say, they all of them prophesied only of the days of the Messiah; but as to the world to come, eye hath not seen…” - Talmud. Babylonian. Sabbat, fol. 63. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 99.
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.” -John 1:18 (ESV)
Isa 64:5 (64:4) Pagata You meet et-sas with the joyful one ve’oseih and work tzedek righteousness, bidracheycha in Your ways yizkerucha you call them to mind; hein-atah Behold, You katzafta were angry, vanecheta and we sinned (missed the way); bahem in them (our sins) olam perpetually, venivashei’a and will we be saved?
This verse continues to illuminate the nature of God manifest in the redeemed nature of His servants. In the previous verse we are told of the wonder that awaits those who wait on (love) Him. Now we are further told that He meets with the one Whom He has filled with joy (a reference to salvation and its fruit), one who subsequently works righteousness from the joy of Salvation Himself (Yeshua). We are also assured that the servants of the Lord are remembered before His face and that they in turn remember His works (the Hebrew is ambiguous for this very reason. The interpretation being twofold).
“Behold, You were angry, and we sinned (missed the way);” This is a tragic self-indictment. Israel witnessed and understood God’s wrath and anger toward her because of her sin and rejection of Him: none the less she chose to continue to sin in spite of her affliction, which was intended to bring her to repentance.
“in them (our sins) perpetually, and will we be saved?” Isaiah, on Israel’s behalf, is saying “We have intentionally continued to sin, is it even possible for us to be saved?” The answer of course is yes, and at great cost to God.
Some of the Jewish sages understand this verse differently to refer to the loss of the righteous in the generation of the wicked. While this is cohesive with other portions of Isaiah, it seems an unlikely conclusion given the context of chapter 64.
"the righteous, who were doing thy commandments with joy, are not now in the world, to stand in the gap for us.'' -Kimchi
Isa 64:6 (64:5) Vanehiy We have become chatamei unclean kulanu all of us, ucheveged and rags idiym of menstration are kol-tzidkoteinu all our righteous deeds. Vanavel And senselessly dropping ke’aleh like a leaf, kulanu all va’avoneinu our depravity, karuach like a wind, yisaunu takes us away.
In one sense the prophet is comparing Israel’s condition to that of a nation of leapers crying out “Unclean, unclean…” (Leviticus 13:45). In fact, according to the Torah regulation regarding a leaper, he was to isolate himself and cry out “unclean, unclean” in order to warn others to stay away from him, so that they might not become unclean from contact with him. This is sadly ironic, given that Israel had been given the role of being light and healing to the nations.
The prophet accepts guilt upon himself, though he is not guilty of the sins of his pairs. This is an example to all who would pray on behalf of a Godless nation. “We have all become unclean”; not just ritually but in every way, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual etc. So unclean in fact that our righteous or good deeds are likened to used menstrual rags. The modern equivalent to this being “Our righteousness is like used tampons”. Graphic, yes, and necessarily so. We are utterly defiled by our own sin and in desperate need of cleansing. A cleansing we are incapable of performing for ourselves.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” -Romans 3:23 (NIV)
“As it is written,
“And senselessly dropping like a leaf, all our depravity, like a wind, takes us away.” It is not God Who has destroyed us but we ourselves. The natural fruit of our sin has come upon us and we are defiled and afflicted by the consequences of our own sin. God does not send people to eternal punishment, people choose to go.
Isa 64:7 (64:6) Ve’eiyn-korei And there is no one who calls veshimcha upon Your Name, mitoreir who awakens himself lehachaziyk bach to take strength in You; kiy-histarta for you have concealed faneycha Your face mimenu from us, vatemugeinu and have melted us beyad-avoneinu in the hand of our perversities.
"there is none that prays in thy name" -Targum
Israel had fallen prey to false gods and even those praying to YHVH were mixing their practice with the practices of heathen worship and thus defiling the use of His Name and therefore in a very real sense, not calling on His Name at all.
“who awakens himself to take strength in You” This can be seen as an allusion to morning prayer (Today called sacharit) that is prayed from a truly devoted heart (core being). Prayed by those who begin every day with their heart (core being), mind and soul set on YHVH. Sadly the opposite is true of the generation of Isaiah.
“you have concealed Your face from us” is in fact a matter of perception and a sad reflection of the inability of Israel to perceive of God’s present help. In fact, Israel had concealed her face from Him.
“have melted us in the hand of our perversities.” Once again, it is Israel who have melted themselves in their own perversity, however it is true that ultimately it is God Who has allowed this for the sake of their disciplining and in order to provoke them to repentance.
Isa 64:8 (64:7) Ve’atah And now, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), Aviynu Our Father atah You are; anachnu we hachomer are the clay, ve’atah and You yotzereinu are our potter (One who forms); uma’aseih yadecha kulanu we are all the work of Your hand.
"and thou, Lord, thy mercies towards us "are" many (or let them be many) as a father towards "his" children.'' -Targum
God’s relationship with Israel as both Creator and Father remains intact in spite of all her disobedience and His disciplining of her. In fact, not in spite of it but as evidenced by it. He is not only the One Who moulds her, He is the One Who made the matter (essence) from which she is moulded. Like a potter Hashem has fashioned Israel for a purpose. Both individually and corporately.
“Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” -Deuteronomy 32:6 (ESV)
Isa 64:9 (64:8) Al-tokztof YHVH ad-meod Don’t be terribly angry perpetually, O LORD (Mercy), ve’lo-la’ad tizkor avon and don’t remember our perversity forever. Hein Behold, habet-na amecha pay attention now, to Your people.
The prophet reminds himself and his hearers that they are God’s chosen, ethnic, religious people. He implores God to search out the hearts of His people in accordance with the plea for Him to tear the heavens and come down. This is an admission of guilt and an acknowledgement of God’s character, in that He is unable to reject Himself and part of Who He is resides within the people of Israel.
“11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV)
Isa 64:10 (64:9) Areiy kodshecha Your holy cities hayu have become midbar a wilderness; Tziyon (Zion, parched land) is midbar a wilderness, hayatah Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Flood of Peace) has become shemamah a desolation.
This is an indictment against Israel who have taken possession of God’s holy places for their false gods and practices, their depravity and immorality. It is true that these are HaShem’s holy places, they do not belong to Israel except by His hand. Therefore He has laid them waste.
“11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
“Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” -Micah 3:11-12 (NIV)
Isa 64:11 (64:10) Beiyt kadesheinu ve’tifarteinu Our holy and beautiful house, asher hillucha avoteinu where our fathers praised You, haya lisreigat has been burned by eish fire, ve’kol-machamadeiynu and all our pleasant things hayah lecharebah have become ruins.
The Holy House is the Temple in Jerusalem. It is likely that at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy this was yet to come to pass. However, the defilement of the Temple had begun with the syncretism of idolatrous practices and thus the burning and ruin of the pleasant things was already a spiritual reality.
The “fathers” who had praised God in the past were the Levitical priesthood, operating at a time when the Torah requirements for worship and sacrifice were being adhered to with integrity.
Isa 64:12 (64:11) Ha’al-eileh Upon these things titapak will You hold back Hashem (YHVH: Mercy)? Techesheh Will You be silent, ute’anenu and afflict us ad-meod excessively, perpetually?
This ends Isaiah’s plea and makes way for Hashem’s indictment against Israel in the following chapter, where He illuminates their future sin and desolation in order to reveal Israel’s redemption and Salvation in Him.
The prophet asks and knows the answer “Will You be silent and afflict us excessively?” We know this, that God is just and not excessive, self-controlled and not compulsive, kind and not punitive, ready, able, and willing to save at the appointed time.
© 2019 Yaakov Brown
A location is personified as a representation of the sum of its inhabitants. Thus, Zion, which is a title given to the Jewish people, the land, the mount in Jerusalem and so on, is the sum of all Israel (ethnic, religious) and her land. She is a parched land, a people in need of redemption, and for her sake God will not keep silent.
Isa 62:1 Lema’an For the sake of Tziyon (Zion, parched land) lo I will not echesheh keep silent, ulema’an and for the sake of Yerushalayim (Flood, downpour of Peace) lo I will not eshkot shut up, ad-yeitzei kanogah tzidkah until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, viyshuatah and her salvation kelapiyd as a torch yivar burning.
“Till I work salvation for Zion, I will give no rest to the nations, until I bring consolation to Jerusalem, I will give no rest to the kingdoms, till her light be revealed as the early dawn, and her salvation shall burn as a lamp.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
As is often the case the question of “who is the speaker?” results in numerous and contrary answers. Iben Ezra suggests that the speaker is corporate Israel in exile in Babylon (Given both the prophetic and historical context his seems extremely unlikely). On the other hand a number of modern scholars, both Jewish and Christian suggest that Isaiah is the speaker (tenable but not consistent with other factors within the parasha [portion]).
In determining the speaker we must look at context (historical, cultural, prophetic etc.), nearest previous subject, inspiration and indeed, the prophet himself. The historical context is pre-exile (Babylon), the locational context is the land of Israel, the prophetic context relates to the redemptive work of God as it is worked out through the Salvation of Israel in the land of Israel. The nearest previous subject is God Himself (Isaiah 61:11), and the prophet is tasked, as always, with relaying the words of God.
Isaiah had no authority nor the means to appoint watchmen on the walls, nor is any man capable of assuring that watchmen will continue to cry out warning perpetually (v.6). It is also said that “The Lord has proclaimed” the salvation of the daughter of Zion to the ends of the land (v.11). Further still, the Hebrew “chashah” (silence) is commonly used of Adonay in reference to Himself when making a proclamation regarding His leaving things as they are (Isa. 65:6; 57:11; 64:11). Therefore, it seems most likely that God Himself is the speaker.
The Targum also supports the understanding that God is the speaker. After all, only God can work salvation for Zion.
With this in mind the text offers a powerful assurance, in the fact that it is God Himself Who will not keep silent, and will appoint others to resonate with that truth from the walls that surround the cities of Israel. In particular, the walls of Jerusalem. I am reminded of the familiar repetition of Pesach:
“God Himself and not a malakh (messenger), God Himself and not a seraph (Angel of fire)…”
“For the sake of Tziyon (Zion, parched land) I will not keep silent”. A location is personified as a representation of the sum of its inhabitants. Thus, Zion, which is a title given to the Jewish people, the land, the mount in Jerusalem and so on, is the sum of all Israel (ethnic, religious) and her land. She is a parched land, a people in need of redemption, and for her sake God will not keep silent.
“And for the sake of Yerushalayim (Flood, downpour of Peace) I will not shut up”. The use of the proper noun Jerusalem is of great significance here. Not only will God not keep silent regarding the entire people of Israel (ethnic, religious) in her parched state, He will further more not shut up until she is redeemed and transformed into her future state in the midst of a flood of peace (Jerusalem). Once again, a city is the sum of its inhabitants, therefore, it is for the sake of the Jews of Jerusalem that HaShem will not shut up.
“until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a torch burning.” Her righteousness is purchased of God and not of herself, for God has said elsewhere that the righteousness of human beings is as used menstrual cloth (Isaiah 64:6). In fact, Israel’s Righteousness, like her Salvation (v.11), is a person. While it is true that the Hebrew text uses the general noun “shuatah” for salvation, it none the less sets up the personification of Salvation in verse 11, where the general noun is used and followed by the phrase “His reward is with Him”. Therefore, it is quite acceptable to understand the present verse as:
“Her Righteousness (Yeshua) goes forth as brightness, and her Salvation (Yeshua) as a torch burning.”
“As a burning torch” This brings to mind the lit torches of the watchmen on the walls that shone across the valleys surrounding the city of Jerusalem, and were at times taken by a watchman to help retrieve returning Jews in the darkness of the night. A watchman was not only responsible for warning of coming danger, he was also responsible for assuring that any Jews returning to the city were afforded light and safe passage through the gates and in behind the city walls. Thus the figurative meaning is profound. Salvation (Yeshua) Himself is the greatest of watchmen and His torch (saving work) is a light of both warning and deliverance that goes out from the walls and into the darkness of the world that surrounds God’s holy City and its people (the Jews).
Ultimately the righteousness and salvation of Jerusalem will shine forth in fullness following the redemption of the entire remnant of ethnic, religious Israel (The Jewish people) [Romans 11:25-26], when the New Jerusalem will come down from the heavens and converge with the existing city (Heb. 11:22; Rev. 21).
Isa 62:2 Vekora goyim And the nations shall see tzidkeich your righteousness, vechol-melachiym and all kings kevodeich your glory, vekora lach sheim chadash and you shall be called by a new name, asher piy which the mouth of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yikovenu shall pierce you with.
“And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and they shall call thee by a new name, which the Word of the Lord shall declare.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The nations will see Yeshua, the righteousness of Israel (ethnic, religious) and the rulers of those nations will be in awe of His glory reflected in the redeemed people of Israel (Modern Jews being the unification of the tribes previously returned from exile to Judah).
“You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) shall pierce you with” The imagery here denotes the application of a piece of bridal jewellery to the nose of the bride (Ezekiel 16:12; Genesis 24:22-31). Thus, the new name given to the people of Israel is symbolic of her position as bride of God. The giving of the new name also reflects the journey of Jacob and his wrestling with the man (Yeshua), God manifest (Gen. 32). This famous Torah account concludes with the renaming of Jacob (A Follower who struggles). Thus, through submitting to the man (God with us: Yeshua) Jacob is renamed (By that same One) Yisra-El (Overcomes in God). Therefore, the new name given to Israel, spoken by the mouth of HaShem, will reflect her redemption through His King Messiah Yeshua. Israel (ethnic, religious) will look upon the one Whom we have pierced and grieve as one mourns for an only son (Zech. 12:10).
It is interesting to note that the Targum alludes to the Word (Davar: John 1) of the Lord as being the origin of the declaration of Israel’s (Jerusalem’s, Zion’s) new name.
So what will the new name be? The truth is that there are numerous possibilities but no certainties. The new name will relate to the redeemed nature of the city of Jerusalem made one with the New Jerusalem, in which God Himself and the Lamb Yeshua will dwell and provide the city with light (Rev. 21:22-23). The last new name for Jerusalem mentioned in the Tanakh (OT) is found in Ezekiel.
“It will be 18,000 cubits all around. From that day on, the name of the city will be: ‘YHVH Shammah Adonai Is There.’” -Ezekiel 48:35
Isa 62:3 Vehayiyt And it will come to pass that you will be ateret a crown tiferet of splendour beyad-YHVH in the hand of HaShem, utzeniyf meluchah and a royal diadem bechaf-Elohayich in the palm of your God.
Israel (ethnic, religious) will be a crown revealing God’s glorious redemptive work and will be held by God’s mighty (hand) protection. Additionally she will be carefully cradled in the open palm of God’s hand as a treasured possession, protected and tenderly loved. Therefore, the themes of fierce protection and tender love are conveyed in the nuanced use of the Hebrew yad and chaf.
The Hebrew tzeniyf is used of both the headdress of the high priest (Ex. 28:4; Zech. 3:5) and of the king (Ezk. 21:26). Therefore, the redemption of Israel’s calling as a nation of priests is rendered in figurative language. There is also a connection to the unification of the kingship and priesthood of Israel in our King Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 62:4 Lo yei’ameir lach od You will not be spoken of any longer as azuvah forsaken; uleartzeich lo yei’ameir od neither will your land be spoken of any longer as being shemamah desolate: Kiy lach for you shall yikarei be called Cheftzi-vah (My delight is in her), uleartzeich and your land Be’ulah (Married one, possession, has a Husband); kiy-chafeitz YHVH for HaShem delights in you, ve’artzeich and your land shall tiba’eil be married (ruled over, have a Husband).
Zion herself had complained that she had been forsaken by God:
“But Zion said, HaShem has forsaken me, and Adonay has forgotten me.” -Isaiah 49:14
Earlier Isaiah prophecies the word of the Lord acknowledging that Israel has been left desolate as a result of her sin, and making a similar promise to that of the present verse:
“Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no man passed through you, I will make you an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.” -Isaiah 60:15
“You will not be spoken of any longer as azuvah forsaken”. This is a reference to an estranged or divorced wife and is consistent with the bridal language used throughout chapters 61 and 62.
“neither will your land be spoken of any longer as being shemamah desolate”. The land is personified here as a barren woman, no longer fruit bearing, desolate.
“for you shall yikarei be called Cheftzi-vah (My delight is in her), uleartzeich and your land Be’ulah (Married one, possession, has a Husband)” Now the figurative language takes on a redemptive quality. The people once forsaken (divorced) is now called the delight of her husband, and the land once barren (desolate, fruitless) is now called a married woman. The role of the ancient Jewish groom and husband was to care for and provide for His bride, wife. Therefore, in the arms of a righteous husband a woman was highly valued, protected, delighted in, adored, given fruitful land and shelter for her progeny. How wicked our generation has become, that we should rob women of the very thing they desire most, to be cared for, protected, provided for and made fruitful. Instead our women spurn the roles of creation and our men take no responsibility for their depraved actions, resulting in the objectification of women and the demeaning of men and the rapid decay of western civilization. A society once founded on Biblical morality.
If, as some conjecture, the king of Judah at this time was Manasseh, the use of the name Cheftzivah is a strong indictment against Manasseh’s evil choices given that He was born to a mother of the same name:
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; and he reigned fifty five years in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Hephzibah.” -2 Kings 21:1
“For HaShem delights in you, and your land shall be married (ruled over, have a Husband).” We are reminded that at the time of this prophecy Israel’s behaviour was far from delightful, and yet HaShem saw her redeemed outside of time and space through the blood of His Son the King Messiah, Israel’s Salvation. Therefore, He delights in her redeemed future self, a bride made pure and dressed to adorn her Husband’s arm.
Notice that the land of Israel is intrinsically connected to her redemption and marriage to HaShem. He has promised the land through Abraham and will bring the full bride price to the wedding feast. Redeemed Israel (ethnic, religious) will inhabit the new land, transformed through the vicarious work of the King Messiah.
Isa 62:5 Kiy For yival bachur as a young man marries betulah a virgin, yivaluch banayich so shall your sons marry you; umesos and rejoicing chatan as the bridegroom -kalah over the bride, yasiys alayich Elohayich so shall your God rejoice over you.
The meaning is that of devotion in the first love of youth. The sons of Redeemed Israel will so delight in being part of the people of Israel that they will be like excited grooms pursuing their brides. Likewise, God Himself will rejoice over Israel (ethnic, religious) as a Groom over His bride. This language is reminiscent of but not the same as that of Revelation 21:2; 22:17 where the New Jerusalem is called the bride of Messiah. A city is the sum of its inhabitants and the sum of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem will include goyim as well as Jews. However, the present verse specifically refers to ethnic, religious Jews redeemed through Messiah, and the location, while it includes Jerusalem, is none the less the entire land of Israel promised and delivered to Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen).
Isa 62:6 Al-chomotayich Upon your walls Yerushalayim, hifkadtiy I have set shomeriym guardians (watchmen); kol-hayom all day ve’kol-halaylah and all night tamid perpetually lo yecheshu they shall never be silent: hamazkiriym the remembrances et YHVH of HaShem (Mercy) al-domiy lachem don’t you cease!
“Upon your walls Yerushalayim I have set shomeriym guardians (watchmen)” The speaker is HaShem, He alone is qualified to appoint perpetual guardians on the walls of Jerusalem. The use of the Hebrew shomeriym guardians from shomer guard, (keep), illuminates the role of watchman. A watchman of the walls of Jerusalem was by necessity a Jew, a sabra (born of the land) and was appointed by the head watchman under the ruler of the city guard and ultimately at the order of the king of Judah (Israel). A Gentile could not perform this role because a Gentile does not have a blood connection to the people and the land, nor does he (generally and contextually speaking) have a connection to the God of Israel (except through Messiah) and is therefore more likely to flee at the slightest sign of trouble.
“All day and all night perpetually they shall never be silent: the remembrances of HaShem (Mercy) don’t you cease observing them!”
These particular watchmen are appointed in every generation: they never fail to warn the city of coming danger, nor do these watchmen ever forsake the remembrances of HaShem (Shabbaot, moedim Festivals, regaliym and Temple service of worship). Therefore, these are watchmen over both the physical and spiritual well-being of Israel (ethnic, religious). They are not silent when the people prosper (day), nor do they fail to warn the people when they pursue evil (night). Like HaShem Who chose them they are always working (John 5:17).
The word shomer is used to refer to many religious obligations in Judaism. We are to shomer Shabbat, guard or keep the Shabbat. We practice shomer Torah, the keeping or guarding of the Torah and so on. The watchmen being referred to here are not only looking out for coming trouble, they are also tasked with thwarting the trouble which results from the sin of the people. They do this through the maintaining of the Instruction (Torah) of HaShem, in worship, observances, remembrance of His mighty deeds and vigilant purity. A watchman is responsible for proclaiming the Word of HaShem in every generation. In fact, Isaiah is one such watchman and the prophets of Israel are his co-workers. However, the watchman is not responsible for the response of the people. Their choice for or against God is their own.
“Do not be as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets cried, saying, ‘Thus says Adonai of hosts, “Return you now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, says Adonai.’” -Zechariah 1:4
The watchmen that succeeded the time of captivity in Babylon were:
“Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai stands upon the walls of Jerusalem, and proclaims the glory of the second temple as surpassing that of the first. Zechariah points from Joshua and Zerubbabel onwards to the sprout of the Lord, who is priest and prince in one person, and builds the true temple of God. Malachi predicts the coming of the Lord to His temple, and the rising of the Sun of righteousness. Under the eyes of these prophets the city of God rose up again, and they stand upon its pinnacles, and look thence into the glorious future that awaits it, and hasten its approach through the word of their testimony. Such prophets, who carry the good of their people day and night upon their anxious praying hearts, does Jehovah give to the Jerusalem after the captivity, which is one in the prophet's view with the Jerusalem of the last days.” -Keil & Delitzsch
These watchmen are the righteous counterparts of the previously mentioned unrighteous watchmen:
“His watchmen are blind, they are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.” -Isaiah 56:10
Isa 62:7 Ve’al titenu domiy and give Him no rest, lo ad yechonein till He establishes, ve’al yasiym and till He makes et-Yerushalayim tehilah a praise ba’aretz in the land.
It is m Who the prophets are to give no rest. He has instructed them to be advocates in the likeness of His Son the King Messiah, the greatest of advocates. What awesome hope for Israel (ethnic, religious) and for all the earth. For the watchmen of God will not stop crying out to Him until He establishes the city of His glory, the city where Peace Himself brings a flood of wholeness, well-being and eternal peace. The capital city of the Jewish people and the location of the eternal Jerusalem which comes down from the heavens. All the land of Israel, meaning all her tribes collectively will look to their capital and hear her praises as a result of the redemptive work of the King Messiah.
“But Yeshua answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now [He has never ceased working], and I too am working.’” – John 5:17
Isa 62:8 Nishba YHVH HaShem (Mercy) has sworn biymiyno by his right hand, uvizroa uzi and by the arm of His strength, im-etein Surely I will no longer give et-deganeich your wheat to be od again ma’achal food leoyevayich for your enemies; ve’im-yishtu veneiy-neichar and sons of strangers shall not drink tiyrosheich your new wine, yaga’at bo for which you have laboured:
Make no mistake, the context makes Israel the recipient of this promise (not the Church). HaShem has sworn that never again will foreign nations steal the harvest and posterity of the Jewish people. We will no longer labour in vain. Therefore, Iben Ezra is right in saying:
“This verse also proves clearly, that this prophecy refers to the time yet to come; for the Lord hath sworn, that is, has made an unconditional decree. By His right hand. By His might, which is everlasting. The right hand is mentioned here to indicate His power of preventing enemies despoiling the Israelites of their corn, etc.”
The doubling of the right hand and strong arm firmly establishes this promise.
Isa 62:9 Kiy For me’asfayv they that have gathered it yocheluhu shall eat it, vehillu and praise et HaShem (YHVH: Mercy); umekabetzayv and they that have gathered it yishtuhu shall drink it bechatzrot in the courts kodshiy of My sanctuary.
The food gathered and eaten in the courts of the Temple refers to festival foods and the ritual offerings of the Temple cult along with the tithes for the Levites etc. rather than to all the food gathered (Deut. 14:22-27, 29). The connecting of the harvest to the Temple worship shows a link between spiritual renewal and agricultural prosperity.
Isa 62:10 Ivru ivru Go through, go through basheariym in the gates; panu clear you derech a way ha’am for the tribe; solu solu lift up, lift up hamsilah the highway; sakelu throw stones; mei’even from the stone hariymu the raising up neis of a sign (a miracle. A banner) al-ha’amiym upon the tribes.
This is interpreted by some to refer to the gates of Israel’s captivity but seems more likely to refer to the clearing of a way into the gates of the city of Jerusalem upon the return of the exiles via the highway that is to be built up as prophesied previously:
“And there shall be a highway for the remnant of His people, that shall remain, from Assyria; like as there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.” -Isaiah 11:16
“And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for: the wayfaring men, yes, fools shall not go about on it.” -Isaiah 35:8
“The voice of one that cries, ‘Prepare you in the wilderness the way of Adonay; make level in the desert a highway for our God.’” -Isaiah 40:3
“And I will make all My mountains a way, and My highways shall be exalted.” -Isaiah 49:11
“And He will say, ‘Cast you up, cast you up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of My people.’” -Isaiah 57:14
“mei’even from the stone hariymu the raising up neis of a sign (a miracle. A banner) al-ha’amiym upon the tribes.” This miraculous sign (neis) will be raised up from the stone (even) as a means of drawing the tribes of Israel in returning to Hashem. The Hebrew amiym is poorly translated by those who render “peoples”. In this context it clearly refers to the tribes of Israel as distinct from the goyim, or else why does it not say goyim? This sign is of course the Messiah Himself, lifted up on the cross for all to see, and, He being the foundation, corner, and cap stone (Ha-even) [as well as the stone on which one is broken and under which the other is crushed], is both the One through Whom all things are created (John 1; Colossians 1: Jewish tradition also teaches that the universe was created through the stone [Ha-even] on the Temple mount [Moriah] in Jerusalem), and the firstborn from the dead, the Salvation of Israel and the hope of the nations.
Note the distinction in the following verses regarding the goyim (nations) and the amiym (tribes), Israel, Judah. It is not to say that the sign is only for the tribes of Israel but rather that the sign of Messiah has a unique instantaneous national redemptive outcome with regard to Israel (Romans 11:25-26). Whereas it brings the nations in their fullness over a predetermined period of time prior to the great salvation (through Yeshua the King Messiah) of the entire remnant of the Jewish people.
“He will raise a sign la-goyim for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the land.” -Isaiah 11:12
“Thus says the Lord YHVH: ‘Behold, I will lift up My hand to the goyim nations, and raise My sign to the amiym tribes; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” -Isaiah 49:22
Isa 62:11 Hineih Behold, now, pay attention! HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) hishmiya el-ketzeh has demanded that the extremity of ha’aretz the land hear, imru Say you lebat-Tziyon to the daughter of Zion, Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, yisheich your salvation ba comes; Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, secharo His reward ito is with Him, ufeulato and His recompense (repayment) lefanayv is before His face.
As always the use of Hineih is a call to attention. HaShem demands that all the tribes of Israel hear and take note. Even to the very extremity of the land of Israel. How do we know that the land of Israel is meant and not the earth entirely? Because the message is to the daughter of Zion, and the closest previous subject is the tribes of Israel.
The daughter of Zion is now called to pay attention. “yisheich your salvation ba comes”…
“Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, secharo His reward ito is with Him, ufeulato and His recompense (reward) lefanayv is before His face.”
Zion’s Salvation is a Him. Therefore, yeshuah the noun is revealed as Yeshua the Person, some 700 years before the entry into time and space of the King Messiah Yeshua.
Yeshua (Salvation) comes to Zion with reward for the repentant and recompense for the wicked. Therefore, this speaks of His second coming.
Isa 62:12 Vekareu And they shall call them am-hakodesh The holy tribe, geuleiy redeemed of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy): veloch and you Yikarei derushah shall be called Sought out, iyr lo ne’ezavah a city not forsaken.
“They” are those who look on and see the redemption of the entire remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious) at the end of the age. They will call them “The Holy Tribe”, “Redeemed of YHVH”, and Jerusalem (that is the New Jerusalem) will be called “Sought Out”, “A City Not Forsaken”!
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,” -Isaiah 2:2
“In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honour of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” -Isaiah 4:2-6
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2019
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,