The context for the following song of praise and gratitude is twofold. First, it follows on the heels of God’s promise to deliver and return the tribes of Israel a second time (Isaiah 11:11). The previous chapter concludes with Israel being returned to her God and her land after suffering exile and bondage among the nations. Second, this deliverance is likened to Israel’s former redemption from physical bondage and slavery in Egypt. It is equally clear from the text of Isaiah 11 that Israel will be delivered from spiritual bondage and idolatry.
As in the case of her deliverance from Egypt, Israel will offer a song of praise and gratitude to God. In fact there are a number of parallels to be drawn between the song of Exodus 15:2-21 and the present text.
“Adonai is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will glorify Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Adonai is a warrior—Adonai is His Name! Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has hurled into the sea, and his chosen captains have sunk into the Sea of Reeds. The deeps cover them. They sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Adonai, is glorious in power. Your right hand, Adonai, dashes the enemy to pieces. In the greatness of Your excellency You overthrow those who resist You. You send forth Your wrath—it consumes them as stubble. With the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up. The floods stood upright as a heap. The deeps became firm ground in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. My lust shall gorge on them! I will draw my sword—my hand will destroy them.” You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You, Adonai, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, awesome in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. You in Your lovingkindness led the people You have redeemed. You guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. When the peoples hear, they will tremble—anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom are terrified. Trembling grips Moab’s mighty men. All of Canaan’s inhabitants will melt away. Terror and dread will fall on them. By the greatness of Your arm they become still as a stone, till Your people cross over, Adonai, till the people whom You purchased cross over. You bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, Adonai, that You have made for Yourself to dwell in—the Sanctuary, Adonai, which Your hands have prepared. Adonai will reign forever and ever! For Pharaoh’s horses with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, but Adonai brought the waters of the sea back over them. Yet Bnei-Yisrael walked in the midst of the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing, as Miriam sang to them: Sing to Adonai, for He is highly exalted! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” –Shemot (Exodus) 15:2-21
Parallels between Exodus 15 and Isaiah 12:
Isa 12:1 And you will say bayom in/on/with the day ha-hu (Literally: the he [Yom being masculine]) that one: “Odecha I will give thanks (throw, confess) to You, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), for though You were angry with me, You turned away aph’cha Your flaring nostril, ute’nachameiniy and You comfort me.
In, on and with the day, on that specific day, you will say, “I confess my sin and give thanks to You Merciful God, for though you were justified in Your anger toward me, You have turned away your fierce, nostril flaring expression of anger and now You comfort me.
"And you shall say at that time, ‘I will confess before the Lord; because I have sinned before You, Your anger is upon me; but when I am turned to the Torah, Your anger will turn from me, and You will have mercy on me;'' -1st Century Targum
“And you shall say”. The second person refers to returned Israel. It is as a returned, united and repentant nation that Israel will offer these words and songs.
Odecha “Give thanks to you” or, “confess to you”. Both are valid translations and both play a central role in returning to God by accepting His offer of redemption.
“I will give thanks”. This first person phrasing reveals the personal nature of Israel’s deliverance both corporate and individual. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” –Yeshua the King Messiah
The various allusions to “saying” and “singing” throughout Isaiah 12 are an emulation of the song of Israel pursuant to her deliverance through the Red Sea. This is in keeping with the summation of the previous chapter.
Bayom (In the day), is a reference to the day when Israel will for a second time be delivered: as recorded in the previous chapter. It is a day that will begin with the physical return and deliverance of the Jewish people from their bondage under the nations of the earth, and will culminate in deliverance from their bondage to sin: the redemption of the entire remnant of the ethnic religious Jewish people unto life everlasting. In one sense it is the figurative day that began with Messiah’s birth into time and space. In another sense it is a twenty four our day yet future, and the beginning of an age yet to come.
Isa 12:2 Hinei Now, Behold, El (God: Judge) is yeshuatiy my salvation! I will evtach trust and will not be ephchad afraid. For oziy my strength vezimrat and my song (first fruit) is Yah (God: Merciful) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). He also has become liy’shuah my salvation.”
Now, behold, pay attention, Judgement Himself is my Yeshua! I will trust and not be terrified. For my strength and my song, my first fruit is Mercy the Merciful Personal Name. He also has been, is being and will be my Yeshua.
"Behold, in the Word of God my salvation I trust, and shall not be moved:'' -1st Century Targum
The word yeshuah (Salvation) appears three times in verses 2 to 3 and is the central theme of the entire chapter. It is no coincidence that Messiah Yeshua is named according to this Hebrew root.
Therefore, the use of the word yeshuah in the present text is a remez (hint) of deeper meaning and a sod (mystery) of great significance: while also being a drash (comparative) teaching that invokes a halakhic (the way we walk) principal concerning strength and song in HaShem. One could read Yeshua’s name in every instance where yeshuah occurs in these verses. Through His messenger HaShem commanded Miriyam (Mary) to call her baby boy Yeshua:
“You shall call His name Yeshua, for He shall save His people from their sins” –Mattitiyahu 1:21b
It is important to note that while Israel is to share the good news of salvation with the nations according to her mandate to be “A light to the goyim” (Isaiah 49:6), it is none the less glaringly obvious from the text of Matthew, that Yeshua has come to save His own people ethnic, religious, empirical Israel. This is important because Matthew 1:21b is alluding to the present chapter of Isaiah by issuing the instruction for the naming of the Messiah.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” –Yeshua (Mattitiyahu) Matthew 15:24
The order of strength and song is important. Israel’s song is a response to God’s strengthening of her. He is the subject of both her strength and song. In another sense He has given her strength to sing and a song to strengthen her.
The Hebrew zimrat (song) denotes pruning and the giving of choice fruit (First fruits). See my commentary on verse 5 for the qualification of these concepts as they apply to the song of Israel in Isaiah 12.
Isa 12:3 Ushe’avtem mayim You will draw waters besason in/on/with gladness/ exultation/joy/rejoicing; mima’ay’nei from the springs/eyes/fountains/wells of Ha-Yeshuah The Salvation.
You will draw forth waters in, from and with joyous exaltation; from the eyes of the earth, fresh springs and fountains, wells of The Yeshua.
The 1st Century Targum likens the wells of the Salvation to a new teaching:
"And you shall receive a new doctrine from the chosen, the righteous;'' -1st Century Targum
We note that this same Targum views “the Salvation” as being a title for the Branch/Messiah, the chosen and righteous One.
Notice that the Hebrew text does not simply say, “Wells of salvation” but rather, “Wells of The Salvation” (Ha-Yeshuah). This is not referring to a temporal saving act but an eternal saving source. It is not salvation in a generic sense but rather the title of a person Who embodies Salvation. This is why the Jewish Sages who wrote the Targum (paraphrase of the first Century CE) compared the wells of the Salvation to the Chosen Righteous One, the King Messiah, who we know to be Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
Once again the “you” in this verse is Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), God’s chosen. While the drawing forth of waters from salvation is offered to all, it is first and always firstly offered to Israel alone.
Who or what are the waters of the Salvation?
“My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me—the spring of living water—and they dug their own cisterns—cracked cisterns that hold no water.” – Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 2:13 TLV
‘Yeshua replied to her, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!”’ –Yochanan (John) 4:14
Mayim chayim, living or life giving waters are used throughout Scripture to symbolize the Word (D’var) of God (D’var being used in John 1 to refer to Yeshua Himself as the pre-existent Word of HaShem, in the beginning with God). This is seen in passages such as Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13; Ezekiel 36:25, John 3:5, 4:14. In the days of Messiah Israel will no longer drink from the idolatrous wells of false gods and humanism but will return to the life giving water of God through Yeshua our King Messiah.
Isaiah 12:5 is cited by the sages as confirmation of the ceremony of drawing of water at the feast of Sukkot (Booths); a ceremony practised during the second Temple period which signified the drawing of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the outpouring of God’s grace upon Israel both in material and spiritual blessing (T. Bab. Succa, fol. 48. 2. & 50. 2. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 70. fol. 62. 3. T. Hieros. Succa, fol. 55. 1).
This drawing of water is figurative: it makes a comparison between the joy experienced by one who has been without water for a long period and the people of Israel, who have been without the spiritual water of God’s Word, grace, blessing etc. Like one who is desperately thirsty, Israel will be sated with water that will become within her a spring that flows eternally. All this through the source of her redemption, the Branch, Yeshua, the King Messiah Who is “The Salvation” and Imanu-El (With us, God).
Think for a moment of a time when you were desperately thirsty, perhaps even to the point of passing out from dehydration, and then, in the nick of time, you received water. The first panicked gulps of the cool clean liquid flooded your dry mouth, cascading down your throat, sending a euphoric signal to your nervous system as it was absorbed into the lining of your oesophagus and began to hydrate your body. Your parched lips borrowed a few spilled drops to moisten themselves as you continued to swallow back the life giving fluid without pausing for breath. As your mind began to clear and your body regained strength, you slowed your intake and started to consider what might have happened had you not had access to this water in time. Relief floods your being and unbridled joy and thankfulness overflow from the illuminated countenance of your rehydrated body and soul.
Now consider how this physical experience conveys in so many ways the journey of redemption from sin through Yeshua our King Messiah. Try to recall the relief and elation you first experienced as you realised that you had become a recipient of God’s promise to blot out all your sin through His own blood, that is the blood of Imanu-El (God with us), Yeshua. Try to focus on the sense of cleansing and hope filled motivation that began to increase as you studied God’s Word and saw things you had never seen before. Now consider that these living waters born of God through Yeshua, are everlasting. Ask yourself, am I continuing to drink from them? Or, have I forgotten the taste of life and freedom in Messiah? These waters remain available to every follower of Yeshua the King Messiah. They are available to you right now. Drink deeply of the springs of the Salvation Himself.
It is certainly no coincidence that “Ushe’avtem mayim” is sung in many observant Jewish homes on the eve of Shabbat prior to Kabbalat Shabbat prayers. As we approach God in order to receive His rest (Shabbat) each week, we are also seeking the means by which we find eternal rest in Him, that is, the mayim chayim living waters of the Salvation, our Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 12:4 Va’amartem And with speaking bayom in/on/with the day ha-hu (Literally: the he [Yom being masculine]) that one: “Hodu (Throw, cast, confess) Give thanks to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). Kiru Proclaim/call/cry out/recite bishmo His Name! Hodiyahu (Hodu [Give thanks, cast throw] + Yada [know, knowledge]) Declare (Publically thank/throw/cast His knowledge, aliylotayu His works/deeds/desire, ba’amiym to (or in) the peoples, so they remember, because nesgav inaccessibly high is His Name.
By speaking, in, on and with the day, that specific day, you will say, “Throw, cast and confess your sin and give thanks, casting forth His knowledge, His works, actions and desire, to and in the presence of the tribes of Israel: so that they remember that His Name is inaccessibly high, His flawless character, attributes and Holiness are far above the understanding of humanity.
In that day, that day being both the figurative day born of Messiah and the yet future 24 hour day that remains a mystery outside our grasp, redeemed Israel will say to her own people (amyim: tribes), “Confess your sin, give thanks, and cast forth the knowledge of, the testimony of His right actions and of His desire for His tribes”. Amyim is a plural form for peoples or tribes and not nations (goyim). Therefore, while this text may be used as a drash (comparative teaching) concerning the spread of the good news of the Messiah to the nations; in the present context it refers specifically to the peoples (tribes) amyim, that make up the Goy (Nation) of Israel.
Isa 12:5 Zamru Sing to Him HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), for geiut majesty/a rising up/swelling/gloriously. Muda’at from knowledge (or Let this be known) zot this (she) in all ha-aretz the land.
Sing to Him, the Merciful God, acknowledge His majesty, rising like smoke, an ocean of swelling glory. From Knowledge herself let all the land of Israel partake.
Sing to Adonai, for He is highly exalted! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” –Shemot (Exodus) 15:2-21
The Hebrew Zamru (Sing) shares its root Zamar (prune) with Zimrah/Zimrot (Fruit, first fruits). Ibn Ezra quotes Genesis 43:11 in connection with the present use of Zamru, suggesting that in this context the word sing denotes the giving of first fruits, that is, the very best of the fruit. It is also worth noting that the root Zamar adds the idea of a spiritual pruning process that takes place when we sing of God’s glory. Thus, through redemption, pruning, offering our best, and in songs of praise, we participate in the filling of the land with the knowledge of God’s glory and majesty.
Knowledge alone is not the goal. It is specifically the knowledge of HaShem that brings living waters, joy and majesty into the land. Knowledge devoid of HaShem brings only death.
A strong argument can be made for translating ha-aretz as “the land” meaning the land of Israel. The nearest reference prior to its use is to amiym (peoples, tribes), rather than goyim (nations). In addition the overall context of the passage and the following clause in verse 6 denotes “the land” of Israel and Zion.
Isa 12:6 Tzachaliy Cry out varoniy and overcome/shout for joy/a ringing cry, yoshevet sit/abide/remain/dwell/inhabitant of Tziyon (parched land)! For gadol great bekirbech in your inner part/among/midst is the Kadosh Holy One of Yisrael (Israel: Yisra = overcome El = God).”
Cry out and overcome, shouting for joy, let your cry ring on, inhabitants who abide, sitting securely in the parched land of Zion. For great, in your inner parts is the Holy set apart One of those who overcome in Judgement, the ethnic, religious, empirical nation of Yisrael.
‘Thus says Adonai, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am Adonai your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”’ –Isaiah 48:17 TLV
The introduction of the Branch (Isaiah 11) and the second redemption through the Messiah (Isaiah 11) will birth a cry of gratitude and glory that will ring out from the centre of the earth in Jerusalem and upon the Holy mount of HaShem. Israel will overcome in God (Yisra-El). The K’vod HaShem glory of God and His manifest light presence (Shekhinah) in the midst and within His chosen people Israel (ethnic) will be a bright light to the entire world: a redemption of both Israel and her calling to be “A light to the nations” (49:6). For Messiah, The Light, is an ethnic Jew and God with us.
“Salvation (Yeshua) s from the Yehudiym (Jews: Praise)” –Yeshua (Yochanan) John 4:22
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.