HaShem is not like the comforters of Job who made demands but offered no assistance, to the contrary, when HaShem says “Stand up!” He means, “Respond to my loving arm, and I will lift you up. Embrace My strength, and choose to stand in it. You are no longer a victim, in Me, and through My Messiah, you have overcome!”
This portion of the scroll of Isaiah focuses on HaShem’s comfort of His people. The prophet alludes to future deliverance through the redemptive strength of HaShem’s mighty arm, and reveals the counterpoint to Israel’s suffering at the drinking of God’s wrath. Ultimately it will be Israel’s captors who drink the cup of God’s wrath.
Isa 51:1 Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to me, you who rodefeiy pursue, chase after tzedek righteousness, you mevaksheiy that seek from HaShem (YHVH : Mercy): look to tzur a rock chutzavtem from which you were hewn (cut), and to the excavation from which you were dug.
“Hearken to my Word, ye that follow after truth, who seek instruction from the Lord; consider that ye were cut out like a stone hewn from a rock, that ye were cut out like a mass hewn out of a hollow cistern.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This is either Isaiah or the Servant speaking (Ultimately all Biblical prophecy is God breathed). The call to listen, hear and obey is firmly established in the first seven verses, where the opening word “Shimu” (Hear you [plural]) is used three times.
This call to pay attention and listen carefully is specific to that remnant among the captives of Israel who diligently pursue right action and seek God wholeheartedly.
“Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” -Romans 11:2b-5 (TLV) [1 Kings 19:10-14]
The “remnant” is alluded to frequently throughout the scroll of Isaiah (Isa.10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 17:3; 28:5; 37:4, 31, 32; 46:3). The prophet makes a clear distinction between the righteous among ethnic Israel and the unrighteous. Both are ethnic Israel but only the former are truly Jews inwardly. This is why the shaliach (apostle) Shaul (Paul) writes:
“For not all those who are descended from Israel are Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s seed; rather, “Your seed shall be called through Isaac.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God; rather, the children of the promise are counted as seed.” -Romans 9:6b-8
He is not inferring (as some foolishly suggest) that there is such a thing as a spiritual (non-ethnic, non-religious, non-empirical) Jew, nor is Paul saying that gentiles who believe are Israel, rather, as the context clearly shows, he is making a distinction between the Jew that has faith in Messiah and the Jew that does not. Both are Jews, ethnic, religious, empirical. One is part of the redeemed remnant, the other is not.
For obvious reasons the faithful among the captives of Israel need comforting. Thus, HaShem comforts them with the imagery of being hewn from solid rock and dug from a dry cistern. While the rock (tzur) refers ultimately to The Rock of Israel HaShem, in the context of this passage (see next verse) it more specifically refers to Abraham (the father of faith) and the cistern refers to Sarah, whose womb produced Isaac, from whom came Jacob (Israel) ethnic, religious, empirical.
Iben Ezra infers that “the Rock” which Israel’s righteous remnant are to look to is that of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, from which the Torah came through Moses. This is consistent with the other interpretations of the rock, and connects the opening verse of this chapter to verse 7 where the Torah is said to be known to the righteous among Israel, even in their core being (Lev).
Isa 51:2 Look to Avraham (Father of a great number of people) aviychem your father, and unto Sarah (Noblewoman) who carried you in her womb; for when he was but echad one I called him, va’avarecheihu and I blessed him, ve’arbeihu and he became great (many).
“Consider Abraham your father, and Sarah who conceived you: for Abraham was one alone in the world, and I brought him to my service, I also blessed him, and multiplied him.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This is an admonition to remember that God took the singular man Abraham and made him the father of many nations and in particular, the father of Isaac and Jacob, who became the people Israel. If God could cause the impregnation of Sarah, a barren elderly woman by an elderly man (Abraham), He can also deliver the remnant among Israel’s afflicted captive children.
“So from one—and him as good as dead—were fathered offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and as uncountable as the sand on the seashore.” -Hebrews 11:12 (TLV)
The righteous remnant are also being asked to remember the character of each of their forebears. Abraham, whose faith was so simple and so powerful that he became the father of all who believe by faith (Galatians 3:6-8), and Sarah, who fiercely guarded the inheritance of her son Isaac from the illegitimate son Ishmael. The remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) are to have the faith of Abraham, and to fiercely guard Israel’s position as heir to the promises of God.
Isa 51:3 Kiy Because HaShem (YHVH : Mercy) has nicham, consoled, comforted Tziyon (Zion: parched land); He has nicham, consoled, comforted all her waste places, and has made midbarah her wilderness ke’eiden like Eden (delight), ve’arvatah and her desert ke’gan-HaShem (YHVH) like the garden of Adonay; sason gladness vsimchah and joy will be found her, thanksgiving, ve’kol and the voice zimrah of melody, music, song.
The past tense “has comforted” is spoken into Israel’s captive present in order to affirm to her that God has already delivered and comforted her in the established prophetic future. Thus, what follows has already been established outside of the boundaries of time and space. God sees her delivered and her desolation replaced by fruitful abundance and joy.
Notice that Zion means parched land. This denotes the absence of water, a symbol of the living presence of God, Whose Messiah is Mayim Chayim living waters. Thus, Israel is in need of the Servant King Messiah and the redemptive, restoring waters of living poured out by HaShem. Therefore, the poetic couplets follow:
These are both practical physical future realities and redemptive spiritual allegories. They are followed by:
Therefore, our delivered state of gladness is one of thanksgiving, and our redeemed state of joy produces singing.
“Joy and gladness shall be found therein, they that offer thanksgiving, and the voice of them that praise.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The imagery shows a need lashuv (to return) to the sinless state of Eden, the Lord’s garden. This is consistent with the metanarrative of Scripture regarding God’s redemptive purpose for all humanity.
Isa 51:4 Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to Me, amiy My people; uleumiy and My nation, eilay to Me give ear: kiy for Torah (Instruction) mei’itiy from Me teitzei will proceed, umishpatiy and My judgement, leor for a light amiym to peoples (tribes, ethnicities) argiya will happen in an instant, will be rest, I will establish.
“Listen to my Word, my people, and give ear, my congregation, to my service; for the law shall go forth from me, and my judgment like a light; the nations which, I led into captivity shall praise it.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The Targum poses an interesting counterpoint to Israel’s captivity, alluding to the leading into captivity of the nations. In other words, like Israel, any among the nations who wish to receive the light of HaShem, will be required to look upon it from a position of captivity and praise the light of Hashem.
This is HaShem speaking (“The first person in this verse refers to God”-Iben Ezra). Isaiah does not qualify, nor any mere man for that matter: Torah proceeds from God alone, as does judgement and divine light.
Notice, “My people and My nation”. HaShem is declaring his connection to both the tribe of Judah and the nation of Israel as a unified entity.
Some Christian commentators unnecessarily pose a false choice concerning the interpretation of Torah in this verse. The Hebrew can be understood as either “Torah” or “A Torah”, both are acceptable translations. However, some commentators claim that the present text can only refer to the message of the Gospel and does not refer to the Law of Moses. Ironically Iben Ezra follows similar thinking, saying “A law. The word of the Lord spoken by the prophet (Isaiah)”.
None the less, this is a needless debate, after all, Yeshua is the Author of the Torah (Law of Moses) and the goal of it. Thus, the Torah in question is both the Torah of Sinai and the living Torah of Messiah. In fact, unless we recognise the Torah of Sinai, we have no grounds for the “Judgement” that follows, which relies on the Law of Moses, in order to bring a just indictment against the wicked.
In fact the former words of Isaiah affirm the dual interpretation:
“Then many peoples will go and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of Adonai,
to the House of the God of Jacob!
Then He will teach us His ways,
and we will walk in His paths.”
For Torah will go forth from Zion
and the word of Adonai from Jerusalem.” -Isaiah 2:3 (TLV)
Furthermore, Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle) qualifies the Torah (Law) written on the hearts of gentiles by using the Torah of Moses as its reference point. Thus, affirming that there is an intrinsic connection between the two (Romans 2:14-15).
Notice that the Torah and judgement that proceed from Hashem (through His Servant Messiah) will be a light for many tribes (ethnicities, not nations), and will happen in an instant, catching them by surprise, but also establishing rest. The Hebrew argiya translated “suddenly” or “in an instant” also means “rest, quiet, repose etc”. It comes from the root rega, which in modern usage is used to say “one moment” or “wait a minute”. There is a sense here that the sudden redemption being spoken of, though it will be unexpected by many, must none the less be waited on by the remnant, and will result in rest, a quiet repose.
Isa 51:5 Karov tzidkiy My righteousness is near, yatza yishiy My salvation is gone forth, u’zeroay and My arms amiym yishpotu will judge peoples (tribes, ethnicities); eilay for Me iyiym the islands, coastlands (Mediterranean) yekavu will wait, look for, hope in, expect, ve’el-zeroiy and on My arm they will yeyacheiliun wait, hope, expect.
“My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and the nations shall be judged by the strength of the arm of my might; the isles shall hope for my Word, and they shall wait for the strength of the arm of my might.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
In the previous verse Torah went forth from HaShem (In the form of His Mashiach) and judgement (That is the judgement that the Torah afforded) became a light to the peoples (amiym). In the present verse God (or the Mashiach’s) righteousness is near as a result of Torah and salvation precedes judgement so that those among the peoples (amiym: tribes) of the earth who have waited on, and placed their hope in Hashem, will see the arm (strength of His redemptive work), and expect the promised outworking of it.
We notice that the Targum makes the “Word” of God synonymous with the “Arm” of God in this verse. Thus, we see an intrinsic link between the Living Word our Messiah and the attribute of strength.
Isa 51:6 Lift up your eyes lashamayim to the heavens, and look to ha-aretz the earth (land) beneath; kiy-shamayim for the heavens ke’ashan like smoke nimlachu will dissipate, tear away, ve’ha-aretz and the earth (land) will kabeged tivleh wear out like a garment; and they that dwell therein yemutum will die in like manner: viyshustiy but My salvation le’olam for ever tihyeh will come to pass, ve’tzidaktiy and My righteousness will lo not techat be abolished, shattered, dismayed, broken, afraid.
Simply put, “This sin (death) affected world will pass away, and those who dwell in it will die, but My salvation is forever and My righteousness immutable.”
The Lord’s Salvation (Yeshua) will bear eternal fruit, and HaShem’s righteousness is immutable, His character and attributes never change.
“looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. In that day the heavens will be dissolved by fire, and the elements will melt in the intense heat.” -2 Peter 3:12 (TLV)
“And once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” -Hebrews 5:9 (TLV)
Speaking of the words of His Gospel message of salvation, Yeshua said:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” -Matthew 24:35 (TLV)
Isa 51:7 Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to Me, yode’eiy you that know tzedek righteousness, am a people toratiy ve’libam in whose core being (heart) is My Torah (Instruction); tireu fear you not the reproach of enosh men, neither be you umigidufoam al-teichatu afraid, shattered, broken, at their reviling words (abusive rhetoric, accusatory slander etc).
This is the third time in this chapter that a section begins with the phrase “Shimu Hear, receive, listen eilay to Me”. In the opening verse (51:1) HaShem is spoken of in the third person, thus, it seems likely that either Isaiah or the Servant is the speaker. However, in the two subsequent sections, the words “Listen to Me” are clearly spoken by Hashem Himself.
HaShem is reminding the faithful remnant among His people, that they know what it means to walk in righteousness and that He has placed His Torah in the hearts of a people (Israel). He further reminds the discouraged faithful remnant, that the abuse and insults and political or theological rhetoric spoken against them is not worthy of fear. The fear of HaShem is an end to fear!
“No longer will each teach his neighbour
or each his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai,’
for they will all know Me,
from the least of them to the greatest.”
it is a declaration of Adonai.
“For I will forgive their iniquity,
their sin I will remember no more.” -Jeremiah 31:33 (TLV)
Isa 51:8 Kiy chabeged Like a garment yochlem ash a moth will eat them up, and like wool, yochlem sas a worm will eat them; vetzidkatiy but My righteousness will be le’olam for ever, viyshuatiy and My salvation ledor doriym from generation to generations.
Those who persecute God’s elect remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), will perish, eaten away slowly, like a moth eating a wool garment. They will be eaten by the worms, an image associated with Gehenna (Mark 9:48). On the other hand, those redeemed and made righteous in the Salvation of Hashem, will dwell forever, from generation to generations in this world and in the Olam Haba (World to Come), life everlasting. The Olam Haba is hinted at by the plural form doriym (generations; or, a perpetually intense generation [eternal]). To say generation to generation (singular) the text would be “ledor ve’dor”, using the singular in both instances of the word “dor”. This is not the case in the present text.
Isa 51:9 Uriy uriy, An awaking (a laying bare, an eye opening, a rousing, an exposing) of Me, an awaking of Me, livshiy-oz put on strength, zeroa arm, shoulder, strength of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy); uriy, an awaking (a laying bare, an eye opening, a rousing, an exposing) of Me, kiymeiy for like days kedem ancient, dorot olamiym the generations of old. For was it not You (God) Who cut Rahab (storm, arrogance, mythical sea beast, Egypt fig.) in pieces, You who mecholelet pierced, defiled, profaned Taniyn the serpent, dragon?
“Reveal thyself, reveal thyself, put on the strength of might from the Lord; reveal thyself as in the days of old, in the generations which were at the beginning: was it not for thy sake, congregation of Israel, that I broke the mighty, that I destroyed Pharaoh and his host, who were strong as a dragon?” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This is an awakening from God, an exposing, and a laying bare of the faithful remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical). A reminder that Hashem has given them His strength. Thus, “Put on strength….the arm of HaShem…” that is, God’s might and deliverance. In reality the arm of God is the very work of the Messiah (The Servant).
Perhaps the afflicted and disillusioned remnant had allowed their turmoil to cloud their memory of God’s past faithfulness to Israel. Therefore, HaShem reminds them of His delivering them from Rahab (a figure representing Egypt ref. Isa. 30:7). Mitzrayim (Egypt) means “Double distress”. God had delivered Israel from double distress and bondage in the past and He will do it again.
In the later part of verse 9 Isaiah (or the Servant) says, “Was it not you Hashem, Who cut Rahab in pieces and pierced the serpent?” This rhetorical question alludes to the deliverance from Egypt (Rahab) and the Pharaoh (Serpent/Dragon) [Ezekiel 29:3]. It may also be seen to represent the deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Rahab) and from the plague of the serpents, suffered by Israel in the wilderness as a result of her disobedience. However, in addition to these historical examples of deliverance, it is also possible to interpret these symbolic entities as a figurative representation of the deliverance from bondage to sin (Egypt) and the defeat of the ancient Serpent (Satan). Both these forms of redemption are made possible by the Servant King Messiah and His substitutionary sacrifice, His death and resurrection, in the power of HaShem.
Isa 51:10 Is it not You that dried up yam the sea, the meiy waters of the great deep; You Who turned the depths of the yam sea into derekh a way la’avor geuliym for the redeemed to pass over?
The prophet, or the Servant, acknowledge that it is HaShem Who created the inhabitable land of the earth, collecting the waters together to form an area of dry ground (Genesis 1:9), and made the Red Sea crossing possible by pulling back the ocean and leaving a dry path through which Israel crossed over (Exodus 14:21). Additionally, the same mighty arm of God that created the inhabitable land and parted the Red Sea will also dry up the Euphrates river in the latter days as part of the plagues He will bring against the enemies of God and of Israel (Rev. 16:12).
Isa 51:11 Ufeduyeiy And the ransomed of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yeshuvun will return, and come to Tziyon (Zion, parched land) berinah in crying out; vesimchat and joy olam everlasting will be al upon rosham their heads: sason vesimchah yasiygun they will obtain gladness and joy; nasu yagon va’anachah and sorrow and mourning will flee away.
“Thus the redeemed of the Lord shall be gathered together out of their captivity, and come to Zion with singing; and everlasting joy shall be theirs, which shall not cease: and a cloud of glory shall shadow over their heads; they shall find joy and gladness, and there shall be an end of sorrow and sighing for the house of Israel.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
These words elevate the deliverance of God beyond Israel’s freedom from Babylonian captivity to a yet future point in history when God will deliver Israel from all her enemies and from the ultimate consequence of sin, death. This is why the text speaks not of temporal joy but of everlasting joy, not of relief from sorrow but the complete removal of sorrow.
“He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.” -Isaiah 25:8 (NIV)
Isa 51:12 Anochiy I, anochiy even I, am He Who menachem’chem comforts you (plural): miy-at who are you, vatireiy that you should be afraid me’enush of man who yamut will die, umiben-adam and of the son of man that will be made as grass;
Isa 51:13 vatishkach and have you forgotten Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) asecha your Maker, Who stretched forth shamayim the heavens, and laid the foundations of the aretz earth (land); and you fear tamiyd continually kol-hayom all the day mipeneiy from faces chamat of the fury of ha-metziyk the oppressor, when he makes ready to destroy? Veayeih and where is the chamat fury of ha-metziyk the oppressor?
The pronoun “I” cannot refer to the prophet Isaiah as some suggest. Isaiah has the words of Hashem’s comfort but the prophet is not the Comforter of Israel. To say so is to blaspheme. God alone (God with us the Messiah) is the Comforter of Israel’s remnant. In fact, our ancient rabbis consider the word Menachiym (Comforter) to be a title of the King Messiah.
The message here is an affirmation of the truth that the fear of God is an end to fear. Those who faithfully serve Him need not fear the insults and persecutions of human beings because all human beings meet their end as a result of sin. On the other hand, God is without beginning or end and His reward is everlasting.
Isa 51:14 Mihar Hurry the tzoeh exiled one lehipateach to be loosed; velo-yamut and he will not die lashachat in the pit, velo and neither will yechsar he lack lachmo bread.
The prophet inspires hope with the promise that the freedom of the Babylonian exiles will soon come about and they will not die in the pits of their imprisonment. This is an equally powerful figurative message for those trapped in sin: for the Servant King Messiah is near to all those who genuinely seek Him, and is always ready to speedily deliver those who in repentance turn to God through Him.
Isa 51:15 Ve’anochiy For I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Eloheycha your God (Judge), who roga instantly stirred up ha-yam the sea, so that the waves roared: HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) tzevaot Who goes warring (of heavens armies) is His Name.
This is a reminder that Israel’s God is the only God and the Creator Who is in control of all things. When He speaks, by metathesis, the creation responds. One is reminded of the Messiah’s actions on the Yam Kinneret (the Lake of Galilee):
“37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Yeshua was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The talmidim woke him and said to him, ‘Instructor, don’t you care if we drown?’ 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Sheket! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to His talmidim, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” -Mark 4:37-41 (Matt. 8:26)
This may also be another reminder of the miracle of the Red sea (Psalm 106:9), and a figurative reminder that God silences both the seas and those who raise a tumult of accusation against His people (Psalm 65:7).
Isa 51:16 And I have put My devariy words in your mouth, u’vetzeil and shaded you in yadiy My hand, kisiytiycha concealing, covering, hiding you, in order to plant the shamayim heavens, veliysod and establish the foundations of aretz earth (land), and say leTziyon to Zion (parched land), You are My people.
“21 ‘As for Me, this is My covenant with them,’ says Adonai: ‘My Ruach who is on you,[a] and My words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, or from the mouth of your offspring, or from the mouth of your children’s offspring,’ says Adonai, ‘from now on and forever.’” -Isaiah 59:21 (TLV)
The Words of God have been placed in the mouth of both the prophet and the faithful remnant of Israel. These Words (Devariym) proceed from HaShem’s Word (Davar), Who is Yeshua, Ha-Davar Emet (The Word of Truth) [John 1].
Verse 6 told of the passing away of the present created order (the heavens and the earth). Now the prophet alludes to a new planting of heavens and earth that will follow the covering and protection of God’s people Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical). Following all this the world will know (Including those parts of the Christian Church who make claims to the contrary) that Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) remain God’s chosen people.
Isa 51:17 Hitoriy hitoriy An awaking (laying bare, eye opening, exposing) from Me, an awaking from Me, kumi stand up, arise Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, outpouring of peace) who has shatiyt drunk miyad from the hand of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) et-cos the cup of chamato His fury; et-kuba’at the dregs of a cos cup ha-tareilah of the staggering you have drunk, matziyt and drained it.
The need for an awakening, a laying bare, an exposing of things by God is affirmed here. The first call to awaken was directed at all of Israel’s remnant, now the call is made specifically to Jerusalem, the city where God desires to pour out His peace, wholeness, protection and well-being. For years she has laboured under the cup of God’s fury because of her rejection of Him and His loving Instruction (Torah). Now however, Hashem calls her to awaken from her sinful slumber and affliction and stand up. He is not like the comforters of Job who made demands but offered no assistance, to the contrary, when HaShem says “Stand up!” He means, “Respond to my loving arm, and I will lift you up. Embrace My strength, and choose to stand in it. You are no longer a victim, in Me, and through My Messiah, you have overcome!”
“31 What then shall we say in view of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? It is Messiah, who died, and moreover was raised, and is now at the right hand of God and who also intercedes for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.” -Romans 8:31-39 (TLV)
Some ask, “Why does Hashem discipline His children so harshly, and why does He address their sin first rather than the sin of their enemies?”
“29 See, I am beginning to bring evil on the city where My name is called, and should you go completely unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth.” It is a declaration of Adonai-Tzva’ot.” -Jeremiah 25:29 (TLV)
“Hear this word that Adonai has spoken against you, Bnei Yisrael, against the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
2 “Only you have I known from among
all the families of the earth.
Therefore, I will punish you
for all your iniquities.” -Amos 3:1-2 (TLV)
“For the time has come for judgment to begin with the house of God.[a] If judgment begins with us first, what will be the end for those who disobey the Good News of God?” -1 Peter 4:17 (TLV)
Only a hypocrite disciplines the children of others after having failed to discipline of His own children. God is no hypocrite!
Isa 51:18 Eiyn-menaheil There is none to guide, lead with care, give rest, lah to her mikol-baniym among all the sons (children) whom she has yaladah brought forth; ve’eiyn and none that take her beyadah by the hand mikol-baniym among all the sons (children) gideilah that she has brought up, made great.
Iben Ezra notes that Israel had no king or judge to be guided by at the time of her captivity in Babylon.
In truth, “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Eccl. 7:20).
“15 Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” -Isaiah 59:15-17 (NIV)
Isa 51:19 Shetayim heinah These two things are befallen you, miy yanud who will have compassion lach on you? Hashod desolation, havoc, violence ve’hashever and crushing, breaking, ruin, ve’hara’av and the famine, hunger ve’hacherev and the sword; miy by whom anachameich will I comfort you?
The two things befallen Israel are the affliction from the hand of God via her enemies and the lack of help or comfort within her own ranks. These are the two things previously mentioned in verses 17 and 18. The cup of God’s wrath (v.17) and the lack of guidance (v.18).
Alternatively, the two things concern that which follows, the famine and the sword. However, this seems unlikely given that four things follow: desolation, destruction, famine and sword. Thus, the Targum correctly understands that the former two things give way to four things:
“Two tribulations have come upon thee, Jerusalem, thou art not able to arise; when four shall come upon thee, spoiling, and destruction, and famine, and sword, there shall be none to comfort thee beside me.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
Isa 51:20 Banayich Your sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as an keto antelope michmar in a snare; they are filled with the wrath of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), ga’arat the rebuke of elohayich your God (Judge).
The sons of Israel’s remnant have no strength to save her because they are reeling from the discipline of Hashem’s wrath against Israel’s sin. The debate over whether the text refers to an ox, an antelope or a bird is moot. If the Hebrew michmar is rendered as snare, then either ox or antelope are acceptable, whereas, if the Hebrew michmar is rendered net (Iben Ezra), then to interpret “bird” is also plausible, although not consistent with the Hebrew to (wild ox, antelope, oryx). The imagery offers the same figurative meaning regardless: Israel’s strong young men are unable to save her because they are bound and weak, caught in the snare laid by their enemies as a result of God’s disciplining of them.
Isa 51:21 Therefore shimiy-na hear Me please, zot you aniyah afflicted, and drunk, but not with wine:
HaShem’s constant Mercy is seen again, offering a conciliatory word to the despondent remnant of Israel. “Please listen, you afflicted and drunk (on the cup of wrath)…”
Isa 51:22 Thus says Adonayich your Lord (Master) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), veilohayich and your God (Judge) Who yariyv contends amo for His people, Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, lakachtiy I have taken miyadeich from your hand et-cos the cup of hatareilah staggering, et-kuba’at the dregs of cos a cup of chamatiy My fury; you lo tosiyfiy will no more (never) drink it od again, (going round perpetually):
This is what Israel’s God says to Israel. HaShem calls Himself “The Master, Your Mercy, your Judge, Who contends for His people (Israel: ethnic, religious, empirical). Now pay attention, I have taken the cup of My wrath from out of your hand, you will never drink it again!” This is a promise of the future redemption of the entire nation (remnant) of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) [Romans 11:25-26]. In an immediate historical prophetic sense it applies to the freeing of Israel from Babylonian captivity, however, this cannot be its ultimate prophetic meaning or its plain meaning, why? Because the text reads, “My fury you will never drink again”. We know that Israel has been disciplined since: we also know that there is a time coming when having received our King Messiah Yeshua as an entire remnant nation, we will never again drink the cup of God’s wrath.
Isa 51:23 and I will put it beyad-mogayich in the hand of them that afflict you, who have said lenafsheich to your soul, “Bow down, that we may trample you (go over)”; and you had laid your back out as the ground, vechachutz and as the street, to those who trampled you (go over).
Not only did God put the cup of His wrath in the hands of the Babylonians historically speaking, He also has and will place the cup of His wrath in the hands of Confusion Himself (Bavel, Ha-Satan), and in the hands of all who reject God’s love and pursue the course of the father of lies (Ha-Satan, the Devil). As is seen from the context of the present passage, those who receive this cup are also the enemies of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), which means that any within the modern Church community who hold to a theology that rejects God’s continued plan for His chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical), are placing themselves in one of two positions: that of severe discipline and a need for repentance, or, that of perpetual condemnation without recourse.
As the text says, those who have walked over the backs of the Jewish people, trampling us and subjugating us throughout history, will receive the cup of God’s wrath.
The imagery used here is more than just figurative, it is literally the way the historical empires of Assyria and Babylon treated their captives. Where is Babylon today? Where is Assyria today? Though they no longer exist as empires, Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live! This in and of itself testifies to the faithfulness of HaShem YHVH, El Elohay Yisrael (God the God of Israel).
Copyright 2019 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.