The Love, mercy, grace, and peace of God are offered to all but only those who accept His free gift will receive it. An unwrapped gift cannot be enjoyed, a bride cannot be married until she says “I do”, a woman cannot conceive unless she receives her husband, love cannot exist without freewill, and relational love cannot be experienced unless it is responded to. Therefore, “‘There is no (everlasting) peace, wholeness and well-being,’ says My God, ‘for the wicked’
The former chapter ends with a description of the wicked, lazy, godless false shepherds and rulers of Israel at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy. They are described as drunken fools who are devoid of faith and focused solely on their own unjust gain. They are now starkly contrasted to the righteous who have fallen as a result of the wicked rulers and false shepherds of Israel (Judah).
Isa 57:1 Ha-tzadiyk The righteous avad perishes, ve’eiyn and no iysh (man) one sam lays it al upon (within) leiv their core being (heart); ve’ansheiy-chesed merciful men of standing ne’esafiym are taken away (removed), be’eiyn while none meiviyn understand. Kiy-mipeneiy For from before the face ha’ra’ah of the evil ne’esaf ha-tzadiyk the righteous are gathered in, taken away, received;
“The righteous die, and no man layeth my fear to heart; and the men who shew mercy are taken away, and they consider not that the righteous are taken away on account of the evil which shall come.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“The righteous perishes, and no one lays it upon (within) their core being (heart)” It seems clear given the context and chronology that righteous Jews living in the midst of their idolatrous countrymen have died as a result of the ungodly rule of the wicked. Specifically the wicked rulers and shepherds of Israel (56:9-12). Therefore, it is members of the righteous remnant that are being referred to.
The prophet’s words may well reflect the condition of Judah under the reign of king Manasseh, who is described this way: “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” (2 Kings 21:16).
“Merciful men of standing are taken away (removed), while no one understands.” The spiritual condition of Judah (Israel) is so debauched that the people barely pay attention to the deaths of the righteous, nor are they able to do the spiritual math and see that this is a sign of how low they have sunk into idolatry and lewdness. The Hebrew “ansheiy” refers not just to men but to men of standing, respected and righteous men who are leaders of the community. We note that the Targum reads, “no man layeth my fear to heart.” This correlates to the idea that those who resist God’s love often choose to celebrate the death of His servants:
“and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.” -Revelation 11:10 (ESV)
King David’s response to the loss of the godly is the right response, and an example to all:
“Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.” -Psalm 12:1
He rightly understands that the death of the righteous is an indictment against a community, and at its extension, an indictment against humanity. Therefore, he cries out to the Lord for salvation. At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy Judah (Israel) did not follow the good example of David because unlike David the rulers and shepherds of Judah (Israel) were unrepentant and had forsaken God’s Torah, and instead had turned to numbing themselves with debauchery in the worship of false gods.
“For from before the face of the evil the righteous are gathered in, taken away, received;” This is an explanation of that which the wicked of Israel are unable to understand in their state of spiritual blindness. For the righteous, death is not an end to life but rather a transitional journey into everlasting life. For the wicked on the other hand, death is an end that gives birth to an everlasting second death. Therefore, the death of the righteous is described as an act of God’s mercy. He has taken the righteous away to Gan Eden (Paradise) in order to spare them the face of evil that will come against the wicked in this temporal sin affected world.
Something similar is prophesied by Huldah the prophetess concerning the righteous king Josiah:
“Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king.” -2 Kings 22:20 (ESV)
In a literal historical sense the evil that is about to come upon Judah (Israel) will come in the form of the Babylonian Empire. Thus, the righteous are being spared from captivity. In a greater spiritual sense the Lord continues to deliver the righteous from the plague of evil that is coming upon the world in these latter days. And, like the spiritually blind Israel of old the present generation is oblivious to both the loss of the righteous and the clear sign that this loss presents regarding the coming destruction and judgement.
Isa 57:2 Yavo He has and continues to enter into shalom peace (wholeness, wellbeing); yanuchu they have and continue to rest (remain, dwell) al-mishkevotam upon their beds holeich who walk in ne’chocho straightness, rightness (in front of).
“They shall enter into peace; they shall rest in the place of their beds, those that do His law.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“He has and continues to enter into shalom peace (wholeness, wellbeing)” The “He” in this phrase is the righteous, the merciful man of standing. Keep in mind that this follows the perishing (death) of the righteous one. Therefore, the text infers an ongoing existence after death in the afterlife (Gan Eden: Paradise).
The Hebrew text informs us that the righteous one has (past tense) and continues to (present tense) enter into Peace, wholeness, and well-being. This is a description of the soul dwelling in spirit with the person of Peace, that is the transcendent resurrected Messiah, the Prince of Peace. This is in keeping with the familiar refrain of the Torah, “He was gathered to his tribe” (Gen.25:8). One asks, given that Abraham died and was gathered to his tribe, where is his tribe, and how is it possible to be gathered to one’s ethnic family after death? The answer is of course found in the teachings of our rabbis and in the mashal of Yeshua concerning Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Sheol, the place of the departed (not the grave: kever), is divided into Gan Eden (Paradise) and Gehenna (Torment), with an uncrossable chasm between the two.
“they have and continue to rest (remain, dwell) upon their beds who walk in straightness, rightness.” The bed is used as a euphemism for the sleep of death. Yeshua used the euphemism sleep to describe temporal death, that is, the first death. It is temporal in the fact that the first death lasts only until the judgement, at which time there is a second death for the wicked but eternal life for the righteous (those made righteous through Messiah Yeshua). The use of “bed” as a euphemism for death is consistent with the use of “sleep” for the same purpose. Both infer a temporal state, one that the sleeper (on his bed) will one day awake from. Thus, both Gan Eden and Gehenna are temporal holding places that will give forth their dead at the judgement, after which the righteous will live in the Olam Haba (world to come) in God’s manifest presence and the wicked will be consigned to the place they have chosen, that is the lake of fire that torments perpetually (Rev. 20:14).
We note that it is those whose faith causes them to walk in straightness, which is synonymous with righteousness, who are received to rest in peace upon their beds.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” -Revelation 14:13 (ESV)
The Hebrew “mishkav” translated bed, is an accurate description of the ancient Jewish interment practice of chiselling out rock beds, and cubicles inside caves, and or setting them in man-made tombs (above ground). These acted as the tombs (graves) of those who had passed on. Therefore, unlike the English word “grave” the Hebrew “kever” denotes an above ground interment rather than an under ground burial.
Later in the chapter the bed is seen as a convergent euphemism for both adulterous idolatry and death.
Isa 57:3 Ve’atem But you (plural), kirvu-heinah draw near, here, now, beneiy sons (children) onenah of a sorceress, zera seed (offspring) me’naeif from an adulterer v’tizneh and a whore (fornicator).
“But ye, come nigh hither, people of a generation whose works are evil, whose plant was of a holy plant; but they are adulterers, and fornicators.” Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE).
Now the prophet speaks God’s disciplinary words to the wicked among the people of Judah and Israel.
The modern Hebrew convergent phrase for the litany of titles at the end of this verse is “Ben-zonah”, equivalent to “Son of a bitch”, but literally “Son of a whore”.
We note that this is a generational indictment. Not only are the generation of Isaiah’s lifetime wicked, they are the children of a wicked generation.
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” -1 Samuel 15:23
The progression of titles is significant:
The children of the sorceress are children of rebellion. Both they and their parents have rebelled against God. The adulterer destroys families. Therefore, the children of the adulterer are those who destroy families through sexual sin. The children of the whore, however, in addition to destroying families, also participates is the ironic and self-defeating act of wasting seed and by aborting (sacrificing) unwanted babies that result from breeches in birth control for the prostitute. This brings blood guilt (murder) on both the prostitute and the one who lies with her.
This list of titles and their sins results in a generation that is destroying itself through rebellion toward God. Thus, a loving God has no other option but to discipline His wayward children in order to save them from themselves.
A similar indictment is brought against the Church in Thyatira, and serves as a warning to the Church today:
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” -Revelation 2:20 (ESV)
Isa 57:4 Al-miy Against whom tit’an’agu do you mock? Al-miy Against whom tarchivu do you open wide peh your mouth, ta’ariychu lengthening (sticking out) lashon your tongue? Ha-lo-atem Are you (plural) not yildeiy-fesha children of rebellion (transgression), zera seed (offspring) shaqer of lies, deceit, falsehood.
“Against whom do you mock? Against whom do you open wide your mouth, lengthening (sticking out) your tongue? In one sense the text speaks of the wicked who mock the righteous representatives of God and indeed God himself. They ridicule and poke out their tongues. In another sense this could be seen as a description of haughty lasciviousness, sexual foreplay. Finally, there is the figurative application of the mouth and the words that proceed from it. The words of the wicked among Israel are words that produce death in opposition to the Word of life spoken by God’s prophet. The lengthening of the tongue could also be understood as an idiom meaning, to use language as a means of deception.
“Are you (plural) not children of rebellion (transgression), seed (offspring) of lies, deceit, falsehood.” The title “Children of rebellion” is the other part of the couplet to verse 3’s sorceress. Likewise “Seed of lies” relates to the adulteress and the whore.
Isa 57:5 Ha’neichamiym You who get hot with lust baeiliym among the terebinth trees (gods, idols, judges), tachat under kol-eitz ra’anan every green tree, shochateiy who slaughter ha-yladiym the children banechaliym in the valleys, tachat under se’ifeiy clefts ha-selaiym in the rock?
“Who worship idols beneath every green tree, who sacrifice the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
“Terebinth trees” The terebinth was the chief tree in Canaanite pagan worship, and is possibly the tree associated with the worship of Ashteret. The Ashterot poles/idols were possibly carved from the terebinth.
“In the valleys” probably refers to the Hinnom and Kidron in particular. The Hinnom valley is a known location for child sacrifice to the false Canaanite horned bull deity Moloch, aka Molech.
Sexual perversion and the sacrifice of children on pagan altars was common practice among the Canaanites whom HaShem had commanded the Israelites to remove from the land. Instead, the generations pursuant to Israel’s coming into the land became seduced by the women of the land and fell into worship of the false gods of Canaan.
Sacred prostitutes acted as priestesses and priests of deities such as Ashteret, the Canaanite equivalent to Aphrodite (the Greek godess of love, sex, beauty and fertility). The cult of Moloch demanded the sacrifice of children and was practised by king Manasseh in the Valley of Hinnom below Mount Zion surrounding Jerusalem from west to south (2 Chronicles 33:6). The valley of Hinnom is used as a figure for the holding place of torment known as Gehinnom or Gehenna.
However, the current reference to child sacrifice also specifies the location “under the clefts of the rock” which is an allusion to the high place sacrifices made to the Ba’aliym (Husbands, masters, false deities). It is likely that both forms of pagan sacrifice are being referred to.
Isa 57:6 Bechalkeiy-nachal Among the smooth stones of the wadi (torrent valley, stream bed) chelkeich is your portion; heim, heim they, they, goraleich are your lot (dice, chance pebbles); gam-lahem shafacht also to them you have poured out nesech a drink he’eliyt offering (ascending), minchah a grain offering, tribute, sacrifice. Ha-al eileh enacheim Am I supposed to relent, regret, be comforted by, console Myself, repent because of these things?
“Among the smooth stones of the wadi (torrent valley, stream bed) is your portion” Stones made smooth by the swift current of water that flooded the valleys were often anointed with oil and became objects of pagan worship upon which tribute was left and sacrifices were made.
“they, are your lot” This can be understood to refer to either a portion inherited or a chance devise. The commentator Yarchi suggests that the very stones used in pagan worship will be used to stone to death their worshippers. This is certainly an accurate picture of the nature of sinful action. In one sense all idolatry is self-abuse.
The use of the Hebrew “minchah” meaning, offering or grain offering, one specifically associated with the worship of HaShem; denotes a syncretistic practice that makes these actions all the more abhorrent.
“Am I supposed to relent, regret, be comforted by, console Myself, repent because of these things?” HaShem asks this incredulous rhetorical question as a challenge to the idolatrous Israelites (Judean’s). The Holy God of creation could neither be comforted nor offer consolation in response to such lewd and perverted pagan practices. According to the above explanation regarding the Hebrew minchah, it is more than likely that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea may well have been syncretising these practises with their worship of HaShem, making their sin all the more heinous.
It is worth noting that the practises of pagans are intrinsically linked to demons, and ultimately to Ha-Satan (The Devil).
“They sacrificed to demons, a non-god,
gods they had not known--
to new ones who came in lately,
ones your fathers had not dreaded.” -Deuteronomy 32:17 (TLV)
“No, I’m saying that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God, and I don’t want you to become partners with demons.” -1 Corinthians 10:20 (TLV)
Isa 57:7 Al Upon har-gavah ve’nisa a high (exalted) and lofty mountain samt mishkaveich you have set your bed, gam-sham also there aliyt you went up lizboach to slaughter zavach an animal (blood) sacrifice.
Ancient pagan worship made sacred places out of high mountains and hills. Some of the righteous kings of Israel removed the objects of worship used on these high places but many others allowed Israel to syncretise its worship of YHVH with the worship of other deities on the mountains and hills of Israel. This is to be considered the gravest of abominations.
“You have set your bed” Is a convergent euphemism. It combines the sexual immorality of pagan worship with the death bed that results. In effect the simple statement “You have set your bed also there” infers that the bed of adultery and idolatry set on the high place for all to see, will also become the bed on which the dead idolater lies in full view of everyone.
Isa 57:8 Ve’achar And behind ha-delet the door ve’hamezuzah and the mezuzah (container holding the promises of God: Deut. 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) on the doorpost samt you have set zichroneich up your remembrances; kiy for, mei’itiy from Me, giliyt you have uncovered your bed, vata’aliy and have gone up from Me, hirchavt widening mishkaveich your bed; vatichrat-lach mei’em and you have cut off a piece of (made a covenant for) yourself with them, ahavat you have loved mishkavam their bed, yad a penis (figurative use of yad: hand) chaziyt you looked upon.
“Behind the doors and the posts hast thou set up the remembrance of thy idols; thou hast been like a woman who is beloved by her husband, but goeth astray after strangers; thou hast enlarged thy bed: thou hast made a covenant with some of them, thou loved the place, the place of their beds, the place thou hast chosen.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE).
“And behind the door and the mezuzah on the doorpost you have set up your remembrances;” This is a description of syncretism. Idolatrous Jews were placing the charms of other deities under the mezuzot on the doors of their houses. This is significant given that Hashem had commanded Israel to write His word on the doorposts of their houses. The mezuzah has the Hebrew character Shin on it to remind the home owner that El Shaddai the all sufficient protector of Israel guards the home and equally, that His shalom is on the home of the true worshipper of Hashem. Thus, instead of the protection and peace of Hashem the Jews of the time were invoking protection from other gods, gods that could never protect them, gods that would in reality, bring about their destruction.
“for, from Me, you have uncovered your bed, and have gone up from Me, widening your bed;” This is the figure of a spurned husband whose wife is an adulteress. She leaves her husband’s bed in order to sleep with not one but many lovers. Thus, “widening your bed”.
“and you have cut off a piece of (made a covenant for) yourself with them, you have loved their beds, yad a penis (figurative use of yad: hand) you looked upon.” This is a description of the height of lewdness and unabashed perversion. The euphemistic use of the Hebrew “yad” seeks to expose the depths of depravity reached by the idolatrous. The yad (hand, penis) may also be representative of the Ashterot poles, and or the trees of pagan worship. This correlates to earlier references concerning Israel’s “burning with lust under every green tree.”
“Cut off a piece of yourself” refers to the practise of self-harm as it applies to pagan worship. The tragic irony of the idolatrous practises of the Jews of Isaiah’s time is that the covenants of God (with the exception of circumcision) shed the blood of animals as a prefigure of the vicarious sacrifice of the Messiah, whereas the demonic pagan practise required an individual to harm themselves in order to enter into covenant (a binding) relationship with the cold deities of stone and wood. This binding agreement made in the blood of the worshipper had significant spiritual consequences, none of them good.
Isa 57:9 Va’tashuriy You travelled lamelekh to the king bashemen with oil va’tarbiy and a great amount rikuchayich of your perfumes; vateshalechiy you sent tzirayich your envoys ad-meirachok to far off distant lands, vatashpiyliy to be humbled, abased, made low ad-sheol even (as far as) the place of the departed.
It is suggested by some that “lamelekh” can be understood to be “lamoloch” thus rendering the proper noun of the false god of the Canaanites. Of course devoid of the nikudot of the Masorites the text can be understood to refer to either the king of a foreign land or the god Moloch. The Moloch reading is consistent with worship practices associated to it, which are alluded to in the subsequent list of oils and perfumes. However, it is equally likely that the king described is Ahaz, who sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, to say to Him, “I am thy servant and thy son.” Ahaz took the silver and gold that were in the house of YHVH, and in the treasures of the palace, and sent a bribe to the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7, 10).
Whatever the meaning, the motivation is the same. In each instance Israel is seeking comfort and protection from a king other than the King of the Universe HaShem, the God and King of Israel.
“you sent your envoys to far off distant lands, to be humbled, abased, made low even (as far as) the place of the departed.” King Ahaz of Israel did this very thing. However, this could also be interpreted to mean that by going in search of the gods of far off lands Israel has instead found humiliation (through captivity) and sheol (the place of the departed) by dying in captivity.
Isa 57:10 Berov darkeich yaga’at Abundant were your ways (paths, roads) that wearied you, lo-amart but you didn’t say, “Utter despair (No hope)”; chayat yadeich matzat your hand (penis) has found living al-kein upon it therefore, lo chaliyt you were not faint.
In spite of the exhaustion the idolatrous experienced as a result of their pursuit of false gods, they did not give up and acknowledge that there was no hope in the pagan religions. The latter phrasing describes the temporary delight of engaging in sexual immorality, something that the rebellious children of Judah and Israel had pursued with all their might without growing faint. The Hebrew “yad” is again used in an ambiguous way to figuratively represent a phallus.
Alternate interpretations see the latter clause as representing unjust gain:
"the necessity of thine hands, thou hast found prosperity in thy works:'' -Yarchi
Isa 57:11 Ve’et-miy da’agt Whom did you dread vatire’iy and fear, kiy techazeiviy when you lay down, ve’otiy-lo zachart and did not remember Me, lo-samt nor did you lay it al-libeich upon your core being (heart)? Ha-lo aniy Have I not machsheh umeiolam kept silent perpetually, ve’otiy lo tiyraiy and you do not fear, revere Me (hold Me in awe)?
“And of whom hast thou been afraid? and on account of whom hast thou feared? Thou hast surely multiplied speaking lies, and thou hast not remembered my service, and hast not had my fear in thine heart: I would have given you the ends of the world, if you had returned to my law; but thou hast not returned to me.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
This verse sums up the previous indictments. Israel, and specifically Judah has rejected God and His Torah, His love and protection. Rather than stand in awe of God and in fear of His just punishment of sin, Israel (Judah) has given Him no second thought as they have pursued the depraved gods of the Canaanites and of the surrounding nations. HaShem has kept silent in the sense that He has not yet put upon Israel the discipline she deserves. He has given her an opportunity to conclude for herself the need to return to Him, and yet she has refused to the point of disregarding Him altogether.
“The apostate Israelites took the silence of their God for indifference rather than attribute it to His longsuffering.” -Victor Buksbazen
Isa 57:12 Aniy I agiyd will declare (make known) tzidkateich your righteousness ve’et-ma’asayich and your deeds, ve’lo yoiyluch and they will not profit you.
“So be it” says HaShem. “I will declare your (version) of righteousness”, which will be seen for the profitless wickedness that it actually is.
Isa 57:13 Be’za’akeich When you cry out, yatziyluch kibbutzayich let your assembled heap (of idols) deliver you! Ve’et But the kulam lot of them yisa-ruach will be carried away by a wind, yikach-havel their breath taken away. Ve’hachoseh viy But he who seeks refuge in Me yinchal-eretz will inherit (possess) the land ve’yiyrash and will inherit (take possession of) Har-Kadshiy My holy mountain.
Judah (Israel) had chosen to trust in false, demonic deities. Now, when they cry out to the One true God for help He will respond by telling them to seek help from their worthless husbands (gods) whom they had chased after through their adulterous behaviour, having rejected their true Husband HaShem. Even in this we see mercy. HaShem will not allow the total annihilation of His people. This is an act of discipline. The loving father withholds help when that help is nothing more than an act of enabling.
“But he who seeks refuge in Me will inherit (possess) the land and will inherit (take possession of) My holy mountain.” HaShem never leaves the faithful without the hope and assurance of his promised inheritance.
While the majority of Israel had rejected God, there remained a righteous remnant: many of whom were referred to in the previous chapter, some of whom were proselytes. In the midst of Judah’s coming suffering and exile, God was reminding the faithful that He would bring them into their inheritance in the land of Israel and further still, they would inherit that which is unpurchaseable by human beings, the very dwelling place, and manifest presence of God Himself, that is, the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, Har Beit, Mount Moriah.
Isa 57:14 Ve’amar And say, “Solu-solu Lift up, lift up, panu-darech turn toward the way, hariymu raise michshol every occasion of stumbling miderech from the way of amiy My people.”
“And he shall say, Teach and admonish, turn the heart of this people to the right way; remove the stumbling-block of the wicked out of the way of the congregation of my people.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The repetition, as is always the case, denotes the fact that HaShem has firmly established the future removal of all that seeks to get in the way of His relationship with Israel. Prior to Judah’s exile to Babylon, HaShem promotes His redemptive purpose and the restoration of His people. His mercy always precedes His righteous judgement. His discipline is born of His love. While the disobedient children of God see only the disaster that is before them, God sees the goal from the beginning, and bestows hope upon the undeserving.
“A voice cries out in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way of Adonai,
Make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley will be lifted up,
every mountain and hill made low,
the rough ground will be a plain
and the rugged terrain smooth.
5 The glory of Adonai will be revealed,
and all flesh will see it together.’
For the mouth of Adonai has spoken.” -Isaiah 40:3-5 (TLV)
Isa 57:15 For thus says ram ve’nisa the One Who is high and lifted up, shochein ad Who dwells in eternity, ve’kadosh Holy shemo is His Name: “Marom ve’kadush eshkon I dwell in the high and holy place, ve’et and with daka the one of a contrite ushefal-ruach and humble spirit (breath, wind), lehachayot to revive, sustain the life of ruach shefaliym a humble spirit, ulehachayot and to revive leiv the core being (heart) nidkaiym of the contrite ones.
“For thus saith the high and lofty One, that dwelleth in the heavens, and whose name is Holy, who inhabits the height — yea, His holy Shekinah hath promised to save the contrite of heart, and the humble of spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to support the heart of the contrite.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
The God of Israel is YHVH, He is above the highest heights that the false gods are worshipped on, further still He is eternal, uncreated and the Creator of the heights upon which the false deities of Israel’s folly have been worshipped. He is set apart, Holy beyond all measure, and yet, He is present with the heart (core being) of those who are humble and contrite in spirit. HaShem will sustain and strengthen the core being of the repentant, humble ones who love and honour His Holy Name (person, character, nature).
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.
A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise.” -Psalm 51:19 (TLV)
Isa 57:16 For I will not ariyv contend forever, nor will I always eketzof be angry; kiy-ruach for the spirit milefanay from before My face ya’atof would grow faint (turn away), uneshamot and the soul life breathe that aniy I asiytiy made, fashioned.
“For I will not take vengeance of judgment for ever, neither shall my wrath be eternal: for I will revive the spirits of the dead, and the souls I have created.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE)
If God were to remain angry no human being would be able to stand before Him, for all are guilty of sin and have fallen short of His Glory. Therefore, His mercy precedes His judgement so that He might relent and forgive the repentant, humble, contrite of core being (heart).
The Hebrew is interesting. Spirit/wind/breath is “ruach”, and soul is “nefesh” meaning the connected elements of human existence in action. However, while God created numerous living things which have spirit (ruach), and living souls (nefesh), including animal life. According to the Genesis creation account, human beings were uniquely created to exist as a convergence of spirit and soul. The Hebrew word used to convey the human spirit/soul convergence is “neshamah”.
“And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” -Matthew 24:22 (ESV)
“The elect” of this passage are the Jewish people (ethnic, religious, empirical), the elect (chosen) people of God.
Isa 57:17 Ba’avon In the perversity bitzo of his unjust gain katzaftiy I was angry, ve’akeihu and struck him; hastier ve’ektzof I concealed Myself and was angry, vayelech but he went shovav turning back be’derech in the way libo of his own core being (heart).
This is a description of the yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination). The fallen nature of human beings means a tendency toward sin (idolatry). Perversity and self-seeking greed are some of the most common manifestations of human sin action.
“Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.” -Psalm 78:38 (ESV)
“I concealed Myself and was angry” HaShem cannot be seen by those who refuse to see Him because He has afforded humanity the opportunity to choose Him. Love cannot exist without freewill. Therefore, from the point of view of the suffering wicked, HaShem has concealed Himself, though all things exist and have their being in Him.
“but he went turning back in the way of his own core being (heart).” This verse describes a life focused on debauchery and selfish gain followed, not by “teshuva” repentance (turning toward God) but by “shovav” turning away from God. Those being observed here are turning inwardly toward their own fallen nature. They have blinded themselves to their own demise. Therefore, God, Who is merciful, choses to refrain from His righteous anger in order to save idolatrous Israel from herself.
Isa 57:18 Derachayv His ways raiytiy I have seen, ve’erpaeihu and I will heal him; veancheihu and I will lead him va’ashaleim and restore (make whole) [alt. through a covenant of peace] nichumiym offer comforts to him lo ve’la’aveilayv and his mourners,
“His ways I have seen, and I will heal him” The ways of the wicked have made him ill, or else why does he need healing? Therefore, the compassionate God of Israel seeks to heal the disobedient child.
“and I will lead him and restore (make whole) [alt. through a covenant of peace] offer comforts to him and his mourners,” HaShem has seen the way of the wayward. He sees that they have so deluded themselves that they are unable to find restoration. Therefore, God has come to lead the idolatrous and wayward children of Israel out of their self-imposed suffering and into His love and prosperity. He will do this through a covenant of peace, and will provide the redeemed who mourn (with Godly sorrow) their sinful actions (the act of a contrite heart), with comfort.
Isa 57:19 Borei creating (from nothing) niyv fruit of sefatayim the lips. Shalom, shalom Peace, peace (wholeness, well-being), larachok to the far velakarov and to the near,” says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “Urefativ and I will heal him.
“Creating (from nothing) fruit of the lips…” The Hebrew “Borei” signifies the creative expression of God Himself, the root being “bara”, meaning to create from nothing. Thus, the fruit of the lips of this creating are intrinsically connected to the Word of God and the manifest nature of peace, Who is Himself a person, that is the Prince of Peace.
“Shalom, shalom Peace, peace (wholeness, well-being), to the far and to the near,’ says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), ‘and I will heal him.’” The repetition of shalom denotes the firmly established peace, wholeness and well-being imparted by God through the redemptive work of the Prince of Peace (the Servant King Messiah). This peace is being offered to those who are “far off”, that is the Gentiles, and to those who are “near”, that is Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical).
The words of Iben Ezra are interesting:
“The meaning of the whole verse is: Proclaim, peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him who is near; announce, that the Lord has already saved Israel, because I have indeed healed him.” -Iben Ezra
In a very real sense, because God knows the end from the beginning and because the lamb of God has been slain before the foundation of the world, the repentant, righteous remnant of Israel have and will be seen to have been already saved through the Servant King Messiah Who brings peace, wholeness and well-being through His vicarious sacrifice.
Isa 57:20 Ve’hareshaiym But the wicked kayam nigrash are like the tossing sea; for it hashkeit lo will neither be silent yuchal or prevail, vayigreshu and its waters meiymayv throw up refesh mud vatiyt and clay.
While the righteous of Israel will be delivered, those who are determined to pursue wickedness in spite of God’s loving offer of grace and mercy, will be like a storm tossed sea that is unrelenting in its dredging up of worthless mud and debris: its turmult results in damage and its ferocity wrecks destruction. Therefore, the wicked will destroy themselves. This is an intentional choice to refuse God and His mercy.
Isa 57:21 Eiyn shalom There is no peace (wholeness),” says Elohay My God, “le’reshaiym for the wicked.”
It is impossible for those who are determined to resist God to receive His peace, wholeness and well-being. Why? The answer is quite simple, love is a choice to commit wholeheartedly to another, though the other might love unconditionally, none the less, if that love is refused it cannot be received. The Love, mercy, grace, and peace of God are offered to all but only those who accept His free gift will receive it. An unwrapped gift cannot be enjoyed, a bride cannot be married until she says “I do”, a woman cannot conceive unless she receives her husband, love cannot exist without freewill, and relational love cannot be experienced unless it is responded to. Therefore, “‘There is no (everlasting) peace, wholeness and well-being,’ says My God, ‘for the wicked’”
Notice that while the peace afforded to the righteous is “Shalom, shalom” (v.19), the doubling denoting the fact that it is firmly established, immutable; the peace that the wicked have not received awaits the possibility of repentance: the single use of the word “Shalom” allows for mercy to be offered within time and space. Therefore, up until the wicked persons last breath that person may choose to repent and through the righteousness of the Messiah (Peace Himself), receive “Shalom, shalom”, everlasting peace, wholeness and well-being.
Copyright 2019 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.