Introduction to ISAIAH
Israel’s period of glory and prosperity was very short indeed. The kingdom of David, the kingdom of God among the people of Israel, had become a very small nation, no different from the rest of the small nations that were trying to survive in the midst of powerful neighbors. The Israelites believed in their mission as long as good fortune was on their side. When it became obvious that they could no longer maintain their privileged situation, the Israelites lost the sense of their own destiny and began to live like the rest.
Israel knew that Yahweh, their God, is the ‘‘God of gods” because of their books and because the old people told their children; the Israelites go up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and follow the religious customs of their elders. But, as Isaiah will reproach them, all of this is nothing more than human laws, a religion that is learned and does not spring from the heart. The processions are well attended, the clergy is powerful, but behind this facade life is absent and a godless king is able to destroy everything (2 K 21).
Actually, faith is without power unless it relies on an “experience” of God. If we have not had that experience, if the faithful as a whole have not had it, if they are taught only the religious experience of their forebears, all will die little by little. Isaiah is the man who at this time lived this experience and encountered the living God. This young man, of noble birth “had seen Yahweh” (chap. 6) and never ceased to speak in the name of God present in Israel, but whom Israel did not know.
What do we find in the following poems?
– Echoes of days of anguish. Judah, quite small, is squeezed in between two great nations, Ashur (Assyria) and Egypt, and the politicians wonder which of the two they must allow to swallow them up. Isaiah responds: “Seek first the kingdom of God and see to it that you practice justice among yourselves. God will make you stronger than the powerful.”
– A persevering struggle to arouse faith in those deprived of vision. The externals of religion abound, but there is very little sense of responsibility, not much love for God, and little concern about doing his will. Isaiah will repeat: “Believe in him, he is among you, and if you do not become strong by relying on him, he will crush you.”
– God’s promises to David’s descendants. Whether the rulers are good like Hezekiah or estranged like Ahaz, they are mediocre men not to be trusted with such great promises. Yet, in the darkest hours, Isaiah will declare that the Lord has chosen Jerusalem and David, his king. From David’s line, Christ, the king of Peace, will be born.
Some facts about Isaiah’s time
Beginning in the year 740, the northern nation of Ashur rises up and begins its conquests. All the peoples of the Middle East are afraid and try to resist, with the encouragement of Egypt, another great power. In this conflict the northern nation of Israel disappears; Samaria, its capital, is captured and its residents deported in 720.
In 736, northern Israel and their neighbors from Aram try to force the kingdom of Judah to join them against Ashur. Then Ahaz, the king of Jerusalem, calls for the help of the Assyrian armies, in spite of Isaiah’s warnings. The Assyrians destroy both Israel and Aram, and plunder the land of Judah.
In the years 701–691 Sennacherib, king of Assyria, comes to subdue Judah. King Hezekiah, encouraged by Isaiah, resists the enemy, and the famous liberation of Jerusalem takes place.
The Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah and his disciples is the most important of the prophetic books. Jesus and his apostles will often quote it. Isaiah’s words are found in chapters 1–39 of the book bearing his name. The second and the third parts of the book, namely, chapters 40–66, bring together the words of other prophets who wrote a century and a half later.
For the second part of the book of Isaiah and the poems of the Servant of Yahweh (chaps. 40–55), see Introduction on page 695.
For the third part of the book of Isaiah (chaps. 56–66), see Introduction on page 722.
Against an unthinking people
•1This is what Isaiah son of Amoz foretold concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2Listen, O heavens!
Give heed, O earth! for the Lord speaks:
“I raised children, I brought them up,
but they have risen against me.
3The ox knows its master
and the ass its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know me,
my people do not understand.
4A sinful nation,
a people weighed down with iniquity,
a wicked race, perverted children!
They have turned away from Yahweh
and despised the Holy One of Israel.
5Shall I strike you again and again?
People always rebelling,
your whole head is diseased
and your heart also afflicted.
6From the soles of your feet
to the top of your head—
all is wounds and bruises,
sores uncleaned and unbound,
not eased with soothing ointment.
7Your country lies desolate,
your cities razed by fire.
Aliens have devoured the harvest
before your very eyes,
and you were left in ruins.
8The Daughter of Zion is left
like a shanty in a vineyard,
like a hut in a melon field,
like a hamleted town.
9Had not Yahweh of Hosts
left us a small remnant,
we would resemble Sodom,
we would be like Gomorrah.
10Hear the warning of Yahweh,
rulers of Sodom.
Listen to the word of God,
people of Gomorrah.”
•11“What do I care,” says Yahweh
“for your endless sacrifices?
I am fed up with your burnt offerings,
and the fat of your bulls.
The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats
12When you come before me and trample on my courts,
who asked you to visit me?
13I am fed up with your oblations.
I grow sick with your incense.
Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings,
evil with holy assemblies,
I can no longer bear.
14I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts
they burden me.
15When you stretch out your hands
I will close my eyes;
the more you pray,
the more I refuse to listen,
for your hands are bloody.
16Wash and make yourselves clean.
Remove from my sight
the evil of your deeds.
Put an end to your wickedness
17and learn to do good.
Seek justice and keep in line the abusers;
give the fatherless their rights
and defend the widow.”
18“Come,” says the Lord,
“let us reason together.
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they will be white as snow;
though they be as crimson red,
they will be white as wool.
19If you will obey me,
you will eat the goods of the earth;
20but if you resist and rebel,
the sword will eat you instead.”
Truly the Lord has spoken.
You became a harlot
•21Zion, the faithful city,
has become a harlot!
She who abounded in justice,
in whom righteousness lodged,
has become a hideout of murderers!
22Your silver has turned to dross,
your best wine thinned with water.
23Your rulers are tyrants,
partners of thieves.
They love a bribe
and look around for gifts.
No one protects the orphan,
or listens to the claim of the widow.
24This is why the Lord speaks,
the Mighty One of Israel:
“I will subdue my foes
and exact payment from my enemies.
25I will turn my hand against you,
I will smelt away your dross and remove your impurities.
26I will restore your judges,
I will give back your counselors,
as it was in the beginning.
Then you will be called
the City of Righteousness,
the Faithful City.”
27The deliverance of Zion will be like a judgment
there will be a remnant: the just ones.
28But rebels and sinners
alike will be destroyed,
and those who desert the Lord
will likewise perish.
•29Yes, you will be ashamed of your sacred oaks which have
given you delight;
you will blush for your gardens
which you have chosen.
30You will be like an oak,
the leaves of which wither,
and like a garden
which runs out of water.
31The strongman will be as tinder
and all his work a spark:
both will burn together
and no one will quench the fire.
God promises lasting peace
•1The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2In the last days, the mountain of Yahweh’s House shall be set over the highest mountains and shall tower over the hills.
3All the nations shall stream to it, saying, “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths. For the teaching comes from Zion, and from Jerusalem the word of Yahweh.
4He will rule over the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more.
5O nation of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
Hide in the dust
•6You have forsaken your people,
the land of Jacob,
for it was full of diviners.
They turned into soothsayers like the Philistines,
and clasped hands with pagans.
7Their land is full of silver and gold,
there is no end to their treasures.
Their land is full of horses,
there is no end to their chariots.
8Their land is full of idols,
and they bow down
before the work of their hands,
before the things their fingers have made.
9Man will be humbled
and the mortal fallen,
forgive them not!
10Get behind the rocks,
hide in the dust,
for fear of the Lord
and the splendor of his majesty!
11The haughty looks of man will be humbled; the pride of mortal will be brought low. Yahweh alone will be exalted on that day.
12Yahweh will stand up on that day
against all the proud and arrogant,
against all that is high or great,
13against all the cedars of Lebanon
and all the oaks of Bashan,
14against all the lofty mountains,
and all the soaring hills,
15against every high tower
and fortified walls,
16against all the ships of Tarshish
and their luxurious load.
17The arrogance of man will be humbled; the pride of mortal will be brought low. Yahweh alone will be exalted on that day, 18and all the idols will pass away.
19People will flee
into the hollows of the rocks,
into the caverns of the earth,
from the terror of Yahweh,
from the splendor of his majesty,
when he arises to terrify the earth.
20On that day,
they will throw to the moles and to the bats
their idols of silver and gold,
which they made for themselves to worship.
21They will flee
into the caverns of the rocks,
into the crevices of the crags,
from the terror of the Lord,
from the splendor of his majesty,
when he arises to terrify the earth.
22Rely not on man,
who has but a breath in his nostrils.
What is he worth?
1See how the Lord,
takes away provisions and supplies
from Judah and Jerusalem—
2the hero and the soldier,
the judge and the prophet,
the diviner and the elder,
3the captain and the man of rank,
the counselor, the wise man, the
craftsman, and the enchanter.
4I will make striplings their princes
and raw lads their rulers.
5People will oppress each other—
every neighbor his neighbor;
the young will bully the old
and the base will insult the honorable.
6When that day comes,
a man will take hold of his brother
in the house of his father
and say, “You have clothes,
so be our leader
and rule over this heap of ruins.”
7But he will cry out in protest:
“I cannot undertake to remedy all this,
when in my own house
there is neither food nor clothing;
do not make me leader of the people.”
8See how Jerusalem crumbles
and Judah falls,
for in word and deed
they have defied the Lord,
and insulted his glorious presence.
Alas for the wicked!
•9The look on their faces denounces them: they do not hide their sin; instead, they parade it, like Sodom: Woe to them! They bring about their own downfall!
10Say, “Fortunate are the righteous, they will eat of the fruit of their deeds.”
11But woe to the wicked: the evil that their hands have done shall be done to them!
12O my people, plundered by your rulers, enslaved by your creditors! O my people, your leaders deceive you and lead you astray.
13Yahweh takes his place in court and stands to try his people. 14Yahweh calls to judgment the elders and the princes:
“You have devoured my vineyard. The spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15What right have you to crush the people and to grind down the poor?” declares Yahweh Sabaoth.
How haughty are these women!
•16Yahweh says, “Haughty are the women of Zion, walking with their heads held high, with mincing steps, flirting with their eyes, ornaments tinkling on their ankles.”
17But Yahweh will cover with scabs the heads of Zion’s women and make their scalps bald.
18On that day the Lord will take away the ankle ornaments, the headbands and the crescents, 19the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves, 20the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume bottles and the amulets, 21the signet rings and nose rings, 22the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags, 23the garments, the turbans, and the veils.
24Instead of fragrance, there will be stench; instead of girdle, rope; instead of well-set hair, baldness; instead of jeweled gown, sackcloth; and instead of beauty, shame.
25Your men will fall by the sword;
your heroes, in battle.
26The city gates will lament and mourn
as Zion, ravaged, sits on the ground.
1On that day, seven women will fight over one man.
“We will eat our own food,” they will say, “we will wear our own clothing, only let us be called by your name and take away our disgrace.”
A remnant saved on Mount Zion
•2On that day the Shoot of Yahweh will be beautiful and glorious; and the Fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel.
3Those who are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem,
4when Yahweh washes away the filth of the women of Zion and purges Jerusalem of the bloodstains in its midst with the blast of searing judgment, the blast of fire.
5Then will Yahweh create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its assemblies a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of fire by night.
For the glory of the Lord will be a canopy and a pavilion for all, 6a shade from the scorching heat by day, a refuge from the storm and rain.
The song of the vineyard
•1Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song about his vineyard.
My beloved had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
2He dug it up, cleared the stones,
and planted the choicest vines.
He built there a watchtower
and hewed out a winepress as well.
Then he looked
for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only wild grapes.
3Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4What more was there to do
that I have not done for my vineyard?
Good grapes was the yield I expected,
why did it yield only sour grapes?
5Now I will let you know
what I am going to do
with my vineyard:
I will remove its hedge
and it will be burned;
I will break down its wall
and it will be trampled on.
6I will make it a wasteland,
I will neither prune nor hoe it,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I command the clouds, as well,
not to send rain on it.
7The vineyard of Yahweh Sabaoth
is the people of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant vine.
He looked for justice,
but found bloodshed;
He looked for righteousness
but heard cries of distress.
Woe to you rich!
•8What sorrow for you to buy up house after house,
and field after field,
until everyone is evicted
and you live alone in the land.
9Yahweh Sabaoth has sworn in my hearing:
“Many houses will remain in ruins,
beautiful mansions without occupants.
10Ten acres of vineyard
will yield only a barrel of wine;
ten bushels of seed,
only a bushel of grain.”
11Woe to those who rise early in the morning
to run after strong drink,
and tarry late in the evening
till they are inflamed with wine.
12They have lyres and harps,
timbrels and flutes,
and wine at their banquets;
but they have no thought for the deeds of the Lord,
nor do they see his plans.
13Thus my people will go into exile
for want of understanding,
their dignitaries dying of hunger,
their masses parched with thirst.
14Therefore the grave has enlarged its throat
and opened its mouth to the full;
it swallows the upper crust of Zion,
their throngs and their revelry.
15Man shall be humbled
and the mortal fallen,
and the eyes of the haughty cast down.
16But Yahweh Sabaoth will be exalted
when he comes in judgment;
the sentences of the holy God
will reveal his holiness.
(17Then will the lambs graze as at pasture,
fatlings and kids will browse among the ruins.)
18Woe to those who haul their wrongs with cords of deceit,
to those who pull a cart of sins,
19to those who say, “Let God hurry,
let him speed up his work
so that we may see it.
Let the plans of the Holy One of Israel
draw near and come true,
which we are eager to learn about!”
20Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil,
who change darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who give bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
21Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and take themselves for sages.
22Woe to those who are champions in mixing drinks
and valiant at drinking bouts,
23but acquit the guilty for a bribe
and deprive the innocent of his right.
24Therefore, as the tongues of fire lick up stubble,
as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will rot,
and their flowers be blown away like dust,
for they have rejected the law of Yahweh Sabaoth
and scorned the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25Therefore the Lord,
his wrath burning against his people,
raises his hand against them
and strikes them down.
The mountains quake:
the corpses litter the streets.
Yet for all this his anger does not subside,
his hand is still raised, poised to strike.
26He gives a signal to nations afar,
he whistles to them from the ends of the earth;
speedily and swiftly they come.
27None of them is weary, none stumbles
none slumbers or sleeps;
not a waist belt is loosened,
not a sandal-thong broken.
28Their arrows are sharp,
all their bows are strong:
their horses’ hoofs seem like flint,
their chariot wheels like the whirlwind.
29They roar like young lions;
they growl as they seize their prey,
no one to rescue it as they carry it off.
30On that day they will roar over these people
like the roaring of the sea.
Just look at the land—
darkness and distress,
the light flickering out in shadows,
darkened finally by the clouds.
The call of Isaiah
•1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with.
3They were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh Sabaoth.
All the earth is filled with his Glory!”
4At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. 5I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, Yahweh Sabaoth.”
6Then one of the seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7He touched my mouth with it and said,
“See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
8Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” I answered, “Here I am. Send me!” 9He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Much as you hear, you will not understand; much as you see, you do not perceive.’
10Let their hearts be hardened, make their ears deaf and their eyes blind; what a misfortune for them, should they hear and see! Yet if they understood and came back to me I would heal them.”
11Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered,
“Until towns have been laid waste and left without inhabitant; until the houses are deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12until Yahweh has sent away the people and the fields are left deserted.
13Even though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned. Yet there a stump will remain like that of a fallen oak; this stump is a holy seed.”
First warning to Ahaz
•1When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, king Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, laid siege to Jerusalem but they were unable to capture it.
2When the news reached the house of David, “Aram’s troops are encamped in Ephraim,” the heart of the king and the hearts of the people trembled as the trees of the forest tremble before the wind.
3Yahweh then said to Isaiah: “Go with your son A-remnant-will-return, and meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field.
4Say to him,
Stay calm and fear not; do not lose courage before these two stumps of smoldering firebrands—the fierce anger of Rezin the Aramean and the blazing fury of the son of Remaliah. You know that 5Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted against Judah, saying: 6Let us invade and scare it, let us seize it and put the son of Tabeel king over it. 7But the Lord Yahweh says:
It shall not be so,
it shall not come to pass.
8a For Damascus is only the head of Aram
and Rezin the lord of Damascus.
9a Samaria is only the head of Ephraim
and Remaliah’s son is only the lord of Samaria.
8b Within fifty-six years,
Ephraim will be shattered
and will no longer be a people.
9b But if you do not stand firm in faith,
you, too, will not stand at all.”
The Virgin is with child
•10Once again Yahweh addressed Ahaz, 11“Ask for a sign from Yahweh your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”
12But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put Yahweh to the test.”
13Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:
The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel. 15He will live on curds and honey by the time he learns to refuse evil and choose good. 16For before the child knows how to reject evil and cherish virtue, the land of the two kings that you abhor will be deserted. 17Yahweh will bring a time much worse than any since Ephraim broke away from Judah.
18On that day Yahweh will whistle
for flies from the farthest streams of Egypt
and for bees from the land of Assyria.
19They will come and settle
in the steep ravines,
in the clefts of the rocks,
on all the bushes,
and on every pasture.
20On that day,
with a razor hired from beyond the river
(with the king of Assyria),
Yahweh will shave the head
and the hair of the legs
and the beard as well.
21On that day a man will raise
a heifer and a couple of sheep,
22and from the abundance of milk
those who survive in the land
will feed on curds and honey.
23On that day every place
planted with a thousand vines
worth a thousand silver shekels
will be covered with briers and thorns.
24Men will go there
armed with bows and arrows,
for the whole country
will be covered with briers and thorns.
25No one will dare come
to all the hills which used to be cultivated with hoe,
for fear of briers and thorns.
There, cattle will be let loose
and sheep left to graze.
The waters of Shiloah gently flowing
•1The Lord said to me, “Take a large cylindrical seal and write on it in ordinary characters: Quick to plunder-Booty is Close. 2Do this before Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah my reliable witness.”
3I went to my wife; she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then Yahweh said to me, “Call him Quick to plunder–Booty is Close, for this is Yahweh’s word:
4Before the child knows how to say ‘father’ or ‘mother’, the wealth of Damascus and the booty of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”
5Again Yahweh spoke to me: 6“Because this people refuses the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, and cowers in fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7therefore the Lord will bring against them the waters of the Euphrates River, deep and mighty—the king of Assyria with all his pomp.
It will rise over all its channels
and overflow all its banks;
8it will sweep on to Judah,
it will overflow and pass on,
reaching up to the neck.
It will spread its wings over the whole breadth of your land, O Immanuel!
9Know it, O you nations.
Hear, O you distant lands;
gird yourselves for war and be dismayed!
10Devise a plan and it will be thwarted,
make a resolve and it will not stand,
Yahweh, a hidden God
•11Thus Yahweh spoke to me when his hand grasped me and he warned me not to walk in the way of these people:
12“Do not speak of conspiracy whenever these people dread conspiracy; do not fear what they fear nor be in dread. 13Only Yahweh Sabaoth is holy, only him must you fear, only him must you dread.
14He will be a Sanctuary and at the same time a stumbling-stone, the rock that brings down, for both houses of Israel. He will be like trap and snare for the people of Jerusalem. 15Many of them will stumble, many will fall and be broken, be trapped and captured.”
16Yahweh added: “Bind this testimony and seal it in the midst of my disciples.”
17So I will wait for Yahweh who hides his face from the people of Jacob. I will hope in him. 18Here am I and the children he has given me. We are signs and portents in Israel from Yahweh Sabaoth, who dwells on Mount Zion.
•19Should people tell you to consult mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, you must say to them: “A people, of course, must consult its gods! On behalf of the living, will you consult the dead?”
20This is what is said through the law and revelations: this word will not fade away.
21Distressed and famished,
they will roam the land.
In their hunger they will fume
and curse their God and their king.
They will look upward,
22and then look towards the earth,
but they will only find distress and darkness,
and frightening gloom.
23Yet, where there was but anguish, darkness will disappear.
He has just afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the future he will confer glory on the way of the sea, on the land beyond the Jordan—the pagans’ Galilee.
To us a child is born
• 1The people who walk in darkness
have seen a great light.
A light has dawned
on those who live in the land of the shadow of death.
2You have enlarged the nation;
you have increased their joy.
They rejoice before you,
as people rejoice at harvest time
as they rejoice in dividing the spoil.
3For the yoke of their burden,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressors,
you have broken it as on the day of Midian.
4Every warrior’s boot that tramped in war,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be thrown out for burning,
will serve as fuel for the fire.
5For a child is born to us,
a son is given us;
the royal ornament is laid upon his shoulder,
and his name is proclaimed:
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
6To the increase of his powerful rule
in peace, there will be no end.
Vast will be his dominion,
he will reign on David’s throne
and over all his kingdom,
to establish and uphold it
with justice and righteousness
from this time onward and forever.
The zealous love of Yahweh Sabaoth will do this.
Threats against Israel
•7The Lord has sent a word against Jacob: the sentence fell upon Israel.
8The people of Samaria and Ephraim saw it, but they said in pride and arrogance of heart: 9“The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but in their place we will plant cedars.”
10Therefore, Yahweh raises foes against them and stirs up their adversaries: 11from the east, Arameans, from the west, Philistines—with open mouth they devour Israel.
Yet for all this his anger does not subside, his hand is poised to strike.
12For the people have not come back to him who has smitten them; they have not sought Yahweh Sabaoth.
13Therefore, Yahweh has cut off from Israel both head and tail, palm branch and reed in a single day. 14The elders and prominent men are the head, the tail is the prophet of lies. 15The guides of these people mislead them, the leaders have lost their way. 16The Lord, therefore, does not spare their young men nor have compassion on their orphans and widows. For everyone has become evil and ungodly; every mouth speaks folly.
Yet for all this his anger does not subside, his hand is poised to strike.
17Their wickedness has become like a fire which consumes both thorn and brier; it rages, sets thickets ablaze, and all of them vanish like smoke.
18By the wrath of Yahweh Sabaoth the land is set aflame, and the people are burned like fuel for fire because no one spared another.
19Snatching left and right, they still go hungry and they remain unfilled: each one devours his neighbor’s flesh.
20Manasseh devours Ephraim, Ephraim devours Manasseh; and against Judah together they march.
Yet for all this his anger does not subside, his hand is poised to strike.
1Woe to those who enact unjust laws
and issue oppressive decrees!
2Woe to those who rob the poor of their rights
and deprive the helpless of justice!
They prey on widows and plunder the orphans.
3What will you do on the day of punishment?
Where will you flee for help
when disaster suddenly comes?
Where will you save your wealth?
4You can do nothing but cringe
among the captives and exiles
or fall down among the slain.
Yet for all this Yahweh’s anger does not subside,
his hand is poised to strike.
Assyria: instrument of God
•5Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger, the staff of my fury!
6Against a godless nation I send him,
against a people who provoke my wrath I dispatch him,
to plunder and pillage,
to tread them down like mud in the streets.
7But the mind of his king is far from this,
his heart harbors other thoughts;
what he wants is to destroy,
to make an end of all nations.
8For he says:
“Are not my commanders like kings?
9Was it not the same for Calno as for Carchemish,
for Hamath as for Arpad,
and for Samaria as for Damascus?
10Just as my hands have seized idolatrous kingdoms, whose graven images excelled those of Samaria and Jerusalem,
11just as I have dealt with Samaria and her idols, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols?”
12When Yahweh has finished all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will punish the king of Assyria for his willful pride and arrogant insolence. 13For the king says:
“By my own strength I have done this
and by my own wisdom, for I am clever.
I have moved the frontiers of peoples,
I have plundered treasures,
I have brought inhabitants down to the dust,
I have toppled kings from their thrones.
14As one reaches into a nest,
so my hands have reached into nations’ wealth.
As one gathers deserted eggs,
so have I gathered the riches of the earth.
No one flapped a wing
or opened its mouth to chirp a protest.”
15Does the axe claim more credit
than the man who wields it?
Does the saw magnify itself
more than the one who uses it?
This would be like a rod wielding the man who lifts it up;
will those not made of wood, be controlled by the cudgel?
16Therefore the Lord, Yahweh Sabaoth,
is ready to send a wasting sickness
upon the king’s sturdy warriors.
Beneath his plenty, a flame will burn
like a consuming fire.
17The Light of Israel will be a fire
and his Holy One a flame—
to burn and devour his thorns and briers
all in a single day.
18The splendor of his forest and fruitful land
comes undone and raves,
body and soul disappears and passes away.
19The remnant of the trees in his forest
will be so few, so easy to count,
that a child could make a list of them.
A remnant will return
•20On that day, the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the people of Jacob will no longer rely upon the tyrant who struck them down, but instead will truly rely upon the Holy One of Israel. 21A remnant will return—a remnant of Jacob —to the mighty God.
22Yes, Israel! Though your people be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return; their end has been ordered, justice shall be fully done. 23The Lord will make a full end, as decreed by Him, all over the land.
24Thus says the Lord, Yahweh Sabaoth,
“O my people, who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians who strike you with the rod and lift up their staff against you as did the Egyptians. 25In a little while my anger against you will be over and will be directed to their destruction.
26Yahweh Sabaoth will lash at them with a scourge, as he did with the Midianites at the rock of Oreb, as he did in Egypt when he raised his rod over the sea.
27On that day, their burden will be lifted off your shoulders, their yoke lifted off your neck. The yoke will be destroyed.
28They have gone up from Rimmon
and have come to Aiath;
they have passed through Migron
and stored supplies at Michmash.
29They have crossed over the pass
and now camp at Geba for the night.
Ramah is in terror;
Gibeah of Saul has fled.
30Lift up your voice, O daughter of Gallim,
let it be heard at Laishah
and answered at Anathoth.
31Madmenah is in flight;
the people of Gebim flee for their lives.
32This day the invaders will halt at Nob;
they will shake their fists
at the mount of the Daughter of Zion,
at the hill of Jerusalem.
33Suddenly, the Lord, Yahweh Sabaoth
lops off the boughs with terrifying violence.
The tall trees are hewn down,
the lofty ones are brought low.
34With an axe he cuts down the thickets;
and Lebanon, the majestic, falls.
The Prince of Peace
•1From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth;
from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit.
2The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and power,
a Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
3Not by appearances will he judge,
nor by what is said must he decide,
4but with justice he will judge the poor
and with righteousness decide for the meek.
Like a rod, his word will strike the oppressor,
and the breath of his lips slay the wicked.
5Justice will be the girdle of his waist,
truth the girdle of his loins.
6The wolf will dwell with the lamb,
the leopard will rest beside the kid,
the calf and the lion cub will feed together
and a little child will lead them.
7Befriending each other, the cow and the bear
will see their young ones lie down together.
Like cattle, the lion will eat hay.
8By the cobra’s den the infant will play.
The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair.
9No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain,
for as water fills the sea
the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
•10On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of him, thus making his dwelling place glorious.
11On that day Yahweh will again raise his hand to reclaim the remnant of his people from Assyria; from Egypt, Pathrosand Ethiopia; from Elam, Shinar, Hamath and from the coastlands of the sea.
12He will set up a signal that can be seen from all the countries and assemble the exiles of Israel; he will gather the scattered people of Judah from all the corners of the earth.
13Then Ephraim will cast off its jealousy and Judah will be rid of its enemies. Ephraim will not envy Judah nor Judah be hostile to Ephraim. 14But the two will sweep down together upon the shoulder of Philistia to the west and plunder the nations to the east. They will lay their hands upon Edom and Moab and make the Ammonites their subjects.
15Yahweh will dry up the tongue of the Egyptian sea; he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates in scorching fury, and break it into seven streams that people can cross dry-shod. 16Then there will be a highway for the remnant of his people coming back from Assyria, as there was when Israel came out of Egypt.
Song of the saved
1On that day you will say:
“I give praise to you, O Lord.
Although you have been angry with me
your anger has been appeased
and you have consoled me.
2He is the God of my salvation;
in him I trust and am not afraid,
Yahweh is my strength: him I will praise,
the one who saved me.”
3You will draw water with joy
from the very fountain of salvation.
4Then you will say: “Praise to the Lord,
break into songs of joy for him,
proclaim his marvelous deeds among the nations
and exalt his Name.
5Sing to the Lord: wonders he has done
let these be known all over the earth.
6Sing for joy, O people of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
•1An oracle concerning Babylon,
seen by Isaiah, son of Amoz:
2On a bare hilltop raise a banner;
cry aloud to them,
wave a hand for them
to enter the Gates of the Nobles.
3I have ordered my sacred knights,
I have summoned my holy ones—
all those who rejoice in my triumph—
I have commanded them to carry out my wrath.
4Listen, a rumbling on the mountains
as of a great multitude!
Listen, a tumultuous uproar
as of kingdoms massing together!
Yes, Yahweh Sabaoth is mustering his army.
5From faraway lands,
from the ends of the heavens
and the instruments of his wrath—
to destroy the whole earth.
6Wail, for the day of Yahweh is near;
it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
7All arms will go limp,
every human heart will fail him.
8Everyone will be gripped with terror.
Pain and sorrow taking hold of them,
men will be in anguish
like women in travail.
They will look aghast at each other,
their faces aflame as with fever.
9See how the day of Yahweh comes:
it is a cruel day
coming with wrath and fierce anger.
It will make the earth desolate;
it will destroy sinners within it.
10The stars and constellations at night
will send forth no light, the moon
will not shine; in the morning the sun
will be dark as it rises.
11I punish the world for the evil it does,
and the wicked for their sins.
I make the arrogance of the proud cease.
I end the haughtiness of the ruthless.
12I will make mortals scarcer than gold
and humans more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13This is why the heavens tremble
and the earth shakes its foundation,
at the wrath of Yahweh Sabaoth
on the day of his burning anger.
14Like a hunted gazelle,
or like a flock without a shepherd
everyone returns to his own people,
each one flees to his native land.
15Whoever is captured will be butchered,
whoever is caught will be slaughtered.
16Their babies will be dashed to pieces before their eyes,
their houses will be looted,
their wives raped.
17Against them I will stir up the Medes,
who don’t crave for money
and are not interested in gold.
18Their bows and arrows will strike down young men
without mercy or compassion.
They do not spare infants and children.
19Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
pride and glory of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when overthrown by God.
20She will never be inhabited,
nor dwelt in from age to age.
There no Arab will pitch his tent,
no shepherd will tend his flock.
21There wild beasts of the desert will lie,
howling creatures will fill the houses,
owls and ostriches will dwell there
and wild goats will leap about.
22There mad dogs will cry out in her strongholds,
and jackals in her palaces.
Her time is close at hand;
her days are now numbered.
1The Lord will take pity on Jacob, he will choose Israel again and settle them in their own land. Then foreigners will join them and be counted with the people of Jacob.
2Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. But as soon as they are back home, the people of Israel will subdue them and make them servants and maids. Thus the people of Israel will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.
How you have fallen, shining star!
•3On the day Yahweh gives you rest from your suffering and turmoil, from your fear and your cruel bondage, 4you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
How has the oppression ceased?
How has the strongman ended?
5Yahweh has broken the staff of the wicked,
the scepter of the tyrant
6who struck down the people
with blow after blow,
who ruled the nations in anger,
with unrelenting persecution.
7The whole earth is at rest and at peace,
breaking forth into song.
8Even the cypresses exult
and the cedars of Lebanon say:
“Now that you have fallen,
no loggers come to cut us down.”
9The netherworld is all astir
to meet you when you come.
It stirs up the dead to greet you—
all who were leaders of the world.
It raises from their thrones—
all who were kings of the nations.
10They all speak and say to you:
“You have also been thrown to the ground and have become like us!
11All your pomp has been brought down to the kingdom of death,
along with the sound of your harps;
maggots are the bed beneath you
and worms are your blanket.”
12How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cast down to the ground,
you who mowed down the nations!
13You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven,
I will raise my throne
higher than the stars of God;
I will sit on the Mount of Assembly,
in the far recesses of the North.
14I will climb up above the clouds;
I will be like the Most High!”
15But down to the netherworld you go,
to the deep recesses of the Pit.
16All who see you stare at you
and ponder over your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth,
who made kingdoms quake,
17who made the world a waste,
who overthrew its cities
and would not give its captives
18All kings of nations lie in state,
each in his own tomb.
19You are nevertheless cast out of the tomb,
like a rejected untimely birth,
like a trampled corpse buried
under the slaughtered,
under those cut down by the sword,
thrown into the common grave.
20You were not given a monument
for you have brought your land to ruin,
and caused your people to be slain.
May the descendants of evildoers never be mentioned again!
21Go up, slaughter the sons for the sins of their fathers,
lest they rise and possess the land
and cover the earth with their cities.
22“I will rise up against them,” says Yahweh Sabaoth. “I will cut off from Babylon her name, her remnant, offspring and posterity,” says Yahweh.
23“I will turn her into a swampland, a habitation of reptiles and crocodiles; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction,” says Yahweh Sabaoth.
24Yahweh Sabaoth has sworn:
“As I have planned, so will it be!
As I have decided, so will I do;
25I will destroy the Assyrian in my land,
trample him down on my mountains;
take his yoke off my people’s neck,
and remove his burden from their shoulders.
26This is the sentence he pronounced for the whole earth; with his hand stretched out over all nations. 27Yahweh has made a decision, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?
Warning to the Philistines
28In the year king Ahaz died this oracle was proclaimed:
29“Rejoice not, all you Philistines, that the rod which smote you is broken; for from the root of the snake will come forth a viper, and its offspring will be a flying dragon.
30On that day my poor will have their fill with the fruits of my fields and the helpless will rest secure. But through famine I will kill your children and slay even your remnant.”
31Wail, O gate! Cry, O city!
tremble in fear, all you Philistines!
For smoke comes from the north—
a great army sweeps down on you.
32What answer will then be given to the messengers of that nation? “Yahweh has laid the foundation of Zion, and there his afflicted people will take refuge.”
Lament for Moab
1An oracle concerning Moab:
Laid waste in a night,
Ar of Moab is silent!
Laid waste in a night,
Kir of Moab is ruined!
2The people of Diman have gone
to the high places to weep.
Over Nebo and Medeba Moab wails.
Every head is shaved,
every beard is shorn.
3In the streets they wear sackcloth,
on the rooftops and in the squares;
every heart melts in tears.
4Heshbon and Elealeh cry out;
their howling is heard as far as Jahaz;
the armed men of Moab cry aloud
and their hearts are faint.
5My heart cries out for Moab;
her fugitives flee as far as Zoar,
as far as Eglath-shelishiyah.
At the ascent of Luhith
they go up weeping;
on the way to Horonaim
their cries are heart-rending.
6The watered fields of Nimrim
have become a wasteland;
the turf is dried up,
the grass is withered,
the verdure is gone.
7Now they carry away their possessions,
the wealth they have stored up,
to the Brook of the Willows.
8Their cry rings round the border of Moab,
resounds as far as Eglaim,
reaches as far as Beer Elim.
9The waters of Dimon flow with blood,
but worse is yet in store,
for I will bring lions upon Dimon,
upon those who escape from Moab,
and upon those who survive in the land.
1Like bewildered birds
cast out of their nests,
the daughters of Moab
stay at the fords of Arnon.
2From Sela, across the wilderness,
they send lambs to the mount of Zion:
are they not the rulers of the land?
3They say: “Take counsel,
render decision with justice.
Even at high noon
let your shade be like the night
to hide the fugitives.
Do not betray the refugees.
4Let the outcasts from Moab
sojourn among you;
be a refuge to them
against the destroyer.”
(When the oppressor is no more
and the destruction is over
and those who trample the land
underfoot have gone,
5a throne will be established
steadfast in love.
One from the house of David,
for the sake of truth will sit on it;
he will administer justice swiftly
and judge the people righteously.)
6We have heard of the pride of Moab,
of her arrogance and insolence,
of her empty pretensions.
7Let her wail then,
and let everyone wail for her.
Mourn for the raisin-cakes of Kir-hareseth.
8The fields of Heshbon languish,
the vines of Sibmah wither.
The tyrants of the nations
have trampled down the choicest vines,
those that once reached Jazer,
spreading towards the desert,
stretching out as far as the sea.
9Therefore I weep as Jazer weeps
for the vines of Sibmah.
I drench you, O Heshbon,
O Elealeh, with my tears!
For over your fruit and your vintage
have been heard loud battle cheers.
10But they are gone: joy and gladness
have now vanished from your orchards.
In the vineyards
no more singing is heard,
no more shout of joy is raised.
In the winepresses
no foot treads out wine,
no voice shouts in exultation,
no heart sings a vintage song.
11Like a lyre, therefore,
my soul moans for Moab;
my heart pines for Kir-hareseth.
12 When Moab appears on the high places,
she will only grow weary;
when she goes to pray at the Sanctuary,
it will be to no avail.
13This is the word which Yahweh spoke against Moab in the past. But 14now Yahweh says, “Within three years, like the years of a servant bound by contract, the glorious power of Moab will have ceased to command respect, her survivors will be very few and feeble.”
•1An oracle concerning Damascus:
“Damascus will cease to be a city
and will become a heap of ruins.
2Her towns will be abandoned
and left as pasture for flocks;
there they will lie down afraid of no one.
Damascus will no longer be a kingdom,
3so Ephraim will be left undefended.
From now on the remnant of Aram will have no more power than the children of Israel.”
This is Yahweh Sabaoth speaking.
4On that day
the glory of Jacob will fade;
the fat of his flesh will waste away.
5It will be as when a reaper
gathers the standing grain
and lops off the stalks,
or as when they gather the gleanings
in the Valley of Rephaim.
6Yet some gleanings remain,
as when an olive tree is beaten—
two or three olives are left on the topmost bough,
four or five on the fruitful branches,
says Yahweh, the God of Israel.
7On that day people will look to their Creator, their eyes turned to the Holy One of Israel.
8They will no longer look to the altars, to the work of their hand,
the sacred pole or the incense stand
which their fingers have made.
9On that day your cities will be like the cities of the Hivites and the Amorites which they abandoned to the Israelites. All will be desolation.
10For you have forgotten the God of your salvation,
you have failed to remember the Rock of your refuge.
You may plant the finest plants,
you may plant out imported shoots,
11you may make them grow
on the day you plant them,
you may make them blossom
on the day you sow,
yet they dwindle and the harvest is gone:
then you may cry!
The upsurge of nations
12Oh, the rage of many peoples—
they rage like the raging sea!
Oh, the thunder of many nations—
they thunder like the thundering of mighty waves!
13But God rebukes them,
and they flee far away,
swept away like chaff
on the hills before the wind,
whirled away like eddying dust
before the thunderstorm.
14At eventide they sow terror;
before morning they are no more.
Such is the portion of our despoilers,
such is the lot of our plunderers.
•1Woe to the land of whirring wings
beyond the rivers of Cush,
2which sends ambassadors by sea
in papyrus boats over the waters!
Go, swift messengers,
to a people tall and bronzed,
to a nation feared far and wide,
a nation conquering and strong,
whose land the rivers divide.
3All you inhabitants of the world,
all you who dwell on earth,
when a banner on the mountain is raised, look!
When a horn on the hill is sounded, listen!
4For thus Yahweh spoke to me:
“From where I dwell, I gaze untroubled,
like heat shimmering in the sunshine,
like a dewy mist in the heat of harvest.”
5For before the vintage,
when the flowers fall,
and the blooms become ripened grapes,
I will cut shoots and prune
and hew away spreading branches.
6They will be left to the birds of prey
and to the beasts of the earth.
The birds will feed on them all summer,
and the beasts all winter.
7At that time the tall, bronzed people from a country traversed by rivers—a conquering and strong nation feared far and wide—will bring offerings to Yahweh Sabaoth, to Mount Zion. For this is the place where the name of Yahweh dwells.
1An oracle concerning Egypt:
Yahweh rides on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt.
The idols of Egypt tremble before him;
the heart of Egypt melts within it.
2I will stir Egyptians against each other:
brother will fight against brother,
friend against friend,
city against city,
kingdom against kingdom.
3The Egyptians will lose heart for I will confound their plans;
they will consult idols and sorcerers,
ghosts and necromancers.
4I will deliver the Egyptians
into the hands of a cruel master,
and a tyrant will be their ruler.
It is Yahweh Sabaoth who speaks.
5The waters of the river will dry up;
the river bed will be parched.
6The canals will become foul dry,
the tributaries of Egypt’s Nile will dwindle and cease to flow.
The reeds and rushes will wither.
7The plants on the banks
and at the mouth of the river,
and all the crops along the Nile will dry up, blow away and be no more.
8The fishermen will mourn,
all who cast hook in the Nile will groan,
and those who throw nets upon the waters will lament.
9The flax worker will despair,
the carders, too, and white cloth weavers;
10the spinners will be crushed;
the hired laborers despondent.
11The princes of Zoan are utter fools,
and brutish is the counsel
of the wisest of Pharaoh’s counselors.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
“I am one of the wise men,
a disciple of ancient kings?”
12Where are your wise men?
Let them come forward now,
let them explain to you
what Yahweh will do against Egypt.
13The princes of Zoan have become fools;
the princes of Memphis have been deceived;
Egypt is led astray by the chiefs of her tribes.
14Yahweh has poured into them a spirit
which makes Egypt err in all her ventures,
as a vomiting drunkard errs.
15And Egypt will never succeed
in anything it attempts
by head or by tail, by palm or by reed.
Egypt will be converted
16On that day the Egyptians will be like a woman trembling in fear whenever they see the hand of Yahweh Sabaoth raised against them. 17Judah will be a terror to Egypt. Whenever they think of Judah, the Egyptians will be terrified because of the terrible fate Yahweh Sabaoth has in store for them.
18On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan, in which people will call upon Yahweh Sabaoth. One of them is called the City of the Sun.
19On that day there will be an altar to Yahweh in the center of the land of Egypt and a sacred pillar to Yahweh at its border. 20It will be a sign and a remembrance of Yahweh Sabaoth in the land of Egypt, so that they may call to him when they are oppressed, and he will send a savior to defend and deliver them. 21Yahweh will reveal himself to the Egyptians. They will acknowledge him on that day and worship him with sacrifice and burnt offerings. They will make vows to Yahweh and perform them. 22Yahweh will strike Egypt and then cure it. When they turn to him, he will heal them and heed their supplications.
23On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. Assyrians will come to Egypt, and Egyptians to Assyria. Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
24On that day, Israel will be a third party with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing on earth. 25And Yahweh will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my creation, and Israel my heritage.”
The Sign of the Naked Prophet
•1In the year that the general sent by Sargon, king of Assyria, made an assault upon Ashdod, capturing it, 2Yahweh gave a warning through Isaiah, the son of Amoz, saying, “Hang the sackcloth from your hips, take off your sandals and go.” He did so, and walked naked and barefoot.
3Then Yahweh said: Just as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and portent for Egypt and Ethiopia, 4so will the king of Assyria lead away captives from Egypt and exiles from Ethiopia, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, their buttocks uncovered, to the disgrace of Egypt. 5Those who pinned their hope upon Ethiopia and made a boast of Egypt will be frightened and put to shame.
6On that day the inhabitants of this coastland will say, “Look at what happened to those we trusted and fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! What are we going to do now to save ourselves?”
Fall of Babylon
1An oracle concerning the Desert by the Sea:
A fearful vision is shown to me:
As whirlwinds sweep over the Negeb,
coming in waves from the desert,
from the fearful land,
2the traitor betrays,
the plunderer plunders.
“Go up, O Elam!
Lay siege, O Media!”
“I have silenced all the groanings.”
3Therefore I am in anguish;
my body is wracked with pain
as a woman in travail.
I am so bewildered that I cannot hear,
I am so dismayed that I cannot see.
4My mind reels,
my heart falters in fear;
the twilight I longed for
has become a horror.
5They set the tables,
they spread the rugs,
they eat and drink.
Arise, O princes,
oil the shield!
6For this is what Yahweh said to me,
“Go, post a watchman
and make him report what he sees.
7If he sees riders:
horsemen in pairs,
men mounted on camels,
men mounted on donkeys;
let him observe diligently,
let him listen attentively.”
8Then the watchman shouted,
“On a watchtower, O Lord, I stand
through all the watches of the day,
and at my post I stay
through all the watches of the night.
9And look, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs.”
And he spoke up again:
“Fallen is Babylon, fallen,
and all the graven images of her gods
lie shattered on the ground!”
10O my people, threshed and winnowed,
I announce to you what I have heard
from Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel.
Against Edom and Arabia
11An oracle concerning Dumah:
Someone calls to me out of Seir,
“Watchman, what of the night?
Watchman, what of the night?”
12The watchman answers,
“Morning comes, but soon
it will be night again.
Come back and ask,
if you want to ask again.”
13An oracle concerning Arabia:
In the forest of Arabia lodge
the Dedanites’ traveling companies.
14Those who dwell in the land of Tema
went to meet the fugitives:
bring bread for the hungry
and water for the thirsty.
15These people have fled from the sword,
from the whetted swords,
from the bent bows,
from the fury of battle.
16For thus Yahweh says to me, “In a year’s time, as a worker bound by contract would reckon it, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end. 17Few of Kedar’s archers and warriors will remain.” Yahweh God of Israel has spoken.
•1An oracle concerning the Valley of Vision.
What ails you now,
that you have all gone up to the housetops,
2you with your hustle and bustle
a tumultuous city, a wanton town?
Your slain men
have not been killed by the sword,
nor have they died in battle.
3Together your leaders have fled;
they were captured under the threat of the bow.
Your valiant were caught together,
they had fled far away.
4That is why I say,
“Look away from me.
I will weep bitterly.
Do not try to comfort me
over the ruin of the daughter of my people.”
5There comes from the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth a day of trampling and rout.
In the Valley of Vision they undermine the walls
and the cries for help ascend to the mountains.
6Elam bears the quiver
with charioteers and horsemen;
Kir uncovers the shield.
7Chariots are all over your choicest valleys;
horsemen are stationed at the gates.
8Judah is stripped of her defenses.
Let us eat and drink!
•On that day you turned your eyes to the arsenal at the Palace of the Forest. 9You saw the many breaches in the defenses of the city of David. You gathered together the waters of the lower pool.
10You counted the houses of Jerusalem and tore down some of them to strengthen the wall. 11You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old Pool.
But you gave no thought to its Maker. You had no regard for him who had planned it long ago. 12On that day the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth called you to weep and mourn, to shave your head and put on sackcloth.
13But look, instead of that, there is wanton revelry: oxen are butchered and sheep are slaughtered. You eat meat and get drunk, saying, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”
14A word from Yahweh Sabaoth has reached my ears: “This sin will not be forgiven until they die.”
Against a minister
15Thus says the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth: Go and talk to this man Shebna, who is the palace steward. Ask him:
16Who are you and what right have you
to carve a resting place on the heights,
to cut out a burial place
for yourself here in the rock?
17Look here, O you strongman,
Yahweh will seize you;
he will take you captive
and take firm hold of you.
18He will roll you up,
toss you like a ball,
then violently hurl you down
into a large open land.
There you will perish
with the chariots of your glory,
O you, the shame of your master’s house!
19You will be deposed, strongman.
I will hurl you down from where you are.
20On that day I will summon
my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah.
21I will clothe him with your robe,
I will strengthen him with your girdle,
I will give him your authority,
and he will be a father
to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
and to the people of Judah.
22Upon his shoulder I will place
the key of the house of David:
what he opens, no one shall shut;
what he shuts, no one shall open.
23I will fasten him like a peg
in a sure spot,
and he will be a seat of honor
in the house of his father.
24(Upon him will hang all the load of his father’s house—offspring and descendants, all the little vessels from bowls to jars. 25On that day, says Yahweh Sabaoth, the peg fastened in a sure spot will give way; it will be cut down and the load hanging on it will fall. Thus Yahweh has spoken.)
•1An oracle concerning Tyre:
Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
for Tyre is destroyed!
When you return from Kittim
you will hear the news and wonder.
2Keep silent, merchants of Sidon,
all you inhabitants of the coast.
Your messengers passed over the sea,
3across the wide oceans;
the grain of Shihor,
the harvest of the Nile,
was your income
and you were the fair of the nations.
4Be ashamed, O Sidon, refuge on the sea!
The queen of the sea wonders:
“Have I not had labor pains
and brought forth children?
Have I not nourished young men
and brought up daughters?”
5Those in Egypt will be in anguish
when they learn the fate of Tyre.
6You who dwell on the coastlands,
wail as you pass over to Tarshish.
7Is this the ancient city, your pride,
whose feet had carried her afar
to found colonies in distant lands?
8Who has planned this against Tyre,
the imperial city whose merchants
whose traders are among the great ones of the world?
9It is Yahweh Sabaoth who has planned it,
to bring down her proud majesty,
to humble the great ones of the world.
10Till your land like the valley of the Nile
O Daughter of Tarshish,
you have no more shipbuilding yard.
11Yahweh has stretched out his hand
over the sea to make kingdoms tremble.
He has ordered the destruction
of the fortresses of Phoenicia.
12He has said, “Rejoice no longer,
ravished virgin daughter of Sidon.
Arise, pass over to Cyprus;
even there you will find no rest.”
13Look at the land of the Chaldeans,
a people now of no account.
The Assyrians have destined the land
to be a place for wild beasts.
They have erected siege towers
and demolished her bastions,
razed her palaces, completely
reducing her to ruins.
14Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
for your haven is destroyed.
15On that day, Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, about the span of a king’s life. Then at the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in a harlot’s song:
16Take a harp, go about the city, forgotten harlot, sing your sweetest song, play your best melody, that they may remember you.
17At the end of seventy years, Yahweh will visit Tyre. She will return to her hire and once again play whore with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18But her wages and activities as harlot will be dedicated to Yahweh, instead of being stored or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live in the presence of Yahweh, that they may have abundant food and beautiful clothes.
•1See how Yahweh breaks
the land and makes it crack,
how he turns it upside down
and scatters its inhabitants,
2priest and people alike,
servant and master, maid and mistress;
buyer and seller, lender and borrower.
As it will be with the creditor,
so will it be with the debtor.
3Cracked is the earth,
worn out is the world,
for Yahweh has spoken.
4The earth mourns and withers,
the world pines and fades,
both heaven and earth languish.
5The land lies polluted,
defiled by its inhabitants
who have transgressed the laws,
violated the ordinances,
and broken the covenant.
6Therefore a curse consumes the land
and its people burn for their guilt.
Few of its inhabitants are left.
(7The new wine mourns,
the vine pines away,
all the revelers groan.
8The merry timbrels are stilled,
the noise of the revelers is over,
the harps and lyres are silenced.
9No more will they drink wine with a song;
strong drink tastes bitter to the drinker.
10The city of confusion is broken down,
every door is closed; you cannot enter.
11In the streets they cry for wine:
all joy is gone,
all cheer has left the land.
12The city is left in distress,
its ruined market is deserted.)
13Some remain where nations have been
as olives after the beating of the trees,
as grapes after the vintage.
14They lift up their voices and shout for joy,
from the vast lands they acclaim Yahweh.
15People give him glory from the western islands:
“Islands, sing to Yahweh, the God of Israel!”
16From the remotest part of the earth
we hear songs of praise:
“Glory to the Righteous One.”
Yet I said: “Woe is me! Woe is me! There is but treachery and traitors!”
17Not at all!
Terror, pit and snare
await you, inhabitants of the earth.
18He who flees at the cry of terror
falls into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
gets caught in the snare.
For the floodgates of heaven are opened
and the earth shakes to its foundation.
19The earth is broken into fragments,
the earth is in convulsion.
20The earth reels like a drunkard,
it sways like a hut in the storm,
weighed down by its transgression,
and it falls, never to rise again.
21On that day Yahweh will punish
the host of the heavens above,
and the kings of the earth below.
22They will be gathered together
as prisoners are gathered in the pit;
they will be shut up in a dungeon
and after a time, punished.
23Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,
when Yahweh Sabaoth reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and lets his glory be shown to his elders.
•1Yahweh, you are my God; I exalt you and praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, faithful and true, planned long ago.
2You have made the city a heap, the massively defended city a ruin. The bastion of foreign domination is a city no more, nor will it ever be rebuilt.
3Therefore a strong people glorifies you; the head of a great nation holds you in awe.
4For you have been a refuge to the poor, a haven to the needy in time of distress, a harbor in the storm, a shade from the heat.
For the blast from the ruthless is like an icy storm, 5like heat in a dry place. You silence the noise of foreigners; you subdue the singing of the despot and the proud.
6On this mountain Yahweh Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained.
7On this mountain he will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, 8and death will be no more. The Lord Yahweh will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; he will take away the humiliation of his people all over the world:
for Yahweh has spoken.
9On that day you will say: This is our God. We have waited for him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. 10For on this mountain the hand of Yahweh rests.
Moab instead will be trodden down, as straw trodden down on a dunghill. 11He will stretch forth his hands there, as a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim. But Yahweh will strike down their pride together with their falsehood. 12He will raze the high-walled fortress; he will level it to the ground, as dust.
Song of victory
1On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city,
he himself has set up
walls and fortifications to protect us.
2Open the gates!
Let the righteous nation enter,
she who is firm in faithfulness.
3You keep in perfect peace
the one of steadfast mind,
the one who trusts in you.
4Trust in Yahweh forever,
for Yahweh is an everlasting Rock.
5He brought down those who dwell on high,
he laid low the lofty city,
he razed it to the ground,
leveled it to the dust,
6Now it is trampled
the poor and the lowly tread upon it.
Psalm of hope
•7Let the righteous walk in righteousness. You make smooth the path of the just, 8and we only seek the way of your laws, O Yahweh.
Your name and your memory are the desire of our hearts. 9My soul yearns for you in the night; for you my spirit keeps vigil.
When your judgments come to earth, the world’s inhabitants learn to be upright. 10But when favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn to be just. He does evil in a land of righteousness and fails to see Yahweh’s majesty.
11Yahweh, your hand is lifted up, but they fail to see that. Let them see your zeal for your people, that they may be put to shame. Let your enemies be burned in the fire of your anger.
12Yahweh, please give us peace; for all that we accomplish is your work.
13O Yahweh, our God, other lords besides you have ruled us, but it is your name alone that we honor.
14They are now dead, never to rise again, for you have passed sentence on them. You have wiped out all remembrance of them.
15You have enlarged the nation, O Yahweh; you have given glory to your name; you have widened the borders of the country. 16For they sought you in distress, they cried out to you in the time of their punishment.
17As a woman in travail moans and writhes in pain, so are we now in your presence.
18We conceived, we had labor pains, but we gave birth to the wind. We have not brought salvation to the land; the inhabitants of a new world have not been born.
19Your dead will live! Their corpses will rise! Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust!
Let your dew fall, O Lord, like a dew of light, and the earth will throw out her dead.
20Come, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a moment until his wrath is over.
21For look, Yahweh is coming out of his dwelling; he will punish the inhabitants of the earth for their sins. The earth will reveal the blood shed upon her and will not conceal her slain any longer.
The vineyard of Yahweh
1On that day, with his fierce, strong, and powerful sword, Yahweh will punish Leviathan, the twisting serpent always fleeing; he will slay the dragon of the sea.
•2On that day, he will say, “Praise my fruitful vineyard! 3I, Yahweh, am its keeper; I water it every moment. So that no one will harm it, day and night I guard it.”
4– “I have no wall, who will cleanse me from thorns?”
– “I myself will march against them, I will burn them altogether. 5Or if they come to me for refuge, let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.”
6In days to come Jacob will take root,
Israel will blossom and bear many a shoot
and fill the face of the earth with fruit.
7Has Yahweh beaten them as he beat those who beat them?
Has he slain them as he slew those who slew them?
8With expulsion and exile
the city has been punished;
with a blast as fierce as a storm from the east,
she has been pursued and carried off.
9By this, therefore, the guilt
of Jacob will be expiated
and he will atone for his sins
when he pulverizes all the altar stones
like chalkstones crushed to pieces.
No more Asherah poles or incense altars!
10For the fortified city is abandoned:
it lies deserted now,
a forsaken habitation
left like a wilderness.
There the calves graze,
there they lie down, and there
they strip bare its branches.
11Its dry boughs are broken;
women come and make fire with them.
This is a people without understanding;
therefore their Maker will not spare them;
he will not show compassion on them.
12On that day,
between the Euphrates and the Wadi of Egypt,
Yahweh will thresh out the grain.
One by one you will be gleaned,
O people of Israel.
13On that day
a great trumpet will blow,
and those who were perishing
in the land of Assyria
and those who were driven out
to the land of Egypt
will return to worship the Lord
on the mountain in Jerusalem.
The irresponsible rulers
•1Woe to the drunkards of Ephraim proudly adorned,
to that fading flower of glorious beauty
on the head of a rich valley—
all are dizzy with wine.
2Look, the Lord is sending
a powerful and strong one.
Like a downpour of hail,
like a destructive tempest,
like flooding water
in torrential rain,
he will cast it down to the ground—
3that proud ornament
of the drunkards of Ephraim.
He will trample it underfoot—
4that fading flower of glorious beauty
on the head of a rich valley.
It will be like an early fruit
which ripened before summer:
as soon as someone sees it
he picks it, and while it is yet
in his hand he eats it.
5On that day, Yahweh Sabaoth
will be a glorious ornament,
a diadem of beauty,
to the remnant of his people.
6He will be a spirit of justice
to him who sits in judgment,
a source of strength
to those who turn back the enemies at the gate.
•7But they also have erred through wine,
reeling and stumbling from strong drink.
Priests and prophets stagger,
befuddled with wine,
reeling when seeing visions,
stumbling when rendering decisions.
8All the tables are full of vomit;
there is not a spot without filth.
9“Who does he think he is teaching?
Who does he think listens to him?
Babies just weaned from their mother’s milk?
Babies just taken from their mother’s breast?
10Who cares to hear his
‘Keep quiet, keep quiet!
Wait a little, wait a little!’
11Yes, surely with stammering lips
and in a strange tongue,
he will talk to this nation,
12he who once said to them,
“This is rest, give rest to the weary”;
and, “This is repose.”
But they would not listen.
13That is why Yahweh now says:
Keep quiet, keep quiet!
Wait a little, wait a little!
So that when they have to go forward,
they will instead fall backward;
they will be injured and snared
and taken captive.
•14Therefore, listen to the word of Yahweh,
you scoffers who rule these people of Jerusalem.
15Because you make a boast,
“We have made a covenant with death,
we have made a pact with the netherworld.
When the flood passes by
it cannot harm us,
for we have made lies our refuge
and falsehood our hiding place.”
16Therefore the Lord Yahweh says this:
“See, I lay in Zion a granite stone,
a precious stone,
a sure foundation;
he who relies on it shall not be put to shame.
17I will make justice the measure
and righteousness the plumb line.
Violent hail will sweep away your refuge of lies and raging waters will overflow your hiding place.”
18Your covenant with death will not stand,
your pact with the netherworld will be annulled.
When the overwhelming flood passes,
you will be crushed by it.
19Morning after morning,
by day and by night,
the scourge will seize and crush you.
If you understood this message,
you would be terrified.
20“The bed will be too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.”
21Yahweh will arise as on Mount Perazim,
he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon,
to work his work—his singular work;
to do his deed—his strange deed.
22Put an end to your mocking,
or your bonds will be tightened,
for I have heard the destruction decreed
against the whole earth
by the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth.
Parable of the farmer
•23Listen to my words, pay attention and understand what I say.
24Does a farmer just keep on plowing at planting time? Does he keep breaking up and harrowing his ground?
25After leveling the soil, does he not begin to sow caraway and scatter cumin, wheat and barley and put spelt as the border? 26For his God instructs him on what to do, he gives him guidance and discretion, too.
27For caraway is not threshed nor cumin crushed, but caraway is beaten with a stick and cumin with a rod.
28Is the wheat milled on the threshing floor? Is it threshed without end? They put in movement chariot and horses but do not grind it.
29All comes from Yahweh Sabaoth whose advice is excellent, whose wisdom is wonderful.
Hurricane in Jerusalem
•1Woe to Ariel—Ariel,
the city against which David encamped!
After a year or two,
after the feasts have made their full round,
2I will lay siege on Ariel
and there will be grief and mourning.
To me she will be like an Ariel.
3I will send warriors against you;
they will encircle you with outposts
and raise siegeworks against you.
4Thrown down, you will speak from the ground:
from the dust your words will come muffled,
your voice will rise as a ghost’s,
your speech will be a whisper in the dust.
But in a flash,
5the horde of your enemies will be like dust,
the horde of tyrants, flying chaff.
6For suddenly, Yahweh Sabaoth will come
with thunder, earthquake and great noise,
with whirlwind and thunderstorm
and flames of consuming fire.
7The hordes of all nations
that fight against Ariel,
that attack and besiege her fortress,
will vanish like a dream,
like a vision in the night.
8As when a hungry man dreams he is eating
and awakens with an empty stomach,
or when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking
and awakens with a parched throat,
so will the horde of nations be
that make war against Zion.
9Be irresolute, be stupefied,
lose your sight and remain blind!
Be drunk but not from wine,
stagger but not from beer.
10For Yahweh has poured out on you
a spirit of deep sleep;
he has shut your eyes—the prophets;
he has covered your heads—the seers.
11The revelation of all this has become for you like the words of a sealed scroll. When someone gives it to another who knows how to read and says, “Read this,” the other one answers, “I cannot; it is sealed.” 12W hen the scroll is given to one who doesn’t know how to read,” he answers, “I do not know.”
This people honors me with words
•13Yahweh has said; “These people say they are loyal to me; they honor me with lip-service, while their hearts stay afar. The worship they offer me is useless, these are no more than traditions and human rules.
14Because of this I will surprise them once more; the wisdom of the wise will be useless and the understanding of their prudent men will be at a loss.
15Woe to those
who hide deep from Yahweh their plans,
who work in the dark and say,
“Who will know, and who will see us?”
16You turn things upside down,
as though the potter were the clay,
and of him it could say,
“He did not make me; he knows nothing.”
17In a very short time,
Lebanon will become a fruitful field
and the fruitful field will be as a forest.
18On that day
the deaf will hear the words of the book,
and out of the dark and obscurity
the eyes of the blind will see.
19The meek will find joy
and the poor among men will rejoice
in the Holy One of Israel.
20For the tyrant will be no more
and the scoffers gone forever,
and all who plan
to do evil will be cut down—
21those who by a word make you guilty,
those who for a bribe can lay a snare
and send home the just empty-handed.
22Therefore Yahweh, Abraham’s redeemer,
speaks concerning the people of Jacob:
No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
no longer will his face grow pale.
23When he sees the work of my hands,
his children again in his midst,
they will sanctify my name,
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24Those who err in spirit will understand;
those who murmur will learn.
Do not rely on the great powers
•1“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord; “they make plans which are not mine, they form alliances I did not inspire, and thus add sin upon sin.
2They go down to Egypt without my advice to take refuge in Pharaoh’s protection and seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt.
3Therefore Pharaoh’s protection will be your shame and Egypt’s shadow your confusion.
4When your officials reach Zoan and your ambassadors come to Hanes, 5they will all be put to shame by a people who can do nothing for them, who can give neither help nor benefit but only disgrace and reproach.”
6An oracle concerning the beasts of the Negeb:
Through a distressed and troubled land
of lions and lionesses,
of vipers and darting snakes,
the envoys carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses,
their treasures upon the humps of camels,
to a people that is of no use to them.
7Egypt! An illusory and useless help. Because of that I call it: Scarecrow, the Do-Nothing.
Just tell us pleasant things
8Now go, write it down as a record for them, inscribe it on a scroll, so it will be an everlasting accusation against them.
9These are a rebellious people, their children deceitful. They do not listen to Yahweh’s advice.
10To the seers they say, “See not,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy the truth. Just tell us pleasant things; see illusions and prophesy deceits. 11Stray from the path, turn from the way! Take away from us the Holy One of Israel!”
12Therefore the Holy One of Israel says, “Because you despised this message and resorted instead to lies and abusive taxes, choosing to stay with it, 13therefore this guilt of yours will be like a breach on a high wall, cracked and bulging, ready to fall; the crash will come suddenly and instantly.
14It will be like the breaking of a potter’s vessel, smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not one shard remains big enough to scoop cinder out of the hearth or ladle water out of the cistern.”
15For thus said the Lord Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel: “Conversion and calmness would have been your salvation, quietness and trust your strength.”
16But instead you said, “No, we will flee on horses!” Very well then, flee! And you added, “We will ride on swift steeds.” Your pursuer will be swifter.
17At the threat of one, a thousand will flee, at the threat of five all will flee, till what is left of you will be like a staff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.
The coming prosperity
•18Yet Yahweh waits to give you grace; he rises to show you compassion. For Yahweh is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.
19O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, he will listen; when he hears, he will answer.
20When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, he, your teacher will hide no longer. 21Your own eyes will see him, and your ear will listen to his words behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.”
22You will see the uncleanliness of your idols and images overlaid with silver and gold. You will throw them out like a menstrual cloth. “Away with you then!” you will say to them.
23He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. 24Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel.
25For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill.
26The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when Yahweh binds up the wounds of his people and heals the bruises inflicted by his blows.
Assyria will be sacrificed
27Look, from afar
the Name of Yahweh is coming,
burning in anger,
with a heavy hand.
Filled with fury are his lips,
like a consuming fire is his tongue.
28Like a rushing torrent is his breath,
rising up to the neck,
shaking the nations
as in a sieve of destruction,
putting the bit of his bridle
between the jaws of the peoples
causing them to err and stray.
29You will sing,
as on the night of a holy solemnity;
your hearts will rejoice
as when people go up with flutes,
with timbrels and lyres.
to the mountain of the Lord,
to the mighty One of Israel.
30Yahweh will make his majestic voice heard
and show his arm descending
in devastating fury and consuming fire,
with sweeping wind and crashing thunder.
31At the voice of Yahweh,
Assyria will be battered;
at the blows of his rod,
it will be shattered.
32At every beat of the punishing rod
the plagues will fall on him.
For Yahweh will fight him
with outstretched hand.
33The pyre has long been ready,
prepared for the king.
Broad and deep is its fire pit,
piled up with dry grass and wood.
The breath of the Lord,
like a stream of brimstone,
will set it ablaze.
Look to the Holy One of Israel
•1Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who pin their hopes on cavalry, putting their trust in chariots because they are many, relying on horsemen because they are strong.
Why did they not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult Yahweh? 2And yet he is very wise, and from him disaster will come.
He does not go back on his word; he will rise against the evildoers, and cut off the help the wicked waited for.
3The Egyptians are men, not God; their horses are flesh, not spirit. When Yahweh stretches forth his hand, the helper and the one he helped will fall and perish together.
4For thus the Lord has spoken: Just as a lion or a lion cub growls over its prey and is neither frightened nor disturbed by the shouts of the shepherd, so will Yahweh Sabaoth descend to fight on Mount Zion.
5Like birds that hover, so will Yahweh Sabaoth shield Jerusalem: he will protect and deliver, rescue and save.
6Return, O children of Israel, to him you have so wickedly betrayed. 7On that day each one of you will throw away the idols of silver and gold that his sinful hands have made.
8Assyria will fall by a sword not wielded by a man. They will be devoured by a sword not held by a mortal. They will flee before the sword, their young men will be captured and put to forced labor. 9They will desert their post and the officers, in terror, will abandon the standard.”
It is Yahweh who speaks, whose fire is in Zion and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.
A king will reign with justice
•1A king will reign with justice
and princes reign in righteousness.
2Each will be like a shield from the wind
and a shelter from the rain,
like streams of water in a dry, parched land,
like the shade of a rock in a weary land.
3The eyes that see will not be shut;
the ears that hear will not be stopped.
4The mind of the rash will not judge hastily;
the tongue that stammers will speak clearly.
5No more will the fool be taken as noble,
nor the scoundrel considered honorable.
6For the fool speaks folly and his mind thinks sinfully: he practices wickedness and takes pride in godlessness; he lets the hungry go without food, and the thirsty without drink.
7The ways of the scoundrel are also evil, scheming wickedly against the poor, destroying the needy with lies even when their plea is just.
8But those who are noble plan noble things, and so are their deeds.
Tremble, you idle women
9Rise up, women who are at ease; hear my voice, carefree daughters; give heed to my words.
10In a little over a year, you who feel complacent will be shaken, for harvest will not come and the vintage will fail.
11Tremble, you women who are at ease; be troubled, you carefree ones. Strip yourselves bare, with only a sackcloth to cover your loins.
12Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine, 13for the soil of my people overgrown with briers and thorns, for all the houses of joy, for the city of the wanton.
14For the palace will be abandoned, and the noisy city deserted; the fort and the tower will become dens forever, the delight of wild asses, a pasture for flocks.
My people will live in peace
15When at last the spirit is poured on us from on high, then will the desert become a garden, and this garden will be free as a fallow land.
16Justice will dwell in the wilderness; and in the fertile land, righteousness. 17Justice will bring about peace; justice will produce calm and security forever.
18My people will live in comfort and bliss in a land of secure dwellings and undisturbed resting places. 19While the forest will be beaten down and the fortress laid waste.
20How blessed you will be, sowing by every stream, letting your work animals roam contented and free.
Psalm of hope
1Woe to you, O ravager
who never have been ravaged,
you O treacherous one
who have not been betrayed!
When your ravaging is over,
you yourself will be ravaged;
when your treacherous deals are ended,
you yourself will be betrayed.
2O Yahweh, have mercy on us
who put all our hope in you.
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation when trouble comes.
3Peoples flee when you thunder and threaten,
nations scatter when you rise majestically.
4Your spoil, O nations, will be gathered
like grasshoppers or locusts
leaping and pouncing at grain in the fields.
5Great is Yahweh who dwells in the height
who fills Zion with justice and right,
6at any time he makes you secure.
Wisdom and knowledge are the helpful riches,
the fear of Yahweh will be your treasure.
The intervention of Yahweh
7The people of Ariel lament in the street,
their envoys of peace bitterly weep.
8The highways lie waste with no traveler in sight.
For the covenants were broken,
the promises trampled down;
no one has been respected.
9The earth mourns and languishes,
Lebanon withers away with shame,
Sharon has become a wilderness,
and Bashan and Carmel are stripped bare.
10Yahweh says: now I will rise up,
now I will be exalted,
now I will lift myself up.
11You conceived chaff,
you will deliver stubble,
my breath like fire will devour you.
12The nations will be burned to lime,
like thorns cut down and burned in the fire.
13You who are afar,
hear what I have done;
and you who are near,
acknowledge my might.
14The sinners of Zion shake,
trembling in fear are the hypocrites.
“Who among us will dwell with flames?
Who can subsist in the midst of fire?
15He who walks uprightly
and speaks righteously,
spurns profit from oppression,
shakes his fists at graft and corruption,
stops his ears against suggestions of bloodshed
and averts his eyes from evil plans.
16This is the one
who will dwell on the heights,
his stronghold a fortress of rocks;
bread is given to him,
his water will not fail.
After the oppression
•17Your eyes will behold a king in his splendor and a land that stretches afar.
18Yet your mind may still dwell on its old fears: Where is the oppressor who counted and weighed the taxes and enrolled our sons?
19But you will see no more of those fierce people with obscure speech you cannot comprehend, with stammering tongue you cannot understand.
20Look to Zion, the city of our festivals; see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tabernacle never to be destroyed. Not one of its stakes will ever be removed nor any of its ropes severed.
21But there is Yahweh mighty for our sake, in place of broad rivers and streams. Here you see no galley with oars; no stately sailing ship. 22But Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh is our king: he will save us.
The oppressor pillaged
23Your rigging hangs loose: it cannot hold the mast firm, it cannot keep the sail spread out.
Such have been the prey and spoil that even the lame pounced on it. 24On that day no one apologized, “I am sickly.” The people who dwell there have been forgiven their sins.
The end of Edom
•1Come, O nations, hear
and take heed, O peoples!
Listen, O earth and all that is in you;
listen, O world and all that comes from you.
2The wrath of Yahweh is upon all nations.
His fury is upon all their armies.
He has doomed them,
he has given them over for slaughter.
3Their slain will be thrown away,
stench coming from the carcasses,
mountains will flow with blood.
4The heavens will dissolve
and the skies roll up like a scroll,
all their hosts shall fall,
as the leaf falls from its vine,
as the fruit falls from its tree.
5My sword waited in the heavens;
and look, it descends upon Edom,
to judge the people I have doomed.
6The sword of Yahweh is bathed in blood
and covered with fat—
the blood of goats and lambs,
the fat of the saddle of rams.
For Yahweh has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7Wild oxen will fall
and young steers with the bulls.
Their land will be drenched with blood;
their soil enriched with fat.
8For Yahweh has a day of vengeance,
Zion’s defender has a year of recompense.
9The streams of Edom will become pitch,
her soil will be turned into brimstone,
her land will be burning pitch.
10Never will its fire be quenched, night or day,
forever will its smoke go up.
From generation to generation the land will lie desolate
and none will ever pass through it.
11It will be the haunt of pelican and wild hog,
the dwelling place of the owl and the hawk.
God has decided to make it empty,
he has destined it to be desolate.
12There will be no more kings to be proclaimed,
no princes to be acclaimed,
for the nobility will vanish
in a kingdom doomed to perish.
13Thorns will grow over the castles,
nettles and brambles over the citadels;
the place will be a haunt of reptiles,
an abode of owls and ostriches.
14Wild beasts will meet there,
wild goats will call to one another;
there will the night creatures alight
to find for themselves a resting place.
15There will the great owl make her nest
to lay and hatch and also find rest.
There will the vultures gather,
each with its mate.
16Seek and read from the book of Yahweh:
not one of them will be missing,
for his mouth has given the order
and his spirit has brought them together.
17He has cast the lot for them.
His hand has divided it among them.
They will possess the land forever,
and from generation to generation they shall dwell there.
The return of the exiles
1Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice,
the desert be glad and blossom.
2Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy,
adorned with the splendor of Lebanon,
the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon.
They, my people, see the glory of Yahweh,
the majesty of our God.
3Give vigor to weary hands
and strength to enfeebled knees.
4Say to those who are afraid:
“Have courage, do not fear.
See, your God comes, demanding justice.
He is the God who rewards,
the God who comes to save you.”
5Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unsealed.
6Then will the lame leap as a hart
and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout.
For water will break out in the wilderness
and streams gush forth from the desert.
7The thirsty ground will become a pool,
the arid land springs of water.
In the haunts where once reptiles lay,
grass will grow with reeds and rushes.
8There will be a highway
which will be called The Way of Holiness;
no one unclean will pass over it
nor any wicked fool stray there.
9No lion will be found there
nor any beast of prey.
Only the redeemed will walk there.
10For the ransomed of Yahweh will return:
with everlasting joy upon their heads,
they will come to Zion singing,
gladness and joy marching with them,
while sorrow and sighing flee away.
•1In the fourteenth year of the reign of king Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 2From Lakish the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army to king Hezekiah in Jerusalem. They halted at the channel of the Upper Pool on the highway of the Fuller’s Field. 3So Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, went out to him together with Shebna, the secretary, and Joah, son of Asaph, the recorder.
4The field commander said to them, “Give Hezekiah this message of the great king of Assyria: How can you be so confident? 5Do you think words can replace strategy and military strength? On whom are you relying to rebel against me?
6You rely on Egypt, a broken staff which pierces the palm of him who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh, king of Egypt, for all who rely on him. 7Yes, you may say to me: ‘We rely on Yahweh our God.’ But isn’t he the one whose altars and high places Hezekiah removed when he commanded Judah and Jerusalem: You shall worship before this altar?
8Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king. I will give you two thousand horses if you are able to supply riders. 9How could you ever repulse one of the least of my master’s generals? And you rely on Egypt for chariots and horsemen! 10Do you think that I have come to attack and destroy this land without consulting Yahweh? He himself said to me: Go up to this land and conquer it!”
11Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Speak to your servants in Aramaic, we understand it. Do not speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of these people on the walls.”
12But the field commander said, “Do you think that my master sent me to speak these words only to your master and you? Isn’t it also to the men on the walls who with you will have to eat their own dung and drink their urine?”
13Then the field commander stood and cried out with a loud voice in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king of Assyria: 14Do not let Hezekiah deceive you! No, he will not be able to help you! 15Do not listen to him when he tells you to trust in Yahweh, saying, ‘Yahweh will save us; this city will not be given over to the king of Assyria.’ 16Do not listen to Hezekiah but to what the king of Assyria says, ‘Make your peace with me 17and surrender. So I will let each of you eat of your vine and of your fig tree and drink the water of your cistern until I come again. Then I will take you to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, of bread and vineyards.’
18Hezekiah is misleading you when he says that Yahweh will save you. Have the gods of the nations rescued their lands from the hands of the king of Assyria? 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Shepharvaim? And have the gods delivered Samaria from my hand? 20Who among all the gods of these nations has been able to save his country from me? Do you think that Yahweh could deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’”
21The people were silent and did not respond, for the king had commanded them not to answer him.
22Then Eliakim with Shebna and Joah came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him what the field commander had said.
King Hezekiah consults Isaiah
1When king Hezekiah heard this he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and went to the House of Yahweh. 2He sent Eliakim, Shebna and the elders among the priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz.
3And they said to Isaiah, “This is what Hezekiah says: Today is a day of distress, rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to birth and there is no strength to deliver. 4May your God hear the words of the field commander, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent. May Yahweh your God rebuke him for the words he said, insulting the living God. Therefore offer a prayer for the few of us that are left.”
5When king Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, 6he said to them: “Tell your master this word of Yahweh: Do not fear because of what you heard when the servants of the king of Assyria insulted me. Listen! 7I will let him be disturbed by certain news, so he will return to his country and there I will have him slain by the sword.”
8The field commander returned and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9This was because king Sennacherib had heard that Tirhakah, the Cushite king of Egypt, was going out to fight him.
Again Sennacherib sent messengers to Hezekiah with these words, 10“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah that his God in whom he trusts might deceive him in saying that Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria. 11Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands they have destroyed! And will you be spared? 12Have the gods saved the nations that my fathers destroyed? Gozan and Haran, Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the kings of the cities of Sepharvaim, of Hena and of Ivvah?”
14Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and when he had read it he went to the House of Yahweh where he unrolled the letter 15and prayed saying, 16“O Yahweh, God of Hosts and God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth, give ear Yahweh and hear! 17Open your eyes and see! Listen to all the words of Sennacherib who has sent men to insult the living God!
18It is true, Yahweh, that the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries of the earth. 19They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not true gods but made of wood and stone by human hands. 20Now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that you alone, Yahweh, are God.”
•21Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent word to Hezekiah: “You have called upon Yahweh and he has heard your prayer regarding Sennacherib, king of Assyria. This is what Yahweh has spoken against him:
22The Virgin Daughter of Zion
despises and scorns you;
the Daughter of Jerusalem
shakes her head behind you.
23Whom have you insulted and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted up your brow?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
24Through your servants
you have insulted Yahweh.
For you have said:
With my numerous chariots,
I have climbed the heights of the mountains,
the topmost recesses of Lebanon.
I have felled its tallest cedars and its choicest fir trees.
I have reached the remotest heights of its border,
the best of its forests.
25I have dug wells and drunk waters;
I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt.
26But have you not heard how I decreed it long ago?
I have just brought to pass what I planned from days of old:
to lay waste fortified cities,
to turn them into heaps of ruins.
27Shorn of power, their inhabitants
have been dismayed and confounded;
they have been as the grass
and green plants in the field,
as the grass on the housetops,
as corn scorched before it blooms.
28I know whenever you rise or sit,
whenever you come or go.
29Because of your rage against me
and of your arrogance that has
reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bridle in your mouth,
and I will turn you back
on the way by which you came.
30This will be a sign for you, O Hezekiah: This year you will eat the gleaning of the fields and next year the self-sown grain, but in the third year sow and reap, plant vines and eat the fruit.
31Those who remain in Judah will take root in the ground and bear fruit. 32A remnant will leave Jerusalem; survivors will come out of Mount Zion. The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will accomplish this. 33So this is what Yahweh says about the king of Assyria: He shall not enter this city nor shoot his arrows. 34He shall not raise a shield to oppose it nor build a siege ramp against it. He shall leave by the way he came and he shall not enter the city, says Yahweh.
35I will protect this city and so save it for my own sake and for the sake of David, my servant.
36That night the angel of Yahweh went and struck one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people rose early next morning there lay all the corpses.
37So Sennacherib, king of Assyria departed, returned home and lived in Nineveh. 38While he was worshiping in the temple of his god, Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer slew him with the sword and then escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon, his son, succeeded him as king.
Illness and cure of Hezekiah
•1In those days Hezekiah fell mortally ill and the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him with a message from Yahweh, “Put your house in order for you shall die; you shall not live.”
2Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to Yahweh, 3“Ah Yahweh! Remember how I have walked before you in truth and wholeheartedly, and done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4Then the word of Yahweh came to Isaiah, 5“Go and tell Hezekiah what Yahweh, the God of his father David, says: I have heard your prayer and I have seen your tears. See! I am adding fifteen years to your life 6and I will save you and this city from the power of the king of Assyria. I will defend it for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.
21Isaiah then said, “Bring a fig cake to rub on the ulcer and let Hezekiah be cured!”
22Hezekiah asked, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the House of the Lord?” 7Isaiah answered, “This shall be for you a sign from Yahweh, that he will do what he has promised. 8See! I shall make the shadow descending on the stairway of Ahaz go back ten steps.” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had covered on the stairway.
Canticle of Hezekiah
9Canticle of Hezekiah king of Judah
after his illness and recovery:
10Once I said: In the noontime of my life I go;
I am sent to the land of the dead,
for the rest of my years.
11I said: Never again shall I see Yahweh
in the land of the living;
never again shall I see the inhabitants of the earth.
12Like a shepherd’s tent, my dwelling
has been pulled down and thrown away;
like a weaver, you rolled up my life
and cut it from the loom:
from day to night you made me waste away.
13I have cried for help until morning.
Like a lion, he has broken all my bones.
14I have uttered shrill cries
like a swallow or a crane,
I have moaned like a dove.
My eyes all the while are growing weary
as I look up to the heavens:
Come and help me, O Lord!
For I am troubled.
15But how can I speak
and what shall I say to him,
if he himself is doing this to me?
I will have to walk all my years
bearing this anguish of my soul.
16O Lord, give me back my health
and give me back my life!
17My anguish has turned to peace;
you have retrieved my life
from the pit of corruption;
you have cast all my sins behind you.
18For the dead cannot give you thanks,
death cannot give you praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your kindness.
19The living, the living alone
can give you thanks and praise, as I do; fathers will tell their sons of your fidelity.
20O Yahweh, come and save me!
We will sing, accompanied by harps,
in the Temple of Yahweh
all the days of our life.
39•1At that time Merodach-Baladan, son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah after hearing that he was recovering from an illness. 2Hezekiah was pleased and showed the envoys all that was in his treasure house, the silver, gold, spices and fine oil, his entire armory and all that was in his treasury. In fact there was nothing in his palace or in his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
3Isaiah the prophet came to Hezekiah and asked him, “What did these men say and from where did they come?” Hezekiah answered, “They came to me from a distant country—from Babylon.”
4And Isaiah said, “What have they seen in your palace?” Hezekiah replied, “They have seen everything in my palace; there is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
5Isaiah then said, “Hear this word of Yahweh, the God of Hosts: 6Behold the days are coming when all that is in your palace, and which your fathers have treasured to this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left. 7And some of your descendants, born of you, will be taken and will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
8Hezekiah then said to Isaiah, “The word of Yahweh which you have spoken to me is good!” For he thought: there will be peace and truth in my lifetime.
Book of Isaiah chapters 40–55
The book of Isaiah ended with the deliverance of Jerusalem. Once more there was a manifestation of God’s Providence: a spectacular miracle. Sennacherib chose to invade the Holy City and flout the God of Israel, but the following day he hastily decamped, returned home and was assassinated by his son.
Yet a century later, Nebuchadnezzar took possession of Jerusalem, left the Temple in flames and set off for Babylon dragging behind him a troop of captives. With everything in shambles, faith was called into question to its very roots, for, if Yahweh, the Savior God was powerless, he was but nothing.
The prophet Ezekiel, who was among the deportees, affirms that the captives, converted as a result of their trials, would return to their country and rebuild their nation in justice.
Yet after this exile, should they expect a coming back to the happy times Israelites had known during the reign of David (or rather: as they were imagined with an aureole of times past)? What was it that God, so mysterious, had in store for Israel?
It was then that there arose a prophet who has remained anonymous. He was not one to preach and dispute like the great prophets of the past whose oracles were written later, but a man who wrote his poems and exclamations. His name fell into oblivion and tradition has placed his writings into Isaiah’s book where they form chapters 40–55.
Four parts of these poems have attracted most attention: 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12. They are not detached sections drowned in a body foreign to them. They are highlights of a vision or of a meditation which develops the mystery of God’s relationship with his people throughout the book. The Servant of God is Israel, without doubt, but it is a very poor servant of God: for the most part a people “incapable of seeing and understanding”. Nevertheless there are among them genuine faithful believers, true disciples; God has “opened their ears”, enabling them to grasp what he wants them to understand. From among them God chooses his servants, the prophets who are in the vanguard and whose example will benefit the rest. Again and again the prophet spoke of the Servant; in the first time this term was certainly applicable to all Israel but in the end the prophet is taken over by this image and lets it embodied in the portrait of Christ the Redeemer.
Finished are the images of the divinity that the religious person has sketched from the beginning attributing all that in this world breathes power and greatness: gold, marble and cedar for temples, bulls and goats consumed on the braziers of altars… embroidered tunics… turbans and tiaras for priestly robes…. In the crucible of the Exile the prophet received a strange revelation from the Spirit: the God who saves is the God who loves, and he loves the humble.
So the faithful God was present in the midst of the deportees, preparing together with them the salvation of the world. All the suffering of the people of God, all their humiliations were clearly the price of their sin but much more a way God chose to manifest his loving-kindness and his power. One of the surprising features of this prophecy is that the God of Israel, the Savior of all the nations, made Israel his servant to carry out salvation and take on itself the burden of the world.
This revelation is a contrast to all our natural aspirations. It is not strange that most of the Jews upon their return from Chaldea soon forgot the message and had no other project than the restoration of the bygone kingdom of David. When Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom in the true spirit of the prophet of the Exile, the majority of Jews opposed him with Law and ritual of the Temple. It is an everlasting temptation to confuse the city of humans with the City of God, and a few centuries later the disciples of Jesus would display the same blindness when they continued to cherish an old dream of Christianity.
However, with the “second Isaiah” as he is usually called, a new way opens that will be followed by the Little Remnant announced by Amos and Isaiah. This way would be that of the “poor of Yahweh” who, like Mary, the Apostles and the disciples would recognize in Jesus of Nazareth the One sent by God and promised by the prophets.
Be comforted, my people
•1Be comforted, my people,
be strengthened, says your God.
2Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her
that her time of bondage is at an end,
that her guilt has been paid for,
that from the hand of Yahweh
she has received double punishment
for all her iniquity.
3A voice cries,
“In the wilderness prepare the way for Yahweh.
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4Every valley will be raised up;
every mountain and hill will be laid low.
The stumbling blocks shall become level
and the rugged places smooth.
5The glory of Yahweh will be revealed,
and all mortals together will see it;
for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”
6A voice says, “Cry.”
and I say, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty as the flower of the field.
7The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of Yahweh blows upon it.
8The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will forever stand.”
9Go up onto the high mountain,
messenger of good news to Zion,
lift up your voice with strength,
fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem
and announce to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
10Here comes your God with might;
his strong arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and here before him is his booty.
11Like a shepherd he tends his flock:
he gathers the lambs in his arms,
he carries them in his bosom,
gently leading those that are with young.
The great God
•12Who has measured the waters of the sea in a cupped hand,
or the breadth of the sky in the span of a hand?
Who has collected the sands of the earth?
Who has weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13Who has probed the spirit of Yahweh
or as a counselor advised him?
14Whom has he consulted to enlighten him,
and help him to decide?
Who gave him knowledge
and taught him the ways of success?
15The nations before him are like a drop on the brim of the bucket,
or like dust on the scales.
The islands weigh no more than powder.
16Lebanon is not enough to burn as altar fire,
nor will its animals provide a holocaust.
17All nations before him are as nothing,
all emptiness, all vanity in his eyes.
18To whom, then, will you liken God?
With whose image will you compare him?
19To an idol cast by a craftsman,
covered with gold by a goldsmith
and adorned with silver chains?
20Or to wood that will not rot, chosen and fashioned by a skilled craftsman into an image that cannot move?
21Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning,
that you may understand how the earth was founded?
22He sits far above the vault of the earth,
with its inhabitants like grasshoppers;
he stretches out the heavens as a curtain
and spreads them out like a tent where he dwells.
23He reduces the princes to naught,
and the rulers of the earth to nothingness.
24No sooner are they planted or sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them, and they wither,
a storm sweeps them away like stubble.
25To whom, then, will you liken me
or make me equal? says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes and see:
who has created all this?
He has ordered them as a starry host
and called them each by name.
So mighty is his power,
so great his strength,
that not one of them is missing.
27How can you say, O Jacob,
how can you complain, O Israel,
that your destiny is hidden from me,
that your rights are ignored by Yahweh?
28Have you not known, have you not heard
that Yahweh is an everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth?
He does not grow tired or weary,
his knowledge is without limit.
29He gives strength to the enfeebled,
he gives vigor to the wearied.
30Youth may grow tired and faint,
young men will stumble and fall,
31but those who hope in Yahweh
will renew their strength.
They will soar as with eagle’s wings;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and never tire.
Cyrus, liberator of Israel
•1Keep silent before me, O islands,
or be prepared to contend with me;
O nations, draw near and speak.
Let us meet together for judgment.
2Who has called from the east
one that victory hails at every step?
Who has given him the nations to rule
and their kings to subdue?
His sword makes dust of them
and his arrows scatter them like chaff.
3Unharmed he pursues them through paths
that his feet have scarcely touched.
4Who really has done all this?
I, who call the generations from the beginning,
I, Yahweh, who am the first
and will be with the last.
5The islands have seen it and feared,
the ends of the earth were scared.
6(Each helps the other and says to his companion, “Take heart!” 7So the craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and he who beats out with the hammer assures the other who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for soldering”; and he fastens the idol with nails to hold it in place.)
Hope for a new exodus
•8But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my friend, 9I have taken you from the ends of the earth. I have called you from the remotest corners, and I said,
“You are my servant, I have chosen you and will not cast you away.”
10Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will give you strength, I will bring you help, I will uphold you with the right hand of my justice.
11All who rage against you will be put to shame and disgrace; all who fight against you will perish and come to nothing.
12You will seek, but will not find them; those enemies of yours, those who took up arms against you will be destroyed, brought to nothing.
13For I, Yahweh, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you: “Fear not, I am your assistance.”
14Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail.
I am your redeemer, says Yahweh,
the Holy One of Israel, your helper.
15I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth: you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff.
16You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in Yahweh and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none.
Their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I, Yahweh, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18I will open up streams over the barren heights
and let the rivers flow through all the valleys;
I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks
and the thirsty earth
into a land of springs.
19I will plant in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle and the olive;
I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine—
20that all may see and know,
consider and understand,
that the hand of Yahweh has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
•21Present your case, says Yahweh.
Produce your evidence, says the king of Jacob.
22Bring your idols and let them tell us what is going to happen. What have they foretold, so that we may consider them and reflect on the final outcome?
23Let them foretell what is to come, that we may know that they are gods. Let them do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and terrified.
24See, they are nothing,
their work is nothing,
and to choose them is foolishness.
25From the north I have called him, and he comes;
from the east I have called him by his name.
He tramples kings and princes down
as if they were mortar,
as if he were a potter working the clay.
26Has anyone announced this from the beginning, so we might know,
or foretold it long ago, so we might say, “It is true?”
No one among you foretold it,
no one proclaimed it.
No one heard a word from you.
27I was the first to announce to Zion:
“Look, here they come!”
and I sent a messenger to Jerusalem.
28But when I looked, there was no one, there was not a single counselor among them who, if asked, could give an answer.
29All of them are nothing,
emptiness are their works;
their images are wind and nothingness.
First song of the servant: Here is my servant
•1Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight.
I have put my spirit upon him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2He does not shout or raise his voice
proclamations are not heard in the streets.
3A broken reed he will not crush,
nor will he snuff out the light
of the wavering wick.
He will make justice appear in truth.
4He will not waver or be broken
until he has established justice on earth;
the islands are waiting for his law.
5Thus says God, Yahweh,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread the earth and all that comes from it,
who gives life and breath to those who walk on it:
6I, Yahweh, have called you for the sake of justice;
I will hold your hand to make you firm;
I will make you as a Covenant to the people,
and as a light to the nations,
7to open eyes that do not see,
to free captives from prison,
to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.
8I am Yahweh, that is my name,
I will not give my glory to another;
or my praise to graven images.
9See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things do I declare:
before they spring forth I tell you of them.
Song of victory
•10Sing a new song to Yahweh;
let his praise reach the ends of the earth.
Let the sea and all that it holds,
let the coastlands and their inhabitants
resound with song and praise of him.
11Let the wilderness and the cities
lift up their voice,
together with the villages of Kedar.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
and shout from the top of the mountain.
12Let them give glory to Yahweh
and praise him in the far islands.
13Yahweh comes like a mighty warrior,
he stirs up his fury before the fight.
He threatens, he raises the battle cry,
and he triumphs over his enemies.
14For a long time I have been silent;
I have kept still and restrained myself,
I moaned like a woman in labor,
breathing and panting:
15I will lay waste mountains and hills
and wither all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into wasteland
and dry up the pools.
16I will lead the blind by ways
which they do not know;
along unseen paths I will guide them.
I will turn darkness into light before them
and make the rough ground smooth.
These are the things that I will do,
and I will not forsake them.
17But those who trust in graven images and say to idols, “You are our gods” will be turned back in shame.
•18Listen, O deaf,
look, O blind, that you may see!
19Who is blind, but my servant,
or deaf as the messenger I send?
Who is blind but the one I am lifting up? Who is deaf but the servant of Yahweh?
20You have seen many things without observing; your ears were open but without hearing.
21It pleased Yahweh, the Just One,
that his Law receive glory and fame.
22But this is a people robbed and plundered,
all of them ensnared in pits or languishing in prison.
They have become a prey,
with no one to rescue them;
they have become a spoil,
with no one to order, “Send them back!”
23Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will listen and hear for the time to come?
24Who handed Jacob to the spoilers
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not Yahweh,
against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25Therefore he poured out on them
the fury of his anger—
the violence of war.
It blazed round about them,
and they failed to know what it meant;
it burned and consumed them,
and they remained in bewilderment.
In the midst of the flames, you shall not be burned
1But now, thus says Yahweh,
who created you, Jacob,
who formed you, Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you.
When you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through fire,
you will not be burned;
neither will the flames consume you.
3For I am your savior,
I, Yahweh, your God,
the Holy One of Israel.
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4Since you are precious in my sight,
and important—for I have loved you,
I give people in exchange for you
and nations in return for your life.
5Fear not, for I am with you:
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6I will say to the north, “Give them up!”
and to the south, “Do not hold them!”
Bring back my sons from afar,
my daughters from the ends of the earth,
7all those called by my name
all I have created for my glory.
8Lead out my people—
who have eyes but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf.
9Let the nations gather together,
let the people assemble.
Who among them can foretell this
or declare to us the things to come?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right;
let others hear so that they may say, “It is true.”
•10You are my witnesses, says Yahweh,
you are my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am He.
Before me no God was formed,
neither will there be one after me.
11I, I am Yahweh,
there is no savior but me.
12It is I who have foretold;
I have spoken and made it known,
I, not any of your foreign gods.
Therefore you are my witnesses
—it is Yahweh who speaks,
I am God.
13From ever I am God
there is no one who can deliver from my hand.
I act, and what I do no one undoes.
14Thus says Yahweh,
your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
For your sake I send an army to Babylon
to bring down all their bars.
The Chaldeans’ shout of joy
will turn into lamentation.
15I am Yahweh, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.
16Thus says Yahweh,
who opened a way through the sea
and a path in the mighty waters,
17who brought down chariots and horses,
a whole army of them,
and there they lay, never to rise again,
snuffed out like a wick.
18But do not dwell on the past,
or remember the things of old.
19Look, I am doing a new thing:
now it springs forth.
Do you not see?
I am opening up a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20The beasts of the land will honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I give water in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert
that my chosen people may drink.
21I have formed this people for myself;
they will proclaim my praise.
•22You have not called upon me, O Jacob,
indeed you were tired of me, O Israel;
23neither have you brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with offerings,
nor wearied you asking for incense.
24You have not spent money on sweet frankincense for me,
neither have you satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.
Instead you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.
25I it is, I am He
who blots out your offenses for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.
26Remind me about the past;
let us argue together.
Speak up and prove your innocence.
27Your first father sinned, and your mediators have rebelled against me. 28Therefore I have disgraced the dignitaries of your temple, I have consigned Jacob to destruction, Israel to scorn.
1But now listen, Jacob my
Israel whom I have chosen:
2This is what Yahweh says—
he who made you and will help you,
he who formed you from the womb:
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
3For I will pour water upon the thirsty land
and streams on the dry ground.
I will pour my spirit upon your race
and my blessing upon your offspring.
4They will spring up like grass,
like poplars beside the flowing streams.
5One will say, “I belong to Yahweh”;
another will call himself by Jacob’s name.
On his hand another will write “Yahweh”
and take the name of Israel.
6This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, Yahweh Sabaoth:
I am the first and the last,
there is no other God besides me.
7Who then is like me?
Let him stand up and speak,
let him argue this out with me.
Who from the beginning has foretold the future,
and revealed to us what was to come?
8Do not be afraid or troubled.
Have I not proclaimed
and foretold this long ago?
You are my witnesses;
is there a God besides me
or another Rock? I know of none.
Mockery against those who worship idols
•9Good-for-nothing are all idol makers, and useless are the works they prize so much. Their witnesses, blind and ignorant, will be put to shame. 10Who ever fashioned a god or cast an idol without hope of gain? See how its devotees will be ridiculed, for its craftsmen are but humans. 11Let them all assemble, let them come to court; they will be both terrified and scorned.
12The blacksmith works on an iron image over the fire and beats it into shape with a hammer. He gets hungry and tired; if there is no water to drink, he gets exhausted.
13In like manner, the wood carver takes the measurement and marks the outline of an idol, carves it with chisels, giving it a bodily form and a human face that it may live in a shrine. 14He cut down cedars or perhaps took an oak or cypress from the forest or maybe he planted a cedar which the rain caused to grow. 15For the common people, that means fuel which they use to warm themselves and to cook their food. But the craftsman carves out of the tree trunk an idol which he worships and before which he bows down. 16The remaining portion he burns to warm himself; over its live embers he roasts meat and is satisfied. He says, “Well and good, I feel warm and enjoy the light.” 17The other portion which he has made into an idol he worships and bows before it, praying, “Rescue me, for you are my god.”
18They have no knowledge, no discernment. For they have shut their mind to understanding, their heart to all reason. 19Not one of them has the intelligence to reflect and the sense to say, “Half of the log I burned, and on its embers I baked bread and roasted meat. Shall I then make a dirty idol of what remains? Am I to worship a block of wood?”
20Only one of deluded mind can hold on to ashes. Will he not save himself at least and confess, “What I hold is only a lie?”
21Remember this, Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel,
I have formed you to be my servant; Israel, do not forget me.
22I have blotted out your offenses as a thick cloud,
your sins as a mist.
Return to me for I am redeeming you.
23Sing gladly, O heavens,
for Yahweh has done this.
Shout aloud, O earth below!
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests with all your trees!
For Yahweh has redeemed Jacob
and shown his glory to Israel.
24Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
I am Yahweh who made all things,
I alone stretched out the heavens,
and spread out the earth. Who helped me?
25I am he who thwarts the omens of false prophets,
who makes fools of diviners,
who turns the wise back
and makes nonsense of their knowledge.
26I confirm the word of my servant
and carry out the plan announced by my messengers.
I am he who says of Jerusalem,
“It shall be inhabited,”
and of the towns of Judah,
“They shall be rebuilt; I will restore their ruins.”
27I am he who says to the ocean, “Be dry,
I will dry up your wellsprings!”
28I call on Cyrus, “My shepherd!”
and he goes to fulfill my will.
I say to Jerusalem, “Be rebuilt!”
and see: the cornerstone is laid.
•1Thus says Yahweh to his anointed, to Cyrus:
“I have taken you by the right hand
to subdue nations before you
and strip kings of their armor,
to open the gateways before you
so that they will be closed no more.
2I will go before you to level the slopes,
I will break the gates of brass
and destroy the iron bars;
3I will give you treasures hidden in darkness
and riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am Yahweh,
the God of Israel who calls you by your name.
4For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen one,
I have called you by your name
and given you your mission
although you do not know me.
5I am Yahweh, and there is no other;
there is no God besides me.
I armed you when you did not know me,
6so that, from the rising
to the setting of the sun,
all may know
that there is no one besides me;
I am Yahweh, and there is no other.
7I form the light and create the dark;
I usher in prosperity and bring calamity.
I, Yahweh, do all this.
•8Let the heavens send righteousness like dew
and the clouds rain it down.
Let the earth open and salvation blossom,
so that justice also may sprout;
I, Yahweh, have created it.
•9Woe to him who argues with his Maker being but a pot among pots. Will the clay say to him who fashions it, “What are you making? You have no skill.” 10Woe to him who asks a father, “What have you begotten!” or a mother, “To what have you given birth?”
11Thus says Yahweh, the Holy One, he who fashions Israel: Is it for you to question me about my children, or decide the work of my hands for me?
12I am He who made the earth and created humankind upon it.
I am He who stretched out the heavens with my own hands and gave order to their whole array.
13I have raised Cyrus for the sake of justice. I will direct his ways and make him rebuild my city. He will send my exiles home without ransom or indemnity. It is Yahweh Sabaoth who speaks.
•14Thus says Yahweh:
The peasants of Egypt, the traders of Ethiopia and the tall men of Seba will pass near you in chains, and bow down facing you. In worship they will say,
“Surely God is with you. There is no one else, there is no other god.”
15Truly you are the God who remains hidden, the God of Israel, the Savior.
16All idol makers will be put to shame, they will go away humiliated. 17But Israel will be saved by Yahweh—delivered with an everlasting salvation. You will never be put to disgrace for everlasting ages.
18Yes, this is what Yahweh says,
he who created the heavens,
– for he is God,
who formed and shaped the earth,
– for he himself set it:
“I did not let confusion in it,
I wanted people to live there instead”
—for I am Yahweh and there is no other.
19I have not spoken in secret,
from a dark place of the earth;
I have not said to the race of Jacob:
“Seek me, but all will be confused,”
—for I Yahweh tell the truth and I speak openly—.
Every knee will bend
20Come, gather together, and try to understand,
survivors from among the nations:
They are but fools they who follow idols of wood
and pray to gods that cannot move—.
21Let them present their arguments
take counsel together and tell me:
Who announced this from the beginning,
who foretold it in the distant past?
Is it not me Yahweh?
There is no other God besides me,
a Savior, a God of justice, there is no other one but me.
22Turn to me and be saved,
all you from the ends of the earth,
for I am God and there is no other.
23By my own self I swear it,
and what comes from my mouth is truth,
a word I say will not be revoked.
Before me every knee will bend,
by me every tongue will swear, 24saying,
“In Yahweh alone are righteousness and strength.”
All who have raged against him will come to him in shame.
25But through Yahweh there will be victory and glory
to the people of Israel.
Difference between God and the false gods
•1Bel bows down, Nebo collapses, the carriages are weighed down with their idols. Their sacred objects have become a burden for the weary feasts.
2They cringe and crouch together, powerless to save those who carry them, as they themselves are taken captive.
3Hear me, O people of Jacob,
and all who remain of Israel,
whom I have cared for since you were conceived,
and carried since you were born.
4Even to your old age, I am he
and I will sustain you
even when your hair turns gray.
It is I who have done this,
and who bear the burdens,
I will sustain and save you.
5To whom will you compare me or consider me equal?
Against whom will you match me,
as though we were alike?
6Some pour out gold from their purses,
and with silver weighed on the scales
they hire a goldsmith to make an image
before which they bow and worship.
7They carry it upon their shoulders
and set it up in its place;
and there it stands, unmoving and silent.
They cry out to it, but it does not answer,
it delivers no one from distress and disaster.
8Bear it well in mind, you rebels,
9recall those things of long ago.
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10From the beginning I foretold the outcome,
from ancient times, what was yet to come.
I say, and my plan will be fulfilled;
and what I wish, I will accomplish.
11From the east I call forth a bird of prey,
from a distant land, a man to carry out my plan.
Yes, I have spoken, it will be done;
I have planned, it will be executed.
12Listen to me, you without hope,
you who are deprived of any right.
13I am bringing my justice, it is not far away;
my salvation will not delay.
I will make salvation appear in Zion,
upon Israel I will bestow my glory.
•1Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon!
No more throne! Sit on the ground,
O daughter of the Chaldeans.
No longer will you be called
dainty and delicate.
2Take the millstone and grind meal;
uncover your hair, bare your legs;
strip to the thighs and pass over the rivers.
3Your nakedness will be exposed,
your shame will be uncovered.
I will take revenge on you
and no one will save you,
4says our Redeemer, Yahweh Sabaoth.
His name is the Holy One of Israel.
5Go creep into the shadows and sit in silence,
O daughter of the Chaldeans,
for no more will you be called
sovereign lady of the kingdoms.
6Angry with my people, I had left my inheritance;
I gave them into your hands,
but you showed them no mercy.
You laid a heavy yoke on the aged.
7You said, “I will reign forever;”
but you did not take this to heart
or ponder on what would ensue.
8Listen, therefore, you wanton woman, lounging in security and deluding yourself, “I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.”
9But these two things will come to you
in a moment, on a single day—
loss of children and widowhood.
They will come upon you in full measure,
in spite of all your witchcraft,
in spite of the power of your spells.
10You have trusted in your wickedness,
saying, “Nobody sees me.”
Your intelligence and knowledge
have perverted you, for you have said:
“I am, and there is none besides me.”
11Evil, suddenly, will come your way
though you do not know it.
Disaster will fall upon you,
and no ransom will ward it off;
a catastrophe you cannot foresee
will come upon you suddenly.
12Keep on, then, with your magic spells and with the multitude of your sorceries, which you have labored at since your youth.
Do you think they will help you now? Do you think they will cause terror around you?
13Yet you are wearied with so many advisers. Let your astrologers stand up, your stargazers who foretell what will happen each month; let them save you from what is to come upon you.
14Look, they will be like stubble
and the fire will burn them.
They cannot even save themselves
from the power of consuming flames.
These are no embers to warm anyone,
no fireside to sit by.
15This is your lot and of your wizards
with whom you have labored from your youth.
Now each will go his own way—powerless to save you.
•1Listen to this, house of Jacob,
called by the name of Israel
and born out of Judah’s womb,
you who swear by the name of Yahweh
and invoke the God of Israel,
though not in truth or righteousness—
2calling yourselves after the Holy City,
and relying on the God of Israel
whose name is Yahweh Sabaoth.
3From long ago I revealed things past:
they went forth from my mouth;
I declared them. Then suddenly I acted
and the word came to be.
4Because I know that you are stubborn,
your head as hard as iron,
your forehead as bronze.
5So I told you about them;
before they took place
I let you hear of them,
lest you should say: “My idols did these, my graven image, my molten image commanded them.”
6Now that you have heard and seen, will you not admit it?
From now on I will tell you new things,
even hidden things you have not known before.
7They are created now and not long ago;
up to this day you have not heard of them
lest you should say, “I already knew.”
8You have not heard, you didn’t know
nor were your ears opened before,
for I knew how treacherous you were—
you who from birth have been called a rebel.
9For my name’s sake I delayed my anger,
for my honor’s sake I restrained it,
lest I destroy you.
10See: I have refined you as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11But now for my own sake I will act, yes, for my own sake.
For how could I let my Name be defiled?
Never will I yield my glory to another.
12Listen to me, O Jacob,
Israel whom I have called,
I am the same, I am the first,
and I am also the last.
13My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
my right hand spread out the heavens.
When I call on the stars
they all stand forth together.
14Assemble, all of you, and listen.
Who among them has foretold these things?
The beloved of Yahweh will do what pleases him
with Babylon and the people of Chaldea.
15I, yes I myself, have spoken;
I myself called him and made him prosper in his way.
If you had obeyed my law
16Come near me and listen to this: From the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it happened I have been there. Know then, that Yahweh the Lord, with his Spirit has sent me!
17Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, Yahweh, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go.
18Had you paid attention to my commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
19Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from my presence.
20“Go forth from Babylon, flee from Chaldea!” Declare this with shouts of joy, make this known to the ends of the earth. Proclaim: Yahweh has redeemed his servant Jacob!
21Those he led through the desert were never thirsty. He made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out.
22There is no peace for the wicked, Yahweh says.
Second song of the servant: Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb
•1Listen to me, O islands,
pay attention, peoples from distant lands.
Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb;
he pronounced my name before I was born.
2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword.
He hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a polished arrow
set apart in his quiver.
3He said to me, “You are Israel, my servant,
Through you I will be known.”
4“I have labored in vain,” I thought,
“and spent my strength for nothing.”
Yet what is due me was in the hand of Yahweh,
and my reward was with my God.
I am important in the sight of Yahweh,
and my God is my strength.
5And now Yahweh has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him.
6He said: “It is not enough
that you be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob,
to bring back the remnant of Israel.
I will make you the light of the nations,
that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”
7Thus says Yahweh,
the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel,
to him whom people despise,
to him whom nations abhor,
to the servant of tyrants:
“Kings will see you and stand up,
and princes will bow down
for the sake of Yahweh, the faithful one,
the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.”
8This is what Yahweh says:
“At a favorable time I have answered you, on the day of salvation I have been your help; I have formed you and made you to be my Covenant with the people.
You will restore the land, and allot its abandoned farms. 9You will say to the captives: Come out; and to those in darkness: Show yourselves.
They will feed along the road; they will find pasture on barren hills. 10They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the scorching wind or the sun beat upon them; for he who has mercy on them will guide them and lead them to springs of water.
11I will turn all my mountains into roads and raise up my highways.
12See, they come from afar, some from the north and west, others from the land of Sinim.”
Though your mother forgets you
•13Sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth;
break forth into song, O mountains:
for Yahweh has comforted his people
and taken pity on those who are afflicted.
14But Zion said: “Yahweh has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
15Can a woman forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child of her womb?
Yet though she forget, I will never forget you.
16See, I have written your name upon the palm of my hands; your walls are ever before me. 17Your sons hurry back, and those who laid you waste hasten to depart from you.
18Lift up your eyes, look around and see: your children are all assembling and coming to you. As I live, says Yahweh, you will wear them all as your jewels; they will adorn you as brides are adorned.
19Your lonely places and your ruins, your wastelands and devastated country, will now be too small for your people, while those who destroy you will be driven off.
20The children you will have, after those you lost, will also say in your hearing, “This place is too small for us. Give us more space to live in.”
21You will then say in your heart, “Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, and who has brought these up? I was left alone; but these—where have they come from?”
22Thus speaks the Lord Yahweh: See, I am to make signs to the nations; and to raise my banner to the peoples, that they will bring your sons in their arms, your daughters upon their shoulders.
23Kings will be your foster fathers, their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am Yahweh and that those who hope in me will not be put to shame.
24Can booty be taken from a warrior, or captives be rescued from a tyrant? But thus says Yahweh: 25Yes, captives will be taken from warriors and booty rescued from a tyrant: for I will fight whoever fights you and I will save your children.
26I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh and be drunk with their own blood, as with wine. All peoples will know that I, Yahweh, am your savior, your redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
1Thus says Yahweh: Where is the writ of divorce with which I dismissed your mother? Or to which of my creditors have I sold you? It was for your sins that you were sold, for your crimes that your mother was dismissed.
2Why was there no one when I came?
Why did no one answer when I called?
Is my hand too short to reach out and save?
Have I not the power to deliver?
See how, at my threat, the sea dries up,
the rivers turn into desert,
their fish dying, for lack of water.
3I clothe the heavens in mourning:
I make sackcloth their covering.
Third song of the servant: Yahweh has opened my ear
•4The Lord Yahweh has taught me
so I speak as his disciple
and I know how to sustain the weary.
Morning after morning he wakes me up
to hear, to listen like a disciple.
5The Lord Yahweh has opened my ear.
I have not rebelled,
nor have I withdrawn.
6I offered my back to those who strike me,
my cheeks to those who pulled my beard;
neither did I shield my face
from blows, spittle and disgrace.
7I have not despaired,
for the Lord Yahweh comes to my help.
So, like a flint I set my face,
knowing that I will not be disgraced.
8He who avenges me is near.
Who then will accuse me?
Let us confront each other.
Who is now my accuser?
Let him approach.
9If the Lord Yahweh is my help,
who will condemn me?
All of them will wear out like cloth;
the moth will devour them.
10Let anyone among you who fears Yahweh listen to the voice of his servant. Whoever walks in darkness and has no light to shine for him, let him trust in the name of Yahweh, let him rely upon his God.
11Yet all of you who kindle flames and carry about burning torches, go into the flames of your own fire, into the sparks you have kindled. This will befall you from my hand, you will lie down in torment.
God will save the children of Abraham
1Listen to me, you who pursue justice,
you who go in search of Yahweh. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, to the pit from which you were quarried.
2Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. He was alone when I called him; but I blessed and increased him.
3Truly Yahweh’s compassion is for Zion, his mercy is upon all her ruins. He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like Yahweh’s garden. In her will be found joy and rejoicing, melody and song of praise and thanksgiving.
4Listen to me, you peoples,
hear me, O nations.
I am to give you my law,
my justice will be a light to the nations.
5Suddenly my justice will appear,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will impose my rule.
The islands also wait in hope for me,
trusting in my arm.
6Lift up your eyes to the heavens
and look upon the earth beneath.
Like smoke, the heavens will vanish,
and the earth wear out like a garment;
its inhabitants will fall like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my justice will never fail.
7Hear me, you who know righteousness,
you who have my law in your hearts:
do not fear the reproach of others
or be terrified by their mocking.
8For they will be like garments eaten by moths,
like wool consumed by grubs.
But my justice will last forever
and my salvation for all generations.
•9Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Yahweh!
Awake as in ancient days,
in times of generations long ago.
Was it not you who split Rahab in two
and pierced the dragon through?
10Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
to make a way on the seabed
for the redeemed to pass over?
11The redeemed of Yahweh will return
and come to Zion singing with joy,
crowned with everlasting gladness,
while sorrow and mourning flee away.
12I, yes I, am your comforter.
How then can you be afraid of the one who dies,
of humans who fade like grass?
13Are you forgetting Yahweh who made you,
who stretched forth the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth?
Why live every day in constant fear
of the fury of the oppressor,
when he sets out to destroy you?
And where is the fury of the oppressor?
14The captive exiles will soon be free;
they will not die in a deep prison,
nor will they want for food.
15I am Yahweh, your God,
the one who stirs the sea,
making its waves roar.
My name is Yahweh Sabaoth.
16I have put my words in your mouth as I stretched out the heavens. When I laid the foundations of the earth, I said to Zion: “You are my people, and I have shielded you in the shadow of my hand.”
Arise, O Jerusalem, you who drank at the hand of Yahweh the cup of his fury, the cup which made you tremble, that you drank to the last drop!
18Among all the children she bore, she has no one to guide her; among all the sons she reared, she has no one to take her by the hand.
19These double calamities have befallen you—ruin and destruction, famine and sword.
Who is there to console you?
20Your children were found helpless at the corner of every street, like wild bulls in a net. They had drunk to the full the fury of Yahweh, the wrath of your God.
21Therefore hear this now, you afflicted one, you who are drunk but not with wine. 22Thus says your Lord Yahweh, your God, defender of your people’s cause:
See, I am taking out of your hand the cup of trembling; the cup of my anger—you will drink of it no more. 23But I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, those who ordered you to bow down, that they might trample on you, while you laid your body as a pavement, as a street for them to walk on.
Put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your glorious garments, O Jerusalem, Holy City.
For never will the uncircumcised
or the unclean enter you again.
2Shake the dust off yourself
and rise up, O Jerusalem.
Loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive Daughter of Zion.
3For thus says Yahweh:
You were sold for no amount,
you will be redeemed without money.
4Thus says the Lord God:
In the beginning
my people lived as aliens in Egypt;
then Assyria oppressed them without reason.
5But now, what am I doing here? says Yahweh. My people have been carried off for no money and their masters make a boast of it; all day long my name is scorned.
6Therefore my people will know my name;
therefore they will know on that day
that it is I who say: “Here I am!”
•7How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those
who bring good news,
who herald peace and happiness,
who proclaim salvation
and announce to Zion: “Your God is king!”
8Together your watchmen
raise their voices in praise and song;
they see Yahweh face to face returning to Zion.
9Break into shouts of joy,
O ruins of Jerusalem,
for Yahweh consoles his people
and redeems Jerusalem.
10Yahweh has bared his holy arm
in the eyes of the nations;
all the ends of the earth, in alarm,
will witness God’s salvation.
11Depart, depart from that nation, come out!
Touch nothing unclean.
Purify yourselves, you who bear
all Yahweh’s holy vessels.
12Yet not in escape, or in fright, will you come out,
you will not leave in headlong flight;
for ahead is Yahweh, your vanguard,
and behind, the God of Israel, your rearguard.
Fourth song of the servant: Through his punishment, we are made whole
•13It is now when my servant will succeed;
he will be exalted and highly praised.
14Just as many have been horrified
at his disfigured appearance:
“Is this a man? He does not look like one,”
15so will nations be astounded,
kings will stand speechless,
for they will see something never told,
they will witness something never heard of.
1Who could believe what we have heard,
and to whom has Yahweh revealed his feat?
2Like a root out of dry ground,
like a sapling he grew up before us,
with nothing attractive in his appearance,
no beauty, no majesty.
3He was despised and rejected,
a man of sorrows familiar with grief,
a man from whom people hide their face,
spurned and considered of no account.
4Yet ours were the sorrows he bore,
ours were the sufferings he endured,
although we considered him as one
punished by God, stricken and brought low.
5Destroyed because of our sins,
he was crushed for our wickedness.
Through his punishment we are made whole;
by his wounds we are healed.
6Like sheep we had all gone astray,
each following his own way;
but Yahweh laid upon him all our guilt.
7He was harshly treated,
but unresisting and silent, he humbly submitted.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearer
he did not open his mouth.
8He was taken away to detention and judgment—
what an unthinkable fate!
He was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for his people’s sin.
9They made his tomb with the wicked,
they put him in the graveyard of the oppressors,
though he had done no violence nor spoken in deceit.
10Yet it was the will of Yahweh to crush him with grief.
When he makes himself an offering for sin,
he will have a long life and see his descendants.
Through him the will of Yahweh is done.
11For the anguish he suffered,
he will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge.
My just servant will justify the multitude;
he will bear and take away their guilt.
12Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong.
For he surrendered himself to death
and was even counted among the wicked,
bearing the sins of the multitude
and interceding for sinners.
Rejoice, O barren woman
•1Rejoice, O barren woman who has not given birth; sing and shout for joy, you who never had children, for more are the children of the rejected woman than the children of the married wife, says Yahweh.
2Enlarge the space for your tent, stretch out your hangings, lengthen your ropes and strengthen your stakes, 3for you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will take possession of the nations and inhabit cities that have been abandoned.
4Do not be afraid for you will not be deceived, do not be ashamed for you will not be disgraced. You will forget the shame of your youth; no longer will you remember the disgrace of your widowhood.
5For your Maker is to marry you: Yahweh Sabaoth is his name. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel: He is called God of all the earth.
6For Yahweh has called you back as one forsaken and grieved in spirit. Who could abandon his first beloved? says your God.
7For a brief moment I have abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will gather my people. 8For a moment, in an outburst of anger, I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I have had mercy on you, says Yahweh, your Redeemer.
9This is for me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you. 10The mountains may depart and the hills be moved, but never will my love depart from you nor my Covenant of peace be removed, says Yahweh whose compassion is for you.
11O afflicted city, lashed by storm and unconsoled, I will set your stones with turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. 12I will crown your wall with agate, make your gates crystal, and your ramparts of precious stones.
13All your children will be taught by Yahweh, and they will prosper greatly. 14Justice will be your foundation; tyranny and the fear of oppression will never come near you.
15If ever you are attacked, it will not be of my doing; and your attacker will surely fail.
16Look, it is I who created the blacksmith, who fans the burning coals and forges his weapons. But I have also prepared the one who makes them useless.
17No weapon forged against you will succeed, and all who speak against you will be silenced. Such is the lot of the servants of Yahweh, and such is the right I grant them—says Yahweh.
Come to the water
•1Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water!
All who have no money, come!
Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk.
2Why spend money on what is not food and labor for what does not satisfy? Listen to me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare.
3Incline your ear and come to me; listen, that your soul may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, I will fulfill in you my promises to David.
4See, I have given him for a witness to the nations, a leader and commander of the people. 5Likewise you will summon a nation unknown to you, and nations that do not know you will come hurrying to you for the sake of Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has promoted you.
6Seek Yahweh while he may be found;
call to him while he is near.
7Let the wicked abandon his way,
let him forsake his thoughts,
let him turn to Yahweh for he will have mercy,
for our God is generous in forgiving.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways are not your ways, says Yahweh.
9For as the heavens are above the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts above your thoughts.
10As the rain and the snow come down
from the heavens and do not return
till they have watered the earth,
making it yield seed for the sower
and food for others to eat,
11so is my word that goes forth out of my mouth:
it will not return to me idle,
but it shall accomplish my will,
the purpose for which it has been sent.
12Yes, in joy you will depart, in peace you will be led forth: mountains and hills will break into song before you, trees of the countryside will clap their hands.
13Instead of the thornbush, the cypress will thrive; instead of briers, the myrtle. This will make Yahweh famous and remain as an everlasting witness to him.
Third part of the book of Isaiah
God calls everyone
•1This is what Yahweh says:
Maintain what is right
and do what is just,
for my salvation is close at hand,
my justice is soon to come.
2Blessed is the mortal who does these things, and perseveres in them, who does not defile the sabbath and who refrains from evil.
3Let no foreigner say, “Surely Yahweh will exclude me from his people.” Neither let the castrated man say, “I have become a mere dry tree.”
4For this is what Yahweh says: To the castrated men who keep my sabbaths, who choose to do what pleases me and remain faithful to my covenant:
5I will give them in my house and within its walls, a memorial and a name that are worth more than sons and daughters; I will give them a name that will never die away or be forgotten.
6Yahweh says to the foreigners who join him, serving him and loving his name, keeping his sabbath unprofaned and remaining faithful to his covenant:
7I will bring them to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. I will accept on my altar their burnt offerings and sacrifices, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.
8Thus says the Lord God, Yahweh, who gathers the exiles of Israel: There are others I will gather besides those already gathered.
9All you wild beasts, come and devour, all you beasts of the forests!
10Blind are Israel’s watchmen: they all see nothing. They are dumb watchdogs, they are unable to bark. Lying down and dreaming, they love to slumber.
11Greedy dogs that are never satisfied; shepherds of no discretion, they all turn their own way, everyone of them to his own gain.
12“Come, bring wine,” they say, “and let us all get drunk, and tomorrow will be as today, or perhaps even a happier day.”
1Righteous people perish,
and no one cares about it.
The just one is taken off, and no one understands that he is taken away from the calamity that comes, 2he enters into peace.
3But all you children of a witch, come here, you offspring of the whore and the adulterer.
4Who are you mocking?
At whom are you making faces, opening wide your mouth and sticking out your tongue?
You are children of sin, offspring of deceit and falsehood,
5burning with lust among the bushes,
under spreading branches,
sacrificing your children by the streams,
in the clefts of rocks.
6Your heart is with your idols,
the smooth stones of the wadis to which you have poured out drink offerings
and brought oblations of grain.
Can I tolerate this?
7You have made your bed upon a high and lofty mountain.
You went up there to offer your sacrifice.
8You have set up your domestic idols
behind your doorposts and your doors.
Deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, climbed into it and spread it wide.
You made a bargain with those
whose bed you enjoy,
and you had intercourse with them.
9With perfumed oil, you made yourself
look your best for Molech;
you sent envoys far afield—
the children you sent to your pagan god through a sacrificial death.
10Although wearied with your misdeeds,
you have never given up;
you have never tired or weakened,
but instead found your strength revived.
11Where had gone your fear of me
that you should lie and disown me,
refuse me a place in your heart
and not remember me?
Have I held my peace so long
that you do not fear me any more?
12But now I will tell your merits and your deeds, it will not be for your advantage. 13When you cry out in distress, let your idols save you! The wind will blow them all away; a whiff of a breeze will carry them off.
But he who takes refuge in me will take possession of the land, my holy mountain his inheritance.
There is no peace without justice
14Then it shall be said:
“Prepare, prepare, open up a way,
remove all obstructions from my people’s way.”
15For thus says the Most High,
he who is enthroned forever,
he whose name is holy:
“I reign exalted and holy
but I am also with him who is contrite and humble in spirit,
to give the contrite a heart revived
and the humble in spirit a new life.
16For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry,
lest the spirit of man faint before me,
the very breath that I have created.
17His wickedness enraged me for a time,
I smote him and hid my face,
for he, a rebel, wanted to go his own drive.
And I have seen his ways.
18But from now on I will console,
I will heal and fully comfort him,
—all those of his people who mourn.
19I will bring smiles to their lips. Peace!
Peace to him who is far and to him who is near.
I will indeed heal you,” Yahweh says.
20But the wicked are like a turbulent sea
that finds no rest
and whose waters cast up mire and slime.
21“There is no peace,” says my God,
“for the wicked.”
The kind of fast that pleases me
•1Cry out aloud for all you are worth;
raise your voice like a trumpet blast;
tell my people of their offenses,
Jacob’s family of their sins.
2Is it true that they seek me
day after day, longing to know my ways,
as a people that does what is right
and has not forsaken the word of its God?
They want to know the just laws
and not to drift away from their God.
3“Why are we fasting,” they complain,
“and you do not even see it?
We are doing penance and you never notice it.”
Look, on your fast days you push your trade
and you oppress your laborers.
4Yes, you fast but end up quarreling,
striking each other with wicked blows.
Fasting as you do
will not make your voice heard on high.
5Is that the kind of fast that pleases me,
just a day to humble oneself?
Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head,
and making use of sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call that fasting,
a day acceptable to Yahweh?
6See the fast that pleases me:
breaking the fetters of injustice
and unfastening the thongs of the yoke,
setting the oppressed free
and breaking every yoke.
7Fast by sharing your food with the hungry,
bring to your house the homeless,
clothe the one you see naked
and do not turn away from your own kin.
8Then will your light break forth as the dawn
and your healing come in a flash.
Your righteousness will be your vanguard,
the glory of Yahweh your rearguard.
9Then you will call and Yahweh will answer,
you will cry and he will say, I am here.
If you remove from your midst the yoke,
the clenched fist and the wicked word,
10if you share your food with the hungry
and give relief to the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the dark,
your night will be like noon.
11Yahweh will guide you always
and give you relief in desert places.
He will strengthen your bones;
he will make you as a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never fail.
12Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt,
the age-old foundations will be raised.
You will be called the Breach-mender,
and the Restorer of ruined houses.
13If you stop profaning the sabbath
and doing as you please on the holy day,
if you call the sabbath a day of delight
and keep sacred Yahweh’s holy day,
if you honor it by not going your own way,
not doing as you please
and not speaking with malice,
14then you will find happiness in Yahweh,
over the heights you will ride triumphantly,
and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob.
The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.
1Yahweh’s arm is not too short to save nor his ear too dull to hear.
2It is your sins, rather,
that separate you from God.
It is your iniquities that veil his face,
so that he does not hear you.
3For your hands are blood-stained,
your fingers blotted with crimes;
your lips have spoken lies,
your tongues have uttered deceit.
4No one fights for a right cause;
no one makes a truthful plea.
They all tell lies and rely on vanity;
they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.
5They hatch vipers’ eggs
and weave spiders’ webs.
Whoever eats their eggs dies;
and from an egg that is crushed
a venomous snake is hatched.
6Their thread gives useless cloth;
their works are of help to no one.
Their plans are evil plots
executed in deeds of violence.
7Their feet rush to do evil;
they are quick to shed innocent blood.
Their minds are full of wicked thoughts,
leaving in their wake ruin and havoc.
8They do not know the way of peace;
from them no one can expect justice.
They have made their roads tricky and crooked
so that he who follows them is lost or waylaid.
9So, far away from us lies justice,
and beyond reach is righteousness.
We look for light but behold darkness;
we long for brightness but walk in gloom.
10Like the blind we grope for the wall,
like those without eyes we feel our way.
We stumble at noon as at twilight;
we are dead in the midst of our sins.
11We are like bears that growl;
we are like doves that moan.
We look for justice and find none;
we wait for salvation that never comes.
12For our offenses before you are many,
and our sins bear witness against us.
We acknowledge our offenses;
we know all our iniquities.
13Yes, we have betrayed and deceived Yahweh,
turning away from following our God.
We have planned violence and rebellion;
we have thought and murmured lies.
14Justice has been withheld,
righteousness stands aloof,
for truth has fallen in the public square
and integrity is not allowed to enter.
15There is no sincerity nor honesty.
The one who turns from evil is despoiled.
•Yahweh has seen this and is aggrieved
that justice does not exist.
16Appalled at seeing none would intervene,
his own arm brought about the victory,
his justice giving him its support.
17He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and salvation as a helmet upon his head.
He wrapped himself in garments of vengeance
and put on a mantle of fury.
18To each he will pay his due—
wrath to his enemy, reprisal to his foe.
19Those in the west will hear the name of Yahweh;
those in the east will see his glory.
For it will come like a pent-up stream
driven by the breath of Yahweh.
20But to Zion he will come as redeemer,
and to those of Jacob who turn from sin.
This is Yahweh speaking.
21For my part, this is my Covenant with them, says Yahweh. My spirit which I have poured out on you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, will never leave you, nor your children, nor your children’s children forever and ever.
The glory of Yahweh rises upon you
•1Arise, shine, for your light has come.
The glory of Yahweh rises upon you.
2Night still covers the earth
and gloomy clouds veil the peoples,
but Yahweh now rises
and over you his glory appears.
3Nations will come to your light
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4Lift up your eyes round about and see:
they are all gathered and come to you,
your sons from afar,
your daughters tenderly carried.
5This sight will make your face radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
the riches of the sea will be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations will come to you.
6A multitude of camels will cover you,
caravans from Midian and Ephah.
Those from Sheba will come,
bringing with them gold and incense,
all singing in praise of Yahweh.
7The flocks of Kedar will be gathered for you,
the rams of Nebaioth put at your service:
they are acceptable offerings on my altar
and will enhance the glory of my house.
8Who are these as thick as clouds,
flying like doves to their cote?
9Ah, they are ships, with those of Tarshish in the front,
for the islands now trust in me.
They bear your sons from far away
bringing their gold and silver with them,
for the name of Yahweh your God,
for the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
10Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings will attend to you.
For though in anger I have struck you,
in love I will have mercy on you.
11Your gates will forever be open
and never be shut by night or day,
that you may receive the wealth of the nations,
their kings leading them in procession;
(12for the nations and kingdoms that refuse to serve you will perish; they will be destroyed.)
13The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
the pine, the fir and the cypress, too,
to adorn the place of my Sanctuary,
to give glory to the resting place of my feet.
14The sons of those who oppressed you will come bending low;
all who despised you will fall before your feet.
They will call you the City of Yahweh,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
15Though you have been forsaken, hated and avoided,
I will make of you an everlasting pride,
a joy for all generations.
16You will suck the milk of nations
and be nursed at royal breasts.
You will know that I, Yahweh, am your savior,
your redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17Instead of bronze I will bring you gold;
instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze;
instead of stones, iron.
Peace will be overseers,
justice your taskmasters.
18Violence will no more be heard in your land,
nor ruin and destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls Salvation,
and your gates Praise.
19No more will the sun give you light by day,
nor the moon shine on you by night.
For Yahweh will be your everlasting light
and your God will be your glory.
20No more will your sun go down,
never will your moon wane.
For Yahweh will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning will come to an end.
21Your people will be upright;
forever they will possess the land—
they the shoot of my planting,
the work of my hand—
in them I shall be glorified.
22The least of them will become a clan,
the smallest a mighty nation.
I, Yahweh, will do this,
swiftly, in due time.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
•1The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me,
because Yahweh has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up broken hearts,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
freedom to those languishing in prison;
2to announce the year of Yahweh’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to give comfort to all who grieve;
3(to comfort those who mourn in Zion)
and give them a garland instead of ashes,
oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and festal clothes instead of despair.
They will be called oaks of integrity
planted by Yahweh to show his glory.
4They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and repair cities laid waste,
left desolate for many generations.
5Strangers will stand to feed your flocks,
foreigners to be your plowmen and vinedressers.
6But you will be named priests of Yahweh,
you will be called ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations
and bathe in the splendor of their riches.
7Since my people’s shame has been twofold
and disgrace has been their lot,
they will possess a double portion
of inheritance in their land.
I will give them everlasting joy.
8For I, Yahweh, love justice,
I hate robbery and oppression;
I will give them their due reward
and make an everlasting Covenant with them.
9Their descendants shall be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a race Yahweh has blessed.
10I rejoice greatly in Yahweh,
my soul exults for joy in my God,
for he has clothed me in the garments of his salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of his righteousness,
like a bridegroom wearing a garland,
like a bride adorned with jewels.
11For as the earth brings forth its growth,
and as a garden makes seeds spring up,
so will the Lord Yahweh make justice and praise
spring up in the sight of all nations.
Your God will rejoice in you
•1For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace,
for Jerusalem I will not keep silent,
until her holiness shines like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a burning torch.
2The nations will see your holiness
and all the kings your glory.
You will be called by a new name
which the mouth of Yahweh will reveal.
3You will be a crown of glory
in the hand of Yahweh,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4No longer will you be named Forsaken;
no longer will your land be called
but you will be called My Delight
and your land Espoused.
For Yahweh delights in you
and will make your land his spouse.
5As a young man marries a virgin,
so will your builder marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.
He who sows will reap
6Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have stationed watchmen; all the day and throughout the night they will not be silent.
You who call on Yahweh, give yourselves no rest; 7and give him no rest either till he restores Jerusalem and makes of it the pride of the earth.
8Yahweh swears by his right hand and by his mighty arm: Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, nor will foreigners drink the wine for which you have labored. 9But those who toil will eat the harvest, and praise Yahweh; and those working for the vintage shall drink of the wine in the courts of my Sanctuary.
10“Pass through, pass through the gates, prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones; raise up a standard for the peoples.”
11For Yahweh proclaims to the ends of the earth:
Say to the daughter of Zion, here comes your salvation! Yahweh brings the reward of his victory, his booty is carried before him.
12They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of Yahweh; and you shall be called The Sought After, a city no longer abandoned.
Why are your clothes red?
•1Who is this coming from Edom,
in crimson garments from Bozrah,
marching in great strength?
“It is I, proclaiming justice,
I who am powerful to save.”
2Why are your clothes red?
Such garments have those who tread the winepress.
3“Alone I have trod the grapes;
not one of my people was with me.
I trampled them in my anger,
I trod them down in my wrath,
their lifeblood spattering my garments,
staining with crimson all my raiment.
4For I had set a day of vengeance
and my year of redemption had come.
5I looked about: there was no one to help.
I was appalled: there was no one to give support.
My own arm, then, brought about the victory,
and I was supported by my own fury.
6I crushed the peoples in my anger,
I trampled them down in my wrath,
and on the earth I poured their lifeblood.”
Rend the heavens and come down
•7I will sing in praise of Yahweh and recall his kindness, according to all that he has done for us, his great goodness to the family of Israel. He has granted us mercy in the abundance of his blessings.
8For he said: “Surely they are my people, children who will not be disloyal.” So he proved himself their Savior 9in all their trials.
It was not a messenger or an angel but he himself who delivered them. Out of his love and mercy, he redeemed them, lifting them up and carrying them throughout the days of old.
10Yet they rebelled, giving grief to his holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy, fighting against them.
11His people then remembered the days of old, the days of Moses. Where is he who brought them out of the sea, the shepherd of his flock?
Where is he who in the midst of them poured out his holy Spirit, 12who sent his own power to accompany Moses, who divided the waters before them, winning for himself eternal renown, 13who made them go through the depths as easily as a horse in the wilderness? 14Like cattle going down into the valley, they did not stumble.
The spirit of Yahweh led them to their rest; you guided your people, winning for yourself glorious renown.
15Look down from heaven, look down from your holy and glorious throne. Where is your zeal and your strength, the yearning of your heart and your compassion? How long will you ignore our pain? 16For you are our Father, whereas Abraham does not know us nor has Israel any knowledge of us. But you, O Yahweh, are our Father, from the beginning, you are our redeemer: this is your name.
17Why have you made us stray from your ways? Why have you let our heart become hard so that we do not fear you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance.
18Why have irreligious people invaded your Sanctuary? Why have our enemies trampled it down?
19For too long we have become like those you do not rule, like those who do not bear your name.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down! The mountains would quake at your presence.
1As when fire sets brushwood ablaze and causes water to boil, make the nations know your name, and your enemies tremble. 2Let them witness your stunning deeds.
3No one has ever heard or perceived, no eye has ever seen a God besides you who works for those who trust in him.
4You have confounded those who acted righteously and who joyfully kept your ways in mind. You are angry with our sins, yet conceal them and we shall be saved.
5All of us have become like the unclean; all our good deeds are like polluted garments; we have all withered like leaves, blown away by our iniquities.
6There is no one who calls upon your name, no one who rouses himself to lay hold of you. For you have hidden your face, you have given us up to the power of our evil acts.
7And yet, Yahweh, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are our potter; we are the work of your hand.
8Do not let your anger go too far, O Yahweh, or think of our sins forever. See, we all are your people!
9Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation.
10Our holy and glorious house, where our ancestors used to pray to you, has been razed to the ground, and all that we treasure lies in ruins.
11Can you still remain unmoved, O Yahweh, before all this? Will you punish us further with your silence?
•1I let myself be found by those who did not ask for me; I have been met by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation who did not call on my name. 2I have stretched out my hands all day to a rebellious people who chose the evil way, following their own wishes.
3These people provoked me to my face, continually, sacrificing in gardens, burning incense on bricks, 4living in tombs and spending nights in dark places; a people who eat the flesh of swine and broth of abominable meat.
5They cry out, “Stay away, do not come near, for I am too sacred to be touched.” Such people and their acts arouse my anger like fire that burns all day.
6Look, all this is written in my book, I will not keep silent till I have settled my account with them 7for their crimes and the crimes of their fathers as well, Yahweh says. Because they burned incense on the mountains and blasphemed against me on the hills, I will pay them back in full.
God saves and blesses the just
8Yahweh says, When people find juice in a grape, they say: ‘Do not destroy it, there is a blessing here.’ So will I do with my servants; I will not destroy all of them.
9I will create a new race from Jacob and they will own the hills of Judah. My chosen people will inherit them, and my servants will dwell there.
10Sharon will be a pasture for flocks, the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds; they will be for my people who have sought me.
11But as for you who have forsaken Yahweh, you who have forgotten my holy mountain, you who spread a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, 12I have destined you to the sword. All of you will kneel for the slaughter.
For I called and you did not answer;
I spoke and you did not listen.
Instead you did what was evil in my sight
and chose that in which I had no delight.
13Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh:
Look, my servants will eat
but you will go hungry;
my servants will drink
but you will be thirsty;
my servants will rejoice
but you will be disgraced;
14my servants will sing with gladness of heart,
but you will cry with grief in your heart
and wail in anguish of spirit.
15My chosen ones will use as a curse the name you will leave behind, as I strike you dead and give my servants a new name.
16Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will receive the blessing from the God of truth; whoever takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For past troubles will be forgotten, and I will see them no more.
A new heaven and a new earth
•17I now create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind again.
18Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. 19I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people.
The sound of distress and the voice of weeping will not be heard in it any more.
20You will no longer know of dead children or of adults who do not live out a lifetime. One who reaches a hundred years will have died a mere youth, but one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
21They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant crops and eat their fruit. 22No longer will they build houses for others to dwell in; no longer will they plant for others to eat the harvest.
For as the days of a tree will the days of my people be; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.
23Their labor will not be in vain, nor will they bear children destined for misfortune, for they will be a people blessed by Yahweh, and their descendants with them.
24Before they call, I will have answered; while they are yet speaking, I will have heard.
25The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
the lion will eat straw like the ox,
(but the serpent will feed on dust).
They will not destroy nor do any harm
over all my holy mountain, says Yahweh.
True worship of Yahweh
1Thus says Yahweh:
Heaven is my throne and earth my footstool. What house, then, could you build for me, and what could you offer as my resting place?
2My hands have made all this and it is all mine, but what I am looking for is the one who is meek and contrite of heart, who trembles at my word.
3They sacrifice an ox, then they murder a human being. They sacrifice a lamb, then they break a dog’s neck; they bring a cereal offering, then they offer swine’s blood. They burn incense, but they burn it for idols.
Since they have chosen their own ways and taken delight in their dirty idols, 4I will likewise choose afflictions for them that they fear and abhor.
For when I called no one answered,
when I spoke no one listened.
Instead they did what was evil in my sight
and chose that in which I had no delight.
5Hear the word of Yahweh, you who tremble at his word: Because of my name your own people hate and reject you, saying, “Let Yahweh show his glory, that we may see your joy.”
These mockers will be put to shame. 6Listen, an uproar from the city, a voice from the temple! It is the voice of Yahweh avenging and paying back his enemies.
Birth of the new Jerusalem
7Long before being in labor,
she has given birth;
before having birth pangs
she has been delivered of a son.
8Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Has anyone seen the like of it? How could a land spring forth in one day? How could a nation be formed in a moment?
Yet Zion had scarcely been in travail when she gave birth to her children.
9Yahweh says: Do I allow to conceive and yet not to give birth? For I am the one who opens the womb and who closes it.
10“Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, 11that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.”
12For this is what Yahweh says: I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her.
And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap.
13As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. 14At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish. For it shall be known that Yahweh’s hand is with his servant, but his fury is upon his enemy.
15Look, Yahweh will come in fire,
his chariots like the whirlwind,
to release his anger with fury
and his threat with flames of fire.
16For by fire will Yahweh execute judgment,
and by his sword, against all mortals.
Those slain by Yahweh will be many.
17As for those who sanctify and purify themselves by going to the gardens and following the priestess in the midst—those who eat the flesh of pigs, reptiles and rats—their deeds and thoughts will suddenly come to an end, says Yahweh.
The pagans enter the kingdom of God
•18Now I am going to gather the nations of every tongue, and they will witness my glory, 19for I will perform a wonderful thing among them. Then I will send some of their survivors to the nations—Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moscheck, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan—to the distant islands where no one has ever heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20They will bring your kindred from all the nations as an offering to Yahweh on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on camels to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says Yahweh, just as the Israelites bring oblations in clean vessels to the House of Yahweh. 21Then I will choose priests and Levites even from them, says Yahweh.
22Yahweh says, “As the new heavens and the new earth that I will make shall endure before me, so will your name and your descendants also endure.”
23From new moon to new moon, from sabbath to sabbath, every mortal will come to worship me, says Yahweh. 24And on their way out they will see the corpses of those who rebelled against me. Their worms shall not die, nor their fire be quenched, and they will be abhorrent to all.
• 1.1 Verse 1 introduces the prophecies of the first twelve chapters. We find messages proclaimed on different occasions, over a long period of time but they are not arranged according to the time they were spoken.
I raised children… but they have risen against me (v. 2). We often think that God demands what is due him, but it is not so: the Lord is a Father, a neglected Father. His love is wounded, not because of any particular sin, but because his children are irresponsible: my people do not understand.
Perverted children (v. 4). People must hear the prophets’ harsh words. The power of their interests, their passions and propaganda are such that they are accustomed to accept everything, except the truth and their vocation as sons and daughters of God.
Shall I strike you again and again? (v. 5). Scarcity, bad laws, defeat are not in themselves punishment from God; we cause them ourselves. If those who are suffering are God’s children, God is committed to them, yet he does not spare them because only suffering can teach them. So, in another sense, it is true that God is the one striking them.
Here we have several expressions which are repeated in the following pages:
The Daughter of Zion (v. 8) means the city of Zion, or Jerusalem. Zion was the area of Jerusalem where David had established his residence.
The Holy One of Israel (v. 4). In chapter 6, God will reveal himself as the Holy One, that is to say, God whose mystery is inaccessible and whose brilliance causes the death of any creature blemished by sin. Isaiah will be the prophet of the Holy God.
Yahweh Sabaoth or the Lord of Hosts (v. 9): it is an ancient title for Yahweh. It means both the God who leads Israel’s armies to victory and the God who rules the heavenly hosts, the angels, the stars and the forces of the universe.
• 11. What do I care for your endless sacrifices? It is characteristic of the prophets to condemn external worship that does not express a true surrender to God. The sacrifices and the festivals in question here were required by the law of God; yet God says that he detests them, because when done without proper dispositions, they are a lie (see Ps 40:7 and 50:16, also, Mt 5:23).
Give the fatherless their rights (v. 17). The Mosaic commandments condemned theft (Ex 20:14). The prophets denounce a social system which crushes the lowly.
Some people are fond of great ceremonies, others of their own devotions and prayers and still others, of doing generous and philanthropic works. When doing this, we may be covering up the injustice we do every day.
• 21. Jerusalem is the city chosen by God. As the groom chooses his bride, so did Yahweh choose his people. Now, they are a harlot, because with their crimes, their trampling on the poor, they are unfaithful to Yahweh. Those who forget God and run after their own interests, without caring for their brothers and sisters, are adulterers.
It is a question of justice. Justice is one of the words most often used by the prophets. In the Bible, the “just one” is the one who lives according to the truth, that is, who remains faithful to the Covenant with God. What the prophets ask with such insistence is that justice be a profound righteousness and not just an external observance of the laws. Finally with Jesus, we come to the “justice” of the Holy Spirit, meaning the holiness of God deep in the human heart.
The deliverance of Zion will be like a judgment (v. 27). Israel, plundered and ruined, prays for salvation. God says: “My salvation means punishing what you are doing.”
Here we have something very new. Up to this time people always prayed for the salvation of Israel, and if they were faithful God promised them prosperity in the land of Palestine. Here Isaiah opens up other perspectives. God comes to judge his people and it is the just who will be saved. A new world is beginning, and Isaiah understands that this future will be beyond the present world where violence prevails. A new age is foreseen.
We must also note that the opposition of Israel to the “nations”, that is to the rest of humanity, has disappeared: different peoples come to Jerusalem to find there a light that God has simply put into the hands of his people.
Without saying it, Isaiah questions Jewish nationalism and in the poems that follow (7:10; 9:1; 11:1) he will show the figure of a Savior who in a certain way will be son of David, but certainly not the heir of corrupt kings and judges who reign and govern in the name of Yahweh.
Jesus and the Apostles will in their turn, speak of a judgment. God prepares something new and he cannot but condemn and destroy a world that has grown old in evil to which we become too easily accustomed. Certain liberations in history bring to mind the coming of a kingdom (as in Exodus, Isaiah 37, in the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem…). More often moments of anguish prepare for it, less through the good they bring than because they destroy ancient structures in which sin was embedded (Lk 21, 28 and Rev).
• 29. This passage deals with the pagan cults which were practiced in groves and woods where they used to sleep with the prostitutes consecrated to the Baals.
• 2.1 This is apparently an unreal vision and yet it is being fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
The small hill overlooking the city of David and on which Solomon’s temple is built, has become in this vision the center of the universe. All the nations are going there. Why are they going there? Because they know they need the word of God. After having exhausted the resources of science, economy and politics, they realize they need a teaching, that is to say, a Revelation from God. The word “Torah,” which in later days will mean the “Law,” originally means, the instruction given by God as we translate it here.
The law of God teaches us the meaning of human life and the mission of humankind. The answer to such questions is finally found in the person of Christ, Son of God become human, the model for his brothers and sisters. Recall how Jesus also went up a mountain to be transfigured before his apostles. It is there that they were given the Law and the Teaching: “Listen to him.”
Let us go to the House of the God of Jacob (v. 3). The kingdom of God will be formed around the people of Jacob-Israel and their kings, the descendants of David. Throughout the ages God preserves a Center in the world, the visible focus of the invisible kingdom: first, Israel, then remnant of Israel which is in the Church. Today, the Church reveals itself as a sign upon a mountain, open to the contemplation of both believing and unbelieving people.
It is true that the Church has many unattractive aspects: her institutions, her hierarchy; her paralyzing traditions are no more exempt from error and scandals than were those of the Jewish community. Perhaps we fail to discern the profound riches which the Church develops in sincere believers. In the world, they are those who keep the fire that Christ lit burning, and who create a network of more human relationships and more authentic life around them.
In the final analysis, this is what prepares for the coming of the “new creature.” Isaiah alone has done more for human progress than all the kings of Assyria with their armies, their victories and their laws. This leaven of authentic civilization is what, one day, will be placed “on the high mountains”, or “on a lampstand” to enlighten the world. (See Mt 5:14.)
• 6. This text is not addressed to Jerusalem (capital of Judah), but to the northern kingdom (Samaria is the capital) which bears the name of their ancestor Jacob-Israel.
At the time, the northern kingdom had enjoyed years of prosperity. It followed that idols multiplied. In those days, those who became rich did not know what to do with their gold other than to make statues and ornaments which they dedicated to some god from whom they expected security and protection. Isaiah foresaw the disaster which was approaching for those unconcerned people.
Isaiah considers war as disasters and the terror of the defeated as an encounter of materialistic-minded people with their God who comes to judge them.
Their land is full of idols (v. 8). An idol in our life is like a cancer in the body; it is something overly important which consumes our real life. This is what science, progress, conveniences, a house, a car or money do, when they are no longer a means of fulfilling God’s plans but instead we devote to them all our energy and hope.
Note the refrain in 11 and 17: the pride of mortal will be brought low. Pride of the great, of the wise, pride of the mediocre and of the falsely humble. The pride of the religious person who believes he knows God because he knows how to speak about him. Pride of the mortal creature coming to the end of his days without having encountered the living God. More than folly, pride is an insult to the Holy God and it demands amendment: the more divine love is, the more demanding and jealous it is.
• 3.9 The prophets do not speak of poverty because it would hide historic reality. In Isaiah’s view, the poor are poor because others are oppressors. The sin is in the laws and in those who have forgotten God to the point of taking power into their own hands. Isaiah denounces the sin of the leaders in order to save the entire people from God’s judgment.
• 16. Isaiah castigates the wealthy women of Jerusalem, all equipped to seduce like the idols whose jewels have been paid for with the blood of the poor. We have the same maledictions in Amos 4:1. Maledictions that the poor of today could legitimately call down on our materialist countries: we think of the astronomic sums dispensed for dogs, drugs and pornography, not to mention the remedies for those who have over-eaten.
The remainder of the discourse is in 4:1: the imminent disaster will account for the many widows; cost what it may, they will search for a husband who will give them legal protection at least.
• 4.2 In the turbulent history of nations, God allows a small and insignificant people to take shape. From among them a chosen group called “Remnant” appears and takes root. As a pyramid is gradually reduced to a point, so is this remnant reduced, until it becomes only one man, the Savior. Here, he is called the fruit of the earth. He is also called Shoot, because he will be the sprout for the new humanity.
Notice here, as in 1:27, that the kingdom of God begins with a “judgment.” This means that human beings alone cannot build the lasting city. Isaiah denounces at the same time the sin of individuals and the sin of the nation. No nation can present itself as the kingdom of God on earth. The Jewish people directed by the law of Moses, and the kingdom of David consecrated by God, only represented the first phase of sacred history. They would have to give up their ambitions and their human limitations (a kingdom of God in Palestine!) to receive from God a new covenant: see Jeremiah 31:31. It is Christ who judges the world (Jn 12:31) and who pardons its sins (Jn 20:22).
Also, as in 2:2, the kingdom of God is a place where God becomes present to his people: see the Cloud and the pillar of fire in Exodus 13:21.
Above Mount Zion which symbolizes the Church, God will be a shade from the scorching heat by day.
– He will provide rest for the weary: “Come to me and I will refresh you” (Mt 11:28).
– The new trends in the world can harm the unwary and the isolated but not those who live in the church community.
It seems however, that only a small remnant is assembled there on Mt. Zion. Let us not say that only a small number of the elect (in which we number of course), will be saved for eternity. It is better to say that the Church in this world will always seem to be a small remnant; likewise in what is called the Church or people of God, only a small number will live the promises of God (Lk 12:32).
• 5.1 Song of the “love” of God who at the end, threatens to destroy those who despise him. Isaiah knows this well because he encountered God whose love is tender and terrible.
The prophets readily exchange the language of religion for the language of passionate love. Friend, Lover, Husband: The Lord does not resemble God as depicted by the Jews.
The vineyard is the people whom Yahweh nurtured over the centuries of their history and among whom so many prophets worked, watering it with their sweat, if not with their blood. Perhaps we should not look for a specific meaning in every detail of the parable: the tower, the wine press. In a somewhat similar text, in Micah 6:1-5, God reminds us of all he has done for his people.
After seeing how considerate the Lord has been, Isaiah denounces the injustice and oppression which rule daily life in Jerusalem. In that, he sees proof that the law, the miracles and the blessings of the Lord have been in vain. Their history shows that the kingdom of David is already a failure and Judah will be destroyed.
The same image of the vineyard appears in Isaiah 27:2 and in Jeremiah 2:21. Jesus will recall it in John 15.
• 8. God does not tolerate that some occupy all the land when many are without a plot to live (see Lev 25:8). There is no justification either for a society leaving all the capital in the hands of owners so that most of the workers cannot benefit from the riches of their own country. Isaiah’s words also condemn those who take over all the real power in a society, preventing others from exercising their human responsibilities.
The six woes point to the same people: to the rich and the noble who are unwilling to shoulder their responsibilities towards their people and who squander money. Their own judgment has become corrupt.
When false values are imposed on a society it culminates in evil. This is the social scandal which Jesus addressed in Matthew 18:7.
Isaiah predicts the exile without hesitation. It would have been wiser to understand the will of God and the way in which he rules over events. The people unfortunately make use of their intelligence only to advance their own interests or to excel in the empty games of the rich. They allow their own people to sink into poverty.
• 6.1 On that day, in the year 740, Isaiah is in the Temple, or rather, he sees himself in the Temple, in spirit. In the innermost room, where the Ark is kept, there is only the divine presence: Yahweh seated as king, the train of his cloak filling the anteroom, as if to express the overflow of holiness and the power of God over the holy place and the city of Jerusalem.
During this brief moment, Isaiah encounters God in an intimate, authentic way, and this encounter will mark him for his entire life. This cannot be expressed, nor can he try to describe Yahweh who communicated with him in a spiritual way. The vision he has, the images he sees and the words that he hears are like flashes emerging from this mysterious and unspeakable encounter.
Isaiah speaks of the holy God, that is to say, totally other, infinitely different from any creature. At the very moment of becoming present, he is out of our reach. Holy God is a way of saying that God is mystery. Isaiah continues to hold on to the presence of God and at the same time he is invaded by a fear which is not frightening. In the presence of the Holy One we experience ourselves as sinners, not because of a particular sin, but because of our very nature; we feel incapable of placing ourselves in the hands of God who surrounds us with his presence.
Poor me! I am doomed! (v. 5) because God has said: “No one can see me and live” (Ex 33:20). God makes the first move and the Seraph purifies Isaiah through divine fire. Isaiah is forgiven in the very instant he responds by an act of faith and completely accepts his mission. From then on, Isaiah will know and will say that it is necessary to choose: either believe in the Lord or else be destroyed by contact with the Holy One.
Seraphim, that is, the burning ones (v. 6). The Israelites always believed in good and evil spirits. From their time in the desert, they attribute to some of these spirits the form of burning serpents; read Numbers 21:4-9; 2 Kings 18:4 on the subject. These texts help us to understand why Yahweh appears surrounded by fantastic Seraphim with human faces. Being superior to humans, these beings can live close to God, but they must shield themselves from the splendor of his glory.
The glory of God is the radiance coming from God, who is present in the Jerusalem temple, as in the center of the world, radiating his power from one end of the earth to the other.
Isaiah receives his mission:
– He will be God’s spokesperson.
– Instead of believing, the people will harden their hearts.
– This will be the cause of Judah’s ruin. All that will remain will be the root from which something new will spring forth.
Much as you hear… (v. 9) Here God speaks ironically. In vain will they listen to the message of the prophet. In vain will they see the events of which they are witnesses and through which God speaks to them. Many times Isaiah will denounce this double voluntary blindness (1:12; 28:9-12). The tense of the Hebrew verb could be translated in the present or the future: it is already true and yet will be worse.
Make their ears deaf (v. 10). The text here uses a form that is difficult to translate and means: you are going to make them, or you will the occasion of their hardening… The end of the phrase shows clearly that God speaks in an ironical way. What a misfortune for them should they be converted! It is only in this way that God will heal all the wounds of his people (1:5, 26-28).
It is evident that if this irony is not seen—it will be found in numerous texts of the prophets—or if the special mood of the Hebrew verb is not noted, a person could be scandalized in thinking that God sends the prophet for the sole purpose of not being listened to and consequently for the people to be lost.
These verses apply not only to Isaiah’s mission but to Jesus himself (Mt 13:14) and after him, to the apostles (Acts 28:26 and Jn 12:40). They will use these words to express the result of their own mission. Challenged by the word of God, many people and social groups close themselves and reject the message which might have saved them. The word of God is for our rising or our downfall, depending on how we welcome it (Lk 2:34).
• 7.1 The passage 7:1-9 summarizes the situation which developed in 736 when the people of Aram and Israel (the northern kingdom with its capital, Samaria) invaded the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem (the southern kingdom). Several names may make this text difficult to understand: Rezin, king of Aram and Pekah, Remaliah’s son, king of Israel (also called Ephraim: 7:9), are the enemies.
King Ahaz thinks of everything except the help of God who committed himself to David’s heirs as long as they would trust him and seek justice.
Isaiah opposes the king: if the Assyrians intervene, there will be as much destruction in Judah as in Israel and Aram, even if Ahaz is the ally of the Assyrians. The king must rely on the Covenant and Yahweh’s protection.
• 10. The prophecy about the Virgin giving birth is one of the most important in the Bible even though it leaves some questions unanswered.
To support his warnings already expressed in verses 4-9, Isaiah offers a miraculous sign to the king: Ask the Lord… (v. 11). Ahaz piously refuses to hide his determination not to turn back (v. 12). Then, the prophet explodes in anger: these descendants of David whom God has always protected are useless: a descendant of David of another kind will be able to bring salvation to God’s people. Yahweh is preparing to send him. His mother (called here the Virgin: see what follows) gives him the name he will deserve (v. 14). Before this future king may bring peace, he will be raised humbly (v. 15). Before that Ahaz’s and his followers’ absurd politics would certainly bring total ruin to the country.
Now a few points need to be clarified.
1. Immanuel means God-with-us. This child not only gives us God’s blessings, or miraculous and divine liberation, but through him, God becomes present among humankind and the promises heard so many times come true: I will be their God and they will be my people (Hos 2:25; Ezk 37:27; Rev 21:3).
2. Why does the Gospel use the word “Virgin” (Mt 1:23) where Isaiah speaks in verse 14 of the young (mother)?
The term used by Isaiah signifies in the biblical texts, at times a young girl, at times a young woman: it is a question of a young person. It was used like that without anything added to denote the young queen. On the other hand the prophets used to say the Virgin of Israel or the Virgin Daughter of Zion to refer to the people and to the Holy City (Is 37:22). And so to them, the verse, the Virgin will give birth, could also mean: the believing community will give birth to the Messiah.
3. Since God is giving a sign to all the people, the question of time must be exact: otherwise how could it be a sign? The young (mother) was perhaps Ahaz’s wife whose motherhood would have anticipated salvation. However Ahaz’s son and successor Ezekiah whom the Bible considers as a good king was already born at that time. Moreover how is it possible that Isaiah spoke about him in such an extraordinary manner (see 9:1-6).
It is also possible that this young mother was the one referred to by the prophet Micah when he spoke with enigmatic words of “the one who is to give birth” (5:2). These words seem to allude to the believers’ community from which the Messiah will be born.
The prophecy of Isaiah was actually understood as an announcement of the Messiah, which is why they kept it for future times. In that case, how can we understand Isaiah’s announcement of such birth as a close event that would be a sign for his listeners?
We cannot answer these questions because we do not know the exact words of Isaiah. Remember that his prophecy came to us as it was written by his disciples. However, by comparing these lines with those in Micah 5:2, we can at least approximate the message. Isaiah speaks as did the prophets: they see and gather together in one vision events which are perhaps far removed in time but follow the same line and set a direction in history.
Isaiah is giving a sign to king Ahaz, to his heirs, David’s descendants (v. 13), and to all who live in a world devastated by sin, and this sign points to Christ. Just as in the lost earthly Paradise we have the image of a woman, or of the son of a woman who will crush the serpent’s head, here we have another image, that of the virgin with her son, God-with-us. Immanuel suffers for his brothers’ and sisters’ sins, and that is why he can reconcile us with God.
Many believing Jews suspected that the Messiah’s origin would be extraordinary; before Jesus, the Greek translation of the Bible had already substituted the word “virgin” for the original term young girl.
So the evangelists would easily have recognized the fulfillment of that prophecy in the virginal birth of Jesus.
• 8.1 Prophets teach through their words and through their actions. Here, the strange name that Isaiah gives his son serves as a warning for everyone. Such a name, along with Immanuel form a pair in this chapter, and complement each other in pointing both to the invasion caused by Ahaz and to the liberation which will come later.
The waters of Shiloah (v. 6) are the only source of water supply for Jerusalem, located on a plateau. They symbolize the secret protection of the Lord, present in the midst of his people and in whom all should place their faith. Whereas the king of Assyria whom Ahaz called for help, would be like the river whose raging waters will flood everything. He will destroy Judah’s enemies, but will also leave Judah in ruins. In this, we also have the prophecy about the destiny of modern nations that believe they will solve their internal problems by jumping on the bandwagon of more powerful nations.
• 11. When his hand grasped me. Isaiah is referring to one of those decisive encounters when God made him his prophet and he was under the wing of God’s Spirit.
Do not speak of conspiracy! (v. 12). God acts in his prophets and frees them from fear. They are no longer paralyzed by the fears of the society in which they live. They are able to see and to show new ways.
We are signs in Israel. Isaiah has concluded his interventions and they have not listened to him. All he can do now is to wait in silence for the events to occur. His two sons, to whom he gave symbolic names: Quick to plunder- Booty-is-Close (v. 3) and A remnant-will-return (7:3) remind everyone of his predictions. The first of these names refers to the near future; the second, to the end of the crisis. (See 10:20.)
Only Yahweh Sabaoth is holy: only him must you fear (v. 13). For Jerusalem, it is a privilege to have God in its midst. Rather than being frightened by human dangers, the Jews should look to God and obey him. In their midst, God is like the stone which hardly emerges from the ground but causes a fall for those who do not see it. Jesus will appear as a stumbling stone (Mt 21:44).
God hides his face from the people of Jacob (v. 17). Humanly speaking, the people of Jerusalem have good reasons for not following Yahweh’s command given through Isaiah, and God does not work a miracle to persuade them at that time. God “hides” because faith relies on his word and does not demand miracles.
• 19. Israel, who did not listen to the word of the living God, is left with one recourse: to consult the dead through the fortune-tellers and the mediums: Isaiah makes fun of them (vv. 19-20).
• 9.1 This poem may have been composed in 732 when the king of Assyria destroyed Israel, kindred and enemies at the same time. According to their custom, the Assyrians took many of the people to the other end of their empire. They resided in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali (see previous paragraph, Is 8:23) which, centuries later, would become Galilee. Dispersed among the pagans, they were coming out of sacred history to enter into darkness.
The liberation promised to them is presented as a crushing victory of the Lord, inaugurating a reign of peace, related to Emmanuel.
The people who walk in darkness… The Gospel (Mt 4:16) sees in that people the crowds whom Jesus addresses:
– a people dominated by every kind of oppressors;
– a people seeking light and without hope.
A child is born (v. 5): in growing up he will lose nothing of his child-like qualities, but will do away with the pride of nations.
Without doubt this child is the one named Emmanuel in 7:15. Here again, his name signifies what God will do through him. Through him God will be revealed as “Wonderful Counselor” which means he whose “counsel,” whose plans are marvelously wise. God “Father” as he was for David, “Mighty God” as he was for Jacob. The “Prince of Peace,” he is still God but he will be so in giving the victory to his king, his “messiah,” as he did for David.
As was already the case for Emmanuel, God-with-us, these appellations which seem at first said for God could be equally applied to the future king who will be “his” king, which is usually expressed with the word Messiah. In any case it prophetically announces what in fact would happen: God himself will come in the person of Jesus.
WE DO NOT ABANDON HOPE
In the Bible, many promises appear as if they would happen immediately.
Abraham is promised a son and Isaac is born; but the true heir is Christ. Abraham is promised a land for his children who will, in fact, occupy Canaan; but the true land is the kingdom of God. David is promised an heir and a lasting kingdom, but Christ is the definitive king, not Solomon.
• 7. The poem beginning here and ending in 10:4 was written years before the one we just read. It is addressed to the people of Israel who although weakened by their defeats, remain unconcerned and indifferent to God.
What the prophet condemns on God’s behalf is their social injustice.
10:2, “the widows, the orphans:” which means those who have no protection.
The Bible often calls our attention to them; it also mentions “the foreigner,” meaning the immigrant.
• 10.5 This poem addresses the Assyrians when they were still a threat, perhaps in the campaign of 701 (see the commentary on chap. 31).
• 20. In 8:3 we already mentioned Isaiah’s son whom he called “Quick to plunder-Booty is Close.” Here, his other son’s name, mentioned in 7:3, A-remnant-will-return, is explained. Several times in the Bible we find Remnant which refers to the Remnant of Israel, namely, the small group who will remain after God punishes Israel for their infidelity (see Am 5:15).
From the time God spoke to Elijah of the “seven thousand Israelites” (1 K 19:18), the prophets are constantly repeating that the sins of Israel will not cancel God’s plans. A remnant will remain when Israel is destroyed, and they will return. This has a double meaning:
– they will return from the countries where they were deported;
– they will return to their God interiorly: they will be converted to the Lord in their hearts.
• 11.1 Those who have read the New Testament know that the Jews of Jesus’ time were expecting a Messiah. This, however, was not always the case. From Abraham to David, the Israelites were looking for the land promised by God and they conquered it. After David, they thought that a better king could not be found and, during the two and a half centuries that followed, they hoped only that their present and future kings would resemble David. The very promise that God made to David about his descendants (2 S 7:14) was not understood as the announcement of a future Messiah.
Isaiah is the first to announce the Messiah, namely, a king like David but better. Here he is presented as a shoot coming from the stump, once the tree has been felled. Thus, he suggests that the present kings, who are sinners and without much faith, will disappear. More than a descendant of David, Emmanuel will be a new David (he is called son of Jesse like David).
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him as it did on the prophets and more so. The prophets were inspired by a mysterious power called “Spirit of God,” but not at all times. In him, the Spirit would dwell always:
– a spirit of wisdom and intelligence, as Solomon had;
– a spirit of prudence and strength, like David’s;
– a spirit of knowledge and respect for the Lord, as Moses and the Patriarchs had.
To do justice for the meek was and continues to be the first function of sovereigns. The Messiah-King would be God’s deputy, attentive to the poor, and he must receive the Spirit, or Breath of God for this endeavor. We must not see material liberation as opposed to spiritual liberation as if believers were to let others build a more just world. God’s work that saves persons, can never be separated from educating people: it demands the repression of the oppressors and ruling in the fear of the Lord.
It would be wrong to think that, with Christ, this longing for justice was finished. The love and forgiveness that Jesus proclaims bring about the salvation of humankind through truth, justice and shared food. Should we forget these requirements, “spiritual” and naive love would be nothing but an illusion.
The renewal of God’s people will be manifested in nature: the lion will eat hay. To put this in modern terms: thanks to technology and a greater cooperation between people, nature’s hostile forces will be placed at the service of humankind.
Beginning with Isaiah, the prophets will see the Messiah, or the future king anointed by God, as a man of the Spirit. See the second part of Isaiah 42:1 and the commentary of this text Jesus gave in Nazareth (Lk 4:18). When the Spirit of God is conferred on believers through the sacrament of confirmation, the church recalls the Spirit of wisdom, intelligence, strength, etc.
• 10. This poem in verses 10-16 was written at the time of the exile. It was placed here to develop the prophecy concerning the “stump of Jesse.”
In verses 10 and 12 note the theme of the “signal for the nations,” found also in Luke 2:32, though in a different form.
Then we have a song of thanksgiving. About the fountains of salvation, see Isaiah 55:1 and the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1.
• 13.1 Chapters 13 to 33 are a series of oracles against the neighboring people. The Bible calls them the nations, and since the Word of God was not addressed to these people, they were pagans. And so, whenever we read “the nations” in the Bible, we can translate it as “the pagans” or “the foreigners.”
It must be admitted that these chapters gather together poems that are vastly different regarding date and spirit. Some of them are from Isaiah and are not really “against” neighboring nations: they are warnings to the peoples of Judah and Jerusalem to rely on the protection of Yahweh instead of letting themselves get involved in coalitions against Assyria.
For example, 14:28-32. An embassy of Philistines came to Jerusalem after a number of set backs at the hands of the Assyrians. Isaiah’s message is: Assyria will recover, Judah will be saved if it remains neutral, trusting in Yahweh.
Again in chapter 16, Moab must have been ravaged by the Assyrian troops and came to ask help from Judah remembering how in the past Moab had been protected by the kings of Jerusalem and paid them a tribute of wool and sheep. Isaiah’s reply: Let them weep.
The poem 13:1-22 has been inserted much later in the book of Isaiah, certainly well after the end of Babylon which it recounts. It is equally true for 14:1-2 and 22-23. We note in 13:3 the “saints,” (or holy ones) meaning celestial personages also termed “sons of God,” or “angels.” During the last centuries before Christ, it was thought that through their intermediary God directed history (Dn 4:14).
• 14.3 See verse 2: it is still far from the Gospel and the missionary spirit!
The poem in verses 3-21 was spoken by Isaiah on the occasion of the death of an Assyrian king: here these words are applied much later to the ruin of Babylon which had become the symbol of the fall of God’s enemies.
It is worth noting how those empires of Assyria, Babylon and Egypt which dominated the world and made the Jews tremble disappeared without leaving a trace.
• 17.1 Despite its title this poem should not have been placed among the prophecies against the nations. It is a warning to the kingdom of Israel to the north. Verses 10-11 surely allude to the cult of the god Adonis whose death and return to life were symbols of the return of vegetation. It would seem that for his feasts people cultivated earliest and fast-growing plants which appeared and soon withered: in this way people celebrated their mourning for Adonis. The prophet sees there an image of what idols produce in the life of Israel.
• 18.1 See commentary on 13:1. However, in 18:7 and 19:16-24, note two additions placed there much later. The first mentions a cult which was celebrated in a Jewish temple built in Heliopolis (which means: City of the Sun).
The second is one of the most extraordinary paragraphs of the Old Testament, for it affirms that the day will come in which foreign nations will share all the privileges of Israel.
• 20.1 We can easily imagine the impact of this symbolic gesture. Egypt was among the powerful of that time. Compared with Assyria, an example of military power, Egypt was the richer country, with a more refined civilization. The Jews were counting on Egypt and were asking for help: chariots and horses.
“Alas for those who trust in humans” (Jer 17:5).
• 22.1 Concerning the Valley of Vision, namely, the cursed valley “Gehenna,” bordering Jerusalem on the south. All the people went up to express their delight. Hezekiah’s military victory or costly surrender to the Assyrians? Isaiah knows that today’s meager success means tomorrow’s defeat and humiliation. If they had listened to him instead of relying on their strength and their diplomacy, the Lord would have saved them.
• 8. The Jews were dragged into a new coalition against Assyria (705–701). Hezekiah reinforces Jerusalem’s defenses before Sennacherib’s arrival.
Isaiah looks at the restlessness of those who refused to hear the call of Yahweh: he asked them to stay out of fruitless struggles and to dedicate themselves to bringing about justice.
Neither Assyria nor Egypt is the savior that Israel needs. Assyria and Egypt, fighting against each other for predominance, are not preparing a civilization for the future. In the days of Isaiah, no one knew that Assyria and Egypt were about to disappear, or to lose their influence. People could not guess that the following centuries would be dominated by new cultures based on moral values (Buddhism) or on a new sense of the creative human personality (Greek culture). Israel would also create one of these cultures through the sense of responsibility, the concern for justice, and the obedience to God’s word: this was Isaiah’s preaching.
Isaiah seemingly forgets what is needed for the security of his country, too small to survive without help. In fact, he indicates the most pressing political needs when he speaks of establishing national life on a just and moral bases. This is the only way to prepare for an unknown future, knowing that God is the one who has planned history long ago.
The people were having a good time in order to forget their tragedy. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Paul recalls these words in 1 Corinthians 15:32.
• 23.1 The poem against Tyre is perhaps Isaiah’s. Tyre, the great commercial center of Palestine was for them what the great centers of international commerce are for us. The prophet speaks of “prostitution”: one could find there the embryo for which we can reproach the society of consumption. Verses 15-18 were most probably written centuries later when Tyre was for a time in the orbit of the Jewish nation.
• 24.1 When Isaiah was announcing the coming of Emmanuel and a new “victory of Midian,” he was expecting this to happen soon. He could foresee that events were heading for a crisis in which God would give victory to his people.
However, after the exile, when the Jews had returned to Palestine and nothing was happening, many despaired because history was following its usual course. They lost trust in human power to bring about something really new and placed all their hopes in a divine intervention that would shake the world order.
This expectation is characteristic of the books termed “apocalyptic,” it is expressed in a part of the poems of chapters 24–27: they were inserted in the book of Isaiah a long time after him.
Verses 7-12 should be put in parentheses, as they are of the same spirit as 16:7-12, and break the thread of the poem. This apocalyptic chapter announces a cosmic intervention of Yahweh. The earth is ravaged but there are survivors in all the pagan peoples. These recognize the true God and sing his glory.
In verses 21-23, all nature is judged, the heavenly powers, cosmic spirits charged with the good order of the universe as well as the earthly kings charged with doing justice here below.
• 25.1 Chapters 25 and 26:1-6: a thanksgiving to Yahweh who has done away with the presence of the oppressor. His citadel, installed, it would seem, in Jerusalem itself had been completely destroyed. Stanza 25:6-9 recalls that this victory is only one stage: the great hope is “the banquet of the elect” after the judgment when God will destroy death. John will use these images in Revelations 7:17 and 21:4.
• 26.7 This psalm of hope was written long after Isaiah. It exemplifies Jewish piety in the centuries after their return home, following the exile.
The people returned from exile, full of hope. The masters to whom they were subjected were perhaps foreigners, possibly their own kings before the exile (vv. 13-14). Now all has changed, now the community wants no other sovereign than God and counts only on the Law (vv. 8 and 16). They hoped for their liberation (v. 17). They believed that upon return, they would build a better world, but this apparently did not happen (v. 18), since the pagans remained in the Holy Land and continued to make the life of believers difficult (vv. 10-12). So the people pray to God for the time of their restoration. God, being just, will not only grant them the liberation of the living, but will raise up the innocent victims who trusted in him, so that they may also know God’s peace (vv. 19-21).
• 27.2 Verses 2-5: a “song of the vine” in contrast with the threatening song, 5:1-7.
• 28.1 Chapters 28-35. In these chapters we find a mixture of many poems from different sources.
Verses1-6. Oracles against Samaria: pronounced immediately before its destruction (721); see commentary on 2:6-19.
• 7. In verses 7-22, a very important poem. To understand it, let us not forget that Isaiah addresses people steeped in a religious culture. They do nothing without consulting priests and prophets. It is known that these prophets are members of confraternities of some kind charged with the guidance of those who seek counsel from Yahweh: but all that is more self-interest and not a matter of seeking the will of God. In verse 11 the prophet is the one who knows how to read God’s messages and reads for those who do not; but what God has to say is sealed and is not accessible to this kind of prophets.
The priests and false prophets make fun of Isaiah, saying his words make no sense other than warnings to little children. Isaiah tells them: since you refuse to understand Yahweh’s warnings, he will speak to you in a stronger way through events where you will not know what to do and you will have in your homeland strangers whose language you will not understand (the same message in 29:14).
• 14. Verses 14-15 and 18-19: the king’s counselors enter into political alliances, playing Egypt against Assyria; Isaiah demands that they seek salvation elsewhere than in these games that can only lead to disaster. It is in the midst of these reproaches that we have the word cornerstone.
Verses 16-22: See, I lay in Zion a granite stone. The Lord builds the foundation of the new Jerusalem. Regarding the cornerstone we read: He who relies on it shall not be put to shame. God assists at the events where the elite and the politicians bustle about. He begins to create in his own way a new history, and already places in the midst of his people that which or he whom no one will be able to ignore, he on whom a believing person may lean. In Hebrew the same word denotes “believe” and “lean on.”
The new people of God will be a people of believers and no power will dominate them. Must we understand relies on it to mean a new stage of history where God already counts little on the kings of Jerusalem, or relies on him to mean the savior? Isaiah lets us understand that it is a matter of new history where justice will be the criterion, replacing customs and human prejudice, and of course money, corruption and the authoritarian caprice of kings.
Already before Christ, the Jews held that this “stone” designated the Messiah (see Ps 118:22). In any case Isaiah refuses to speak of a “king consecrated by God” (which is what Messiah means), for already it was obvious that kings only deceive. The salvation promised by God would go far beyond what was expected then from a savior.
Jesus will apply this word to himself (see Mt 21:42 and Eph 2:21). Paul also recalls this new foundation in 2 Timothy 2:19. The Christ is there in the midst of his people, and he is there in his Church, even when we believe we are building it ourselves.
• 23. Several oracles pronounced during the crisis of 701.
It is difficult for us to understand this parable of the farmer unless we remember that all ancient peoples considered that God, or the gods, taught them the secrets of agriculture. Isaiah says: see how Yahweh has taught the secrets of the earth, to plant at the right time so that the harvest will follow in due time. Know then that Yahweh’s word is the sure means of sowing in history and guiding politics in such a way that there may be fruit to harvest at a given time.
• 29.1 29:1-12; 30:27-33 and 33:7-16: against Assyria and its king, Sennacherib. “Ariel” or “Lion of God” denotes Jerusalem.
• 13. Verse 13. If we cease to be seekers of God, if we have not orientated our life to allow God to enter, our religion quickly becomes a collection of beliefs and practices similar to what all social groups have, which became like elements of a school program. Jesus will recall it in Mark 7:6.
• 30.1 Poem condemning the alliance with Egypt. The rulers thought that paying services to a rich country would be protection against danger; because of that they imposed forced taxes (v. 12) in spite of words of God which condemned this policy (v. 9). Compare with Isaiah 8:11-15.
• 18. God loves us and teaches us. This poem speaks of all the marvels to be discovered when meeting God through tears.
You will see the uncleanliness of your idols (v. 22). People have become aware that they were serving false gods. Idolatry does not only mean keeping carved gods, but more trusting people, serving institutions and envying the things that these images represent (see commentary on Ezk 23).
• 31.1 This text continues the poem of 30:1 and presents the three protagonists of political power. There are two “great powers” and between them, the small Jewish nation trying to survive. The kings call on Egypt against Assyria and then, on Assyria against Egypt.
Isaiah’s teaching is firm: before getting involved in dangerous political games, the king must be just and the people likewise faithful to the commandments. Then, all may rely on God, their Rock. This word of God continues to be meaningful today:
– for the dominated people of the third world
– for the Church when it feels threatened.
• 32.1 Another poem about the hopes placed in the future Prince of Peace (see Is 11).
The just king will give his spirit to the rulers and to the people in charge. Then, the people will be attentive to the Word of God.
• 33.17 This poem, inserted in the book of Isaiah later, emphasizes the hope for a peaceful time when oppression will only be a memory.
Zion, Jerusalem, is the tent which will never be moved. It enjoys Yahweh’s secret protection, already mentioned in 8:1 in the image of the waters of Shiloah. A silent presence, yet more powerful than the presence of the great nations. These nations are on the shores of large rivers (Babylon, Egypt and also Tyre, on the seacoast) and are proud of their large boats. In Zion, the city without power or riches, but under the Law of God, believers feel secure in the face of events.
Look to Zion, the city of our festivals; see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode (v. 20). This is the way the believer looks at the Church where Christ is found. Staying on the fringe, without commitment, one can easily criticize. If a person really comes in and shares his or her life in depth, he or she discovers that only the Church can communicate strength, peace and God’s presence to everyone.
• 34.1 – 34:1. Yahweh’s judgment upon Edom. See the introduction to chapter 24.
– 35:1. Announcement of the return of the exiles and of the Messiah’s coming. See commentary on Isaiah 40-41.
• 36.1 The next two chapters repeat chapters 18 and 19 of 2 Kings, that relate the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib’s army. The first story was taken up in the commentary on 2Kings 18:17.
Now, we look at the second event. Isaiah encourages resistance even though there is no human hope of salvation. He promises an intervention from God which occurs in the form of an epidemic—the angel of Yahweh wiping out the Assyrian army.
In 22:8 we remarked on Isaiah’s opposition to any compromise with the great powers—a seemingly negative attitude for a small insecure nation. Here he relies solely on the power of faith—as Elijah had done before—and saves his nation.
• 37.21 It is important to underscore the following in Isaiah’s prophecy:
– God cannot stand the pride of the powerful who, by despising the poor who trust in God, despise God himself.
– The promise of liberation includes the promise of national restoration. After their trial, the survivors will be like a new plant.
If we look carefully at world history we see how God protects defenseless people and the human groups who remain faithful to their mission. More than anyone, the Church experiences this protection when it is reduced to a persecuted minority.
• 38.1 This incident must have taken place before the 701 siege. Here we see king Hezekiah sick and worried about his health.
Isaiah offers to cure him on God’s behalf and adds the promise to protect and defend the Holy City. Yahweh’s perspective is much broader than that of the pious Hezekiah. If God cures him it is with a view to his own plan of salvation for all.
Hezekiah’s canticle is a psalm of thanksgiving like those we find in the book of Psalms. It expresses the profound feelings of the believers of the Old Testament for whom dying meant losing everything and who tried to convince God that he would gain nothing in letting his faithful disappear forever.
• 39.1 This final incident related in the book of Isaiah comes from 2 Kings 20.
It emphasizes the meanness of Isaiah’s own friends.
Isaiah continues to be God’s servant, constant in his faith. As for Hezekiah, in spite of having been favored by God, he remains selfish and irresponsible. One may ask why his son Manasseh (of all the kings of Judah) became most hostile to the faith.
• 40.1 The prophet discretely tells about his being called. As Isaiah, he is introduced in the Heavenly Council, where God, surrounded by his angels, makes his decisions. There, something mysterious is revealed to him:
Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her… that her guilt has been paid for (v. 2). Yahweh has forgiven his people, and because of this he is about to reestablish them in the Promised Land. They should not be overwhelmed by the prestige of the invincible Babylon where they live as exiles. All flesh (all mortals) is grass: means that the famous city is only a human construction and it would pass like human ambitions (see James 1:10); but God’s promises will always be fulfilled.
Angels are told to prepare for the return of the exiles. The arid and dangerous road of the desert would be leveled for them. And they will have a triumphant return. To all people (all flesh) in the world, the wonders would be so obvious that they would discover the glory of the one God and recognize Yahweh.
Then, across time and space, the prophet addresses the new community to be born, in order to announce the Good News to them. This is the first time these words appear in the Bible.
Comfort is another new word. In the Bible, it does not mean that God brings us to resignation, or to passive observance, but rather encourages us to continue our mission. Thus, in the following chapters, the prophet would encourage the Jews to return, in spite of difficulties. In Paul’s letters, we would find the words to comfort and encourage countless times. Like the other authors of the Bible, in recalling God’s promises, Paul invites us to struggle against the forces of evil with perseverance.
In the wilderness prepare the way for Yahweh (v. 3). The prophet saw Yahweh walking ahead of his people to guide them to their definitive homeland. When the exiles returned to Palestine, they realized that they neither found God nor a lasting peace: something was still missing which would only be fulfilled centuries later. In fact, at the appointed time, John the Baptist appeared preaching in the desert, and after him God “so that every human being would see him,” as the Gospel points out (Lk 3:6).
• 12. In later chapters, we will read other poems resembling this one, stressing the greatness of the Lord of creation. This insistence should not surprise us. The prophet repeats the same arguments against idols, not so much to convince us, as to delight in repeating the same praise of the one God.
In Babylon without a temple or organized worship, the Jews saw the splendor of pagan worship. The imperial city calmly flaunted the superiority of its secular gods and its famous temples. It was then dispersed among foreign nations, that the Jews discovered that their faith could conquer the world: they alone knew where the world came from and where history was headed.
The Jews had experienced a God who was theirs, who saved them, but who exacted justice from them. In time they understood that Yahweh their God was none other than the master of the world, its laws, and all humankind. It was then that they became conscious of their mission to the world.
It could be the same for us. We should be conscious of the extent of our faith and appreciate the “absolute” the person of Christ is. Many are fond of him but without seeking to know who he is. They are not over-interested in knowing him in his concrete life, how he is portrayed in the Gospels: it is enough for them that his personality stands apart from all others. People formed by means of modern science know they are in solidarity with the whole universe. They know that a same power, a same law governs the stars, the atom including even the movements of the heart. Such persons cannot be satisfied with a Christ—“first revolutionary” or superman or great prophet. They have to see him as greater than the world and one whom they can adore as the Creator-made-human.
Here the prophet begins by evoking the extent and the mystery of creation: the universe we perceive on a starry night. He goes on to say that this God-Creator is active in events and gives life to the one who believes (40:29). It is he who announces his plans for deliverance (41:2).
• 41.1 The first verses of the poem (vv. 1 to 3) present Cyrus, the conqueror who is progressing in his conquest of the Middle East. In previous times, pagan kings were sent by Yahweh to punish people. Now, one is chosen by God to save his people. This is a lesson in humility for believers: God saves them through a non-believer whom he makes his instrument. God does not always pick saints or believers to liberate nations.
Verses 6-7 concerning idolatry, are out of place, just as in 40:19-20.
• 8. The first verses of the chapter have celebrated the victories of Cyrus. Now God addresses Israel. It will be delivered from exile. A new departure is being prepared, greater than the exodus from Egypt. God will work miracles for those who want to return to their homeland: all he asks of his people is to open their eyes and trust him.
Apparently, an exaggeration! The return from exile would be a matter of small caravans, meeting many difficulties, but it is a fact that the nation was to rise again and salvation history would continue to be written. We have here an example of what God offers to minority groups of believers, the small communities of his Church who cling to the hope given them in the Gospel: we often have the impression of achieving little, yet in reality the whole venture of the Kingdom is at stake in our will to exist.
• 21. This passage celebrates Cyrus between two victories. When we read these verses, we understand that the prophet had anticipated the successes of the liberator when no one could have foreseen them. Thus, God revealed future events to his prophets as a proof that he himself was the real savior of his people. He had planned that Cyrus should come from afar to restore freedom to the Jews.
• 42.1 Here is the first of the songs of the Servant of Yahweh (see the introduction to this book). The other poems of the Servant are in 49:1; 50:4; 52:13.
The servant is at times Israel, in other passages it is the minority of the faithful, conscious of their vocation, who try to struggle against the indifference of the majority. It would also signify the prophet (or prophets) who share with the faithful the word of God.
In different passages of the Gospel Jesus assures his disciples that they are the “sons of the prophets,” and the Apostles, in their turn would understand that the Servant after all and before all others, is Jesus (Mt 12:8; Acts 3:13; 4:27). Jesus, Servant of his Father and Son of his maidservant (Ps 116:16 and Lk 1:38).
The prophet had just celebrated the victories of Cyrus. Those victories actually only prepared another victorious step forward, of a people of believers who, freed from captivity in Babylon, would declare to the world their faith and their hope.
This minority is the Covenant of the nation: thanks to these faithful believers God continues to be present among this Jewish people where a majority do not listen to him. It is this same people that will re-establish the Covenant with God. It will then give to the nations (the peoples of the East), and to the islands (the western world) justice, that is to say a new order willed by God.
• 10. Cyrus’ steps are God’s victory. Yahweh marches as a warring God (see Jdg 5:4), but inspired by maternal love.
The poem recalls the mission entrusted to Isaiah (6:10): Through you the hearts of these people will be hardened and their eyes blinded. Yahweh has forgiven and wants to heal this people who do not know how to see and who have been called blind in verse 7. After being liberated they will be witnesses to the God who saves.
At times, it seems to us that the prophets were mistaken in announcing so often that God’s coming was near, when they were still at an early stage of their history. In fact, they were not so very different from us, when we believe we have won everything with the victory of one of our own people either in an election, or a sports event. We do not abandon Christ, the only savior and the only hope, when we struggle for very human goals and become excited about human saviors. We walk with them for a time, and then, let go of them to move forward, again to wherever Christ calls us.
• 18. This passage could be entitled: Exploited Peoples.
• 43.10 The reliability of the triumphant God is affirmed even more than in previous poems: I, I am… Someone said that this “I” is detestable on human lips, but it does befit God: “I Am” was God’s revelation to Moses in the burning bush (Ex 3). And Jesus will also say many times: “I Am” to reveal who he is (Jn 8:12).
Such is the God who lifts our spirits. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned. Everything is possible, including living according to the Gospel in an environment of materialism.
I give people in exchange for you (v. 4). With this figurative expression, Yahweh’s unique love for his children is reaffirmed. He is ready to be reconciled at any cost with this people, whom he chose and who were lost through their own fault.
In the end, verses 16-21, we hear this once again: the new Exodus from Babylon will surpass that from Egypt: you have done enough looking at the past; now look to the future.
• 22. People are ungrateful by nature. They usually maneuver events so that serving God does not deprive them of time nor money. Many people only think about God to complain to him. Yet, the love of God will be stronger than their lack of gratitude: He will pour out his Spirit upon the human race.
Neither have you brought me sheep for burnt offerings (v. 23). The exiled Jews had neither temple nor rituals in Babylon. On the basis of this, Yahweh tells them: “If I come to save, it is not because you have bought my favors with your sacrifices.” God saves them, though they have not sacrificed anything for him, and have not even called on him.
You have burdened me with your sins…I am He who blots out your offenses for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more (vv. 24-25). After what he said through Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God continues declaring his love that is scorned by his people. In spite of their differences, all prophets use the language of passionate love. It allows them to express better what sin is: not just a fault against sacred laws, but rather a rejection of God’s love.
• 44.9 The passage 9-20, placed here though coming from elsewhere, should be read separately: it ridicules the makers of idols. We will find other similar examples of irony in the Bible. They may still be of value today when people who are proud of scientific discoveries maintain superstitions. See the commentary on Isaiah 30:22 and Jeremiah 2:13.
• 45.1 A new message of the Lord to Cyrus, the conqueror, similar to the one in 41:25.
There is here something unique in the Bible: this pagan king is called the anointed one of Yahweh, like the sons of David, and including Christ the “Anointed of God.” Incredible thing for the Jews who were accustomed to thinking of Yahweh as only their God! History tells us that Cyrus was a “father” to his people, and the Bible will remember that his first deed, after the capture of Babylon, was to restore freedom to all those living there in exile (see Ezra 1:1).
Here, however, the prophet gives praise only to God who infallibly orients our history and will never let his promises fail.
• 8. Here, we have a magnificent expression of the work of God, the savior. As we said in reference to Isaiah 11:1, we must not see the salvation coming from God as opposed to or distinct from that which people can achieve. Rather, God’s work and human cooperation are joined in this unique endeavor of bringing us to the end of our labors.
Justice is total uprightness. We might express it briefly: a life according to truth and love. Such justice must come from God, the only one who can create a new Man. In fact, it will come in the person of Christ, the Just One (Jn 16:10), the one who is born among us as the first shoot of a renewed humanity. Christ will not break into the world, coming down in glory from heaven, but rather, will be the blossom of our earth, being born a Jew to the Jews, true man, born of a virgin mother. Christ alone will not accomplish the work of our salvation for it must be realized in the course of history: Justice and Salvation will be the fruits of humanity made fertile by divine mercy.
Salvation here means total human liberation.
This text is complemented by Psalm 85 where another image is used: two hands are joined, one coming down from heaven and another lifted up from the earth, to achieve the permanent Covenant of God and his people in Love and Faithfulness (see Jn 1:17).
• 9. The same themes are continued with different expressions.
Verses 9-13: the Lord, free Creator of all, is also in charge of history. Let us note in Jeremiah 18:1 that the comparison of the potter and his clay is developed with a very different meaning.
• 14. The prophet looks upon the powerful of yesterday, now conquered by Cyrus. The conquered Egyptians and Ethiopians go back to Palestine in chains along the same road on which they had proudly trod. As they go by Jerusalem, they see it glorious and filled with God’s favors, and falling on their knees facing Jerusalem, they beg God to save them too.
The liberation of Israel is God’s way of revealing himself to the world; they will recognize Yahweh by the way he restored a dead people. They will come to adore the Lord of the Universe “hidden” in a people without countenance.
The same thing may be seen in the Church when it is scorned. One day those who mocked it discover God there. Some day, people will see that the Church kept the fire of God in the world.
• 46.1 The prophet foresees the fall of Babylon. He imagines the Chaldeans carrying their idols in flight. Israel, on the other hand, does not have to carry its gods: Yahweh is the one who carries his people (vv. 1-7) and gives them life.
• 47.1 What we said in Isaiah 13:1 applies here. This is a song of affliction over Babylon which will become the image of an impious city. This is why in the Apocalypse (chaps. 17–18) St. John calls the Roman empire which persecutes the Christians, Babylon.
Virgin daughter of Babylon is Babel (or Babylon) according to the Hebrew way of designating capitals. Babylon says: I will never be a widow: this might mean: I will never be without my gods; or I will never be without my famous kings; or I will never know defeat. Babylon thought it would have a secure future because of its magicians, famous in Eastern countries. They pretended to know the future through their horoscopes.
Throughout the centuries the same confidence has inspired those who feel they have mastered progress.
You laid a heavy yoke on the aged (v. 6). Prophets are always using this type of criterion to judge the value of a civilization.
• 48.1 In verses 12-15, note that Cyrus is praised again. The beloved of Yahweh will do what pleases him; I myself called him. As we remarked on 42:10, the prophet always goes beyond present reality. The conqueror Cyrus is a savior and thus, his mission and his person are in some way joined with that of the only Savior, Christ.
In verses 17-22 the prophet looks at Israel’s past, reminding us of what we read about the lost Paradise. If they had obeyed, God’s desire to lavish his blessings upon them would have been fulfilled, as well as God’s promises to Abraham.
But God will intervene again as the Redeemer of his people.
• 49.1 Here we find the second Song of God’s servant: see the Introduction to chapters 40–55.
Who is speaking in these verses? They are the Judean exiles at Babylon (some years later they will be called the Jews). And it is not a lamentation but rather a thanksgiving to God who has chosen them in a very special way for a unique mission.
The hope and the future of Israel have been entrusted to them, not to those remaining in the motherland. Soon they will return and gather the remnant of the tribes of Jacob, which means not only their kins in the ex-kingdom of Judah, but also the other in the northern kingdom.
From that moment on the dream of a final gathering of the whole people of God enters the Bible, and Gospel will announce that this goal will be achieved through and in Christ: John 11:52.
But there is more, for God wants this small group of exiles to bring to the nations the light of salvation. This marks the opening of the times of mission. The Jews will be the messengers of the only God and of his law in the world. Those who welcome Christ will call on the pagans to the faith and Spirit will be bestowed to them (Gal 3;14). A humiliated people will be Yahweh’s hidden arrow, his definitive weapon: through them God will unbare his madness which is wiser than human wisdom (1 Cor 1:21).
Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb. These were Jeremiah’s words (1:5). All that follows can be interpreted both of the believing minority or of the one who fully lives a prophetic vocation. Is the servant a single person, or is he a people of prophets? The apostles of Jesus quickly understood that the present text applied first to him. He is the Word and the two edged sword (Heb 4:12; Rev 19:15).
Paul in turn will take for himself these verses: Galatians 1:15; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 10:4, 12:8. This double interpretation, personal and collective, should not surprise us for the unique Savior is never a lonely savior. Jesus wanted to be identified with those who believe, who suffer and persevere to prepare for the salvation of the world.
• 13. Yahweh’s maternal love for his people.
He saves them from despair and from being despised, rebuilding Jerusalem and gathering those who were dispersed. He invites all the nations to come and recognize the true city.
Here God again addresses the more conscious minorities of Israel, those who held onto their hope at a time they seemed to be lost amidst the pagan inhabitants of the materialistic Babylon. They would lift up their nation and become the light of the world.
These promises started to be fulfilled when, having returned to their land, the Jews became missionaries of the One God to all the countries of the Greek and Syrian world. Later, these promises would take on a new meaning for the Church which Christ established as the New Jerusalem. At times, this new Jerusalem seems downhearted and lifeless, and even disappears in some parts of the world. Yet, God brings it new children from other continents. He invites us to look beyond our communities to those who have not yet received the Kingdom.
• 50.4 “Who is the prophet talking about, himself or another?” (Acts 8:34). Actually the servant could be as in 49:1 the faithful minority, but it could also be, perhaps, the prophet himself, or who knows, a “Prophet” who is to come? The author refuses to choose between servant and servants.
Former prophets met with the same opposition. Moses had to endure a rebellious people; Jeremiah had been persecuted and imprisoned (see Jer 20:7 and 37). On the basis of these examples, we see a profile and mission of the perfect servant of Yahweh. This will be Jesus, but every one of his prophets can apply all these words to himself or herself.
Note the beginning of the poem. The Servant will be able to transmit the word and to encourage on behalf of God because he himself listens every morning and keeps his ears open. To sustain those who are tired, we must be taught by God: the true prophet is a person of prayer, open to the Spirit of God. “No one but the Spirit of God knows the secrets of God… and through him we understand what God in his goodness has given us” (1 Cor 2:11-12).
• 51.9 This poem is a double call to Yahweh and to Jerusalem that they may awaken. Yahweh is described as a hero asleep and Jerusalem as a humiliated and discouraged woman. The two must work together for the restoration of Jerusalem:
– Yahweh is the one to indicate the timing, preparing the historical conditions to make it feasible, and infusing hope in their hearts.
– First, the children of Jerusalem must want their own liberation and then they must go to rebuild the city.
God seems absent from the world where people follow their own fancies and seems asleep until his hour comes. We should not be fatalistic because of that, believing that problems will be resolved when God decides. To call God and wake him means to go ahead and advance before the fog has lifted. Who is it that God encourages? The defeated who pay the price of their errors. He does not speak to saints but to sinners: in pardoning their past sins he gives them strength to rebuild the Holy City.
It is easy to criticize these realistic and primitive biblical expressions concerning Yahweh of Hosts. We should not replace the image of the Conqueror with that of a calm and unruffled God more in keeping with a conservative mentality. The events which were announced here were about to overturn the course of history.
Note the expressions redeemed and sold (52:3) which were already used in 50:1. Each person belongs to God and finds freedom in obeying him. If we reject this dependence, we fall into another since we have been created for this kind of freedom which develops in mutual relationship and dependence of another one. Christ “purchases” us, or rescues us from every slavery as it is written in Isaiah 53:10 (Rom 6:15), but so as to make us sons and daughters.
• 52.7 The prophets, messengers of a victorious God: that is the meaning of the good news. See Romans 1:1; 2 Corinthians 2:14.
• 13. It is the fourth and last song of the Servant of Yahweh; it is here that the prophet, known as the “second Isaiah,” proclaims his whole message, and it is perhaps the last word of the Old Testament referring to Redemption. The prophet delivers to Israel the meaning of trials and shows what will be its mission. Israel has been placed at the center of the world history. It will have no rest until the other nations have discovered through its sufferings the only true God. The only title of Israel is to be God’s servant, and it will not reach glory nor be saved before its mission has brought death.
Israel then, would necessarily be the victim, and, if God was to send a Savior, he too would be a victim.
For thousands of years people used to sacrifice animals—and at times human beings—thinking they could unload their sins on them, and be rid of them. These sacrifices or getting rid of those who were considered to be responsible for God’s anger, never interrupted the cycle of violence. Here, however, we see God’s response to our sins: he saves us through the suffering of the innocents and even more, through the willing sacrifice of the one who takes the sin of the world upon himself.
In writing this, the prophet had in mind the small group of faithful Jews exiled in Babylon: they were nothing more than despised people. Yet, they had not deserved such humiliation because of their own sins, rather they were carrying the sorrows of the violent, sinful world in which they lived. These believers were punished for the crimes of their people, Israel; but God would transform them into the seed of a holy people: he will have a long life and see his descendants. This wonder of God would surpass all the others and, in seeing it, kings would stand speechless.
This song is for our own wonder as well. The prophet, writing five centuries before Christ, was apparently referring to the humiliation of God’s people who, then as now, are the instrument of salvation; but his poem outlined beforehand the image of God become human, who humbled himself even to death on the cross. When we read the Passion of Christ in the Gospel, we realize that the evangelists themselves were struck by the similarity between Jesus’ trial and death and what was announced by the prophet. Many times, in presenting Jesus, the apostles would refer to this text. See Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 2:24.
Who could believe what we have heard? How would the hearers of Peter, Paul or John accept their proclamation of Jesus, the crucified savior? See John 12:38; 1 Corinthians 1:22; Romans 10:16. In our own day, perhaps many Christians do not understand why so many innocent people die as victims of injustice and Christians are especially persecuted.
He makes himself an offering for sin. In several passages of the Bible we are invited to adopt this same attitude when we suffer unjustly (1 P 1:20; 4:13). Christ alone has perfectly fulfilled this redemptive mission from the beginning to the end of his life (Heb 10; Jn 2:29; Rom 5:6).
My just servant will justify the multitude: that is to say, he will make them just and holy. The Hebrew text reads “the many”, which means the multitude. Jesus refers to this text at the Last Supper: “my blood poured out for many,” or for everyone (Mk 14:24). There Jesus clearly says that his death is the free and perfect sacrifice foretold in this song.
• 54.1 This concludes the songs in which Isaiah addressed Jerusalem: 49:14; 51:17.
In a grandiose vision, Jerusalem becomes the people of the future, the people reborn from the ruins who will bring about a kingdom of peace. Jerusalem is the ideal city we have dreamed of at one time or another and which God wishes to give us.
Shout for joy, you who never had children. The Jewish people collapsed as a nation because of their errors and they no longer had a future, humanly speaking. This suits God. If they lack the means to be great, God is going to touch them. He will no longer be the one from whom we expect favors but the one who gives himself: your Maker is to marry you.
For a brief moment I have abandoned you. Here we have the story of God’s love for us: the total love of God, our infidelity, our sin. The prophets announce the New Jerusalem, Yahweh’s bride which will never again be abandoned.
We know that the Church is the Remnant of Israel, the new People united to God in an eternal covenant. Yet it is also at the same time, as the ancient Israel was, an unfaithful people whose sins the Bible describes: dull parishes, existing but not really alive; institutions where one might look in vain for the Spirit of Jesus; leaders of the church who are subservient to the powerful…. Somehow the New Jerusalem is in the Church of Christ, but it is also true that we need to continually look for it.
All your children will be taught by Yahweh. It is the same proclamation of a new Covenant that was proclaimed by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31). Believers should always lean on the word of God and be guided by his commandments, but their link with God will be in a deep communication of spirit to spirit, a communion which immerses us in the only truth. It is a kind of knowledge which teaches no particular truth, but enables us to appreciate, judge and coordinate all the fragmentary truths. It is an instinct of God that enables us to discover in depth the person of Christ through the brief testimonies of Scripture. This instinct in turn gives us the secrets of the Bible (Jn 6:45).
It is by meditating on these poems that we best understand how God makes virginity fruitful. It is not by accident that Jesus was born of a virgin mother; rather his birth came as the culmination of the expectation of “Jerusalem, the bride of God”: see Isaiah 7:14.
• 55.1 The book ends with a call to hope.
Verses 1-3. Are you not tired of the happiness you thought you would easily get in the place of exile?
God is the one who always gives first. He only hopes that we will open the door for him. Jesus will offer us rest (Mt 11:28); he will give us the bread of life (Jn 6) and will give himself as “the” friend (Rev 3:20).
Verses 4-5. A universal mission awaits Israel in the homeland, after their return.
Verses 6-9. Allow yourselves to be conquered by the love of the Lord who is forming you even more than you can imagine. Paul will use similar language in his letter to the Romans (5:1-11).
Verses 10-11. Here the word of God appears personified. It is already much more than the words spoken by the prophets. This Word which comes from the Father and returns to him will be presented by the apostle John in the first page of his Gospel: it is Christ. See also in 45:8.
• 56.1 The Jewish law—reflecting the thinking of the times—excluded foreigners in certain circumstances, as well as eunuchs, (castrated men) from their religious assemblies.
The prophet reveals that such exclusion is not endorsed by God.
In verses 9-13 we have poems against the leaders of Judah and against idolatry.
• 58.1 Why are we fasting and you do not even see it (v. 3). The people of Judah fast so that God will hear their petitions. These could be public prayers to ask for rain.
Is it true that they seek me… as a people that does what is right? In spite of having a clear conscience, they are concerned because of God’s silence. They may have committed some sin without knowing it? Perhaps God likes to see humiliated people ask for favors? So, they lie in sackcloth and ashes. They resemble many Christians who are satisfied with being “practicing” Christians without understanding that the kind of practice that God seeks is to give peace to all his people.
Is it perhaps only a matter of bowing the head? God neither wants the death of the sinner nor the humiliation of his creature. God loves people, but he loves them all and not only the little landowners of Judah fearful for their crops; he also loves the laborers and the slaves of these little landholders. God’s demands are clear: do away with unjust chains and share with the rest.
Unfastening the thongs of the yoke (v. 6). Here we have a glimpse of the tremendous effort demanded of all in order to do away with every form of slavery: from the small privileges that working companions compete for, to the laws that keep entire groups marginated. It includes breaking the yoke of husbands’ domination over their wives and the disputes between neighbors when no one dares to take the first step.
Unfastening the thongs of the yoke. It is not enough to be converted to God “from the heart,” for conversion comes about by changing both persons and structures. These make us share in the injustices and sins of the society in which we live. An incredible number of sins—corruption, prostitution, violence—are linked to colonialism and the economic and cultural dependence that go with it.
Sharing your food with the hungry (v. 7): and that on a world scale for humankind is one, the only Adam of whom Christ is the head.
Your light will break forth as the dawn (v. 9). We see the leaders of the nations come together, discuss and study in order to solve the urgent problems of humanity. No light breaks forth. It is a known fact that the research of a scientist does not bring him directly to great discoveries. Rather, he often finds the solution suddenly where he did not expect it. In the same way, human problems resist theoretical solutions, but unexpected ways will be found when every nation and every segment of society willingly shares and no longer oppresses others.
• 59.15 The Lord appears as a warrior as in 63:1. Here he appears with the weapons proper to his Rule:
– justice, here it means the power of God who comes to bring justice on earth;
– salvation, this is total human liberation in order to make us holy;
– zeal, this is the jealous love of God for his faithful people.
The book of Wisdom will use these words in 5:17 and so will Paul in Ephesians 6:14.
• 60.1 As the prophet looks at the humble Jerusalem which is barely rising from its ruins, he suddenly has a vision of the future Jerusalem, filled with the Lord’s riches, the city that will be the bride of the Lord.
There all the aspirations of a humanity purified and gathered in the light of God will be achieved (see Rev 21). There all people will delight in the fullness of everything they ever longed for.
These promises point to the goals on which the Church must focus. It is in the Church that all the real riches of humanity—faith, understanding, community—are and must be gathered.
“Raise your head, O Jerusalem. Contemplate the great multitude who are building and seeking: In laboratories and through studies, in deserts and in factories, in the enormous social melting pot.
“Do you see all these who are working hard? Well then, all that is bubbling in them, in the arts, science and thoughts, all of this is for you! Come now, open your arms and your heart and welcome this surge, this overflowing of human vitality as your Lord Jesus! Welcome this sap because, without its baptism, you will fade without aspirations, like a flower without water; and save it because, without your sun, it will be scattered in sterile branches” (Teilhard de Chardin).
• 61.1 The prophet recalls the mission he received from God, to announce to the Jewish pioneers who returned to Jerusalem that God would bless their efforts. The ruins would be rebuilt; the people would come back in great numbers from the countries where they were exiled; those who doubt or are discouraged must persevere because, soon, God will come to visit his people.
Speaking in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus read this text and said: “Today it is being fulfilled” (Lk 4:21). And the people who heard him were saying: “God has visited his people.”
And yet, we who come after him wonder: If Christ brought God’s salvation twenty centuries ago, why are so many people still waiting for the good news of their liberation?
It is because the Gospel is a seed and the resurrection does not immediately bring about the transformation of the world. If the Jewish people endured fifteen centuries of searching and trials before their Savior came, how will other people obtain the definitive Peace of the kingdom of God without first passing through the great trials preceding Christ’s return? We are already quite blessed to have him in our midst and his Spirit upon us.
To heal, to fortify; perfume and garlands: the coming of God to his people fills us with happiness; without fear or boredom, so frequently at the heart of religious practices.
• 62.1 What was said on the subject in chapter 60 can be applied here. In a new way, this song repeats what was said about the future Jerusalem in 4:2 and in chapters 40–55.
Jerusalem, the lasting city of the children of God, the bride of the Lord, filled with his riches and the delight of her God. Why does God remind us so many times of those wonders which have yet to happen?
– So that we may keep up our hope in trials and dark times. This is how Paul encourages us in Romans 8:16. Also, when things are going well and we are filled with earthly hopes, the same wisdom must help us to be detached from all this, in the knowledge that something much better still awaits us.
– On the other hand, the heavenly Jerusalem is already present. Those who have come into the church already have the favors promised to David of which we have just spoken; they already enjoy them if they have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 13:34). These pages are an invitation to see God at work in the world through the Church.
• 63.1 The poem beginning here is wildly beautiful. The neighboring people of Edom took advantage of the ruin of Jerusalem to join its wreckers and take part in the looting. So, the simple mention of it was enough to arouse a desire for revenge in the Jews. The prophets wanted the destruction of a nation in which sin was obvious and which had no mission in God’s plans. This poem imagines God relating his victory over the pagans.
Believers reading this poem in early Christian times understood it in another, figurative sense: in the hero rescuing his people, they saw Christ covered with his own blood (see Rev 19:13). This was God’s real victory and his way of restoring justice.
• 7. This passage 63:7–64:11 is a psalm asking the forgiveness of Yahweh. The wonders of the past are recalled, and an anxious expectation of new blessings is expressed. Note especially 63:19–64:3 which would be understood later as asking for the coming of Christ.
• 65.1 Chapters 65–66 announce the judgment of the Lord on the earth. He will create a new heaven and a new earth in which his servants will experience happiness. Verses 13-14 are a prelude to the beatitudes and the woes expressed in Luke 6:20-26.
• 17. No one could imagine the new heaven prepared for us by God (Mk 12:18). Let us rejoice that the prophet has described it in such a concrete way. For us the happiness of the “beyond” is part of our faith; but at this time it was not yet clear neither for the Jews nor the prophet. God rewarded people while on earth and they preferred not to think about the lot of those already dead, or who would die before the time of happiness had come. God did everything so that his people would not neglect their earthly duties on the pretext of waiting for a “beyond.”
• 66.18 This announces the day when Yahweh will conquer the pagan nations united against him, and that he will then save them by gathering them. Few passages of the bible express such a universal view of God’s salvation given “to all the families of the earth.” He had promised it to Abraham, but people had been so obsessed with resentment and hatred among themselves, among villages and religions, that they hardly paid attention.
Be careful to understand the expression “I am going to gather.” We already saw in Isaiah 6:9 how the Jews spoke about God because they were convinced that God rules everything. When someone undertook something they would say that God had moved him to do it, and when someone was doing something evil that God would later use for his own ends, they would say that God had driven him. Here, “I am going to gather” means “they will gather but I will use this to achieve the salvation of my people.”
The nations unite against Jerusalem as in the days of Sennacherib (see Is 31:4-9) and they are defeated in a miraculous way: but this time, the survivors, witnesses of the miracle, will reveal the true God everywhere. They will be admitted to God’s people and they will share the privileges of the Jews (“from among them I will take priests and Levites”).
The poem concludes with the vision of a world judged by Yahweh:
– within the city, those who have dedicated themselves to his service and come to adore him in his temple;
– outside, the corpses of those who were annihilated; they will always remain as the sign of God’s invincible justice.
What a tremendous vision! But it would be vain to seek escape by thinking that God, being so good, will not be able to condemn us definitely. Jesus refers to this text in Mark 9:48.