43:1. Masoretic Text: And now thus says YHWH, the one who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called [you] by your name; you are mine.
Septuagint: And now thus says the Lord, the God who made you, O Jacob, [he] who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name; you are mine.
“Jacob” and “Israel” are parallel designations that apply to the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with an angel. (Genesis 32:25-29) The people of other nations fashioned their own gods, but YHWH is the Creator and Former of his people as a nation. He redeemed or liberated them from enslavement in Egypt and formed them into a nation, bringing them into a covenant relationship with himself and giving them his law for their guidance. Because he had redeemed them, they had no reason to fear, for he would continue to be concerned about them and would not allow them to perish as a people.
His calling Jacob or Israel by “name” reveals an existing relationship. He knew Israel as do parents who name their child and call it by its name. Israel belonged to him as his people.
43:2. Masoretic Text: When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and through rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you go through fire, you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you.
Septuagint: And when you pass through water, I am with you, and rivers will not overwhelm you. And when you go through fire, by no means will you be burned; a flame will not burn you.
The rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”
In the Targum of Isaiah, the words of this verse are interpreted as relating to past and future events. Passing through waters is represented as passing through the Red Sea. Pharaoh and the Egyptians, although being like the abundant waters of a river, did not prevail over the Israelites. “At the second time,” when the Israelites “will go among the nations that are as strong as fire, they will not prevail against [them], neither will the kingdoms that are as powerful as a flame destroy [them].”
Regardless of the dangers or hazards they might face, Israel as a people would not come to harm when having YHWH as their helper, deliverer, and protector. (Compare Psalm 66:12.) The context places this assurance at the time the people would be able to return to their land from exile. Just as in the past when YHWH made it possible for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea and the Jordan River, no obstacle comparable to raging waters would halt their progress, for YHWH would be with them. No dangers like those that rivers pose at flood stage would overwhelm them, sweeping them away as by a swift current. Fire like the burning heat in the desert would not have a destructive effect on them, for YHWH would provide what they needed to survive.
43:3. Masoretic Text: For I [am] YHWH your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I have given Egypt [as] your ransom, Cush [Ethiopia] and Seba for you.
Septuagint: For I [am] the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I made an exchange [for] you — Egypt and Ethiopia and Soene [Syene] for you.
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the initial Hebrew word here rendered “for” is not included. Instead of “your Savior,” this scroll has “your Redeemer” written above the line of the main text. This indicates a correction for the copyist’s inadvertent omission. The conjunction “and” precedes the verb rendered “I have given.” Another variation is the reading “Cush and Sabeans.”
The prophetic words assured the returning Israelites that they would safely reach their land, for YHWH would prove to be their Savior, the one who would deliver them from all perils. As the Holy One of Israel, the God who is the absolute standard of purity, his word is trustworthy. Therefore, both their being able to return from exile and having his protection on the way were assured. (Compare Ezra 8:21, 22.)
In fulfillment of the prophetic words, Cyrus the Persian and his forces conquered Babylon, and he permitted the exiled Israelites to return to their land. YHWH used him as his instrument to effect the liberation of his people, and in exchange for the service that he and his forces had rendered there were to be future victories. Thus Egypt, Cush or Ethiopia, and Seba (also in eastern Africa) came to be a ransom, or the exchange made, for Israel, that is, for the liberation of the Israelites from exile. Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus, conquered Egypt, but no historical evidence presently exists regarding any conquest of Ethiopia or Seba. According to Herodotus (Histories, III, 25), Cambyses was forced to give up a campaign against Ethiopia when the food supplies ran out and his forces began to resort to cannibalism. With Herodotus being the only extant source about this failed attempt to march against Ethiopia, historians are presently left without any corroborating evidence.
According to the Septuagint, the reference is not to Seba, a region in eastern Africa, but to a place named Soene or Syene, which has been identified with Aswan in southern Egypt.
43:4. Masoretic Text: Because you are precious in my eyes, honored, and I have loved you, I also will give men [’adhám (“man” or “earthling”), a collective singular] for you and peoples for your soul.
Septuagint: Since then you have become precious before me; you have been glorified, and I have loved you. And many men I will give for you and rulers for your head.
The reason for YHWH’s ransoming, delivering, or making an exchange is because he considered Israel precious for carrying out his purpose. That purpose particularly related to the coming of the Messiah and the blessings that would be made available through him to people of all nations. By reason of YHWH’s use of Israel, the people were honored or “glorified” (LXX), for no other nation had been granted the unique role of having the Messiah come through it. God’s love for Israel came to be on account of his love for their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 4:37) Because of the way in which YHWH regarded Israel and his love for the people, he would give other men or people for them. The “soul” of Israel can denote the life of Israel as a people. The Septuagint rendering “head” likewise appears to signify their life, the life for which God would give the rulers of other nations.
43:5. Masoretic Text: Fear not, for I am with you. From the east I will bring your seed; and from the west, I will gather you.
Septuagint: Fear not, for I am with you. From the east, I will bring your seed; and from the west, I will gather you.
The Israelite exiles did not need to fear being prevented from ever returning to their land. This is because YHWH was with them, and his purpose for them was that they would once again live there. From wherever the people might find themselves, whether in the east or the west, he would bring their “seed” or offspring back and gather them for the return.
43:6. Masoretic Text: I will say to the north, “Give up”; and to the south, “Do not restrain. Bring my sons from a distance and my daughters from the end of the earth,”
Septuagint: I will say to the north, “Bring”; and to the south, “Do not restrain. Bring my sons from a land at a distance and my daughters from the ends of the earth,”
The Targum of Isaiah specifically mentions bringing the “exiles” of YHWH’s people “from the ends of the earth.”
In the previous verse the indicated directions are the east, where the sun rises, and the west, where it sets. Here the reference is to the north and the south, thus showing that from every direction the exiles would be able to return to their land. YHWH is represented as commanding the “north” and the “south.” This establishes that nothing would hinder the Israelite exiles (his “sons” and “daughters”) even in the most distant places from returning to their land if they chose to do so.
43:7. Masoretic Text: “everyone being called by my name and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed and made.'
Septuagint: “all [those] who have been called by my name. For to my glory I have prepared him and formed and made him.”
The Targum of Isaiah relates this to the forefathers of the Israelites, indicating that the people’s being brought back from exile was for the sake of their forefathers upon whom God’ name was called and whom he had created for his glory. It concludes with the words, “I made ready their exiles, yes, I performed miracles for them.”
To be called by God’s name denotes to bear his name as a people belonging to him. The people would serve for his glory, for through them his purpose would be revealed and his dealings with them would make manifest that he is the true God whose word will unfailingly be fulfilled. YHWH created, formed, and made Jacob or Israel as a people for his purpose. On the other hand, the people of other nations created their own gods, and artisans made representations of these nonexistent deities.
43:8. Masoretic Text: Bring out a blind people and [yet] have eyes, and deaf and [yet] ears [belong] to them.
Septuagint: And I have brought out a blind people, and [its] eyes are likewise blind, and deaf [though] having ears.
The Targum of Isaiah is explicit in identifying the Israelites as the blind and deaf people whom YHWH brought out of Egypt.
The Israelites were blind to YHWH’s will for them, walking contrary to his ways. They were deaf to the words of his law and the admonition he provided through his prophets, urging them to abandon their wayward course and to return to him. The Israelites had the capacity to see, for they had eyes; and they had the capacity to hear, for they had ears, but they refused to use their faculties in a responsive manner with reference to their God.
43:9. Masoretic Text: Let all the nations be gathered together and let peoples be assembled. Who among them can announce this and let us hear the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, “[It is] truth.”
Septuagint: All the nations have been gathered together, and rulers will be gathered from among them. Who will announce these things? Or who will announce to you these things from the beginning? Let them bring their witnesses and be justified and speak truths.
Like the Hebrew text, fourth-century Codex Vaticanus includes the comment about hearing.
According to the Hebrew text, a challenge is directed to all the nations or to the peoples, calling upon them to gather together or to assemble. In the Septuagint, the gathering of all the nations is represented as a completed action, and the reference is to the future assembling of rulers.
In view of YHWH’s identifying his people as his witnesses (verse 10), the implication of the questions here appears to be whether the deities of the other nations announced developments beforehand that were verifiably fulfilled, thereby confirming that they were indeed gods. Seemingly, the “former things” or the “things from the beginning” apply to things that were previously foretold and could be related for others to hear and confirmed as having taken place. The gods appear to be challenged to provide witnesses who could justify them or show that they were right in what they had proclaimed in advance.
While neither the Hebrew text or the Greek text of the Septuagint mention “idols,” “gods,” or “deities,” a number of translations do interpretively render the verse to make this application explicit. “Gather the nations together! Which of their idols has ever foretold such things? Can any of them predict something even a single day in advance? Where are the witnesses of such predictions? Who can verify that they spoke the truth?” (NLT) “All the nations gather together, and all the people come together. Which of their gods said this would happen? Which of their gods can tell what happened in the beginning? Let them bring their witnesses to prove they were right. Then others will say, ‘It is true.’” (NCV)
43:10. Masoretic Text: You are my witnesses, says YHWH, and 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, and after me [there] will not be.
Septuagint: Be my witnesses, and I [am] a witness, says the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe and understand that I am [he]. Before me no other god came to be and after me [there] will not be.
The Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text in representing God as also being a witness.
The Targum of Isaiah refers to the servant as the “Anointed One” or “Messiah,” but this interpretation does not fit the context.
The deities the peoples of the nations revered could not provide any witnesses to confirm that they had foretold future events that had unerringly been fulfilled. YHWH, however, did have the Israelites as his witnesses. Through his prophets he had revealed significant developments in advance, and they made known the messages publicly. Therefore, when the prophecies were fulfilled, the Israelites could bear witness to this effect, confirming that YHWH is indeed the true God. As a people, Israel was YHWH’s “servant,” one chosen for his purpose that primarily related to the coming of the Messiah through whom peoples of all the nations could gain blessings.
On account of YHWH’s dealings with his people, including the messages he communicated to them through his prophets, they came to know him — his qualities and his matchless power. The reliability of his word should have led them to believe or trust him, and what they heard and saw should have taught them to understand his ways and to follow them. No god existed among all the other nations regarding whom anyone could testify what they had accurately foretold, for all these deities were nonexistent and their images were the workmanship of mortal artisans. So no god was ever formed before YHWH, the eternal God, and no artisan would be able to fashion a real god at any future time.
43:11. Masoretic Text: I, I [am] YHWH, and [there is] no one saving besides me.
Septuagint: I [am] God, and [there] is no one saving besides me.
YHWH revealed himself as the savior or deliverer of his people, liberating them from Egyptian enslavement and, on numerous occasions thereafter, from enemy threats and oppression. Being nonexistent, the deities of the nations could not deliver anyone nor could they make known their name, as had YHWH through his dealings with the Israelites.
43:12. Masoretic Text: I announced and saved and let [it] be heard, and [there was] no stranger [strange god] among you, and you [are] my witnesses, says YHWH, and I [am] God.
Septuagint: I announced and saved. I censured, and [there] was no stranger [strange god] among you. You [are] my witnesses, and I [am] a witness, says the Lord God.
The Targum of Isaiah interprets YHWH’s advance declaration as having been made to Abraham and then indicates that the deliverance from Egypt fulfilled the oath-bound promise to him. YHWH caused the Israelites to “hear” the instruction of his law at Mount Sinai.
To his prophets, YHWH announced significant future developments. He saved or delivered the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt and at other times from military aggression or from subservience to other nations. At Mount Sinai, the Israelites did hear YHWH’s commands. (Exodus 20:1-21) Furthermore, the prophets did not just proclaim their messages once, but YHWH had them repeat his words so that the people did indeed “hear” what he wanted them to know. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, God censured his people, reproving them for their wayward ways. He often used his prophets to do this.
When the Israelites first left Egypt, YHWH led them. After they crossed the Red Sea and began their journey in the wilderness, there was then no strange god among them. In view of YHWH’s dealings with the Israelites, the law he gave to them at Mount Sinai, and what he revealed to them through his prophets, they were his witnesses to the things he had declared and accomplished. He also was uniquely their God who dealt with them in a special way as his people.
The Septuagint represents God as being a witness. He could testify to what he had revealed in advance, and the Israelites could bear witness regarding what he had foretold through the prophets and how his word had been unerringly fulfilled.
43:13. Masoretic Text: Moreover, from the day, I [am] he, and [there is] none delivering from my hand. I will act, and who can turn it back?
Septuagint: Yet from the beginning, and [there] is not one delivering out of my hands. I will act, and who will turn it back?
According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH will not reverse what he does, but this interpretation does not agree with the extant Hebrew text nor with the Septuagint rendering.
The expression “from the day” probably denotes “from the beginning,” which agrees with the Septuagint rendering. As the eternal one, YHWH has been the only true God before the very start of everything that exists. Therefore, he is uniquely the One who is. The rendering of the Septuagint is elliptical. With “says the Lord God” being the concluding words of the previous verse, the implied thought could be, “Yet from the beginning, I am he.”
YHWH is the Almighty and, therefore, no deliverance is possible whenever his hand or power is directed against any individual, people, or entity. Whatever he purposes is certain to occur. No one can “turn back” his “hand” or reverse what he has determined to do.
43:14. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH, the one redeeming you, the Holy One of Israel, For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down the bars, all of them, and the Chaldeans in the ships of their shouting.
Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, God, the one redeeming you, the Holy One of Israel, For your sake I will send to Babylon and arouse all the ones escaping, and the Chaldeans in ships will be bound.
After mentioning that the Israelites had been exiled on account of their sins, the Targum of Isaiah says, “I [YHWH] brought them all down in boats, and the Chaldeans in the ships of their rejoicing.” Those who are brought down in boats are not identified. If this is to be linked to bringing down the Chaldeans in defeat, then the thought could be that YHWH brought down all the defenders of Babylon who were on the ships.
YHWH would manifest himself as the one who redeems or delivers his people upon freeing them from Babylonian exile. As the Holy One of Israel, he is pure in all respects and his word is deserving of absolute trust. Therefore, when the Israelites witnessed the fulfillment of his word, they saw the unmistakable evidence that identified him as their Holy One.
For the sake of his people, particularly the repentant Israelites in exile, YHWH would take action against Babylon by means of a conquering military force. That force would “bring down” all the bars of Babylon, destroying the defenses of the city and conquering it.
The Septuagint does not include a reference to “bars,” but refers to God’s arousing the ones fleeing or escaping. Possibly the ones escaping could be understood to be the Israelite exiles who would not be adversely affected by Babylon’s fall but would be able to return to their land.
There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of the words “ships of their shouting.” Perhaps the reference is to ships that plied the Euphrates and which were the object of Chaldean pride or of great boasting. In the Vulgate the words are rendered, “Chaldeans glorying in their ships” (Chaldeos in navibus suis gloriantes). The Septuagint rendering suggests that the Babylonian defenders manning the fleet would be bound as captives.
Another possibility is that the “shouting” could relate to the resounding of joyous cries when the gods were being transported on boats or barges during the course of cultic processions.
43:15. Masoretic Text: I [am] YHWH, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.
Septuagint: I [am] the Lord, God, your Holy One, the one having made manifest to Israel your king.
The repeated identification of YHWH as Israel’s “Holy One” should have served as a reminder to the people of their wayward course and the need to change their conduct to reflect the holiness or purity of their God and to trust him fully. He was their Creator, the one who made it possible for them, as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to come into existence as a people or nation. YHWH was their King to whom they owed obedience and who, in turn, would come to their aid in time of need, protect them from threats, and deliver them from their foes.
The Septuagint rendering could also be understood to refer to God as the King of Israel. By what he did for them, he revealed himself as their King.
43:16. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH, the one putting a way in the sea and a path in mighty waters,
Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, the one putting a way in the sea and a path in mighty water,
These words apparently allude to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt when the Red Sea was parted, enabling the people to cross by means of the way that had been opened up for them. The expression “mighty waters” may be regarded as paralleling “sea.”
43:17. Masoretic Text: the one bringing out chariot and horse, army and mighty one together. They lie down; they cannot rise. They are extinguished, quenched like [a wick of] flax.
Septuagint: the one having brought out chariots and horse and a mighty crowd, but they have gone to sleep and will not rise; they have been extinguished like [a wick of] flax being extinguished.
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the word here rendered “army.”
Seemingly, YHWH is represented as leading out the Egyptian forces for the purpose of bringing about their destruction. In this case, “chariot” and “horse” are collective singulars, meaning “chariots” and “horses.” Whereas the Septuagint mentions a mighty crowd or a large military force, the Hebrew text, besides referring to an army, adds “mighty one,” a collective singular denoting “warriors.” According to Exodus 14:27-30, the Egyptian host perished in the Red Sea. Thus the warriors lay down or fell asleep in death, unable to rise again. Their end was comparable to the extinguishing of the flame of a flaxen wick.
43:18. Masoretic Text: Do not recall the first things, and the former things do not consider.
Septuagint: Do not recall the first things, and the ancient things do not consider.
In this context, “first things” or “former things” (“ancient things,” LXX) appear to relate to the former deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement. Their not recalling or remembering this deliverance did not mean that they should forget about it, for they were commanded to observe the Passover to commemorate it. They were not to focus on the former deliverance as if nothing of this nature would ever happen again. As indicated in the next verse, YHWH would do something new that would be deserving of memorializing.
43:19. Masoretic Text: Look! I am doing a new thing; now it springs up. Do you not recognize it? Also I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Septuagint: Look! I am doing new things that now will spring up, and you will recognize them. And I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
After the expression here rendered “new thing,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah includes the conjunction “and.” Instead of “rivers,” this scroll reads “paths” (the singular form of the same word being found in verse 16).
The “new thing” or the new development is the release of the repentant Israelite exiles from Babylon. YHWH would clear out all obstacles that would hinder a return to their land, providing for them what they needed along the way. Thus he would have made a path for them in the wilderness. One of the prime essentials for life is water. The assurance that YHWH would cause rivers to flow in the desert indicated that the people would have all necessities when making the long journey back to their land.
43:20. Masoretic Text: Beasts of the field, jackals and ostriches [literally, “daughters of greed”), will honor me, for I have given waters in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to provide drink to my people, my chosen one,
Septuagint: The beasts of the field will bless me, sirens and daughters of ostriches, for I have given water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to provide drink to my race, the chosen one,
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads, “my people and my chosen one” (or, “my people, even my chosen one”).
According to the Targum of Isaiah, the “exiles” are the ones for whom YHWH would provide water to drink. This Targum, however, does not represent the animals as glorifying or honoring YHWH but refers to the people as doing so upon his repeopling the desolated land, including the place where jackals and ostriches had their dwelling.
Wilderness and desert dwellers included ostriches, jackals, and a variety of other wild animals. Although their need for water was not as great as that of other animals, they still were dependent on having access to a water supply. Therefore, the abundant provision of water YHWH is represented as making for his people during the course of the journey back to their land would also benefit the animals. Seemingly, for this reason, these creatures are spoken of as glorifying, honoring, or praising YHWH. In the Septuagint, the mythical “sirens” are mentioned, apparently this would be because the ancients believed that such creatures had their haunt in desolate places.
There is also a possibility that the mention of wild animals honoring YHWH could relate to the security the Israelite exiles would enjoy on the way back to their land. The wild creatures would not harm the people when they traveled through wilderness and arid regions. Thus the animals could be considered as honoring YHWH, for it was his purpose for the Israelites to have a safe journey when returning to their land.
Israel is designated as YHWH’s chosen one. This is because he had chosen the people as his own for his purpose.
43:21. Masoretic Text: the people whom I formed for myself that they might recount my praise.
Septuagint: my people, whom I procured to recount my excellencies.
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” is included after the words “I formed for myself.” This scroll also has the word for “speak” instead of one that is here rendered “recount.”
According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH appointed Israel for his “service.”
YHWH had formed the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into a people or nation for his purpose, dealing with them in a special way and giving them his commands for their guidance. His purpose included their making known his praise or, according to the Septuagint, his “excellencies” — his attributes and the things he had done for them. By the way they lived their lives in harmony with God’s commands and the resultant blessings they enjoyed, they could have shown to observers from other nations that YHWH truly cared for them as his people. The Israelites would have exalted him in the eyes of others and thus related or made known his praise.
In a sense, when the repentant people were gathered and returned to their land, YHWH again formed them into a people. His providing for them and protecting them also brought praise to him and deserved to be related.
43:22. Masoretic Text: And you did not call upon me, O Jacob, for you have become weary of me, O Israel.
Septuagint: Now I have not called you, O Jacob, nor have I made you weary, O Israel.
In the past, the Israelites failed to recount YHWH’s praise, for they did not keep his commands. Therefore, he withdrew his aid and blessing, causing the people of other nations to conclude that he could not protect the Israelites. Instead having his praise made known, YHWH came to be reproached. The Israelites did not call upon him in faith, failing to look to him for aid and protection and to serve him by heeding his law and the guidance he provided through his prophets. They ignored the word of YHWH, conducting themselves in a manner that he disapproved, and formed alliances with foreign powers in an attempt to assure their security. The people refused to submit to YHWH’s commands, acting as persons who were weary or tired of him. According to the Targum of Isaiah, they “wearied of the instruction of [God’s] law.”
The Septuagint rendering expresses a different thought. God had not called upon the people, possibly meaning that he had not directed any unreasonable demands to them. He had not burdened them with extremely difficult or harsh requirements that would have made them weary.
43:23. Masoretic Text: You have not brought me a sheep for your holocausts and have not honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with an offering and wearied you with frankincense.
Septuagint: Not for me [are] the sheep of your holocaust, nor have you glorified me with your sacrifices, nor have I made you weary with frankincense,
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the suffix for “your” does not follow the word here rendered “holocausts,” which is singular in the scroll.
The Hebrew word seh, here rendered “sheep,” designates an animal of the flock, either a sheep or a goat. As evident from the context, the Israelites failed to give wholehearted support to the commands related to the sacrificial arrangements at the temple. Furthermore, whenever they did present their offerings, they did so insincerely as persons who continued to conduct themselves contrary to YHWH’s commands. (Compare Isaiah 1:11-17.) In view of their wayward course, YHWH did not look with approval on their sacrifices. These offerings were not a fitting expression of praise and thanksgiving, and so did not honor him or bring glory or praise to him.
The Hebrew verb for “burden” (‘avád) literally means “serve.” YHWH had not submitted the Israelites to a condition of servitude on account of a heavy load of required sacrifices. Besides required sacrifices, the people could make voluntary offerings. (Leviticus 19:5) Israelites with limited financial means could offer sacrifices of far lesser value than would otherwise have been required of them. (Leviticus 5:6-13; 12:8)
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), however, the thought is expressed differently. YHWH is represented as saying that the people had not made offerings for him. This suggests that their offerings were unacceptable.
Frankincense was a costly substance. So it may be that the reference to YHWH’s not wearying the people with frankincense means that he did not place heavy demands on them about supplying it for the temple service.
43:24. Masoretic Text: With silver, you have not obtained [spice] cane for me; and with the fat of your sacrifices, [you have not] satisifed me. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your wrongdoings.
Septuagint: nor have you obtained incense for me with silver, nor have I longed for the fat of your offerings, but I have stepped in for your sins and for your wrongdoings.
The Greek word here rendered “I have stepped in” is a form of proístemi, which has been variously defined as meaning “show concern for,” “give aid to,” “rule,” “be in charge of,” “direct,” or “stand in front of.” In this context, the term appears to indicate that God had to step in to take on the burden of their sins and wrongdoings.
With reference to the fat, the Targum of Isaiah represents the Israelites as not having made God’s altar fat with the fatness of their sacrifices.
Through his prophet, YHWH censured the Israelites for not giving wholehearted support to the temple service. The “cane” or “spice cane” would have been used as an ingredient for the incense that was burned on the altar of incense in the Holy of the temple. Apparently the people held back from using their “silver” or money to buy this costly “cane” or, according to the Septuagint rendering, the “incense” (more specifically, the ingredients for the incense). The Hebrew verb here rendered “have obtained” is qanítha (a form of qanáh) and the noun for “cane” is qanéh, resulting in a wordplay.
The Israelites also neglected the sacrificial arrangement, with the fat being offered on the altar of burnt offering proving to be far less than it should have been. Therefore, YHWH is represented as saying that he was not satisfied or satiated with it. The Septuagint rendering represents him as not longing for the fat, which would signify that he did not want the fat of the sacrifices because the sinful people were in an unacceptable condition in his sight.
As in the previous verse, the Hebrew verb for “burden” is ‘avád, literally meaning “serve.” In the case of the Israelites, their many sins were like a heavy load to be carried and so it proved to be as if they put this load on their God, burdening him with it. Whereas he had not wearied them with heavy demands, they had wearied him with their iniquities. He became tired of their repeated and numerous transgressions.
43:25. Masoretic Text: I, I [am] he who wipes out your transgressions for my sake, and your sins I will not recall.
Septuagint: I am, I am the one who wipes out your lawless deeds and by no means will I recall [them].
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the word for “transgressions” is singular.
The rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”
Despite the many transgressions of the Israelites, YHWH’s purpose to have the Messiah come through and to them remained unchanged, necessitating that they would survive as a people. Moreover, if he had punished them according to strict justice, this would have caused the people of other nations to conclude that he could not help or protect them and so would have misrepresented him. (Compare Exodus 32:11-13.) Accordingly, his extending mercy to them, wiping out their transgressions, was for his own sake and not because they were deserving. His not recalling their sins was a matter of not bringing their sins to remembrance in order to mete out severe punishment. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah adds that he would “no more” recall or remember their sins.
43:26. Masoretic Text: Remind me; let us judge together. Present your case that you may be justified.
Septuagint: But you, recall [them]; and let us be judged. You relate your lawless deeds first so that you may be justified.
Whereas YHWH would not recall the transgressions of his people, they were to do so. They were not to forget the error of their ways, which would serve to remind them of how merciful he had been toward them and of the need for repentance and obedience to his commands. The Hebrew text represents the recalling as serving to remind God of the transgressions they had committed. With the record of their sins recalled and placed alongside YHWH’s dealing with them, a basis existed for judging between YHWH and the Israelites. As if appearing for judgment, the people are asked to state their case. According to the Septuagint rendering, they were to relate their acts of lawlessness to determine whether they could be justified or acquitted. The implication appears to be that their record of wrongdoing was such that they could not be pronounced innocent.
43:27. Masoretic Text: Your first father sinned and your intermediaries transgressed against me.
Septuagint: Your fathers first, and their rulers, have acted lawlessly against me.
As a people consisting of twelve tribes, the nation of Israel had its beginning with Jacob and his twelve sons. So it appears that Jacob may be understood to be their “first father.” At the instigation of his mother Rebekah, Jacob deceived his father into thinking that he was the firstborn son Esau whom he wanted to bless. (Genesis 27:5-29) It may be that the sin of the “first father” is linked to this deception. The Septuagint rendering “fathers” would apply to the ancestors of the Israelites who had proved to be unfaithful to YHWH.
The word here translated “intermediaries” is considered to be the participial form of the Hebrew verb lits, meaning “scorn,” “deride,” or “ridicule.” In this context, however, “scorn” or “scorner” would not fit. In Job 16:20, a number of translations do use “scorn” or “scorners” for the Hebrew participle. (ESV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV). Among the renderings translators have chosen for the Isaiah passage are “spokesmen” (NAB, NIV, REB), “interpreters” (NJB, NRSV), and “intercessors” (Margolis).
The “intermediaries” could be the “rulers” (LXX) or the leaders of the nation. There is also a possibility that the reference is to priests and, especially, to the prophets who claimed to speak the word of YHWH but who actually did not do so. These individuals were guilty of lawlessness.
43:28. Masoretic Text: And I have profaned the princes of the holy place, and I have handed Jacob over for ban and Israel for reviling.
Septuagint: And the rulers profaned my holy [things], and I delivered Jacob to be destroyed and Israel for a reproach.
In case of the Septuagint rendering, the reference can be either to “holy things” or “holy places.” Unlike the Hebrew text, the Septuagint represents the rulers as defiling that which God considered to be holy or pure.
YHWH is represented as profaning the “princes of the holy place.” This profaning of the princes, leaders, or rulers could denote their being delivered into enemy hands and disgraced. The “holy place” could be Jerusalem, where the temple was located. Jacob and Israel, as elsewhere in the book of Isaiah, are parallel designations. Both refer to the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel.
The Israelites repeatedly proved themselves to be unfaithful to their God. For this reason, he handed them over to their enemies for destruction like persons who had been made the objects of a ban to be annihilated. As a defeated and humiliated people, Israel came to have the taunts of their enemies directed against them. In the Hebrew text, the word translated “reviling” is plural and so indicates that the people were subjected to much and continual reproaching. Because YHWH permitted this to occur, he is represented as handing the people over for destruction and reviling.