Isaiah 59:1-21

59:1. Masoretic Text: Look! The hand of YHWH is not shortened that it cannot save, and his ear heavy that it cannot hear.

Septuagint: Is the hand of the Lord not strong [enough] to save? Or has he made his ear heavy [so as] not to hear?

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the word for “ear” is plural.

The answer to the rhetorical questions in the Septuagint is that it is not a matter of God’s inability to act and to hear, but (as the next verse indicates) his not responding was on account of the sins of the people.


In this context, the “hand” includes the arm. YHWH’s hand and arm are not shortened so as not to be able to reach out, take hold of, and deliver individuals who find themselves in distress. His ear is not “heavy” or burdened by an obstruction, not permitting him to hear. It is not in an inflexible unresponsive state.

59:2. Masoretic Text: For your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid [his] face from you for [him] not to hear.

Septuagint: But your sins have made a separation between you and God, and because of your sins he has turned his face away from you [so as] not to extend mercy.


No impairment or inability on his part proved to be the reason for YHWH’s not responding to or taking action for his people. The Israelites were to blame, their lawless ways had created a rift with their God. On account of their sins, he could not look upon them approvingly and act toward them as his obedient children. He turned away his face, not giving them any favorable hearing or attention. According to the Septuagint rendering, he did not show them any mercy in their time of distress.

59:3. Masoretic Text: For your hands are polluted with blood, and your fingers with iniquity. Your lips have spoken deception. Your tongue utters injustice.

Septuagint: For your hands are polluted with blood, and your fingers with sins, but your lips have spoken lawlessness, and your tongue meditates [on] injustice.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), there is no reference to the lips as speaking deception.


Instead of using their hands to respond compassionately to those in need, the people defiled their hands with blood. Through corrupt legal means, they may have brought about the death of innocent persons. (Compare Jeremiah 2:34.) Because the people had used their fingers in evil ways, they polluted them with iniquity. With their lips, they uttered deceitful words to gain their ignoble objectives. The expressions formulated with their tongue served to gain unworthy ends and so were utterances of injustice. The Septuagint rendering represents the tongue as meditating on, plotting, or scheming injustice. This suggests that the expressions to effect injustice were the product of prior meditation or scheming.

59:4. Masoretic Text: No one is pleading [literally, “calling out”] justly. No one is judging in faithfulness. They trust in emptiness. They speak nothingness. They conceive trouble and give birth to wickedness.

Septuagint: No one is speaking righteous things, nor is [there] true judgment. They rely on vanities and speak empty things, for they conceive trouble and give birth to lawlessness.

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the giving birth to wickedness to mean bringing forth words of oppression from the heart.


The opening words appear to relate to judicial corruption. Numerous translations make this significance explicit in their renderings. Then, instead of rendering the participial form of the Hebrew word shaphát to denote “to judge,” they translate it to mean “to plead” or “to argue” a case. “No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly.” (NASV) “No one makes claims justly; no one pleads honestly.” (HCSB) “No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly.” (ESV) “You go to court, but you do not have justice on your side.” (GNT, Second Edition) “People take each other to court unfairly, and no one tells the truth in arguing his case.” (NCV)

One simply could not expect justice. Those presenting their cases did not do so in a just, fair, or honest manner. Men who rendered judgments did not do so in faithfulness or as persons upholding the law when weighing the evidence. According to the Septuagint, “true judgment” or just judicial decisions did not exist.

The people did not trust in YHWH. They relied on non-existent deities and foreign alliances, hoping to assure their well-being and security by means of them. So the people trusted in emptiness, in something that was vain and could not benefit them. They spoke “nothingness” or “empty things” (LXX). This could relate to their prayers, which would not have been heard. If there is a connection to legal proceedings, “emptiness” and “nothingness” could relate to the falsehoods on which the people relied and which they expressed when presenting their cases.

The people conceived trouble, plotting how they could take advantage of others and devising corrupt means to acquire possessions. When carried out, the trouble they conceived to bring upon others became a tangible evil. Thus they gave birth to wickedness or, according to the Septuagint, lawlessness.

59:5. Masoretic Text: They hatch eggs of a serpent. They weave the web of a spider. The one eating their eggs dies, and a viper is hatched from a crushed one.

Septuagint: They broke eggs of asps and weave a web of a spider. And one about to eat their eggs, [when] breaking [one], found a wind egg [oúrios] and in it a basilisk.


The scheming of corrupt Israelites appears to be likened to the hatching of the eggs of a poisonous snake, which would only produce more injurious things. The weaving of a spider’s web may be representative of their resorting to means to ensnare others in order to take advantage of them. If one were to become involved with their schemes, this would prove to be comparable to eating poisonous eggs and would be lethal. Even a crushed egg, one of the schemes of the wicked, would produce something injurious comparable to a poisonous viper.

The Greek word oúrios is thought to designate a “wind egg” or an infertile egg, one that could not produce the offspring that would normally be expected from the egg. Instead, a highly poisonous serpent, a basilisk, would be found there.

59:6. Masoretic Text: Their webs will not come to be for a garment, and with their products [persons] will not cover themselves. Their works [are] works of iniquity, and a deed of violence [is] in their palms.

Septuagint: Their web will not be for a garment nor will they be covered with their works, for their works are works of lawlessness.

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that, just as silken threads of a spiderweb are of no use for covering oneself, the works of the wicked are of no benefit.


The silken threads from spiderwebs are not suitable for weaving into cloth to be used for making a garment. Like such webs, the schemes or plots of lawless Israelites could not produce anything beneficial comparable to an item of clothing. Their “webs” or schemes would only entangle individuals whom they victimized for their unworthy ends. Nothing that the corrupt Israelites produced could ever have served a useful purpose as would covering or clothing. All their works were iniquitous or lawless. Their open palms were ever ready to do harm to others as if they were already holding an act of violence.

59:7. Masoretic Text: Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to pour out innocent blood. Their thoughts [are] thoughts of iniquity. Ruin and crash [are] in their highways.

Septuagint: But their feet run to evil, quick to pour out blood, and their thoughts [are] thoughts of senseless ones. Ruin and misery [are] in their ways.

After the word translated “crash,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) includes the conjunction “and” followed by the noun for “violence” (chamás).


The lawless ones were always ready to undertake a corrupt scheme or engage in some malicious practice, acting as if running to take hold of evil. They hurried to shed blood, either using corrupt judicial means to cause the death of innocent persons or violently attacking unsuspecting persons in order to rob them. The thoughts of the godless ones always focused on how they could take advantage of others. According to the Septuagint rendering, their thoughts were the thoughts of “senseless ones,” meaning the thoughts of persons who were morally corrupt. Their highways, or the ways in which they conducted themselves, were distinguished by the ruin and downfall or “misery” (LXX) they caused to their victims.

59:8. Masoretic Text: A way of peace they do not know, and [there is] no judgment in their paths. They have made their roads crooked for themselves. All who go in them do not know peace.

Septuagint: And a way of peace they do not know, and judgment is not in their ways, for their paths, over which they travel, are crooked, and they do not know peace.


The person in possession of peace is in a state of well-being and enjoys harmonious relationships with others and, most importantly, an approved standing with God. Lawless persons do not know the way that leads to peace, for they have no experience with it. Instead, they quarrel and fight, depriving others of tranquility with their hateful talk and actions. Personally they can never feel secure, for, to escape punishment, they must constantly be on guard to conceal their lawless ways. The paths the lawless ones pursue are not the ways where just judgment is rendered, but injustices distinguish their paths or ways of handling matters. There is nothing upright about their roads. Whatever course they decide to follow is crooked, and anyone who ends up going on their roads or in their ways will not know peace or will never enjoy the state of true well-being as a person whom God approves.

59:9. Masoretic Text: Therefore, judgment is far from us. Righteousness does not overtake us. We look for light, and see, darkness; for brightness, [but] we walk in gloom.

Septuagint: Therefore, judgment has drawn away from them, and by no means will righteousness take hold of them. [While] they were waiting for light, darkness came to them; [while] they were expecting brightness, they walked in night.

The rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”


On account of the prevailing lawlessness, judgment or the execution of justice proved to be far away from the Israelites. They were not overtaken or seized by righteousness. They did not experience the expressions of YHWH’s righteousness, which would have delivered them from the distressing circumstances in which they found themselves. The people waited for “light” or a change to a favorable state. Instead of seeing the dawning of bright prospects, they ended up with gloomy circumstances or darkness. Although they expected brightness or better days, they ended up living their lives as though finding themselves in never-ending gloom or night.

59:10. Masoretic Text: We grope like the blind for a wall, and like those having no eyes we grope. We stumble at noon as in the twilight. Among the stout ones, [we are] like the dead.

Septuagint: They will grope a wall like the blind, and like those having no eyes they will grope. And they will fall in midday as at midnight. They will groan like those who are dying.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) the form of the verb for “grope” may be rendered “let us grope.”

The Targum of Isaiah concludes with the words, “The world is shut in our face as the graves are shut in the face of the dead.”


In order to have some reference point to escape hazardous or difficult situations, the blind may grope for a wall along which they might be able to follow. The hopeless circumstances of the Israelites after having strayed from adhering to YHWH’s commands could be compared to those of the blind. As persons in the dark and with their eyes unable to see, the people could only grope for something that seemed to provide guidance, but it would be in vain. Deprived of vision, they would stumble, fall, or bring harm to themselves at noon as if it were twilight or as if it were as dark as at “midnight” (LXX).

Among the “stout” or the strong, the helpless people would be like the walking dead. According to the Septuagint rendering, they, in their desperate state, would groan like persons about to die.

59:11. Masoretic Text: We growl like bears, all of us; and like doves, we to moan, moan. We look for judgment, and [there is] none; for deliverance, [but] it is far away from us.

Septuagint: Like a bear and like a dove, together they will go. We waited for judgment, and [there] is none. Deliverance removed itself far away from us.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” is not included before “like doves,” but it does precede “for deliverance.”

The Targum of Isaiah represents the people as being troubled because their enemies have gathered themselves against them like bears.


The portrayal relates to a distressing situation from which the Israelites had no deliverance in prospect. Therefore, the growling like bears could be understood to apply to the growling of bears on account of hunger. In case of the people, the growling could denote outcries of distress and hopelessness. The literal reading “to moan, moan” suggests that the mournful sound coming from the distressed Israelites is intense. This moaning is descriptive of the mournful sound that is comparable to the cooing of doves.

Perhaps the Septuagint rendering may mean that the people would go like a bear and like a dove when these creatures are suffering from hunger.

The people looked for judgment or justice to be rendered for them, apparently expecting God to liberate them from their affliction, but this did not take place. Deliverance seemed far off, as if it would never come.

59:12. Masoretic Text: For our transgressions are increased before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions [are] with us, and our iniquities — we know them:

Septuagint: For abundant [is] our lawlessness before you, and our sins have stood against us; for our lawless deeds [are] in us, and our injustices we have known.


The Israelites did not experience God’s deliverance because they had made themselves guilty of many transgressions, and these had not escaped his notice. The record of their many sins stood against them, testifying to their ruined relationship with their God, resulting in their being deprived of his aid and guidance. Their transgressions could not be overlooked. These transgressions were very much a part of the people’s identity, and the Israelites were fully aware of their wrongs or the injustices they had committed. In the next verse, specific iniquities are mentioned.

59:13. Masoretic Text: to rebel and to deny YHWH and to turn away from following our God, to speak oppression and revolt, to conceive and to utter words of falsehood from the heart.

Septuagint: We were impious and lied and turned away from behind our God. We spoke unrighteous things and rebelled. We conceived and thought up unrighteous words from our heart.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the verb forms for “rebel” and “speak” may be rendered “they have rebelled” and “they have spoken.” Additionally, the conjunction “and” precedes “they have spoken,” and there is no reference to “conceive.” The text may be rendered, “they have spoken oppression and revolt.”


The people, especially the prominent and wealthy ones among them, had rebelled or refused to submit themselves to God’s law or, as expressed in the Septuagint, they proved to be impious or godless. Their denial of YHWH could relate to their engaging in idolatrous acts and entering alliances with foreign powers. Such actions would have been a denial of the reality that YHWH alone is the true and living God and the one who could aid and protect them. When the people failed to adhere to his commands, they denied that YHWH is the God to whom they were accountable for their conduct. The Septuagint refers to the people as lying, either as dealing dishonestly or speaking falsehoods.

Instead of following YHWH as their God by doing his will, the people turned away from him to pursue ways of their own choosing, ways that were contrary to his commands.

To speak oppression could mean to give commands or to make demands that led to suffering and hardships for others. The Septuagint rendering identifies the speaking to pertain to “unrighteous things,” which could include uttering words that were designed to defraud or deceive others.

Speaking revolt may be understood to apply to promoting schemes that were contrary to a course of uprightness. In their thinking, the people rebelled against YHWH, choosing not to be guided by his commands.

From the heart, or from their inmost selves, the Israelites spoke falsehood. According to the Septuagint, they thought up “unrighteous words” or reflected on just what they might do to deceive or take advantage of others for the purpose of achieving their unworthy ends.

59:14. Masoretic Text: And judgment is turned back, and righteousness stands far away, for truth has fallen in the public square, and straightforwardness cannot enter.

Septuagint: And we left judgment behind, and righteousness moved far away because truth was consumed in their ways, and they could not pass through straight.


On account of the prevailing corruption among the people, judgment or justice was “turned back,” not permitted to be expressed. As indicated in the Septuagint, judgment or justice was left behind, totally abandoned. Righteousness or upright conduct could not be found among the people, but it appeared as though righteousness or honesty stood far away from them.

The expression “public square” designates the extensive open area near the city gates where elders sat in judgment and people commonly gathered to hear about significant developments that could impact their lives. While truth should have been spoken and just judgments should have been rendered there, this was not the case. The then-existing situation was marked by a crash of truth, ending its existence as a force to effect justice. According to the Septuagint, truth had been consumed and thus had ceased to be. The very place where it should have been expected to be upheld and defended, straightforwardness, uprightness, or honesty could not even gain an entrance.

59:15. Masoretic Text: And truth is lacking, and one departing from evil [becomes] one for plundering. And YHWH saw it, and it was displeasing in his eyes that [there was] no judgment.

Septuagint: And truth was taken away, and they turned away [their] thought for understanding. And the Lord saw [it], and it did not please him that [there] was no judgment.


Truth or honesty did not exist among the people. Those who did choose to shun evil ended up being victimized. According to the Septuagint rendering, the people, in their thinking, turned away from understanding, apparently meaning that they turned away from understanding how to conduct themselves in a right, honest, or just manner. Taking note of the corruption, YHWH was displeased. The situation had deteriorated to the point that judgment or justice had come to its end among the people.

59:16. Masoretic Text: And he saw that [there was] no man, and he was appalled that [there was] no one intervening. And his arm brought deliverance to him; and his righteousness — it supported him.

Septuagint: And he saw, and [there] was no man, and he perceived, and [there] was no one helping. And he defended them with his arm and, with compassion, he supported [them].

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the word for “righteousness” is plural.

The Targum of Isaiah says that there was no man doing good deeds.


Conditions among the Israelites had deteriorated to the point where no one could receive a just decision from the men who functioned as judges. Among the people, YHWH could not find anyone who decisively upheld justice. He was appalled or astonished that no one intervened or interceded to assure that verdicts would be impartial.

As a consequence, YHWH is represented as taking action. With his arm, or by the use of his power, he effected deliverance from the corruption that he refused to tolerate. His righteousness, or his adherence to the highest standard of uprightness, supported him in his action against the prevailing lawlessness.

According to the Septuagint rendering, no one acted as a helper, evidently meaning that no one did anything to assist in taking a stand against the existing injustices. The ones whom God is represented as defending with his arm or his power may be understood to be those who were unjustly treated or oppressed. For them, he had compassion and gave them his support, coming to their aid in their time of need.

59:17. Masoretic Text: And he put on righteousness as body armor and a helmet of deliverance on his head. And he put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped himself with zeal as a robe.

Septuagint: And he put on righteousness as a breastplate and placed a helmet of deliverance on the head, and he covered himself with a garment of vengeance and the wrap …

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the word for “head” is plural, which could only fit the context if the plural is regarded as a plural of excellence.

The concluding thought in the Septuagint continues in the next verse. To complete the thought, the words “and the wrap” will be repeated.

The interpretation in the Targum of Isaiah includes no mention of any armor. It represents YHWH as revealing himself to effect deeds of righteousness for his people and exacting retribution from those who hate his people.


YHWH is represented as a warrior equipping himself for battle. His body armor or breastplate is righteousness, indicating that his fight is in defense of what is right. The “helmet” is deliverance, suggesting that his mental focus is on bringing about deliverance for those suffering unjustly. YHWH would execute vengeance against the lawless ones, and he would display his zeal or ardor by bringing an end to the corruption existing among the Israelites. His determination to act would be comparable to his having clothed himself with vengeance and zeal.

59:18. Masoretic Text: According to their recompenses, accordingly he will repay, wrath to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies. He will repay recompense to the islands [coastlands].

Septuagint: and the wrap as one recompensing a recompense, reproach to the adversaries.


YHWH’s judgment is here portrayed as extending to all who act contrary to his will. The reference to their “recompenses” may be understood to designate their corrupt or hateful dealings, which would include their mistreatment of God’s people. In repayment to them for their deeds, YHWH would express his wrath against them as his adversaries, with their punishment being according to their unjust dealings. The repayment would be just recompense to his enemies. Islands refer to the islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and the coastlands are the regions that border this sea. The inhabitants of these areas had incurred guilt and, therefore, would experience divine retribution for their wrong actions.

The Septuagint rendering depicts God as having surrounded himself with a wrap or cloak, representative of the role he would be assuming as the one to recompense his adversaries for their injustices. This recompense would be a reproach to them, humiliating them as persons deserving to have God’s severe judgment executed against them.

59:19. Masoretic Text: And they will fear the name of YHWH from sunset, and his glory from the rising of the sun, for he will come like a confined (tsar) stream that the spirit [rúach] of YHWH drives along.

Septuagint: And the ones from the sunset will fear the name of the Lord, and the ones from the rising of the sun [will fear] the glorious name. For anger will come from the Lord like a constrained [bíaios] river; it will come with wrath.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the word for “glory” is plural.

The Targum of Isaiah describes the oppressors of God’s people as coming like the flooding of the Euphrates, but YHWH would bring about their ruin.


On account of witnessing the execution of YHWH’s just judgment against his enemies, those residing in the distant lands of the west where the sun sets would come to have a wholesome fear or profound awe of his name, that is, of him, the person whom the name represents. A like proper fear would be manifest by persons inhabiting the distant eastern regions where the sun rises. They would come to have high regard for God’s glory, or for the glorious or majestic God he is. The Septuagint rendering focuses on his “glorious name” or the splendor associated with the person whom the name represents.

The Hebrew adjective tsar means “narrow,” “tight,” or “contracted,” and the Greek adjective bíaios has been defined as “constrained,” “violent,” “forcible,” and “hard.” Especially at flood stage, the increased volume of water flowing through gorges or areas with high banks produces a far swifter and more powerful current than usual. So it may be that tsar and bíaios describe a powerful and rapidly flowing stream or river.

The word rúach can mean either “spirit” or “wind.” With the spirit of God or a wind from him adding to its rapid rushing, the stream or river would sweep away everything in its path. Thus YHWH’s coming like such a stream would indicate that he would bring about a fear-inspiring destructive act against his enemies. According to the Septuagint, he would be coming to express his anger.

59:20. Masoretic Text: And one who redeems will come to Zion and to those turning away from transgression in Jacob, says YHWH.

Septuagint: And one who delivers will come on account of Zion, and he will turn impiety away from Jacob.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the deliverer would turn the rebellious ones of the house of Jacob to the law.


The redeemer or deliverer to come to Zion may be understood to refer to the Messiah, Jesus the Anointed One or the Christ. In his letter to the Romans (11:26, 27), the apostle Paul quoted from verses 20 and 21 of Isaiah 59 when commenting regarding the mystery relating to how “all Israel will be saved.” His application of the words appear to point ahead to Christ’s return in glory and suggest that Jewish believers in God and his promises would have the opportunity to accept him in his capacity as deliverer. As the deliverer or redeemer, Jesus would turn transgression or “impiety” (LXX) away from Jacob or Israel. This transgression or impiety could refer to their former unbelief. (Compare 1 Timothy 1:12, 13, where Paul describes himself before he put his faith in Jesus Christ.)

According to the Septuagint rendering, the one who delivers would come “on account of Zion,” which suggests that he would be coming in this capacity because of a special need of the people whom Zion represented, that is, the people of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. Those who would benefit from his coming are those who would respond to him in faith, abandoning their former “impiety.”

The manner in which the apostle Paul applied Isaiah 59:20 probably is not to be understood as limiting the application to Jesus’ future return in glory. He first arrived in Zion when, after his baptism, he began his ministry. To those among the people who repented of their sins and accepted him as the promised Messiah or Christ, Jesus proved to be their deliverer. Through him and his sacrificial death in their behalf, they were redeemed, delivered, saved, or rescued from the condemnation to which sin leads, for they were forgiven of their sins. Thus their impiety or lawlessness came to be turned away.

59:21. Masoretic Text: And as for me, this [is] my covenant with them, says YHWH; my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put into your mouth will not depart from your mouth and from the mouth of your seed and from the mouth of the seed of your seed, says YHWH, from now on and for limitless time.

Septuagint: And this [is] to them the covenant from me, said the Lord; my spirit that is upon you and the words that I have put into your mouth will by no means depart from your mouth and from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has said [it], from now and for eternity [literally, “into the age”].

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes “my spirit.” This scroll does not include “says YHWH” after “your seed.”

The rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”


When linked to the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ or the Anointed One, the covenant with those whom YHWH recognizes as his people would be the new covenant. Under the new covenant arrangement, as revealed in Jeremiah 31:33, 34, God’s law would be written on the heart of his people or it would be a part of their inmost selves, motivating them in thought, word, and deed. Additionally, they would enjoy complete forgiveness of sins and know YHWH as persons who conduct themselves in an approved manner in his sight.

The singular second person “you” and “your” are probably to be understood as a collective singular that designates God’s approved people. His spirit would be upon them, guiding them in their daily conduct.

The words that would be in their mouths may refer to the revelation of God’s will and purpose, especially as had been made known through his Son, Jesus the Anointed One. (Compare John 17:14.) These “words,” or the authoritative divine teachings, were to be the enduring possession of God’s true people. In being identified as having been put into their mouths, these words were to proceed from their mouths to teach others. The “seed” would be those who came to be disciples, persons who put faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah, the unique Son of God, and his sacrificial death for them. They came to be disciples, or part of the composite “seed,” after hearing the words from disciples of Jesus Christ and then responding to the authoritative divine teachings in faith. (Compare John 17:20; Romans 10:6-10, 13-15.) In their case, too, these words would remain their permanent possession, not departing from their mouths. Yet future generations, referred to as the “seed of your seed,” would likewise hear the words and then come to have them as a lasting possession in their mouths after embracing them in faith. This would prove to be the case for limitless time to come.