Isaiah 1:1-32

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1:1. Masoretic Text: The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, which he saw regarding Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Septuagint: [The] vision that Isaiah, son of Amos, saw, which he saw against Judea and against Jerusalem, in the reign of Uzziah and Jotham and Ahaz and Hezekiah, [kings who] reigned over Judea.

The Targum of Isaiah does not use the words “vision” or “saw,” but refers to the “prophecy” that Isaiah “prophesied.”


Isaiah received divine revelations at various times during his long service as a prophet. Therefore, the designation “vision” is apparently to be understood in a collective sense, referring to all that YHWH revealed to Isaiah by means of his spirit. God’s spirit operated in such a way toward him that he had a clear visual image of the messages. He may have received the divine revelations while in a trance or while dreaming.

Isaiah was the son of Amoz, about whom no personal information is revealed in the Scriptures. The prophet’s name means “salvation of YHWH.” His wife was also a prophetess, and the couple had at least two sons, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. (Isaiah 7:3; 8:1, 3) YHWH’s word through Isaiah was often directed against Judah and Jerusalem.

Like Hosea whose prophetic activity overlapped his own, Isaiah began serving as a prophet as a young man. (Hosea 1:1) His activity during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah also overlapped that of the prophets Micah and Oded. (2 Chronicles 28:9; Micah 1:1) The 16-year rule of Ahaz proved to be the worst period. Idolatry and lawlessness flourished on an unprecedented scale, and the kingdom suffered serious military defeats. (2 Kings 16:2-8; 2 Chronicles 28:1-8, 16-25)

1:2. Masoretic Text: Hear, heavens, and give ear, earth, for YHWH has spoken. Sons I have reared and raised, and they have rebelled against me.

Septuagint: Hear, heaven, and give ear, earth, for the Lord has spoken. Sons I have generated and raised, but they have disregarded me.

According to the words of the Targum of Isaiah, the reference is to the skies (which trembled when the Israelites received the law) and to the earth or land (which quaked on that occasion).


Evidently because he had a judicial case against his people, YHWH called upon the heavens or the skies and the earth or land to pay attention. His universal appeal to listen probably included humans and angels who could serve as witnesses respecting the situation involving his sons, the Israelites of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. (Compare Deuteronomy 30:19; 32:1; Psalm 50:3, 4; Micah 6:1, 2.) He had liberated the people from Egyptian enslavement and cared for them like a loving father, forming them into an independent nation. During their wandering in the wilderness and after they settled in Canaan, he provided everything they needed to grow and flourish as a people. (Jeremiah 2:5-7) YHWH had elevated the people from a state of pitiable enslavement comparable to the terrible plight of an abused baby to a position of royal dignity. (Compare Ezekiel 16:4-14.) They, however, did not value his thus having reared and raised them but rebelled against him, rejecting his care and guidance. Such rebellion was a serious sin that merited severe punishment. (Compare Deuteronomy 21:18-21.)

With reference to children, the Hebrew word rum is commonly understood to mean “raise” or “bring up.” It can, however, also mean “exalt,” “rise,” and “be high.” In the Septuagint, the corresponding term hypsóo means “raise,” “lift up,” “exalt,” and “elevate.” The Targum of Isaiah expresses the sense of exaltation, for the reference there is to YHWH’s making his sons “glorious,” giving them a dignified standing.

1:3. Masoretic Text: A bull knows its owner, and an ass the manger of its master. Israel does not know; my people does not understand.

Septuagint: A bull knows its owner and an ass the manger of its master. But Israel did not know me, and the people did not understand me.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the phrase ending in “know” is joined to the next phrase by “and.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, Israel had not come to know the fear of YHWH and had not understood how to return to his law.


YHWH’s word through Isaiah is addressed to the people of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, and “Israel” apparently is to be understood in this sense.

A bull does come to know or recognize its owner and submits to being used for agricultural operations, and an ass recognizes the manger that its master fills with fodder. Unlike a bull that yielded to the guidance of its owner when plowing or threshing, the Israelites rebelled, faithlessly adopting the worship of other gods and entering alliances with foreign powers to safeguard their security. By their actions, the people revealed that they did not know or recognize YHWH as the One whom they should serve exclusively and upon whom their well-being and safety depended. Unlike an ass that recognized its master’s manger and regularly fed on the fodder contained therein, the people were not content with YHWH’s provisions for them but looked to other sources to assure their prosperity and security. Although possessing reasoning faculties, they manifested less sense than unreasoning domestic animals.

1:4. Masoretic Text: Ah, sinful nation, people burdened with guilt, evildoing seed, corruptly dealing sons. They have forsaken YHWH [and] despised the Holy One of Israel. They are estranged, [turned] backward.

Septuagint: Woe, sinful nation, people full of sins, evil seed, lawless sons; you have forsaken the Lord and angered the Holy One of Israel.

The Targum of Isaiah contrasts what the Israelites were with what they came to be — a holy people who became practicers of sin, a chosen congregation that came to increase transgressions, a beloved seed that chose to act wickedly, and cherished sons who turned to corrupt ways.


As a people, the Israelites were sinful, completely missing the mark respecting upright conduct or loyal adherence to God’s commands. As a result, a huge load of guilt rested upon them. They proved to be a seed or brood doing evil, oppressing the needy, engaging in idolatry, and forming alliances with foreign powers. Their dealings were corrupt, contrary to God’s law. They failed seriously in upholding the cause of justice. The people of the kingdom of Judah had abandoned YHWH, zealously pursuing idolatrous practices and looking to the military might of other nations for protection. Their impure conduct revealed that they had no regard for the Holy One of Israel. They were treating him with contempt, trampling upon his standard of holiness or purity. The people’s relationship to YHWH was one of estrangement or alienation. Instead of drawing closer to him, they distanced themselves, going backward. According to the reading of the Septuagint, they provoked YHWH to anger, manifestly because of their despicable conduct.

1:5. Masoretic Text: Why would you still be beaten, that you continue to rebel? [The] whole head [is ]sick, and [the] whole heart [is] feeble.

Septuagint: Why would you still be beaten, continuing in lawlessness? [The] whole head [is] in distress, and [the] whole heart [is] in pain.


Translators have commonly rendered the question with either an introductory “why” or “where.” “Why should you be beaten anymore?” (NIV) “Why do you seek further beatings?” (NRSV, Tanakh) “Why be punished more?” (CEV) “Where would you yet be struck, you that rebel again and again?” (NAB)

The description appears to relate to a time when the kingdom of Judah had already experienced much suffering on account of unfaithfulness to YHWH. Historically, this could fit the reign of Ahaz. The realm had been ravaged by devastating military invasions from the north, south, and east. Ahaz had then unwisely sought Assyrian assistance, only to bring upon himself and his subjects oppression from the reigning monarch, Tiglath-pileser III. (2 Chronicles 28:5-8, 16-25)

In view of all the “beatings” the kingdom of Judah had endured, why would the people, particularly the king and other officials, want to persist in rebellion or lawlessness — a course that would intensify suffering? The majority in the realm had abandoned YHWH and zealously pursued idolatry, leaving them without his protection and at the mercy of their enemies. Besides engaging in idolatry, many mercilessly oppressed the poor and disadvantaged ones in their midst.

The kingdom of Judah resembled a man in a pitiable state. In its sickly state, the head, the essential directive part of the body, could not function properly. Enfeebled, the heart could not serve its vital role in supplying what the whole organism needed.

1:6. Masoretic Text: From the sole of the foot even to the head, no soundness [is] therein — bruises and slashes and fresh wounds, not pressed out and bound up and softened with oil.

Septuagint: From the feet to the head, whether sore or bruise or festering wound, [there] is no emollient to apply, nor oil nor bandages.

Greek manuscripts vary, either including the words about no soundness (as does the Masoretic Text) or omitting them.


The realm of the kingdom of Judah resembled a body that had been severely beaten. All skin surfaces, from head to foot, were covered with untreated bruises, deep cuts, or raw wounds. Festering wounds had not been pressed out, cleaned, and bandaged, and the welts had not been softened with olive oil.

The Targum of Isaiah makes an application of these words to the moral condition of the people (from the lowliest to the heads or leaders) and refers to them as having no fear of God and being perverse and rebellious. Their defilement with transgressions is likened to their having a festering wound.

1:7. Your land [is] a waste; your cities are burned with fire. Your country — foreigners are consuming it in front of you, and [it is] a waste, as overthrown by foreigners.

Septuagint: Your land [is] desolate; your cities are torched. Your country — foreigners are consuming it in front of you, and it has been desolated, overthrown by foreign peoples.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, “and [it is] a waste” reads, “and they have brought desolation upon it,” signifying that the foreign invaders had desolated the land.


The description of the desolated state serves as the backdrop for an appeal to repentance, an appeal directed to those who had survived the devastation of the kingdom of Judah. (Compare 1:19, 20.)

During the period of Isaiah’s prophesying enemy invasions devastated the land. The people experienced humiliating defeats at the hands of the Syrians, the Israelites of the northern kingdom, the Philistines, the Edomites, and the Assyrians. Many thousands of warriors were slaughtered. Cities were seized, plundered, and burned. The invaders would also have plundered food supplies — both in the fields and in storage. (2 Kings 16:5, 6; 18:13; 2 Chronicles 28:5-20; Isaiah 36:1) Thus, before their very eyes, the people of the kingdom of Judah saw foreigners devouring the yield of their fields.

1:8. Masoretic Text: And [the] daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.

Septuagint: The daughter of Zion will be left like a booth in a vineyard and like a hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.

Unlike the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint points to a future development.


Both in Hebrew and in Greek, the word city is feminine gender and, therefore, Zion is called “daughter.” In this context, the designation Zion applies to the entire city of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Judah. Surrounded by territory that invading armies had devastated, Zion resembled a watchman’s booth in a vineyard or a lone hut in a field of cucumbers. The Targum of Isaiah refers to the booth as being in a harvested vineyard and the structure in the cucumber field as one in which a person might pass the night after the cucumbers had been gleaned. The city appeared forlorn and exposed, much like a flimsy shelter. With other cities having been conquered, Zion or Jerusalem would have been like a besieged city. Historically, during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah, invading armies devastated cities in the land, but Zion or Jerusalem was not conquered. (2 Kings 16:5; 18:13-25; 2 Chronicles 28:5-20; Isaiah 36:1)

1:9. Masoretic Text: If YHWH of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would have been like Sodom; we would have become like Gomorrah.

Septuagint: And if the Lord Sabaoth had not left us seed [spérma], we would have become like Sodom and made to resemble Gomorrah.

“Sabaoth” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word meaning “hosts” or “armies.”


Apparently because a great angelic host functions under his direction, YHWH is called “YHWH of hosts.” If he had permitted the invading forces to unleash their full fury against the kingdom of Judah, no one would have survived. The destruction would have been as complete as that of Sodom and Gomorrah, which cities and all their inhabitants were totally obliterated.

In this context, the Greek term for “seed” (spérma) evidently denotes survivors.

1:10. Masoretic Text: Hear the word of YHWH, rulers of Sodom. Give ear to the teaching of our God, people of Gomorrah.

Septuagint: Hear the word of the Lord, rulers of Sodom. Pay attention to the law of God, people of Gomorrah.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, Sodom is followed by the word “and.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the deeds of the rulers were like those of Sodom’s rulers, and the people’s deeds resembled those of Gomorrah’s inhabitants.


Despite the devastation, the kingdom of Judah still had rulers and subjects who had escaped a fate like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their conduct, however, was like that of the inhabitants of these infamous cities. The Genesis account reveals that many men in Sodom were sexually depraved and violent, and the inhabitants were inhospitable. Prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, neighboring peoples raised a great outcry against the cities. (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:4-9) The book of Ezekiel (16:49, 50, NIV) provides additional details: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters [neighboring towns] were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things.”

Similarly, the rulers of Judah did not uphold the rights of the poor and afflicted. Their corrupt judgments led to spilling much innocent blood. Therefore, they deserved being addressed as “rulers of Sodom.”

The people generally failed to live uprightly and merited to be called “people of Gomorrah.” Many of them were guilty of oppression, fraud, and violence.

The imperative for the rulers to listen to YHWH’s word and for the subjects to give heed to his teaching, instruction, or law constituted an appeal to repentance. The admonition was for them to consider their conduct and to change so as to escape the outpouring of divine wrath.

1:11. What [is] the abundance of your sacrifices to me? says YHWH. I am satiated with holocausts of rams and fat of fatlings and take no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and he-goats.

Septuagint: What [is] the abundance of your sacrifices to me? says the Lord. I am satiated with holocausts of rams and do not desire the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls and he-goats,


To YHWH, the many sacrifices the people offered were valueless. Their doing so was merely an empty ritual devoid of appreciation for him and loyal devotion to him as the only God. He did not need sacrifices. This aspect is highlighted in Psalm 50:9-15 (NAB). “I need no bullock from your house, no goats from your fold. For every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know every bird of the heavens; the creatures of the field belong to me. Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High. Then call on me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.”

The people in the kingdom of Judah had failed seriously in living up to YHWH’s requirements. Therefore, he had enough of their meaningless offerings and found no delight in any part of the sacrificial arrangement. According to the Mosaic law, rams, bulls, lambs, and goats were acceptable sacrifices. For YHWH to look upon the offerings favorably, however, the people needed to conduct themselves uprightly.

1:12. Masoretic Text: When you come to appear before my face, who requires this from your hand, to trample my courts?

Septuagint: not even if you come to appear before me. For who required these things from your hands? Do not continue to trample my courtyard.

In the Septuagint, the initial words are a continuation of the previous sentence.


The Hebrew text, like the Septuagint, could be rendered to include the opening two words of verse 13 and, therefore, as a request for the trampling to cease. “Trample my courts no more!” (NAB, NRSV, Tanakh). “Stay out of my temple!” (CEV) When the initial words of verse 13 are not included, the Masoretic Text is translated as in the New International Version. “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” The inclusion of le (“to”) in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (before the Hebrew word for “trample” and, in verse 13, before the Hebrew word for “bring”) would favor this translation, and the rendering of the Masoretic Text (above) follows the Dead Sea Scroll.

The expression “to appear before the face” means to come into another’s presence. For the Israelites to appear in God’s presence indicated that they had come to his representative dwelling place, the temple in Jerusalem. Both in Hebrew and Greek, the infinitive form of the verb translated “see” or “appear” is passive, suggesting that the people came in order to have YHWH see them or grant them his attention.

The question implied that YHWH had not required the people to come into his presence in the manner in which they came to the sacred precincts to offer sacrifices. That coming amounted to nothing more than an empty ritual. The words “from your hand” basically denote “from you as the agent.”

Without accompanying upright conduct and the right motivation, those who came to the temple for worship did not do anything that YHWH could favorably accept. Their arrival in the temple area amounted to nothing more than meaningless trampling, as if the courts were ordinary thoroughfares.

1:13. Bring no more worthless offering. Incense [is] an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath [and] calling of a gathering — I cannot endure deception [’áwen] and an assembly.

Septuagint: If you should offer fine flour, [that would be] vain. Incense is an abomination to me. I cannot endure your new moons and sabbaths and great day.

The last three words of the Septuagint are part of a sentence that is completed in the next verse. They have not been translated here.


YHWH did not look with approval on the people’s sacrifices (or, according to the Septuagint, a grain offering of the best flour) because their conduct and motives did not harmonize with his law. Therefore, when any of them brought an offering, it proved to be worthless, useless, or in vain. To YHWH, the burning incense (despite its pleasant aroma) was disgusting, repugnant, or an odious stench.

The first day of each month — the festival of the new moon —occasioned joyous feasting that should have been focused on YHWH, the provider of bounties. (Compare 1 Samuel 20:5, 18, 24, 26.) As a day for rest and refreshment, the weekly sabbath should have been a day for appreciatively reflecting on YHWH’s blessing on the previous six days of labor. The calling of a gathering or, according to the Septuagint, a “great day” probably referred to one of the annual festivals. Possibly the Septuagint rendering “great day” may have been understood to designate the “day of atonement.” YHWH could not endure or bear any new moon, sabbath, or festival observance. He found no delight in the meaningless observances of a people whose lives dishonored his name. The observances were merely a deceptive display.

“Deception” is one of the definitions of ’áwen, which may also denote “trouble,” “sorrow,” “wickedness,” “disaster,” “nothingness,” and “idolatrous cult.” Common renderings are “iniquity” (NRSV), “wickedness” (NAB), and “evil” (CEV, NIV). “Deception,” wickedness, evil, or iniquity could not be offset by engaging in outward forms of worship.

Apparently because the sacrificial arrangement was part of the Mosaic law, the Targum of Isaiah adds qualifying phrases, referring to the offering as having been obtained by violence and to those gathering together as not having abandoned their transgressions.

1:14. Masoretic Text: My soul hates your new moons and your appointed seasons [mo‘éd]. They have become a burden to me. I am tired of carrying them.

Septuagint: My soul hates fasting and rest [days] and your new moons and your festivals. You have become to me a satiating thing. I will no longer remit your sins.

In verse 13, the concluding words of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah differ from the Septuagint, making no reference to fasting and rest. Nevertheless, the reading of the Septuagint, though different, does not change the basic significance of the message. Fasting and days marked by the cessation of work were part of the outward forms of worship. The Greek word for “rest” (argía) may also mean “idleness,” “inability to work,” and “leisure.” In this context, the term appears to apply to a time when the Israelites had a day of rest or a holiday.


YHWH’s soul, that is, he himself loathed the people’s observance of the monthly festival of the new moon and the annual festivals. The lawless conduct made these occasions abhorrent to him. As far as the outward forms of worship were concerned, YHWH had reached the point of not wanting to put up with them any longer. They were like a heavy load that he had no desire to carry. Enough was enough.

The Hebrew word mo‘éd basically means an “appointed time” or “season” and, in this context, evidently designates the annual festivals. In the Septuagint, the corresponding term is the plural of heorté (festival, feast).

Instead of referring to YHWH being tired of the outward forms of worship, the Septuagint speaks of him as having had his fill of the people and that he would no longer forgive their sins.

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that, although the new moons and festivals had become abominable to him, YHWH multiplied his forgiveness.

1:15. Masoretic Text: When you spread out your hands, I will conceal my eyes from you. Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.

Septuagint: When you stretch out your hands to me, I will turn my eyes away from you, and if you increase prayer, I will not listen to you, for your hands [are] full of blood.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah concludes with additional words. (Your hands are full of blood, your fingers [full] of iniquity.)

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the priests as praying for the people.


Spreading or stretching out the hands refers to raising the arms with open palms in the attitude of a petitioner. YHWH, through his prophet, indicated that he would not look with approval on those assuming this attitude. Even if they increased the number of their prayers, he would pay no attention to them. This is because the raised hands were filled with blood. According to the Targum of Isaiah, this was innocent blood. By bribing corrupt judges or paying witnesses to present false testimony, lawless Israelites succeeded in having innocent ones executed. (Compare 1 Kings 21:8-10; Isaiah 1:23; 5:23; Jeremiah 2:34; Ezekiel 22:12; Micah 3:9-11.) On account of judicial murders, many shared in the God-dishonoring record of bloodguilt.

1:16. Masoretic Text: Wash yourselves; cleanse yourselves; remove the evil of your dealings from before my eyes; cease to do evil.

Septuagint: Wash yourselves; become clean; remove the evils from your souls before my eyes; desist from your evils.

With the exception of the concluding imperative, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah links the other directives with the conjunction “and.”

According to the reading of the Septuagint, the people were to remove the evils from their souls or from themselves.

The Targum of Isaiah represents the washing as a returning to the law and refers to a cleansing from transgressions.


The people’s hands were defiled with bloodshed and other serious sins, making it imperative that they wash themselves and make themselves clean. This would require abandoning their lawless course so that YHWH would no longer have to look upon their evil deeds. They were commanded to stop practicing evil, that is, anything that deviated from YHWH’s requirements for his people.

1:17. Masoretic Text: Learn to do good; seek justice; relieve [’ashár] the oppressed one [chamóts]; judge for the orphan; contend for the widow.

Septuagint: Learn to do good; seek justice; rescue the one who is wronged; judge for the orphan and render justice for the widow.


Many in the kingdom of Judah had become accustomed to a life that ignored YHWH’s commands. Therefore, they needed to learn to conduct themselves in a manner that harmonized with what he considered good. Instead of trampling on the rights of others, they were to seek justice, endeavoring to do what was right and fair. Upon becoming aware that someone was being wronged, they were under command to rescue the one who was treated unfairly or to take a stand against the oppressor. (Compare Proverbs 24:11, 12.) They were to see to it that the orphan and the widow, who were often the victims of cruel oppression, had justice rendered in their behalf.

There is uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew word chamóts. It has been understood to refer either to the oppressor or to the one who is oppressed. In the Targum of Isaiah, the imperative may be understood as a command to defend the right of the oppressed one. Modern translations vary in the way they render the directive that includes the Hebrew word chamóts and a form of the Hebrew verb ’ashár. The word ’ashár is usually found in contexts meaning “to pronounce happy,” “fortunate,” or “blessed.” In keeping with this significance, Robert Young translated the expression “make happy the oppressed.” When regarding chamóts as designating the one who is oppressed, other translators have rendered ’ashár as “aid” (Tanakh), “encourage” (NIV), “help” (CEV), “redress” (NAB), or “rescue” (NRSV). Translators who have opted for the meaning “oppressor” have variously rendered ’ashár as “correct” (Rotherham), “reprove” (NASB), and “punish” (CEV, footnote).

1:18. Masoretic Text: Come now and let us argue [this] out [yakách], says YHWH. Although your sins are like scarlet, they will be white like snow; although red like crimson, they will become like wool.

Septuagint: Come now and let us argue [this] out, says the Lord. And if your sins are like purple, I will whiten them like snow, and if they are like scarlet, I will whiten them like wool.


Lexicographers have defined the Hebrew word yakách (here rendered “argue out”) as “reason,” “argue,” “defend,” “judge,” “discipline,” “punish,” “rebuke,” “reproach,” “chasten,” “correct,” “adjudge,” and “appoint.” The corresponding Greek term (dielénchomai) has been defined as “discuss,” “argue a case,” “engage in a dispute,” “debate,” and “plead.”

As if provided with their day in court, the Israelites were being offered the opportunity to plead their case. This meant that, if they were willing to change their conduct, they would be shown mercy. Their record of sin could have been like the scarlet dye impregnating a garment, yet it could be completely forgiven as if the garment became snow-white. Likewise, the deep purplish red to which the stain of sin could be compared would vanish and become like white wool.

1:19. Masoretic Text: If you are willing and listen, you will eat the good of the land.

Septuagint: And if you are willing and listen to me, you will eat the good things of the land.


If the people were willing to respond favorably to YHWH’s word of admonition directed to them through his prophet and followed through with a course of obedience, they were assured of remaining in the land and being able to partake of its produce to the full.

1:20. Masoretic Text: And if you refuse and are defiant, you will be consumed by the sword, for the mouth of YHWH has spoken.

Septuagint: But if you are not willing nor listen to me, the sword will consume you, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things.


A refusal on the people’s part to change their ways and a defiant failure to heed YHWH’s word would lead to adverse judgment. Instead of remaining in the land and enjoying its abundant yield, many would perish at the hands of aggressive invaders wielding the sword. There would be no escape from the dire consequences, for YHWH’s word was certain of fulfillment.

1:21. Masoretic Text: How the faithful city has become a harlot, she who was full of justice! Righteousness resided in her, and now murderers.

Septuagint: How the faithful city Zion has become a harlot! She [was] full of justice; righteousness resided in her, but now murderers.

The Targum of Isaiah refers to Zion’s deeds changing to those of a harlot.


The transformation of Zion from a city where God’s law was upheld to a place where it was completely disregarded occasioned astonishment. Zion’s conduct resembled that of a loyal wife who, to the shock of her family and friends, completely changed and began a life of prostitution.

After David made Zion his capital and during the early part of Solomon’s reign, the Israelites could expect justice to be rendered in their behalf. (Compare 1 Kings 3:16-28; Psalm 101:2-8.) When, however, Solomon strayed from loyal adherence to God’s law, idolatry gained a solid foothold in the realm, and his rule became increasingly more oppressive. (Compare 1 Kings 11:1-10; 12:1-4.) Although a few kings of the line of David endeavored to reverse the plunge into idolatry, their efforts did not last. Especially during the reign of King Ahaz, the situation reached an extremely low point. (2 Kings 16:1-4; 2 Chronicles 28:1-4) Disregard for the poor, the orphans, and the widows accompanied rampant idolatry. Bribery and corruption became commonplace, and innocent people were sentenced to death. (Isaiah 1:23; 5:23; Micah 3:9-11) In this way, the city once known for the administration of justice (1 Kings 10:6-9) became a place where murderers flourished.

1:22. Masoretic Text: Your silver has become dross, your drink [sóve’] mixed with water.

Septuagint: Your silver [is] valueless; your taverners mix the wine [oinos,] with water.

The Hebrew word sóve’ is understood to refer to an alcoholic drink or wine. Lexicographer Ludwig Koehler suggested that the term designates beer made from grain. A similar Akkadian word sibu does refer to a kind of beer. In the Septuagint, the corresponding term is oinos, meaning “wine.”


What had once been precious in Jerusalem amounted to no more than “dross,” the scum on the surface of molten silver. It had no value. According to the reading of the Septuagint, taverners or wine merchants in the city resorted to watering down wine with water, evidently to increase their profits.

There is a possibility, however, that this passage has a figurative meaning. (Compare Jeremiah 6:30; Ezekiel 22:18.) According to verses 25 and 26, YHWH would reject the dross or slag and replace corrupt rulers and judges with those who would uphold the cause of justice. Therefore, the “silver” and the diluted “drink” could refer to those who should have been exemplary in administering justice. Instead of proving themselves to be like precious silver in carrying out their duties conscientiously, they were corrupt, comparable to worthless dross or the waste product of the refining process. They were like a diluted alcoholic drink, with no strength for defending what was just and fair. With reference to Jerusalem, a number of translations make the figurative aspect specific. “Jerusalem, you were once like silver, but now you are worthless; you were like good wine, but now you are only water.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag. Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine.” (NLT)

1:23. Masoretic Text: Your princes [are] stubborn and partners of thieves. Every one of them loves a bribe and chases after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s judicial case does not come to them.

Septuagint: Your rulers are disobedient, partners of thieves, loving gifts, pursuing recompense, not defending orphans, and not regarding justice [for] widows.


The princes or officials in the kingdom of Judah stubbornly disregarded YHWH’s law. They allied themselves with thieves who deprived others of their rightful due and from whom they received generous bribes. These officials loved the gain from bribes, and eagerly pursued such “gifts.” Because they could not profit from rendering justice for poor orphans and widows, they refused to grant them an impartial hearing.

The Targum of Isaiah includes the thought of recompense, representing the corrupt princes as saying to one another that they would make repayment when given support for their cause.

1:24. Masoretic Text: Therefore, says the Lord, YHWH of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, Ah! I will get comfort (nachám) from my foes and take vengeance on my enemies.

Septuagint: Therefore, this is what the Master, the Lord Sabaoth, says, Woe [to] those of Israel having might, for I will not let my anger cease among my adversaries, and I will execute judgment on my enemies.

In the Septuagint, “Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew expression meaning “armies” or “hosts.”

Unlike the Masoretic Text that refers to YHWH as the “Mighty One of Israel,” the Septuagint expresses woe for the mighty ones of Israel, the men exercising authority in the kingdom of Judah.


With vast angelic hosts under his direction, YHWH is indeed the Mighty One. Among the Israelites (more specifically the people living in the realm of the kingdom of Judah), the awesome power at his disposal should have engendered a wholesome fear of not displeasing him. Foolishly, however, many abandoned YHWH and adopted the veneration of lifeless deities, leading to a serious moral breakdown. By their wayward conduct, the people made themselves his enemies.

The Hebrew word nachám basically means “regret,” “feel sorry,” “console,” or “comfort.” In this context, the term has been rendered “get satisfaction” (Tanakh), “get relief” (NIV), and “take vengeance” (NAB). YHWH would “take comfort” in or “get satisfaction” from executing deserved judgment on his foes. This aspect is expressed explicitly in the parallel phrase, “take vengeance on my enemies.”

1:25. Masoretic Text: And I will turn my hand against you and smelt away your dross as with potash, and remove all of your slag.

Septuagint: And I will bring my hand against you and submit you to fire for purification, but I will destroy the disobedient ones and remove all lawless ones from you, and humble all the proud.

Though preserving the basic thought, the Septuagint reading differs considerably from the Masoretic Text, suggesting that the Greek rendering is either interpretive or based on a different Hebrew text.


For YHWH to turn his hand against the people would be indicative of his directing his power against them, executing deserved punishment for their unfaithfulness. In expression of his judgment, he would submit them to a refining process. Those who would prove to be like dross or slag, instead of precious metal as evident from upright conduct, would be rejected as worthless. According to the reading of the Septuagint, this would result in destroying or removing disobedient and lawless ones from among the people and humbling the proud.

1:26. Masoretic Text: And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as at the beginning. After this you will be called city of righteousness, faithful town.

Septuagint: And I will set up your judges as at first and your counselors as at the beginning, and after these things you will be called city of righteousness, faithful metropolis Zion.


YHWH had decreed the removal of all elements that proved to be like worthless dross or slag, including corrupt judges and rulers. Therefore, the noble judges and counselors who would replace them could be spoken of as ones he “restored” or “set up.” The judges and counselors would be like those in the early days of Zion, which started with the time David made the city his capital and extended into the early part of Solomon’s reign. Judges administered justice impartially, and counselors provided sound advice governed by loyal adherence to God’s law. On account of the changed situation, Zion or Jerusalem would merit to be called “city of righteousness” and “faithful town.” The city would have the reputation of being a place where justice and faithfulness to YHWH were in evidence.

1:27. Masoretic Text: Zion will be redeemed by judgment, and the repentant ones in her by righteousness.

Septuagint: For with judgment and with mercy, her captivity will be saved.

Although “Zion” is not mentioned in the Septuagint, the city is the subject (as evident from the preceding verse). The “captivity” apparently applies to those who would find themselves in exile.


The language is not specific enough to determine whether YHWH is the one who executes his judgment or whether Zion’s people are to practice judgment or justice if they hoped to be redeemed, saved, or delivered from calamity. In the case of repentant ones, their return to Zion would open up because of their wanting to maintain upright conduct.

Some translators have introduced either God or the people as the subject. Ja, der Herr wird Jerusalem erlösen und dort das Recht wiederherstellen. Und er wird allen die Schuld vergeben, die zu ihm zurückkehren. (Yes, the Lord will redeem Jerusalem and restore justice there. And he will forgive the guilt of all who return to him.) (German, Hoffnung für alle) “Jerusalem, you will be saved by showing justice; Zion’s people who turn to me will be saved by doing right.” (CEV) “Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Because the LORD is just and righteous, the repentant people of Jerusalem will be redeemed.” (NLT) Ja, Rettung kommt für die Zionsstadt, wenn ihre Bewohner das Recht wieder achten, wenn sie zum Herrn zurückgekehrt sind und ihm die Treue halten. (Yes, deliverence will come to the city of Zion when her inhabitants again show regard for justice, when they have returned to the Lord and adhere to him in loyalty.) (German, Gute Nachricht Bibel)

According to the Targum of Isaiah, Zion’s deliverance depended on the people’s practicing justice, and persons who lived up to the law’s requirements would be able to return to Zion in righteousness. In the next verse, mention is made of the judgment against the disobedient ones. This would favor taking verse 27 as applying to what would be required of Zion’s people to be saved, redeemed, or delivered, harmonizing with the Targum of Isaiah.

Another possibility is to view the judgment as being YHWH’s judgment against Zion, which results in producing a repentant remnant. The repentant ones would then be able to return to Zion in righteousness.

The reading of the Septuagint suggests that the repentant exiles would be delivered on account of divine justice and mercy.

1:28. Masoretic Text: And together, transgressors and sinners will be crushed, and those abandoning YHWH will come to an end.

Septuagint: And together, the lawless ones and the sinners will be crushed, and those abandoning the Lord will be brought to an end.


Violators or transgressors of YHWH’s law and persons seriously missing the mark in upright conduct were certain to experience severe judgment. They would be crushed. Likewise, those who forsake YHWH to pursue idolatry and to seek security through foreign alliances would come to their finish.

1:29. Masoretic Text: For they will be ashamed of the [lofty] trees [’áyil] in which you took pleasure, and you will be embarrassed for the gardens which you have chosen.

Septuagint: For they will be ashamed of their idols, which they themselves wanted, and they were embarrassed over their gardens, which they desired.


In the shadow of a grove of large trees, the people engaged in idolatrous worship. These trees, in which the people had taken pleasure while adoring foreign deities, would become a cause for shame to them at the time YHWH would execute judgment against them for their unfaithfulness to him. Likewise, the gardens used for idolatrous purposes would then become objects of embarrassment.

The Hebrew word ‘áyil is commonly understood to refer to a variety of large trees and has been translated “oak” and “terebinth.” In the Septuagint, the reference is to idols, with no mention being made of trees. The Targum of Isaiah makes the aspect of idolatry explicit when using the expressions “trees of the idols” and “gardens of the idols.” Although they had chosen or, according to the Septuagint, desired these gardens for conducting idolatrous rituals, they would be brought to a state of embarrassment upon seeing that their foolish pursuit of idolatry had plummeted them into a miserable state.

1:30. Masoretic Text: For you will be like a [lofty] tree, the foliage of which is withering, and like a garden without water.

Septuagint: For they will be like a terebinth shedding [its] leaves and like a garden [parádeisos] without water.

Although both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint refer to the people, the Masoretic Text uses a second person plural verb (you will be), while the Septuagint has a third person plural verb (they will be).

Regarding “tree,” see verse 29. In the Septuagint, the tree is called a “terebinth.”

The Greek word parádeisos is thought to be of Persian origin and denotes “paradise,” “garden,” or “orchard.”


The people had abandoned YHWH to pursue a way of life contrary to his commands. Deprived of his blessing, they could not prosper. They would prove to be like foliage on a lofty tree during a time of drought. The leaves would wither and fall off. Similarly, all the vegetation in a garden not being watered dries up. The disobedient people would fare like such a garden.

1:31. Masoretic Text: And the strong one will become tow and his work a spark; and both of them will burn together, and [there will be] no one to extinguish [the fire].

Septuagint: And their strength will be like a stalk of flax and their works like sparks of fire, and all the lawless ones and sinners will be burned up together, and there will be no one to extinguish [the fire].


Based on the immediate context, the “strong one” may designate an idolater, and his work would then be an idol. Both the idolater (likened to tow or a short fiber of flax) and his work (compared to a spark), the idol, would go up in flames, with no one being able to extinguish the fire. A number of translations paraphrase the verse to convey this meaning. “Your strongest leaders will be like dry wood set on fire by their idols. No one will be able to help, as they all go up in flames.” (CEV) Wer sich für stark hielt, ist dann wie trockenes Stroh. Sein Götzendienst wird zum überspringenden Funken, der Götzendiener und Götze in Flammen aufgehen läßt. Dieses Feuer kann niemand löschen! (Whoever considered himself strong will then be like dry straw. His idolatry will become a thrown-out spark, which will cause the idolater and the idol to go up in flames. No one can extinguish this fire!) (German, Hoffnung für alle)

Both the Septuagint and the Targum of Isaiah would favor a less specific meaning. The “work” may designate any divinely disapproved pursuit. This significance is reflected in other paraphrases of the passage. “Just as straw is set on fire by a spark, so powerful people will be destroyed by their own evil deeds, and no one will be able to stop the destruction.” (GNT, Second Edition) “The strongest among you will disappear like burning straw. Your evil deeds are the spark that will set the straw on fire, and no one will be able to put it out.” (NLT)

In the Septuagint (unlike the Masoretic Text that reads the “strong one”), the apparent reference is to the strength of the disobedient people, which is likened to a stalk of flax that is easily ignited. Their divinely disapproved works, like sparks of fire, would lead to a conflagration that would consume all the practicers of lawlessness and sin. There would be nothing to quench the devouring fire.

The Targum of Isaiah parallels the Septuagint reading, likening the strength of the wicked to the tow of flax and the works of their hands to a spark of fire. Then, when one is placed alongside the other one, both burn together. Thus the wicked and their corrupt works come to an end. The Targum of Isaiah does not mention the point about there being no quenching of the fire but concludes with the thought that the wicked would not be shown any pity.