Isaiah 2:1-22

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2:1. Masoretic Text: The word that Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Septuagint: The word that came from the Lord to Isaiah, son of Amos, concerning Judea and concerning Jerusalem.

Commentary

In the Septuagint, the rendering is specific in identifying the “Lord” (YHWH) as the source of the word or message that Isaiah received. The Targum of Isaiah refers to the “word of prophecy” that Isaiah prophesied, whereas the Masoretic Text suggests that YHWH’s word or message was conveyed visually to Isaiah. This could have been while he was in a trance or dreaming. As in the opening verse of the prophecy, Isaiah is identified as “son of Amoz,” about whom nothing besides the name is known. The “word” or message related to the kingdom of Judah and the capital city, Jerusalem.

2:2. Masoretic Text: And it will be in the latter [part] of the days [that] the mountain of the house of YHWH will be established as the loftiest of the mountains and will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it.

Septuagint: For, in the last days, the mountain of the Lord will be manifest, and the house of God upon the peaks of the mountains, and it will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will come to it.

Commentary

The expression “latter part of the days” or “last days” designates an indeterminate future period far beyond the time of Isaiah. Anciently, eminences served as sites for the veneration of various deities. Therefore, the promised exaltation of the mountain on which YHWH’s house or temple stood revealed the unparalleled lofty position pure worship would come to occupy. For the temple to tower above all mountains and hills indicated that all elevated sites linked to false worship would be eclipsed. People from all nations would abandon such locations and choose to stream to YHWH’s house, where they could worship him acceptably.

2:3. Masoretic Text: And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us ascend the mountain of YHWH to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths”; for law will go forth from Zion and the word of YHWH from Jerusalem.

Septuagint: And many nations will go and say, “Come and let us ascend the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will proclaim to us his way, and we shall walk in it”; for law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Commentary

Evidently because of having come to recognize the importance of acceptable worship, many people are portrayed as motivated to ascend the mountain on which YHWH’s house or temple is located and also to invite others to join them. Their objective is to have YHWH teach them his ways so as to be acceptable to him, and they are determined to conduct themselves accordingly. The mention of the “God of Jacob” suggests their acknowledging the people whose God is YHWH. (Compare John 4:22.) As the location of YHWH’s house or temple, Zion or Jerusalem is the only place from which YHWH’s law and word (the revelation of his will and purpose) emanate.

2:4. Masoretic Text: And he will judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning knives. Nation shall not raise sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore.

Septuagint: And he will judge between the nations and reprove many people, and they shall beat their swords into plows and their spears into sickles, and nation will no longer take up sword against nation, and they will absolutely no longer learn to war.

The Greek word árotron means “plow.” On the basis of context, lexicographers have included the definition “plowshare.”

The Septuagint uses two words for not, intensifying the negative. To convey this in English, the rendering here is “absolutely no longer.”

Commentary

This prophecy assured that YHWH would judge the nations according to the highest standard of justice and would reprove or correct many people, leading to a dramatic change in their attitude and actions. People from many nations would abandon the former hatreds that contributed to repeated wars. As persons who accept YHWH’s teaching and correction, they would convert weapons into implements for peaceful agricultural operations. They would cease to learn ways to wage war.

This has been fulfilled in connection with the worship in spirit and truth to which Jesus Christ referred when speaking to a Samaritan woman. (John 4:21-24) The apostle Paul commented on the tremendous changes in evidence among disciples of God’s Son, including the banishing of hatreds from their midst. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly. … For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.” (Titus 2:11-3:3, NRSV)

2:5. Masoretic Text: O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of YHWH.

Septuagint: And now, O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Instead of “light,” the Targum of Isaiah refers to “the teaching of the law.”

Commentary

In view of developments involving other nations, the people of Israel or the house of Jacob should prove to be exemplary in choosing to walk in the light YHWH provides. This light serves as illumination for the conduct he approves. Those heeding the prophetic admonition would benefit greatly, becoming recipients of YHWH’s aid, protection, and blessing.

2:6. Masoretic Text: For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full [of things] from the East and of soothsayers, like the Philistines, and with sons of foreigners they slap hands.

Septuagint: For he has forsaken his people, the house of Israel, because, as from the beginning, their country was filled with divinations like the [land] of foreigners, and many foreign children have been born to them.

The Septuagint reference to the “beginning” may relate to the situation in Canaan prior to the time the Israelites took possession of the land.

Instead of Philistines, the Septuagint reads “foreigners” (literally, “of other tribes”).

Commentary

YHWH rejected or forsook the house of Jacob, that is, the descendants of Jacob or Israel. This was because of their failure to live up to their covenant obligations.

The Masoretic Text is not explicit regarding what practices from the area situated to the east existed on a large scale in the land. In their renderings, translators have inserted such words as “fortunetellers” (NAB), “diviners” (NRSV), “customs” (CEV), and “superstitions” (NIV). The Septuagint reads “divinations,” and the Targum of Isaiah says that the land was filled with idols. Like the territory of the idol-worshiping Philistines, the land of the kingdom of Judah abounded with soothsayers, persons who used occult means to predict future events.

The slapping of the hands with the sons of foreigners could refer to entering alliances with foreign peoples. In that case, the slapping or striking of hands would have been the gesture showing agreement. The Septuagint, however, says that many foreign children came to be in the land, indicating that they were not worshipers of YHWH. According to the Targum of Isaiah, the people of the house of Jacob followed the ways of foreign peoples.

2:7. Masoretic Text: And his land is filled with silver and gold, and [there is] no end to his treasures, and his land is filled with horses and [there is] no end to his chariots.

Septuagint: For their country was filled with silver and gold, and [there] was no number to their treasures, and the land was filled with horses, and [there] was no number to their chariots.

In the Masoretic Text, the antecedent for the singular “his” evidently is the “house of Jacob.” The Septuagint, however, used the plural “their” with reference to the people and thus conveys the same basic meaning.

Commentary

The description relates to a time when the kingdom of Judah was in a prosperous condition and militarily strong. Gold, silver, and other valuables were abundant in the land, and the kingdom was well-equipped for warfare, with many horses and chariots ready for use. During the period of Isaiah’s prophetic service, this description would fit the time of Uzziah (Azariah) and Jotham. (2 Kings 14:21, 22; 2 Chronicles 26:2, 6-15; 27:1-6)

2:8. Masoretic Text: And his land is filled with worthless [idols]. They bow down to the work of his hands, to the thing his fingers have made.

Septuagint: And the land was filled with abominations, the works of their hands, and they worshiped [proskynéo] the things their fingers had made.

As in the previous verse, the Masoretic Text uses the masculine singular suffix (his), not “their.”

The Greek term proskynéo conveys the basic sense of prostrating oneself, with one’s forehead touching the ground.

Commentary

To YHWH and his devoted worshipers, idols, as the Septuagint reads, were abominations or disgusting things. As a product of human manufacture (the work of the hands or the product of the fingers), they were worthless, unable to provide any benefits to those who revered them. Even during the prosperous times when Uzziah (Azariah) and Jotham reigned, the people persisted in idolatrous practices at high places, and degrading forms of worship increased during the rule of Ahaz. (2 Kings 15:4, 35; 16:2-4) Thus the land proved to be one filled with valueless idols.

2:9. Masoretic Text: And an earthling is bowed down, and a man becomes low, and do not forgive them.

Septuagint: And a man bowed down, and a man became low, and I will definitely not pardon them.

The Septuagint has two different words for man (ánthropos and anér), and this agrees with the Masoretic Text, which uses two distinct words (’adhám and ’ish). Although the terms appear in parallel expressions, ’adhám could designate an ordinary man (an “earthling”), and ’ish, a man of distinction.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, man would be brought low and human strength would become feeble.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) omits the words about forgiveness. Two later scrolls from the Dead Sea area do, like the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, include the words.

In the Septuagint, two different words for “not” appear and may be rendered “definitely not” or “by no means.”

Commentary

If this verse continues the description relating to idolatry, “bowing down” and “becoming low” may relate to the assumed position before an idol. (This meaning is given as an alternate rendering in a footnote of the German revised Elberfelder Bibel.) Another possibility is that the expressions denote being brought to a state of debasement and humiliation on account of unfaithfulness to YHWH. This is the significance conveyed in numerous translations. “So man will be brought low and mankind humbled.” (NIV) “But man is abased, each one is brought low.” (NAB) “And so, all of them will be ashamed and disgraced.” (CEV)

The Septuagint reading indicates that YHWH would absolutely not forgive the idolatrous people, which may also be the significance of the Masoretic Text. The Hebrew, however, may be translated as a request that YHWH not pardon the idolaters.

2:10. Masoretic Text: Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from the face of the dread of YHWH and from the glory of his majesty.

Septuagint: And now enter into the rocks and hide in the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he rises to shatter the earth.

The expression “from the face of the dread” denotes “from before the fear.”

Only the Septuagint refers to God’s rising to shatter the earth or land. All of verse 10 is missing in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), but two later manuscripts found in the Dead Sea area agree with the reading of the Masoretic Text.

Commentary

Because of what lies ahead on account of the execution of YHWH’s judgment, the people are told to conceal themselves in rocky caves or holes in the ground. According to the reading of the Targum of Isaiah, the people would be fleeing into the rocks and hiding themselves in the dust.

The “dread” or “fear” of YHWH would be prompted by his punitive acts. It would be from this fear that the people would seek refuge.

The glory or splendor of YHWH’s majesty would be manifest, as the reading of the Septuagint indicates, from the display of his strength. That awesome might would give rise to wonder or amazement on account of its greatness. From this awesome majesty, the people were to hide themselves.

2:11. Masoretic Text: Man’s [an earthling’s] haughtiness of eyes will be abased, and men’s pride will be humbled. And YHWH alone will be exalted in that day.

Septuagint: For the eyes of the Lord are elevated, but man is humbled, and men’s haughtiness will be humbled. And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

Besides an initial “and,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has two different forms of the Hebrew words for “abased” and “humbled.”

Commentary

The opening words of the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint convey opposite meanings. According to the Septuagint, YHWH’s eyes are elevated. He is the holy God. Therefore, in keeping with his holiness or purity, his eyes (unlike those of sinful humans that can view matters in an impure way) could never be spoken of as being other than fixed on the noblest level.

The Masoretic Text indicates that YHWH would abase the kind of haughtiness that can be displayed by looks. Human pride, which boasted in its accomplishments and ignored YHWH’s ways would be humbled, with men coming to see their helpless state. The “day” for this humbling to take place would be the time when YHWH executes his judgment. With everything lofty from the human standpoint being made low, YHWH alone would be exalted.

2:12. Masoretic Text: For YHWH of hosts [has] a day against everyone [kal] proud and lofty and against everyone lifted up and low,

Septuagint: For the day of the Lord Sabaoth [is] against everyone proud and arrogant, and against everyone lofty and lifted up, and they will be humbled,

After “lofty,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not repeat the words “and against all” (“everyone” or “everything”).

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

Commentary

The Hebrew word kal, here rendered “everyone,” is masculine gender. Translators vary in their renderings, choosing either the sense of persons or things. “The LORD All-Powerful has chosen a day when those who are proud and conceited will be put down.” (CEV) “The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).” (NIV) “For the LORD of hosts will have his day against all that is proud and arrogant, all that is high, and it will be brought low.” (NAB) “For the LORD of Hosts has ready a day against all that is proud and arrogant, against all that is lofty — so that it is brought low.” (Tanakh)

In being identified as YHWH of hosts, the Almighty is portrayed as having powerful hosts of angels under his direction for the accomplishment of his purpose. His day of judgment would be directed against everyone (or everything) that is proud, lofty, and lifted up from a human standpoint but stands in opposition to his purpose. All exalted ones (or things) would be abased.

The last word in the Hebrew text is shaphél, commonly understood to mean to be made or brought low. This significance has the support of the Septuagint rendering.

2:13. Masoretic Text: and against all the lofty and towering cedars of Lebanon and against all the oaks of Bashan,

Septuagint: and against every lofty and towering cedar of Lebanon and against every acorn tree of Bashan,

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the reference is to the strong and mighty kings of the nations and to the tyrants of provinces.

Commentary

Lebanon was famous for its impressive cedars. With a possible circumference of about 40 feet (c. 12 meters) and a height approaching 120 feet (c. 36 meters), these magnificent trees are “high and towering.”

There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word ’allón, commonly translated “oak.” A 2001 revision of Ludwig Koehler’s Hebrew portion of a lexicon of the Old Testament indicates that the word originally designated any “big tree.” In the Septuagint, the reading is déndron balánou (tree of acorn, or oak).

Bashan, situated east of the Sea of Galilee included wooded mountain ridges. Oaks still grow there.

The reference to the towering trees of Lebanon and Bashan may be understood as illustrating the abasing of all that is lofty from a human standpoint. Possibly there is also an allusion to divine disapproval of the use of groves for idolatrous worship and of wood for making idols. (See 1:29; 44:14-20.)

2:14. Masoretic Text: and against all the high mountains and against all the lofty hills,

Septuagint: and against every mountain and against every lofty hill,

Commentary

The mention of mountains and high hills may serve as another illustration indicating that what was high would be made low when YHWH executed his judgment. It may also point to his disapproval of the extensive use of elevated sites for idolatrous worship. (Compare Isaiah 65:6, 7; Jeremiah 2:20; 17:2.) YHWH’s day of reckoning would result in desolating mountains and hills, including any idolatrous sites there. In this sense, too, mountains and hills would be abased.

2:15. Masoretic Text: and against every high tower and against every fortified wall,

Septuagint: and against every lofty tower and against every lofty wall,

Commentary

The people looked to high towers and fortified walls for protection. At the time for the execution of YHWH’s judgment, however, tall towers and walls would provide no security. Thus lofty fortifications would become low.

2:16. Masoretic Text: and against all ships of Tarshish and against all desirable ships [sekiyyáh].

Septuagint: and against every ship of the sea and against every sight of beautiful ships.

Commentary

Tarshish is commonly associated with a region in the Iberian Peninsula, but this identification is by no means certain. In Isaiah, the Septuagint is inconsistent in the rendering of the Hebrew word. Based on the Septuagint reading of Isaiah 23:1, 6, 10 and 14, the place is Carthage on the North African coast.

Although lexicographers define sekiyyáh as “ship” or “vessel,” there is uncertainty about the meaning of the term. The Targum of Isaiah refers to “beautiful palaces,” with divine judgment directed against those residing in them. The Vulgate makes no mention of ships in the second part of the verse but refers to everything that is beautiful to see (omne quod visu pulchrum est).

The ships of Tarshish likely were large vessels that could reach the most distant ports on the Mediterranean Sea. These ships were vital for conducting extensive trade, and a nation would take pride in possessing them. (Compare 1 Kings 10:14-22.) The reference to YHWH’s being against the seagoing vessels illustrated that what humans considered lofty would be brought low.

2:17. Masoretic Text: And man’s [an earthling’s] haughtiness will be humbled, and men’s pride will be abased. And YHWH alone will be exalted in that day.

Septuagint: And every man will be humbled, and men’s haughtiness will fall. And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

Basically, the verse is a repetition of the thoughts expressed in 2:11.

Commentary

YHWH’s judgment would result in debasing human arrogance and everything in which humans might take pride. On the day or at the time judgment is executed, YHWH alone would be exalted, fully revealed as the God of matchless justice.

2:18. Masoretic Text: And the worthless [idols] will completely disappear.

Septuagint: And they will hide all handmade things,

The Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text. Based on the context, the “handmade things” are idols. The people, shamed by the worthlessness of their images when faced with divine judgment, would seek to hide them.

The Masoretic Text is in agreement with the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. A minor difference in the scroll reading is the Hebrew word for “pass away,” “vanish,” or “disappear.” In the scroll, the verb is plural, whereas it is singular in the Masoretic Text.

Commentary

At the time for the execution of divine judgment, the idols would be shown up as worthless and would vanish from among the people.

2:19. Masoretic Text: And [they] shall enter caves [in] the rocks and holes [in] the ground from the face of the dread of YHWH and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to cause the earth to tremble.

Septuagint: carrying [them] into the caves and into the clefts of the rocks and into the holes of the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he rises to shatter the earth.

These words basically repeat the thoughts found in 2:10. This time both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint include YHWH’s rising up to act.

The idiom “from the face” means “from before” or “from the presence of.”

While the Septuagint focuses on hiding the handmade things or idols, the Masoretic Text apparently refers to the people’s intent to hide.

Commentary

Faced with the impending judgment, people would seek to hide in rocky caves or other cavities. The fear of YHWH is the terrified response of those having failed to live up to his commands, and the glory of YHWH evidently refers to the awe-inspiring power that would be manifest when he carries out his punitive judgment. His rising up denotes his preparing to take action, at which time the earth or land would tremble as when there is seismic activity. According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would reveal himself to destroy the wicked.

2:20. Masoretic Text: In that day, the man [the earthling] will throw the worthless [idols] of silver and the worthless [idols] of gold, which he has made for himself to worship, to the shrews [chapharparáh] and to the bats,

Septuagint: For in that day, a man will throw his abominations, the silver [things] and the gold [things] that they have made to worship [proskynéo], to the vanities and to the bats,

The Greek word proskynéo, commonly rendered “worship,” basically denotes prostrating oneself, with one’s forehead touching the ground. Similarly, the Hebrew word shacháh, here translated “worship,” means to “bow down.”

In the Septuagint, both the “abominations” and the “vanities” evidently designate idols or nonexistent deities. A possible alternate rendering is, “In that day, a man will throw away his silver and gold abominations that he has made to worship the vanities and the bats.”

There is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word chapharparáh that lexicographers have defined as “mole” or “shrew.” In its basic sense, the word denotes a hole digger. Renderings found in translations include “rodents” (NIV), “flying foxes” (Tanakh), “rats” (CEV), and “moles” (Margolis, NAB, NRSV).

Commentary

“That day” is the time when YHWH would execute his punitive judgment. Idolaters would then throw away their silver and gold idols like worthless rubbish, flinging them into the dark places where bats roost and other small creatures of the night make their home.

2:21. Masoretic Text: to enter clefts of the rocks and crannies of the cliffs from the face of the dread of YHWH and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to cause the earth to tremble.

Septuagint: to enter the holes of the solid rock and the clefts of the rocks from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he rises to shatter the earth.

Basic points from 2:10 and 2:19 are repeated. For comments and notes on the repeated words, see 2:19.

Commentary

Besides discarding their useless idols, the people would enter whatever cave, cavity or opening they might find in rocky terrain. In view of YHWH’s fear-inspiring judgment, they will want to conceal themselves.

2:22. Masoretic Text: Desist from the man [the earthling], whose breath [is] in his nostrils; for of what account is he?

These words are missing in the extant Septuagint text but are found in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the man as the maker of an idol, a man who is alive today but ceases to exist tomorrow. “As nothing he is accounted.”

Commentary

The imperative to desist, cease, or turn away from an earthling may be understood to mean to stop putting trust in any human as an unfailing source of protection. He is but a mortal whose life can quickly end without breath in his nostrils. The question implies that such a frail creature is helpless during a time of judgment and, therefore, is undeserving of trust and esteem. (Compare Psalm 146:3, 4.)