Isaiah 5:1-30

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5:1. Masoretic Text: Let me sing for my beloved a song of my loved one about his vineyard; a vineyard my beloved had on a fertile slope.

Septuagint: I now will sing for the beloved a song of the loved one about my vineyard; a vineyard the beloved came to have on a slope in a fertile place.

Instead of “let me sing,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads, “I will sing,” as does the Septuagint.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the prophet is represented as singing to Israel (the “beloved one”), “which is likened to a vineyard,” and Abraham is identified as the beloved one or friend to whom the song is linked.

The Hebrew expression shiráth dódi could mean a “love song” or a “song of my loved one.”

According to the reading of the Septuagint, the reference is to “my vineyard,” the vineyard to which Isaiah belonged.

Both in Hebrew and Greek, the word for “slope” is “horn,” and the Hebrew expression for “fertile” is “son of fatness.”


The prophet, possibly to the accompaniment of a harp, would sing for his beloved a song about his beloved’s vineyard. Isaiah’s beloved one was YHWH, the God to whom he was exclusively devoted with reverential affection, and the vineyard was the house or people of Israel. (5:7) As God’s chosen people, the Israelites enjoyed a position comparable to a well-watered vineyard on an ideally situated hillside with rich soil. The theme of the composition was YHWH’s love for his vineyard.

5:2. Masoretic Text: And he dug it and cleared it of stones and planted it with a choice vine, and he built a tower in its midst and hewed out a winepress in it, and he waited for it to produce grapes but it produced sour grapes.

Septuagint: And I surrounded [it with] a hedge and fenced [it] and planted a choice [literally, Sorech, a transliterated form of the Hebrew word meaning “choice”] vine and built a tower in its midst and dug out a winepress in it, and I waited [for it] to produce a grape cluster but it produced thorns.

The Hebrew term for “sour grapes” (be’ushím) may refer to small unripe grapes, which would be worthless. In the Septuagint, the corresponding term (the plural of ákantha) means “thorns.”


The care and attention YHWH gave to the Israelites is likened to the efforts involved in viticulture. The owner, to protect his crop from the depredations of thieves, foxes, and wild boars would surround the area with a hedge, often of thorny plants, or he might build a stone wall around it. The Masoretic Text, however, does not mention this aspect but refers to ridding the land of stones prior to planting. After the ground was properly prepared, including the digging, turning or breaking up of the soil, the owner would plant the vines. In this case, the reference is to a “choice” vine, one that would be expected to yield grapes of fine quality. A vineyard owner would take all the necessary steps to protect the valuable crop that demanded intense labor, including regular pruning. Therefore, he would build a tower, where a guard could be stationed to watch for any human or animal intruders. For the production of wine, the owner would hew out a press from solid rock. In view of the effort expended, he would indeed be disheartened when the vines proved to be unproductive. This particular vineyard yielded nothing of value.

5:3. Masoretic Text: And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and man of Judah, judge then between me and my vineyard.

Septuagint: And now, man of Judah and those dwelling in Jerusalem, judge between me and my vineyard.

The singular “man” in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint evidently is to be understood of the people collectively. Translators commonly use the plural “men” or “people.”


Through Isaiah, YHWH called upon the people of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah and the inhabitants of the capital city Jerusalem to examine the evidence. They were to make a judgment respecting how YHWH had dealt with his vineyard and what the vineyard had produced.

5:4. Masoretic Text: What more [is there] to do to my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I waited for it to produce grapes, why did it produce sour grapes?

Septuagint: What am I yet to do to my vineyard that I have not done to it? Because I was waiting for it to produce a grape cluster, but it produced thorns.

Regarding “sour grapes,” see 5:2.


The question implied that YHWH had done everything possible to assure that the vineyard would produce desirable grapes. If the people would have considered the question directed to them seriously, they would have been forced to admit that YHWH had not left anything undone. Rightly, he should have expected to see a good crop, but he waited in vain for a cluster of desirable grapes. The vineyard yielded nothing of value. According to the Hebrew text, the grapes would have been unsuitable for making wine, and the Septuagint portrays the unproductive vineyard as being overgrown with thorny plants.

5:5. Masoretic Text: And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it will be consumed. I will break down its wall, and it will be for trampling down.

Septuagint: But now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it will be for plunder. And I will break down its wall, and it will be for trampling down.


A vineyard without a protective hedge would be vulnerable, making it possible for thieves, foxes, and wild boars to enter and to strip the vines bare. Similarly, without a protective wall, people and animals would have unhindered access, allowing them to trample everywhere in the vineyard.

YHWH’s removing or destroying the protective barrier (hedge or wall) around his people collectively (his vineyard) would leave them exposed. They would be despoiled and subjected to ruin. Without divine protection, they would find themselves at the mercy of invading armies that would plunder and ravage.

5:6. Masoretic Text: And I will make it a wasteland. It will not be pruned and not be hoed, and thorny [plants] and weeds will sprout up. And I will command the clouds no more to pour rain upon it.

Septuagint: And I will abandon my vineyard, and it will definitely not be pruned nor dug up. And thorny [plants] will sprout up in it as on a barren field. And I will command the clouds not to pour rain upon it.

In the Septuagint, two words for “not” are used, and they are here translated “definitely not.”


As the rendering of the Septuagint suggests, the vineyard would be reduced to a wasteland upon God’s abandoning it, ceasing to give it any attention or care. Without any hoeing or “digging up” to clear away thorny plants and weeds, unpruned vines would soon become completely worthless. Leaves would whither from lack of rain, and the vines would die. The hardier thorny plants and weeds would take over the land on which grapevines once flourished.

The words here rendered “thorny [plants]” (shamír) and “weeds” (sháyith) are singular in the Hebrew text but may be understood as collective singulars. There is no way to specifically identify the plants the Hebrew terms designated. The Greek word ákantha, translated “thorny [plants],” is likewise singular in the Septuagint and can refer to various kinds of plants with thorns.

5:7. Masoretic Text: For the vineyard of YHWH of hosts [is] the house of Israel and the man of Judah [is] the planting of his delight. And he [YHWH] looked for justice, but see, bloodshed; for righteousness, but see, an outcry.”

Septuagint: For the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth is the house of Israel, and the man of Judah, the beloved new planting. I waited [for it] to produce justice, but it produced lawlessness and not righteousness but an outcry.”

In the Hebrew text, there are wordplays that cannot be represented in translation (mishpát [“judgment”; “justice”] and mispách [“bloodshed”]; tsedaqáh [“righteousness”] and tse‘aqáh [“outcry”]).

The Hebrew word rendered “bloodshed” (mispách) has commonly been linked to a root meaning “pour out” and, therefore, has been understood to signify the pouring out or spilling of blood. Another view is to take the Hebrew word to mean “nullification” and thus to denote “injustice,” the nullification of justice.

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


The vineyard is identified as the “house” or the people of Israel, which would have included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin that made up the two-tribe kingdom of Judah to which YHWH’s word through Isaiah was directed. With “Judah” being the name of the dominant tribe of the two-tribe kingdom, this name is applied to the entire realm. The expression “man of Judah” is a collective designation for all the people of the two-tribe kingdom.

According to verses 1 and 2 of Joshua chapter 14, YHWH, through Moses, had directed that the lot be cast to determine the specific land inheritance for the individual tribes who would be living west of the Jordan River. As the one who had brought the Israelites into the land and gave it to them as their inheritance, YHWH was the one who “planted” the people who came to constitute the kingdom of Judah, and he found delight in this planting. The Hebrew word that describes the “planting” is sha‘ashu‘ím, meaning “delight” or “pleasure.” It is a plural noun and, as a plural, may signify “great delight.” In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, however, the noun is singular.

He looked for his “planting” (the people) to deal justly, upholding what is right and fair. But instead of defending the cause of right, those responsible for administering justice made themselves guilty of bloodshed, condemning the innocent and siding with the lawless ones from whom they had accepted bribes. So, when YHWH looked for righteousness or the defense of what was right, he heard an outcry of distress from those who were victims of injustice and oppression.

5:8. Masoretic Text: “Woe to those joining [nagá‘] house to house [and] bringing near field to field until no room [is left] and you are made to reside alone in the midst of the land.

Septuagint: Woe to those joining house to house and bringing near field to field so that they take something away from their fellow. Will you not reside alone on the land?

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah expresses the thought in the active voice, indicating that the wealthy oppressors positioned themselves to be alone in the midst of the land.


Apparently with the cooperation of corrupt judges, oppressive landowners increased their extensive holdings. The Hebrew word nagá‘ means “touch,” and so these wealthy landowners would unjustly acquire the houses of fellow Israelites, making these houses “touch” or be joined to their property. Likewise they would bring fields near, incorporating them into their own land holdings. By thus taking over the homes and fields of others, the oppressive landowners came to be the sole proprietors of the houses and the land.

5:9. Masoretic Text: In my ears, YHWH of hosts [has solemnly declared], “Indeed many houses will become a desolation, great and good ones, without inhabitant.”

Septuagint: For these things have been heard by the ears of the Lord Sabaoth. For though [there] come to be many houses, great and good ones will become a desolation, and no one will reside in them.

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


Both the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah are elliptical, requiring the addition of words to clarify that YHWH is the source of what the prophet heard. The Septuagint, however, represents YHWH as the one hearing “these things,” which could refer to hearing everything that the people were doing and the outcry of the oppressed ones in their midst.

Whereas the wealthy oppressors appear to have considered themselves as enjoying a secure position, YHWH’s judgment would result in depriving them of their possessions. Their large and beautiful homes, as well as many other dwellings, would be reduced to uninhabited ruins. This occurred when invading enemy armies devastated the land and killed many of the inhabitants. Inside besieged cities and towns, a significant number of people perished from pestilence, extreme food shortage, and lack of water.

5:10. Masoretic Text: For ten acres [tsémed] of vineyard will produce one bath [measure of wine from harvested grapes], and a homer of seed will produce an ephah [measure of grain].

Septuagint: For [the area] where ten spans of bovines [could] work will produce [only enough to fill] one clay vessel, and the sower’s six artaba [artábe] will produce three measures [metrón].

The term artábe designates a large measure, whereas the word métron refers to a small measure, but these words do not make it possible to establish a definitive relationship between the two units of measure.


The Hebrew word tsémed literally means “pair” or “span.” In this context, the term appears to designate an area of land that a span of draft animals can plow in a day, which would roughly correspond to an acre (less than half a hectare). A vineyard of this size would yield only a bath measure (c. 5.8 gallons or c. 22 liters) of wine as a final product. One homer (c. 200 dry quarts or c. 220 liters) of sown seed would only result in a harvest of one ephah (c. 20 dry quarts or c. 22 liters). The disruption of agricultural operations through warfare would lead to negligible returns from the land. A grain crop would prove to be only one-tenth of the amount of seed that had been sown, and a vineyard would yield only a fraction of the usual amount of juice for making wine.

5:11. Masoretic Text: Woe to those rising early in the morning to pursue intoxicating drink, tarrying into the night until wine inflames them.

Septuagint: Woe to those rising in the morning and pursuing sikera, those staying late [with it], for the wine will inflame them.

The word sikera is a transliterated form of the word that appears in the Hebrew text and which is here rendered “intoxicating drink.”


The pronouncement of woe is indicative of the calamity that would befall those to whom it is directed. They would experience YHWH’s adverse judgment. These individuals doubtless included wealthy oppressors. They did not get up in the morning to attend to essential affairs but were totally consumed by their pursuit of pleasure. Early in the morning, they would start their drinking and continue imbibing late into the night. They would be “inflamed” by wine through the perceived warming effect alcohol caused when the blood vessels dilated, with resultant blood flow to the skin’s surface.

5:12. Masoretic Text: And at their feasts, they have harp and stringed instrument, tambourine and flute, and wine. And they do not look at the work of YHWH, and they do not see the product of his hands.

Septuagint: For with harp and stringed instrument and tambourines and flutes, they drink wine. But they do not look at the works of the Lord, and they do not consider the works of his hands.


The corrupt pleasure seekers did their feasting and drinking to the accompaniment of music, likely music of a sensuous kind. With their senses dulled from drinking and under the hypnotic effect of the sound from string, wind, and percussion instruments, they would not have given any thought to YHWH’s “work.” This “work” likely related to his adverse judgment that was bound to come against them on account of their dishonorable course of life. The “action” or work of YHWH’s hands could refer to his creative activity. The participants in riotous feasting and drinking did not “see” this work as calling for them to be reverential in disposition and to conduct themselves in a manner that showed the highest regard for YHWH as the Creator.

5:13. Masoretic Text: Therefore, for not [having] knowledge, my people will go into exile, and its dignity [kavód], men of hunger; and its multitude, parched with thirst.

Septuagint: Therefore, my people became a captive because of their not knowing the Lord, and became a multitude of dead [persons] because of famine and thirst for water.


In this context, “knowledge” or “knowing the Lord” (YHWH) relates to living uprightly, responding compassionately to the needs of the poor and afflicted, and dealing justly or fairly with all persons. (Compare Jeremiah 22:15, 16.) Those to whom the message was directed knew that YHWH was God, but they conducted themselves in a manner that was contrary to his ways and so treated him as if they were unaccountable to him and as if he did not exist. Their conduct gave no evidence of their having a relationship with him and thus indicated that they did not know him. On account of this absence of “knowledge” among the people, YHWH withdrew his protection and blessing. As a consequence, invading armies would defeat them and take survivors into exile as captives of war.

The Hebrew word kavód, here rendered “dignity,” apparently functions as a collective noun and appears to designate the honorable, noble, or dignified ones among the people. These men of rank would be reduced to “men of hunger” and starve to death. The multitude of the people would die from thirst, as the invading armies would cut off their water supply.

5:14. Masoretic Text: Therefore, Sheol has enlarged its soul and opened its mouth without limit, and her glory and her multitude go down [into Sheol], [as do] also her uproar and the one who exults in her.

Septuagint: And Hades has enlarged its soul and opened its mouth without ceasing, and the glorious ones and the great ones and the rich and her pestilent ones will go down [into Hades].

The Septuagint rendering is more specific in referring to the prominent ones — the “glorious ones” (the nobility), the “great ones” (the influential ones), and the “rich.”


Many would perish. To indicate that Sheol would not be overwhelmed by the number of the dead, it is portrayed as enlarging its “soul” or its appetite and opening its mouth beyond measure. Thus Sheol or Hades, the realm of the dead, is depicted as being able to accommodate all who would be coming down to it.

The feminine pronoun “her” refers to Jerusalem, and her “glory” would be the glorious, noble, or prominent ones of the city. The “multitude” may be understood to mean the people generally, and the “uproar” could be that of noisy revelers. An “exultant one” could be an individual who is totally consumed by merriment. Based on the Septuagint rendering, such a person would be a pest or one of the most debauched individuals among the people.

5:15. Masoretic Text: Man [adhám, the earthling] is humbled, and man [’ish] is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.

Septuagint: And man [ánthropos] will be humbled, and man [anér] will be disgraced, and lofty eyes will be humbled.


Although used in parallel expressions, the Hebrew words for man adhám and ’ish could designate ordinary men or persons and the prominent ones. In view of the calamity that would befall all, they would be humbled or brought low. As the reading of the Septuagint suggests, those who once enjoyed an honorable or noble standing would be disgraced. Those who arrogantly looked down on others would find themselves humbled or reduced to a low state. Their proud looks would cease, and their eyes would become downcast.

5:16. Masoretic Text: And YHWH of hosts is exalted in judgment, and the holy God [is] holy in righteousness.

Septuagint: And the Lord Sabaoth will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will be glorified in righteousness.

The transliterated Hebrew expression “Sabaoth” means “hosts” or “armies.”


The humiliation to befall the disobedient people would be an expression of YHWH’s judgment. Whereas they would be brought low, he would be exalted by reason of the judgment expressed against them. The judgment would reveal his justice as the Judge who did not leave wrongdoing indefinitely unpunished. As the holy God, he would not tolerate lawlessness. In executing his righteous or just judgment by the means of his choosing, allowing the people to fall before their enemies, he would prove himself to be holy, not defiling himself by leaving abominable conduct unpunished.

5:17. Masoretic Text: And lambs will graze as in their pasture, and [in] the ruins of fat ones strangers will feed.

Septuagint: And the plundered ones will graze like bulls, and lambs will feed [in] the desolated places of the deported.

In Hebrew, the word for “lamb” and the verb for “subdue,” “dominate,” or “bring into bondage” have the same consonants. This may explain why the Septuagint reads “plundered ones” instead of “lambs.”


Invading armies would leave extensive areas in a desolated state, making it possible for lambs to graze there as in their pastures. The Hebrew text of the second part of the verse is obscure. For this reason, translators have often resorted to emendations. The “fat ones” could designate the wealthy landowners whose extensive properties would be reduced to ruins, whereas they would be taken into exile or would perish during the course of the military conflict. Others could then enter the deserted areas and obtain food from what grew there. “And strangers shall feed on the ruins of the stout.” (Tanakh)

The Targum of Isaiah makes an application to the righteous, indicating that they would come to possess the riches of the wicked ones.

Drawing on the reading of the Septuagint, a number of translations render the Hebrew as applying to animals. “The fields laid waste by fat cattle will feed the kids.” (NJB) “Young goats will graze broad acres where cattle grew fat.” (REB) “Fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins.” (NRSV) “Lambs will feed among the ruins of the rich.” (NIV)

5:18. Masoretic Text: Woe to those drawing iniquity with cords of vanity and sin as with a cart rope,

Septuagint: Woe to those drawing sins as with a long rope and lawlessness [plural in Greek] as with a heifer’s yoke strap,

The Targum of Isaiah refers to sin as continuing and increasing until the transgressions become “as strong as cart ropes.”


Woe or calamity is pronounced upon those who are attached to iniquity, corrupt dealing, or sin as are draft animals by means of a rope. In being designated “cords of vanity,” the attachment is revealed to result in emptiness, nothingness, or worthlessness. Nothing beneficial could possibly result therefrom. As if attached to a cart or, according to the Septuagint, a yoke, practicers of sin labored with a heavy burden from which they could not free themselves. That burden included the serious consequences from a life of sin.

5:19. Masoretic Text: those saying, “Let him hasten, let him speed his work that we may see [it]. And let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come that we may know [it].”

Septuagint: those saying, “Let him quickly bring near things he [wants] to do, that we may see [them], and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel come that we may know [it].”


The corrupt individuals (against whom the expression of woe is directed) did not believe that YHWH would execute his judgment against them. To the prophet Isaiah’s words of warning, they mockingly responded that God should hasten to do his work, carrying out the foretold punishment, so that they would be able to “see” or experience it. Their wanting the counsel of the Holy One, or what he had purposed, to come was likewise an expression of mocking disbelief. As persons who did not expect YHWH’s “counsel” or purpose to become reality, they were guilty of ridicule when they said respecting it, “that we may know [it]” (or come to experience the fulfillment). Their use of the expression “Holy One” was part of their ridicule, as this was the designation Isaiah used when referring to YHWH and stressing the need for the people, in keeping with God’s holiness or purity, to be holy, pure, or upright in their conduct.

5:20. Masoretic Text: Woe to those calling evil good and good evil, putting darkness for light and light for darkness, putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Septuagint: Woe to those calling evil good and good evil, those putting darkness for light and light for darkness, those putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.


Another reason for an expression of woe or calamity in the case of corrupt individuals was their having perverted what was true and right. They acted in a manner that represented good as evil and evil as good. Darkness is associated with ignorance, debased practices (which are often done in secret or under the cover of darkness), and deception, whereas light is linked to uprightness and truth. As persons who disregarded God’s ways, darkness was their light, and they lived a life that made things bitter for others but which they found to be sweet. What should have been regarded as sweet or pleasant in their relationship with others proved to be bitter to them, as it did not serve their selfish and unworthy interests.

5:21. Masoretic Text: Woe to those [who are] wise in [their] own eyes and prudent before their [own] faces.

Septuagint: Woe to those [who are] wise in themselves and prudent before themselves.


Persons who were “wise in their own eyes” or to “themselves” had an exalted opinion of themselves, giving no regard to the superior guidance YHWH had provided in his law. In their own skewed estimation of themselves (“before their own faces”), they considered themselves prudent, having no need for YHWH’s guidance. Such arrogant persons would experience woe or calamity.

5:22. Masoretic Text: Woe [to those who are] mighty ones in drinking wine and men of strength in mixing intoxicating drink,

Septuagint: Woe [to] your strong ones, those drinking wine; and [to] the mighty ones, those mixing sikera,

The term sikera is a transliteration of the word that appears in the Hebrew text and is here translated “intoxicating drink.”


The heavy drinkers against whom the pronouncement of woe is directed were, as the next verse indicates, men who functioned as judges among the people. They were given to wine and other intoxicating beverages to such a degree that they could be designated as “mighty ones in drinking.” They indulged in excesses at the expense of disadvantaged ones among the people. (Compare Amos 2:8.) Instead of being strong for what is right, the self-indulgent judges were “men of strength” or heroes in mixing alcoholic beverages.

5:23. Masoretic Text: who justify the wicked for a gift and turn aside right from the righteous.

Septuagint: who justify the impious for gifts and take away the right of the righteous one.


The corrupt judges accepted gifts or bribes from lawless oppressors who had no regard for God nor fellow Israelites. Upon receiving bribes, these judges acquitted the lawless ones of guilt and refused to render justice for the innocent individuals who had been exploited, thereby also robbing them of their standing as upright persons.

5:24. Masoretic Text: Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and as [dry] foliage sinks down in a flame, their root will become like rottenness and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of YHWH of hosts and have spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Septuagint: Therefore, [in the] manner a stalk will be ignited by a fiery coal and burned up by an unrestrained flame, their root will be like chaff and their blossom will go up like dust; for they did not want the law of the Lord Sabaoth, but they raged against the word of the Holy One of Israel.

In the Hebrew text, there are possible wordplays that cannot be conveyed in translation (maq [“rottenness”] and ’akáq [“dust”]; ma’ásu [“they have rejected”] and ni’étsu [“they have spurned”]).

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah refers to the “fire” as sinking down in the “flames.”

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


Divine judgment would be expressed against the judges because of their flagrant failure to uphold and defend right, but the people generally who disregarded God’s law would likewise experience calamity. A “tongue of fire” or a flame would quickly consume stubble or straw. As indicated in the Septuagint, a glowing coal would soon set a dry stalk ablaze, and the uncontrolled flame would burn up the whole stalk. As it burns, dry foliage, or once erect dry stalks, would sink in the fire and be reduced to ashes.

The roots of trees and other plants provide support and nourishment. In the case of the judges of the nation, they, like a root, should have been supporting what is right and contributing to the stability and security of the nation, but they proved to be like a worthless root and would suffer ruin, rotting or decaying like a root that can provide no support or nourishment.

In their outward prosperity, corrupt judges and other prominent ones may have appeared like beautiful flowers, but they would come to their end just like blossoms that wilt and which the wind would blow upward like dust. This judgment would befall them and, in fact, the entire sinful nation because they had rejected YHWH’s law, refusing to live by it. The “word of the Holy One of Israel” would include everything that he had made known through the available written law and the messages the prophets had declared, but the people and their leaders despised this “word,” treating it as if it was not worthy of their attention and compliance.

5:25. Masoretic Text: Therefore, the anger of YHWH was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against it and struck it. And the mountains trembled, and their corpses were like rubbish in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Septuagint: And the Lord Sabaoth was enraged with wrath against his people, and he laid his hand on them and struck them. And the mountains were aroused, and their corpses became like dung in the midst of the way. And in all these [things], the wrath was not turned away, but the hand [is] still high.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the Hebrew word for “hand” is plural.

“Sabaoth,” as in verse 24, is a transliterated form of the Hebrew designation meaning “hosts” or “armies.” The Hebrew term, however, is not found in the Masoretic Text but is included in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls (although not in the “Great Isaiah Scroll”).


The utter disregard of his law and his word among the people provoked YHWH’s anger against them. His taking action consisted primarily in removing his protection and blessing, allowing the people to suffer military defeats and the devastation of their land and cities. This is represented by YHWH’s stretching out his hand as one would when raising the arm in order to strike a blow.

So terrifying did the calamity prove to be that even the once stable mountains are depicted as “trembling” or being stirred up into a state of violent agitation. Possibly there is here an allusion to the great earthquake in the time of King Uzziah. (Amos 1:1) On account of the tremendous loss of life from war and the accompanying pestilence and scarcity of food and water, a multitude of corpses were left lying in the streets like piles of rubbish. Nevertheless, the survivors generally were not moved to repent. For this reason, YHWH continued to be angry with the disobedient people, and his hand remained stretched out to inflict additional blows, letting the nation experience the savagery of invading armies.

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that the calamities the people experienced did not move them to repentance but that they persisted in their rebellious course. Consequently, God’s stroke was “about to take vengeance on them.”

5:26. Masoretic Text: And he will raise a signal for nations, a distant [nation], and whistle for it from the ends of the earth. And look! Swiftly, speedily, it is coming.

Septuagint: Therefore, he will raise a signal among the nations, the distant ones, and whistle for them from the end of the earth. And look! Swiftly, speedily, they are coming.

In the Hebrew text, the plural “nations” appears to be used as a single entity, for the prefixes and suffixes attached to the verb forms and the prepositions are singular and masculine gender, as is the gender of the Hebrew word góy, meaning “nation.” This also applies to verses 27 through 30. In the Septuagint, the verbs are plural, agreeing with the plural “nations.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, a king with his armies, in response to YHWH’s summoning, would “come quickly like swift clouds.”


To punish his disobedient people, YHWH is portrayed as raising up a signal, or a banner on a pole, around which foreign armies could assemble. His “whistling” is another mode of expressing his summoning the invading forces far from the territory of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. In response to this summoning, the foreign armies do not delay in coming speedily. During the period of Isaiah’s prophesying, this did occur when the Assyrian military invaded and devastated the realm.

5:27. Masoretic Text: None is weary and none in it stumbles; none slumbers nor sleeps. And a girdle of the loins is not loosed nor is a sandal strap broken.

Septuagint: They will not hunger nor tire, nor will they slumber nor sleep, nor will they loosen the girdles from their loins. Neither will the straps of their sandals tear.


Nothing will hinder the progress of the invading warriors. They would not tire during the course of their long march nor stumble on account of any weakness from lack of needed food and water. With the fighting men remaining in a state of alertness, preparedness, and eagerness for battle, they are depicted as not dozing off or sleeping. Their loins remain girded, and so the warriors are represented as always ready for action, with their weapons at hand on their person. They are pictured as advancing unimpeded, without any hindrance from ripped sandal straps that would require repair and cause delay.

5:28. Masoretic Text: Its arrows are sharp, and all its bows bent [literally, “trodden”]. Its horses’ hoofs are accounted as flint, and its wheels as a windstorm.

Septuagint: [Their] arrows are sharp and their bows bent. The feet of their horses were accounted as firm rock, the wheels of their chariots as a windstorm.


The equipment of the military forces is in good condition. The sharp pointed heads of their arrows would be formidable during the course of an attack. To string a bow, a warrior might step on the middle of the bow, tightly stretch the string that was fastened to one of its ends, and then attach it to the other end. Thus bent or tightly stretched, bows were ready for immediate use in propelling arrows against any defending forces. Anciently, horseshoes were not used to protect hoofs. It was vital that horses, when used for distant travel, have hard hoofs. The Horses of the invading force are described as having the hardness of flint and so as being well-suited for use in warfare. The chariots to which the horses were hitched had wheels that were capable of turning at significant speed, like that of a windstorm.

5:29. Masoretic Text: Its roaring [is] like a lion. And like young lions it growls and seizes prey; and it drags away, and no one can rescue.

Septuagint: They advance like lions and stand alongside like lion cubs. And he will seize and roar like a beast; and he will chase away, and no one will rescue them.

In being compared to lion cubs standing alongside (according to the LXX), the military force may be represented as ready to share in the spoils, much like lion cubs that are eager to partake of the prey. The Greek term that is here rendered “will chase away” and literally means “will cast out” could either refer to scattering those who would be defeated, throwing survivors out of their land by taking them into exile, or casting out the corpses of those who would fall in battle.


The enemy force is portrayed as roaring like a lion hungering for prey. This force is on its way to ravage like a beast, seize spoils from the defeated ones, and then enjoy the booty from victory. This would be comparable to what a lion or another beast of prey does when killing an animal and then dragging it off to devour it. In the case of the invading force, there would be no one to rescue the defenders from defeat and the resultant consequences.

5:30. Masoretic Text: And it will growl over it in that day like the growling of the sea. And if one [were] to view the land, and look! darkness, distress; and the light is darkened with its gloom.

Septuagint: And because of them, he will roar in that day like the sound of the tossing sea. And they will view the land, and look! dense darkness in their perplexity.

The Targum of Isaiah represents only the wicked as experiencing the distress and destruction, with the righteous being concealed from calamity.


Like a lion that roars over its prey, the enemy force would roar over the two-tribe kingdom of Judah that would be despoiled and so treated like prey. The shout of the victors would be frightening, comparable to the roar of the turbulent sea. There would be nothing to dispel the gloom; no possibility of any relief coming from any part of the land. Wherever anyone would look, there would only be darkness. Anything that might have suggested light, even the slightest glimmer of hope, would be swallowed up by utter darkness. As the reading of the Septuagint indicates, the people would be in a state of perplexity, seeing no avenue of escape from the calamitous situation.

The Hebrew word rendered “gloom” is the plural of ‘araphél, denoting “dense darkness” and being indicative of an overwhelming state of darkness or gloominess.