Isaiah 6:1-13

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6:1. Masoretic Text: In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw my Lord sitting on a [“his,” Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah] throne, high and lifted up, and his skirts filled the temple.

Septuagint: And it occurred in the year in which King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the house was full of his glory.

In the Masoretic Text, “I saw” is preceded by the conjunction “and,” which has been omitted in the translation. It is missing in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.

Limited archaeological evidence exists concerning King Uzziah. An ancient plaque mentions the transferal of the “bones of Uzziah, king of Judah.” Additional archaeological evidence from a much earlier period is in the form of two seals. One seal is identified as that of Abiyaw, “servant” or “minister” of Uzziyaw (Uzziah), and the other one as that of Shebanyahu, “servant” or “minister” of Uzziyaw (Uzziah).


During the reign of King Uzziah, the two-tribe kingdom of Judah enjoyed prosperity. (2 Chronicles 26:6-15) After he was stricken with leprosy for having wrongfully entered the temple in an attempt to offer incense, his son Jotham governed. Until the day of his death, Uzziah then lived in a separate house. (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21) According to the Targum of Isaiah, the prophet saw the vision in the year that King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy, but the Masoretic Text, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, and the Septuagint do not support this.

It does not appear that Isaiah would have been able to refer to God’s throne as “high and lifted up” if he, in vision, had seen the scene from the limited perspective of someone looking into the temple entrance while standing in the courtyard. It is more likely that the prophet saw a throne high above him over the temple. The Targum of Isaiah says that he saw “the glory of YHWH, high and lifted up in the highest heavens.” Based on the reading of the Septuagint and the Targum of Isaiah, the “glory” refers to the bright radiance that emanated from the personage seated on the throne, and the extant Hebrew text possibly may be understood as referring to this glory as the “skirts” that filled the temple.

6:2. Masoretic Text: Seraphs stood above him [or, it]. Each had six wings. With two he covered his face and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly.

Septuagint: And seraphs stood around him [or, it], six wings to [each] one and six wings to [each] one. And with two they covered the face, and with two they covered the feet, and with two they did fly.

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the position of the seraphs (“holy ministers”) as being “in the height before him.”


The designation “seraphs” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that is understood to mean “burning ones.” These heavenly beings are not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. They appear to be represented as attendants near YHWH’s throne and always ready to serve him. In the extant Hebrew text, the closest antecedent to the pronominal suffix “him” or “it” is “temple.” So, if Isaiah saw the throne elevated above the temple, he would have seen the seraphs above the temple in the proximity of the throne. Apparently with the upper two wings, the seraphs covered their faces, probably in humble recognition of YHWH, not even presuming to look upon the glorious Holy One seated on the throne. The bottom set of two wings served to cover their feet. As in other parts of the Scriptures, the word “feet” may be used euphemistically and signify the private parts. If this is the case, this would mean that the seraphs, out of regard for YHWH’s holiness, modestly covered the entire lower half of their bodies with two of their wings. The middle set of two wings served for flight. As the seraphs are not portrayed as standing on a solid surface, they may have been hovering with two of their wings in motion.

6:3. Masoretic Text: And one [seraph] cried out to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy [is] YHWH of hosts; all the earth [is] full of his glory.”

Septuagint: And they cried out, one [seraph] to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy [is] the Lord Sabaoth. All the earth [is] full of his glory.”

“Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew designation that means “hosts” or “armies.” At YHWH’s service are hosts of angels.


The seraphs alternated in calling out with a loud voice. Their repetition of the designation “holy” emphasized the superlative degree of God’s holiness or purity as the one who is absolutely free from even the slightest trace of defilement. While some interpreters have drawn a theological significance from the three times each of the seraphs said “holy,” other instances where expressions are repeated three times do not support this inference. (Compare, for example, the repetition of “earth” [Jeremiah 22:29], “temple” [Jeremiah 7:4], and “ruin” [Ezekiel 21:27].) From the standpoint of YHWH’s acts in the outworking of his will, particularly in relation to his people, and all of his creation, the earth is indeed filled with his glory or splendor. Everything points to him as the Creator and the One whose purpose will unfailingly be accomplished.

6:4. Masoretic Text: And from the voice of him who cried out, the foundations [’ammáh] of the thresholds shook, and the house was filled with smoke.

Septuagint: And from the voice with which they cried out, the lintel was raised, and the house was filled with smoke.

There is uncertainty about the significance of the plural form of the Hebrew word ’ammáh, which term designates a unit of measure (the “cubit”).


The voice of the seraphs appears to have resounded with such great power that the “house” or temple shook, and the prophet perceived the movement at the entrance. Possibly the threshold appeared to tremble to its foundations or, as the Septuagint rendering suggests, the upward movement made it seem that the lintel had been raised. The smoke that filled the house or temple, as did the smoke-like cloud decades earlier at the dedication, was the visible manifestation of the divine presence. (1 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chronicles 5:13-6:1)

6:5. Masoretic Text: And I said, “Woe to me, for I am silenced; for I am a man of unclean lips, and in the midst of a people of unclean lips I reside, for my eyes have seen the King, YHWH of hosts.”

Septuagint: And I said, “O, wretched I am, for I am pained; for being a man and having unclean lips, I reside in the midst of a people having unclean lips, and I have seen with my eyes the King, the Lord Sabaoth.”

As in verse 3, “Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “hosts” or “armies.”


The emphatic declaration of YHWH’s holiness appears to have made Isaiah painfully aware of his sinful state. He felt that he was as good as dead, for no sinful earthling could see God and live. (Compare Exodus 33:18-23; Judges 13:22, 23.) With lips untainted by sin, the seraphs could proclaim YHWH’s holiness. Isaiah, however, could not do so, being, as he acknowledged, a man with unclean lips and living among a people with unclean lips. Yet, with his own eyes he had seen YHWH of hosts, the holy God seated like a king or sovereign on a throne and with angelic beings at his service. So Isaiah could only think in terms of a woeful consequence for himself or, as stated in the Septuagint, speak of himself as “wretched.”

6:6. Masoretic Text: And one of the seraphs flew to me and in his hand [was] a coal he had taken with tongs from the altar.

Septuagint: And one of the seraphs was sent to me, and in the hand he had a coal that he had taken with the tongs from the altar.


Evidently at the direction of the One seated on the throne, a seraph came flying toward Isaiah with a live coal that he held with a pair of tongs. The coal would have been a glowing piece from the wood of the altar fire.

6:7. Masoretic Text: And he touched my mouth [with the coal] and said, “Look! This has touched your lips, and your iniquity is removed and your sin is forgiven.”

Septuagint: And he touched my mouth [with the coal] and said, “Look! This has touched your lips, and it will remove your lawlessness and clean your sins away.”

In the Targum of Isaiah, the symbolic act involving the coal is represented as YHWH’s using his ministering angel to impart to Isaiah the message he was to proclaim. So that he could serve acceptably as YHWH’s prophet his transgressions were taken away and his sins expiated.


According to the law, fire could be used as a purification agent. (Numbers 31:21-23) Therefore, the symbolic act of touching Isaiah’s mouth with a live coal from the altar fire served to purify his lips. The visionary interaction involving the seraph and the live coal revealed to Isaiah, in a tangibly perceivable manner, that he had been cleansed and made acceptable to YHWH for his purpose.

6:8. Masoretic Text: And I heard the voice of my Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Look! [Here am] I. Send me.”

Septuagint: And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?” And I said, “Look! [Here] am I. Send me.”


When Isaiah heard the voice of YHWH, he was not overcome with fear, as he had been fully made aware of his acceptable condition as one who had been purified from sin. So, in response to the question as to who could be sent and who would be willing to accept the commission, Isaiah unhesitatingly declared that he wanted to be sent. In the Hebrew text, the first person plural suffix (“us”) could either be understood as a plural of excellence (meaning YHWH) or as including the seraphs whom Isaiah saw in vision.

6:9. Masoretic Text: And he said, “Go, and say to this people, ‘Hear and hearing, and do not understand; see and seeing, and do not perceive.’

Septuagint: And he said, “Go, and say to this people, ‘Hearing, you will hear and by no means understand; and looking, you will look and by no means see.’

The Greek terms translated “understand” and “see” are preceded by two words meaning “not” and, to convey the emphatic sense, are here rendered “by no means.”


It may be because of their unfaithfulness that the Israelites are called “this people” instead of “my people” (YHWH’s people with a relationship to him). The commission with which Isaiah was entrusted would prove to be a difficult one, for the people would not act in harmony with the message he would be proclaiming to them. They would hear his words, but they would not hear them in a responsive way as would persons who understood them and then acted accordingly. They would see things that would be brought to their attention and witness the fulfillment of prophetic words, but they would not perceive the nature of their unacceptable condition before YHWH and what they should be doing in response to what they had the capacity to perceive. They simply would not “see,” remaining blind to the factors that should have prompted them to abandon their God-dishonoring ways.

6:10. Masoretic Text: Make the heart of this people fat, and make its ears heavy, and shut its eyes, lest it see with its eyes and hear with its ears and its heart understand, and it turn and get healing for itself.”

Septuagint: For the heart of this people has become thick, and with their ears they have heard heavily, and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with the heart, and turn, and I should heal them.”

Before the second phrase about the heart, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the conjunction meaning “and.” This scroll reads, “with its heart understands.” Certain other Hebrew manuscripts do include the conjunction “and,” continuing with the same reading (“with its heart understands”).


Isaiah would face intense resistance when proclaiming the message that had been divinely entrusted to him. So it would prove to be as though he was responsible for making the hearts of the people unresponsive. “Heart” could either refer to the minds or the deep inner selves of the people. Their unresponsiveness is represented under the figure of a heart covered with a layer of impenetrable fat.

Isaiah’s words would not find listening ears among the people generally, and so it would be as if he had made their ears heavy, dull, or deaf with reference to hearing or giving heed to what he said. As his activity would occasion their negative reaction, he would be shutting their eyes from seeing the error of their ways and changing their conduct. In view of their refusal to see, hear, understand, and turn away from their wayward course, they would not regain YHWH’s favor. Their failure to act in harmony with YHWH’s message through Isaiah would mean that their divinely unacceptable condition would not be healed.

6:11. Masoretic Text: And I said, “Until when, my Lord?” And he said, “Until whenever cities [indeed] become waste without inhabitant and houses without a man [an earthling], and the land is laid waste, a desolation,

Septuagint: And I said, “Until when, Lord?” And he said, “Until whenever cities will be desolate from not being inhabited and houses from not being with men [in them], and the land will be left desolate.”

Instead of “my Lord,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah contains the divine name (YHWH).


Isaiah must have been greatly troubled to learn about the future unresponsiveness of his own people, prompting him to ask “until when” or how long this would continue. YHWH’s answer provided Isaiah with no basis for hoping that the situation would change for the better. The unresponsiveness among the people would persist even until the time invading armies would desolate cities and lay the land waste.

6:12. Masoretic Text: and YHWH removes the man [the earthling, or the people as a collective whole] far away, and many [are the places of] abandonment in the midst of the land.

Septuagint: And after these things, God will remove the men far away, and the ones remaining will be increased on the land.


The future removal of the people as captives of war is attributed to YHWH. This is because he would permit it to befall them as a punishment for their disregard of his law. With many of them perishing in battle or from pestilence, extreme food shortage, or lack of water inside besieged towns and cities, much of the land would be reduced to a desolate and deserted state.

According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the few survivors would then increase in number. This rendering would appear to be linked with the words of the next verse, where the reference is to a remaining “tenth.”

6:13. Masoretic Text: And still [there will be] a tenth on it, and it will return. It will be burned like a large tree [’eláh] and like an oak [’allón] that in a felled state [leave] a stump among them; a holy seed is its stump.”

Septuagint: And still on it is a tenth, and again it will be for plunder like a terebinth and like an acorn when it falls from its case.

The Hebrew word ’eláh has been understood to designate a large or massive tree but not a specific kind of tree. As in the Septuagint, modern translations have rendered the term as “terebinth.”

“Oak” is a rendering of the Hebrew word ’allón, but there is a measure of uncertainty about this meaning. 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.”

When rendering the Hebrew text into Greek, the translator appears to have understood the word that designates the fallen state (shallékheth), which appears to be derived from the root shalákh (“cast,” “hurl,” or “throw”), to be linked to the term shalál, meaning to “plunder.” “To plunder a tree” is, however, an unusual expression. Possibly ancient readers took it to mean that the wood of the tree was taken as plunder. The Greek word bálanos can designate the oak or the acorn. The “case” could refer to the cupule, the cup-like structure to which the seed of the oak tree is attached. When acorns drop to the ground with or without the attached cupule, they can easily be gathered or “plundered.”


After the devastation of the land, a remnant, a “tenth,” would survive “on it.” The returning of this remnant appears to relate to their coming back to their own land after having been carried into exile. This surviving remnant would continue to be subjected to distress, comparable to that of felled trees that are burned but which survive in the form of remaining stumps. In the case of the remnant of the people who would survive the devastation and endure additional distress subsequent to their being taken into exile, a part of this remnant would prove to be acceptable to YHWH. They would be like the stump of a felled tree. Because YHWH would regard them as his holy or approved people, they would be a “holy seed.”