Isaiah 9:1-21

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Isaiah 9:1(8:23). Masoretic Text: But [there will] not [be] gloom like that of her distress. In the former time, he treated contemptuously the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and in the latter time he will cause the way of the sea to be honored, the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

Septuagint: And the one who is in distress will not be at a loss until a time [of relief]. Do this first; do [it] quickly, country of Zebulun, the land of Naphtali, [by] way of the sea, and the rest who dwell by the seashore and the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the nations, the parts of Judea.

There is uncertainty about how the initial part of the verse is to be understood. To convey a complete thought, words have to be supplied in the translation, and the various interpretive renderings often depart significantly from the actual Hebrew terms. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” (NIV) “For there is no escape for an oppressed people.” (REB) “But those who have suffered will no longer be in pain.” (CEV) “For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress?” (NJB) “For if there were to be any break of day for that [land] which is in straits …” (Tanakh)

The reading of the Septuagint does not reflect the wording of the extant Hebrew text, and its meaning is not readily apparent. According to the Targum of Isaiah, the portrayal is of continuing gloom for the people. “For none that come to oppress them will be wearied.”


In verse 22 of chapter 8, the reference is to looking down to the “earth,” “land,” or “ground” (’érets), with nothing but gloom and darkness being seen. So the feminine suffix (“her”) in the next verse could refer to the “earth” or “land.” A number of translations make the reference to the land specific. “But suddenly there will be no more gloom for the land that suffered.” (NCV) “Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times.” (HCSB)

While the wording of verse 23 (9:1) is obscure, the basic thought appears to be that the gloom resulting from the distressing situation in the land would end. The third person masculine verbs that follow may be understood as applying to God. He, in expression of his judgment, permitted the period of gloom to come upon the land. Thus, in the former time, he dealt contemptuously with the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. A number of translations interpretively render the Hebrew text to convey this basic significance. “In the past God allowed the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali to be put to shame. In the future He will honor Galilee.” (NLB) “In the past God made the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali hang their heads in shame, but in the future those lands will be made great. (NCV) “In the past the Lord brought shame on the land of Zebulun. He also brought shame on the land of Naphtali. But in days to come he will honor Galilee.” (NIRV)

In the Tanakh, the third person singular [he] is interpretively rendered to apply to the ruling monarch of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and his successor, with the supplied word “king” being set off in brackets. “Only the former [king] would have brought abasement to the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali — while the later one would have brought honor to the Way of the Sea, the other side of the Jordan, and Galilee of the Nations.” According to this rendering, the “former king” would be Pekah, and the later one would be his successor, Hoshea. Historically, however, this interpretation does not fit. Hoshea’s reign did not bring honor to the region. He rebelled against the King of Assyria, and the Assyrian monarch then invaded the northern kingdom of Israel, besieged the capital Samaria, led the surviving Israelites into exile, and resettled the region with peoples from other lands. (2 Kings 17:5, 6, 23, 24)

The territory of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were situated in the northern part of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and often were the first to suffer from enemy invasions. For those residing in the territories of Zebulun and Naphtali that proved to be a time of great distress and darkness. In the Targum of Isaiah, the “former time” is identified as the time “the people of the land of Zebulun and the people of the land of Naphtali” had been taken into exile and then mentions that a “mighty king” would deport the remnant from these tribal territories. During the reign of Pekah, Tiglath-pileser III and his forces conquered Galilee and took survivors from Naphtali into exile. (2 Kings 15:29)

The “way of the sea” could designate either the major road alongside the Sea of Galilee or the region bordering that body of water. The “other side of the Jordan,” depending on the perspective of the writer, can mean either east or west of the river. Both meanings are found in translations. “But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.” (HCSB) “But in the end he has glorified the seaward road, the land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles.” (NAB) The other side of the Jordan, as relates to the location of Galilee, would mean the region across from the Jordan when coming from the east.

Another interpretation identifies the “sea” as being the Mediterranean. “The territories of Zebulun and Naphtali in Galilee were once hated. But this land of the Gentiles across the Jordan River and along the Mediterranean Sea will be greatly respected.” (CEV) “In the past God made the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali hang their heads in shame, but in the future those lands will be made great. They will stretch from the road along the Mediterranean Sea to the land beyond the Jordan River and north to Galilee, the land of people who are not Israelites.” (NCV)

It was probably because many non-Israelites lived in the region that it is called “Galilee of the nations.” The circumstance that many years earlier King Solomon was willing to offer King Hiram 20 cities of Galilee suggests that they likely had a significant non-Israelite population or were entirely non-Israelite cities. (1 Kings 9:10-13)

When subjected to the humiliation to which the Assyrian forces subjected Galilee, Naphtali and Zebulun were indeed treated contemptuously, and YHWH permitted this to take place on account of the people’s disregard for him and his law. The military invasions, the capture of Samaria, the deportation of the surviving Israelites, and the resettling of foreigners in the region resulted in a time of great stress and darkness, with no bright prospect for those who had once lived in the territory of Naphtali and Zebulun. This, however, was to change, for honor was to be bestowed on the region, bringing an end to the darkness.

Like the Hebrew text, the reading of the Septuagint is obscure. It could be understood to suggest that, even before the time of relief arrived, the one in distress would be able to see a way out. Nothing in the context of the Septuagint rendering provides any specifics about what should be done first and quickly. Perhaps the common appeal of the prophets to repent and to follow YHWH’s way without delay is implied. This could then also be understood as the way out of the gloom.

9:2(1). Masoretic Text: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. [As for] those residing in a land of death’s shadow, light has shone upon them.

Septuagint: O people who walk in darkness, see a great light! O dwellers in the country and shadow of death, light will shine upon you.


During the period of their affliction (as when experiencing humiliating treatment from the Assyrians), the people walked in darkness, without anything to brighten their outlook. When faced with foreign aggression and thereafter a life as exiles, their place of residence proved to be the “land of death’s shadow,” comparable to an area of deep ravines where lions and leopards lurked in the dark shadows, ready to pounce on any passing prey.

Upon being able to return to the land, the former darkness began to disappear, and the light began to shine upon the people. They came to be recipients of God’s favor. This restoration prophecy pointed forward to the shining of an even brighter light with the coming of the “anointed one,” the king, in the royal line of David. When Jesus Christ carried on extensive activity in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee, a great light was seen in the very area that had experienced darkness. As the “light of the world” (John 8:12), he brought comfort and hope to the oppressed and disadvantaged ones. Jesus Christ also liberated many from their physical afflictions. Most importantly, he refreshed them spiritually and opened up to all who accepted him the inestimable honor of being God’s children and benefiting from his guidance and loving care. (Matthew 4:12-17)

9:3(2). Masoretic Text: You have not [only] multiplied the nation; you have increased joy. They rejoice before your face as with the joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing spoil;

Septuagint: The majority of the people whom you led down in your joy, also will rejoice before you like those rejoicing in the harvest and in a manner like those dividing spoils;


The Septuagint rendering apparently refers to God as leading a significant number of his people back to their land and indicates that he delighted in doing this. According to the Hebrew text, he made the people populous, for they increased in number as a nation in their own land. On account of what he did for them, their joy increased. The time of restoration proved to be a period of joy comparable to a festal celebration at harvesttime and the delight warriors experience when dividing up booty subsequent to a great victory.

9:4(3). Masoretic Text: for the yoke of his burden and the rod of his shoulder, the club of his exactor, you have broken as in the day of Midian;

Septuagint: because the yoke resting upon them will be removed, also the rod upon their neck, for the Lord has broken the rod of [their] exactors as in the day upon Midian;

The Targum of Isaiah appears to represent the yoke and the rod as the dominion and oppressive rule of a foreign monarch and then concludes with the thought that God, as in the day of Midian, destroyed the ruler who caused the people to serve.


For the Israelites, relief from distress would come when the power of the oppressor would be broken. No longer would the heavy burden of affliction rest upon them like a yoke or would they have to endure the humiliation that was comparable to feeling a rod on the shoulder. The rod on the shoulder could either designate a rod carried on the shoulder and from which loads were suspended or a rod with which a slave might be beaten. Exactors or oppressors wielded tyrannical power over them, and this power was like a club. YHWH shattered the burdensome and abusive enemy power as when Gideon, with his small band, was granted divine help and triumphed over the Midianites who had brought much suffering to the Israelites, particularly those living in the northern part of the land. (Judges 6:1-6, 33-35; 7:1-23) The end of all enemy power would be effected by the “son” mentioned in verse 6(5).

9:5(4). Masoretic Text: for every boot of the one marching [so as to cause] shaking, and [every] garment rolled in blood will be burned like fuel [literally, “food”] for the fire.

Septuagint: for every robe gathered by deceit and [every] garment [acquired] with reconciliation, they will be repay, and they will want [to do this even] if they became torched.

Possibly the obscure Septuagint reading may be understood to mean that, ultimately, the enemy power would make repayment for the destruction it had caused. A “robe,” or whatever, they may have seized by deceit or unlawfully, they would repay. Perhaps the link of “reconciliation” to the “garment” may refer to the price the enemy power had demanded from the defeated people to be “reconciled,” ending hostilities, so as not to be subjected to further military action. Circumstances would force the enemy power to choose to make repayment even in case a garment (or anything else of value) had been burned or destroyed.


In view of the previous reference to the shattering of the enemy power, “every boot” and “garment” appear to be those of the invading military force. The shaking evidently relates to the effect produced when warriors are on the march. It is then as if the ground is made to tremble. In Hebrew, the word for “blood” is plural, suggesting that the garment is soaked with a large quantity of blood. The boots of the invaders and their bloodstained garments would not have any useful purpose and, therefore, are consigned to the fire.

9:6(5). Masoretic Text: For a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the dominion will be on his shoulder. And his name will be called [literally, one will call his name] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Septuagint: For a child was born to us, even a son was given to us, whose dominion came to be on his shoulder, and his name is called, Messenger [or, “Angel”] of Mighty Counsel. For I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and well-being to him.

In connection with the name of the son, the Greek text found in Codex Alexandrinus is closer to the reading of the Masoretic Text.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the verb form for “will be called” can be translated (as in the Septuagint) “is called,” and the definite article (“the”) precedes the Hebrew word for “prince.”


The Targum of Isaiah identifies the son as the “Anointed One,” or the Messiah, in whose days peace would be increased to the people of Israel, and the words are represented as those of the prophet directed to the “house of David.” Jesus, the promised Messiah, will fulfill the role of effecting deliverance from all enemy powers or all who defiantly refuse to acknowledge him as the King by his Father’s appointment. The counsel, direction, or teaching Jesus provided is indeed “wonderful,” for it is dependable guidance that, if followed, leads to an eternal relationship with him and his Father.

By reason of the power judges or rulers exercised, they are at times called “gods.” (Psalm 82:1-4) In view of the far greater authority that would be granted to the Messiah, he could rightly be called “Mighty God.” The Hebrew term for “God” (’el) however, has the basic sense of “mighty one” or “powerful one,” and the adjective gibbór often appears in the Scriptures as a designation for a “mighty one,” a “hero,” or a “warrior.” Based on these meanings of the two terms, the German Gute Nachricht Bibel renders the expression as “mighty hero” (mächtiger Held).

Jesus is the “eternal Father” or, according to the another Septuagint reading, the “father of the age to come.” It will be through him that life will be bestowed on all who will have a share in the age to come, when he exercises dominion and the last enemy death will have been destroyed. (John 5:26-29; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26) In his role as “Prince of Peace,” he will secure the well-being of all who will benefit from his beneficent rule.

9:7(6) Masoretic Text: To the increase of his dominion and of peace [there will be] no end upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to support it in justice and in righteousness from now and to time eternal. The zeal of YHWH of hosts will do this.

Septuagint: Great [is] his dominion, and [there] is no limit to his peace upon the throne of David and his kingdom, to establish it and to support it in righteousness and in justice from now and to time eternal. The zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do these things.

“Sabaoth” is the transliterated form of the Hebrew word for “hosts” or “armies,” identifying YHWH was having hosts of angels at his service.


The “increase” of the dominion could indicate that everything and everyone would progressively become subject to this king. Another meaning could be that he would exercise abundant or great authority. His reign would be one without any disruption of peace from enemy powers, and the security and well-being of all would not end. The link to the “throne of David” makes it unmistakably clear that the ruler is from the royal line of David and, therefore, would be the “Anointed One” or “Messiah.” His rule would be marked by adherence to righteousness or uprightness and justice, equity, fairness, or impartiality. The royal authority or kingdom would be established or founded on what is right and just, and it would continue to be supported on the same basis. This assures that there will never be any corruption and that all will be treated equitably.

The Messiah is king by divine appointment. Therefore, everything that would occur is attributed to YHWH’s zeal, which would include his ardent desire for righteousness and justice to prevail.

9:8(7). Masoretic Text: “My Lord sent a word to Jacob, and it came upon Israel.

Septuagint: The Lord sent death upon Jacob, and it came upon Israel.

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

The Septuagint reading “death” (or, “pestilence”) may be understood to relate to the outcome of God’s judgment against the disobedient people. Another Septuagint manuscript reading, like the Masoretic Text, says “word” (not “death”).


The “word” is a message of judgment, and it was fulfilled upon Israel or Jacob. In this context, the patriarch Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel [Genesis 32:28]) represents the people in the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel.

9:9(8). Masoretic Text: And all the people will know, Ephraim and those residing in Samaria, [who] in pride and arrogance of heart, are saying,

Septuagint: And all the people of Ephraim will know, also those residing in Samaria, [who] with pride and lofty heart are saying,

The second letter of the Hebrew word for “know” (yedá‘) is daleth (D). In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the term that appears is yará‘, the letter resh (R) being the second letter of the consonantal text. This word (yará‘) means “quiver” or “be in fear.” Based on other roots for the word yará‘, the term has been understood to signify “shout” or “to be evil” or “to do evil.”


Ephraim, as the dominant tribe of the ten-tribe kingdom, represents all the people of the northern kingdom, and the inhabitants of the capital city are then specifically singled out. What they will come to know is not specified here, but the context indicates that it relates to the adverse divine judgment to befall them. As the next verse indicates, they arrogantly imagined that they would actually be able to improve their condition. Their “arrogance of heart” or their “lofty heart” may be understood to mean their prideful mental outlook or the arrogance of their inmost selves.

9:10(9). Masoretic Text: Bricks have fallen, and we will build with hewn stones. Sycamores have been felled, and we will replace them [with] cedars.

Septuagint: Bricks have fallen, but come, let us hew stones and fell sycamores and cedars, and let us build ourselves a tower.

The Septuagint rendering appears to echo the words of those who planned to build a tower after the flood in the time of Noah. (Genesis 11:4)

In the Targum of Isaiah, the thought is expressed that, although their leaders had been taken into exile, the people would appoint better ones, and they would obtain better possessions than those that had been plundered by invading forces.


In their arrogance, the people, despite past military defeats, imagined that they would gain a position of greater strength than they had enjoyed in former times and would then replace what had been destroyed with superior materials. They contended that the fallen mud-brick structures would be rebuilt with dressed stones, and the porous and somewhat soft wood of sycamores (probably Ficus sycomorus) would be replaced with far better cedar. Another possible meaning is that the sycamores that invading armies had cut down for siegeworks and other purposes would be replaced with cedar trees.

9:11(10). Masoretic Text: And YHWH will set on high [sagáv] the foes of Rezin against him, and his enemies he will shield [sakhákh].

Septuagint: And God will strike those rising up against Mount Zion, against them, and their enemies he will scatter,


The Hebrew word sagáv can signify “raise up,” “elevate,” “set on high,” or “increase.” The foes of Rezin, the king of Aram or Syria, must have been the Assyrians, who also became a serious threat to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. YHWH permitted Assyria to develop into a powerful, aggressive empire. In that sense, he raised up the Assyrians and used them for his purpose. The meaning “increase” would suggest that YHWH allowed the adversaries to become greater in number and strength.

The Hebrew verb sakhákh can signify “cover,” “shield,” or “intertwine.” In this context, the word is often rendered “stirs up.” If the meaning is “shield,” the thought could be that YHWH shielded the enemies from experiencing defeat. This would be from the standpoint of his letting them function as his instruments to punish the disobedient Israelites. “Intertwining” could suggest a combining of forces from various nations to carry out military campaigns.

The Septuagint rendering conveys an entirely different meaning. It represents God as defending Mount Zion (his representative place of dwelling) and his people, causing their enemies to scatter when faced with military defeat. In the next verse, those enemies are then identified as Syria and Greece (apparently reflecting the situation in the time of the translator).

9:12(11). Masoretic Text: Aram from the east and the Philistines from the west, and they will devour Israel with the whole mouth. In all this, his anger is not turned back, and his hand is still stretched out.

Septuagint: Syria from the rising of the sun and the Greeks from the setting of the sun, the ones devouring Israel with the whole mouth. For all these things, the wrath is not turned back, but the hand is still raised up.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase “in all this,” and the plural “hands” (not “hand”) appears in the text.

The Septuagint rendering is a continuation of God’s judgment directed against the enemies of Israel, which are here identified as Syria and Greece.


After initial military action, Aram or Syria may have forced the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel to join them in an alliance. The Philistines are mentioned in the biblical record as having invaded Judah during the reign of King Ahaz, but nothing is said about any Philistine campaigns against the northern kingdom at this time. (2 Chronicles 28:18) So it may be that the devouring of Israel from the east and the west includes the territory of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, with the extensive devastation from military campaigns coming from both directions being comparable to a hungry open mouth that consumes all the available food.

What YHWH allowed to befall the Israelites should have moved them to repentance and to abandon their course of flagrant disregard of his law, but they did not change their ways. Therefore, his anger was not turned back, but his power continued to be directed against them (like a stretched out and raised arm that is positioned for the hand to strike).

9:13(12). Masoretic Text: And the people did not return to the one who is striking it, and they have not sought YHWH of hosts.

Septuagint: And the people did not return until they were struck, and the Lord they did not seek.


The Israelites did not return to YHWH who had struck them by allowing other nations to invade their land. Although this resulted in extensive devastation and significant loss of life, the survivors refused to recognize that they had lost God’s protective care on account of their unfaithfulness and that their welfare depended on doing his will. They did not seek YHWH of hosts (their God who had hosts of angels at his service) as would persons who desired an approved relationship with him and wanted his help and guidance. According to the Targum of Isaiah, they did not seek the instruction of YHWH of hosts.

The Septuagint rendering suggests that it was not until they were struck that they returned to God, but the thought about not seeking him is the same as expressed in the Hebrew text.

9:14(13). Masoretic Text: And YHWH will cut off from Israel head and tail, shoot [kippáh] and reed [’agmón], in one day.

Septuagint: And the Lord removed from Israel head and tail, great and insignificant, in one day.


In “one day,” or suddenly within a short time, YHWH, by means of a foreign power, would remove the “head,” the prominent ones in Israel, and the tail, the ones who unquestioningly followed and supported the wishes and aims of the leading members of the nation even when these were contrary to divine direction.

The Hebrew noun kippáh denotes “shoot” or “frond” and designates those who were “great,” being in a lofty position like a frond on a palm tree. Those referred to as the “tail” are like a “reed,” “rush,” or “bulrush” (meanings assigned to the Hebrew term ’agmón). Instead of being high up like a branch or a shoot on a tree, they were like a lowly reed sprouting from the ground.

9:15(14). Masoretic Text: The elder and respected one (“one lifted up of face”) — he [is] the head, and the prophet who teaches falsehood — he [is] the tail.

Septuagint: The elder and the admirers of faces — he [is] the first, and the prophet teaching lawlessness — this one [is] the tail.

In the Septuagint, the word for “lawlessness” is plural, suggestive of an abundance of lawlessness.

“Admirers of faces” idiomatically identifies individuals who show partiality based on another person’s standing or outward appearance.


As the “head,” elders of the nation did not set a good example, one that the people could follow. These leaders failed to uphold YHWH’s law and did not carry out their responsibilities in a just and impartial manner. Instead of exposing lawlessness and corruption, the prophets generally mouthed what the prominent members of the nation wanted to hear. These prophets taught falsehood, for their words supported the divinely disapproved plans and actions of the rulers. Whereas these prophets were proclaimers, they did not make known YHWH’s word.

9:16(15). Masoretic Text: And those who will be pronouncing this people fortunate are causing them to err and those being pronounced fortunate are swallowed up.

Septuagint: And those pronouncing this people fortunate will be deceiving [them], and they deceive in order to swallow them up.


Those who should have been directing the people to change their ways and bring them into harmony with God’s will did the very opposite. They lulled the people into a false sense of well-being, making them feel that they were in a safe and secure position, with nothing to fear. By thus pronouncing them fortunate or leading them to believe that all was well and acceptable, leaders and prophets made themselves guilty of a great deception, one that would bring ruin to the people. The Israelites would not have YHWH’s help and protection. On account of the divine judgment that would be expressed against them, the people would be “swallowed up” as if consumed by calamity.

9:17(16). Masoretic Text: Therefore, my Lord does not rejoice over its young men and has no compassion on its fatherless and widows, for everyone is impious and an evildoer and every mouth speaks folly. In all this, his anger is not turned back, and his hand is still stretched out.

Septuagint: Therefore, God will not rejoice over their young men, and he will not show mercy to their orphans and their widows, for all are lawless and evil, and every mouth speaks unrighteousness. For all these things, the wrath is not turned back, but the hand is still raised up.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the plural “hands” (not “hand”) appears in the text.


God did not rejoice in or find delight in the young men, for they apparently had already become fixed in pursuing a lawless course and gave no evidence of any change for the better. Orphans and widows, on account of their destitute state, could reasonably have been expected to recognize their need for YHWH’s help. Like the majority, however, they proved to be godless, practiced evil, and spoke folly or gave voice to expressions that revealed no regard for God. For this reason, he did not respond with compassionate aid to orphans and widows.

Because the people did not repent and continued to disregard of his law, YHWH did not turn back his anger but kept his power directed against them (like a stretched out and raised arm that is in a position for the hand to strike).

9:18(17). Masoretic Text: For wickedness burns like fire. Thorny plants and weeds it consumes. And it ignites the thickets of the forest, and they swirl [upward like] impressive [literally, “majesty of”] smoke.

Septuagint: And lawlessness will burn like a fire and will be devoured by fire like dry grass. And it will burn in the thickets of the forest, and it will consume everything around the hills.

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 make any specific identification of the plants the Hebrew terms designate.


Wickedness is likened to a destructive fire that burns thorny plants and weeds and sets a whole forest ablaze. As the thickets of a forest burn, the smoke swirls upward in impressive columns. Wickedness has its own built-in punishment, ruining everything like an all-consuming fire.

9:19(18). Masoretic Text: Through the wrath of YHWH of hosts, the land will be scorched, and the people will be fuel [literally, “food”] for fire. A man [will be against] his brother; they will not spare.

Septuagint: Because of the Lord’s furious wrath, the whole land has been burned up, and the people will be consumed as by fire. A man will not show mercy to his brother.


The expression “YHWH of hosts” calls attention to his having hosts or armies of angels at his service. His wrath is expressed when he lets people experience the serious consequences from their disregard of his law and will. Invading armies, functioning as his instrument to punish the wayward Israelites, would devastate the land to such an extent that it would appear completely scorched or burned up. The moral breakdown among the people would be so great that a man would not spare even his own brother, refusing to be compassionate in his time of need.

9:20(19) Masoretic Text: And he will snatch to the right and be hungry, and he will eat on the left. And they will not be satisfied. They devour, each, the flesh of his arm.

Septuagint: But he will swerve to the right because he will be hungry, and he will eat from the left. A man will by no means be filled [when] eating the flesh of his arm.

The Greek verb for “be filled” is preceded by two words meaning “not,” and the emphatic sense is here preserved with the rendering “by no means.”


In view of the desperate condition in which the people would find themselves, they would do anything they could just to have food to eat. Although they appear to have seized whatever came into their reach, although it did not belong to them, they could not obtain enough to be filled or satisfied. The Targum of Isaiah indicates the expression about eating the “flesh of his arm” to mean plundering the goods of one’s neighbor.

9:21(20). Masoretic Text: Manasseh [will eat] Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, and together they are against Judah. In all this, his anger is not turned back, and his hand is still stretched out.

Septuagint: For Manasseh will eat of Ephraim, and Ephraim of Manasseh, for together they will harass Judah. For all these things, the wrath is not turned back, but the hand is still raised up.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the Hebrew conjunction for “and” is at the beginning of the verse, and the plural “hands” (not “hand”) appears in the text.


Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph, and so members of these two tribes were the closest relatives, full brothers. Yet, in the desperate circumstances they would face, they would not act in a brotherly way but would snatch what they could from the other tribe for their needs. Still, both tribes, as part of the ten-tribe kingdom Israel, warred against Judah, the dominant tribe of the southern kingdom.

The deplorable situation the people came to experience did not move them to repent, but they continued to disregard of YHWH’s law. Therefore, he did not turn back his anger but kept his power directed against them (like a stretched out and raised arm that is in a position for the hand to strike).