Isaiah 24:1-23

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2012-02-28 17:23.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

24:1. Masoretic Text: Look! YHWH will empty the land and lay it waste, and he will distort its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

Septuagint: Look! The Lord is ruining the habitable land and will desolate it, and he will uncover its surface and scatter those residing in it.


The Hebrew word translated “land” here and in the rest of this chapter can also be rendered “earth.” As evident from the context (verse 5), the reference (for much of chapter 24) is to the territory of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah where Isaiah served as God’s prophet.

YHWH purposed to empty that land of its inhabitants, devastating it, and changing its appearance from a cultivated and inhabited land to a desolate place. This would occur through the military forces that he would permit to triumph over the Israelites and to take survivors into exile as captives, thus scattering them.

The Septuagint reference to the uncovering of the surface of the land could relate to destroying the crops and trees that flourished on the land. Without the plants and trees, the land surface would be bare.

24:2. Masoretic Text: And it will be with the people as with the priest, with the servant as with his master, with the maidservant as with her mistress, with the buyer as with the seller, with the lender as with the borrower, with the creditor as with the debtor.

Septuagint: And the people will be like the priest, and the servant like the master, and the maidservant like the mistress; the buyer will be like the seller, and the lender like the borrower, and the obligor like the obligee.


The calamity would adversely affect all classes of society. There would be no exceptions. A priest would fare no better than the people generally, nor would masters or mistresses than their servants, nor sellers than their buyers, borrowers than lenders, creditor than debtors.

24:3. Masoretic Text: To be emptied, the land will be emptied, and to be laid waste, laid waste, for YHWH has spoken this word.

Septuagint: With ruin, the land will be ruined, and with plundering, the land will be plundered, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things.


The repetition of the expressions (“emptied” and “laid waste”) serves to emphasize the thoroughness of the emptying of the land and its desolation. The emptying of the land and its being laid waste were certain to occur, for the fulfillment of YHWH’s word can never fail.

24:4. Masoretic Text: The land mourns, withers; the cultivated land dwindles, withers. The high ones of the people of the land dwindle.

Septuagint: The land mourned, and the habitable land was ruined; the high ones of the land mourned.


In a neglected condition and overgrown with weeds, the land would take on a mournful appearance. Untended grapevines and other plants would wither. The cultivated land would dwindle or appear to fade away.

A measure of uncertainty exists about the Hebrew text in relation to the word rendered “high ones.” The expression “high ones” is singular in the Hebrew text, whereas the verb here translated “dwindle” is plural. An emendation of the text would make the application to the “height,” the sky, or the celestial dome. This significance is found in a number of translations (“the heavens languish with the earth” [TNIV]; “with the earth also the heaven passes away” [mit der Erde vergeht auch der Himmel, German Gute Nachricht Bibel]; “heaven and earth crumble” [Himmel und Erde zerfallen, German Einheitsübersetzung]). A reference to heaven and earth would indicate that the land and the celestial vault are being considered as making up a complete unit.

Unlike the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint does have the plural form of the word that can be rendered “high ones. This would apply to the prominent ones among the people. They would dwindle or greatly decrease in number. The Septuagint rendering portrays the “high ones” as mourning.

24:5. Masoretic Text: And the land has been defiled under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated the statute, broken the everlasting covenant.

Septuagint: But the land has acted lawlessly because of its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the law and altered the commands, the everlasting covenant.

The Septuagint rendering attributes the lawlessness of the people to the land. Their altering the commands could signify that they changed their import to suit themselves and did not conform to them as was required.


With their God-dishonoring conduct, the people had defiled themselves and, therefore, also profaned the land on which they lived. (Leviticus 18:24, 25) They disregarded God’s laws, set aside the force of God’s statute or regulation, and broke the Law covenant that they were bound to obey. From the standpoint of there being no provision for altering the covenant, it was everlasting.

24:6. Masoretic Text: Therefore, a curse consumes the land, and its inhabitants [are found] guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the land are burned up, and few men are left.

Septuagint: Therefore, a curse will consume the land because those inhabiting it have sinned. Therefore, those residing in the land will be poor, and few men will be left.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), there is no object (“land”) after the word rendered “consumes.”

Possibly the Septuagint reference to the poor may indicate that insignificant ones would be left remaining in the land when the others would be taken into exile. (Compare 2 Kings 25:11, 12.)


On account of their disregard of God’s law, the people brought his curse upon themselves. That curse is portrayed as consuming the land, for without YHWH’s protection and blessing the land was subjected to enemy invasions and the accompanying devastation. One evidence of the curse proved to be a significant reduction of the population in the land. Many perished during the course of military invasions, either falling in battle or dying from famine or pestilence in besieged towns and cities.

24:7. Masoretic Text: Wine mourns; the vine dwindles. All the joyful of heart groan.

Septuagint: Wine will mourn; the vine will mourn, and those rejoicing in the soul will groan.

The singular “vine” is a collective singular.


The devastation invading armies left behind would have ruined the vines. Wine is depicted as mourning. When compared with the abundance of the past, the meager available supply of wine would have occasioned sadness. The extremely limited amount would have been a sorry sight. Productive vines would have withered from neglect and been greatly reduced in number. Persons who had formerly engaged in merriment would groan or sigh on account of the adversity that had befallen them.

The expression “joyful of heart” could relate to a cheery disposition or an inner inclination to engage in merriment. Those “rejoicing in soul” (LXX) could be descriptive of persons who are joyful or merry in their inner being.

24:8. Masoretic Text: The joy of the tambourines has ceased; the din of the jubilant has ended; the joy of the harp has ceased.

Septuagint: The joy of the tambourines has ceased; stubbornness has ceased, also the wealth of the impious. The sound of the kithara has ceased.


Everything associated with rejoicing and merriment is portrayed as having ended. No longer are there joyous events where one would hear the sound of tambourines. The kind of jubilation associated with gatherings of people engaged in merriment would no longer exist. No more would cheerful music be played on the harp.

The Septuagint rendering differs from the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah when including a reference to the end of “stubbornness” and the “wealth” of the ungodly. Humiliating defeat in battle would have broken the spirit of those who had been obstinate and arrogant in disposition. The wealth that the godless had accumulated with dishonorable means would have become spoil for enemy warriors.

24:9. Masoretic Text: With singing, they do not drink wine [anymore]. Intoxicating drink is bitter to those drinking it.

Septuagint: They have become ashamed. They do not drink wine [anymore]. The sikera has become bitter to those who drink [it].

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” follows the words about not drinking wine.

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


In the past, the drinking of wine had been accompanied by singing, as the pleasure seekers indulged their desires. Disheartened by the calamity they had experienced, they no longer felt like singing. The intoxicating drink that had formerly been pleasurable for them became bitter to them as a result of the distressing circumstances.

24:10. Masoretic Text: The city of emptiness is broken down. Every house is closed [to make it impossible for anyone] to enter.

Septuagint: Every city has been desolated; one has closed a house [so as] not [to make it possible] to enter.


In the Hebrew text, “city” appears to be used in a generic sense. A city of “emptiness” would be one that has been devastated. Enemy warriors would have broken down the encircling wall and reduced houses to rubble. The houses being closed or shut could mean that ruins obstructed the entrances, blocking anyone from going in.

24:11. Masoretic Text: An outcry for wine [is heard] in the streets. All joy has turned into evening. Exultation of the land is removed.

Septuagint: Howl everywhere concerning the wine. All the joy of the land has ceased.


Lack of wine, apparently because vineyards had been subjected to the ravages of war, occasioned the outcry from people on the streets. All joy came to an end as if evening darkness had settled down on it, eclipsing everything that could have contributed to cheer. On account of the great distress, the people did not rejoice. Exultation or rejoicing was banished from the land.

24:12. Masoretic Text: Horror is left in the city, and the gate is battered [into] a ruin.

Septuagint: And the cities will be left [behind] desolate, and houses, being left [behind], will deteriorate.

The Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text, but conveys a similar meaning. Cities would be forsaken and desolate, and abandoned houses would deteriorate or be reduced to ruins (literally, “will be destroyed”).


The “horror” apparently is the horrific devastation the enemy forces left behind. A pile of rubble is all that would remain of the city gate.

24:13. Masoretic Text: For thus it will be in the midst of the land, among the nations, like the beating of an olive tree, like the gleanings when the vintage has ended.

Septuagint: All these things will be in the land, in the midst of the nations; as in the manner when someone gleans an olive tree, thus will they glean them even when the vintage has ended.


The apparent reference is to the survivors of military action against the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. In the midst of the land where they would find themselves among the nations, they would be few in number. The survivors would be like the few olives remaining after a tree is beaten for the purpose of harvesting the crop, or like the few grapes left on the vines at the end of the grape harvest. In the Targum of Isaiah, the “righteous” are identified as the ones remaining “in the midst of the world among the kingdoms,” like these few olives and grapes.

According to the Septuagint rendering, the developments previously mentioned would take place in the midst of the nations, with the Israelites in the land of Judah seemingly being the objects of the gleaning. The implied thought is that, after the intense gleaning has been finished, there would be very few survivors.

24:14. Masoretic Text: They will raise their voice; they will jubilate. Over the majesty of YHWH they will rejoice from the sea [or, “the west”).

Septuagint: These will cry out with [a loud] voice, but those remaining on the land will rejoice together to the glory of the Lord. The water of the sea will be agitated.

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the righteous as shouting for joy as they did when “mighty deeds” were done for them “by the sea.” This appears to be a reference to developments at the Red Sea when the Israelites escaped from the Egyptian pursuers.


In appreciation for having escaped sword, pestilence, famine, and exile, the survivors would shout for joy and exult, attributing the deliverance to YHWH. The Hebrew text is probably to be understood as meaning that, from the direction of the “sea” (or from the western region where they would find themselves), they would rejoice over the majesty of YHWH. He would reveal his majesty by effecting their deliverance.

The Septuagint rendering conveys another aspect. Those subjected to the full brunt of the calamity would cry out in their distress. The ones left remaining on the land would rejoice to God’s glory, probably because of appreciating that they had survived and that the calamity had been an expression of divine judgment. Apparently the Septuagint translator understood the Hebrew text to refer to the sea, but the rendering does not seem to fit the context very well. One possible meaning might be that the sea refers to the people who came to be in a greatly troubled state. (Compare Isaiah 57:20.)

24:15. Masoretic Text: Therefore, in the regions of light, give glory to YHWH — on the islands of the sea, [to] the name of YHWH, the God of Israel.

Septuagint: Therefore, the glory of the Lord will be in the islands of the sea. The name of the Lord will be glorious — O Lord, the God of Israel.

The Targum of Isaiah represents the righteous as glorifying God “when light comes to [them].”


The expression “regions of light” seemingly designates the eastern area where the sun rises, dispelling the darkness of the night. West of the land of Israel are the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. Accordingly, from both eastern and western parts, the people are to give glory to YHWH, praising and thanking him for what he has done. Giving glory to the “name of YHWH, the God of Israel” denotes giving it to him, the person whom the name represents.

In the Septuagint, the glory, splendor, or magnificence of God is portrayed as being in the islands of the sea. The implication is that his glory will be in the islands on account of what he has done for his people, and it is this that will result in his name being glorious or magnificent. Those who recognize his marvelous works will acknowledge the God of Israel as the glorious one.

24:16. Masoretic Text: From the end of the earth, we have heard songs [of praise], “Decoration to the righteous one!” And I say, “I am wasting away; I am wasting away. Woe to me! Treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously. And [with] treachery treacherous ones have dealt treacherously.”

Septuagint: From the wings of the earth, we have heard wonders, “Hope to the pious one!” And they will say, “Woe to those ignoring [athetéo], those who ignore the law.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, a “song of praise for the righteous” comes from the sanctuary, the place from which joy was about to come for all of earth’s inhabitants.


In this case, the Hebrew and Greek words that can be rendered “land” or “earth” embrace more than just the land the Israelites inhabited, including all the regions where they had been taken into exile or to which they had fled. The “end of the earth” designates the most distant location, where the apparent celestial dome seems to touch the land or the sea.

Isaiah represents himself and others as hearing the melodies of praise and thanksgiving from far away. The songs of praise may be understood to be directed to YHWH, the “Righteous One,” on account of his delivering his people in keeping with his word. Attributing “decoration” to him may denote giving glory to him. Another possibility is that the “righteous one” is a collective singular referring to the godly among the Israelites. The application of the term “decoration” to them could signify that divine deliverance would beautify them, revealing them to belong to God as his people.

Modern translations have rendered the verse to apply either to God or to the people. “From the ends of the earth we hear singing: ‘Glory to the Righteous One.’” (NIV) “From all over the world songs of praise are heard for the God of justice.” (CEV) “From all over the world songs of praise are heard for the people who do right.” (CEV, footnote) “From the ends of the earth we have heard them sing, ascribing beauty to the righteous nation.” (REB)

The prophet envisioned future calamity, representing this in his own person as one who was wasting away and then exclaiming, “Woe to me!” This expression of “woe” indicated the coming of calamity or distress. There was good reason for YHWH’s punitive judgment, for the treacherous or deceivers did not let up in their treacherous dealing.

The words “wings of the earth” (found in the Septuagint) apparently designate the extremities of the earth or the most distant parts. Doubtless the “wonders” refer to the astonishing divine action relating to the deliverance of the Israelites from exile. For the godly ones among the Israelites there was a message of hope, but woe is pronounced on those disregarding God’s law. The Greek word athetéo here rendered “ignore” can also mean “reject,””nullify,” “refuse to recognize,” or “treat as of no value.”

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that both the “mystery of the reward of the righteous” and the “mystery of the punishment of the wicked” had been revealed to him. Oppressors would themselves come to be oppressed, and despoilers would themselves be despoiled.

24:17. Masoretic Text: Dread and pit and snare upon you, O inhabitant of the land!

Septuagint: Fear and pit and snare upon you who reside on the land!

In the Hebrew text, there is an apparent wordplay (páchadh wa-páchath wa-pách [dread and pit and snare]).


Particularly verses 21 through 23 indicate that “land” or “earth” here includes regions far beyond the land the Israelites inhabited. On account of YHWH’s punitive judgment, people would be in dread or fear. The perilous circumstances in which they would find themselves would be comparable to their having fallen into a pit or been caught in a snare.

24:18. Masoretic Text: And it will occur [that] the one fleeing at the sound of the dread will fall into the pit, and the one climbing out from the midst of the pit will be caught in the snare, for the windows of heaven will be opened, and the foundations of the earth will shake.

Septuagint: And it will be [that] the one fleeing [from] the fear will fall into the pit, but the one ascending out of the pit will be caught by the snare, for the windows from heaven have been opened, and the foundations of the land will be shaken.


No escape will be possible from the execution of YHWH’s just judgment. If people try to flee from the “sound of the dread” or what they fear, they would not be able to get away but would experience something comparable to falling into a pit while trying to make their escape. The person escaping one disaster, comparable to being able to climb out of a pit, would fall victim to another calamity, one that could be compared to being caught in a snare.

The opening of the “windows of heaven” would mark the commencement of a tremendous downpour followed by extensive flooding. Violent seismic activity would shake the earth. The earth is represented as having foundations, for it usually is stable. The shaking would make it appear as if “foundations” were moving back and forth.

24:19. Masoretic Text: The land breaking, has been broken; the land splitting, has been split; the land shaking, has been shaken.

Septuagint: With an upheaval the land will be upheaved, and with stress the land will be stressed.


The repetition serves to emphasize that the land is completely broken, split, and shaken as by a powerful earthquake. This reveals the severity of the divine judgment. Translators have variously treated the repetition. “The earth is breaking, breaking; the earth is crumbling, crumbling. The earth is tottering, tottering.” (Tanakh) “A cracking, the earth cracks open, a jolting, the earth gives a jolt, a lurching, the earth lurches backwards and forwards.” (NJB) “The earth is utterly shattered, it is convulsed and reels wildly.” (REB) “The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken.” (NIV) “The earth will be burst asunder, the earth will be shaken apart, the earth will be convulsed.” (NAB)

24:20. Masoretic Text: The land staggers like a drunkard and it sways like a hut. Its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls and will not rise again.

Septuagint: It leaned, and the land will be shaken like a watchman’s hut, like the one who drinks and is intoxicated. And it will fall and not be able to rise, for lawlessness has become strong upon it.

In the Masoretic Text, the definite article before the word translated “land” is missing, but it is found in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. The text of this scroll indicates that “land” or “earth” is the antecedent, for the pronoun linked to the verb for “falls” (“it falls”) is masculine gender. In the Masoretic Text, the pronoun is feminine gender. Another variant is that the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads, “it sways and like a hut.”


The effect of God’s judgment continues to be described in terms of a devastating earthquake. With great violence, the land moves back and forth. Like a staggering drunkard, the land loses stability. The shaking is comparable to what happens during a fierce storm to a flimsy hut where a watchman finds shelter for the night. The framework of the entire structure is subjected to intense shaking.

The transgression of the people is attributed to the land and is represented as a great burden. Unable to bear the weight of this burden, the land is portrayed as suffering a collapse so great that it cannot rise again. The Septuagint reading indicates that, because of lawlessness, the land will fall and not be able to recover.

24:21. Masoretic Text: And it will occur in that day [that] YHWH will make a visitation on the host of the height in the height and on the kings of the earth on the earth.

Septuagint: And God will bring his hand upon the world of the heaven and upon the kings of the earth.


The visitation of YHWH is for the purpose of executing adverse judgment. In the time of Isaiah, people commonly believed that gods and goddesses resided in the heights. So it appears that the “host of the height” designates the powers of darkness that are in opposition to YHWH. The “kings of the earth” are the rulers who refuse to submit to God’s will.

24:22. Masoretic Text: And they will be gathered, a gathering [as] prisoners in a pit. And they will be shut up in a prison; and after many days, they will be visited.

Septuagint: And they will gather [them] and shut [them] up in a fortress and in a prison. After [literally, “through”] many generations will be their visitation.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” is missing at the beginning of the verse, and there is no reference to “prisoners.”


The powers of darkness and the kings of the earth are depicted as coming to be in a state of confinement until the time of visitation. That visitation appears to refer to the time when the final judgment will be executed against them. (Compare 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.)

24:23. Masoretic Text: And the moon will be abashed, and the sun will be ashamed, for YHWH of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders, glory.

Septuagint: And the brick will be dissolved, and the wall will tumble, because the Lord will reign in Zion and in Jerusalem, and before the elders he will be glorified.

The last word of the Hebrew text is commonly rendered “glory,” but translators vary in the way they relate “glory” to the rest of the verse. “Yahweh Sabaoth is king on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and the Glory will radiate on their elders.” (NJB) For the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, glorious in the sight of his elders.” (NAB) “The LORD of Hosts has become king on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and is revealed in his glory to the elders of his people.” (REB) “The LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” (NIV) The LORD All-Powerful will rule on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where he will show its rulers his wonderful glory.” (CEV) “The Lord of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and the Presence will be revealed to His elders.” (Tanakh)

The Targum of Isaiah refers to those serving the moon as becoming ashamed and the worshipers of the sun as being confounded. This is because the kingdom of YHWH of hosts will be revealed in glory.


So great will be the radiance of God’s glory in his reign as Sovereign that the light of the full moon and the glowing sun will be eclipsed. On account of the far greater brilliance of this glory, the moon is portrayed as being abashed and the sun as being ashamed.

The prophecy is expressed according to the understanding of the Israelites who identified Mount Zion and the entire city of Jerusalem as being YHWH’s representative place of dwelling and hence where he would be regarded as ruling. Elders were the representatives of the nation, and so God’s reign before the elders would have been regarded as then including all the people as beneficiaries of his rule. In the fulfillment, YHWH will rule by means of his Son, and on a scale far larger than the Israelites in the time of the Hebrew prophets could have perceived.

The Septuagint rendering expresses thoughts other than those contained in the Hebrew text. In view of God’s reign in Zion and in Jerusalem, nothing of a lofty nature will remain. It will prove to be as if humanly impressive structures would all be demolished, with bricks melting and walls crashing down. God would be revealed as “glorified” or in the ultimate state of majesty as Sovereign before the elders of the nation.