Isaiah 26:1-21

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26:1. Masoretic Text: In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah, A strong city [belongs] to us. For salvation, he sets up walls and rampart.

Septuagint: In that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah, saying, Look! A strong city, and he will make our salvation a wall and a surrounding wall.

The Targum of Isaiah represents “salvation” and “mercy” as being set upon the walls of the “strong city.”

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the grammatical construction about the singing is slightly different (“one will sing that song”).


In the day that YHWH humiliates the enemy power and delivers them, his people would sing a song of praise and thanksgiving in the land of Judah. The singers would acknowledge that they have a strong city, apparently Jerusalem. The city’s strength, however, is not attributed to literal fortifications. What YHWH does is what makes the city strong. Although ancient Jerusalem did have fortifications, “walls and rampart,” the real security of the city depended on divine protection. Salvation or deliverance from enemy attacks that had its source in YHWH constituted the unassailable fortifications. It would prove to be as if he had strengthened or erected the walls and rampart of the city to make deliverance from all assaults a certainty.

26:2. Masoretic Text: Open the gates that a righteous nation keeping faithfulness may enter.

Septuagint: Open the gates. Let enter a people keeping righteousness and keeping truth,

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “your gates.”


The gates were not to be opened to just anyone, the imperative to open them being for the purpose of granting a righteous nation or people to enter the city. These righteous ones would be living in harmony with God’s law. Their keeping “faithfulness” would mean remaining loyal to YHWH, not deviating from attachment to him and his requirements for those whom he approves. The Septuagint rendering indicates that they would keep, guard, or cherish righteousness or uprightness, and truth, trustworthiness, or faithfulness. They would demonstrate themselves to be upright and faithful in the life they lived. The Targum of Isaiah speaks of them as a righteous people who keep the “law with a complete heart.”

26:3. Masoretic Text: The inclination that is firm you keep in peace, peace, because in you it trusts.

Septuagint: seizing truth and keeping peace, because in you they have hoped,

According to the Masoretic accentuation of the Hebrew text, the repetition of “peace” serves as an intensifier and, therefore, a number of translations read “perfect peace.” (CEV, Margolis, NIV) Other translations use different punctuation. “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.” (NRSV) “A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.” (NAB) “The confident mind You guard in safety, in safety because it trusts in You.” (Tanakh)

According to the way the verses are numbered in printed texts of the Septuagint, the Greek word for “they have hoped” is the first word of verse 4. The words “they have hoped” will be repeated for verse 4, because they are needed for completing the thought expressed in that verse.

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the righteous people as having kept peace with a complete heart and that peace would be wrought for them.


The “inclination,” purpose, or mind of the upright nation or people is firm or well-supported in doing what is right. YHWH is represented as keeping this “inclination” in peace or guarding it so that it remains safe or secure. He does so because the inclination, purpose or mind of the righteous people possessing it put their trust in YHWH, fully relying on him for his aid and protective care.

According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the upright people seize or take hold of “truth,” attaching themselves to trustworthiness or faithfulness as a way of life. Their keeping peace could indicate that they would seek to avoid whatever would give rise to needless conflict and trouble. They would endeavor to pursue a course that would maintain a good relationship with fellow humans and, most importantly, with God. They hope in God, looking to him to supply what they need and to help them in their time of need.

26:4. Masoretic Text: Trust in YHWH for perpetuity, for in Yah, YHWH, [is your] rock for limitless times.

Septuagint: they have hoped O Lord, forever [literally, “until the age”], the great, eternal God,

“Yah” is the abbreviated form of the divine name (YHWH).

The Septuagint rendering indicates that the upright people will place their hope in God forever or for all the ages to come. This differs from the Hebrew text, where the admonition to trust YHWH is expressed as an imperative.


For all time to come, all who desire YHWH’s approval need to put their trust in him, relying fully on him for everything that is needed for their continued well-being. For them, he is the eternal “rock,” like a massive crag in mountainous terrain that provides a secure and safe location.

When rendering the Hebrew text, the Septuagint translator appears to have avoided using such as expressions as “rock” with reference to God and chose to identify YHWH as the “great, eternal God.”

26:5. Masoretic Text: For he has brought low those inhabiting the height. He lays low the lofty city, lays it low to the earth, brings it to the ground.

Septuagint: who, having humbled [them], brought down those dwelling in the heights. You will cast down fortified cities and bring [them] down to the ground.


The reference to those residing in the height apparently is to the proud enemies of God’s people while in their exalted place. YHWH is represented as having toppled their lofty city (“cities,” LXX), bringing it down to the very dust and thus humiliating those who had once occupied a high position as oppressors.

26:6. Masoretic Text: A foot tramples it [the city], the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

Septuagint: And the feet of the meek and lowly will trample them [the cities].

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says that “the feet of the oppressed one trample, the steps of the needy.”


With their lofty city or cities having been brought low, the proud oppressors would be in a humiliated state. Those whom they once afflicted would cease to be their victims. Accordingly, the poor or lowly and needy are represented as trampling upon the lofty city or “cities” (LXX).

26:7. Masoretic Text: The way for the righteous one [are] things evened out, something evened. You make the path of the righteous one level,

Septuagint: The way of the pious has become straight, and prepared is the way of the pious.

In a number of translations, the noun here rendered “something evened” (something straight or upright) is represented as meaning God, the “Upright One”. “The path of the righteous is level, O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.” (NIV) “The path is level for the righteous man; O Just One, You make smooth the course of the righteous.” (Tanakh)

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah indicates that God brings the path “to safety.”

Though shorter, the text in the Septuagint conveys the same basic thought. The way of the godly is a straight way. By implication, God is the one who has prepared this way, readying it for the godly one to pursue.


The way or the course that is suited for the righteous one is not treacherous and filled with hidden pitfalls. Is is a straight path that has been made even as when obstacles are removed and the ground is leveled. This is because YHWH makes the course of the righteous one smooth, providing support and aid to the one adhering to it. While not necessarily an easy path to follow, it does not result in disappointment and, ultimately, it leads to a desirable end.

26:8. Masoretic Text: also the path of your judgments, O YHWH; we wait for you. For your name and for your memorial — the desire of the soul.

Septuagint: For the way of the Lord [is] judgment. We have hoped upon your name and upon the memorial

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “law,” not “memorial.”

According to the Septuagint, “the way of the Lord is judgment,” which may mean that he is just in all his dealings. The point about the desire of the soul appears in verse 9 of printed texts of the Septuagint.


The way or path of YHWH’s judgments is also level, smooth, or upright. He adheres to the highest standard of justice in all his dealings. His servants “wait” for him to administer justice, hoping with confident assurance that he will express his judgment against oppressors and deliver upright persons. The desire of the “soul,” or of the whole being of God’s devoted people, is that YHWH would magnify his name and memorialize it, expressing his just judgment in a remarkable way against those causing distress to others. The “name” represents the person, YHWH himself, and the memorial pertains to his action, action that results in his name being remembered or associated with deliverance or any other remarkable event.

26:9. Masoretic Text: My soul longs for you in the night, even my spirit within me is on the lookout for you, for when your judgments [are] in the earth those dwelling on the habitable land learn righteousness.

Septuagint: that our soul desires. Out of the night, my spirit rises early for you, O God, for your commands are light upon the earth. Learn righteousness, you dwellers on the earth.

According to the Septuagint, the “soul,” or the very being, of God’s people desires that he cause his name to be remembered, his saving acts and other remarkable deeds becoming a memorial to him. Isaiah appears to be represented as speaking for the righteous ones, indicating that his “spirit,” or he in his inner self, awakened early with a focus on his God. This happened at a time that is called “out of the night,” possibly meaning at the end of the night. God’s commands are “light,” providing sure guidance and making clear to those knowing the commands how they should conduct themselves. The Septuagint concludes with the imperative for earth’s inhabitants to “learn righteousness,” meaning the course that God considers upright.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the prophet’s “soul,” or he himself, longs to pray to YHWH in the night, and the spirit within him blesses YHWH.


The prophet appears to speak representatively of the upright ones. Already during the night, he longed for YHWH with his soul, or with every part of his very being. His “spirit” within him, or he in his inner self, was on the lookout for YHWH, earnestly seeking to have his guidance and help. YHWH’s judgments, being expressions of his justice, result in teaching those who witness them what righteousness or uprightness is. Those who allow themselves to be thus taught would be motivated to become doers of what is right, repenting of any former bad ways.

26:10. Masoretic Text: If the wicked one is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness. In the land of uprightness, he acts unjustly and does not see the majesty of YHWH.

Septuagint: For the impious one has ceased [to be]. By no means will he learn righteousness upon the earth. He will not practice truth. Let the impious one be removed that he may not see the glory of the Lord.

The Targum of Isaiah seems to indicate that the wicked are granted time so that they might change and return to observing the law, but they refuse to do so all the days of their life.

In the Septuagint, the ungodly one is portrayed as having come to his end. The expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not” in the text, indicating that there absolutely was no way for the ungodly one to learn righteousness so as to live uprightly. The godless one will not practice “truth,” meaning that he will not be trustworthy, dependable, or honest. In view of the conduct of the ungodly one, he should be removed from the land, not sharing in the blessings that result when God reveals his glory by administering justice.


When shown favor, or granted an opportunity to change, the wicked one does not benefit, for he refuses to alter his course. Even in a land where uprightness exists as the norm, with people following God’s commands, the wicked one persists in acting unjustly and remains blind to the majesty, greatness, or eminence of YHWH as the God whose law he should be following.

26:11. Masoretic Text: O YHWH, your hand has been exalted, but they do not see [it]. Let them see [it] and be ashamed [over] the zeal for [your] people, also let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

Septuagint: O Lord, your arm [is] exalted, and they did not know [it]. But [on] coming to know [it], they will be ashamed. Jealousy will seize an undisciplined people, and now fire will consume the adversaries.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about “zeal,” and the definite article precedes the word for “people.”


The “arm” is representative of power. Therefore, for YHWH’s arm to have been exalted would indicate that he had revealed his might, apparently when taking action in defense of godly ones. According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH’s might would be revealed when he does good for those who fear him. This would not be a time of brightness for the enemies of his people.

Although not specifically stated, the ungodly would not “see,” “know,” or recognize YHWH’s having acted to effect the deliverance of those devoted to him. The godless ones, however, were to be forced to see YHWH’s exalted hand or his might, filling them with shame when he manifested zeal for his loyal people by coming to their aid. The fire (representative of a destructive element) that had consumed God’s adversaries would also consume those who had initially refused to recognize the revealing of his exalted arm or extraordinary might.

The reference in the Septuagint to “undisciplined,” untrained, or uninstructed people could apply to those who either lacked knowledge of God’s commands or who deliberately chose to disregard them. Perhaps their jealousy would arise from seeing divine favor extended to upright persons. God’s adversaries would come to their end as if fire consumed them.

26:12. Masoretic Text: O YHWH, you will appoint peace for us, for indeed all our works you have accomplished for us.

Septuagint: O Lord, our God, give us peace, for all things you have rendered to us.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah contains a word meaning “decide” (not the term that can be rendered “appoint”).


YHWH’s appointing peace appears to relate to his making it possible for his people to enjoy a state of security and well-being. This would include his delivering them from distress. In the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH’s granting peace to his people is linked to his showing forbearance respecting their transgressions.

The wording of the Hebrew text expresses the thought about YHWH’s appointing peace with confident assurance, whereas the Septuagint rendering does so as a petition for him to grant peace. The confidence is based on the reality that both the blessings received and the deliverances experienced did not come about through human effort. YHWH is the one to whom all accomplishment is attributed. Likewise, confidence respecting petitions made to YHWH is based on his having granted past requests.

26:13. Masoretic Text: O YHWH, our God, masters besides you have dominated over us. By you alone will we profess your name.

Septuagint: O Lord, our God, acquire us. O Lord, besides you we know no other. Your name we name.

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the masters as other nations who had exercised dominion over the Israelites.


Under foreign domination, God’s people had masters other than YHWH who wielded authority over them. The words “by you alone” may denote “by reason of being exclusively devoted to you.” In view of YHWH’s effecting their liberation, his faithful servants would profess only his name, acknowledging him alone as their God with praise and thanksgiving.

The Septuagint rendering is a request for God to make the petitioners his possession, bringing them into a relationship with him as their helper and protector. The basis for the request is that they do not “know” or recognize any other god; only his name would they mention in a reverential way as his loyal servants.

26:14. Masoretic Text: They are dead; they will not live; Rephaim — they will not rise. To that end, you have visited them and destroyed them and abolished all remembrance of them.

Septuagint: But the dead will by no means see life, nor will healers by any means raise [them] up. Therefore, you struck and destroyed, and you removed every male of theirs.

Instead of a form of a word meaning “abolish,” “exterminate,” or “cause to perish” (’avád), the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah contains a form of the term meaning “bind” or “confine” (’asár).

In the Septuagint, there are two occurrences of a repetition involving two words for “not.” The emphatic sense is preserved with the renderings “by no means” and “nor by any means.”


The “dead” are the former masters who had afflicted God’s servants. These oppressors would not come to life and again pose a threat.

“Rephaim” is a transliteration of the Hebrew expression that has commonly been rendered “shades.” The Targum of Isaiah refers to them as heroes or mighty men, and the Septuagint rendering is “healers.” In a number of other biblical passages, the Rephaim are identified as a very tall people. (1 Samuel 17:4-7; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8) Perhaps the thought is that, though they were like powerful warriors of the Rephaim, they would simply not be able to rise again.

According to the Septuagint rendering, no healers or physicians could restore the dead to life. God is the one represented as dealing the blow to his adversaries, taking away all the males among them.

26:15. Masoretic Text: You have added to the nation, O YHWH; you have added to the nation. You are glorified. You have enlarged all the boundaries of the land.

Septuagint: Add evils to them, Lord; add evils to all the glorious ones of the earth.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would reveal himself and his might upon gathering together the dispersed ones of his people and bringing them back to their home. As for all the wicked, he would cast them into Gehenna.


The increase to the nation came about through YHWH’s act of deliverance, and an increase in population would require a corresponding expansion of territorial boundaries. A different thought is expressed in the Septuagint. Its rendering is an appeal for God to act against the wicked, adding evils or increasing the calamities to befall them. The “glorious ones” may designate oppressors who occupied a high position.

26:16. Masoretic Text: O YHWH, in distress they sought you. They poured out a whisper [of prayer] when your discipline [was] upon them.

Septuagint: O Lord, in distress I remembered you; in minor distress your discipline [was] for us.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the reading is “their whisper,” and the word rendered “discipline” is plural.


In their distress, the people sought YHWH, apparently meaning that they petitioned him for aid. According to the Septuagint, the prophet (possibly as speaking representatively for the people) “remembered” God, suggesting that he called to mind that God was the one who could effect deliverance from affliction.

There is uncertainty about the Hebrew text involving the word here translated “whisper.” If it relates to prayer, the meaning could be that, during the period of distress, the people came to be in such straights that their prayer was reduced to a mere whisper. Translations have variously rendered the thought. “We cried out in anguish under your chastising.” (NAB) “Your chastisement reduced them to anguished whispered prayer.” (Tanakh) “We sought you out, chastened by the whisper of your rebuke.” (REB) “They expended themselves in prayer, since your punishment was on them.” (NJB)

YHWH is the one who had permitted his people to suffer distress. For this reason it is referred to as his discipline.

26:17. Masoretic Text: Like a pregnant woman nearing [her time] to give birth who writhes and cries out in her pains, so we have become because of you, O YHWH.

Septuagint: And like a woman in labor nears to give birth and cries out over her pains, thus we have become to your beloved because of the fear of you, O Lord.

The Septuagint rendering is perhaps to be understood as meaning that, through the affliction the people experienced (distress comparable to the pains of a woman in labor), they had come to fear God and thus became his beloved.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the people’s affliction proved to be like the pangs of a woman in labor because of their transgressions.


The helpless situation in which the people found themselves while experiencing great affliction was comparable to that of a woman in labor who writhes in pain and screams. YHWH permitted the distress to come upon them. For this reason, it is attributed to him.

26:18. Masoretic Text: We were pregnant; we writhed; we brought forth, as it were, wind. No deliverance have we wrought [in case of] the land, and dwellers of the habitable land have not fallen [as in birth].

Septuagint: We conceived and were in labor and gave birth. The spirit of your salvation we brought forth on the earth, but those dwelling on the earth will fall.

The Targum of Isaiah links the wind to the time of giving birth, indicating this to be as coming as swiftly as the wind.

In J. Ziegler’s critical edition of the Greek text, the phrase about the “spirit” contains the word “not,” conveying the opposite meaning.


The figure of a pregnant woman is transferred to the people. They had become pregnant and then came to experience the pain of giving birth. In the case of a pregnant woman, her labor pains end with a joyous event, the birth of a child. For the people, however, the anguish they underwent during the period of distress culminated in wind, emptiness, or nothingness. Despite their exertions to launch a defense, they failed to deliver the land from the enemy.

The addition of the words “in birth” result in one way to understand the last part of this verse. There proved to be no dropping in birth, which would have meant an increase in the population in the land. Instead, war had reduced the number of inhabitants. A number of translations are more explicit in conveying this significance in their renderings. “We have achieved no victories for the land, given birth to no one to inhabit the world.” (REB) “We have won no victories, and we have no descendants to take over the earth.” (CEV)

The Septuagint rendering does not link the word for “spirit” or “wind” to the result of giving birth. This rendering, found in ancient manuscripts, seems to indicate that the “spirit” of divine deliverance or the active manifestation thereof was brought forth by the people. This could be understood to mean that the positive development of deliverance became evident in their case. The land that would fall then appears to be that of those who were hostile to God’s people. They would be the ones to lose their land.

26:19. Masoretic Text: Your dead will live. My corpse — they will rise. Awake and cry aloud [for joy], you dwellers in the dust, for a dew of light [is] your dew, and the earth will let Rephaim fall.

Septuagint: The dead will rise, and those in the tombs will be raised, and those in the earth will rejoice, for the dew from you is healing for them, but the land of the impious will fall.

As in verse 14, “Rephaim” is a transliteration of the Hebrew term. The Septuagint rendering is the “godless” or “impious,” and the Targum of Isaiah refers to them as the wicked to whom God gave might but whom he would consign to Gehenna for their transgressions.


“Your dead” are those belonging to YHWH. They would be his people. In a figurative sense, they were as dead persons upon coming to be ripped away from their land as prisoners of war. In a vision, the prophet Ezekiel saw at a much later time, a valley filled with dry bones represented the whole “house of Israel” while in Babylonian exile. But they were to be delivered, brought out of their confining tomb, and be restored to life on their own land. (Ezekiel 37:1-14) The prophetic words of Isaiah may point forward to the same restoration and the rejoicing that would follow.

From very ancient times, however, the words of Isaiah have been understood to apply to the resurrection of the dead. According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin, 90b), Rabban Gamaliel quoted Isaiah 26:19 as proving that the prophets spoke about the resurrection, whereas those who objected to using the passage as a proof text referred to the action of Ezekiel (as described in Ezekiel chapter 37).

In view of the contrast set forth in verse 14 about those who would not live again, there is a basis for regarding verse 19 as alluding to a resurrection. The Targum of Isaiah supports this conclusion. “It is you who bring the dead to life, you raise up the bones of their dead bodies; all who were cast to the dust will live and sing praises before you.”

For the dead belonging to YHWH there is a hope that they will live again. The expression “my corpse” may be understood collectively as meaning dead bodies, with the pronoun “my” referring to those who were Israelites in the true sense of the word, as was the prophet Isaiah. The dead who were sleeping in the dust as residents would awake and joyfully raise their voices.

Dew revives vegetation, and so the reviving power that proceeds from YHWH is his “dew” that revivifies, restoring the dead to life. The Hebrew term for “light” here may designate a creeping plant that is very sensitive to light, possibly the dwarf mallow. This would mean that “dew of light” denotes dew that revives the plant.

In this context, the designation “Rephaim” could simply designate the dead, and their falling, as in verse 18, could refer to their dropping as in birth. Translators have variously rendered the Hebrew text. “The earth will bring those long dead to birth again.” (REB) “The land of shades gives birth.” (NAB) “You make the land of the shades come to life.” (Tanakh) “You give life to the dead.” (CEV)

According to the reading of the Septuagint, the “dew” from God results in healing to those who are raised, but the godless ones do not share in this. Their land would fall, indicating that they would not regain life on that land.

26:20. Masoretic Text: Go, my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for just a moment until the wrath has passed.

Septuagint: Go, my people, enter into your chambers; shut your door; hide yourselves for a little [time] more, more, until whenever the wrath of the Lord should pass.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has the plural “hide yourselves” (not “hide yourself”).

The Targum of Isaiah does not refer to entering into the chambers but includes the admonition to do good deeds. In time of trouble, those who perform good works may thereby be protected.


The imperative is apparently directed to the godly ones among the people. They were to enter their chambers and remain there until the brief time for the expression of divine anger had passed. This action appears to parallel the time when the Israelites were in Egypt and observed the Passover. They stayed inside their dwellings while the angel of YHWH struck down all the Egyptian firstborn.

26:21. Masoretic Text: For look! YHWH is coming from his place to visit the iniquity of those dwelling on the earth, and the earth will uncover its blood and will not conceal its slain anymore.

Septuagint: For look! The Lord from the holy [place] brings his anger upon those dwelling on the earth, and the earth will reveal its blood and will not cover over the slain.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah omits the Hebrew word for “look.”


The purpose of YHWH’s visitation is to punish those guilty of iniquity or transgressions. His visitation for judgment will expose all wrongs. The “blood” or bloodshed and those who were slain would then not remain concealed but would be brought to light. Those who had made themselves guilty of shedding innocent blood, although having escaped punitive judgment from men, will then pay the penalty for their deeds.