Isaiah 27:1-13

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27:1. Masoretic Text: In that day YHWH will make a visitation with his fierce and great and strong sword upon Leviathan the fleeing serpent, even Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the monster that [is] in the sea.

Septuagint: In that day God will bring the holy and the great and the strong sword against the dragon the fleeing serpent, against the dragon the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon.


In the day, or at the time, YHWH holds an accounting (referred to in 26:21), he will direct his attention to the monster Leviathan and bring it to its end. The interpretation found in the Targum of Isaiah treats the two occurrences of “Leviathan” as applying to Pharaoh and Sennacherib, whereas the monster is referred to as the king who is as “strong as the dragon in the sea.” But YHWH will slay this monster.

The Hebrew text represents Leviathan as a large serpent that flees or swiftly slithers away, apparently after having done injury. Leviathan’s twisting may denote its coiling itself around victims. Some have regarded Leviathan to be the crocodile, but it appears unlikely that a crocodile would have been called a serpent. It seems preferable to avoid identifying Leviathan with any known animal. Leviathan may simply be regarded as designating a fearsome serpentine sea monster or a “dragon” (LXX) and representing an enemy power that is intensely hostile to God’s people. This monster, however, would be no match for YHWH, for he would kill it.

The means by which YHWH would slay the enemy power is portrayed as a fierce, large, and strong sword. This indicates that Leviathan could not escape with just a wound, for the instrument directed against the monster was fully capable of slaying it.

The Septuagint reference to a “holy” sword could point to the fact that it would be wielded by the holy God in expression of his just judgment. This “sword” would thus be represented as functioning in a “holy” cause, unlike the aggressive warring of nations.

27:2. Masoretic Text: In that day, [regarding] a vineyard of delightfulness, sing of it.

Septuagint: In that day, a good vineyard — a desire to begin [singing] concerning it.


The main text of Biblia Hebraica Stuttartensia reads chémed, meaning “beauty,” “loveliness,” or “delightfulness.” Many Hebrew manuscripts have the word chémer, which term is linked to the foaming or fermenting of wine. Combined with vineyard, chémer could be rendered “vineyard of fermenting.” Depending on which Hebrew word is translated, the vineyard is either one of delight or pleasantness or a vineyard that yields an abundance of fermenting grape juice or wine.

On the basis of Isaiah 5:7, the vineyard would be the “house of Israel.” As YHWH had turned his favorable attention to this vineyard and destroyed Leviathan or the enemy power, the Israelites would be the ones to sing regarding the vineyard of which they individually were a part. The Targum of Isaiah is specific in making this identification, referring to the “congregation of Israel” as being “like a choice vineyard in a goodly land.”

27:3. Masoretic Text: I, YHWH, am guarding it. Every moment I water it. Lest anyone visit it, I guard it night and day.

Septuagint: I [am] a strong city, a besieged city. In vain will I water it, for at night it will be seized, but the wall will tumble by day.

The Targum of Isaiah represents the watering as meaning that, when the Israelites provoke YHWH to anger, he would make them “drink the cup of their punishment.”


With YHWH’s guarding the vineyard, the Israelites would enjoy a state of security. His watering the vineyard every moment may denote his continuing to bestow abundant blessings on his people, coming to their aid and responding to their needs. The purpose of his guarding both day and night is to prevent anyone from making a visitation that would be injurious to his people. There would never be a time when the people would be without his protective care.

The Septuagint appears to represent Jerusalem as speaking of itself as a “strong city” and a “besieged city” or a city under attack. God seems to be the one speaking about watering the city or furnishing it with a water supply. This would prove to be in vain, for the city would be taken at night or not the usual time for an attack to be launched. The wall surrounding the city would tumble by day, leaving it without any protection.

27:4. Masoretic Text: I have no wrath. If only I [were faced with] thorn [and] weed in battle, I would march against it. I would burn it up together.

Septuagint: [There] is not [one] that did not seize it. Who will set me to guard a stalk in a field? Because of this hostility, I have rejected it. Therefore, because of this, the Lord God has done everything whatever he has appointed. I have been burned up.

In the Masoretic Text, the conjunction “and” is missing between the words rendered “thorn” and “weed,” but the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah includes the conjunction. The words here rendered “thorn” (shamír) and “weed” (sháyith) may be understood as collective singulars. There is no way to specifically identify the plants the Hebrew terms designated.

Unlike the Masoretic Text, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has the conjunction “and” before the last phrase (“and I would burn it up together”).

The Targum of Isaiah represents YHWH as indicating that, if the Israelites determined to follow his law, he would act against the nations who were stirred up against them, destroying these nations as fire destroys briers and thorns.


YHWH is the one saying that he has “no wrath.” In view of the assurance about protection and watering of the vineyard in the previous verse, this probably means that he was no longer angry with his people as he had been when they were unfaithful to him.

There is considerable uncertainty about the words relating to “thorn” and “weed.” Possibly those who are hostile to his people (the vineyard or the house of Israel) are being portrayed as opposing YHWH with futile means comparable to thorny plants and weeds. He, however, would march against their weaponry, burning it up like dry thorny plants and weeds. A number of translations would support this possible meaning of the text. “Who giveth Me a brier — a thorn in battle? I step into it, I burn it at once.” (Young) “Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, then I would step on them, I would burn them completely.” (NASB) “If someone were to give Me thistles and thorns in battle, I would step on them. I would burn them together.” (NLB)

Other translations punctuate the text differently and link the thorny plants to what could develop in the vineyard. “I am not angry, but if it produces thorns and briers for Me, I will fight against it, trample it, and burn it to the ground.” (HCSB) “But if I were to find briers and thorns, in battle I should march against them; I should burn them all.” (NAB) “But if it produces thorns, I will go to war against it and burn it to the ground.” (CEV) According to these renderings, severe judgment would befall the Israelites if they chose to be like troublesome weeds, pursuing a corrupt way of life that dishonored YHWH.

The Septuagint rendering departs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. The Greek word here translated “that” is in the feminine gender. For this reason, translators of the Septuagint have either added “woman” or “city” to complete the thought in the first sentence. A reference to “city” appears to convey the better sense, with capital cities often designating all the territory under their control. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that there was no major power in the region that had not “seized” the “vineyard,” invading it, taking spoils, and leaving it in a devastated state.

In the case of the kingdom of Judah, Jerusalem may have appeared amidst the desolation like a lone stalk in a harvested field, raising the question whether anyone would “set” or call upon God to guard this stalk. Seemingly, the people are being portrayed as hostile or resistant to looking to God for help and protection. He, therefore, rejected the vineyard, doing everything he had determined to befall it in expression of his judgment. Because of the devastation, the vineyard appears to be represented as saying, “I have been burned up.”

The German translation of the Septuagint [Septuaginta Deutsch] interpretively renders the verse to convey another meaning. After indicating that there was not a power that had not laid hand to “her” (Jerusalem, the city mentioned in the previous verse), the translation continues with the question, “Who will appoint me to guard straw in the field?” Then, according to this rendering, Jerusalem seems to be represented as saying that it had become disloyal in the midst of this enemy power. “Therefore, the Lord, God, carried out everything that he had appointed. ‘I am burned up.’” Disloyal conduct would have been anything contrary to his commands and will, leading to his severe judgment.

27:5. Masoretic Text: Or let him take hold of my stronghold. Let him make peace with me; peace let him make with me.

Septuagint: Those dwelling in it will cry out, “Let us make peace with him; let us make peace.”

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that, if the Israelites would take hold of God’s law, they would come to have peace.


Instead of setting themselves in opposition to YHWH, those addressed individually should have looked to him as their stronghold or their helper and protector. This would have required seeking to be at peace with him by conforming to his will and commands. Thus they would come to enjoy the relationship that would assure their well-being and security.

The Septuagint rendering appears to represent the people, probably those residing in Jerusalem, as encouraging one another to make peace with God, ending the state of alienation that had resulted from their disobedience.

27:6. Masoretic Text: In coming days, Jacob will take root; Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the surface of the land with fruit.

Septuagint: Those coming [are] the children of Jacob. Israel will bud and blossom, and the habitable land will be filled with his fruit.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” joins the first two phrases.

The Targum of Isaiah applies this to the gathering of the Israelites from exile and their return to their land. In the land, they would have children and increase in number to the point of filling the surface of the land.


“Jacob” and “Israel” are parallel designations. After wrestling with an angel, Jacob came to be called Israel, and both the names “Jacob” and Israel” designate the people who descended from him. (Genesis 32:24-28) As the Targum of Isaiah makes explicit, the Israelites would again increase after the return from exile. Like a plant that takes root, sprouts, blossoms profusely, sends out shoots, and bears abundant fruit, they would flourish and again become populous in their land.

27:7. Masoretic Text: Like the striking of him who struck him has he struck him? Or like the slaying of those being slain has he been slain?

Septuagint: Not as he struck, also will not thus he be struck? And as he slew, will not he be slain?


The Hebrew text could be understood to relate to what it would take to get the Israelites to repent. “Is he to be smitten as his smiter was smitten? Or slain as his slayer was slain?” (NAB)

Another sense would be to consider the questions as conveying the degree of the punishment the Israelites experienced when compared to that of their enemies. “Has the LORD struck them down as he struck their enemies? Have they been slaughtered as their attackers were slaughtered? (REB) “Was he beaten as his beater had been? Did he suffer such slaugher as his slayers?” (Tanakh) The implied answer to the rhetorical questions is, “No.” “I, the LORD, didn’t punish and kill the people of Israel as fiercely as I punished and killed their enemies.” (CEV)

27:8. Masoretic Text: By scaring, by sending her away [into exile], you contended with her. He removed [her] with his fierce wind in the day of the east wind.

Septuagint: Battling and taunting, he will send them out. Were you not the one meditating with a hard spirit to slay them with a spirit of wrath?

The Targum of Isaiah seems to relate to the judgment to befall the enemy power for its harsh dealings with God’s people. “With the measure with which you were measuring they will measure you.” The Targum then specifies the guilt of the enemy power. It had sent the people into exile, oppressed them, taunted them, and shown a hardhearted spirit against them.


There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of the expression here rendered “by scaring.” With the prefix, the Hebrew expression sa’ssá’h has been variously understood (“by scaring,” “by startling,” “by banishing,” and “by seah, seah” (“seah” being a measure, “by measure by measure”). This explains the very different renderings found in translations. “You have startled them.” (Du hast sie aufgescheucht. [German, Einheitsübersetzung]) “Expunging and expelling, I should strive against them.” (NAB) “You disputed with her by banishing and driving her away.” (HCSB) “Measure by measure, by exile you contended with them.” (ESV) “I carefully measured out Israel’s punishment.” (CEV)

The feminine singular “her” probably applies to Jerusalem. “His quarrel with Jerusalem ends by driving her into exile.” (REB) As the capital of the kingdom of Judah, Jerusalem may be understood to include all the people of the realm. The disobedient people were expelled from the land as by a strong, scorching wind coming from the arid region to the east of the territory of Judah. YHWH’s contending with the people meant his rendering a decision respecting them for their unfaithfulness, resulting in the withdrawal of his blessing and protection and their being taken into exile.

The Septuagint rendering appears to indicate that God had decreed that he would let the people fall before an invading force. Even though the enemy warriors would do the battling and taunting, this appears to be attributed to him, for the development would be his judgment against the disobedient people. God had “meditated” or made the determination with his “hard” or severe “spirit” or inclination to slay them in expression of his wrath (his “spirit of wrath”).

27:9. Masoretic Text: Therefore, by this, the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for, and this will be all the fruit to remove his sin: when he makes all stones of the altar like smashed stones of lime [and] no Asherim or incense altars will stand.

Septuagint: Therefore, Jacob’s lawlessness will be removed, and this is his blessing when I have removed his sin, when they make all the stones of the altars pounded pieces like fine dust. And by no means will their trees remain, and their idols will be cut down like a distant forest.

In the rendering of the Septuagint, the emphatic sense of the two words for “not” is retained with the expression “by no means.”


As in verse 6, “Jacob” designates his descendants the Israelites. The people had made themselves guilty of idolatry and reliance on military assistance from foreign powers for their security. Their failure to be exclusively devoted to YHWH and to trust him to provide the needed help and protection could not be atoned for or covered over unless they would be submitted to severe punishment. This punishment would be expulsion from their land.

“All the fruit,” or the desired effect from action taken to demolish appendages of idolatry, would be the removal of sin. If “Jacob” is regarded as the antecedent for the masculine pronoun “he,” this would mean that the people needed to destroy the altars for sacrifice, the Asherim (apparently the poles that represented the goddess Asherah), and the incense stands. The Septuagint rendering supports understanding the reference to be to the people, for they are the ones said to reduce the stones of the altars to fine dust. Trees that would not remain would be groves used for idolatrous rites. As trees might be felled in a distant forest, so the idols would be cut down.

As exiles, however, the Israelites would not have had access to the cultic sites in their homeland. So it may be preferable to regard YHWH as the one who would destroy these items by means of the instrument he had chosen to act for him. So complete would the destruction be that these things would not stand or crop up again and lead the Israelites astray.

27:10. Masoretic Text: For a fortified city [will be] solitary, a deserted and abandoned settlement, like a wilderness. There a calf will graze, and there it will lie down and consume the branches thereof.

Septuagint: The flock dwelling [there] will be left like an abandoned flock. And [there] will be much time for grazing, and there will they rest.


The “fortified city” could be Jerusalem or the designation could be a collective singular and apply to all the fortified cities in the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. In the Targum of Isaiah, the fortified city is linked to an enemy power, and the Targum refers to the “righteous” as warring against it and taking spoils. Thereafter armies would cease to go forth from the “fortified city.” In view of the mention of “Jacob” in the previous verse, however, it seems more likely that the designation “fortified city” relates to a site or sites in the realm of the kingdom of Judah.

The solitary state would identify the site or sites as having been depopulated. Deserted or forsaken, Jerusalem or all the fortified cities in the land would resemble a wilderness. The desolated site or sites would become suitable for a calf (probably a collective singular meaning “calves”) to graze and to consume whatever had begun to grow amidst the ruins. There calves could also lie down to rest.

The Septuagint rendering includes no mention of a “fortified city,” but focuses on a flock, either of sheep or goats. The flock could move about anywhere in the ruins and feed, doing so like an abandoned flock without a shepherd to direct where it should pasture. The animals in the deserted areas would have ample time to graze leisurely and to rest there.

27:11. Masoretic Text: When its boughs are dried up, they will be broken off, [with] women coming and making a fire of them; for this is not an understanding people. Therefore, he who made it will not have mercy on it, and he who formed it will not be favorably inclined to it.

Septuagint: And after a time [there] will not be all the greenery in it because of having dried up. O women, coming from [this] sight, go, for it is not a people having understanding. Therefore, by no means will the one making them be compassionate nor the one forming them by any means be merciful.

Regarding the “women,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the words “come and.”

The Targum of Isaiah presents an interpretation that does not match either the wording of the Hebrew text nor the rendering of the Septuagint. It appears to represent the armies of the enemy power to be deprived of strength, become ashamed of their deeds, and be dismayed. Women (who would customarily not have been regarded as teachers) would enter the “house of their idol and will teach them” because they are a people without understanding.

The renderings “by no means” and “nor by any means” preserve the emphatic sense of the two words for “not” in the text of the Septuagint.


In the Hebrew text, the “women” could be those among the people who would be left behind in the land after the major part of the Israelite population had either perished or been taken into exile. In the ruins of Jerusalem or other cities, branches could easily be broken off from withered trees. Women would collect these branches for firewood.

Possibly the nation is here represented as having been reduced to a dead tree, like one from which the branches can be used for firewood to cook meals.

Desolation of the land and exile of the people proved to be the result of their lack of “understanding,” an inexcusable failure to recognize YHWH as the God whom they should serve exclusively and whom they should trust fully as their helper and protector. Although YHWH had been the maker and former of the people of Israel, making it possible for them to become a nation and liberating them from Egyptian enslavement, he would not excuse their unfaithfulness. He determined that they would experience the punishment they deserved, not showing them any mercy or favor that could have spared them.

The Septuagint rendering suggests that the greenery in the depopulated area would eventually all dry up from neglect. It is difficult to determine what the women are admonished to do. In Greek, deúte can mean either “come” or “go.” Women would have come from a sight or scene of desolation. The Greek text possibly could be understood to mean that, upon taking note of the ruin, they should “go,” rejecting the attitude of the people who experienced calamity because they had no “understanding,” refusing to live in harmony with God’s commands.

27:12. Masoretic Text: And it will occur in that day [that] YHWH will beat out from the flowing stream (shibbóleth) of the River to the torrent of Mizraim [Egypt]. And you will be gathered one by one, O people Israel.

Septuagint: And it will be in that day [that] the Lord will hem in [the region] from the channel of the river to Rhinokorura; but you, gather the sons of Israel one by one.

In this context, there is a measure of uncertainty about the Hebrew expression shibbóleth. Lexicographers have suggested “flowing stream” as one possible meaning. Other occurrences of the expression relate to “ears of grain.”

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that the slain would be cast before YHWH in an area extending from the rock of the Euphrates to the torrent of Egypt.


This pointed forward to the “day” or the time when the people in exile would be liberated. The “River” is the Euphrates. At the time Isaiah prophesied, Assyria was the dominant power in that region. During its campaigns against the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, the Assyrians took captives from conquered Israelite cities into exile. The “torrent of Egypt” is commonly identified with Wadi el-’Arish in the Sinai Peninsula. The ancient town of Rhinokorura, mentioned in the Septuagint, was situated on this wadi at the place where it enters the Mediterranean Sea. Israelite exiles were also scattered in Egypt to the south and west of the “torrent of Egypt.”

YHWH would make it possible for the exiles to come out of these regions just as when ears of grain are beaten to free the kernels or when a tree is beaten to cause the fruit to fall. Then, one by one, the Israelite exiles would be gathered to make their way back to their land.

Possibly the Septuagint reference about God’s hemming or fencing in the area designated could mean that he would turn his attention to it, forcing it to release his exiled people. This would then open up the way for the “sons of Israel” to be gathered “one by one,” for the purpose of returning to their homeland.

27:13. Masoretic Text: And it will occur in that day [that] a great shofar will be blown, and the lost ones in the land of Asshur [Assyria] and the scattered ones in the land of Mizraim [Egypt] will come and bow down [in worship] to YHWH on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

Septuagint: And it will be in that day [that] they will trumpet with a great trumpet, and the lost ones in the country of the Assyrians and the lost ones in Egypt will come and prostrate themselves [in worship] to the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.


In the day or at the time for the Israelites to return from exile, it would be as if a large shofar or ram’s-horn trumpet loudly resounded, signaling to the dispersed people in the regions Assyria had controlled and in Egypt to assemble to journey back to their homeland. They would then be able to restore the worship of YHWH in Jerusalem. As the location of YHWH’s temple, the elevated site was a “holy mountain,” and there the people would bow down to worship YHWH.