: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /var/www/webadmin/data/www/wernerbiblecommentary.org/includes/common.inc on line 1734.
Isaiah 41:1-29 | Werner Bible Commentary

Isaiah 41:1-29

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2012-07-31 13:07.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

41:1. Masoretic Text: Be silent before me, O islands, and let peoples alter their strength. Let them approach. Then let them speak together. For judgment, let us draw near.

Septuagint: Be renewed toward me, O islands, for the rulers will alter strength. Let them approach and speak together. Then let them announce judgment.

Commentary

For the inhabitants of islands or coastlands and, in fact, all peoples or nations, silence is the only appropriate response when before YHWH. The imperative for them to be silent indicates that they should be attentive to what will be declared to them and that they would have to submit to his judgment.

In Hebrew, the verb for “be silent” is a form of charásh, whereas “be renewed” is a form of chadásh. The Hebrew letters daleth (D) and resh (R) are very similar. Apparently the Septuagint translator read the letter resh as daleth and then rendered the Hebrew word as the second person plural imperative form of enkainízo, meaning “renew.” The words “be renewed toward me” could be understood to denote “change your ways and turn to me.” Based on this reading, the comment about the rulers altering or changing their strength could signify that they would increase in strength as a result of the renewal and turning to God on the part of the inhabitants of the islands or coastlands. The Septuagint rendering appears to represent the rulers as announcing judgment or rendering judicial decisions.

According to the Hebrew text, the peoples are called upon to alter or change their strength, strengthening themselves or mustering up courage, when appearing before YHWH. They are directed to make their approach and to speak together or unitedly, indicating that they would be granted the opportunity to present their case. Then they would draw near for YHWH’s judgment to be rendered respecting them. Based on the words that follow, YHWH’s judgment is that the peoples of the nations would have to submit to the one who would be coming from the sunrise or from the east.

41:2. Masoretic Text: Who has stirred up [one] from the sunrise? Whom does righteousness summon at his step? He delivers nations before him, and he tramples kings. He gives his sword like dust; his bow like driven-away chaff.

Septuagint: Who has stirred up righteousness from the east, called it to his feet, and it will advance? He will deliver [it] against nations and confound kings and deliver their swords to the earth and [make] their bows like driven-away twigs.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has the conjunction “and” after “righteousness,” and so would agree with the Septuagint rendering (“who has stirred up righteousness”). According to the scroll and the Septuagint, righteousness is referred to as being summoned. Additionally, the conjunction “and” precedes the words about delivering nations and the reference to the sword.

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the question of this verse as relating to a past event. YHWH brought Abraham from the east, “the chosen of righteousness,” and “delivered nations before him.” Abraham’s successful warring appears to allude to the military action he undertook against kings Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal to rescue his nephew Lot who had come to be among the captives these monarchs had taken from Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 14:1-16)

Commentary

Apparently the reference is to YHWH’s raising up someone whom he would be using in the cause of righteousness or justice. In Isaiah chapter 40, the Israelites were assured that they would be able to return to their land after a period of exile. Accordingly, the one acting in the cause of righteousness would be YHWH’s instrument for clearing the way for the Israelites to return to their land. This required the overthrow of the nation that had taken them into exile and treated them unjustly. In fulfillment of YHWH’s word conveyed through his prophets, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered the kingdom of Judah and carried many of the surviving people into exile. Decades later, Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon, and shortly thereafter the Israelites who chose to do so were permitted to return to their land. The fall of Babylon proved to be YHWH’s just judgment against Babylon.

Although the Masoretic Text represents “righteousness” as doing the summoning, the reading of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah and the Septuagint appear to convey the preferable meaning. As representing the cause of righteousness, Cyrus could be spoken of as being called to appear before YHWH. Thus he would be called “at his step” or “to his feet” for the purpose of functioning in his service. In the person of Cyrus, the cause of righteousness would advance. YHWH is the one who would deliver nations to him, allowing him to gain the victory over them and to trample or to triumph over their kings or, according to the Septuagint, to confound these kings, throwing them into confusion. The Septuagint rendering suggests that the one acting in the cause of righteousness would make their swords and bows useless.

In their renderings of the Hebrew text, translations vary in how they refer to the sword and the bow. Some represent God as causing the swords and bows of the nations to be useless. “[Who] has rendered their swords like dust, their bows like wind-blown straw?” (Tanakh) Others portray the one serving in the cause of righteousness as using his sword and his bow or the arrows from his bow against nations and kings. “He scatters them with his sword like dust and with his bow like chaff driven before the wind.” (REB) “His sword and his arrows turn them to dust blown by the wind.” (CEV)

41:3. Masoretic Text: He pursues them; he passes on [in] peace. The way with his feet he does not tread.

Septuagint: And he will pursue them, and the way of his feet will pass through in peace.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, like the Septuagint, begins with the conjunction “and.” This scroll also has the conjunction “and” before the phrase about passing on.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the “strength of the way” is referred to as not entering “his” (Abraham’s) “feet,” which may may mean that he was not exhausted by the long journey to catch up with the kings who had taken Lot and others from Sodom and Gomorrah captive.

Commentary

The divinely appointed conqueror is depicted as pursuing nations in the course of his military campaigns. His passing on in peace suggests that he would be unhindered, unscathed, and totally successful in his warring. Not treading the “way with his feet” could indicate that he would be advancing rapidly in his campaigns as if barely touching the ground with his feet. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, however, indicates that he would travel by a way that “his feet had not known” or in regions where he had formerly not been.

41:4. Masoretic Text: Who has wrought and done [this], calling the generations from the beginning? I, YHWH, the first; and with the last, I [am] he.

Septuagint: Who has wrought and done these things? He called her [righteousness] — [he] the one calling her from the beginning of generations. I, God, [am] first, and to the coming [time] I am.

Commentary

The rhetorical question serves to direct attention away from the one functioning as the instrument in the cause of righteousness. The focus is on the one who “wrought” or started the action and who did or brought to a successful conclusion what he began. His “calling the generations from the beginning” could signify that he is the one who declares his purpose respecting them from the start or before they appear on the earthly scene.

The Septuagint rendering identifies “righteousness” as being called, and the call from the beginning of generations then seems to apply to God’s advance determination respecting the instrument that would serve the cause of righteousness.

The answer to the rhetorical question is not left in doubt and may be understood in the context of “generations.” Before even the first generation came into being, YHWH was already there as the “first.” He is eternal. As one generation of humans passes off the earthly scene, another generation takes its place. YHWH, however, continues to be, remaining active in the affairs of humankind. He will be there as the Eternal One at the end or, as here expressed, with the “last,” that is, the last generations. This assures that his purposes will always be carried out. Therefore, the one who would serve in the service of righteousness was certain to appear on the earthly scene.

41:5. Masoretic Text: Islands have seen and are afraid. The ends of the earth tremble. They have approached and come.

Septuagint: Nations saw and were afraid. The ends of the earth approached and came together,

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not have the word here translated “tremble” but says “together.”

In the Septuagint, the sentence is completed in the next verse.

Commentary

Upon seeing YHWH’s use of the one in the service of righteousness, the inhabitants of islands or coastlands (people of the “nations” [LXX]) would come to be in fear. This apparently would be on account of the conquests that YHWH had effected through this one. “The ends of the earth” designate the people living in distant lands. According to the Masoretic Text, they “tremble,” doing so in fear of what they came to know about what YHWH had accomplished. In view of their fear of the God who transcended any of their concepts of the deities they revered, their approaching and coming may relate to their drawing near to one another and coming for mutual encouragement. The word “together” in the Dead Sea Scroll and the Septuagint could indicate that the people would act in a unified manner. As the words that follow suggest, they, however, would not be motivated to serve YHWH. To muster up courage, they would become more zealous in the pursuit of idolatry.

41:6. Masoretic Text: A man helps his fellow and says to his brother, “Be strong.”

Septuagint: each one deciding to help [his] fellow and [his] brother, and he will say:

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the conjunction “and.”

Commentary

Individually, those who have come together for mutual encouragement simply try to help one another to continue in their former ways and to “be strong,” not giving in to fear, while persisting in their idolatrous course.

41:7. Masoretic Text: And the artisan strengthens the goldsmith; the one smoothing out with a hammer [strengthens] the one striking the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It [is] good.” And he fastens it with nails [so that it] cannot wobble.

Septuagint: A man, a craftsman, has become strong, also the metalworker striking [the metal] with a hammer, forging at the same time. At some time he will say, “The seam is good.” They have stabilized them with nails. They will set them up, and they will not wobble.

Instead of “saying,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads “he says.”

Commentary

The craftsmen who fashion an idol strengthen or encourage one another in the performance of their respective tasks. The artisan who creates the form of the image encourages the smith who refines the gold. For the overlay, the gold has to be smoothed out. The artisan who does this encourages the one striking the anvil, possibly the craftsman who beats out the precious metal that will be used to adorn the image. The one who inspects the image when the overlay and the ornamentation are in place approves, saying that the soldering is “good.” To make sure that the image will be stable and not wobble, an artisan fastens it with nails to a solid surface.

The Septuagint reading may be understood to mean that, through mutual encouragement, the craftsmen have become strong or gained courage to proceed with their respective tasks to make an idol. After having been inspected as to their workmanship, the images are stabilized with nails and securely placed in position so that they do not wobble.

41:8. Masoretic Text: And you, Israel my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my friend,

Septuagint: But you, Israel, my servant Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham, whom I loved,

Commentary

Israel and Jacob are parallel designations, for Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after he had wrestled with an angel. (Genesis 32:25-28) In this context, Israel, Jacob, and seed of Abraham refer to the descendants of Abraham through his grandson Jacob or Israel. As a people, Israel had the honorable distinction of being YHWH’s servant and thus in a unique relationship with him as the God whom they were to serve in carrying out his purpose. YHWH chose Jacob, instead of Esau, for his purpose to have the promised Messiah come through his line. With this choosing of Jacob, his descendants were also chosen as God’s people. On account of his faith and obedience, Abraham, the forefather of the Israelites, came to be a man whom YHWH loved and acknowledged as his friend.

Whereas the people of the nations had artisans to manufacture representations of their deities and had to make sure that these images did not wobble, YHWH is the one to who made it possible for the Israelites to come into existence as a people and strengthened them, providing them with the guidance and help they needed so that they could have the best life possible and serve his purpose.

41:9. Masoretic Text: you, whom I took hold of from the ends of the earth and called from its distant parts, and I said to you, “You [are] my servant. I have chosen you, and I have not rejected you.”

Septuagint: whom I took hold of from the ends of the earth, and from its heights I called you and said to you, “You are my servant. I have chosen you and have not abandoned you.”

Commentary

God reached out to and called Abram (Abraham) from Ur of the Chaldeans, telling him to leave from there for a land that he would be shown. (Genesis 11:31; Nehemiah 9:7; Acts 7:2-4) In Abraham, YHWH chose those who would descend from him through his grandson Jacob or Israel. Accordingly, when YHWH took hold of Abraham at the time he was living in Mesopotamia and brought him into a special relationship with himself, he took hold of Israel as his people.

In relation to the land of Canaan, Ur of the Chaldeans was far away. Therefore, YHWH’s action in taking hold of Israel is spoken of as occurring at the “ends of the earth” and Israel’s being called as having been “from its distant parts.” In view of being taken hold of and called, Israel came to be YHWH’s servant in the outworking of his purpose in relation to the promised Messiah. Whereas the nations fashioned their gods, YHWH chose Israel as his servant and did not forsake them despite their wayward ways.

In the Septuagint, God is represented as calling Israel from the heights of the earth. This could be taken to mean that the call was loud and clear, as if proclaimed from an elevated location.

41:10. Masoretic Text: Fear not, for I [am] with you; gaze not [anxiously], for I [am] your God. I will strengthen you, also help you. I will support you with my right hand of righteousness.

Septuagint: Fear not, for I am with you. Do not stray, for I am your God who has strengthened you, and I have helped you, and I have made you safe with my righteous right hand.

Commentary

The Israelites repeatedly strayed from faithful adherence to God’s commands. He then permitted them to experience defeat and harsh treatment from enemy nations. Still, YHWH did not cease to be their God. He continued to extend to them the opportunity to repent and to return to a favorable standing with him. Therefore, they were not to be afraid, for he remained with them as their God.

The directive for them not to “gaze” probably denotes that they were not to look about with apprehension when faced with threatening circumstances. There was no reason for the people to give in to such anxious gazing, for YHWH was their God, the one in possession of matchless power. According to the Septuagint, the imperative directed to Israel is that the people should not stray, wandering from the path of faithfulness to God.

The assurance that YHWH would strengthen and help the people should have served to encourage them not to fear and to give in to anxious gazing. This would not be a new development, for he had strengthened and helped them in the past when they experienced affliction.

With his “right hand,” his best hand, he would support or sustain his people. “Righteousness” is associated with this hand, which could signify that it is the hand or power YHWH would use in the cause of righteousness or justice. The Septuagint rendering indicates that the “right hand” functioned to protect his people, making them safe.

41:11. Masoretic Text: Look! All those burning [in anger] against you will be put to shame and humiliated. Men in strife with you will become as nothing and will perish.

Septuagint: Look! All those opposing you will become ashamed and humiliated, for they will be as not existing, and all your opponents will perish.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the word for “look” is added as a correction above the line of the main text. This scroll also does not include the words here rendered “will become as nothing and” (“Men in strife with you will all perish”).

Commentary

At the time YHWH turns his favorable attention to his repentant people, the enemy nations would experience shame and humiliation. This is because their aims respecting the Israelites would be frustrated, and their deities would be exposed as powerless to prevent the outworking of YHWH’s purpose. Those who had warred against God’s people would come to be like men who had never existed. They would all perish.

41:12. Masoretic Text: You will seek them; and you will not find them, men in contention with you. Men at war against you will be as nothing and nonexistent.

Septuagint: You will seek them, and by no means will you find the men who will rage [paroinéo] against you, for they will be as nonexistent, and those warring against you will not be.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the words about seeking and not finding.

The Greek word here translated “will rage” is a form of paroinéo, which incorporates the term “wine” and so can denote acting in an offensive manner as would someone when intoxicated.

The rendering “by no means” serves to convey the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

Commentary

The “seeking” here referred to is not a searching for the purpose of finding. God’s people would look everywhere, endeavoring to see whether any enemy threat existed. After engaging in such seeking, searching, or looking, they would not be able to find any people who would want to fight against them. Such adversaries would not exist anywhere.

41:13. Masoretic Text: For I, YHWH your God, hold your right hand, [I], the one saying to you, “Fear not. I will help you.”

Septuagint: For I [am] your God, the one holding your right hand, the one saying to you, “Fear not …”

For the Septuagint rendering, the sentence continues in the next verse.

Commentary

The nonexistence of enemy threats is not to be attributed to the strength of the Israelites. They would be secure because of having YHWH as their God. He is the one who would provide support and unfailing strength, as if taking firm hold of their right hand so that they would not fall. Because he is their dependable helper, they were told, “Fear not.” No power would be any match for their God.

41:14. “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel. I will help you,” says YHWH, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Septuagint: “O Jacob, O insignificant Israel. I have helped you,” says God, the one redeeming you, O Israel.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes “men of Israel.”

Commentary

In themselves, the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob or Israel, were not a mighty people as were the dominant nations in the region. Jacob’s being called a “worm,” suggests that the people were weak and helpless, like a worm on which a man might step. According to the Septuagint rendering, they were small, insignificant, or few in number. Without their God, the Israelites were at the mercy of powerful nations. YHWH, however, promised to be the helper of his repentant people. He would redeem them or deliver them from exile and affliction. Being the Holy One of Israel, YHWH is pure in every way and his word, therefore, is always trustworthy.

41:15. Masoretic Text: Look! I will make you into a threshing sledge — sharp, new, with spikes [literally, “mouths”]. You will thresh the mountains and pulverize [them], and you will make the hills like chaff.”

Septuagint: Look! I made you like wagon wheels [for] threshing — new, toothed like a saw. And you will thresh mountains and pulverize hills and make them like dust.

Commentary

What YHWH promised to do for his repentant people assured them that they would not need to fear any enemy threat. He would make them like a new threshing sledge with sharp spikes that were capable to ripping to pieces everything that posed hazards or obstacles that were comparable to mountains or hills. In themselves, the Israelites were but a helpless and defenseless “worm.” With YHWH’s backing, however, they would be strong, and lofty opposing powers would come to be like chaff, devoid of all capacity to do harm.

The Targum of Isaiah specifically indicates that Israel, with YHWH’s help, would slay the nations, destroy them, and make kingdoms like chaff.

41:16. Masoretic Text: You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, and a blast will scatter them, and you will rejoice in YHWH; you will glory in the Holy One of Israel.

Septuagint: And you will winnow [them], and a wind will seize them, and a blast will scatter them. But you will rejoice among the holy ones of Israel. And the poor and the needy will jubilate.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah includes the conjunction “and” after YHWH.

For the Septuagint rendering, words from the printed text of verse 17 in Rahlfs’ edition are included here to complete the thought. They will not be repeated for verse 17.

Commentary

With YHWH having constituted Israel as a threshing sledge, they would be able to triumph over all enemy powers. As if such powers had been threshed, the Israelites are portrayed as winnowing them. All that remains after the winnowing process is chaff that a wind seizes and a strong gust then scatters. On account of the help that YHWH provided in making them secure from enemy threats, the people would be able to rejoice in him. They would have cause for joyous celebration in appreciation for what he did for them. As the Holy One of Israel, he would have revealed his absolute purity by fulfilling his word to protect his people. The Israelites could glory in him as their God, taking pride in his acts of deliverance.

According to the Septuagint, the poor and the needy would have reason for joy. This would be because of YHWH’s loving response to them in caring for their needs. The Hebrew text of the next verse, while mentioning the poor and the needy, does not associate their circumstances with rejoicing.

41:17. Masoretic Text: The poor and the needy seek water, and [there is] none. Their tongue is parched from thirst. I, YHWH, will answer them, [I], the God of Israel, will not abandon them.

Septuagint: For they will seek water, and [there] will be none. Their tongue has been parched from thirst. I, the Lord God, I will hear, [I], the God of Israel; and I will not abandon them.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” does not follow the word for “poor.” The opening words of the verse read, “The poor, the needy, the ones seeking water, and [there is] none.”

For the initial part of the Septuagint rendering, see verse 16.

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the seeking for water in a figurative sense. The poor or humble and needy desire instruction as does a person who thirsts for water, but they do not find it and their spirit faints (or they lose courage) on account of their affliction. YHWH, however, will accept their prayer and will not cast them away.

Commentary

It appears that the repentant Israelites, prior to experiencing deliverance from exile, are here portrayed as seeking water, longing for relief from their distressing situation. In their helpless state, they are “poor and needy,” and their circumstances do not improve, for they are like persons looking for water but unable to find any to quench their intense thirst. Nevertheless, YHWH will hear the appeals they direct to him. He will not forsake them, but he will come to their aid at his appointed time.

41:18. Masoretic Text: On bare heights, I will open rivers and fountains in the midst of valleys. I will make the wilderness into a pool of water and the dry land into springs of water.

Septuagint: But I will open rivers on the mountains, and fountains in the midst of the plains. I will make the wilderness into marshes and the thirsting land into water channels.

Commentary

In response to the appeal of the poor and the needy, the repentant Israelites who find themselves in distress, YHWH would make generous provision. The Targum of Isaiah applies the words to his bringing the “exiles from among the nations” and leading them “in the right way.” As a major necessity for life, water can be representative of everything needful that God provides for his people. On bare elevations or treeless heights, where one would not expect to find streams, YHWH would cause rivers to flow. In dry valleys, he would cause fountains of water to bubble forth. In the barren wilderness, he would make it possible for there to be pools of water or “marshes” (LXX), and springs in parched land.

The message that the words serve to convey is that where there had formerly been nothing to fill the needs of his people, YHWH would provide in abundance everything that they needed. For the repentant Israelites who would be returning to their land, this assured them that YHWH would care for them just as he did the Israelites after they left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness prior to their entering the land of Canaan.

41:19. Masoretic Text: In the wilderness, I will put cedar, acacia, myrtle and olive [trees]. In the desert, I will set fir [beróhsh], elm [tidhár], and box [te’ashshúr] [trees] together,

Septuagint: In the waterless land, I will set cedar and box and myrtle and cypress and white poplar [trees],

Another suggested meaning for beróhsh is “juniper,” which is based on the Akkadian word for “juniper” (burāšu).

Commentary

The portrayal of abundant water in areas where it had not been is here continued. YHWH is represented as causing a great variety of trees to flourish in formerly dry regions. There is uncertainty about the specific trees that the Hebrew words beróhsh, tidhár, and te’ashshúr designate. They have here been translated according to the rendering of the Vulgate (abies [fir], ulmus [elm], and buxus [box]). The way the Septuagint renders the text does not make the same identification possible. (For information about trees in Israel, see trees.)

41:20. Masoretic Text: so that together they may see and know and consider and understand that YHWH’s hand has done this, and that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Septuagint: so that together they may see and know and consider and understand that the Lord’s hand has done all these things, and the Holy One of Israel has made [them] manifest.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the Hebrew word for “consider” is written as a correction above the line of the main text.

Commentary

What YHWH promised to do for his people is so remarkable that it would not escape notice. Those who would “see” or witness the developments would come to “know” or recognize him as the source, would consider or think about what they observed, and would understand that everything should be attributed to him. His “hand” or power is what would be recognized as having brought it about. He, the Holy One of Israel, the God of absolute purity in word and action, would be acknowledged as the One who did what would humanly have appeared impossible.

41:21. Masoretic Text: “Approach [with] your case,” says YHWH. “Draw near [with] your arguments,” says the King of Jacob.

Septuagint: “Your judgment draws near,” says the Lord God. “Your counsels have drawn near,” says the King of Jacob.

Commentary

YHWH revealed what he would do, and at this point he is portrayed as challenging the deities that are represented by lifeless idols of human manufacture. He directs them to draw near to present their case and their arguments in order to establish that they are indeed gods.

YHWH is the “King of Jacob,” the Sovereign of the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob, who are subject to his will and commands. As their King, he is also their protector and helper.

The Septuagint rendering appears to represent the deities as facing their time of judgment and the time for presenting their “counsels,” or the arguments they had previously formulated to prove that they are gods.

41:22. Let them draw near and tell us what will occur. Tell us what the former things [are] that we may apply our heart and may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come.

Septuagint: Let them draw near and announce to you what things will occur, or the former things — what it was you said. And we will apply our mind and will know what the last things [will be], and tell us the coming things.

The words about applying the heart read differently in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (“we may apply our heart to them and know; or”).

Commentary

To prove that they were gods, the deities of the nations should have been able to declare things that would take place in the future. Possibly the reference to “former things” relates to what these deities supposedly had made known in the past, enabling people to “apply” their hearts to, or to consider, what they had previously said so as to know the “outcome,” or to confirm that what they had announced aforetime had indeed happened. The other proof for these deities to present would have been to announce things that were yet to come.

41:23. Masoretic Text: Tell [us] the things to come hereafter, and we may know that you are gods. Do good and do evil, and we may behold and fear [yaré’ or ra’áh] together.

Septuagint: Announce to us the things coming at the finale, and we will know that you are gods. Do good and do bad, and we will be astonished and see together.

Commentary

If the deities were able to accurately foretell the things yet to take place, this would confirm that they were gods. The additional challenge for them would be to do something, either good (resulting in tangible benefits for people) or evil (as when bringing calamity upon those guilty of vicious acts). Their truly doing something that unmistakably originated with them would (according to the Septuagint reading) cause those who were observers both to “see” it and to be “astonished.”

The Hebrew word here translated “fear” is based on linking the term to yaré’. If, however, the word is to be read as derived from ra’áh, the meaning would be “see.” According to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the reading is “hear and see.” The Masoretic Text could be understood to mean that witnesses would “behold,” “gaze,” or “stare” in wonderment and, at the same time, be in “fear” or awe.

41:24. Masoretic Text: Look! You are nothing, and your work [is] as a nonexistent thing. He who chooses you [is] an abomination.

Septuagint: For from where are you and from where is your work? From the earth. They have chosen you — an abomination.

The Dead Sea Scroll reads, “You and your work [are] nothing.”

Commentary

The deities of the nations could not present any proof to establish their existence as gods. They were “nothing” at all, with no existing or tangible works. Persons who chose them, or their images, constituted themselves as something abominable, detestable, or disgusting from YHWH’s standpoint.

The answer in the Septuagint seems to be that these deities and their work were of the earth or of human manufacture and thus were no gods. Whereas idolaters had chosen them as objects of worship, these nonexistent deities were an abomination to the only true God.

41:25. Masoretic Text: I have stirred up one from the north, and he will come. From the rising of the sun, he will call on my name. And he will come upon rulers as upon mortar and as a potter tramples clay.

Septuagint: But I am raising up someone from the north and from the rising of the sun. They will be called by my name. Let rulers come; and like clay of a potter and like a potter trampling clay, thus you will be trampled.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the reading is “you have stirred up” (not “I have stirred up”), with the reference being to YHWH in both cases. “They” (not “he”) will come, which could be understood to apply to the one who is raised up and his forces. The conjunction “and” precedes the phrase that includes name, and the reference is to “his name” (not “my name”). His being called by “his name” could signify that the one from the rising of the sun would be called by his personal name, with the purpose of the calling being that he would be carrying out YHWH’s predetermined purpose. On account of the addition of the conjunction “and,” the coming is “from the rising of the sun.” Then, after “name,” the scroll says, “Rulers will come like mortar and like a potter, and he will trample clay.” It is difficult to determine just how rulers would be coming “like mortar and like a potter.” Possibly the meaning is that they would be coming like those who work mortar and engage in work like a potter. They would be doing trampling, which is then specifically mentioned in relation to the one coming from the rising of the sun.

Commentary

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the one who would be stirred up or raised up as “a king who is strong as the north wind,” and he would come as does the sun in its full strength when coming from the east. In the fulfillment, the reference appears to be to Cyrus, the Persian ruler who conquered Babylon. The direction from which he came with his forces against Babylon can be described as both from the north and the east, where the sun rises. At the time he permitted the Israelites to return to the land of Judah, Cyrus acknowledged that YHWH was their God and authorized the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1-4) His release of the Israelite exiles and his support of the temple rebuilding work and the associated services may be regarded as his calling on God’s name. The plural (“they”) in the Septuagint could refer to those non-Jews who provided aid to the returning Israelite exiles and gave them animals for sacrifice at the temple site in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:4)

In his military campaign, Cyrus came upon rulers as would one on mortar for the purpose of trampling it or as would a potter when trampling clay. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to include other rulers who would be coming with Cyrus. Those against whom they would come would then be like clay of a potter and be trampled upon as a potter tramples upon clay.

41:26. Masoretic Text: Who has announced [it] from the beginning that we may know, and in advance, that we might say, “He [is] right”? [There was] no one announcing, no one proclaiming, no one hearing your words.

Septuagint: For who will announce the things [coming] from the beginning so that we may know [them], and the former things, and we will say that they are true? [There] is no one foretelling nor anyone hearing your words.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” is not included after “we may know.” Also the adjective here rendered “right” is neuter gender (it [is] right).

Commentary

Did any of the deities of the nations unerringly declare in advance developments that would take place in the future? Then, once the foretold events occurred, those witnessing them would know or recognize them as having been foretold and could say about such a deity, “He is right.” Or, as the Septuagint expresses it, they would be able to say that what had been announced beforehand proved to be true. In the Septuagint, the reference to the “former things” may relate to what would develop in the future respecting these things.

In the case of the deities of the nations, none of them foretold anything. There was no announcement and no proclamation. With nothing having been declared, no one heard a word.

41:27. Masoretic Text: First to Zion [I say], “Behold, behold them.” And to Jerusalem I give a herald of good news.

Septuagint: I will give to Zion a beginning, and I will comfort Jerusalem in the way.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the expression after the initial “behold” consists of letters that do not convey anything meaningful. If the initial letter were a taw (T), the word could be rendered “slumber.” The first letter, however, is he (H), and Hebrew-English dictionaries define the word consisting of the consonants in the text as meaning “veil.”

Commentary

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the words of comfort the prophets prophesied regarding Zion had been fulfilled. This interpretation appears to shed light on the meaning of the elliptical Hebrew text. Whereas the deities of the nations announced nothing in advance, YHWH, through his prophets, did declare what would happen to Zion, doing so “first” or aforetime. Therefore, it was possible to behold or see the fulfillment of the things that YHWH caused his prophets to declare beforehand. The Septuagint rendering about his giving Zion a beginning could mean granting the city a fresh start, transforming Jerusalem from a desolated place to an inhabited city.

Apparently with reference to restoration, YHWH would make it possible for good news to be announced regarding Jerusalem. The Septuagint mentions the comfort that he would give to Jerusalem “in the way,” possibly meaning comfort to those on the way back to the city from exile. If so, this could include his protection and care along the way.

41:28. Masoretic Text: And I look and there is no one, and [I look] among them and no one is counseling. And I ask them and they [are able to] give a reply.

Septuagint: For from the nations, look, [there was] no one, and from their idols, [there] was no one announcing. And if I should ask them, From where are [you]? by no means would they answer me.

In the Hebrew text, the first expression here rendered “no one” is “no man.” This may explain why the Septuagint reads “nations,” indicating that there was no man among the nations who could unerringly foretell what would happen in the future. The Targum of Isaiah also makes an application to men. “There is no man whose works are good,” and “there is no one who gives counsel.” In view of the context, however, it is preferable to regard the reference to be to deities.

The expression “by no means” serves to preserve the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

Commentary

YHWH is portrayed as looking around to see whether one existed among the deities of the nations that could declare what would happen in advance. There was no one. Not a one of these deities could offer any counsel or advice. They could not give an answer to any vital question that was directed to them, for these deities were nonexistent and as lifeless as the images that represented them. According to the Septuagint rendering, these lifeless idols could not answer from where they had come. They were just the handiwork of human artisans.

41:29. Masoretic Text: Look! They [are] all a deception [’áven]. Their works [are] nothingness, and their images are wind and emptiness.

Septuagint: For they are the ones making you, and in foolishness they are leading you astray.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the words about “their works” being “nothingness.”

The Targum of Isaiah continues to interpret the words as applying to men and refers to their thoughts as being on “plunder and destruction.”

Commentary

All the deities of the nations, as represented by their images, are a deception or a delusion. The Hebrew word ’áven commonly denotes “trouble” or “disaster,” but “deception” or “delusion” appear to fit the context better as applying to these valueless and nonexistent deities. Anyone looking to them for help or protection would be doing so in vain. These deities could not do anything, and so there “works” would be “nothingness.” The images were mere wind or a puff of air and emptiness, lifeless representations that could neither perceive or do anything.

Possibly the Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that the worshipers of idols believed that the deities the images represented had been their creators. All that these nonexistent deities could do for them, however, was to lead them astray in foolishness, a senseless trust in unreality.