Isaiah 46:1-13

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46:1. Masoretic Text: Bel bows down; Nebo bends down. Their idols are on the living thing [an animal] and on beasts. [These things] you carry are loaded as a burden on a weary [animal].

Septuagint: Bel has fallen; Dagon has been shattered. Their carved things have come to be for beasts and cattle. Lift them up bound like a load for a wearied one

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” does not precede “on beasts.” This scroll has an unusual reading for the concluding phrase, referring to “their reports” as being more burdensome than the loads.

Possibly the Septuagint translator was unfamiliar with the name of the Babylonian deity Nebo (Nabu) and used “Dagon,” the name of a Philistine deity. In the Septuagint, the last sentence continues in the next verse.

The Targum of Isaiah represents Bel and Nebo as being in the likeness of animals, and Nebo is protrayed as “broken off.” Those who carry the heavy idols are said to be weary from the burden.


“Bel” means “lord” or “master” and was the designation for Marduk, the principal deity of Babylon. Nebo, another prominent deity, was the city god of Borsippa. Both deities are closely associated in ancient texts. With reference to the eleventh year of Babylonian king Nabonidus, the “Nabonidus Chronicle” says, “The king did not come to Babylon for the (ceremonies of the) month Nisanu, Nebo did not come to Babylon, Bel did not go out (from Esagila in procession).” (Ancient Near Eastern Texts [ANET], third edition, edited by James B. Pritchard, page 306) The “Cyrus Cylinder” includes the words, “May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask daily Bel and Nebo for a long life for me.” (ANET, page 316)

Bel and Nebo are depicted in a state of disgrace, bowed down or bent down and not erect. Their images have been loaded on beasts of burden, to be carried away from the invading enemy force. The heavy weight exhausts the individual animals.

46:2. Masoretic Text: They bend down; they bow down together. They cannot save the burden and their soul goes into captivity.

Septuagint: and the hungering one, and the exhausted one not having [any more] strength besides; [people who] cannot be saved from war, but they themselves were led away as captives.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about saving the burden.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, both images have been cut in two and been broken off. Those serving Bel and Nebo are the ones having been taken into captivity.


Toppled from their prominent position as deities, Bel and Nebo are represented as bent down and bowed down together. The burden these deities cannot save are the images that have been loaded on burden-bearing animals. Their “soul” denotes the deities themselves that are represented by the idols. These gods are taken into captivity or carried away by the conquering army.

The Septuagint represents the weight of the “carved things” or images to be a heavy load for someone who is weary, hungry, and exhausted, completely devoid of any strength. Seemingly, the people who carry the images are the ones who cannot be saved from the consequences of war but are taken from their land as captives.

46:3. Masoretic Text: Listen to me, house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, the ones having been borne [by me] from your birth, the ones having been carried from the womb.

Septuagint: Listen to me, house of Jacob, and all the remnant of Israel, the ones having been lifted up [to be carried] from the womb and disciplined from childhood.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about the ones being carried “from the womb.”

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the remnant of Israel as being “more beloved than all the nations” and “dearer” to YHWH than “all the kingdoms.”


“House of Jacob” and “all the remnant of the house of Israel” are parallel expressions, identifying the Israelites as descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with an angel. (Genesis 32:24-28) The “remnant” would have been Israelites who had survived the judgment YHWH had executed on his wayward people by means of foreign armies. Through his prophet, he admonished them to listen, reminding them of what he had done for them. The nonexistent deities could not carry anyone, and their images had to be transported on animals or by people. YHWH, however, had carried the Israelites from “birth,” from the time of their coming from the womb, or from the very time they became a people. He did so by supporting and looking after them like a loving parent does a child. According to the Septuagint rendering, he had disciplined or trained them as a father would his offspring.

46:4. Masoretic Text: And to [your] old age, I [am] he, and to gray hair, I will carry you. I have made and I will bear and I will carry and will save.

Septuagint: Until [your] old age, I am, and until whenever you have grown old, I am. I put up with you. I have made and I will release. I will accept and save you.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the conjunction “and” at the beginning of this verse.

The Targum of Isaiah identifies YHWH as the Creator of “all men.” Though he had scattered his people among the nations, he would “pardon their transgressions and forgive them.”


There would never be a time when YHWH would not look after those whom he considered to be his people. As he had cared for them from the start of their history so he would continue to do so until the end, represented by old age when the hair turns gray. The declaration “I [am] he” or “I am” (LXX) emphasizes that YHWH is the unchangeable God who does not alter his purpose. He is the same one at all times, always trustworthy. As the One who made it possible for his people to come into existence, he would not fail to bear or support them, to carry or look after them, and to save or deliver them from harm or peril.

According to the Septuagint, he would put up with the people, suggesting that he would be patient with them, putting up with their wayward ways and using his prophets to appeal to them to return to him.

His releasing or loosing could refer to his forgiving their sins. He would accept them as his own, not rejecting them, and deliver them from distress when they returned to him.

46:5. Masoretic Text: To whom will you liken me and make me equal and compare me, that we may be alike?

Septuagint: To whom have you likened me? Look, scheme, you straying ones.

Instead of the first person plural verb at the end of this verse, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has the first person singular verb.


The question relates to any effort to liken YHWH to any of the deities that idolaters revered. These deities could not do anything for their worshipers, and their images were lifeless representations. No deity existed to whom YHWH could be compared, for all of them were unrealities.

The Septuagint rendering represents idolaters as persons who had strayed from the right course. They could look or focus their attention on their vain pursuits, scheming or devising in relation to their idolatrous practices, but they would not be benefited.

46:6. Masoretic Text: [They are] those pouring out gold from a bag, and they weigh silver in the scales. They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god. They bow down and prostrate themselves.

Septuagint: [There are] those contributing gold from a bag, and on scales they will establish [the value of] silver by weight. And those hiring a goldsmith made handiworks [for themselves], and having bowed down, they prostrated themselves to them.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads “he makes a god,” and the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about bowing down.


Idolaters poured out their accumulated gold from a bag and weighed the silver to determine the amount they needed for their purpose. They then hired an artisan to make the representation of a god for them. For a fee, he would use the supplied gold and silver to fashion the image. Likely the idol would not be made of solid metal, but the gold would be used to overlay a carved representation, and the silver could have been used for decorative purposes. Thereafter the idolaters would venerate the representation of the deity, dropping to their knees and prostrating themselves before it.

46:7. Masoretic Text: They lift it onto the shoulder. They carry it and set it in its place, and it stands [there]. From its place, it does not move. If one cries out to it, then it does not answer or save him from his distress.

Septuagint: They lift it onto the shoulders and go. But if they set it down, it remains in its place; by no means will it move. And whoever cries out to it, it will by no means hear; by no means will it save him from evils.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah starts the verse with the conjunction “and.”

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


The lifeless image had to be picked up, placed on the shoulder and then carried to a particular location. Once in the place where it was deposited, the idol remained there, unable to move itself. Whenever the idolater cried out for help before the idol, it would not answer his appeal and would not save him from the distress, harm, or peril that faced him and about which he had made his supplication.

46:8. Masoretic Text: Remember this and be courageous. Recall it to heart, you transgressors.

Septuagint: Remember these things and groan. Repent, O straying ones; turn in the heart.


The Israelites had repeatedly made themselves guilty of transgression, proving to be disloyal to YHWH and engaging in the veneration of images. Accordingly, what they needed to remember or to recall was that the idols were lifeless representations of nonexistent deities that could not help them in their time of need.

The Hebrew word here rendered “be courageous” is a form of ’ashásh and may here mean to be firmly resolved to act in harmony with what had been recalled. According to the Septuagint, the people were to “groan,” which could signify that, upon recalling the worthlessness of images, they should lament about having previously engaged in idolatry.

For the people to recall to their heart that idols were completely useless would denote that they should give serious consideration to this. It should be a reflection of their inmost selves. The Septuagint rendering makes it clear that this is a call to repentance, a turning of the heart or inmost self away from an idolatrous course.

46:9. Masoretic Text: Remember the first things from limitless time [past], for I [am] God, and [there is] no other. I [am] God and [there is] none like me,

Septuagint: And remember the first things from the age [long ago], for I am God, and [there] is none still besides me,


The first or former things from limitless time in the past, from of old, or from long ago are directly linked to the declaration that YHWH alone is God. Therefore, these former things for the Israelites to recall would be how YHWH had dealt with them and what he had revealed to them throughout their history. His having cared for them as a people from the beginning and having made known, through his prophets, significant future developments proved that he alone is God. There was no other god, not a single one like him, for all the deities represented by lifeless images did not exist.

46:10. Masoretic Text: announcing the end from the beginning and from of old things not yet done, saying, My counsel will stand, and all my delight I will do,

Septuagint: announcing the last things first, before they come to be, and it was completed at once. And I said, All my counsel will stand, and everything whatever I have counseled, I will do,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the last verb is third person singular (“he will do”), which may be understood to apply to the one designated as the “bird of prey” in next verse.


YHWH alone made known at the start what the final outcome would be. From remote past times, he, through his prophets, had revealed what had not as yet taken place. His counsel or purpose would stand, never failing to be carried out. Everything he delighted or desired to have happen would unerringly come to pass. He would see to it. The reference in the Septuagint to being “completed at once” could be understood to mean that there was no delay in the fulfillment of God’s purpose.

46:11. Masoretic Text: calling from the east a bird of prey, the man of my counsel from a distant land. I have spoken, and I will cause it to happen. I have purposed; yes, I will do it.

Septuagint: calling a bird from the east and from a distant land [those] concerning whom I have counseled. I have spoken and led; I created and I made. I led him and prospered his way.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the last verb is third person singular (“he will do”).

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH promised to gather the Israelite exiles from the east, bringing the “sons of Abraham” from a distant land and doing so quickly like a swift bird.


YHWH’s “calling” the “bird” refers to his bringing about the development involving the “bird.” In this context, the “bird of prey” probably designates Cyrus, who with his military force moved speedily against Babylon from the east, from Persia. He would also be the man of YHWH’s “counsel,” or the man destined to accomplish what YHWH had purposed respecting Babylon and the liberation of his people Israel from exile. Cyrus did come from a distant country, hundreds of miles from the kingdom of Judah, where YHWH announced his purpose through his prophet. Having spoken through his prophet, YHWH would see to the unerring fulfillment of the message. He would unfailingly have his purpose accomplished.

The Septuagint rendering preserves the basic thought, but presents certain details in a manner that differs from the extant Hebrew text. Those concerning whom God had counseled or respecting whom he had a purpose could be the warriors under the command of Cyrus, the one represented as a bird. In the first occurrence of the verb rendered “led,” the meaning may be that God brought about what he had declared through his prophet. The second occurrence of the verb rendered “led” appears to relate to his use of Cyrus for his purpose and granting him success (prospering “his way”).

46:12. Masoretic Text: Listen to me, stubborn ones of heart, the ones far from righteousness.

Septuagint: Listen to me, those ruining the heart, those far from righteousness.


Prior to the judgment to befall his wayward people, YHWH, through his prophet, appealed to them to listen to him, apparently with a view to changing their ways. In their “heart,” or their inmost selves, they were stubborn, unwilling to obey his commands. Instead of conducting themselves in an upright manner, they acted in a way that was far removed from righteousness or from whatever was right and just.

According to the Septuagint rendering, they had ruined or destroyed the heart. In their inmost selves, they were not responsive to what was right and noble.

46:13. Masoretic Text: I have brought my righteousness near; it is not far off. And my deliverance will not delay. And I will give deliverance in Zion, for Israel my glory.

Septuagint: I have brought my righteousness near and the deliverance, the one from me. I will not delay. I have given deliverance in Zion for glory to Israel.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) starts with the words, “My righteousness is brought near, and …” Additionally, this scroll includes the conjunction “and” before “will not delay” but omits the conjunction before the phrase about giving deliverance. The scroll concludes with the words, “and for Israel my glory.”


“Righteousness” may here refer to the execution of judgment. The hateful manner in which the Babylonians treated the Israelites deserved punishment. Therefore, when using Cyrus as his instrument to bring about the downfall of Babylon, YHWH would have brought his “righteousness” near. As YHWH cared for his people despite their wayward course, his “righteousness” had never been far off. It was the unfaithfulness of the people that had prevented their experiencing it in the form of liberation from distress. The deliverance he had promised would not come too late. The time for acting for the sake of his people would not be delayed to the point where it would prove to be ineffectual. The deliverance for Zion would relate to the time when it would again become an inhabited city, ceasing to lie in ruins.

Upon being delivered, Israel would appear glorious or illustrious to the people of other nations. This glory or splendor did not originate with Israel but had its source in what YHWH did for them. For this reason, YHWH is represented as referring to “my glory.”

According to the Septuagint rendering, the deliverance or restoration of Zion would result in glory for Israel. The splendor of Zion, the capital city, would reflect favorably on the entire land and its inhabitants.