Isaiah 51:1-23

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51:1. Masoretic Text: Listen to me, those pursuing righteousness, those seeking YHWH. Look to the rock [from which] you were hewn and to the excavation of a pit [from which] you were dug.

Septuagint: Listen to me, those pursuing the righteous thing and seeking the Lord. Look to the hard rock which you hewed and to the excavation of the pit which you dug.

The Septuagint renderings “you hewed” and “you dug” do not fit the context, for verse 2 links the hewing and the digging to the source — Abraham and Sarah.

The Targum of Isaiah indicates the seeking of YHWH to be seeking instruction from him.


YHWH calls upon the faithful ones among his people Israel to listen to him, acting on the instruction that he provides. They pursued righteousness when they did what is just or right. Their seeking YHWH would include their desiring to please him by obeying his commands and looking to him for help, guidance, and safeguarding. The faithful Israelites also were to look back to or to consider their origin. In view of the mention of Abraham and Sarah in the next verse, Abraham is the “hard” or “solid” (LXX) rock from which they were hewn, and Sarah is the excavation or quarry of the pit from which they were dug. They were the descendants of Abraham and Sarah.

51:2. Masoretic Text: Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you. For I called him [when he was] one [person] and blessed him and multiplied him.

Septuagint: Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah, the one in labor for you, for he was one [person], and I called him and blessed him and loved him and multiplied him.

Instead of “blessed him,” the expression in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah may be rendered, “made him fruitful.”

In the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH’s calling Abraham is interpreted to denote his bringing the patriarch into his service.


At the time YHWH called Abraham, telling him to leave his country and his relatives to take up alien residence in a foreign land, there was little indication that he and Sarah would eventually come to be a nation. (Genesis 12:1) For the Israelites to look to Abraham as their father and Sarah as their mother from whose womb they came would serve to remind them of their insignificant start. Abraham was only “one,” without even a single child. With YHWH’s blessing, many descended from the “one” and came to be a nation. This implied that, although God’s true people appeared to be few, they could become many upon being reconciled to him. The Septuagint adds that God loved Abraham.

51:3. Masoretic Text: For YHWH will comfort Zion. He will comfort all her ruins and will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of YHWH. Exultation and rejoicing will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of song.

Septuagint: And now I will comfort you, Zion. And I comforted all her ruins and will make her ruins like a paradise of the Lord. They will find rejoicing and exultation in her, [grateful] acknowledgment and the sound of praise.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah concludes with the words that are found in verse 11, “Grief and sighing will flee away.”


Just as Abraham was only one person and came to be a whole nation, so devastated Zion would not remain a depopulated ruin. The city would be rebuilt and come to be filled with people. There would be an end to the devastated state that resembled an uninhabited wilderness. Zion would be transformed into a populous and flourishing place, coming to be like the “garden” or paradise of YHWH in the original Eden, which was the home of the first human pair. (Genesis 2:8, 15)

51:4. Masoretic Text: Give attention to me, my people; give ear to me, my nation, for law will go forth from me, and I will cause my judgment to rest as a light to the peoples.

Septuagint: Listen to me, listen, my people, and kings, give ear to me, for law will go forth from me and my judgment for a light to the nations.


What YHWH was about to reveal to his people Israel through his prophet deserved their full attention. The rendering of the Septuagint stresses this aspect by repeating the verb for “listen.” Moreover, the Septuagint indicates that the admonition to listen was not just for the people or the nation generally. Even kings were to give ear to what YHWH would make known. Law would be the authoritative teaching or instruction that YHWH would impart. His judgment would come to rest, taking up residence in the land and being firmly established there. It would serve as a light to the nations, revealing the true nature of justice. His judgment would be evident from what would befall the nation that had taken his people into exile and the restoration of the people to their land.

51:5. Masoretic Text: My righteousness [is] near. My deliverance has gone forth. And my arms will judge the peoples. For me the islands wait, and for my arm they hope.

Septuagint: My righteousness quickly draws near, and like light my deliverance will go forth. And for my arm nations will hope. For me the islands will wait, and for my arm they will hope.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says that the waiting is “for him” (not “for me”) and that the hoping is for “his arm” (not “my arm”).

A recent critical text of the Septuagint does not include the words for “like light,” and they are missing in a number of modern translations of the Septuagint.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would judge the nations by the strength of his mighty arm, suggesting that his full might would be directed against them when he executes his judgment.


For YHWH’s righteousness to draw near denotes that the time had come for him to reveal his righteousness or justice by acting against the enemies of his people and rescuing them from their oppressors. In relation to his people in exile, the deliverance would be their liberation from servitude to the nation that had taken them into exile, opening up the prospect of being able to return to their own land. Upon coming to be perceived far and wide, the deliverance would be “like light” (LXX) that cannot be hidden.

YHWH’s “arm” denotes his might. His judging the peoples with his arms indicates that he would be revealing his might when executing his just judgment against them. According to the Septuagint, the nations would hope in God’s arm, looking trustfully to him to use his arm or might in order to express his judgment.

The Hebrew word for “islands” can also denote “coastlands.” In this context, the islands would be those in the Mediterranean Sea, and the coastlands would be the lands bordering on this sea. Even the distant islands and coastlands are here portrayed as waiting for YHWH, looking for him to render his just judgment.

51:6. Masoretic Text: Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look at the earth below. For the heavens will vanish like smoke; the earth will wear out like a garment, and those dwelling in it will die like a gnat. And my deliverance will be to limitless time, and my righteousness will not be shattered.

Septuagint: Lift up your eyes to heaven and look to the earth below. For heaven was made firm like smoke, but the earth will grow old like a garment. The dwellers of the earth, however, will die like these, but my deliverance will be forever [literally, “into the age”]. But my righteousness will by no means cease.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) does not include any reference to the vanishing of the heavens and the wearing out of the earth like a garment. It indicates that the reason for looking up to the heavens and down to the earth was to focus on the one who created these.

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


The sphere in which humans live is not permanent, and the prophetic words in the book of Isaiah point to a dramatic transformation — the coming into being of new heavens and a new earth. (65:17) Continual changes occur on the earth or the land and in the heavens or in the sky, which appears to the human observer like a celestial dome with points of light on its surface.

YHWH is represented as inviting his people to look at the sky or the celestial vault and down to the earth or land beneath their feet. They were to do so in order to come to know that YHWH’s deliverance and his righteousness have greater permanence than do the heavens or the celestial dome and the earth or the land. Although the heavens may vanish like the smoke that quickly dissipates and the earth may wear out like a garment, YHWH is eternal and, therefore, will for a certainty effect the deliverance that he has promised. No such assurance is possible in the case of humans, for they die just like a gnat, a short-lived insect. Righteousness or justic, however, will not cease, for YHWH is the absolute standard of justice. This makes certain that his promises are trustworthy and will never fail to be fulfilled.

Possibly the Septuagint rendering about making heaven firm or solidifying heaven like smoke could be understood to refer to the formation of a column of dense smoke that gives the appearance of being a solid object.

51:7. Masoretic Text: Listen to me, the ones knowing righteousness, the people in whose heart [is] my law. Fear not the reproach of mortals and be not dismayed at their revilings.

Septuagint: Listen to me, the ones knowing judgment, my people who [have] my law in your heart. Do not fear the reproach of men and do not be overcome by their contempt.

The Hebrew word rendered “mortals” is a collective singular.


YHWH is the one who invites those devoted to him to listen to his reassuring words. These faithful ones know righteousness or, according to the Septuagint rendering, “judgment” or justice. Their knowing what is righteous, upright, or just is not limited to their being fully aware of what is acceptable to YHWH. This knowing is expressed through upright conduct, impartial treatment of others, and trustworthiness in word. God’s law is in the heart, indicating that it is a part of the inmost self and motivates the individual to conform to it in all aspects of life.

Often those who did not live according to God’s law endeavored to exploit and oppress those who did, taunting, reviling, or looking down on them contemptuously. The admonition for those who are devoted to YHWH is that they not begin to fear the reproach or ridicule of mere mortals and that they not become deeply troubled about their revilings or their malicious taunts. These ridiculers or revilers were mortals, men who would die, and so their reproaching and reviling would end.

51:8. Masoretic Text: For a caterpillar will eat them up like a garment, and a moth will eat them like wool. And my righteousness will be for limitless time and my deliverance for generation of generations.

Septuagint: For like a garment will be consumed by time and like wool will be consumed by a moth, [so they will be]. But my righteousness will be forever [literally, “into the age”], but my deliverance for generations of generations.


Those who oppose or mistreat the people whom YHWH recognizes as his own will perish. They will come to their finish like a garment on which the larva of a clothes moth feeds and like the wool fabric that a clothes moth in its caterpillar stage devours.

YHWH, however, is eternal, always able to aid and deliver his people in their time of need. He is righteous or just in the ultimate sense. Therefore, his righteousness will endure for all time to come. There will never be a time when he is unable to deliver his people from distress, threat, or peril. Accordingly, his deliverance will be available from generation to generation to all who seek to have an approved relationship with him.

51:9. Masoretic Text: Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of YHWH. Awake as in days of old, [in] the generations of distant times. Was it not you that hewed Rahab in pieces, that pierced the sea monster?

Septuagint: Awake, awake, Jerusalem, and put on the strength of your arm. Awake as at the beginning of a day, as [in] a generation of a [past] age.

Instead of a “hewed Rahab,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) reads “broke.” Additionally, “Rahab” is spelled differently.

The Septuagint does not include a reference to Rahab or a sea monster. The last three words of Rahlfs’ printed Greek text start a sentence that is completed in the next verse. To complete the thought, these words will be included with verse 10.


The exhortation is for the “arm of YHWH” to “awake” as if rousing itself from sleep in order to take action. His “arm” represents his might, and the putting of strength on the arm denotes preparing it to manifest its full might, as if clothing it with strength. In the past, YHWH’s might was revealed when he effected impressive deliverances for his people. The appeal here is for YHWH’s arm or his great power to be revealed as it was anciently or in past generations.

“Rahab” and “sea moster” or “dragon” are parallel expressions and designate Egypt. To the Israelites during their time of enslavement, Egypt would have been like a great monster. The Targum of Isaiah specifically refers to “Pharaoh and his armies” as being “as strong as the dragon.” YHWH did hew Rahab to pieces, liberating the Israelites and smashing the military might of Egypt when, according to Exodus 14:24-28, he destroyed Pharaoh and his forces in the Red Sea.

In the Septuagint, the imperative to awake is directed to Jerusalem in her state of affliction. The situation was to change, with Jerusalem arousing herself and clothing her “arm” with strength.

In Hebrew, the noun “arm” is feminine gender. It may be that the Septuagint translator wanted to avoid the anthropomorphic use of the word “arm” and inserted Jerusalem, which still made it possible for him not to depart from the use of the feminine gender in the Hebrew text of this verse and the next verse. The introduction of Jerusalem, however, creates a problem, for Jerusalem was not involved in the parting of the sea that is mentioned in verse 10.

51:10. Masoretic Text: Was it not you that dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, [you] that made, [in] the depths of the sea, a way for the redeemed ones to cross?

Septuagint: Are you not the one who dried up the sea, the water of the abyss [in] abundance, the one who made the depths of the sea a way of passage for the rescued ones and the ransomed ones?

According to the Hebrew text, the “arm” (feminine gender) continues to be addressed (as it was in the previous verse). According to the Septuagint, the subject is still Jerusalem, which disagrees with the biblical context.

Although missing in the Masoretic Text, the preposition “in” (here in brackets) appears in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. Without the “in,” the reading would be, “who made the depths of the sea a way.”

In Rahlfs’ printed text, the words translated “and the ransomed ones” are part of verse 11. They have been included here with verse 10 to complete the question and have not been repeated for verse 11.


The question relates to what YHWH did by means of his “arm” or his great power when parting the Red Sea and forming a dry passageway that made it possible for the Israelites whom he had redeemed or rescued from Egyptian enslavement to cross the sea. (Exodus 14:21, 22)

51:11. Masoretic Text: And the ransomed ones of YHWH will return and come to Zion with [joyous] shouting, and rejoicing for limitless time [will be] on their head. They will obtain exultation and rejoicing. Grief and sighing will flee away.

Septuagint: For they will be returned by the Lord and come to Zion with rejoicing and eternal joy. For on their head [will be] exultation and praise, and rejoicing will seize them. Pain and grief and sighing have fled away.

The same thought as in this verse is expressed in Isaiah 35:10.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the Hebrew word here rendered “ransomed ones” is in the main text, but the scribe changed this word to one meaning “dispersed ones,” writing it above the word it replaces. Another Dead Sea Scroll manuscript includes the word for the bracketed verb “will be.” This scroll and the Great Isaiah Scroll also include the conjunction “and” before the phrase about “grief and sighing.”

The Targum of Isaiah mentions that a “cloud of glory” would cover the heads of the exiles. This suggests that God’s presence would be with them (as was the case when a column of cloud and a column of fire guided the Israelites during the time they were in the wilderness).


YHWH would ransom or liberate repentant Israelites, acknowledging them as belonging to him. Upon their return to Zion or Jerusalem, they would shout for joy, making expressions of praise and lifting their voice in song. Their joy would not be transitory. It would be as if permanent joy had taken up residence on their heads, prompting expressions of praise and jubilation. While in exile, they would have experienced grief and would have groaned or sighed on account of their distressing circumstances and their having to endure the taunts of their captors. (Compare Psalm 115: 2.) Displaced by joy and jubilation, grief and sighing would vanish as if having taken flight. The Septuagint rendering suggests that rejoicing would take complete possession of the repentant people.

51:12. Masoretic Text: I, I [am] the one comforting you. Who are you that you are afraid of a mortal who dies and of a son of man who is made like grass …?

Septuagint: I am, I am the one comforting you. Recognize whom you were dreading so that you became afraid before a mortal man and before a son of man, who have withered like grass.

In the case of the Masoretic Text, the question continues in the next verse.


The repetition of “I” serves to emphasize that YHWH alone is the source of genuine comfort for Zion, assuring that the afflicted condition of his people would end. With the eternal God YHWH on their side as their comforter, they should not have been afraid. Whatever mortals might do or say would be of a transitory nature, for they themselves would perish. A “son of man,” a mere earthling, is made like grass that soon dries up and dies. The wording of the question represents the people as being afraid of men but indicates that such fear has no valid basis. According to the Septuagint rendering, they were to know, recognize, or acknowledge that they had been afraid of men, failing to appreciate that mortals were no match for the eternal God.

51:13. Masoretic Text: and have forgotten YHWH, the one making you, the one stretching out the heavens and founding the earth, and you fear continually all the day before the face of the fury of the one oppressing when he sets himself to destroy? And where [is] the fury of the one oppressing?

Septuagint: And you have forgotten God, the one having made you, the one having made the heaven and founded the earth, and you feared continually all the days the face of the fury of the one oppressing you, for the manner he purposed to do away with you. And now where [is] the fury of the one oppressing you?

The idiomatic expression “before the face” here denotes “because of.”


The fearful Israelites had forgotten, or failed to bring to mind, what YHWH could do for them. As their Maker, he was directly involved in bringing them into existence. He did so initially when reviving the reproductive powers of Abraham and Sarah, and subsequently Sarah gave birth to their forefather Isaac. (Genesis 18:11-14; 21:1-3) Thereafter YHWH safeguarded the descendants of Isaac through his son Jacob, leading to their becoming a nation in Egypt.

YHWH’s power to deliver from distress and oppression has no limits, for he is the Creator of everything. He is represented as stretching out the heavens. The celestial vault appears to the human observer like a stretched-out dome that extends from horizon to horizon. YHWH is also the one to whom the founding of the earth or the land is attributed. This may be understood to mean that the land is firmly established above the level of the sea.

On account of failing to focus on YHWH as the Almighty Creator, the Israelites continued day after day in fear of the oppressor, dreading that they would be destroyed. The concluding question suggests that the oppressor perished, ending the fury that had been directed against the people. The implied answer that the oppressor’s fury had ceased to exist indicated that the people should not have given in to fear but should have trusted in YHWH to deliver them.

51:14. Masoretic Text: He who is bowed down will quickly be freed, and he will not die, [heading] for the pit. And his bread will not fail.

Septuagint: For in your being delivered, he will not remain standing nor delay [chronízo].

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah opens with the thought that “distress [not ‘he who is bowed down’] will quickly be freed.”

The Targum of Isaiah appears to refer to YHWH as the “avenger” who “hastened to be revealed.” Those who will not die and will not lack bread or food are identified as the righteous ones.


The previous verse referred to the oppressor. Therefore, the one who is “bowed down” may be regarded as the victim of oppression. YHWH would come to the aid of the oppressed one who looks to him for relief. Liberation from distress is so certain that it is spoken of as coming quickly. The afflicted one will not die prematurely and descend to the pit or the grave. He will come to have the essential bread or food for sustaining his life.

Ancient Greek manuscripts support the very different and shorter text of the Septuagint. It may be understood to mean that, upon effecting deliverance, God would not then stop but would continue to provide aid and that he would not delay in performing his saving act.

The Greek word chronízo can mean “delay” or “linger,” but it can also denote to “pass time” or to “dwell a long time.” So it may be that the oppressor is the one who does not remain standing and who does not dwell a long time, for he ceases to exist.

51:15. Masoretic Text: For I, YHWH, [am] your God, the one stirring up the sea, and its waves roar. YHWH of hosts [is] his name.

Septuagint: For I [am] your God, the one stirring up the sea and causing its waves to roar. The Lord Sabaoth [is] my name.

“Sabaoth” is a transliterated form of the Hebrew word that means “hosts” or “armies.”


YHWH is portrayed as identifying himself as the God of his people. Then follows a proof of his might. Whereas humans can do nothing to control the sea, YHWH can stir it up, resulting in the roaring of powerful waves. He is YHWH of hosts, the God with hosts of angels in his service, ready to carry out his purpose. His name YHWH, drawn from the root meaning “to be,” identifies him as the God who is and continues to be and as the ultimate Source of everything that exists and that will come to be in fulfillment of his word and purpose. The name assures that he will never deviate from what he has declared or revealed he would prove himself to be. Therefore, the Israelites had no reason for doubting that the promised deliverance from exile would take place.

51:16. Masoretic Text: And I will put my words into your mouth, and in the shadow of my hand I concealed you, to plant the heavens and to found the earth and to say to Zion, “You [are] my people.”

Septuagint: I will put my words into your mouth, and I shelter you under the shadow of my hand, by which I established the heaven and founded the earth. And he will say to Zion, “You are my people.”

As in the Septuagint, there is no beginning “and” in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll).

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the words as the words of God’s prophecy and then applies everything to his people. “And I have set the words of my prophecy in your mouth, and in the shadow of my might have I protected you to establish the people of whom it was said that they should become numerous as the stars of the heavens, and to establish the congregation of whom it was said that they should become numerous as the dust of the earth, and to say to the dwellers in Zion, ‘You are my people.’”


The one into whose mouth YHWH puts his words is either the prophet or the Messianic servant. With the message in his mouth, he would be proclaiming not his own words but those which God had revealed to him. If the planting of the heavens and the founding of the earth are linked to the one to whom YHWH entrusted his message, the reference would be to the servant, Jesus, the promised Messiah.

A shadow brings refreshing relief from the heat of the sun’s rays. So, to be concealed by or to have the cover of the shadow of God’s hand would mean to be protected when carrying out the commission to proclaim his words. If the Messianic servant is the agent involved in the planting of the heavens and the founding of the earth, this may be understood to refer to his role in bringing about the transformation of the earthly sphere, replacing the existing realm in which humans carry on their activities with “new heavens and a new earth,” where there will not be any injustices, distress, or oppression but where righteousness or justice will prevail. (65:17; compare 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4.)

The Septuagint rendering suggests that the hand that provides shelter or cover is the same powerful hand that established the heaven and founded the earth or brought the original sphere in which humans live (the celestial vault and the land) into existence. This assured the one entrusted with the message that he would be able to fulfill his assignment with God’s sure protection.

Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint indicate that the message includes YHWH’s acknowledgment of those whom he regards as his people. Zion is referred to as representing the people who are devoted to YHWH and whom he can look upon as his own.

A number of translations emend the Hebrew text to limit the application to what God does, ruling out any reference to the Messianic servant. “I have told you what to say, and I will keep you safe in the palm of my hand. I spread out the heavens and laid foundations for the earth. Now I say, ‘Jerusalem, your people are mine.’” (CEV) “I have put my words in your mouth and kept you covered under the shelter of my hand. I who fixed the heavens in place and established the earth say to Zion, You are my people.” (REB) “I have put my words into your mouth and shielded you in the shadow of my hand, I, who stretched out the heavens, who laid the foundations of the earth, who say to Zion: You are my people.” (NAB)

51:17. Masoretic Text: Awake, awake, stand up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of YHWH the cup of his wrath, who have drunk, [who] have drained the bowl, the cup of staggering.

Septuagint: Awake, awake, stand up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk the cup of the wrath from the Lord’s hand, for you have drunk out and emptied the cup of destruction, the bowl of his wrath.


As a desolated, depopulated city, Jerusalem would have been in a very low state, but the time neared for a reversal to occur. Therefore, Jerusalem was to rouse herself as from a drunken stupor of humiliation and to stand up. YHWH’s anger had been directed against her on account of the lawlessnes of the people. The conquest of Jerusalem and the resultant suffering of its inhabitants and all the other Israelites in the realm of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah would have been comparable to one’s being forced to drink a bitter potion that would rob one of one’s senses and cause one to stagger like a drunkard. To indicate that the potion would not be weakened in any way, Jerusalem is depicted as drinking every drop, completely emptying the cup.

51:18. Masoretic Text: [There is] no one to guide her among all the sons she has borne, and [there is] no one to take [her] by the hand among all the sons she has reared.

Septuagint: And [there] was no one to comfort you among all your children whom you have borne, and [there] was no one to take hold of your hand among all your sons whom you have reared.

Instead of “guide her,” the text of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah may be rendered “guide you.”


A mother could usually depend on her adult sons for guidance or comfort in her time of trouble. They would prove to be a source of help and support, as if taking hold of her hand. Devastated Jerusalem, having been deprived of her population, had no sons to help, guide, or comfort her. There were no sons who could take hold of her hand to provide assistance.

51:19. Masoretic Text: These two things have befallen you. Who will show sympathy to you? Devastation and ruin and famine and sword. Who will comfort you?

Septuagint: These two things are adverse to you. Who will grieve with you? Downfall and ruin, famine and sword. Who will comfort you?


Possibly “devastation and ruin” could be regarded as one of the two things, for “devastation and ruin” relate to what happened to the city when it was reduced to rubble. “Famine and sword” could then be considered the second thing, which specifically affected the inhabitants. During the siege, many would have died from famine, and others would have been slain with the sword the conquering military force wielded. In the time of Jerusalem’s calamity, there would have been no one to express sympathy and no one to provide comfort.

The Targum of Isaiah does not identify the two things in this manner. It says, “Two afflictions have come upon you, O Jerusalem; you cannot stand: when four will come upon you, spoiling and destruction and the famine and the sword, there is none that will comfort you but I.”

51:20. Masoretic Text: Your sons have fainted [‘aláph]. They lie at the head of all the streets, like an antelope [toh’] in a net. They are full of the wrath of YHWH, the rebuke of your God.

Septuagint: Your sons, the ones being perplexed, the ones sleeping at the head of all the egresses like a half-boiled beet, the ones full of the wrath of the Lord, weakened by the Lord God.

The basic significance of the Hebrew word ‘aláph is “to cover.” In this context, the meaning appears to be that the sons had fainted or fallen into a swoon as though their senses had been completely covered. According to the Septuagint rendering, the sons were “perplexed” or at a lost as to what to do.

“Antelope” is one possible rendering for the Hebrew word toh’. Other suggested meanings include “wild goat,” “ibex,” “oryx,” and “gazelle.” The measure of uncertainty about the specific significance of the Hebrew designation toh’ is evident from the words “half-boiled beet” found in the Septuagint. This rendering does not convey a comprehensible meaning.

The Targum of Isaiah indicates the the sons would “be torn in pieces,” but it does not liken their plight to that of a specific animal caught in a net.


The “sons” or inhabitants of Jerusalem (and by extension the people of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah) are portrayed as the helpless victims of conquest. They have “fainted” or been deprived of all sense and strength, unable to resist the onslaught of the invaders. At the heads or corners of the streets, the “egresses” (LXX) or points of exit, they lie like antelopes caught in a snare, unable to escape and about to be slaughtered. YHWH permitted this calamity to befall the people and, therefore, they are referred to as being full of his wrath and of his rebuke of them for their disregard of his commands. According to the Septuagint, God had enfeebled or weakened them, plunging them into a helpless state.

In the case of the Septuagint rendering, the verb “are” would need to be added after “sons” in order to complete the sentence. It is also possible to understand the words as a question related to the previous verse. The basic thought would then be, Will these helpless sons against whom God’s wrath has been directed comfort you, O Jerusalem?

51:21. Masoretic Text: Therefore, hear this, O afflicted one, and drunken and not with wine.

Septuagint: Therefore, hear, humiliated one and drunk one, [but] not from wine.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the Hebrew adjective here rendered “afflicted one” is not followed by the conjunction “and.”


Because of coming to be a desolated and depopulated site, Zion or Jerusalem is referred to as “afflicted.” Zion’s suffering is likened to the delirious effect of overindulgence in drinking wine. This distressing situation was to end.

51:22. Masoretic Text: Thus says your Lord YHWH, and your God, who contends for his people, “Look! I have taken the cup of staggering from your hand; the bowl, the cup of my wrath, you will not continue to drink any longer.”

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord God, the one judging his people, “Look! I took from your hand the cup of destruction, the bowl of wrath, and you will not continue to drink it any longer.”


YHWH provided comfort for his repentant people, assuring them that their time of suffering would end. He would contend for them, taking up their case. As a result, they would no longer have to bear affliction as if drinking from a cup the bitter, stupefying potion that would cause them to stagger like a drunkard. YHWH would take the “cup” out of their hand, setting them free from having to experience the expression of his wrath as if forced to drink or partake of it as from a cup or bowl.

51:23. Masoretic Text: And I will put it into the hand of those grieving you who have said to your soul, “Bow down, and we may pass over.” And you have made your back like the earth and like the street for their passing over.

Septuagint: And I will thrust it into the hands of those having wronged you and those having humiliated you, the ones having said to your soul, “Bend down, that we may pass over.” And you have made your back equal to the earth, outside, to those passing by.

The expression “your soul” denotes “you yourself.”

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah refers to those grieving and oppressing.


YHWH would give the “cup” that had meant great distress for his people to those who had afflicted them. These oppressors had treated them mercilessly as if forcing them to prostrate themselves and then using their backs like the ground or the road on which they trampled.