Isaiah 52:1-15

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52:1. Masoretic Text: Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on garments of beauty, O Jerusalem, the holy city. For the uncircumcised one and the unclean one will not continue to come into you again.

Septuagint: Awake, awake, O Zion; put on your strength, O Zion, and put on your glory, O Jerusalem, the holy city. No longer will the uncircumcised one and the unclean one proceed to pass through you.

Instead of “your strength,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “strength,” and this scroll does not include the adverb that may be rendered “again.” As a correction for the omission in the main text, “Zion” is written above the line.


Zion or Jerusalem is personified as a woman who has been reduced to a helpless state like that of a person who is asleep. When Jerusalem was devastated and many of the survivors of the conquest were taken into exile, the circumstances of Jerusalem were comparable to that of a humiliated, sleeping woman without any strength to act. The transformation to occur for Jerusalem is represented as a directive for her to awake as from sleep, to rise, and to put on strength or no longer to be in a weak state. Jerusalem’s changed status would be like that of a woman who is able to take off the garments of her captivity and to array herself in beautiful attire. This signified that Jerusalem would take on the splendor of a rebuilt, thriving city.

As the location of YHWH’s temple, Jerusalem was a “holy city.” That holy status would be preserved by not letting it be trampled upon by the uncircumcised and those who were ceremonially unclean. This implied that Jerusalem would not be subjected to the invasions of enemy nations.

52:2. Masoretic Text: Shake yourself from the dust; arise; be seated, O Jerusalem. Loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Septuagint: Shake off the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem. Take off the bond of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

The Hebrew word here rendered “be seated” is shebí, the imperative form of the verb yasháv. It is also the spelling for the word “captivity.” In this context, “captivity” does not fit the rest of the sentence. For this reason, it has been suggested that the word probably should be understood to be shebiyáh (“captive”), which is the term that precedes “daughter of Jerusalem.” Neither the Targum of Isaiah nor the Septuagint, however, support the meaning “captive.”

The Targum of Isaiah represents Jerusalem as being told to “sit on the throne of glory,” and the Septuagint translator likewise considered the Hebrew word to signify “sit.”

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes shebí, as it does in 47:1, which would support rendering shebí as “be seated” or “sit.” Additionally, in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the verb for “arise.”


In her state of humiliation as a desolated and depopulated city, Jerusalem found herself in a position comparable to that of a woman either seated or lying prostrate in the dust. As a consequence of a dramatic change in circumstances, Jerusalem is told to shake herself free from the dust, stand up, and seat herself in a dignified position.

In the prophetic portrayal, the plight of the exiles is transferred to Jerusalem, personified as a woman. The bonds on the necks of the exiles are referred to as the bonds around her neck, and she is called the “captive daughter of Zion.” For her to be able to get free from the bonds and to cease being a captive would signify that the exiles would be able to return to rebuild and to repopulate Jerusalem. The Targum of Isaiah makes this application explicit with the words, “The chains of your necks are cut off, O captives of the congregation of Zion.”

52:3. Masoretic Text: For thus says YHWH, For nothing you were sold, and not with silver will you be redeemed.

Septuagint: For thus says the Lord, For nothing you were sold, and not with silver will you be redeemed.


Jerusalem, as representing the inhabitants of the city and those living in the territory of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, came to be in exile. In his expression of judgment against the unfaithful people, YHWH permitted this to happen, but he received no payment for it from those who acted against them. With no previous payment having been received for the sale of his people, YHWH had no need to make any payment of silver (the common medium of exchange at that time) for the purpose of redeeming them or liberating them from exile.

52:4. Masoretic Text: For thus says the Lord YHWH, At the first my people went down into Egypt to sojourn there, and Asshur [the Assyrians] oppressed them for nothing.

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, My people formerly went down into Egypt to sojourn there, and to the Assyrians they were led by force.

The designation “Lord” does not appear in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.


At the invitation of Joseph, which invitation had the approval of the ruling Pharaoh, Jacob and his family came to Egypt from the land of Canaan. On account of the severe famine that affected the entire region, the family of Jacob, the father of Joseph and the ancestor of the nation of Israel, then began their voluntary alien residence. (Genesis 45:9-13, 16-21) The Israelites were not slaves for whom payment had been made.

Centuries later, the Assyrians conquered the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and invaded the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. Many of the survivors of the Assyrian military campaigns were forcibly taken into exile. Again no transaction with silver or money was then involved. Accordingly, neither the Egyptians nor the Assyrians had any right to enslave the Israelites. Their oppressive measures were completely unjustifiable.

52:5. Masoretic Text: And now, what [have] I here? says YHWH. For my people have been taken away for nothing. The ones ruling them howl, says YHWH, and continually, all the day, my name is being blasphemed.

Septuagint: And now, why are you here? Thus says the Lord, Because my people were taken for nothing, you wonder and howl. Thus says the Lord, Because of you my name is continually blasphemed among the nations.

The introductory elliptical question of the Hebrew text requires the addition of a verb in order to convey a comprehensible meaning. Translations vary considerably in the choice of additions. “Now therefore what have I here …?” (ESV) “What therefore do I gain here?” (Tanakh) “But now what do I find here?” (REB) “But now, what am I to do here?” (NAB) “Now therefore what am I doing here …?” (NRSV) “So now what is to be done …?” (NJB) “Now look at what has happened to them.” (NIRV) “And now another nation has taken you prisoner for no reason at all.” (CEV) Und wie steht es jetzt? (And how is it now? [German, Gute Nachricht Biblel]) Und was muss ich jetzt sehen? (And what must I see now? [German, Hoffnung für alle) Nun aber, was geschieht mir denn hier …? (But now, what then is happening to me here …? [German translation by Schlachter, 2000 edition]) Aber was erlebe ich jetzt …? (But what am I experiencing now …? [German, Einheitsübersetzung])

The Targum of Isaiah introduces the corresponding words of the verse without a question. “And now I am about to deliver [my people].” Then those ruling are represented as the ones of the nations to whom the Israelites had been sold for nothing, and these nations are then referred to as boasting (howling gleefully) and provoking YHWH to anger by blaspheming his name.


The previous verse mentioned Egypt and Assyria, with a reference to oppression. Therefore, the introductory question may be understood to relate to the new development respecting the Israelites — their coming under the domination of another major power. According to the Septuagint, the question may concern the reason the people found themselves in the existing distressing situation.

YHWH did not gain from what he permitted to happen to his people, for they ended up being taken away into exile for nothing. The identity of the rulers is not readily apparent from the Hebrew text. They could be the Israelite rulers who howled or wailed on account of the calamity that had befallen them. Although not mentioning rulers, the Septuagint rendering does support an application to the Israelites, for they are the ones who are represented as wondering and howling about what had happened to them. The Contemporary English Version is explicit in identifying the rulers as being those of the Israelites. “Your leaders groan with pain.” Modern translations generally have not adopted this interpretation in their renderings but reflect the meaning found in the Targum of Isaiah. “Those who rule them mock.” (NIV) “Their masters howl in triumph.” (NJB) “Their mockers howl.” (Tanakh)

In view of the oppression the Israelites endured as exiles, observers would be inclined to conclude that their God could not help them. As a consequence, the name of God, or the person of YHWH, would be reviled or blasphemed among the nations. He came to be regarded as being inferior in power to the gods of the triumphant nation. According to the Septuagint, the Israelites were responsible for this, for it had been because of their unfaithfulness that YHWH permitted them to be conquered and taken into exile.

52:6. Masoretic Text: Therefore, my people will know my name; therefore, in that day [they will know] that I [am] the one speaking, “Here [am] I.”

Septuagint: Therefore, my people will know my name in that day, for I am he who is speaking: I am present,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the expression rendered “therefore” only appears at the beginning of the verse.

In the Septuagint rendering, the expression “I am present” is linked to the words that follow.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, God’s name would be magnified among the nations. This would be because YHWH had delivered his people.


“That day” would be the time when YHWH would turn his favorable attention to his repentant people, liberating them from their oppressors. They would then “know” his name, recognizing him as the only God who could deliver, aid, and protect them. Additionally, they would know him from the standpoint of enjoying an approved relationship with him because of having abandoned their lawless ways. This development would unerringly occur, for YHWH is the one who had declared that it would happen. At the time of the fulfillment, he would be with his people.

52:7. Masoretic Text: How comely upon the mountains [are] the feet of the one bringing glad tidings, announcing peace, bringing glad tidings of good, announcing deliverance, saying to Zion, “Your God reigns”!

Septuagint: like an hour on the mountains, like feet bringing glad tidings, a report of peace, like one bringing glad tidings of good things, for perceivably [literally, audibly] I will effect your deliverance, saying to Zion, “Your God will reign.”

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads a little differently. “How comely upon the mountains [are] the feet of the one bringing glad tidings, bringing glad tidings of peace, announcing good, announcing deliverance, saying to Zion, “Your God reigns.”


The moving feet of a messenger bringing good news would be a comely, beautiful, or welcome sight. From the standpoint of a person looking up to higher elevations, the messenger’a feet would be closest to the observer’s visual field. The announcement of peace indicated that the people would be able to enjoy a secure state and not have to face the turbulent and distressing times associated with war. Additionally, they would cease to be in a state of alienation from their God on account of their unfaithfulness. As a repentant people, they would be reconciled to him and so at peace with him. The message would also prove to be a message of “good,” which would include an assurance of YHWH’s blessing, aid, and protective care. As an announcement of deliverance, the message revealed that the repentant people could be confident that YHWH would liberate them from all distress.

Zion or Jerusalem would again be a thriving repopulated city enjoying YHWH’s blessing and safeguarding. As the people would be seeking to do God’s will, they would be recognizing him as their king, and what he would be doing for them would demonstrate that he reigned in Zion.

The Septuagint rendering indicates that YHWH would reveal that he was present with his people by what he would be doing for them. He would be there for them “like an hour on the mountains.” This may be understood to mean that he would be acting at the right hour or at the opportune time in bringing about their deliverance. His coming to their aid would be comparable to the welcome sight of the feet of a messenger bringing good news, bringing a message of peace, declaring good things that would benefit the people, heralding the message that deliverance from all distress was at hand, and providing the assurance that YHWH reigned in Zion.

52:8. Masoretic Text: Listen, your watchmen lift up [their] voice. Together they shout [joyfully], for eye to eye they will see when YHWH is returning to Zion.

Septuagint: For the voice of the ones guarding you was lifted up, and with the [same] voice they will rejoice together. For eyes to eyes, they will see when the Lord will have mercy on Zion.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “their voice” and adds that YHWH’s returning to Zion is “with compassion.”

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the watchmen to be the “rulers” of the congregation of Zion and says that “with their eyes they will see the mighty acts which YHWH will perform when he will bring back his Shekinah to Zion.”


The directive to listen denotes to give attention to the expressions of the watchmen when they raise their voice so as to be heard. Theirs is a joyous outcry, for they see or discern that YHWH is returning to Zion, giving his favorable attention to the city so that it can cease to be a desolated site and begin to thrive as a rebuilt and populated metropolis. The watchmen could be the prophets who looked forward to the time of Zion’s restoration. (Compare Ezekiel 33:7.) It may be, however, that the designation “watchmen” could here apply to all who were waiting for YHWH to turn his attention to Zion. Another possibility is that watchmen are being portrayed as if at their posts in Jerusalem. Seeing YHWH’s return, they start their joyous shouting to announce the welcome development.

The words “eye to eye” may serve to express that the watchmen would have an unmistakably clear sight of YHWH’s return to Zion, comparable to that of one person looking directly into the eyes of another person. As indicated in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah and the rendering of the Septuagint, this return would be an evidence of YHWH’s compassion for his repentant people.

52:9. Masoretic Text: Break forth [with joy]; shout [joyously] together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for YHWH has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem.

Septuagint: Let the ruins of Jerusalem break forth together with rejoicing, for the Lord has had mercy on her and rescued Jerusalem.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” follows “his people.”


With the start of the restoration of Jerusalem, the ruins would no longer continue to be a sad spectacle but would take on a delightful appearance. Therefore, they are depicted as being encouraged to break forth with joyous exclamations. By effecting the liberation of his people and making it possible for them to return to Zion, YHWH comforted them, ending their sorrow as an oppressed people in exile. Because the people would be able to return to Zion and to start rebuilding the city, their being comforted thereby would provide the occasion for the ruins of Jerusalem to rejoice. Although the people are the ones whom YHWH redeemed, this had a direct bearing on developments respecting Jerusalem. The city would be transformed from a desolate site to a populated rebuilt city. Accordingly, YHWH could be spoken of as having redeemed Jerusalem.

As rendered in the Septuagint, he had mercy on Jerusalem and rescued her from her desolate state. This was the direct result of what he did for his people when liberating them from exile.

52:10. Masoretic Text: YHWH has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the deliverance of our God.

Septuagint: And the Lord will reveal his holy arm before all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the deliverance by God.

In the Masoretic Text, the definite article “the” does not precede “earth,” but it is included in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.


YHWH’s arm represents his power. It is “holy” or “pure.” YHWH only uses his might in a pure way and never turns aside from the ultimate standard of justice. The baring of his holy arm denotes the revealing of his power to effect the deliverance of his people. There would be no ambiguity about who had brought about this deliverance, and the “eyes of all the nations” would perceive that YHWH had done it. Even the people of the distant regions, the “ends of the earth” would see that he had delivered his people from their oppressors.

52:11. Masoretic Text: Depart, depart, go out from there. Touch no unclean thing. Go out from the midst of her. Purify yourselves, you the ones carrying the vessels of YHWH.

Septuagint: Depart, depart, go out from there, and touch not an unclean thing. Go out from her midst; separate yourselves, you the ones carrying the vessels of the Lord.


The repetition of the imperative to depart serves to emphasize that the people should leave the place of exile without delay. The feminine pronoun “her” applies to Babylon, the capital of the Babylonian empire. Therefore, by extension, the reference would be to the entire land where the Israelites found themselves in exile. As a prominent center of idolatrous practices, Babylon was an unclean place, and so was all the rest of the land. This required that the exiles exercise care not to touch any unclean thing and purify themselves, or separate themselves, from anything that might have defiled them on account of having lived in an unclean environment.

Their being in a pure state would have been essential when they transported the sacred vessels that would be used in the services at the temple. The Babylonians had seized these precious utensils after conquering the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, and the conqueror of Babylon, the Persian monarch Cyrus, returned them to the exiles to be taken back to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:7-11)

52:12. Masoretic Text: For you will not go out in haste, and you will not go in flight, for YHWH will be going before your faces, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Septuagint: For you will not depart in turmoil nor will you go out in flight, for the Lord will go out first before you, and the Lord, the God of Israel, [is] the one gathering you.

The expression “before your faces” means “before you.”

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah adds, “He will be called God of all the earth.”


The departure from the place of exile was not like a panicky flight. It was no hurried escape from danger, for the Persian king Cyrus, serving as YHWH’s instrument, permitted the Israelites to return to their own land. As had been the case when the Israelites left Egypt, YHWH guided and protected the exiles on the way back to their own land. He is represented as leading the way and safeguarding them like their rear guard. (Compare Exodus 13:21, 22.) According to the Septuagint rendering, God would be gathering his people, which could mean that he would assemble them from the various locations of residence for the return to their land.

52:13. Masoretic Text: Look! My servant will act insightfully [sakhál]. He will be exalted and lifted up and will be very high.

Septuagint: Look! My servant will have insight [syníemi], and he will be exalted and exceedingly glorified.

The Hebrew verb here rendered “act insightfully” is a form of sakhál. Like the Greek word syníemi, sakhál can mean “to have insight” or “to understand.” In this verse, the form of the Hebrew verb, when understood to relate to insight, refers to the use of insight, understanding, or comprehension. The Latin verb intellego, found in the Vulgate, has the same meaning as the Greek verb syníemi.

Lexicons also include “prosper,” “have success,” or “achieve success” as additional definitions for sakhál. Numerous translations have rendered the Hebrew verb accordingly. The rendering “prosper” represents the verse as indicating that the servant would succeed in accomplishing what YHWH had purposed for him to do.

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the servant as the Messiah or the Anointed One.


The next truly significant event after the Israelites returned from exile would be the appearance of YHWH’s servant, the promised Messiah or Anointed One. As one who had received his teaching from YHWH, he would have outstanding insight or understanding, being able to teach in a manner that no one else could and conducting himself wisely in all respects. (Compare John 7:45, 46; 8:28, 29.) On account of the insight he would manifest when carrying out God’s will, he would be exalted, lifted up from what appeared to men as a lowly condition, and come to occupy a very high position as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” According to the Septuagint rendering, he would be “exceedingly glorified,” being divinely granted unparalleled authority. (Compare Philippians 2:6-11; Revelation 19:16.)

52:14. Masoretic Text: [Just] as many were appalled at you, so the disfigurement of his appearance beyond [that of] a man [’ish] [will be], and his form beyond [that of] the sons of man [’adhám, the earthling].

Septuagint: In the manner many will be beside themselves over you, thus the sight of you will be despised by men and your glory by men.

The Hebrew word ’adhám (“man,” “earthling”) is a collective singular.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the “house of Israel” waited “many days” for the Messiah. It then says that “their appearance was wretched among the nations, and their countenance beyond that of the sons of men.”


In the Hebrew text, the change from the second person “you” to the third person “his” results in a measure of ambiguity. Translators have commonly changed the “you” to “him” or rendered the text to apply to Israel as being the people who were the object of a feeling of horror when in the humiliated state of oppressed exiles. “Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” (NIV) “As many people were aghast at him — he was so inhumanly disfigured that he no longer looked like a man.” (NJB) “Time was when many were appalled at you, my people.” (REB) “Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man.” (NASB)

According to the Septuagint, the entire description relates to the Messianic servant, and this appears to be the preferable meaning. Before coming to be highly exalted, the Messianic servant would come to be in a greatly humiliated state, giving no indication respecting the unparalleled authority and dignity he would afterward be granted. Because he would be maligned and treated as being of no account, many would be aghast in their view of him. His appearance would be so distorted by the words spoken against him and by the suffering to which he would be submitted that people would look upon him with contempt.

Possibly the Hebrew word ’ish here denotes a distinguished man or a man of rank, whereas ’adhám may be understood to mean an ordinary man, a mere earthling. In his condition of humiliation, the servant did not have the appearance of a dignified man. His distorted form made him appear as being even less than a common man.

According to the Septuagint, he would be despised, dishonored, or held in very low esteem. The people would see no glory, honor, or dignity in him.

52:15. Masoretic Text: So he will sprinkle [nazáh] many nations. Because of him, kings will shut their mouth, for what has not been told them they will see, and what they have not heard they will discern.

Septuagint: Thus many nations will marvel at him, and kings will shut their mouth. For [as] to the ones it has not been announced concerning him, they will see, and the ones who have not heard will discern.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the Messiah or Anointed One will scatter many nations, triumphing over them. Neither the Hebrew text nor the Septuagint support this meaning in relation to the nations.


The basic meaning of the Hebrew verb nazáh is “sprinkle.” If this is the case here, it could relate to the cleansing of people of the nations that would come about through the Messianic servant. When, for example, an Israelite became ceremonially unclean, he had to be sprinkled with the water of cleansing in order to be purified from defilement. (Numbers 19:11-20) The sprinkling could also relate to bringing people of the nations into an approved covenant relationship with God as persons forgiven of their sins through the Messianic servant. At the time the law covenant was inaugurated, Moses sprinkled the Israelites with the blood of sacrificial animals. (Exodus 24:5-8) There is a basis for linking the sprinkling of the nations to the cleansing from sin and a reconciliation with God, for the servant is later referred to as suffering for the sins of others and healing them with the stripes that would be inflicted on him. (53:5; compare 1 Peter 1:2.)

Another possibility is that, in this context, the verb nazáh has another meaning. Based on Arabic, the verb has been defined as meaning “spring” or “leap,” but lexicographers have acknowledged that this is doubtful. By extension, nazáh has been defined as “startle” (as an animal may be caused to leap upon being startled). Numerous translators have rendered nazáh according to this significance. In view of the earlier mention of the exaltation of the Messianic servant (verse 13), people of the nations could be represented as being startled by the transformation of the humiliated servant to a highly exalted personage. This does appear to be the meaning of the Septuagint rendering, which indicates that “many nations” or people of many nations would “marvel” at him, being astounded at what had taken place respecting the servant.

The remainder of the verse seems to focus on the effect that the servant’s exaltation would have even on rulers. Having impressed upon them the greatness of the servant by reason of his having been divinely granted authority and power far greater than theirs, kings would be reduced to silence. They would shut their mouths, unable to say anything on account of the fear-inspiring effect his exaltation would have on them. Nothing of this nature had ever been related to them, and yet they would see what had never been declared to them about the formerly humiliated servant. Although they had never heard about it before, they would come to discern or understand just what had taken place respecting him. (See Romans 15:21 for the application to Jesus, the Messianic servant.)