Isaiah 58:1-14

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58:1. Masoretic Text: Cry with [full] throat; do not hold back. Lift up your voice like a shofar, and declare their transgression to my people and their sins to the house of Jacob.

Septuagint: Cry out with strength, and do not hold back. Lift up your voice like a trumpet, and declare their sins to my people and their lawless deeds to the house of Jacob.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the word that may be rendered “transgression,” “rebellion,” or “revolt” is plural.


The Targum of Isaiah identifies the prophet as the one to whom the imperatives are directed, and this fits the context. For the prophet to “cry with full throat” would require him to make his proclamation in a loud and forceful manner. His not holding back would call for him to be bold when speaking, not restraining his expressions in any way.

A shofar is a ram’s-horn trumpet, the sound of which was meant to be heard over a long distance. Just like a shofar, the prophet’s voice was to resound among the people. As descendants of Jacob, God’s people Israel constituted the “house of Jacob.”

The prophet needed to make the people hear that they had been guilty of transgressing YHWH’s commands. With the prophet’s declaration being loud and clear, the people could not claim ignorance about their standing before their God and the necessity for them to repent.

58:2. Masoretic Text: And they seek me day [after] day, and they delight to know my ways as [if they were] a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God. They ask of me judgments of righteousness; they delight to draw near to God.

Septuagint: They seek me day after day and desire to know my ways. Like a people practicing righteousness and not forsaking the judgment of his God, they now ask me for righteous judgment and desire to draw near to God,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” does not appear at the start of this verse. Additionally, in connection with seeking, the scroll literally reads “day and day.”


As the context reveals, the people did not seek YHWH in sincerity, truly wanting to receive instruction from him and to have his approval. Their delighting to know or desiring to know his ways did not have as its objective to follow his ways instead of their own own. As persons who had observed the outward forms of worship, they thought they had conducted themselves uprightly and had not departed from God’s judgment or his standard of justice. In reality, however, they did not live a life of righteousness, and they had abandoned the kind of justice that God’s law required. Nevertheless, probably through the prophet, they asked for YHWH’s righteous judgments or that he would execute justice for them. Their desire to draw near to God apparently was with the intent that he would bless them because they had fasted, prayed, and presented sacrifices.

58:3. Masoretic Text: Why have we fasted, and you did not see? Why did we afflict our soul, and you did not know? Look! In the day of your fast, you seek [your own] delight, and you oppress all your workers.

Septuagint: saying, Why [is it] that we have fasted, and you did not see; humbled our souls, and you did not know? For in the days of your fasts, you find your desires, and all the ones under your hands you prod.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) has the plural for the word “soul.”


Apparently because YHWH did not respond in the manner they expected, the people felt that he had not seen their fasting or “known” or taken notice of the way they had afflicted or humbled their “soul,” their “souls,” or themselves. For a man to afflict his soul means for him to fast or to choose to abstain from eating.

YHWH had not given attention to the fasting of the people because they did not do so to him. They made no changes respecting their objectives nor in their treatment of others on their fast days but acted as they did on all other days. Instead of reflecting seriously on God’s ways and being concerned about conducting themselves accordingly, they continued to pursue their own desires, interests, objectives, or the things in which they found their delight. Especially the wealthy among them gave no thought to the manner in which YHWH wanted them to treat others. Instead, they continued to oppress or exploit those who labored for them.

Those under their hands (LXX) would have been persons under their control or authority. These lowly ones they prodded or drove to work.

58:4. Masoretic Text: Look! You fast for quarreling and fighting, and you hit with a wicked fist. You cannot fast like today [for] your voice to be heard on high.

Septuagint: If you fast for disputes and fights and strike the lowly one with fists, why do you fast for me like [you do] today [just for] your voice to be heard in a cry?

The words in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) may be rendered , “You fast for quarreling and for fighting.”


In conjunction with prayer, fasting functioned as an appeal to God for favorable attention. Therefore, those who fasted should have done so with the humble spirit of needy petitioners. This did not prove to be the case. Either fasting made the people irritable and caused them to lash out against others or they simply continued with their quarreling and fighting as on other days.

The reference to a “wicked fist” suggests that the people, especially the wealthy oppressors among them, unjustifiably and viciously struck the lowly with their fists. Those who were the targets of the physical assaults could have included slaves, laborers, debtors, and resident aliens.

On account of such hateful conduct, those who were fasting should not have expected to be “heard on high.” This may mean that they would not have YHWH’s favorable attention. A number of translations make this explicit in their renderings. “On such a day the fast you are keeping is not one that will carry your voice to heaven.” (REB) “No wonder God won’t listen to your prayers!” (CEV) “You cannot do these things as you do now and believe your prayers are heard in heaven.” (NCV)

There is also a possibility that the last sentence of the Hebrew text could be understood to mean, “You should not fast like today to make your voice heard on high.” Making the voice heard could then refer to the loud quarreling and fighting. This appears to be the sense of the Septuagint rendering, which refers to the voice as being heard in a cry, an outcry, or a shout. It is also possible that the words in the Septuagint could mean that the oppressors made their voice heard along with the outcry of those whom they oppressed.

58:5. Masoretic Text: Will a fast I choose be like this — a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a rush and to spread sackcloth and ashes [under him]? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to YHWH?

Septuagint: This [is] not the fast I have chosen, and a day for a man to humble his soul, not even if you bend your neck like a ring and spread under [you] sackcloth and ashes, not even [then] shall you call [it] an acceptable fast.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” does not precede the phrase about sackcloth and ashes nor is it included before “a day acceptable to YHWH.”


The fast that YHWH chose was not one consisting of outward appearances, afflicting one’s soul or not eating. Nor did it involve assuming a particular posture, bowing down one’s head like a bent rush, having one’s loins covered with sackcloth, a coarse cloth commonly made from goats’ hair, and sitting on ashes. The answer to the rhetorical question would be, Mere externals, unaccompanied by a compassionate attitude toward those in need, did not constitute a fast from YHWH’s standpoint nor a day acceptably set aside for him.

According to the Septuagint, the neck would be bent down and thus curved like a ring.

58:6. Masoretic Text: [Is] not this a fast I choose — to loose the bonds of wickedness, to unfasten the cords of the yoke, to set those being oppressed free, and to break every yoke?

Septuagint: Such [is] not a fast I have chosen, says the Lord, but loose every band of unrighteousness, dissolve the knots of onerous agreements. Let the oppressed ones go free, and tear up every unjust document.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the definite article precedes “fast” and “that” follows. Additionally, this scroll includes the conjunction “and” before the phrase about unfastening the cords of the yoke.


Persons whose fasting would be divinely acceptable would show compassionate regard for the lowly and the needy, refraining from oppressive action and bringing relief to them from distress. “Bonds of wickedness” would be harsh schemes to keep disadvantaged ones in a state of oppressive servitude. The heavy burden that the poor and lowly had to bear would have been comparable to having a yoke tied to them. Those who wanted to be pleasing to YHWH would liberate the disadvantaged ones from harsh bonds and oppressive yokes.

According to the Septuagint, the harsh agreements into which the poor and lowly were forced should be dissolved and documents that were unjust to them should be torn up.

58:7. Masoretic Text: Is it not to break your bread with the hungry one and that you bring the wandering poor into your house; when you see the naked man, that you cover him, and that you not hide yourself from your flesh?

Septuagint: Break your bread with the hungry one and bring the poor ones without a roof into your house. When you see someone naked, cover [him], and you shall not neglect [any] from the relatives of your seed.

The “wandering poor” are those who have no place to call their home. According to the Septuagint rendering, they have no roof over their heard or no shelter.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) says that the naked man is to be covered with a “garment” or with “clothing” (béged).


Persons with the right spirit when fasting would share their bread with the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless poor, and clothe those without essential garments.

The reference to “your flesh” may be understood to apply to fellow humans. In the Septuagint, the one in need is identified as a relative. To hide oneself from one’s flesh would mean to refuse to respond with aid to the one needing help. As expressed in the Septuagint, this would signify for one to disregard the individual who is suffering distress.

58:8. Masoretic Text: Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will spring up speedily, and your righteousness will go before your face. The glory of YHWH will be your rear guard.

Then your light will break forth [as in] the morning, and your healings will quickly spring up, and your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of God will cover you.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about the “glory of YHWH.”

The Targum of Isaiah concludes with the thought that the one acting compassionately would be gathered together in honor from before YHWH.


“Light” represents a bright prospect. The compassionate person would be the recipient of YHWH’s blessing, comparable to his experiencing the brightness of a new day at sunrise. Healing could include being liberated from whatever may be causing distress. This healing, of which God is the source, would not be delayed but would spring up quickly, just when it is most needed.

Righteousness going before the compassionate individual could signify that he is conducting himself aright. His upright and kindly conduct would lead him to security and well-being. In their renderings, translators have variously interpreted the words. “Your righteousness will be your vanguard.” (REB) “Your honesty will protect you as you advance.” (CEV) “Saving justice for you will go ahead.” (NJB) “Your Vindicator shall march before you, the Presence of the LORD shall be your rear guard.” (Tanakh)

The reference to the “glory of YHWH” appears to allude to the column of cloud and the column of fire that guided the Israelites during their wandering in the wilderness. (Exodus 13:21, 22) With the “glory of YHWH” as the rear guard, upright ones are assured of divine aid and safeguarding.

58:9. Masoretic Text: Then you will call, and YHWH will answer. You will cry out, and he will say, “Here I [am]!” If you take away from your midst the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness;

Septuagint: Then you will cry out, and God will hear you. While you are speaking, he will say, “Look! Here I am!” If you would remove from you a bond and a stretching out of the hand and a grumbling word,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes the words about the pointing of the finger.


When upright and compassionate persons call out to YHWH for aid, they can expect to receive an answer. He will not be distant from them, but will respond as if saying, “Here I am,” eager and willing to render assistance.

The taking away of the “yoke” would mean removing from the lowly the kind of servitude that results in distress for them. Pointing the finger at someone could relate to making light of the individual or singling that one out in an accusatory manner. “Speaking wickedness” could include slandering or making false accusations.

The Greek term cheirotomía, rendered “stretching out of the hand,” may here designate a gesture of disavowal, hostility, or scorn. A “grumbling word” could signify an expression of unjustified complaint.

58:10. Masoretic Text: and if you bring out [puq] your soul for the hungry one and satisfy the soul of the afflicted one, then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom [will be] like midday.

Septuagint: and you give the hungry one bread from your soul and fill the soul of the poor one, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkness [will be] like midday.


There is uncertainty about how the Hebrew word puq is to be understood in relation to the designation “soul.” Perhaps the thought is that the giving to the hungry one stems from a whole-souled desire to help. It would be as if a person put his soul or himself fully into the effort to provide for the hungry one. One who is designated as afflicted or poor would be lacking life’s necessities, and to satisfy his soul would mean to fill his needs.

Persons who respond compassionately to the hungry and the afflicted are assured of YHWH’s blessing. Even when they may experience darkness in the form of personal troubles or distress, they can rest assured that the situation will change. YHWH will sustain them or provide relief, causing them to experience light or brightness in what would otherwise be darkness. Thus the thick darkness or gloom would come to be as bright as midday or noon.

58:11. Masoretic Text: And YHWH will lead you always and satisfy your soul in arid regions and rejuvenate your bones. And you will be like a well-watered garden and like a spring of water, the waters of which do not fail.

Septuagint: And your God will be with you always, and you will be filled just like your soul desires, and your bones will be fattened. And you will be like a well-watered garden and like a spring, the water of which did not fail. And your bones will sprout like vegetation and be fattened, and they will inherit generations of generations.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) has the third person plural form for the word here rendered “rejuvenate” (they will rejuvenate”).

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would satisfy the soul of the compassionate person “in the years of drought.”

The additional words in Rahlfs’ printed text about the bones sprouting like vegetation could mean that the entire organism would be in a flourishing condition. Being “fattened,” the “bones,” or the whole frame, would be strong. The organism would not be in the weak state of undernourished persons. Inheriting “generations of generations” could denote that one’s line of descent would continue from generation to generation.


The person whom YHWH leads at all times would be the recipient of his continued guidance, aid, and protection. As expressed in the Septuagint, God would always be with him.

In arid regions, food resources are very limited. The divine assurance is that even where one might expect lack, YHWH would provide, satisfying the soul or supplying what the person needed.

“Bones” may designate the entire organism. Through YHWH’s generous provisions, the entire frame (the “bones”) is rejuvenated, refreshed, given new strength, or “fattened” (LXX), ceasing to be in a state of weakness from malnourishment.

For a person to be like a well-watered garden or like a never-failing spring would mean for him to enjoy a state of refreshment and well-being.

58:12. Masoretic Text: And ruins of limitless [past] times will be rebuilt by you. You will raise up the foundations of [past] generation [after] generation. You will be called the one repairing the breach, the one restoring paths to inhabit.

Septuagint: And your age-old desolate places will be built, and your age-old foundations will be from generations to generations. And you will be called a builder of fences, and you will cause the paths in the midst [of the land] to cease.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the verb “call” is third person plural (“they will call”).

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the repairing of the breach to mean restoring the right way, and the restoring of paths to denote converting the wicked to the law.


The rebuilders may be understood to be the Israelites who would be returning to the land from exile. The ruins of limitless past times would be the areas that had long previously been reduced to a desolate state through enemy invasions. Returnees would raise the leveled foundations that had existed in past generations. According to the Septuagint rendering, those ancient foundations would then continue to exist for generations to come.

The “breach” may be a collective singular referring to breaches that had been made in walls during campaigns of conquest, leaving the walls in a state of ruin. Those sharing in the repairing and rebuilding of the walls would thus come to be called repairers of the breach. Roads were needed to connect cities and towns in order to facilitate the movement of goods and produce. Therefore, to restore the paths could mean to reconstruct the ruined roads, making it possible for the land to be reinhabited.

The Septuagint reading “fences” could include walls. Possibly the reference to causing the paths to cease could be to replacing dirt paths with good roads.

58:13. Masoretic Text: If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath and from doing your pleasurable things on my holy day and call the Sabbath a delight, a holy day of YHWH, one being honored, and you honor it, [not] to go your ways, [not] to seek your pleasure, and [not] to talk talk,

Septuagint: If you turn your foot away from the Sabbaths not to do your desires on the holy day and you will call the Sabbaths delightful, holy to your God, you will not raise your foot for work nor speak a word in wrath from your mouth,

After the first occurrence of Sabbath, there is a preposition in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), and the phrase may be rendered “from doing your pleasure.” This scroll also includes the conjunction “and” after the word for “delight” and after the word for “ways.”

The Targum of Isaiah interprets “to talk talk” to mean to speak words of oppression.


The Sabbath was a day for reflecting appreciatively on the divine blessings experienced during the six days of labor. So it was not a day for directing one’s foot to pursue personal enterprises or pleasures, as that would mean profaning it as a holy day. Each Sabbath should have been called something delightful, God’s holy provision for rest and refreshment from labor.

The Sabbath would be honored by observing it faithfully according to the purpose for which God gave it to his people. This called for avoiding the pursuit of one’s own ways, ways that were out of harmony with the Sabbath’s being a day of rest and refreshment. It required focusing one’s thoughts on God. The Sabbath was not a day for pursuing one’s own pleasure without any regard for YHWH, or for lifting up the feet so as to engage in work (LXX). To be kept as a holy day, the Sabbath should not have been profaned with idle talk or talk that proved to be injurious to others. According to the Septuagint rendering, wrathful words had no place among those who observed the Sabbath in a proper manner.

58:14. Masoretic Text: then you will take delight in YHWH, and I will make you ride on the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father, for the mouth of YHWH has spoken.

Septuagint: then you will be trusting in the Lord, and he will bring you up upon the good things of the earth, and he will feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things.

Instead of “and I,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) reads “and he” in both occurrences.

The Targum of Isaiah interprets riding on high places to mean dwelling in strongholds.


To take delight in YHWH denotes to find enjoyment in doing his will, having an approved relationship with him, and being a recipient of his guidance, aid, and safeguarding. For one to “ride on the high places” would mean for one to be in control of the elevated regions like a conqueror, and this kind of control would signify being in a secure position and being able to benefit from all that the land produces. The inheritance of Jacob is the land that YHWH promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To “feed” on the inheritance would signify to partake of the bounties of the land inheritance. YHWH is the one identified as having spoken the words, and this assured that they would unerringly be fulfilled.

The reference in the Septuagint to what God would do for his people respecting the “good things” could mean that he would make it possible for them to enjoy these “good things.”