Isaiah 61:1-11

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2013-03-04 11:56.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

61:1. Masoretic Text: The spirit of the Lord YHWH [is] upon me, for YHWH has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening [peqach-qóhach] of [prison] to those having been bound [’asár],

Septuagint: The spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, for he anointed me. He has sent me to proclaim glad tidings to the poor, to heal those broken at heart, to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) does not include “Lord.” In this scroll, the words for “he has sent me” are missing, and the conjunction “and” precedes “to bind up the brokenhearted.” Above the line close to where the conjunction “and” appears, the letters for “he has sent me” have been written as a correction.

In the oldest extant Greek manuscripts, the reading of Luke 4:18 differs from the Septuagint rendering by not including the reference to healing those who are broken at heart. Otherwise, the words in Luke 4:18 are much like those of the Isaiah passage in the Septuagint. Later Greek manuscripts do include the words about healing the brokenhearted ones, and this may be because copyists chose to harmonize the quotation with the Septuagint text of Isaiah 61:1.


The Targum of Isaiah identifies the speaker as the “prophet.” When the words were first expressed, they could have applied to the prophet upon whom the spirit of God operated. He had been anointed or appointed to be YHWH’s prophet, and the divinely imparted messages he was to proclaim pointed to future relief from hardships or oppression. These messages would have been good news for the poor or the afflicted. Those who found themselves in a brokenhearted condition or downcast in their hearts or inmost selves would have been greatly comforted as if their wounded state had been soothed and bound up or bandaged.

For those who came to be captives in a foreign land, the declaration about release from exile would have been a proclamation of longed-for liberty. The announcement of “release” to the oppressed may also allude to the kind of release associated with the Jubilee year when Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery were again free and had their land inheritance restored to them. For all who then found themselves in an afflicted or oppressed state, the prophetic message provided hope and comfort comparable to the prospect of a release from distress in the Jubilee year.

The Hebrew expression peqach-qóhach basically means “opening,” and the verb paqách is used repeatedly in the Scriptures to apply to the opening of the eyes of the blind. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, this is also the significance of peqach-qóhach. The participial form of the Hebrew word ’asár, however, applies to those being bound, tied, confined, captured, or imprisoned. For this reason, the reference to “opening” in the Isaiah passage is commonly understood to refer to a release from confinement or captivity.

Jesus, the promised Messiah, uniquely proved to be the prophet like Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19; Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37) After he publicly read the words from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, he rightly applied them to himself. (Luke 4:16-21) At his baptism, Jesus was anointed with God’s spirit and thus empowered to carry out the commission set forth in the prophetic words. The “poor” were the afflicted and disadvantaged ones among the Israelites who recognized their need for God’s aid. Burdened by the weight of human traditions that went far beyond the requirements of the law, the people found themselves in the condition of captives. Those among them who responded to the good news Jesus proclaimed were comforted and refreshed, ceasing to be in a brokenhearted or inwardly distressed state. Their joyous experience was comparable to being released from confinement.

Jesus made it possible for those who had been spiritually blinded by the religious leaders to see clearly, accepting him as the promised Messiah. He also opened the eyes of those who were physically blind.

61:2. Masoretic Text: to proclaim the year of favor [from] YHWH and the day of vengeance from our God, to comfort all the mourning ones,

Septuagint: to call the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of retribution, to comfort all the mourning ones,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” does not precede the “day of vengeance.”


The reference to “year” in connection with “favor” and “day” in relation to vengeance suggests that YHWH would extend his favor for a much longer period than the time required to express his vengeance or adverse judgment against lawless ones.

To proclaim the “year of favor” from YHWH would signify to make known the time when individuals could have YHWH’s favorable attention if they repented of their sins and endeavored to live their lives in a manner that he approved. The Septuagint rendering about calling the “acceptable year of the Lord” appears to denote calling out or making that year known. It would be a “year” or time when repentant ones would find acceptance from him, being reconciled to him as beloved members of his family of children.

Mourning ones would be those who were distressed about the prevailing situation that was characterized by disregard for YHWH’s ways. (Compare Ezekiel 9:4.) They would also be sorrowful about their own transgressions, grieving as persons who repented of their sins. (Compare Daniel 9:4-21.) Those who mourned for the right reasons would be comforted and have their grief transformed into joy as persons having YHWH’s forgiveness, guidance, aid, and blessing.

Jesus, as God’s Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ, did make known that it was the “year” or time for gaining his Father’s favorable attention and becoming the recipients of his approval, care, direction, and safeguarding. He also proclaimed the “day of vengeance,” when severe judgment would be executed upon those who set themselves in defiant opposition to him and acted contrary to his Father’s will. (Compare Matthew 13:37-43; 21:33-44; 22:2-13; 24:36-44, 48-51.) The message Jesus proclaimed brought comfort to those who repented of their sins and assured them of his Father’s love and care.

61:3. Masoretic Text: to appoint [comfort or joy] for the mourners of Zion, to give them a garland instead of ashes, oil of exultation instead of mourning, a mantle of praise instead of a downcast spirit, and they will be called [lofty] trees [plural form of ‘áyil] of righteousness, the planting of YHWH, for [him] to be glorified.

Septuagint: to give the ones mourning for Zion glory instead of ashes, an unguent of rejoicing to the ones mourning, a garment of glory instead of a spirit of weariness. And they will be called generations of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for glory.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) reads “they will call them.” Literally translated, the Masoretic Text reads, “one will be calling to them.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, they will be called “princes of righteousness, the people of YHWH.”

The plural form of the Hebrew word ‘áyil is commonly understood to refer to a variety of large trees and has been translated “oaks” and “terebinths.”


There is no object for the Hebrew infinitive that may be rendered “to assign,” “to appoint,” “to set,” “to put,” or “to place.” A number of translators have rendered the Hebrew to mean to provide for the mourners. Based on the context, either “comfort” or “joy” could be used as the object to complete the thought.

In expression of their grief, mourners would put ashes on their heads. (Compare 2 Samuel 13:19.) When Zion or Jerusalem was desolated, it occasioned great mourning among the survivors. The prophetic words indicated that Zion would be restored and, therefore, the ashes on the heads of the mourners for Zion would be replaced with the garlands or wreaths people wore on their heads for joyous or festive occasions. According to the reading of the Septuagint, the grief and humiliation associated with the use of ashes would be replaced with glory, splendor, or dignity.

In expression of their grief, mourners did not use anything suggestive of joy or well-being. They did not apply perfumed oil to any part of their bodies. The restoration of Zion would mean that those who had mourned would do so no longer. Signs of mourning would be replaced with the “oil of exultation,” or a perfumed oil, suggesting a return to a joyous state of well-being.

Mourners would be disheartened, overcome with grief and despair. They would be in a state of “weariness” (LXX), their sadness having deprived them of the desire and strength to accomplish anything meaningful. Instead of continuing in this condition, the mourners for Zion would rejoice over the restoration and become like persons arrayed with a “mantle of praise” or a “garment of glory.” A “mantle of praise” could mean a splendid garment that would elicit praise or commendation from those seeing it. Or that the expressions of praise and thanksgiving would prove to be like a beautiful garment, revealing that the downcast spirit had been replaced with a spirit of joy and strength.

The repentant people who would again be enjoying God’s approval and blessing would flourish like big trees. As a consequence of their transformed condition, they would be called lofty or big trees of righteousness, persons who were strong and durable like massive trees and righteous, upright, or just. According to the Septuagint rendering, they would be part of generations that could be identified as conforming to what is righteous, right, or just. In the case of those who put their faith in Jesus and his sacrificial death for them, their righteous standing resulted from having their sins forgiven and having his righteousness reckoned to them.

Enjoying the standing of big trees of righteousness had its source in YHWH, for he is the one who granted forgiveness and accepted the repentant ones as his own. Therefore, they are his planting, and his purpose for them is that they serve for his glory, honor, or praise. They would fulfill this purpose by conducting themselves as his obedient children in disposition, word, and deed.

61:4. Masoretic Text: And they will build the ruins of [past] limitless times. They will raise up the former devastations, and they will repair cities of ruination, devastations of [past] generation [after] generation.

Septuagint: And they will build the age-old wildernesses. They will raise up the places having been previously made desolate and renew cities [reduced to] wildernesses, having been made desolate for generations.


The restored people would rebuild the places that had long ago been reduced to ruins or uninhabited wilderness sites (LXX). At the previously devastated or desolated locations, where buildings had been leveled, they would raise up what had been torn down. “Cities of ruination” would be cities in ruins. These the people would repair, making them inhabitable cities once again. The devastations that had occurred generations previously would be completely undone.

Any application to developments associated with those who put their faith in Jesus would have to be figurative. Sin has reduced everything to a state of ruination, and so the release from sin made possible through Jesus’ sacrificial death has made possible rebuilding and renewal, a transformation from death to life. (Compare John 5:24; Romans 6:4-7; Ephesians 2:1-6; 1 John 3:14.)

61:5. Masoretic Text: And strangers will stand and shepherd your flocks, and sons of an alien [nekhár] [will be] your plowmen [plural form of ’ikkár] and your vinedressers.

Septuagint: And foreigners [literally, “those of another race”] will come, shepherding your sheep, and strangers [“allophyles,” those of another tribe] [will be] plowmen and vinedressers.

The Hebrew noun nekhár, here rendered “alien” could also denote “foreign land.” Whereas ’ikkár can designate a “plowman,” it may be understood in a broader sense as meaning a “field hand.”


While caring for flocks of sheep and goats, shepherds would be standing. This may be the reason for the reference to strangers as standing and shepherding.

The restored Israelites are here represented as having non-Israelites as their servants, tending their flocks and performing agricultural labors in their field and vineyards. Historically, neither the returned exiles nor their descendants attained this kind of ascendency over the peoples of other nations.

The prophetic words can, however, be applied in relation to members of the true Israel, individuals who become disciples of Jesus Christ. Israelites or Jews were the first to put faith in him as the promised Messiah and the unique Son of God. Later, through their testimony, people from other nations came to believe in Jesus and accepted his sacrificial death for them as the means to have their sins forgiven. The believing non-Israelites labored in full cooperation with Jewish believers to advance the interests of their Lord Jesus Christ. These labors were comparable to shepherding flocks and engaging in agricultural work. (Compare Matthew 9:37, 38; John 4:35-38; Acts 20:28-35; 1 Corinthians 3:6-9.)

The Septuagint rendering refers to non-Jewish peoples as coming to perform the labors. This would fit developments in the community of Jesus’ disciples. Non-Israelites did come, voluntarily making themselves available for service.

61:6. Masoretic Text: And you will be called priests of YHWH. [Others] will speak of you [as] those ministering to our God. You will consume the strength of nations, and in their abundance you will glory.

Septuagint: But you will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of God. The strength of the nations you will consume, and in their riches you will marvel.

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


In Israel, only male descendants of Aaron, members of the tribe of Levi, could serve as priests. For all Israelites to function as priests indicated a significant change in their status. After the Israelites returned from exile and priestly services were resumed in Jerusalem, Aaronic priests continued to serve, and non-Jews would not have thought of all Israelites as being priests.

As far as the first disciples of Jesus Christ were concerned, all of them served as priests. (Compare 1 Peter 2:9.) Their priestly service involved making known the good news about Jesus Christ and that his sacrificial death made forgiveness of sins possible. It was from Jewish disciples that the first non-Jewish believers came to hear these glad tidings and thus came to benefit from their priestly service. Non-Jewish believers recognized Jewish believers as priests and as ministers of God to whom they were indebted for the spiritual riches they received. (Compare Romans 15:27.)

Non-Jewish believers gave their full support to their Jewish brothers, fellow believers, generously contributing of their means to aid those in need. (Compare Romans 15:26, 27; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:8-13; Galatians 2:10.) Riches grant a measure of power to persons, power that is not in the possession of the poor. From that standpoint, their consuming the contributed material bounty from non-Jewish believers meant that Jewish believers were consuming, or benefiting from, the strength that wealth imparts.

To glory in the abundance may denote to find delight in it, as it would completely fill needs. The Septuagint rendering refers to marveling in the riches. This could refer to the amazement the recipients would experience over the bounty they would obtain from people of the nations. According to another rendering of the Septuagint, the meaning could be that those who are divinely approved would be admired with their riches or because of the bountiful blessings they would enjoy.

61:7. Masoretic Text: Instead of your shame, [you will have] a double [portion]; and instead of dishonor, they will cry out [joyously] over their lot. Therefore, in their land, they will inherit a double [portion]. Rejoicing [for] limitless time will be theirs.

Septuagint: Thus they will inherit the land for a second [time], and eternal rejoicing [will be] above their head.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) says “your lot” (not “their lot”), “you will inherit” (not “they will inherit”), and “will be yours” (not “will be theirs”). Additionally, the word order in the phrase about the land is, “you will inherit a double [portion] in their land.”

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the “double” to be the “double of the good things that I [YHWH] promised you [Jerusalem, as representing his people].”


When exiled from their land, the Israelites experienced shame. Restoration would bring an end to their humiliation. Their restored noble status would prove to be twice as great as that which they enjoyed prior to the period of their shame. This would be comparable to Job’s receiving twice as much as he possessed prior to his loss of everything. (Job 42:10) Like a firstborn son, the repentant people would come to have a double portion as their possession.

The Septuagint translator rendered the Hebrew word for “double” or “second” (mishnéh) as “second” (deúteros). Preceded as the Greek word is by the preposition ek (“out of,” “from,” “of,” or “for”), the meaning is “for a second time,” indicating that the people would once again inherit the land from which they had been exiled.

The former disgrace would be replaced with rejoicing, for their lot would be one of well-being. This rejoicing would be their possession for ages to come.

The prophetic words may be applied to those who became disciples of Jesus Christ. Before they put their faith in him, they found themselves in a shameful state of sinfulness and alienation from God. Upon being forgiven of their sins, they attained the dignity of sons and all the privileges and blessings associated therewith — truly an abundant share or a double reward comparable to that of a firstborn son who received a double portion as his inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:17) Liberated from the disgrace of their previous condition, they could cry out with joy over their lot — their noble standing as God’s approved children. Because Jesus Christ is the heir of everything, believers, as joint heirs, share in his inheritance, which may be spoken of as including the “land.” (Romans 8:17) Their rejoicing will be eternal.

61:8. Masoretic Text: For I, YHWH, love judgment, hating robbery with a holocaust. And I will give their reward in truth, and a covenant [for] limitless time I will conclude with them.

Septuagint: For I am the Lord, the one loving righteousness and hating robberies from injustice. And I will give [the reward of] their labor to the righteous and conclude an eternal covenant with them.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes the words about hating robbery. Instead of “their reward” and “with them,” this scroll says “your reward” and “with you.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH hates “falsehood and oppression.”


Those whom YHWH recognizes as his own will receive “double” and experience lasting rejoicing because he loves “judgment” or “righteousness” (LXX), always acting according to what is just or right. Therefore, those guilty of lawless action, wrongfully seizing the possessions of others, could never gain his approval but would merit his condemnatory judgment.

In the Masoretic Text, the linkage of robbery with holocausts could be understood to refer to the presentation of whole burnt offerings by those guilty of unjust seizures. YHWH’s intense displeasure would be directed against those guilty of robbing others and then thinking they could appease him with holocausts on the altar.

Instead of a word for “holocausts,” a number of Hebrew manuscripts have the term for “unrighteousness” or “injustice,” which would agree with the rendering of the Septuagint. Therefore, numerous modern translations have chosen to depart from the Masoretic Text.

A reward in “truth” would be a recompense that is in keeping with the conduct of the individual. As expressed in the Septuagint, God would give the return from their labor to the righteous. It would be absolutely just.

In the case of those whom YHWH approves, he would make an eternally lasting covenant with them, assuring them of his continued guidance, aid, and blessing. Centuries earlier, the Israelites had entered a covenant relationship with YHWH at Mount Sinai in the time of Moses. Accordingly, the reference here would be to another covenant. This could be the new covenant that was later mentioned in the prophecy of Jeremiah, and this covenant made it possible for individuals to have their sins forgiven and to be reconciled to God. (Jeremiah 31:31-34, 40; compare Isaiah 55:3 and Hebrews 12:22-24; 13:20.)

61:9. Masoretic Text: And their seed will be known among the nations, and their offspring in the midst of the peoples. All those seeing them will recognize them, that they [are] the seed whom YHWH has blessed.

Septuagint: And their seed will be known among the nations, and their offspring. All those seeing them will recognize them, for they are a seed being blessed by God.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah reads “your seed” and “your offspring,” not “their seed” and “their offspring.”


To be known among the nations here appears to denote being known as divinely approved persons. The “seed” would be those who live uprightly and thereby demonstrate themselves to be “seed” of or children of godly persons. (Compare John 8:39-44.)

“Offspring in the midst of the peoples” is a parallel expression for “seed among the nations.” The Targum of Isaiah, however, refers to them as yet another generation (“sons’ sons”) “in the midst of the kingdoms.”

Observers, upon becoming aware of the good results from the exemplary lives of godly persons would recognize them to be persons whom YHWH has blessed.

61:10. Masoretic Text: I will greatly rejoice [literally, “rejoicing, I will rejoice”] in YHWH. My soul will exult in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of deliverance. He has covered me [with] a robe of righteousness, like a bridegroom putting on [kahán] a turban, and like a bride adorns herself with her ornaments.

Septuagint: And they will greatly rejoice [literally, “(with) rejoicing, they will rejoice”] in the Lord. Let my soul exult in the Lord. For he clothed me with a garment of deliverance and with a robe of rejoicing. As on a bridegroom, he put on me a headdress; and as a bride, he adorned me with an ornament.

The Hebrew verb kahán basically means to act or to do as a priest. Just as a priest would put on his turban, so would a bridegroom place a splendid headdress on his head.

YHWH is represented as doing the clothing with garments. The words in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) differ from the Masoretic Text and may be rendered, “He has covered me [with] a robe of righteousness, like a bridegroom, like a priest, with a turban, and like a bride adorns herself with her ornaments.


The Targum of Isaiah identifies the speaker to be Jerusalem personified. If this identification is correct, the words may be applied to the restoration of the Israelite exiles to the city and to the land. This development did occasion great rejoicing. The divinely effected deliverance would have been comparable to being clothed with salvation. As the liberation of his people from exile through the agency of the Persian monarch Cyrus was an expression of YHWH’s righteousness or justice, he could be represented as covering Jerusalem (representative of his repentant people) with a robe of righteousness.

The prophetic words of this verse may also be understood to apply to the true Israel that is composed of all whom YHWH recognizes as his approved people. In the first century CE, the members of this genuine Israel proved to be persons who put their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah and acknowledged him to be the unique Son of God. (Compare Matthew 16:15, 16)

On account of what YHWH had done for them through his Son, granting them forgiveness of their sins and accepting them as his beloved children, they could greatly rejoice “in him.” They were “in him” or at one with him, assuring them of his guidance, aid, and safeguarding. The personal relationship is highlighted when representing the “soul” (the speaker of the words) as using the expression “my God” when referring to exulting or jubilating “in him.”

The “deliverance” could refer to the liberation from sin, and “righteousness” to the righteous standing that resulted from being forgiven of sin and granted an approved standing before God. This “deliverance” or “salvation” and “righteousness” proved to be like identifying garments with which YHWH arrayed his people. He thus clothed them in a dignified and impressive manner as when a bridegroom puts on a turban or a bride adorns herself with precious ornaments.

In case the words of verse 10 are to be linked to the one whom God anointed (mentioned in verse 1), the rejoicing may be understood to refer to the great delight Jesus, the Anointed One or the Christ, found in doing his Father’s will. (Compare John 4:34; Hebrews 10:5-10.) The role his Father assigned to him to deliver or to save humans from their sins and the condemnation to which sin leads was comparable to clothing him with deliverance. Likewise, when constituting his Son to be the one through whom humans could be justified or gain a righteous standing with him, YHWH may be regarded as having taken action that could be likened to clothing his Son with righteousness.

61:11. Masoretic Text: For like the earth brings forth its shoot, and like a garden causes the [sown] seed to sprout in it, so the Lord YHWH will cause the sprouting of righteousness and praise before all the nations.

Septuagint: And as the earth causes its flower to grow and like a garden its seeds, thus will the Lord let righteousness and rejoicing spring up before all the nations.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) reads “YHWH God” instead of “Lord YHWH.” In this scroll, the words translated “for the sake of Zion” are included with this verse (not verse 1 of chapter 62). This is apparent from the conjunction “and” that appears after “Zion.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH God will “reveal the righteousness and the glory of Jerusalem before all the peoples.”


From the soil vegetation sprouts upward, and seed that has been sown in a garden germinates and new growth appears. In the same manner and with like certainty, YHWH would cause righteousness and praise to sprout, or to come into existence and flourish, to such an extent that they would be evident to people of all the nations.

In an initial sense, the restoration of Jerusalem and the return of the Jewish exiles was an expression of God’s righteousness, for he thus fulfilled his word and also executed deserved judgment against those who had taken his people into exile. The liberation from exile that YHWH effected through King Cyrus gave rise to expressions of praise from his repentant people. These developments did not escape the attention of people of other nations. They witnessed the righteousness and praise that YHWH caused to “sprout.”

In relation to Jesus, the promised Messiah, those who put faith in him are forgiven of their sins and are reckoned as righteous, and they are moved to conduct themselves in an upright manner as obedient children of God. By accounting them as righteous, God may be regarded as causing righteousness to sprout. Recognizing what they have been divinely granted, followers of Jesus Christ are stirred to render praise and thanksgiving to God. As YHWH provided the basis for the praise, he is the one represented as causing it to spring up. According to the Septuagint rendering, he is responsible for rejoicing to be manifest to all the nations. This rejoicing would be the joy of those who have been forgiven of their sins and have been reconciled to God, becoming the recipients of his loving guidance and care.