God’s Servant Saves God’s People
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Isaiah chapters 41 to 55
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
The words in square brackets, [ … ], are not in the *Hebrew Bible. They make the book easier to understand in English. Isaiah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language. Words in round brackets, (…) are explanations.
We can divide Isaiah’s book into 5 main sections. This is the fourth (4th) of these main sections:
· Chapters 1 to 5 – Isaiah describes the people that live in Judah and Jerusalem.
· Chapter 6 – God makes Isaiah into a *prophet.
· Chapters 7 to 40 – God’s king rules God’s people.
· Chapters 41 to 55 – God’s servant saves God’s people.
· Chapters 56 to 66 – God’s *messiah beats God’s enemies.
Here is the structure of this chapter.
What God does
The judge’s decision
What *idols do
Verse 1 God, as the judge, calls the nations in the world to his court.
Verses 2-4 God, as a lawyer, asks the question, ‘Who controls history?’
Verses 5-7 The nations say that they trust in their *idols.
Verses 8-20 God, both as master and as *redeemer, promises to help his people.
Verses 21-24 God, as a lawyer, says that the *idols can explain nothing.
Verses 25-29 God, as judge, will send someone from the north to rule the nations.
The notes explain the words ‘*idols’ and ‘*redeemer’.
Verse 1 We must imagine ourselves in court. God is the judge and the lawyer. He tells the islands to be silent, so that they can listen to him. ‘Islands’ here probably means places that you go to on a ship. The islands are any places with coasts. As the first two sentences probably mean similar things, ‘islands’ is a word, therefore, for ‘people in the nations’. The chapter makes it clear that they are not *Jews. God made an offer to the *Jews in Isaiah 40:31 to ‘regain (their) strength’. He makes the same offer here to people that are not *Jews. It is an important part of Isaiah’s message that God will deal with everybody in the same way. Read Isaiah 2:2-4 and 19:24-25. ‘Judgement’ here does not mean ‘punishment’. It means a decision by somebody with authority.
Verse 2 Here and in verses 3-4, God speaks as a lawyer and not as a judge. Every ‘who’, ‘his’ and ‘him’ complicates verse 2. Every ‘who’ is probably the *LORD God; and every ‘him’ and ‘his’ may be King Cyrus of Persia. Not all Bible students agree with this, so the names are not in the translation above. But if these names are correct, then the verse tells us this.
· God woke up Cyrus. God called Cyrus to serve *Righteousness. God gives nations to Cyrus. God makes kings kneel in front of Cyrus. God makes people into dust with the sword of Cyrus. God makes nations into *chaff that Cyrus blows away with his bow.
But this note must emphasise that ‘him’ and ‘his’ could be somebody else. It could be Joshua. He came into the country that became Israel from the east, through the Arabah. The Arabah is a desert, a dry valley that is east from Jerusalem. Joshua defeated many of the kings that ruled in the country. The *Jews have a tradition that ‘him’ and ‘his’ refer to Abraham. So no translation can say who ‘him’ and ‘his’ are! *Righteousness means ‘very great goodness’. Here, ‘Very Great Goodness’ may be a name for God himself. There is a note on King Cyrus in the notes on Isaiah 45:1.
Verse 3 Here, ‘he’ may refer to Cyrus, Joshua or Abraham. It could mean all three of them! Many words in the Bible may mean two or more things. ‘Them’ refers to the enemy. ‘Without injury’ is just ‘peace’ in the *Hebrew Bible. The last sentence seems to say that he moves very fast. He moves so fast that his feet hardly touch the ground!
Verse 4 This verse starts with 2 questions: ‘Who has done this? Who announced everything?’ If we include the words in … [ … ] … then we find the answers! Then God himself answers. He says that he is the first. And in the beginning, nobody else was with him. But at the end, he will be with the last people; ‘last’ is plural in the *Hebrew Bible. This finishes what God says as a lawyer, until verse 21. Verses 5-7 give the legal answer of the people on the islands (look at the note on verse 1).
Verse 5 The people on the islands saw what Cyrus (or Joshua, or Abraham, or whoever) did. So they came together from many nations. They did not come to God. Instead, they made new *idols! An *idol is an image of a false god. The earth, of course, has no ends. ‘The ends of the earth’ mean ‘places that are very far away’.
Verses 6-7 There are three reactions to fear. One is to turn to God. Another is to other people. The last is to turn to false gods. The false gods 2700 years ago were images. Today they are ideas. People hammered things on a large block (or iron called an anvil). The anvil was a base on which they could work.
Notice the way in which Isaiah laughs at false gods. Men have to use nails so that the images will not fall over! Their false gods do not even have the power to stand up!
Verse 8 Israel and Jacob are names for God’s people, the *Jews. Before Assyria took the people from Israel into *exile, both Israel and Jacob meant the northern part of the country of the *Jews. The southern part was called Judah. But after the northern part went into *exile, the names began to mean all God’s people. This included the southern country called Judah. So here, God is talking to all his people. A ‘descendant’ is somebody in your family who lives a long time after you (a son, grandson and so on). As this verse refers to Abraham, it may be evidence that verses 2-3 are about Abraham. Actually, the word for ‘descendant’ in the *Hebrew Bible is ‘seed’. That word is important in the *New Testament too. There we learn that the ‘seed’ does not mean all Abraham’s *descendants. It means Jesus. And it means those people that trust in Jesus. Number 1 in the section ‘Something to do’ has some verses about ‘seed’. There is a longer note on the ‘seed’ in Isaiah 65:23.
Also, notice that ‘servant’ in the *Old Testament does not mean ‘slave’. A slave had no rights, but a servant did. He had the right to claim his master’s protection. So in verses 8-20, God is promising to be a good master to his servants.
Verse 9 ‘Ends of the earth’ and ‘its far corners’ mean places like Ur (where Abraham came from) and Egypt (where the *Israelites came from). They were distant places.
Verse 10 The *Hebrew word for ‘unhappy’ means ‘you do not know where to look for a safe place’. Only God is really very, very good, so a ‘good, fair, right hand’ means ‘God’s right hand’. Even as ‘the arm of the *LORD’ is a picture of Jesus (Something to do number 3, Isaiah chapters 39 and 40), ‘the hand of the *LORD’ is a picture of God’s Holy Spirit.
Verses 11-12 Notice the increase of feeling: anger, oppose, enemies, fight. Oppose is a word for what happens in a court of law. Fight is a word for what happens in a war. But as a result of God’s help (verse 10) the enemies disappear!
Verse 13 This verse repeats the promises in verse 10. God gives these promises because the people from Israel (Jacob’s *descendants) are his servants. Remember the note on verse 8: a servant has a right to claim his master’s protection.
Verses 14-16 These verses are about something that is as small as a worm (tiny animal). But it destroys a huge mountain! God can help his servants to do what seems impossible. A ‘worm’ is a small animal that lives below the ground. It is like a tiny snake and it may grow to 15 centimetres long. In English nowadays, the word ‘worm’ can mean something nasty. You call someone a ‘worm’ if they are really awful. But here it does not have that meaning. It just means ‘small’. We know this because ‘you worm Jacob’ means the same as ‘you little Israel’. The two words mean that Israel is not important.
The word ‘*redeemer’ means ‘someone who buys back’. But it does not just mean that God is buying his people back from an enemy. As in the Book of Ruth, a *redeemer is a member of your family. Here, God says that his people are part of his family. That is what ‘*redeemer’ means here. There is a note on the name ‘*Holy’ in Isaiah 40:25. There is a note on *redeemer in Isaiah 43:1.
A machine that *threshes breaks up corn plants. It separates the grain from the stems. Here God says that it will break mountains. It will do this although his people are merely like worms (tiny animals). In other words, they are a small nation. ‘Mountains’ here means important nations, ‘‘little’ means unimportant nations. ‘*Chaff’ is the dead parts of plants that farmers burn. Or, farmers allow the wind to blow it away. God will scatter the enemies of his people, even as wind blows *chaff away. ‘*Glory’ is something that shines very much. It is a picture of the importance of the God of Israel.
Verses 17-20 The poor are people to whom the world has not been kind (Isaiah 10:2). The people that lack many things want help to deal with problems (Isaiah 14:30). Those people were searching for water. That reminds us about the journey that Israel’s people made through the desert. They too needed shade. In Exodus 15:27, we read this. ‘And they came to Elim, where there were 12 wells of water. Also, there were 70 palm trees (trees that grow in hot countries).’ In verse 19, only the *olive tree produces fruit that people can eat. But the other trees have leaves during the entire year. So they are ideal trees to give shade. One Bible student has said that those trees do not normally grow all together. So that is another wonderful thing that God promised his people! When people see that, they will see God’s power. They will know that the *LORD has done it by his ‘hand’ (his ‘power’). Again, as in verses 11-12, notice the increase in feeling in these four words from verse 20: see, know, consider, understand.
Verses 21-24 These verses remind us that we are in court. The *LORD, as a lawyer, asks the nations to bring their *idols into court. Then the *idols can speak for themselves. Notice the special humour in the *LORD’s words. He is actually saying the opposite of what he means here. The *LORD knows that the *idols cannot say anything. They certainly cannot explain what happened in the past. They cannot know what will happen in the future. An *idol is an image of a false god.
Verse 25 If these words refer to Cyrus, then note that:
· People from the east travelled by a road that finally came into Jerusalem from the north.
· Cyrus started his career east of Babylon, but later moved north.
‘Call on my name’ does not always mean ‘serve God’. It can mean three other things in the *Old Testament.
· Name the person who made you do something, Exodus 35:30;
· Name the person who has a special love for you, Isaiah 43:1;
· Say who the person with a name is, Exodus 33:19.
Here it is probably the first one among those three meanings.
People use ‘*mortar’ to stick bricks together when they make walls. And they use ‘*clay’ to make pots. Both words can remind us about the way that a person works with a soft substance. That substance cannot prevent what the person does to it.
Verses 26-29 God, as judge, says that he knew about everything ‘from the beginning’. The *idols are just ‘wind and confusion’. ‘Wind’ here probably means ‘hot air’. That is a special English way to say that it is ‘rubbish!’ Bad advice (rubbish) will confuse people.
Verse 1 In verses 1-9:
· God speaks about his servant in verses 1-4.
· God speaks to his servant in verses 6-9.
God does not say yet who the servant is. He only says what the servant will do. In Isaiah 41:8, and 42:18-25, Israel was the servant. But the job of this new servant is to do what Israel failed to do. That job was to bring God’s laws to the nations that were not *Jews. The word for ‘fair decisions’ in the *Hebrew Bible is mishpat. That word seems to show that the servant had to do three things:
· To teach people that there is only one God and that false gods do not exist. This follows from chapter 41.
· To teach people God’s laws that God had already taught the *Jews.
· To make right the wrong things in the world, so that it becomes a fairer place.
Verses 2-4 The servant will be gentle. He will not shout at people. He will not throw away things that appear to have no use. A *reed is a plant that grows near water. And he will not let other people stop his work. ‘Islands’ here is another word for ‘nations’. The *Hebrew word for islands also means ‘coasts’ and therefore the boundaries of a country. Bible students think that it means ‘countries outside the boundaries of Israel’. In other words, ‘nations that are not *Jews’.
Verse 5 Before God speaks to his servant, Isaiah reminds us about an important fact. He reminds us of who God really is. This links back with the *idols of chapter 41. They did none of the things that God did. In fact, they did nothing at all!
Verse 6 ‘Great Goodness’ is the same word as ‘*Righteousness’. Only God is really very, very good. Here, ‘Great Goodness’ is probably a name for God. The ‘*covenant’ is an agreement. It is a name for God’s agreement with his people.
· God agrees to love and protect his people.
· His people agree to obey God. They will also love and serve him.
Here, what God’s special servant does, makes the *covenant happen. He does not only make it happen for the *Jews, but also for the nations that are not *Jews. Simeon repeated the words: ‘a light for the nations that are not *Jews’ in Luke 2:32. By the use of these words, Simeon was saying that Jesus was the servant of Isaiah 42:6 (and 49:6). But Isaiah does not tell us who the servant is, yet. He is still simply ‘the servant’!
Verse 7 This reminds us of Isaiah 61:1. Jesus used these words in Luke 4:18. So he too was saying that he was the servant. But Isaiah still does not say who the servant is!
Verse 8 When God refers to *idols, this again links with chapter 41. God’s ‘*glory’ is difficult to describe. It is the splendid beauty of God’s wonderful character. The Bible describes it as a light that is too bright to look at. But God’s ‘*glory’ also describes what God does. What he does is wonderful. God will not share his *glory with *idols, because they have not done anything (Isaiah 41:29).
Verse 9 Again, this verse reminds us of what chapter 41 said about *idols. *Idols cannot do the things that God can do (Isaiah 41:22-23).
Verse 10 Verses 10-17 are a song to praise God. Because many songs to praise God are called ‘psalms’, some Bible students call this song a ‘psalm’ also. In this Psalm Isaiah tells people that are not *Jews to praise God. In verse 10 he refers to ‘people that go down to the sea’, ‘far places’ and ‘islands’. There is a note on islands above in verses 2-4. The *Jews did not like to go to the sea. So this probably means people that were not *Jews.
Verse 11 We do not know which desert or which desert towns Isaiah means. Neither do Bible students know where Kedar was. Sela was a town in Edom, south-east of Judah. This is an important verse, as Edom was always a great enemy of the *Jews. But here, they too can praise God!
Verse 12 ‘Them’ probably means ‘the people that live in Edom’. There is a note on ‘islands’ above in verses 2-4.
Verse 13 This is a word-picture about God. He is going to fight his enemies. They are the false gods of chapter 41.
Verse 14 Now God himself speaks. He says what he will do. He has been silent (or done nothing) for ‘a long time’. In the *Hebrew Bible, these words may mean ‘since God created the world’. But now he is like a woman who is having a baby. He will bring new things into the world, as a woman brings a new baby into the world. The noises are those of a woman as she gives birth to a baby.
Verse 15 Here God describes the great things that he is doing. He will destroy everything that makes the world suitable for people to live in. There will be no food (plants) or water. He does this in order to defeat his enemies, so that he can establish *righteousness on the earth.
Verse 16 In verse 7, the *LORD told his servant that he must make blind people able to see. But Israel, as the servant, has not done this. So God himself says that he will do it!
Verse 17 God says who his enemies (verse 13) are. They are the people that trust in *idols and images. People cut *idols out of wood or stone. And they make images out of metal. They melt the metal and they pour it into shapes. However whether they are wood, stone or metal, they are all false gods. This verse ends the psalm (song to praise God) that started in verse 10.
Verses 18-19 In verse 7, the blind people are a special description. It means the nations that are not *Jews. Israel’s job was to lead those nations to the *LORD. But they have not done this, because they are like someone blind themselves! A blind person cannot lead anyone! Also, Israel’s people are like someone who is deaf. God wanted them to carry a message to the nations. But they cannot do that if they cannot hear that message. This picture of a blind and deaf people goes back to Isaiah 6:9-12.
Verse 20 ‘You’ and ‘he’ both refer to the servant of the *LORD. Verse 23 tells us that this servant is Israel. Israel’s people had the message from God, but they did not obey it. Also, they did not use God’s message.
Verse 21 Deuteronomy 4:5-8 promises to the nations that Israel would show them God’s wonderful laws. Isaiah 2:2-4 describes how this would happen. But verses 22-25 tell us that it did not happen. And God punished his people because it did not happen. Now God would do it himself. He said that he would do that in verses 14-17.
Verse 22 This describes how God punished his people. In the opinion of many Bible students, Isaiah wrote this a century before it happened. But because Isaiah was so certain about these future events, he wrote in the past tense! Isaiah does not name the enemy here, but it would be Babylon. After 70 years in Babylon, King Cyrus did send them back. Jeremiah said that this would happen. Here is Jeremiah 29:10. ‘This is what the *LORD says. “After you have been 70 years in Babylon, I will visit you. I will do the good thing that I promised to you. I will cause you to return to this place (Jerusalem).” ’ Note that ‘visit’ is a special Bible word. When God visits he always does something. He either punishes or he shows his kindness to people. He does not just come without any particular purpose.
Verses 23-24 Here are 4 questions to match the 4 questions in verse 19. Questions are part of Isaiah’s technique. Isaiah asks questions because he wants each reader of his book to answer them. He asks us, ‘Can you hear what I am saying?’ We must always do something after we read the word of God in the Bible. That is necessary because the Bible is not just a book. It is God’s word. Notice another part of Isaiah’s technique in this verse. He changes from ‘we’ to ‘they’ in the same sentence, but he still means the same people. Many writers did this in the *Old Testament. ‘*Sinned against’ means ‘did not obey’. To ‘walk in his ways’ means to ‘do as he desires’. So, the people in Israel *sinned because they would not walk in his ways. That is, they would not obey God.
Verse 25 Isaiah gives us a word-picture of how God punishes his people. He pours his hot anger over them like someone who pours water! But the anger is not a liquid really, it means war. Israel’s people could not carry out their duties as God’s servant because they did not obey him.
Verse 1 Notice how the words become more personal through the verse.
· created. This means that God made something by his great power.
· shaped. This means that God was careful to put even the smallest thing in its right place.
· *redeemed. This means that God made Jacob and Israel into part of his family.
· called by name. This means that God knows the name of every one of his people.
So God says (in the *Hebrew order of words) ‘Mine you are’. This order is important. It emphasises God, not his people.
‘*Redeem’ is a special Bible word. It means ‘buy back’. It is as if God is buying people back from the authority of evil people or from the devil. But it meant more than ‘buy back’ to Isaiah and to his people. They believed that they had a duty to *redeem their family members. Because of that duty, they paid to free relatives that were in trouble. So, when God *redeemed people, he was declaring them to be part of his family. Jacob and Israel are names for God’s people.
Verse 2 Water and fire are both dangerous. Here they warn God’s people about the dangers that they might meet. God will be with them in these dangers. The river is not an actual river. The fire is not an actual fire. They could be any danger. These things may hurt God’s people, but they will not completely destroy them. Some Bible students think that this verse is about the journey into *exile in Babylon.
Verse 3 Here are two names for God.
· The *LORD your God. This is the name that the Book of Exodus used.
· The *Holy [God] of Israel. This is Isaiah’s special name for God. ‘*Holy’ means very, very good. God is so good that he is separate from everybody. For Isaiah, God’s name was *Holy of Israel!
Ethiopia (or Cush) was part of southern Egypt. God gave Ethiopia and Seba to *ransom his people. ‘*Ransom’ means ‘give money or goods for’. It is similar to ‘*redeem’, but in the Bible there is an important difference. ‘*Ransom’ emphasises the money, but ‘*redeem’ emphasises the family connection.
Verse 4 The *Hebrew word for ‘a man’ is ‘adam’. We can translate it ‘mankind’, which means ‘all men and women’. So ‘I will exchange a man for you’ and ‘I will exchange people for your life’ mean the same. It is a typical example of *Hebrew poetry. But who are the people that God will exchange for his people? The answer is ‘the people from Babylon’. Cyrus (verse 28) would defeat Babylon and free God’s people, the *Jews. But notice the way that the Bible can mean two different things at the same time! ‘A man’ is also God’s servant in Isaiah chapter 53. John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 tell us that the servant’s name was Jesus. As we read through Isaiah, Jesus becomes more and more important as God’s servant. The *Jews and Cyrus become less important.
Verses 5-7 In the *Hebrew Bible, the word for ‘child’ or ‘children’ is ‘seed’. A seed is a part of a plant. From the seed, a new plant grows. But here in the Bible, ‘seed’ can also be a very special word. It means the new people that become Christians. It is as if they ‘grow’ like a plant. Jesus said that they are ‘born again’ in John 3:3. We may wonder why God used the word ‘seed’ here. ‘Seed’ or ‘children’ means *Jews from all over the world. They are from east and west, north and south. ‘Sons’ and ‘daughters’ also mean *Jews. And Christians are the seed that Paul mentions in Romans 4:16. ‘The ends of the earth’ is another way to say ‘far places’. But as verse 4 is about more than just the return from Babylon, so are verses 5-7. They are about the results of Jesus’ work. Not only *Jews, but everyone who ‘is called by my name’ will return to God. Christians are called by one of God’s names. It is ‘Christ’, because Jesus is God.
Verse 7 This verse ends a section which has this structure:
A1 The *LORD’s relationship with his people, verse 1.
B1 The *LORD is always with his people, verse 2.
C1 The *LORD looks back to the past, verse 3.
C2 The *LORD looks to the future, verse 4.
B2 The *LORD commands the world to send his people home, verses 5-6.
A2 The *LORD’s relationship with his people, verse 7.
There are many structures like this in Isaiah. Bible students call them ‘*inclusios’. This one is like an image in a mirror. But the first half is in the past, the rest is in the future.
Verses 8-13 Here is another of Isaiah’s techniques: a picture of a court of law. Here is the structure of the picture.
A1 The *LORD calls his people (verse 8) and the nations (verse 9a).
B1 The *LORD announces the problem (verse 9b).
C1 The *LORD’s witnesses (verse 10).
C2 The *LORD’s statement (verse 11).
B2 A decision (verse 12).
A2 A result (verse 13).
Verse 8 The blind and deaf people mean the *Jews, read Isaiah 6:9-10 and 42:18. People lead them because they cannot see. Also they cannot hear. But then Isaiah astonishes us. In verse 10, the *Lord declares these people to be his witnesses. But we cannot see how blind and deaf people can be witnesses!
Verse 9 9a means the first part of verse 9. 9b means the second part. In 9b, we can imagine that the judge in the court is speaking. ‘This’ and ‘in the past’ probably refer to the *Jews when they escaped from Egypt. You can read about that event in the Book of Exodus.
Verses 10-11 ‘I am’ in the phrase ‘I am [God]’ refers back to the escape from Egypt, Exodus 3:14. ‘I am’ is one of God’s names. Notice that in verses 8 and 9 God refers back to the false gods in chapters 41 and 42. Somebody ‘made’ them, but nobody made the real God. Nobody made the God whose name is ‘I am’!
Verse 12 What *idols cannot do, the *LORD has done! The order of the words showed, saved and told is important.
· First, God ‘showed’ his plans to his people. In other words God made his plans clear to people. They did not think of it for themselves. An important word for that in the Bible is ‘revelation’. ‘Revelation’ is what God ‘reveals’ (shows) to people. He shows his plans to people. And then he carries out his plans: he saves people.
· Then, God ‘saved’ his people. In other words he made them safe. For the *Jews, God saved them so that they were ‘safe from Babylon’. For Christians, God made them ‘safe from the devil’.
· Lastly, God ‘told’. He does that after he has saved people. He tells them the truth. He does it through the Bible, or through Bible teachers.
Verse 13 ‘Yes! From long ago’ has three possible meanings.
· Since time began.
· Now, today.
· In the future.
In the past, the present and the future, nobody can change what God does!
Verse 14 There is a note on ‘*redeem’ at verse 1. ‘*Redeemer’ is another name for God. Isaiah does not say yet who the army is. He just wrote, ‘I will send to Babylon’. Bible students are not sure how to translate the last part of the verse. Here are two possibilities:
New International Version, Buksbazen’s Commentary, and many other books.
Jerusalem Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Watts’ Commentary (for Word), and many other books
And I will bring down all the *Babylonians as prisoners
And I will knock down all the bars of the prisons
in the ships of which they are so proud.
and the *Babylonians will start to sing sad songs.
On the left, the army that God will send will defeat Babylon. The people from Babylon will become prisoners. On the right, the army will free the people that Babylon has kept in prison. Both those statements are true. So it is not possible for us to say which is the correct translation. Buksbazen is a *Jew that wrote a book about Isaiah. Watts is a Christian that wrote a book about Isaiah. The New International and New Revised Standard Versions are Bibles that people in the Protestant Church use. The Jerusalem Bible is a Bible that people in the Roman Catholic Church use.
Verse 15 There are notes about some of the names of God at verse 3.
Verses 16-17 Verse 3 linked the name of God to the escape from Egypt. The escape happened about 700 years before Isaiah wrote his book. But now Isaiah refers directly to it. In verse 16 he reminded people that God made a road through the sea. This sea was the Red Sea. God made a way for his people to escape. In verse 17 he reminds people that the same way brought about the deaths of their enemies. A chariot was a special cart that soldiers rode in. Horses pulled the *chariots.
Verse 18 ‘Forget the past’ really means ‘think about the future’. Isaiah 44:21 emphasises the need to remember what God has done. Psalm 78 tells people to teach these things to their children. So, ‘forget the past’ is a kind of poetry. It means, ‘Do not think about the escape from Egypt. Concentrate on the escape from Babylon.’
Verse 19 The escape from Babylon is the ‘something that is new’. The road is the way home from Babylon to Jerusalem.
Verse 20 Jackals are wild dogs that hunt in groups. An *owl is a bird that hunts at night.
Verses 22-24 Notice the words ‘me’ and ‘tired’ in these verses. ‘Tired’, here, means that ‘people or God does not want anybody to do it again’. God is saying that all their religion was false. They were serving themselves, not God. This was because they used their religion like magic. They did not do what God wanted them to do in their lives. *Incense and calamus (a substance from a plant) made things smell pleasant.
Verse 25 This starts a section that ends in Isaiah 44:5. It is another picture of a court of law. Here is the structure of the section.
A1 God asks his people to reply to this question. Is there any evidence that makes it fair to forgive you? Verses 25-26.
B1 God remembers what happened in the past. Verses 27-28.
C1 Israel still belongs to the *LORD. Verses 1-2a.
C2 The *LORD tells Israel not to be afraid. Verses 2b-3a.
B2 God will be kind to future people in Israel. Verses 3b-4.
A2 The future reply of God’s people. Verse 5.
The first words emphasise God’s work. It is God who sweeps away (removes or forgives) people’s *sins. Nobody else can do it. He does not do it because of us, but because of himself. It is part of his character. We could translate ‘sweeps away’ as ‘wipes clean’. The same *Hebrew words are in Isaiah 44:22 and at the end of Psalm 51:1, which says, ‘sweep away my *sins’. ‘*Sins’ are the acts that do not obey God’s laws. ‘*Sinned’, in verse 27, means to do these acts. The promise at the end is extraordinary, but true: God will not remember his people’s *sins. Two other *prophets tell us that God said the same thing to them: Jeremiah 31:34 and Micah 7:18-19.
Verse 26 ‘Let us talk’ means as in a court of law. God wants everybody to realise that his punishments are fair.
Verse 27 ‘Your first father’ may be Adam, or Abraham, or Jacob. Bible students are not sure. It could even be all the *Jewish leaders many centuries before. ‘The people that spoke’ are the leaders in past times.
Verse 28 ‘*Holy’ means very, very good. It means so good that it separates the *holy person from other people. Here it means the leaders in the *temple. The *temple was God’s house on the hill called *Zion in Jerusalem. These leaders were not really good! God calls them *holy because they were the leaders of his people. God considers his people *holy if they obey him.
Verse 1 Although his people had not obeyed him, God still considers them his people.
Verse 2. God promises to help his people. He calls them Jacob. This was the name of Abraham’s grandson. He was one of the ‘first fathers’ in Isaiah 43:27. The name ‘Jacob’ means ‘someone who twists (or changes) things to his own advantage’. It almost means ‘thief’. But the name ‘Jeshur’ (the beginning of the word Jeshurun) means the opposite. It means ‘somebody that always does what is right’. The letters ‘un’ at the end of the word Jeshurun mean ‘that I love’. God says that his people are bad (like the name ‘Jacob’). However, with his help, they will become good (like the name ‘Jeshurun’). The name is also in Deuteronomy 32:15, 33:5 and 33:26. There is a note on ‘formed’ at Isaiah 44:21.
Verse 3 The first two promises mean the same, and the last two mean the same. Also, the first two are a picture of the last two. Just as dry ground needs water, so God’s people need his Spirit. ‘Bless’ means ‘be kind’. But its special meaning is to ‘have plenty of fruit’ (see Deuteronomy 28:2-6). It means their plants would have good crops. Also their animals would have many young animals and their people would have many children.
Verse 4 This gives two more pictures in which God blesses his people.
Verse 5 When God blesses (is kind to) his people, they will be very grateful. This is how they will reply to God then. Notice that these four things really all say the same thing! This is typical of Isaiah. Here, the name Jacob appears for a different reason. Although Jacob did some wrong things, he later chose God to be his God. He made promises to God, and God had a special relationship with him. That is why these grateful people choose to call themselves by Jacob’s name.
Verse 6 There is a note on ‘*Redeemer’ at chapter 43:1. ‘*LORD of Everything’ is a special name of God. Another translation is ‘*LORD of *angel armies’. *Angels are the servants of God in heaven. Isaiah probably used the name here because the false gods did not have ‘*angel armies’. Also, God is ‘the first’. Nobody made him. This contrasts with the false gods in verses 9-20. Somebody made them, out of lumps of wood, verse 19.
Verses 7-8 God asks any other god to speak. He asks the other god to say what happened in the past. Had they cared about their people? Also, and perhaps more important, what will happen in the future? There is no answer. God therefore says that there is no other god. There is no other ‘Rock’ (verse 8) to ‘build’ our lives on. This is a word-picture. For a house to be strong and safe, its base should be on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25). So a ‘rock’ means something, or someone, that provides security. Only God gives real security for his people; they should trust him alone.
Verse 9 An *idol is an image of a false god. The section from verses 9-20 is about *idols. But it starts with the people that make *idols. They are ‘of no use’. The *Hebrew word for this is ‘tohu’. It means ‘no shape’. It is the word in Genesis 1:2. It describes a world that has ‘no form’. It has ‘no use’. The witnesses were the people that made the gods. The witnesses know nothing because they cannot see any evidence.
Verse 10 The advantage here is not profit nor money. It is the safety that only God himself can provide. The people that shaped *idols did not make a real God. They only made an object that had no spirit.
Verse 11 People that are ‘only human’ cannot possibly make God. When they realise this, they will tremble with fear. Isaiah then gives two examples in verses 12-13.
Verse 12 Here is the first example. It only makes a man weak to make an *idol. His *idol gives him no strength.
Verse 13 Here is the second example. The *idol is just the shape of a man. All that it can do is to remain in its maker’s house.
Verses 14-17 Isaiah tells us more about the man that works with wood.
· He grows many sorts of trees. Isaiah mentions four trees: cedar, cypress, oak and pine.
· He uses the trees for fuel. He can keep himself warm and cook his food.
· The bit that he does not burn, he makes into an *idol.
The man makes a god out of something that is of no further use to him.
Verse 18 What covers their eyes? Isaiah says that it is plaster. He says, ‘Plaster is covering their eyes.’ Plaster is a substance like cement. People use it to cover their walls. But we may ask who put the plaster onto people’s eyes. Perhaps it was God himself. 2 Corinthians 4:4 shows us that it might even be Satan (the devil). There is a note about Satan in Zechariah 3:1-2.
Verse 19 In the *Hebrew Bible, ‘nobody really thinks about it’ is ‘it does not come into his heart’. Also, the word for ‘minds’ in verse 18 and ‘mind’ in verse 20 is ‘hearts’ and ‘heart’. The *Jews believed that you thought in your heart. But in English, there is a further meaning. The heart involves feelings as well as thoughts. Perhaps Isaiah meant feelings as well as thoughts also.
Verse 20 The *idol cannot help the person that made it. The maker made the *idol in whatever form he chose. It could not do what the real God can do.
Verse 21 Jacob and Israel are both names for God’s people, the *Jews. Notice that God did not say that he had ‘made’ or ‘created’ them. He used the same *Hebrew word as in 43:1 and 43:7 and as in 44:2, 44:10 and 44:12. It means ‘to shape’. There is a different *Hebrew word for ‘to shape’ in verse 13. God did this to compare himself to the *idols. Men had to shape the *idols, see 44:9, 44:12 and 44:13. God himself shaped the men! God is therefore very, very much greater. In fact, the *idols are nothing. His people must remember this. If they do, then God will not forget them. Instead, he will look after them. Notice also that God did not just ‘shape’ his people. He ‘shaped them’ to be his servants. In other words he had a special plan for them.
Verse 22 There is a note on ‘*redeem’ in 43:1. The word ‘swept away’ translates the same *Hebrew words as in 43:25 and Psalm 51:1. We could translate them, ‘wipe clean’. This is because our *sins make us *unholy. We cannot come near to God. But when he forgives our *sins, he sweeps them away. *Sin is like an unclean substance that God removes from our lives. So when God forgives us we are not *unholy! We can approach God. Or, as the verse says, we can return to him. He has *redeemed us, so he has made us part of his family.
Verse 23 These are probably words that Isaiah wrote, not God’s words. It is hard for us to imagine that the sky, the earth, the mountains and the trees could actually sing. Perhaps it means that everything will seem beautiful. The wonderful things that God has done have changed everything. Everything that people’s *sin has made dirty will be clean again.
Verses 24-28 This passage introduces a new section, 44:28 to 48:22. The servant is now, not Israel, but Cyrus. The section is about the return of the *Jews from their *exile in Babylon.
Verse 24 The section starts with three descriptions of God.
· He is your *Redeemer. He has made you part of his family.
· He shaped you. He made the *Jews as part of his plan.
· He, alone, made everything. He made the world and everything that was in it.
The order in the verse is the opposite of what actually happened. This emphasises that God’s family was the purpose of everything that he did.
Verses 25-26 Notice the way that God contrasts the false *prophets with his servants.
(1) God will spoil the signs of the false *prophets. Their efforts will fail.
(2) God will make the false *prophets into fools. We could translate this, ‘I (God) make them seem mad.’
(3) God will make the knowledge of wise people into nonsense. In other words, their advice will be foolish.
(4) God will do the things that his servants say. Actually, the word ‘servants’ is just ‘servant’ in the *Hebrew Bible. Perhaps it meant Isaiah himself.
(5) God sends the people who bring his messages. They say that God will do certain things. He will do all those things.
(6) God says that he will rebuild the places that the enemy ruined. This includes Jerusalem and the towns round it.
Verse 27 God now refers to the escape from Egypt. He made the Red Sea dry. The *Jews walked through it and they did not drown.
Verse 28 Now God will rescue his people again, as he rescued them from Egypt many centuries before. This time Cyrus, the King of Persia, will be his agent. Actually, God describes Cyrus as ‘his *shepherd’. A *shepherd is a sheep farmer. The ‘sheep’ mean God’s people. Cyrus is like the farmer who cares about his sheep. The *temple was God’s house in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 587 *B.C.
It astonishes Bible students that Cyrus’s name appears here. Isaiah lived more than a century before Cyrus’s birth. Bible students have two possible explanations:
(1) Because God knows everything, he told Isaiah Cyrus’ name. This may surprise us, but God did a similar thing in 1 Kings 13:2.
(2) A later *prophet, and not Isaiah, wrote these words. But in Isaiah chapter 44, God emphasises that, unlike an *idol, he really does know the future. If God told Cyrus’s name to Isaiah, that would be powerful evidence of that fact.
This chapter continues the section that starts in Isaiah 44:24. Read Isaiah 44:24-28 before you read Isaiah chapter 45. This will help you to understand Isaiah chapter 45.
Verse 1 Read the note on 44:28 which is about Cyrus. ‘*Anointed’ is a special Bible word. The *Jews poured vegetable oil onto men when they made them into kings. We say that they ‘*anointed’ them. Such kings were called ‘the *LORD’s *anointed’. It did not mean that they were very good. It did not mean that they did their work well. It meant that God put them apart, or separate, for his own purposes. Because he uses the word ‘*anointed’ here, Isaiah is reminding people about King David. David was a great leader.
‘Hold his right hand’ means these things.
· God chose Cyrus.
· God helped Cyrus.
· God led Cyrus.
As a result, Cyrus very quickly defeated his enemies. ‘Defeat, strip, open, not closed’ are words that give us a description. It is a description of someone who won battles rapidly. ‘*Armour’ is what a soldier wears to protect himself. Kings probably wore special *armour. Some Bible students think that ‘the doors’ and ‘the gates’ meant the entrances into Babylon. The River Euphrates was an important defence for Babylon. Cyrus sent the water from the river another way. Then his army could enter Babylon easily. That was how Cyrus defeated Babylon.
Verse 2 Bible students are not sure what the word ‘mountains’ here really means. It may mean a block that prevents travel along a road. It would stop people. Whatever it is, Cyrus’ soldiers would remove it. ‘*Bronze’ is a mixture of two metals called copper and tin.
Verse 3 ‘Send for you’ here and in verse 4 almost means ‘order you’. The valuable and expensive things should have proved to Cyrus who the real God is. Sadly, they did not, as the ends of verses 4 and 5 tell us.
Verses 4-5 Cyrus said that his god called Marduk gave him success. He believed that there were other gods too. But he did not believe in the *LORD, who is the one real God. God knew that Cyrus would not recognise him. Cyrus would not know who really gave him his success. Cyrus would not know God.
Verse 6 ‘Sunrise to sunset’ is *Hebrew poetry for ‘east to west’. It really means all the world that people knew at that time.
Verse 7 ‘Light and darkness’ may mean sunrise and sunset. But they may be a description of ‘pleasant and unpleasant things’. ‘Trouble’ means the bad things that Cyrus will do. He will defeat and destroy countries. The success here is the success of Cyrus. Cyrus was successful because he was like a tool in God’s hands. God said, ‘I will hold his hand’, verse 1.
Verse 8 This verse is a prayer for showers from the skies. These showers will produce fruits that will show God’s kindness to the world. It is as if Isaiah cannot wait for Cyrus to do his work! Even as rain makes plants grow, Isaiah wants ‘God’s rain’ (in other words, God’s kindness) to come from the skies. The result is that good things will happen. These good things are goodness and safety. They will be like plants that grow from the earth. The *Hebrew word for goodness really means ‘*righteousness’. The *Hebrew word for safety really means ‘salvation’. These are both special Bible words. ‘*Righteousness’ means this. ‘What happens when people always do right and good things.’ ‘Salvation’ means ‘the safety that God gives to people. He gives it to them when they trust in him.’ Only God himself can create these two things. In his book ‘The *Prophecy of Isaiah’, Alec Motyer says that ‘*righteousness’ means ‘absolutely right purposes’.
Verses 9-13 In this section, Isaiah imagines certain people. Some of them did not believe that Cyrus would be ‘the *LORD’s *anointed’. They had this opinion because Cyrus was not a *Jew. There is a note on ‘the *LORD’s *anointed’ in verse 1. Isaiah says two things.
· You have no right to ask the *potter questions if you are a pot. You have no right to ask your parents questions if you are their child. In other words, you must not argue with them in a manner that denies their relationship with you.
· Similarly, you have no right to ask God questions. In other words, you must not argue with what he has decided. He has decided to appoint Cyrus to do his work.
Verse 9. ‘Bad (things will happen)’ is ‘*hoy’ in the *Hebrew language. Read the note on ‘*hoy’ in Isaiah 28:1. ‘Maker’ is a name for God, who made everything. ‘*Clay’ is that part of the earth out of which people make pots. We call these people ‘potters’. Some Bible students translate ‘he has no hands’ like this. ‘It has no handles’.
Verse 10. When a woman ‘gives birth’ she has a baby.
Verse 11 ‘What will happen in the future’ is in verse 13. Cyrus will be a great leader. ‘*Holy’ means ‘very, very good’. God is so good that he is separate from everybody else. So, ‘*holy’ can also mean ‘separate’. The two questions refer back to verses 10 and 9 in that order. The first question probably means ‘do not ask me questions.’ The second question probably means ‘do not give me orders.’
Verse 13 ‘Straight paths’ means that Cyrus will have no difficulties. God will give him success because Cyrus is serving God. Of course, he does not know this, verses 4-5. The *exiles were the *Jewish people who lived in Babylon. The *Babylonians would take them from Judah. They did not want to live in Babylon when they first went there. Later, when Cyrus sent them home, many preferred to stay in Babylon!
Verse 14 The *Hebrew word for ‘you’ in this verse is female. This means that it does not refer to Cyrus. Instead, it means Jerusalem, which Isaiah always refers to as female. Cush and Sabea were southern parts of Egypt. Neither Israel nor Cyrus defeated Egypt. Therefore, some Bible students think that this is a description of future events. It is what will happen on Jesus’ return to the earth. The people from foreign nations will be willing to serve the God of Israel. The chains are just a description of their love for God. Isaiah 2:2-4 has a similar description.
Other Bible students do not agree. They think that the verse refers to a later King of Persia. He was called Cambyses. He did defeat Egypt, in 525 *B.C. (*B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.) ‘God’ would then be Cambyses’ god. These Bible students change the female *Hebrew word for ‘you’ to a male word.
Verses 15-17 The speakers in these verses may be the people from Egypt, or the people in Jerusalem. Bible students are not sure. But the words are true, whoever says them. God may seem to hide himself. But that does not prevent his rule of the world. ‘*Idols’ are false gods. The *Hebrew word for ‘*idols’ really means ‘shapes on the outside’. There is nothing inside them; they cannot help anyone.
Verses 18-25 These verses finish the section that started at verse 9. Verse 22 emphasises the main subject of Isaiah chapter 45.
Verse 18 Again, we can imagine God as a *potter, as in verse 9. He has a definite design.
Verse 19 This is God’s answer to verse 15. God has not hidden himself! Today we find God’s truth in the Bible. An *ancestor is a member of your family many years ago.
Verse 20 Who are the people who are ‘running away from the nations’? Bible students have two answers.
· People who are escaping from Cyrus and his army.
· People who are ‘escaping’ from the nations’ *idols.
Both may be true, but the second is the important answer for us today. ‘To ‘escape’ from *idols is a description. It means that people are not serving false gods any longer.
Verse 21 God answers his own questions. But when was ‘a long time ago’ and ‘in the distant past’? If God is referring to Cyrus in verse 20, then God told these things to Isaiah in 700 *B.C. But perhaps God is referring to ‘people who are escaping from *idols’. Then it probably refers to the occasion when God spoke to Abraham, 2000 *B.C. The important thing is this. God could say what would happen. *Idols could not. For ‘*righteous’, read the notes on verse 24.
Verse 22 Here is the message that the servant, Israel, did not often tell the nations. It was the message that God’s special servant, Jesus, told to everybody. He still does! The message is that people everywhere should turn to God. They should trust him and they should serve him as their only God. He alone can save people. He alone is God.
Verse 23 This verse starts with the same *Hebrew words that God said to Abraham in Genesis 22:16. This shows that verse 21 may be about Abraham’s time. ‘Everybody’ will kneel in front of God, and ‘people’ will make promises. This means people in every country in the world, not just people in Israel. ‘Kneel’ means that the person will *worship God. ‘*Worship’ means this. A person will tell God that he is very great and important. ‘Promise’ means that a person will say their beliefs aloud. This reminds us of Romans 10:9. Perhaps Paul repeated some words from this verse in Philippians 2:10. Therefore Paul taught us that Jesus is the *LORD God in Isaiah 45:23.
Verse 24 ‘*Righteous’ means ‘very, very good’, or ‘always does the right things’. Only God is really *righteous. But in verse 25, God considers that his people are *righteous too. ‘*Righteousness’ means ‘complete goodness’ or ‘the result when people always do right and good things’. Read again the note on verse 8. In this verse, the *Hebrew word for ‘*righteousness’ is plural. This emphasises the meaning of the word. The *Hebrew word for ‘honest’ in verse 23 is the same word that we have translated ‘*righteous’ in verse 25.
It is possible to translate ‘angry with him’ as ‘angry with himself’. So people who *worship *idols will be angry with themselves. They will be angry because they, themselves, decided to do that. They have not done it just because their parents made them do it.
Verse 25 The ‘everybody’ here is the ‘everybody’ of verse 22. This means that people from all nations can belong to Israel. Paul explains this in Galatians 3:7. The *Hebrew words for ‘has Israel as an *ancestor’ are ‘seed of (or children of) Israel’. Psalm 87 explains this. ‘Seed’ is an important Bible word. As plants grow from seed, so people are called the ‘seed’ of their *ancestors. This includes Jesus Christ. Read the note on ‘seed’ in Something to do after Isaiah chapter 62.
Verses 1-2 Sennacherib attacked Babylon in 703 *B.C. (*B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.) When Sennacherib did this, Merodach-Baladin was the king of Babylon. Merodach-Baladin moved all the gods away from Babylon to a safe place. The gods could not move themselves. Isaiah saw this as something that would happen again in the future. But this time, it was Cyrus who would attack Babylon. Cyrus came from east of Babylon, verse 11. Isaiah said that animals would have to carry the gods away. The gods were *idols and images. An *idol is a picture of a god that people have made out of metal or stone or wood, verse 6. These *idols and images were very heavy. They will not stand up, but they must lie flat for the animals to carry them away. The gods cannot help, or ‘rescue the heavy weight’.
Isaiah mentions Bel and Nebo. These were two false gods that the inhabitants of Babylon served. Bel was the chief god. They kept the image of Bel in Babylon. They also called Bel by the name ‘Marduk’. Nebo was Bel’s son. They kept Nebo in a city near Babylon called Borsippa. Some of their kings had letters like Nebo in their names. Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus are two examples.
Verses 3-5 God compares himself with Bel and Nebo. The people had to carry Bel and Nebo. God himself carries his people. In other words, he supplies what they need, He had done this since the birth (beginning) of the nation called Israel. ‘*Conceived’ refers to the sex act which produces a baby inside the mother. Some Bible students think that the ‘birth of the nation’ refers back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For answers to the questions in verse 5, see the note on verses 8-13.
Verses 6-7 God describes how people make *idols. Again he emphasises that somebody must carry the *idol. It cannot walk, so it cannot carry its people. It cannot supply what people need. It cannot talk, so it cannot answer questions. It cannot say what will happen in the future. ‘*Worship’ means to love and to serve someone who is greater than you .
Verses 8-13 The *Hebrew words for ‘make a special note’ we can translate better as ‘take it to heart’, verse 8. The *Jews believed that you thought with your heart. Therefore, this is a way to say: ‘Listen and do something about it.’ This is God’s last appeal by Isaiah to his people. But Isaiah is still not sure how the *Jews will answer the questions in verse 5. The answer should be that the *LORD is the only real God. But verse 12 may mean that they will choose to serve false gods, like Bel and Nebo. So he makes one last appeal.
· There is only one God, there is no other God, verse 9.
· God said long ago what would happen. False gods cannot say what will happen, verse 10.
· God has a purpose (a plan) and nothing will stop it, verses 10-11.
This purpose will bring Cyrus, whom verse 11 calls: ‘the bird from the east’. Cyrus will be cruel, like a bird that hunts *prey. A bird that hunts *prey catches smaller birds and animals in order to eat them. And Cyrus will be cruel to many people. But God will still use him in order to carry out his (God’s) purpose.
‘Goodness’ in verses 12 and 13 means God’s good character and it means his purposes. God wants his people to have that goodness, but it is far away from them. That is why God must bring it to them. They do not want a foreigner like Cyrus to save them. However, God’s purpose is that Cyrus will save them. Then, God’s people will have his good character. He wants his people to be like himself. That will give his people a beautiful character. *Zion and Israel in this verse mean God’s people that live there.
Verses 1-3. The *Hebrew text here has the ‘*Virgin Daughter of Babylon’. It probably means ‘all the citizens of Babylon’, especially the leaders. The *Hebrew also has ‘Daughter of Chaldea’s People’. Chaldea is another name for Babylon. So the *LORD is speaking to the people that live there. He compares all those people to a young woman. She will not be a queen again. She will not sit on a ‘throne’, in other words, a special seat that kings and queens sit on. Instead, she will be a slave. She will wear few or no clothes. She will do hard work. She will ‘walk through streams’ as the enemy takes her into *exile. ‘*Exile’ is when people force someone to live in a foreign country. In that way, they punish that person. God is speaking to the men and to the women that live in Babylon.
Verse 4 Here Isaiah reminds us who said the words in verses 1-3 and 5-15. He is:
· the *Holy [God] of Israel; (see Isaiah 1:4)
· the *LORD of Everything; (see Isaiah 1:9)
· the *Redeemer. (see Isaiah 43:1)
All these gave God the right to punish Babylon. God gives his reason in verse 6.
Verse 5 The *Hebrew text has ‘Daughter of Chaldea’s People’. It means all the citizens of Babylon, especially the leaders. They will have to:
· Sit in silence. This means that they cannot give orders to people. They will lose their authority.
· Go into darkness. That means *exile. It will be like darkness, because the people will lose their freedom.
· Nobody will call them ‘queen of *kingdoms’. This means that they will lose their important place in the world. A *kingdom is a country which has a king.
Verses 6-7 When *Jews met foreigners, the *Jews became *unclean. This did not mean that they were dirty. It was a word that referred to their religion. When they were *unclean, the *Jews could not *worship God at his house called the temple. They had to obey the rules in Leviticus to become clean again. When the *Babylonians took the *Jews into *exile, they made them *unclean. Because God allowed the *Babylonians to do this, God says, ‘I made what was mine *unclean’. ‘What was mine’ means ‘my people the *Jews’. The *Babylonians punished the *Jews more than God wanted them to do. They were not kind, especially to old people. They did not realise that they would not always have power over the *Jews. They thought, ‘I always will be queen.’ Notice that God still refers to all the people of Babylon as female, as a queen. This is because people used female words to refer to cities in the ancient world.
Verse 8 ‘Women that love pleasure’ may mean that they were prostitutes. In other words, they let men have sex with them for money. But more probably it means that they felt safe. These women thought that their husbands gave them security. There were no other women who could attract their husbands. They would never be widows. That means that they would never lose their homes. They would never lose their children. That means that they would always have somebody to provide food and a home for them. Remember that these statements are just a word-picture for all the citizens of Babylon. This means that everyone in the city felt safe. They all thought that Babylon would always have security. But the rest of the chapter tells Babylon that this will not happen!
Verse 9 The people in Babylon were using magic constantly. They did it because they wanted their false gods to help them. There is a connection between false gods and evil spirits. The ‘spells’ (magic words) were the words that they said to the false gods. These things were probably part of their religion in Babylon.
Verse 10 The people in Babylon trusted their magic. So they thought that Babylon had security. ‘Here I am, and there is nobody apart from me’ are the same words as in verse 8. In verse 8, the words meant, ‘There is no other country as powerful as us.’ Here they probably also mean, ‘There is no God more powerful than our gods.’ That is why they said, ‘Nobody sees me.’ They did not mean people, they meant God! In other words, they were saying that the real God could not see them!
Verse 11 The evil things that they did to other nations (verse 10) will happen to them. This is how God will punish them, verse 3. ‘*Ransom’ is the money that people pay to free themselves. There is a note on ‘*ransom’ in Isaiah 43:3. Here it is ‘the money’. There it is ‘to pay the money’.
Verse 12 Here God is really asking the people of Babylon a question. He is asking, ‘Will your religion make you strong when trouble comes?’ They think that the answer is ‘Yes!’ But verses 13-15 make clear that the answer will be ‘No!’
Verses 13-14 In the original language, ‘people that make records of the skies’ is this: ‘the people that divide the *heavens’. They were scientists who studied the stars. They divided the sky into parts. They studied the stars in these different parts. But they were also astrologers. Astrologers try to say what will happen in the future. They say that the stars help them to do this. Christians do not believe that they can do this. Verse 14 agrees with what Christians believe. A fire will burn these astrologers away. It is not an ordinary fire. You can use an ordinary fire to bake bread and to warm yourself. This is a fire that destroys people’s *souls after their deaths (Isaiah 66:24). In other words, it describes their punishment in hell.
Verse 15 The *Hebrew word that we have translated ‘companions’ probably means this: ‘people that helped you with magic spells (magic words to make things happen)’.
Verses 1-2 The three names are important. Jacob means the nation. Israel means the people that made the *covenant. Judah means the people that lived in the *holy city. The ‘*holy city’ is a name for Jerusalem. The ‘*covenant’ was an agreement between God and his people. The people expected God to do what he promised in the *covenant. That is what ‘depend’ means in verse 2. But the people did not do what they promised in the *covenant. That is what verse 1 means by ‘not honestly and fairly’.
Verse 3 What are ‘the first things’? They were good things, as verse 5 tells us. Not all Bible students agree what they were. They were probably what King Cyrus did. He defeated Babylon, then he sent the *Jews home from *exile. When Isaiah wrote this, Cyrus was still in the future. So we could translate the end of verse 3, ‘Suddenly, I will act, and they will happen.’ But God already knew that it would happen. And for that reason it is in the past tense! It is certain to happen.
Verse 4 The people are hard to persuade. So it is difficult to make them agree with God. Such people seem to have necks of iron and heads of *bronze (hard metal)! They will not move their heads to look another way. This is because their neck muscles are like iron. Ideas cannot get into their heads. This is because their heads are like *bronze. ‘*Bronze’ is a hard yellowish brown metal. It is a mixture of copper and tin. ‘Copper’ and ‘tin’ are metals.
Verse 5 An *idol is a false god. An image is like a picture of a false god. Nobody would try to give the honour to a false god if something bad had happened. So, clearly, the thing that God had brought about was something good! (See note on verse 3.)
Verse 6 God declares that he will do new things. The ‘new things’ are not the same as the ‘first things’ in verse 3. The ‘new things’ would happen when God’s servant came.
Verses 7-8 The people in Judah could not say that they knew about ‘the new things’. Other *prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah would also talk about these ‘new things’. But the people from Judah did not want to listen to God’s message when Ezekiel and Jeremiah spoke to them.
Verse 9 ‘My own name’ means ‘everything about me’. ‘Cut you off’ means ‘make you die’.
Verse 10 People made silver pure in a fire. But God makes his people pure when they have trouble. As fire burns the dirt out of silver, so trouble removes bad things from God’s people. Deuteronomy 4:20 says that, to the *Jews, their experiences in Egypt were like a fire. Perhaps Isaiah meant that their experiences in Babylon would be like another fire.
Verse 11 The fire in verse 10 will make God’s people into better people. But God does this mainly on his own behalf. He will make his people into better people for this reason. He does not want anyone else to receive honour for what he has done.
Verse 12 ‘Listen’ is not plural here, because there is only one nation called Jacob or Israel. But in verses 14 and 16 it is plural, because God is speaking to each person in the nation. God calls nations and people to follow him. The end of the verse means ‘I am the only God, from the beginning to the end.’
Verse 13 The earth and the skies do what God tells them to do. God’s people must do the same when he speaks to them. He spoke to them in the past. Now he will speak to them again, verses 14-22.
Verse 14. God speaks to each person in Israel. They have false gods. Which of them said what would happen in Babylon? The answer is, ‘None!’ But each *Jew must answer for himself or herself. That is why it is a question. We, too, must answer it! The friend is Cyrus, see Isaiah 45:1. ‘His arm’ means the arm that he fights with. ‘Chaldea’ is another name for ‘Babylon’.
Verse 15. ‘I’ comes twice to emphasise the importance of the speaker, that is, God. ‘Him’ and ‘he’ are both Cyrus.
Verse 16-17 God will be with his people when they leave Babylon. He will show them the way and what to do. Notice two things in these verses.
1) God’s servant suddenly says, ‘And now the *LORD and Master has sent me with his Spirit.’ Isaiah chapter 50 is about God’s servant. Isaiah chapter 50 refers to God as ‘*LORD and Master’. Bible students are not sure why God’s servant suddenly speaks here. The section ‘Something to do’ after Isaiah chapter 42 has a note about God’s servant. Read the note in number 3 of that section.
2) Verse 17 calls God ‘your *Redeemer’. There is a note on ‘*redeem’ at Isaiah 43:1.
Verse 18 ‘*Peace like a river’ means that there would always be *peace. A river always flows. The *Hebrew word for ‘*peace’ (shalom) does not just mean ‘no war’. It means many good things also. ‘The waves of the sea’ mean something that is always strong. Here it is the goodness of God’s people. People usually translate the *Hebrew word for ‘goodness’ (tsedek) as ‘*righteousness’. It means ‘the quality of someone who is very, very good’. Only God is really very good (‘*righteous’). However, he says that his people are good (‘*righteous’) also. His people must love and obey him.
Verse 19 Many children are a *blessing from God. So are many animals and many crops. Read Psalm 127:3-5 and Genesis 15:5. These *blessings are part of the ‘*Covenant’ (special serious agreement) between God and his people. In this agreement, two things must happen.
· God will give his *blessing to his people.
· God’s people will love him and they will obey him.
Verse 20 The ‘ends of the earth’ are places that are very far away. ‘*Redeemed’ here means that God has made his people free. See also the note at Isaiah 43:1.
Verse 21 Isaiah reminds the *Jews about what God did about 700 years before. He is a powerful God! *Thirsty means that a person desperately needs something to drink. But when God’s people lived in the desert, they were not *thirsty. God provided the water, even from the rocks!
Verse 22 Wicked people do not listen to God’s commands and they refuse to obey him. Therefore they have no *peace, verse 18.
Isaiah 49:1-13 is the second passage about God’s servant in Isaiah. Bible students often call these passages ‘Suffering Servant Songs’. ‘Suffering Servant’ means ‘a servant that suffers’. They are not actually songs, because we do not normally sing them. Rather, they are poems. The four songs, or poems, are:
1) Isaiah 42:1-4. God describes the servant.
2) Isaiah 49:1-13. The servant describes himself.
3) Isaiah 50:4-9. Again, the servant describes himself.
4) Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. The servant suffers and dies. But God raises him to life again.
There are, of course, other verses about or by the servant, such as Isaiah 44:1 and 48:16. We do not include these in the four songs.
The notes before Isaiah chapter 41 say who Bible students think the Servant to be. For *Jews, it was their nation. God brought them back from *exile in Babylon. God had given new life to their nation. It felt as if God had ‘raised them to life.’ For Christians, this is a picture of what Jesus did for everybody. He is the servant who offers new life to everybody. See also the note on Isaiah 49:3 below.
Verse 1 Our note on Isaiah 41:1 says, ‘The islands are any places with coasts.’ The note then says that islands is therefore a word, for ‘people in the nations’. Chapter 41 makes it clear that they are not *Jewish people. Here we can add that ‘coasts’ may also mean ‘boundaries’. So, ‘islands’ may mean the countries all round Judah. These countries are near Judah. So God’s servant here speaks to nations that are near and far away. The womb is the place where a baby grows, inside its mother.
Verse 2 People used swords and arrows to fight in a war. But here, the war is a war of words. See Hebrews 4:12. Soldiers used a sword for enemies near to them. They used arrows for enemies far away. God’s words are similar: they reach people that are near and far away. God polished the arrow so that it flew quickly and straight. The ‘quiver’ was a special bag that people kept arrows in.
Verse 3 God names his servant Israel. First, it was Jacob’s new name, Genesis 35:10. Then it was the name of all God’s people. But now it will be the name of God’s special servant. He will show God’s beauty. Nowhere else in the Bible does God say that a person will show God’s beauty. Christians therefore believe that this ‘Israel’ is a name for Jesus, the *Messiah.
Verse 4 This verse tells us that God’s servant is really human. His work seems to bring little or no results. This makes the servant very sad. But the important thing to notice is this. It is God that is the judge of the results. In something to do number 3 below are some verses about Jesus. They tell us that he was like the servant in Isaiah 49:4.
Verse 5 This verse has a ‘broken structure’. In other words, before God speaks, the servant says something. Here, Jacob and Israel mean God’s people. ‘Honour in the eyes of the *Lord’ means the honour that God gives to his servant.
Verse 6 The servant will bring God’s people, the *Jews, back to God. ‘Tribes’ means ‘large groups of people that are each other’s relatives’. These *Jews are the *remnant of Isaiah 10:21. Also, in Isaiah 7:3, Isaiah’s son’s name was Shearjashub. ‘Shearjashub’ means ‘a *remnant will return’. A ‘*remnant’ is a small part or small number of something bigger. But the servant will do more than bring the *remnant of *Jews back. He will bring safety to people that are not *Jews. Simeon used this verse in Luke 2:29-32. Notice that in the *Hebrew language, ‘my safety’ is ‘jeshuati’. Really, that is the same as ‘my Jesus’ in English. Isaiah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language. ‘My safety’ does not mean that God is safe. It means that he will make his people safe. In particular, he will do that after they die. Most English Bibles translate ‘jeshuati’ as ‘my salvation (rescue and safety)’.
Verse 7 In this verse, ‘Israel’ is probably the servant, as in verse 3. The word ‘*redeemer’ is important. There is a note about it at Isaiah 43:1. Here it means that God (the *Redeemer) belongs to the same family as the servant (Israel). We believe that the servant here is probably Jesus, the son of God. ‘Nation’ is a word that means everybody outside Judah and Israel. They ‘hated’ the servant ‘very much’. They did not like him. The third and fourth Servant Songs tell us more of this *hatred and *dislike. But God will be loyal to his servant. Kings and princes will have to give honour to the servant in the end.
Verses 8-9a ‘When I am favourable’ means ‘the time when God is ready to do something’. Then God will rescue and save his servant. God will make his servant ‘a *covenant’. In English, ‘*covenant’ is another word for ‘agreement’. But this agreement is one that God makes. People can choose to agree with it or not, but they cannot change it. That is why Bible students call it by the special word ‘*covenant’. It is not an agreement in the ordinary use of the word in English. The first *covenant was not with the *Jews through Abraham and Moses. It was with Noah, who was not a *Jew, Genesis 6:18. Like Noah’s *covenant, this *covenant also includes people that are not *Jews. So this *covenant continues the *covenant with Noah.
Notice that this *covenant offers four things:
1) The servant will ‘raise up this country’. The *Hebrew words probably mean ‘give security to the country’. The ‘country’ probably means the whole world, because the promise is not only for *Jews. It is also for people that are not *Jews.
2) The servant will cause people to *inherit the empty places. ‘*Inherit’ means ‘to receive as a gift’. It usually means the sort of gift that you receive after the giver’s death. The empty places have no people, buildings or plants. Hard work would come before they would enjoy it! But here, the people would establish their permanent homes.
3) The servant will call people out from prison. Here, the prison probably means a foreign country. It could be Babylon, where the *Jews would go into *exile. The people would gain freedom.
4) The servant will call people out of darkness. This would not only give them freedom. It would also make them able to see clearly again. The people would have a new life.
All these things happened to the *remnant when they came home from *exile in Babylon. But they are also signs, or pictures, of what can happen to all people. It can happen when people trust in Jesus, the servant! Jeshuati (see the note on verse 6) gives people security, a permanent home, freedom and new life.
Verses 9b-11 These verses remind us of the journey that God’s people made from Egypt to Canaan. That was about 700 years before Isaiah lived. God will take care of them also when they return home from Babylon. There will be food, even on hills where nothing grows. There will be drink, enough for them all. There will be shade from the sun that beats down on them in the desert. Our translation has ‘hurts’ for ‘beats down’. God will guide them and he will lead them. Look in the notes about Isaiah 40:3-4. They explain ‘roads in the mountains’ and ‘highways’ (important roads). As in verses 8-9a, God does similar things for people who come back to God today. John uses some of the words from verse 10 in Revelation 7:16-17.
Verse 12 Nobody knows where ‘Sinim’ is or was. Some Bible students think that it is Aswan in Egypt. That would add ‘south’ to ‘north and west’. Perhaps Isaiah did not mention ‘east’ because he did not want people to think only about the return from Babylon. He wanted them to think about the greater meaning as at the end of verse 6.
Verse 13 This ends the section that Bible students call the second ‘Suffering Servant song’. (That is, the second poem about the servant that suffers.) Because God is calling people from the whole world, then everything must shout for joy. Everybody must be happy. It is hard to see how mountains can sing! Perhaps they are in this verse because the good news came from them, Isaiah 40:9.
Most Bible students agree that chapters 40 to 55 are about the return of the *Jews from Babylon to Judah. This is correct. But we have seen that chapter 40 is not only about this. It is also about the return of the *LORD to Jerusalem. And this section is about more than the return of the *Jews. This section is about people from all over the world who return to God. Verse 21, in particular, shows that. ‘The walls’ in verse 16 may be the walls of the New Jerusalem, not the old one!
Verse 14 *Zion is a name for the *Jewish people here. Notice the two names for God:
· *LORD means something like ‘I always am.’ He never changes.
· *Lord means ‘master’. He has authority over everything. And as verses 15-16 tell us, he never forgets his people.
Verses 15-16 We would say that the answer is ‘No!’, However the end of verse 15 says that the answer could be ‘Yes!’ But God cannot forget *Zion. He has written their names on the palms (flat parts) of his hands. The *Hebrew word for ‘written’ means ‘cut into a stone’. The *LORD’s love is better than anything that we can find on the earth. ‘Your walls are always in front of me’ probably means ‘I am always thinking about *Zion.’ ‘You’ in verses 15-21 means ‘*Zion’, the *LORD’s people.
Verse 17 Notice that the idea of children continues. Perhaps the mothers forgot their sons until their return!
Verse 18 The children that return to *Zion will be like something beautiful. They will be as beautiful as what a bride wears at her wedding.
Verse 19-21 More people come to *Zion than:
· the mothers could have;
· and the city could give homes to.
This means that it is not only about the return from Babylon. It may not even be about that, because many of the *Jews did not return. They preferred life in Babylon. So, here:
· *Zion probably means the New Jerusalem. That is, the place where all God’s people will live always. So here, we should think about how God increases the number of people in his Church across the world. (See Hebrews 12:22-23.)
· And the children are people from all over the world, who come to God through Jesus Christ.
The word ‘children’ here and in verse 25 is ‘sons’ in the *Hebrew Bible.
Verse 22 The sign is a *banner, which is a special flag. Only Isaiah says that the *LORD lifts up a *banner, in Isaiah 5:26, 11:10, 11:12, 13:2, 18:3, 30:17, 31:9, 33:23, here, and 62:10. This *banner (sign) makes all the nations obey the *LORD.
Verse 23 Kings and queens mean ‘foreign countries’. People from those countries will come. And they will bend down on their knees in front of the *LORD. They will declare that he is the real God. People from those countries will come to be together with the *LORD’s people.
Verse 24 The answer to these questions is usually ‘No!’ But here it is ‘Yes!’ because God is so powerful.
Verse 25 The word ‘fight’ in this verse means ‘fight in a court of law’. When God rescues people from their enemies, he has a right to do it. Christians believe that this is because of Jesus’ death. That means that the strong soldier and the fierce man really mean Satan (the devil) and his evil forces. ‘Children’ in this verse is really ‘sons’ in *Hebrew. This links verses 14-26 together.
Verse 26 People that do not obey God really *destroy themselves. Here the word-picture is that they ‘eat themselves’. It means that they bring about their own troubles. Other examples are in Judges 7:22 and 1 Samuel 14:20. There is a note on ‘*redeemer’ in Isaiah 43:1.
This chapter contains the third ‘Suffering Servant Song’ (poem about the servant that suffers), in verses 4-9. Notice how that the four Servant Songs develop. In this one Isaiah first mentions the idea that the servant will suffer. So we have:
Song 1, Isaiah 42:1-3. God describes the good things that his servant will do.
Song 2, Isaiah 49:1-13. The servant himself describes what he does. Also, the servant says that its results depress him. But God promises him success.
Song 3, Isaiah 50:4-9. The servant describes some of the things that he suffers in his work.
Song 4, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. The servant dies a terrible death, but God raises him to life.
Verse 1 This is a question that needs an answer. It is part of the style of the Book of Isaiah, especially chapters 40 to 55. Why are these questions important? Because they make the reader think! Isaiah could have written, ‘There is no bill of your mother’s divorce.’ But he did not. He wanted the reader to answer, ‘There is no bill of my mother’s divorce.’ Who was the mother? Why was the bill of divorce so important?
· The mother was ‘*Zion’, as in chapter 49. Isaiah is speaking here to her children, who were the *Jews. He calls them ‘sons’ 4 times in Isaiah 49:14-26. Many translations today put ‘children’ instead. Isaiah also mentions ‘daughters’ in 49:22.
· The bill of divorce was very important. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 tells us that a woman with a bill of divorce could not marry her first husband again. All through the *Old Testament, God speaks of the *Jews as his wife. If he divorces them, he cannot remarry them. But there is no bill of divorce. The divorce is not legal. God is still ‘married’ to his people. In other words, his special relationship with them has not ended. This should give them hope.
Notice that the end of verse 1 speaks to the sons themselves. Again, this is part of Isaiah’s style, to move from ‘him, her or them’ to ‘you’. God now asks whom he sold the *Jews to, both mother and sons. In those days, if people could not pay money, then they had to sell their wives and children as slaves. The people that they owed money to took their families instead! But God did not owe anything to anybody. He allowed enemies to take away his people because of their *sins. *Sins are our wrong deeds when we do not obey God’s rules.
Verse 2-3 The *LORD asks why nobody answered his questions in verse 1. Some translations change the questions into statements, such as ‘Nobody was there when I came.’ But the *LORD does not make statements here. He asks questions that we must answer. There is a note on ‘*ransom’ at Isaiah 43:3. The *LORD has the resources and the strength to *ransom and rescue his people. By his ‘word’ the *LORD tells people that they have done something wrong. The rough cloth was what people made sacks from. They wore that same kind of cloth when they were very sad.
Verse 4 ‘The *Lord, who is *LORD’ comes in verses 4, 5, 7 and 9. In *Hebrew it is ‘Adonai (master) YHWH (always alive)’. It is a name for God that Isaiah used 17 times in his book. In this chapter, it starts a verse each time. This puts it in an important position. Verses 4-9 are by the servant. He answers the questions in verse 2. That is why they must be questions, and not answers! The answer is not, ‘Nobody’; it is ‘the servant’. Verse 10 makes this clear. Notice two important things in the Servant Song.
· The *Lord, who is *LORD, has taught the servant what to do. (Verses 4-5)
· The *Lord, who is *LORD, will help his suffering servant. (Verses 6-9)
We could translate ‘it has learned’ like this. ‘It is a disciple (someone that learns from a great teacher)’. The people that Jesus taught were his disciples. That is what he called them. Notice that ‘he wakens my ear’; he does not ‘waken me’. There is a difference!
Verse 6 Here, it is clear that the servant is a person. It is not a nation. Notice three things about the punishment:
1) The servant did not deserve it, but he accepted it. (He says, ‘I offered.’)
2) It was probably what a judge ordered. (The verse mentions ‘the people that hit me’.) (Note the court of law in verse 8.)
3) It was personal. (The servant says, ‘they pulled out my beard.’ Also, ‘they laughed and they *spat.’)
‘Spat’ means ‘to send liquid out suddenly from the mouth’. It is a nasty insult.
Verse 7 ‘Stone’ in the *Hebrew Bible is a word that means ‘flint’. This is a very hard stone. It is hard to break it. So, the servant is saying that he will be firm. When people oppose him cruelly, he will continue to carry out his duties for the *LORD.
Verse 8-9 This is a word-picture of a court of law. The servant is sure that he will win the argument. The people that accuse him will be like old clothes. They will wear out. Small insects called ‘moths’ eat clothes that people have made out of wool.
Verses 10-11 Verse 10 tells us that verses 4-9 are by the servant. Then the two verses tell us that we can be like the servant. We can trust God and depend on him. Or we can make our own ‘light’ and follow it. In other words, we can choose how we want to live. But that is not a wise choice. It will end in terrible pain and we will suffer greatly.
In chapter 51:1-8, God speaks to people who want to be his servants. God speaks through his *prophet, Isaiah. Every ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’, therefore, means ‘God’ or ‘God’s’ in verses 1-8. This part of chapter 51 is for people who want to make God’s servant their *role-model. A *role-model is a great person, whose life we want to copy. A new section begins at verse 9, until verse 16. In it, the people pray and God answers them. Then, from verse 17, the chapter describes a time after God’s Servant has done his work in chapter 53. This continues in chapter 52:1-12. Therefore, chapters 51:1 – 52:12 link the last two Suffering Servant Songs (poems about God’s servant who suffers).
Verse 1 People that ‘pursue goodness’ always try to do right things. Here, ‘pursue’ means ‘try to do’. Only God is really very, very good. However, he expects his people to try to be good also. The *Hebrew word for ‘coming to’ means ‘looking for’. In other words, that they do know where God is. So they are going to find him. The first two sentences of this verse mean the same. That often happens in *Hebrew poems. ‘Goodness’ here could, therefore, be a name for God. ‘*LORD’ is a special name for God that his servants use. The second two sentences are also similar. The rock and the rocky place are both dead things. This links with Abraham and Sarah in verse 2.
Verse 2 Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children when Isaac was born. It seemed impossible that a nation could come from their family. Hebrews 11:12 says that Abraham was ‘as good as dead’. In other words, like dead people, they could not have children. They were like the dead rocks in verse 1. Yet God made it happen! Read Romans 4:19. The word ‘now’ gives the reason for the command to ‘look’. If God could give a child to two ‘dead’ people, he can give life to ‘dead’ places, verse 3.
Verse 3 Here is new life for ‘dead’ buildings and ‘dead’ gardens. They are like something ‘dead’ because an enemy destroyed them. Notice that the same word ‘comfort’ comes twice, near the start of this verse. This reminds us of Isaiah 40:1, where it also comes twice. ‘Like (the garden called) Eden’ does not mean just ‘beautiful’. It means ‘like it was before Adam and Eve (the first people on the Earth) did not obey God’.
Verse 4 The words ‘the people’ in English can mean ‘one people’ (or nation) or ‘several people’ (or nations). But in the *Hebrew language here, it means ‘one people’ (one nation). God is referring to his servants, not to all the people in the world. Genesis 25:23 also uses ‘people’ to mean a single nation. In that verse are two sorts of people: God’s people (Isaac) and other people (Esau). God, through Isaiah, is probably referring to that verse.
Verse 5 As in most of the early verses in this chapter, the first two sentences mean the same. So ‘God’s goodness’ and ‘the safety that he offers’ are similar. The safety that God offers is the freedom from his punishment. That means that his people can share in God’s goodness. Note the words ‘arms’ and ‘arm’. They do not mean the same. The Bible only refers to God’s arms (plural) in one other place, Deuteronomy 33:27. It says, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’. ‘Everlasting’ means that they will ‘always last’. Again, as in verse 4, God is using words to refer back to other places in the Bible. ‘My arms’ therefore means God himself. But ‘my arm’ means God’s servant. Read the note on Isaiah 53:1.
Verse 6 This world will end one day. It will wear out, like our clothes do. But God’s goodness, and the safety that he offers, will never end. ‘Never fail’ in the *Hebrew language is ‘[nobody] will destroy it’. Notice again Isaiah’s poetry technique in verses 5 and 6. ‘Goodness … safety …… safety … goodness’. We call this technique an ‘*inclusio’. You will find many examples in Isaiah’s book.
Verse 7 ‘Goodness’ here does not just mean that people do the right thing. It is probably a name for God, even as the word for ‘goodness’ was in verse 1. People that know God have his law ‘in their hearts’. We would say today ‘in their minds’. At that time, the *Jews believed that you thought in your hearts. The *Hebrew word for ‘law’ is ‘torah’. They called the first five books in the Bible ‘The Torah’. Notice how the four words ‘afraid, wrong, frighten, insults’ increase in feeling. The word ‘frighten’ is the same *Hebrew word as ‘fail’ in verse 6.
Verse 8 A ‘moth’ is an insect that flies. It lays eggs, sometimes in clothes. Those eggs become ‘grubs’ (tiny soft animals), which then grow into new moths. The grubs are what actually eat the clothes. Notice in verses 7 and 8 another *inclusio: goodness, people that oppose you, people that oppose you, goodness. Also, twice in both verses, two sentences mean the same thing.
Verses 9-10 Verses 1-8 were words that God gave to Isaiah. Now we probably have the words of Isaiah himself, or God’s people. They are the *remnant. This means the people that remain. This means that they still trust God. Read the note on Isaiah 53:6. The ‘arm of the *LORD’ is the servant of chapters 42, 49, 50 and 53. Read the note on Isaiah 53:1. There, we say that ‘the arm of the *LORD’ is a name for the *Messiah, Jesus Christ. The important thing to notice is this. The servant is not somebody new. Jesus was not new when he was born at Bethlehem. He has always been with God. Some Bible students think that Proverbs 8:22-31 teaches this. Here, the *remnant (through Isaiah) say some of the things that the arm of the *LORD (God’s servant) did. In verses 9 and 10 they are questions in the *Hebrew Bible. But the answer to them all is ‘Yes. The “arm of the *LORD” did all these things!’ So we could translate them all like this:
· You cut Rahab into pieces.
· You stuck [your sword] into that huge animal.
· You dried up the sea.
· You [dried up] the deep waters.
· You made a road deep in the sea.
· You *redeemed the people that crossed over.
Notice the way we have emphasised the word you. It was the ‘arm of the *LORD’ that did all this. It was the servant of chapters 42, 49, 50 and 53. But who was Rahab? And what sea was it? All these statements refer to the time when Moses led Israel’s people out of Egypt. The story is in the book called Exodus. ‘Rahab’ is a name for Egypt, see Isaiah 30:7 and Psalm 87:4. The sea was the Red Sea. God led the people through it. He had *ransomed those people and he had *redeemed them. There are notes on these two words in Isaiah 43:1 and 43:3.
Some Bible students link ‘stuck [your sword] into’ with Isaiah 53:5. As the servant had destroyed Egypt so a sword overcame him!
Verse 11 This is almost the same as Isaiah 35:10 in the *Hebrew Bible. There, we translated ‘*ransomed’ as ‘bought back [from death]’. Also, there is a note on the words ‘*ransomed’ and ‘*redeemed’ at 35:10. Isaiah chapter 53 tells us the price that the servant paid. There he is called in some translations the ‘man of sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:3). ‘Sorrows’ means sad thoughts.
Verses 12-16 contain words of God. But whom is he speaking to? The key to the answer is probably the word ‘you’. It comes many times in this section. But in the *Hebrew language, it is not always the same ‘you’.
· In verse 12a, it is male-plural. Here, God is probably speaking to everybody alike.
· In verse 12b, it is female-*singular. Here, God is probably speaking to *Zion. This is because cities are always female in *Hebrew. By *Zion, we mean the people that lived there.
· In verses 13-15, it is male-*singular. Here, God is probably speaking to each person that is suffering.
· In verse 16, it is also male-*singular. Here, the words show that God is probably speaking to his servant.
Verses 12-13 The *LORD answers the prayer of verses 9-11. As the prayer started ‘awake, awake’, so the answer starts ‘I, I’. (‘The *LORD, yes’ are not in the *Hebrew Bible.) There is a lot of feeling in both prayer and answer. The *LORD then compares *Zion with the men that want to destroy it. The men are always dying. They are the sons of men, so they are only human. In fact, they are just like grass. They are here today, but tomorrow they have gone! The *LORD does not describe the people that live in *Zion. He just explains who their God really is. He made the earth and the sky. What can the very cruel person do to the people that belong to such a God? There is no answer, because the answer is ‘Nothing!’
Verses 14-15 These are not people in prison. These are people that are afraid of the enemy’s armies. They are afraid of the very cruel people in verse 13. But they will not die in a hole in the ground. The *LORD will supply them with bread. In these verses, we have a picture of the people of *Zion as the enemy attacks them. This is not only a picture of the *Jews in *exile in Babylon, as some Bible students say. Life was so easy in Babylon that many *Jews did not want to return to *Zion!
Verse 16 Here God is probably speaking only to his servant. The servant is a *prophet, so he speaks God’s words. God will cover, or hide, him. He will do this until the servant comes to the earth. The servant will start (‘plant’) new skies and he will lay the base of a new earth. Then he will welcome his people to this new world. There is more about this new world in Isaiah 66:22.
Verse 17 Now Isaiah tells his people to wake up. His meaning is not to ‘wake up from sleep’. He is telling them to ‘wake up because you are lazy’. ‘The cup of the *LORD’s anger’ is the punishment they had received from God. ‘Lazy’ here means that they did nothing to help themselves. Now that God would take the cup away, verse 22, they must be his servants again.
Verse 18 Cities are always female in the *Hebrew language, see note on verses 12-16. So, ‘she’ and ‘her’ in this verse mean ‘Jerusalem’. There had been many sons born in Jerusalem, but none had helped to save her from the enemy.
Verse 19 Isaiah was a great poet. In the *Hebrew Bible, the middle of the verse just says ‘ruined and destroyed, sword and famine (general lack of food)’. This list of powerful words should excite our imagination! In the *Hebrew Bible, there are two questions here that both mean the same thing: ‘Who can pity you? Who can comfort you?’ Bible students are not sure if the answer is Isaiah, God or nobody. As with many questions in Isaiah, we have to decide our own answer.
Verse 20 The enemy frightened Jerusalem’s sons so much that they were like wild animals in a net. They could do nothing. The ‘serious words’ say that God will punish Jerusalem. These words fill them with fear.
Verse 21 The cup that they had drunk from did not contain wine. It contained God’s anger and punishment, verse 17.
Verses 22-23 The ‘therefore’ in verse 21 leads to the promises in these verses. In verse 22 is the promise that God would not continue to punish his people. In verse 23 is the promise that he would punish their enemies. God would do this because of what his servant would do in chapter 53. The note about Isaiah 50:4 explains ‘the *Lord who is *LORD’.
Verse 1 Again, as in Isaiah 51:17, the *LORD uses words that his people used in Isaiah 51:9. Perhaps they thought that God was asleep, like Baal in 1 Kings 18:27. But it was God’s people that were asleep! Now God tells them to wake up! In Isaiah 51:17 he told them to wake up. There, they must wake in order to know what God would do. He would not punish them any longer. Chapter 53 will tell them how God can do this. Here in Isaiah 52:1, they must wake in order to know who they are. ‘Put on strength like clothes’ does not mean ‘pretend that you are strong’. It means ‘God has made you strong. Show it!’ Also, God had made them beautiful. Isaiah 52:4 mentions the connection with Egypt. When they left Egypt, God said these words:
1) ‘You will be a *kingdom of priests and a *holy nation’, Exodus 19:6.
2) ‘Make *holy clothes for Aaron your brother, which are wonderful and beautiful’, Exodus 28:2.
A *kingdom is a country which has a king. Aaron was Moses’ brother, and he became Israel’s first chief priest.
‘People that are not *holy’ here means ‘enemies that do not serve God’. So does ‘people that are not God’s people’. The *Hebrew for that really means ‘people that nobody has *circumcised’. The *Jews *circumcised their male babies. It means that they cut off a little skin from the end of a boy’s male part. The enemies did not *circumcise their babies. That also meant that they were not *holy. They could not enter the *temple, which was God’s house in Jerusalem.
Verse 2 But before they can put on beautiful clothes, God’s people must take off their prison clothes. ‘Prison’ may mean the country where their enemy took (or will take) them. It may mean their attitude to God. A ‘throne’ is a special seat that a king or queen sits on. Here, it is part of the beauty in verse 1. What God’s servant will do in chapter 53 will make all this possible.
Verse 3 We must imagine somebody who says, ‘How will this be possible?’ They do not yet know what will be in Isaiah chapter 53. But God says here that it will not involve money. God’s people gained nothing when someone ‘sold’ them to the enemy. And when God *redeems them, they will pay nothing for it. The notes about Isaiah 35:10 and 43:1-3 explain the word ‘*redeem’.
Verse 4 The note on Isaiah 50:4 explains ‘the *Lord who is *LORD’. God remembers the past history of his people. First, people in Egypt were cruel to them. Then people from Assyria were cruel to them. Part of that story is in Isaiah chapters 36 to 38. And later, people from Babylon would be cruel to them.
Verses 5-6 ‘And now, what to me here?’ is the correct translation of the start of this verse. It may mean:
· What am I doing? or,
· Does it matter to me?
God’s answer to his own question tells us that it does matter! Twice we have ‘God declares’. This translates the *Hebrew for something important that God says. The two important things that God says are these:
1) An enemy took God’s people away. The enemy says bad things about God. The rulers of God’s people cry as a result (verse 5). The enemy was the *Assyrians in the past, and the enemy would be the *Babylonians in the future.
2) ‘My people will know my name’ means that God will do something (verse 6). They already know his name, from Exodus 3:14. But his names mean that he is always alive (YHWH/*LORD) and very powerful (Elohim/God). Now he will do something great to show that he is alive and powerful. He does not say what it is until Isaiah chapter 53.
When God has done something, his people will be great and beautiful again (verse 1)
Verses 7-12 This is the third section of chapter 51:17-52:12. In these sections God has three messages for his people, which Isaiah wrote down.
1) Isaiah 51:17-23 - God will not punish his people any longer. Instead, he will punish their enemies.
2) Isaiah 52:1-6 - Therefore, God’s people can be happy again. God will make them beautiful and strong.
3) Isaiah 52:7-12 - First God (verses 7-10) and then his people (verses 11-12) will return to Jerusalem.
But God still does not say when all this will happen. Neither does he say what his servant will do to make it possible.
Verse 7 When Isaiah wrote his book, there were no radios or telephones. A man ran with the news. He came from where something had happened. He came to the people that wanted to know about it. There is a story about this in 2 Samuel 18:24-28. When the man brought good news, people praised him. They even said that his feet were beautiful! They really meant that they were happy to see him. We can imagine the runner as he shouts his news: ‘*Peace! Safety! God is King!’
Verse 8 Not only is God king, but he will return to Jerusalem. People will see it with their own eyes! Here is the message of chapter 40 again: God will return to Jerusalem! Isaiah still does not say how people will see God ‘with their own eyes’.
Verses 9-10 Isaiah emphasised that the *LORD had done all these things. Such things happened every time God did something great for the *remnant of his people. The ‘*remnant’ means the people that still trust in God. They trust him, whatever happens. The *LORD did these things when Sennacherib attacked Judah in 701 *B.C. (*B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.) The *LORD did these things when Cyrus attacked Babylon in 538 *B.C. And the *LORD will certainly do these things when Jesus returns to the earth as king! When Isaiah wrote his book, some of these events were in the past. Some were still in the future. But Isaiah was absolutely certain that they would happen. So, he said that they had happened! The note on Isaiah 35:10 explains ‘*redeemed’. The note on Isaiah 53:3 explains ‘the arm of the *LORD’. People ‘make their arms bare’ (or ‘roll up their sleeves’) when they are going to do some hard work.
Verses 11-12 The key words in these verses are ‘go out’. When God does something great for his people, they need to ‘go out’ from the old life into a new life. The words ‘clean’, ‘*unclean’ and ‘special things’ remind us of the work of God’s priests. All God’s people are now to act as priests, see the note on verse 1. ‘Clean’ and ‘*unclean’ do not have their usual meanings here. They have the meaning for priests of religion when Isaiah was alive. If they were *unclean, priests could not serve God in the *temple. The *temple was God’s house in Jerusalem. The ‘special things’ were the cups and plates that the priests used in their work.
When the *Jews left Egypt with Moses, they hurried. They had to escape before Pharaoh changed his mind! But here, there will be no hurry. When we leave the old life, God is with us. He will take us into a new life, with no hurry or worry! There is no Pharaoh to change his mind. We are free.
It is important to realise that in the next chapter, Isaiah is writing about the work of God’s servant. That work is for all people at all times. So the three things that God does in Isaiah 51:17 to 52:2 can happen to anybody. If we trust in God’s servant (chapter 53) then these things can happen to us:
1) God will not punish us (Isaiah 51:17-23).
2) God will make us new people, strong and beautiful (Isaiah 52:1-6).
3) God will appoint us to be his priests, to do his work (Isaiah 52:7-12).
Priests here means ‘people of God’, as in 1 Peter 2:9. It does not mean church leaders.
Verses in Isaiah chapters 51 and 52 that start with the words, ‘Awake, awake’.
To whom do these verses speak?
(There may be more than one person here.)
The message in these verses.
This is the fourth (4th) of Isaiah’s Servant Songs. The other three are in 42:1-4, 49:1-13 and 50:4-11.
Chapter 52 verse 13 The *Hebrew word for ‘wisely’ here includes also the idea of ‘successfully’. Also, the words ‘raise’ and ‘lift up’ mean the same as ‘make extremely important’. The words describe God’s special servant. But the words also describe Jesus! God raised him up from the dead. God lifted him up to heaven 40 days later. And now, he is extremely important, because he rules in heaven.
Verses 14-15 To many people the servant looked awful. The *Hebrew word means that they were filled with shock. When they saw his terrible injuries, they felt sick. He looked like a lump of meat, not like a man. But many people understood why it had happened. Nobody told them, but they knew inside themselves. They knew when the servant ‘*sprinkled’ them. ‘Sprinkle’ means ‘pour liquid or powder’ on or into something. Hebrews 9:19-22 says that Moses sprinkled blood to make people, objects and places holy. And Hebrews 9:23-24 says that Christ did something similar in heaven. But Bible students do not really know why Isaiah used this word. Some say that the word should be ‘startle’. ‘Startle’ means ‘do something which people do not expect’. Because of these different translations, we do not know what the servant does! But it makes people understand what he suffered.
Verse 1 The answers to the questions are:
· Who has accepted (or believed the facts of) our message? Nobody, unless it was the people that he *sprinkled.
· To whom has the *LORD shown his Arm? Nobody, if they only look at the human story of the servant. This is in verses 2 and 3.
In this verse, and in many verses in the *Old Testament, the Arm of the *LORD is a name for the servant, or Jesus. Here, we have shown, the word ‘Arm’ with a capital letter ‘A’. This is to remind us that the ‘Arm’ means a person, God’s servant, and not an object.
Verse 2 This verse tells us several things about the servant. It also tells us why people did not accept him.
1) He had an ordinary origin, even as a plant in the ground does. How could a mere man be ‘the Arm of the *LORD?’ People thought that it was not possible! They asked about Jesus, ‘Is not he the son of the carpenter?’, Matthew 13:55. They thought that he was Joseph’s son. A carpenter is a man who works with wood.
2) He ‘grew up in front of him’. ‘He’ must mean the servant, or Jesus. ‘Him’ must be the *LORD. But how could ‘the Arm of the *LORD’ grow up in front of ‘the *LORD’? This is only possible because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians call them the three ‘persons’ of God, who is one God. Luke 3:52 tells us that Jesus grew both in wisdom and height in front of God (the Father).
3) He did not look very special. He did not have the look of a king. He was like a root in dry ground, where it is difficult for plants to grow.
Verse 3 The servant was very sad. But he was not sad for himself. He felt how sad other people were. Before his death, Jesus felt the weaknesses that people suffer. This included pain. It included the weakness when a person’s body is not strong enough. It included everything that makes people unhappy.
Verse 4 In the *Hebrew language, ‘surely’ is ‘aken’. It emphasises something that people did not expect. That something was this. The servant lifted our sad thoughts from us and he carried them away from us. That is why he was a ‘man with sad thoughts’ (verse 3). But ‘we’ did not know what he was doing. ‘We’ here means every human person. ‘We’ do not know until he ‘*sprinkles’ us, verse 52:15. ‘We’ just thought that he was weak and ill! ‘We’ were wrong. He was suffering instead of us.
Verse 5 The servant died because of our *sins. But the servant’s death was necessary because of God’s law. The Bible says that the wages of *sin is death (Romans 6:23). We deserve to die for our *sins, but the servant took our legal punishment. The *Hebrew Bible does not say who did these things to the servant. Our translation just says that ‘they’ did it. By ‘they’, we do not mean any particular group of people, we mean those legal processes. But the Bible teaches clearly that we all were responsible for his death.
Verse 6 It was God who started those legal processes. God laid on the servant our *sins. It is dangerous to ‘wander like sheep’. This is because the sheep have left the *shepherd. And without a *shepherd there is nobody to rescue the sheep from danger. Here God is the *shepherd, the one that looks after the sheep. We have wandered away from him. Also, we did not obey God’s rules. We ‘turned to go our own way’. This means that we made our own rules. We did what we liked!
Verse 7 ‘Not open his mouth’ means ‘said nothing’. Here, the servant is like a young sheep, which is called a lamb. Another name for Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’. Jesus was like a lamb (young sheep) that God provided as a *sacrifice. When he died, he carried away our *sins. As Hebrews 10:4 says, animals’ blood cannot carry away *sins.
Verse 8 Here, the passage is describing the actions of the people who actually killed Jesus. ‘Cut off’ means that they killed him. The ‘place of living people’ means this world. It is still a legal process, as in verses 5 to 7.
Verse 9 Probably, people did not understand this until Jesus died. There were criminals with him when he died. But people buried him in a rich man’s grave. ‘Deaths’ is unusual. Perhaps it is to emphasise the importance of his death. Bible students are not sure why it is not just ‘death’. Perhaps it means that he died for each of us. Some people often fight and they use force to hurt other people. But Jesus was not like that. He was always gentle and kind.
Verse 10 ‘He’, ‘him’ and ‘his’ in this verse all mean the servant. This verse repeats the idea in verse 6, that the *LORD put our *sin onto the servant, Jesus. Here, the verse repeats the ‘success’ idea from 52:13. ‘His seed’ are the people that trust in Jesus. They are the children that the *Jews asked about in Isaiah 49:21. These people accept that Jesus’ death was for them. There is a note on ‘seed’ in Isaiah 65:23.
Verse 11 ‘He will see the light’ probably means ‘He will live again.’ But another translation is ‘After his spirit has suffered, he will see the results.’ Whatever the servant sees will satisfy him. He is a very good servant, who obeys God. Only God is really very, very good. But there are some people that know his servant. He will make those people good too. He will ‘justify’ them. To ‘justify’ someone means ‘to declare that person as innocent’. Our *sins are ours, but Jesus suffered the punishment for them. Because he carried our *sins away, we are innocent. It is ‘just [as] if I’ had never done wrong things. And ‘just [as] if I’ sounds quite like ‘justify’! That is an easy way to remember the meaning of the word ‘justify’.
Verse 12 The ‘many nations’ probably refers to those people that trust in Jesus, the servant. They are the ‘many nations’ in Isaiah 52:15. The ‘strong people’ are probably the kings in Isaiah 52:15. Bible students are not sure. But this makes a better end to the Fourth Servant Song than other translations. Many Bible students think that this one is the right one. However, we often see another translation of this verse. It begins like this: ‘Therefore, I will give him a reward with the great [people]. And he will share the things [that he won in battle] with strong [people].’ If that is the correct translation, it emphasises the servant’s reward. He has done what God wanted him to do. So he has a great reward, like someone who wins a battle.
Here, in chapters 54 and 55, Isaiah asks people to do something. God has done something for them, in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. Now, men and women must accept what God has done for them. They must do these things:
· Be happy and sing, 54:1;
· Make bigger the area that their tents cover, 54:2;
· Come to the *LORD’s great meal, 55:1; and
· Look for the *LORD, 55:6.
This does not only refer to *Jews. Isaiah chapter 55 shows that it refers to everybody! Both chapters offer the results of the servant’s work in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12.
Verses 11-17 are about the city called Jerusalem. Isaiah does not use the word ‘city’ in this section, but he means Jerusalem. There are two key words: *peace, verse 13; and goodness, verse 14. They remind us of Melchizedek, king of Jerusalem. In *Hebrew, ‘zedek’ means goodness, and ‘salem’ means *peace. Isaiah often refers to God’s city, see Isaiah 1:26, 2:2-4, 4:2-6, 12:1-6, 25:1-9, 35:10, 66:10 and several other places. The Book of Revelation continues to emphasise the City of God especially in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
Verse 1 ‘Sing’ here means ‘be happy.’ God tells the woman to be happy because there are many sons. They are not the sons of the woman, but sons that the *LORD has sent to her. Notice these things about the woman.
· She cannot have a child.
· She has never had a child.
· She has never suffered the pain of a woman who ‘gives birth’. (That means the pain of a woman who ‘has a child’).
· She is lonely because she is without a husband. In other words, there is no man to give her a child.
These sons are the children that are ‘born again’, John 3:1-16. ‘*LORD’ is the name for God that he uses in his *covenant. The only people that should use it are his servants. The note on verse 10 explains the word ‘*covenant’.
This woman means Jerusalem (see Isaiah 49:14 to 21). It is a reference both to the old city called Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem. Her ‘children’ is a way to describe all God’s people.
Verse 2 The ‘tent’ is a special description of where the people lived. The *LORD would bring more people (‘sons’ in verse 1) to them. Those people are not only *Jews, but they are from other countries also. Therefore, the *Jews must make their tents bigger! The strings held the tent up so that it did not fall over. People fixed the strings to the ground with *pegs. So then the tent did not blow away.
Verse 3 ‘Left’ is the opposite of ‘right’. In the *Hebrew Bible, ‘your children [and their children]’ is actually the word that means ‘seed’. That is an important word in the Bible. For Christians, it does not only mean *Jews. It means everybody that is ‘born again’. That is because ‘born again’ means Christian. That is, ‘in Christ’. And Paul tells us that ‘seed’ in the *Old Testament often means just ‘Christ’ (Galatians 3:16). That explains why an accurate way to translate part of this verse is this. ‘And your seed, he will make nations go [from their countries].’
(Look at the note on verse 1. And look at number 4 in the section called ‘Something to do’.)
Verse 4 The work of God’s servant in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 brings all the results in this chapter. One important result is that God will take away his people’s loss of honour. Notice that this extends from youth to old age (‘as a widow’). A widow is a woman whose husband is dead. The Bible often refers to God’s people as his bride or wife. Therefore, when God left them, they were widows! So, the word ‘widow’ in this verse has a double meaning.
Verse 5 ‘Maker’ is a name for God. It means that he made his people. He has come back to them. They are not ‘widows’ (verse 4) because they now have God as a ‘husband’. There is a note on ‘*redeem’ in Isaiah 35:10.
Verse 6 It was the work of God’s servant in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 that ‘called you back’. It was Judah and Israel, the ‘wife’, that did something wrong. But now God has called them back. This does not mean back from *exile. It means back to God. The words make it seem as if God had left his people. But really, his people had left God.
Verses 7-8 ‘I pity you’ in these verses means ‘I have a deep love for you’. ‘Kind love’, here and in verse 10, is a special Bible word. The *Hebrew word is ‘chesed’. It means the type of love that never changes. We have translated one word as ‘burst’. Bible students do not know what that word really means. Our translation makes it mean ‘sudden’, as in ‘sudden anger’.
Verses 9-10 Notice that God mentions the ‘waters of Noah’. God used the ‘waters of Noah’ (that is, Noah’s flood) to punish people. The story is in Genesis chapters 6 to 8. These ‘waters of Noah’ satisfied God’s anger. He promised that he would not use the ‘waters of Noah’ again. God hung his bow (the ‘rainbow’) up in the clouds, Genesis 9:13. His promise is permanent. In Isaiah chapter 53, the death of his servant again satisfied God’s anger. In the same way, the servant’s work is permanent. The word ‘shake’ means ‘change’ the second time. That is, God’s ‘kind love will not change’. Notice the use of ‘shake’ and ‘remove’ in verse 10. God uses the same words twice, with slightly different meanings. This is a special type of technique to help us to remember something. A ‘*covenant’ is a type of agreement. In an ordinary agreement, both people decide what to agree about. But in this *covenant, God decides what his people must agree to. The servant’s work has brought *peace to God’s people. It is a permanent ‘*covenant of *peace’.
Verses 11-12 God will rebuild his city with stones. But these are not ordinary stones. They are precious stones, like diamonds. Here are their colours:
turquoise stones: greenish blue
sapphires: bright blue
rubies: bright red
valuable stones that shine: probably red like a fire
Verse 13 This verse links with verses 1 (‘sons’) and 10 (‘*peace’). In the *Hebrew Bible, the order of the words is:
‘Your sons, the *LORD will teach. And great *peace [will come] to your sons.’
Notice one of Isaiah’s techniques. He starts and ends a verse with the same words. Some translations have ‘children’ for ‘sons’. This loses the connection with verse 1. Everybody that benefits from the servant’s death (Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12) is one of Jerusalem’s ‘sons’. That includes girls and women also! In Hebrews 2:12, Jesus (who is God’s servant in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12) calls them ‘brothers’. This also includes girls and women, because it includes all the church. Here, ‘the church’ means God’s people. Everyone whom God has saved belongs to his church, both male and female, and from every nation (Galatians 3:28).
Verse 14 ‘*Righteousness’ (great goodness) is an important word that writers often use in the Bible. People who are ‘*righteous’ (very good) have that quality. Only God is really *righteous (very, very good). But his people try to be *righteous, too. They are always trying to do what is right and good. However, it is only God who can make a person *righteous. He does it for the person who trusts him (Romans 4:5).
Remember that verses 11-17 are about Jerusalem city. Therefore, ‘[The *LORD] will build you on *righteousness (goodness)’ is about Jerusalem. So it means that he will build Jerusalem upon his sons’ (people’s) good character. Their *righteous (good) character will be the base. Normally when we think about a city’s base, we think about rocks and stones. But here God says that the real base of any city is the good character of its people. Such a city will never be afraid of anything or anybody.
Verse 15 When people are *righteous, God supports them. Their enemies do not come from God. And in the end, their enemies cannot succeed, because God protects his people. Even if their enemies kill them, their spirits are safe with God in heaven.
Verse 16 ‘*Weapons’ are ‘military arms’. Here, the *weapon is probably a knife or a sword that the worker made out of iron. But although the worker made the *weapon, God created the worker!
Verse 17 ‘You’ in this verse still means ‘the city’, verse 11. But the end of the verse tells us that the city means the people in it! As a result of the servant’s work in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12, all God’s people will become God’s servants. ‘Their good character will be from me’ reminds us of Isaiah 53:11. There we read that God’s servant will make many people good. In other words, he will provide good character for many people. Here, God tell us that he approves of the servant’s work. The *New Testament tells us that God and the servant are the same person! Isaiah 53:11 and 54:17 really tell us something similar.
Verse 1 ‘*Hoy’ is not really an English word here. It is actually a *Hebrew word. Here, its purpose is to attract people’s attention. But Isaiah uses it in some other places to mean something that is slightly different. Look at number 1 in the section ‘Something to do’. The *Hebrew word for ‘buy’ usually means ‘buy bread’. But if people have no money, how can they ‘buy’? The answer is that the servant paid the price, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. Nobody else was able to pay the price. A verse in an English Christian hymn says:
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of *sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.
A hymn is a song. In this hymn, ‘no other’ means ‘no other person’. The money was not cash; it was the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the servant of God. And the food and drink means that we will always live with Jesus Christ. But, notice that the offer is not plural. Each offer is to a single person: ‘everyone that needs to drink’ and ‘the person that has no money’. Each of us must answer the ‘*hoy’ on our own.
Verse 2 This verse begins with two questions. That is part of Isaiah’s special technique. He asks these questions because he wants the reader to ask himself these questions. ‘Why? Why am I doing these things?’ The answer is that there is no proper reason. People who do these things are acting foolishly. They need to change their minds. They need to change their attitude towards God. They need to accept God’s invitation.
‘Money’ here does mean ‘cash’. The ‘bread’ means something that no money can buy. It is satisfaction. The only thing that really satisfies people is a right relationship with God. Then, they know that they will go to heaven at their deaths. Our cash cannot buy this satisfaction. ‘The richest (things)’ means this satisfaction.
Verse 3 ‘Listen’ is ‘turn your ear towards me’ in the *Hebrew Bible. Notice the way that *Hebrew poetry often says the same thing twice in different words:
Turn your ear towards [me] and come to me!
Hear [me], so that your spirit may live!
If a person chooses to ‘come’ (verse 1) to God, then God will satisfy that person (verse 2). Notice again that it is not plural. We must each listen and come on our own. The notes on Isaiah 54:8-10 explain the words ‘kind love’ and ‘*covenant’. In ‘a *covenant with you’, the word ‘you’ is plural. It includes everybody that comes to God. Also, the word ‘kind love’ is plural. The promises that God made to David will happen as a result of the work of Jesus, the servant of God.
Verse 4 This verse refers to two of the promises that God made to David.
· Promise 1: He will be a witness to the nations. God’s servant is a witness to nations that are far away (Isaiah 49:1). So, the servant will take the place of David. Several of the Psalms tell us about David as a witness to the world, but not in those words: Psalms 9:11, 18:49, 57:9, 108:3-4. Psalm 89 is especially important, because it refers to these things.
1) A *covenant with David, verses 3 and 49;
2) ‘Kind loves’, in the plural as in Isaiah 55:3.
· Promise 2: He will be a leader of the nations. Again, it will be God’s servant that will be the actual leader. The promise that God made to David would become true in God’s servant.
Verse 5 In verse 4, the *Hebrew word for ‘people’ can mean ‘the *Jews’. But the word for ‘nations’ here usually means ‘nations that are not *Jews’. (But in Isaiah 1:4 it does mean the *Jews!) The word ‘you’ in this verse is not plural. It means David, who was like God’s servant.
Verses 6-7 Chapters 54 and 55 are about the results of the work of God’s servant in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. But if we want to benefit from it, we must do something. There is one word for what we must do: *repent. This word means ‘think again’! It means ‘do not think like a human person’. It means ‘think like God’. Verse 7 tells us how God thinks. He thinks that we are wicked and evil. In these verses God tells us to do two things:
· We must allow God to show *mercy and to forgive us. ‘*Mercy’ means ‘kindness’. This is how we can enjoy the benefits from God’s *mercy. We must be sorry because we are wicked and evil. And we must confess that to God. God considers all our wrong deeds to be wicked and evil, even if we consider them to be small. Think like God!
· But we must then give up our wicked ways. These are the bad things that we do. We do them when we do not obey God’s laws. But we must also stop thinking bad thoughts. Jesus said that to think something bad is the same as to do that thing (Matthew 5:28)! Clearly, we need God’s help to do that. But God has helped us: he sent his servant to suffer our punishment (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Notice that God’s offer has a time limit. He said (through Isaiah), ‘while he allows … while he is near’. One day, when Jesus returns to the earth, this offer will be out of date. Then, it will be too late to *repent.
Notice carefully the word ‘near’ in verse 6. In *Hebrew, it is the same word that Naomi and Boaz used to Ruth. Here are two verses from the book called Ruth, in the Easy English translation:
In *Hebrew, the words ‘is a relative’ and ‘closer’ are the same *Hebrew word as ‘near’ in Isaiah 55:6. The word is ‘qarob’. Readers that were *Jews would notice that. They would understand that God, by means of Isaiah, was using special language. People used that word when someone *redeemed a person or thing. In Leviticus 25:25, the writer uses the same word. There we read, ‘the nearest relative (qarob) has to *redeem it’. So God is asking people to become part of his family, before it is too late! God is offering you the opportunity to join his family now, but you must not delay. If you hesitate, you may lose your opportunity for God to *redeem you.
There are notes about the word ‘*redeem’ under Isaiah 35:10 and 43:1.
Verses 8-9 We do not know where heaven is. We know that it is the home of God. The *Hebrew word for ‘heaven’ and ‘skies’ is the same word, that is, ‘shamaim’. The skies (verse 10) are high above us. In some way, God is also high above us. But when he offers to *redeem us (verses 6 and 7), he calls down his offer from that great height.
Verses 10-11 Notice the way that verses 8-11 use the same word to mean two different things. In 8-9, ‘shamaim’ is the home of God, ‘the *heavens’. Here, it is the skies. In English, people can say ‘the *heavens opened’. That is a special way to say ‘it rained very much’. God, through Isaiah, tells us that rain from heaven has the same effect as his word from heaven! God is saying that he sends both the rain and his word. And even as the rain causes the food to grow, so God’s word brings about a change in our lives. It is God’s word that makes it possible for us to *repent, as in verse 7. And because that is God’s word, we can *repent. That is as certain as the fact that rain makes plants grow. But we must come to him (verse 6) to hear him speak his word.
Verses 12-13 These verses are a word-picture of happy people and a happy world! Mountains and hills cannot sing, and trees cannot clap their hands! But if they could do that, they would do it. Both trees, called pine and myrtle, always have green leaves even in winter. The ‘you’ is plural, and the picture is of a new life in a new world. The leader is God’s servant Jesus Christ. ‘In *peace’ is the usual way to say ‘with *peace’. This *peace is not just absence of war. It is ‘shalom’, the knowledge and the confidence that God loves you. Nothing can separate you from this love. Nobody can destroy your relationship with him. Read Romans chapter 8!
Verse in Isaiah
*Hebrew words that follow ‘*hoy’.
What the word ‘*hoy’ means in this verse.
*Hoy, nation that *sins.
*Hoy … Ephraim.
*Hoy, the people that go to Egypt.
ancestor ~ a past member of your family, perhaps in previous centuries.
angel ~ a special servant of God in *heaven.
anoint ~ to pour oil on someone. This is an ancient ceremony to appoint someone to do an important task (for example, to be a king or a priest). That person is then called ‘the anointed’, ‘the *messiah’ (in *Hebrew) or ‘the Christ’ (in *Greek).
armour ~ the special clothes that a soldier uses to protect himself during a battle.
Assyrian ~ a person from the country called Assyria, or anything that has a relationship with that country.
Babylonian ~ a person from the country called Babylonia, or anything that has a relationship with that country.
banner ~ a special flag.
BC ~ years Before Christ came to the earth. Some books have B.C.E. instead. This means Before Common Era. The common era means the last 2000 years.
bless ~ to declare good things for someone; to show that person special kindness.
blessing ~ the good things that God does for his people.
bronze ~ a hard yellowish brown metal. It is a mixture of two metals called copper and tin.
chaff ~ the dead bits of a plant after people have taken the grain from it.
chariot ~ a cart that soldiers rode in.
circumcise ~ to cut off a small piece from the end of the sex part of a man’s or boy’s body.
clay ~ the soft, sticky earth that people use to make pots.
conceive ~ to have sex so that a baby will be born.
covenant ~ the agreement between God and his people. In this agreement God agrees to help and to protect his people. His people agree to love and to serve God. Or, an agreement between nations.
descendants ~ future members of a family.
destroy ~ to punish severely, often by means of death.
dislike ~ the attitude that you have if you do not like someone.
disobey ~ to neglect to obey.
Egyptian ~ a person from the country called Egypt or something that has a relationship with Egypt.
exile ~ a person whom enemies force to live away from his own home or country. Or, the place where that person has to live.
glory ~ something that shines and is wonderful. Especially, it is God’s splendid beauty.
Greek ~ the language that people spoke in Greece.
harm ~ to hurt; to cause damage.
hatred ~ the attitude that you have if you hate someone.
Heaven ~ the home of God.
heavens ~ another word for ‘skies’. It can also mean the place where God lives and the skies above us.
Hebrew ~ the language that Isaiah spoke.
Holy (God) ~ a special name for God that Isaiah used.
holy ~ very, very good. Only God is really holy. He is so holy that he is separate from everybody else.
hoy ~ a word that asks the reader to give attention to something.
idol ~ a false god that people made.
incense ~ a substance that makes a sweet smell when people burn it.
inclusio ~ a style of poetry that Isaiah used. In an inclusio, the first line of a section matches the last line. Then the second line matches the line before the last one, and so on. Sometimes whole verses or groups of verses match, and not the separate lines.
inherit ~ to receive a gift. It is the sort of gift that you receive after the giver’s death.
Israelites ~ people from Israel. Sometimes this word means just the northern part of the country called Israel. But sometimes it means the people from Judah too.
Jewish ~ a description of something that has a relationship to the *Jews.
Jews ~ the people that lived in Judah (which sounds like ‘Jew-dah’) and Israel.
kingdom ~ a country that a king rules.
labour ~ the pain that a woman suffers when she gives birth to a baby.
LORD ~ LORD is a special name of God. In the *Hebrew language it is YHWH. It may mean ‘always alive’. So LORD is a sign that the *Hebrew word is YHWH.
lord ~ master. When it has a capital L (that is, ‘Lord’) it is a name for God.
LORD of Everything ~ a name for God. Some people translate it ‘*LORD of *Angel Armies’.
Maker ~ a name for God, who made (created) everything.
mercy ~ kindness when you do not have to be kind.
messiah ~ a leader such as a king. With a capital M (that is, ‘Messiah’), it means Jesus for Christians.
mistaken ~ the state of mind of a person who is confused or seriously wrong.
mortar ~ a substance that people use when they build walls. The purpose of the mortar is to stick the bricks together firmly.
New Testament ~ the later part of the Bible.
Old Testament ~ the earlier part of the Bible.
olive ~ a fruit that gives oil.
owl ~ a large bird that hunts for its food by night.
peace ~ a calm and content attitude. The word often means simply that there is no war. But ‘peace’ especially means the calm and content attitude of a person who has a right relationship with God.
peg ~ an object which holds something in its place. For example, it may attach a string to the ground; or hold a cup against a wall.
Persian ~ someone from the country called Persia; or a description of anything that has a relationship with Persia.
potter ~ a person who makes pots out of *clay.
prey ~ the smaller birds and animals that larger birds and animals catch for food.
prophecy ~ the words of a *prophet.
prophet ~ someone who says what God is saying.
psalm ~ a song that is like the songs in the Book of Psalms.
ransom ~ to give money or goods in order to rescue someone. The word emphasises the price in order to free that person.
redeem ~ a member of your family buys you from an enemy.
reed ~ plants that grow in water or by water.
remnant ~ a small part of something that is larger. In Isaiah, it often means the few people that still obeyed God.
repent ~ be sorry for your *sins. Tell God you will try not to do them again.
righteous ~ very, very good. Only God is really righteous (always right) but he calls his people righteous too.
righteousness ~ great goodness.
role-model ~ a great person, whose life we want to copy.
rot ~ to become dirt. This happens to something after it is dead.
sacrifice ~ something that the priests put apart (or separated) for the *LORD. Usually it was an animal. They killed it and burned it.
shepherd ~ a person who looks after sheep.
sin ~ not to obey God. Or, what you do when you do not obey God.
singular ~ one person. For example, I might say to a child in a class, ‘You are noisy.’ If ‘you’ is singular, then I am only complaining about that one child. But if ‘you’ is plural, I am complaining about several children. In English, you cannot easily tell whether ‘you’ is singular or plural. But in many languages, including *Hebrew, the spelling is different.
sorrows ~ sad thoughts.
soul ~ the spirit; the part of a person that continues to live after the death of the body.
spit/spat ~ to send liquid suddenly from the mouth. This is an insult.
spring ~ a place where water comes from the ground.
sprinkle ~ to pour liquid or powder on or into something.
table ~ a way to set out information in a series of boxes.
temple ~ God’s house in Jerusalem. False gods also had temples.
thirsty ~ the feeling when a person desperately needs something to drink.
thresh ~ to break up something, especially grain plants. Farmers do this in order to clean the grain and to separate it from *chaff.
tribes ~ large groups of people that are each other’s relatives.
unclean ~ not acceptable for the purposes of religion; unable to *worship God in his *temple; foods that God did not allow the *Jews to eat.
unholy ~ our state because our *sin has separated us from God; not acceptable to God.
virgin ~ a woman that has not had sex.
weapons ~ military arms; the tools that a soldier uses during a battle (for example, swords).
womb ~ the place where a baby grows, inside its mother.
worship ~ to tell God (or a false god) that he is wonderful; and also, to tell him that you love him.
Zion ~ a name for Jerusalem.
© 2012, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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