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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Isaiah

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Text Commentary side-by-side
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

9.7–10.4 :

The fate of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. A repeated refrain in 9.11, 16, 21, and 10.4 structures this poem into four sections. The same refrain is found in 5.25 , and scholars speculate that 5.25–30 may originally have been the poem's fifth and final section. The verbs here are in the past tense, but their significance is unclear. They may predict disasters to come (in which case the verbs exemplify “the prophetic past” described in 9.1–6 n. ); alternatively they may review disasters that God already sent in an unsuccessful attempt to chasten the Northern Kingdom (in which case the prophet does not predict coming events but presents an interpretation of recent history). The verbs in 5.26–30 clearly have a future tense and represent a prediction of Assyrian invasion which ends the poem. The following remarks assume the verbs in the first four sections refer to the past and are interpretations of recent events, not predictions of upcoming ones.

7–11 :

The first section may refer to the earthquake that shook Israel and Judah early in Isaiah's career; cf. Amos 1.1; Zech. 14.5 .

12–17 :

The second section refers to the chaos in the Northern Kingdom during the coups and massacres described in the mid‐740 s (see 2 Kings ch 15 ).

18–20 :

The third section recalls the earthquake, political chaos, and Israel's anti‐Judean policies during the Syro‐Ephraimite crisis.

10.1–4 :

The fourth section. As he comes to the climax of his indictment against the Northern Kingdom, the prophet returns to the theme of the rich who mistreat the poor and pervert justice for their own gain; cf. 1.17; 3.8–15; 5.8–10; 32.7 .

54.1–17 :

Zion, rebuilt and secure. As in several earlier speeches, the city of Jerusalem or Zion is portrayed as a woman; cf. 49.14–26; 50.1–3 . She is childless (i.e., without inhabitants) and apparently forsaken by her husband (i.e., the LORD). This passage assures her, however, that God remains her husband and protector and that she will soon have abundant children. In other words, the exiles will soon return to Judah. The passage as a whole recalls Hos. ch 1 , where similar metaphors convey the message that God will punish but not abandon Israel. Deutero‐Isaiah at once confirms the accuracy of Hosea's prophecy of doom while repeating Hosea's assurance that the covenant between God and Israel will endure.

1–5 :

The prophet comforts Zion. Due to the exile, Zion seemed empty and in ruins. Deutero‐Isaiah assures Zion that not only will she have a tent to live in, she will need to enlarge it to accommodate her abundant offspring. The theme of Zion abundantly repopulated also appears in 49.17–21 . This passage is based on Jer. 10.17–25, where the Judeans who are about to be exiled lament the loss of their children and the destruction of their tent (symbolizing the Temple), their city and kingdom, and their social structures generally.

6–10 :

God addresses Zion directly.

6–8 :

God assures Zion that He has not divorced her (cf. 50.1–3 ). God's anger was brief and brought about a temporary separation; the reconciliation will last forever.

9–10 :

God switches from a marital metaphor to a simile based on the story of Noah (Gen. chs 8–9 ). The former metaphor implied that the covenant between God and Israel is one of mutual obligation; the allusion to Noah recalls the notion of a covenant of grace, which God unilaterally grants to human beings. Deutero‐Isaiah often moves back and forth between portrayals of Israel as God's spouse and God's child, hence insisting that both covenant models are valid; see 49.14–21; 50.1–3 .

10 :

On the steadfast nature of the covenant, see also Jer. 31.33–35 , whose vocabulary and ideas Deutero‐Isaiah borrows here. Friendship, or, “peace.”

11–17 :

An eternal structure. God promises that Zion will be rebuilt as a beautiful and enduring city, secure due to God's incomparable protection.

13 :

As in Jer. 31.33–35 , the people in the restored community will learn God's teaching successfully, thus ensuring the eternal nature of the covenant. All your children…your children, alternatively: “All those who build you [O Zion] will be learned in the ways of the LORD, and great shall be the well‐being of your inhabitants, endowed with understanding.” The Heb letters “bnyk” appear twice in this verse, implying at once the idea of “children,” “builders,” and “those who understand,” each of which fits the context of ch 54 (cf. b. Ber. 64a ). Deutero‐Isaiah frequently puns on various mean‐ ings of a single word.

10.5–12.6 :

The earth is the LORD's: from Assyrian conquest through Assyrian collapse to universal peace. The idea of universal history guided by one God comes to the fore in this three‐part composition, which describes a divine plan that affects not only Israel but all the world. This plan will manifest itself in three stages. Assyria will serve as God's agent to punish Israel. Assyria's self‐promotion will then arouse God's anger, so that Assyria will be punished. Finally, the peaceful era will emerge, in which an ideal Davidic king will reign justly. Repeated images connect the three sections, and each section leads directly into the next. The poem moves between specific geopolitical concerns of the 8th century and timeless ideals.

Part I. 10.5–27 :

The Assyrian emperor: lord of lords or pawn of the LORD? This section hearkens back to the names of children earlier in the book: cf. v. 6 with 8.2–4; vv. 20–21 with 7.3 and 9.5 .

5–6 :

God uses the Assyrian king to punish Israel.

7–15 :

The king arrogantly and ignorantly attributes his success to his own might. His boasting here recalls inscriptions of the Assyrian kings, with which Isaiah was familiar. Assyrian kings claimed to achieve their conquests with the aid of Ashur, the Assyrian high god, and other gods, but to Isaiah these were human creations, and thus the inscriptions glorified human inventions rather than the God whose bidding Assyrians unknowingly performed.

8 :

Captains is a bilingual pun: Heb “sar” is cognate to the Akkadian word for king. Vassal kings did serve the Assyrian king as military commanders or captains.

12, 16–19 :

The Assyrians' hubris (and not their attack on Israel) lead to their downfall.

19 :

The remnant motif is applied here to Assyria rather than to Israel. God treats Assyria like God treats Israel (here, negatively). The implication of this phenomenon is fully spelled out in 19.23–25 .

20–27 :

Although the Assyrian defeat follows Israel's downfall, it will lead to repentance among those who survive.

26 :

The prophet alludes to earlier events in which God saved Israel from more powerful and numerous nations.

Part II. 10.28–34 :

Assyria's near‐victory. Isaiah returned constantly to the theme of Jerusalem sorely threatened and suddenly saved. He predicted an event like the one described here for decades. It finally came true when Sennacherib invaded in 701. (In this passage, however, Isaiah predicts the invader will come from the north, but in fact Sennacherib approached Jerusalem from the southwest; see chs 36–39; 2 Kings chs 18–19; 2 Chron. ch 32 .) The events that should follow the defeat of the arrogant empire (see the following ch) have still not come to fruition, even though Isaiah probably thought they would happen in his own lifetime.

28–32 :

The invader's route. He refers to the leader of the army (probably Assyrian, perhaps Syro‐Ephraimite) who comes toward Jerusalem from the north. The locations that are identifiable are all within a few miles of the Old City. Anathoth is directly across a wadi from today's French Hill neighborhood. Nob is probably Mount Scopus, overlooking the Old City.

33–34 :

Just as the invader is about to achieve his goal, he is cut down. Cf. 29.1–8 . The prophet uses the term Lebanon trees ironically: Assyrian kings boasted in inscriptions that they cut down these mighty cedars, but here Assyrians themselves become the ax's victim.

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