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Obedience, not Sacrifice

Listen, O heavens,
pay attention, O earth![a]
For the Lord speaks:
“I raised children,[b] I brought them up,[c]
but[d] they have rebelled[e] against me!
An ox recognizes its owner,
a donkey recognizes where its owner puts its food;[f]
but Israel does not recognize me,[g]
my people do not understand.”
[h] Beware sinful nation,
the people weighed down by evil deeds.
They are offspring who do wrong,
children[i] who do wicked things.
They have abandoned the Lord,
and rejected the Holy One of Israel.[j]
They are alienated from him.[k]

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  1. Isaiah 1:2 sn The personified heavens and earth are summoned to God’s courtroom as witnesses against God’s covenant people. Long before this Moses warned the people that the heavens and earth would be watching their actions (see Deut 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1).
  2. Isaiah 1:2 tn Or “sons” (NAB, NASB).sn “Father” and “son” occur as common terms in ancient Near Eastern treaties and covenants, delineating the suzerain and vassal as participants in the covenant relationship. The prophet uses these terms, the reference to heavens and earth as witnesses, and allusions to deuteronomic covenant curses (1:7-9, 19-20) to set his prophecy firmly against the backdrop of Israel’s covenantal relationship with Yahweh.
  3. Isaiah 1:2 sn The normal word pair for giving birth to and raising children is יָלַד (yalad, “to give birth to”) and גָּדַל (gadal, “to grow, raise”). The pair גָּדַל and רוּם (rum, “to raise up”) probably occur here to highlight the fact that Yahweh made something important of Israel (cf. R. Mosis, TDOT 2:403).
  4. Isaiah 1:2 sn Against the backdrop of Yahweh’s care for his chosen people, Israel’s rebellion represents abhorrent treachery. The conjunction prefixed to a nonverbal element highlights the sad contrast between Yahweh’s compassionate care for His people and Israel’s thankless rebellion.
  5. Isaiah 1:2 sn To rebel carries the idea of “covenant treachery.” Although an act of פֶּשַׁע (peshaʿ, “rebellion”) often signifies a breach of the law, the legal offense also represents a violation of an existing covenantal relationship (E. Carpenter and M. Grisanti, NIDOTTE 3:707).
  6. Isaiah 1:3 tn Heb “and the donkey the feeding trough of its owner.” The verb in the first line does double duty in the parallelism.
  7. Isaiah 1:3 tn Although both verbs have no object, the parallelism suggests that Israel fails to recognize the Lord as the one who provides for their needs. In both clauses, the placement of “Israel” and “my people” at the head of the clause focuses the reader’s attention on the rebellious nation (C. van der Merwe, J. Naudé, J. Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, 346-47).
  8. Isaiah 1:4 sn Having summoned the witnesses and announced the Lord’s accusation against Israel, Isaiah mourns the nation’s impending doom. The third person references to the Lord in the second half of the verse suggest that the quotation from the Lord (cf. vv. 2-3) has concluded.
  9. Isaiah 1:4 tn Or “sons” (NASB). The prophet contrasts four terms of privilege—nation, people, offspring, children—with four terms that depict Israel’s sinful condition in Isaiah’s day—sinful, evil, wrong, wicked (see J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 43).
  10. Isaiah 1:4 sn Holy One of Israel is one of Isaiah’s favorite divine titles for God. It pictures the Lord as the sovereign king who rules over his covenant people and exercises moral authority over them.
  11. Isaiah 1:4 tn Heb “they are estranged backward.” The LXX omits this statement, which presents syntactical problems and seems to be outside the synonymous parallelistic structure of the verse.