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The Lord Gives an Invitation

55 “Hey,[a] all who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come!
Buy and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.[b]
Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?[c]
Why spend[d] your hard-earned money[e] on something that will not satisfy?
Listen carefully[f] to me and eat what is nourishing![g]
Enjoy fine food.[h]
Pay attention and come to me.
Listen, so you can live.[i]
Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to[j] you,
just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.[k]
Look, I made him a witness to nations,[l]
a ruler and commander of nations.”
Look, you will summon nations[m] you did not previously know;
nations[n] that did not previously know you will run to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,[o]
for he bestows honor on you.
Seek the Lord while he makes himself available;[p]
call to him while he is nearby!
The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle[q]
and sinful people their plans.[r]
They should return[s] to the Lord, and he will show mercy to them,[t]
and to their God, for he will freely forgive them.[u]
“Indeed,[v] my plans[w] are not like[x] your plans,
and my deeds[y] are not like[z] your deeds,” says the Lord,
“for just as the sky[aa] is higher than the earth,
so my deeds[ab] are superior to[ac] your deeds
and my plans[ad] superior to your plans.
10 [ae] The rain and snow fall from the sky
and do not return,
but instead water the earth
and make it produce and yield crops,
and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat.
11 In the same way, the promise that I make
does not return to me, having accomplished nothing.[af]
No, it is realized as I desire
and is fulfilled as I intend.”[ag]
12 Indeed you will go out with joy;
you will be led along in peace;
the mountains and hills will give a joyful shout before you,
and all the trees in the field will clap their hands.
13 Evergreens will grow in place of thorn bushes,
firs will grow in place of nettles;
they will be a monument to the Lord,[ah]
a permanent reminder that will remain.[ai]

The Lord Invites Outsiders to Enter

56 This is what the Lord says,
“Promote[aj] justice! Do what is right!
For I am ready to deliver you;
I am ready to vindicate you openly.[ak]
The people who do this will be blessed,[al]
the people who commit themselves to obedience,[am]
who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it,
who refrain from doing anything that is wrong.[an]
No foreigner who becomes a follower of[ao] the Lord should say,
‘The Lord will certainly[ap] exclude me from his people.’
The eunuch should not say,
‘Look, I am like a dried-up tree.’”

For this is what the Lord says:

“For the eunuchs who observe my Sabbaths
and choose what pleases me
and are faithful to[aq] my covenant,
I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument[ar]
that will be better than sons and daughters.
I will set up a permanent monument[as] for them that will remain.
As for foreigners who become followers of[at] the Lord and serve him,
who love the name of the Lord and want to be his servants—
all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it,
and who are faithful to[au] my covenant—
I will bring them to my holy mountain;
I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me.[av]
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,
for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.”[aw]
The Sovereign Lord says this,
the one who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
“I will still gather them up.”[ax]

The Lord Denounces Israel’s Paganism

All you wild animals in the fields, come and devour,
all you wild animals in the forest!
10 All their watchmen[ay] are blind,
they are unaware.[az]
All of them are like mute dogs,
unable to bark.
They pant,[ba] lie down,
and love to snooze.
11 The dogs have big appetites;
they are never full.[bb]
They are shepherds who have no understanding;
they all go their own way,
each one looking for monetary gain.[bc]
12 Each one says,[bd]
‘Come on, I’ll get some wine!
Let’s guzzle some beer!
Tomorrow will be just like today!
We’ll have everything we want!’[be]


  1. Isaiah 55:1 tn The Hebrew term הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) was used in funeral laments and is often prefixed to judgment oracles for rhetorical effect. But here it appears to be a simple interjection, designed to grab the audience’s attention. Perhaps there is a note of sorrow or pity. See BDB 223 s.v.
  2. Isaiah 55:1 sn The statement is an oxymoron. Its ironic quality adds to its rhetorical impact. The statement reminds one of the norm (one must normally buy commodities) as it expresses the astounding offer. One might paraphrase the statement: “Come and take freely what you normally have to pay for.”
  3. Isaiah 55:2 tn Heb “for what is not food.”
  4. Isaiah 55:2 tn The interrogative particle and the verb “spend” are understood here by ellipsis (note the preceding line).
  5. Isaiah 55:2 tn Heb “your labor,” which stands by metonymy for that which one earns.
  6. Isaiah 55:2 tn The infinitive absolute follows the imperative and lends emphasis to the exhortation.
  7. Isaiah 55:2 tn Heb “good” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).
  8. Isaiah 55:2 tn Heb “Let your appetite delight in fine food.”sn Nourishing, fine food here represents the blessings God freely offers. These include forgiveness, a new covenantal relationship with God, and national prominence (see vv. 3-6).
  9. Isaiah 55:3 tn The jussive with vav (ו) conjunctive following the imperative indicates purpose/ To live here refers to covenantal blessing, primarily material prosperity and national security (see vv. 4-5, 13, and Deut 30:6, 15, 19-20).
  10. Isaiah 55:3 tn Or “an eternal covenant with.”
  11. Isaiah 55:3 tn Heb “the reliable expressions of loyalty of David.” The syntactical relationship of חַסְדֵי (khasde, “expressions of loyalty”) to the preceding line is unclear. If the term is appositional to בְּרִית (berit, “covenant”), then the Lord here transfers the promises of the Davidic covenant to the entire nation. Another option is to take חַסְדֵי (khasde) as an adverbial accusative and to translate “according to the reliable covenantal promises.” In this case the new covenantal arrangement proposed here is viewed as an extension or perhaps fulfillment of the Davidic promises. A third option, the one reflected in the above translation, is to take the last line as comparative. In this case the new covenant being proposed is analogous to the Davidic covenant. Verses 4-5, which compare David’s international prominence to what Israel will experience, favors this view. In all three of these interpretations, “David” is an objective genitive; he is the recipient of covenantal promises. A fourth option would be to take David as a subjective genitive and understand the line as giving the basis for the preceding promise: “Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, because of David’s faithful acts of covenantal loyalty.”
  12. Isaiah 55:4 sn Ideally the Davidic king was to testify to the nations of God’s greatness (cf. Pss 18:50 HT [18:49 ET]; 22:28 HT [22:27 ET]). See J. H. Eaton, Kingship in the Psalms (SBT), 182-84.
  13. Isaiah 55:5 tn Heb “a nation,” but the singular is collective here, as the plural verbs in the next line indicate (note that both “know” and “run” are third plural forms).
  14. Isaiah 55:5 tn Heb “a nation,” but the singular is collective here, as the plural verbs that follow indicate.
  15. Isaiah 55:5 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.
  16. Isaiah 55:6 tn Heb “while he allows himself to be found.” The Niphal form has a tolerative force here.
  17. Isaiah 55:7 tn Heb “Let the wicked one abandon his way.” The singular is collective.
  18. Isaiah 55:7 tn Heb “and the man of evil his thoughts.” The singular is collective.
  19. Isaiah 55:7 tn Heb “let him return.” The singular is collective, meaning “let them.”
  20. Isaiah 55:7 tn The imperfect with vav (ו) conjunctive after the jussive indicates purpose/result.
  21. Isaiah 55:7 sn The appeal and promise of vv. 6-7 echoes the language of Deut 4:25-31; 30:1-10; and 1 Kgs 8:46-53, all of which anticipate the exile and speak of the prerequisites for restoration.
  22. Isaiah 55:8 tn Or “For” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV).
  23. Isaiah 55:8 tn Or “thoughts” (so many English versions).
  24. Isaiah 55:8 tn Heb “are not.” “Like” is interpretive, but v. 9 indicates that a comparison is in view.
  25. Isaiah 55:8 tn Heb “ways” (so many English versions).
  26. Isaiah 55:8 tn Heb “are not.” “Like” is interpretive, but v. 9 indicates that a comparison is in view.
  27. Isaiah 55:9 tn Or “the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.
  28. Isaiah 55:9 tn Heb “ways” (so many English versions).
  29. Isaiah 55:9 tn Heb “are higher than.”
  30. Isaiah 55:9 tn Or “thoughts” (so many English versions).
  31. Isaiah 55:10 tn This verse begins in the Hebrew text with כִּי כַּאֲשֶׁר (ki kaʾasher, “for, just as”), which is completed by כֵּן (ken, “so, in the same way”) at the beginning of v. 11. For stylistic reasons, this lengthy sentence is divided up into separate sentences in the translation.
  32. Isaiah 55:11 tn Heb “so is the word which goes out from my mouth, it does not return to me empty.” “Word” refers here to divine promises, like the ones made just prior to and after this (see vv. 7b, 12-13).
  33. Isaiah 55:11 tn Heb “but it accomplishes what I desire, and succeeds in what I commission it with.”sn Verses 8-11 focus on the reliability of the divine word and support the promises before (vv. 3-5, 7b) and after (vv. 12-13) this. Israel can be certain that repentance will bring forgiveness and a new covenantal relationship because God’s promises are reliable. In contrast to human plans (or “thoughts”), which are destined to fail (Ps 94:11) apart from divine approval (Prov 19:21), and human deeds (or “ways”), which are evil and lead to destruction (Prov 1:15-19; 3:31-33; 4:19), God’s plans are realized, and his deeds accomplish something positive.
  34. Isaiah 55:13 tn Heb “to the Lord for a name.” For שֵׁם (shem) used in the sense of “monument,” see also 56:5, where it stands parallel to יָד (yad).
  35. Isaiah 55:13 tn Or, more literally, “a permanent sign that will not be cut off.”
  36. Isaiah 56:1 tn Heb “guard”; KJV “Keep”; NAB “Observe”; NASB “Preserve”; NIV, NRSV “Maintain.”
  37. Isaiah 56:1 tn Heb “for near is my deliverance to enter, and my vindication [or “righteousness”] to be revealed.”
  38. Isaiah 56:2 tn Heb “blessed is the man who does this.”
  39. Isaiah 56:2 tn Heb “the son of mankind who takes hold of it.”
  40. Isaiah 56:2 tn Heb and who keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
  41. Isaiah 56:3 tn Heb “who attaches himself to.”
  42. Isaiah 56:3 tn The infinitive absolute precedes the finite verb for emphasis.
  43. Isaiah 56:4 tn Heb “and take hold of” (so KJV); NASB “hold fast.”
  44. Isaiah 56:5 tn Heb “a hand and a name.” For other examples where יָד (yad) refers to a monument, see HALOT 388 s.v.
  45. Isaiah 56:5 tn Heb “name” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV).
  46. Isaiah 56:6 tn Heb “who attach themselves to.”
  47. Isaiah 56:6 tn Heb “and take hold of”; NAB “hold to”; NIV, NRSV “hold fast.”
  48. Isaiah 56:7 tn Heb “in the house of my prayer.”
  49. Isaiah 56:7 tn Heb “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”
  50. Isaiah 56:8 tn The meaning of the statement is unclear. The text reads literally, “Still I will gather upon him to his gathered ones.” Perhaps the preposition ל (lamed) before “gathered ones” introduces the object of the verb, as in Jer 49:5. The third masculine singular suffix on both עָלָיו (ʿalayv) and נִקְבָּצָיו (niqbatsayv) probably refers to “Israel.” In this case one can translate literally, “Still I will gather to him his gathered ones.”
  51. Isaiah 56:10 sn The “watchmen” are probably spiritual leaders, most likely prophets and priests, responsible for giving the people moral direction.
  52. Isaiah 56:10 tn Heb “they do not know”; KJV “they are all ignorant”; NIV “they all lack knowledge.”
  53. Isaiah 56:10 tn The Hebrew text has הֹזִים (hozim), which appears to be derived from an otherwise unattested verbal root הָזָה (hazah). On the basis of alleged cognates, BDB 223 s.v. הָזָה offers the definition “dream, rave” while HALOT 243 s.v. הזה lists “pant.” In this case the dog metaphor of the preceding lines continues. The reference to dogs at the beginning of v. 11 favors the extension of the metaphor. The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has חזים (“seers”) here. In this case the “watchmen” are directly identified as prophets and depicted as lazy.
  54. Isaiah 56:11 sn The phrase never full alludes to the greed of the leaders.
  55. Isaiah 56:11 tn Heb “for his gain from his end.”
  56. Isaiah 56:12 tn The words “each one says” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
  57. Isaiah 56:12 tn Heb “great, [in] abundance, very much,” i.e., “very great indeed.” See HALOT 452 s.v. יֶתֶר.