New English Translation
Egypt Will Disappoint
31 Those who go down to Egypt for help are as good as dead;[a]
those who rely on war horses,
and trust in Egypt’s many chariots[b]
and in their many, many horsemen.[c]
But they do not rely on the Holy One of Israel[d]
and do not seek help from the Lord.
2 Yet he too is wise[e] and he will bring disaster;
he does not retract his decree.[f]
He will attack the wicked nation,[g]
and the nation that helps[h] those who commit sin.[i]
3 The Egyptians are mere humans, not God;
their horses are made of flesh, not spirit.
The Lord will strike with[j] his hand;
the one who helps will stumble
and the one being helped will fall.
Together they will perish.[k]
The Lord Will Defend Zion
4 Indeed, this is what the Lord has said to me:
“The Lord will be like a growling lion,
like a young lion growling over its prey.[l]
Though a whole group of shepherds gathers against it,
it is not afraid of their shouts
or intimidated by their yelling.[m]
In this same way the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will descend
to do battle on Mount Zion and on its hill.[n]
5 Just as birds hover over a nest,[o]
so the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will protect Jerusalem.
He will protect and deliver it;
as he passes over[p] he will rescue it.”
8 “Assyria will fall by a sword, but not one human-made;[u]
a sword not made by humankind will destroy them.[v]
They will run away from this sword[w]
and their young men will be forced to do hard labor.
9 They will surrender their stronghold[x] because of fear;[y]
their officers will be afraid of the Lord’s battle flag.”[z]
This is what the Lord says—
the one whose fire is in Zion,
whose firepot is in Jerusalem.[aa]
- Isaiah 31:1 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who go down to Egypt for help.”
- Isaiah 31:1 tn Heb “and trust in chariots for they are many.”
- Isaiah 31:1 tn Heb “and in horsemen for they are very strong [or “numerous”].”
- Isaiah 31:1 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.
- Isaiah 31:2 sn This statement appears to have a sarcastic tone. The royal advisers who are advocating an alliance with Egypt think they are wise, but the Lord possesses wisdom as well and will thwart their efforts.
- Isaiah 31:2 tn Heb “and he does not turn aside [i.e., “retract”] his words”; NIV “does not take back his words.”
- Isaiah 31:2 tn Heb “and he will arise against the house of the wicked.”
- Isaiah 31:2 sn That is, Egypt.
- Isaiah 31:2 tn Heb “and against the help of the doers of sin.”
- Isaiah 31:3 tn Heb “will extend”; KJV, ASV, NASB, NCV “stretch out.”
- Isaiah 31:3 tn Heb “together all of them will come to an end.”
- Isaiah 31:4 tn Heb “As a lion growls, a young lion over its prey.” In the Hebrew text the opening comparison is completed later in the verse (“so the Lord will come down…”), after a parenthesis describing how fearless the lion is. The present translation divides the verse into three sentences for English stylistic reasons.
- Isaiah 31:4 tn Heb “Though there is summoned against it fullness of shepherds, by their voice it is not terrified, and to their noise it does not respond.”
- Isaiah 31:4 tn Some prefer to translate the phrase לִצְבֹּא עַל (litsboʾ ʿal) as “fight against,” but the following context pictures the Lord defending, not attacking, Zion.
- Isaiah 31:5 tn Heb “just as birds fly.” The words “over a nest” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Isaiah 31:5 tn The only other occurrence of this verb is in Exod 12:13, 23, 27, where the Lord “passes over” (i.e., “spares”) the Israelite households as he comes to judge their Egyptian oppressors. The noun פֶּסַח (pesakh, “Passover”) is derived from the verb. The use of the verb in Isa 31:5 is probably an intentional echo of the Exodus event. As in the days of Moses the Lord will spare his people as he comes to judge their enemies.
- Isaiah 31:6 tn Heb “Return to the one [against] whom the sons of Israel made deep rebellion.” The syntax is awkward here. A preposition is omitted by ellipsis after the verb (see GKC 446 §138.f, n. 2), and there is a shift from direct address (note the second plural imperative “return”) to the third person (note “they made deep”). For other examples of abrupt shifts in person in poetic style, see GKC 462 §144.p.
- Isaiah 31:7 tn Or “in that day” (KJV).
- Isaiah 31:7 tn Heb “reject” (so NIV); NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT “throw away.”
- Isaiah 31:7 tn Heb “their idols of silver and their idols of gold which your hands made for yourselves [in] sin.” חָטָא (khataʾ, “sin”) is understood as an adverbial accusative of manner. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:573, n. 4.
- Isaiah 31:8 tn Heb “Assyria will fall by a sword, not of a man.”
- Isaiah 31:8 tn Heb “and a sword not of humankind will devour him.”
- Isaiah 31:8 tn Heb “he will flee for himself from before a sword.”
- Isaiah 31:9 tn Heb “rocky cliff” (cf. ASV, NASB “rock”), viewed metaphorically as a place of defense and security.
- Isaiah 31:9 tn Heb “His rocky cliff, because of fear, will pass away [i.e., “perish”].”
- Isaiah 31:9 tn Heb “and they will be afraid of the flag, his officers.”
- Isaiah 31:9 sn The “fire” and “firepot” here symbolize divine judgment, which is heating up like a fire in Jerusalem, waiting to be used against the Assyrians when they attack the city.