New English Translation
There is Hope for the Future
51 “Listen to me, you who pursue godliness,[a]
who seek the Lord.
Look at the rock from which you were chiseled,
at the quarry[b] from which you were dug.[c]
2 Look at Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who gave you birth.[d]
When I summoned him, he was a lone individual,[e]
but I blessed him[f] and gave him numerous descendants.[g]
3 Certainly the Lord will console Zion;
he will console all her ruins.
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
her arid rift valley like the garden of the Lord.[h]
Happiness and joy will be restored to[i] her,
thanksgiving and the sound of music.
4 Pay attention to me, my people.
Listen to me, my people!
For[j] I will issue a decree,[k]
I will make my justice a light to the nations.[l]
5 I am ready to vindicate,[m]
I am ready to deliver,[n]
I will establish justice among the nations.[o]
The coastlands[p] wait patiently for me;
they wait in anticipation for the revelation of my power.[q]
6 Look up at the sky.
Look at the earth below.
For the sky will dissipate[r] like smoke,
and the earth will wear out like clothes;
its residents will die like gnats.
But the deliverance I give[s] is permanent;
the vindication I provide[t] will not disappear.[u]
7 Listen to me, you who know what is right,
you people who are aware of my law.[v]
Don’t be afraid of the insults of men;
don’t be discouraged because of their abuse.
8 For a moth will eat away at them like clothes;
a clothes moth will devour them like wool.
But the vindication I provide[w] will be permanent;
the deliverance I give will last.”
9 Wake up! Wake up!
Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord![x]
Wake up as in former times, as in antiquity.
Did you not smash[y] the Proud One?[z]
Did you not[aa] wound the sea monster?[ab]
10 Did you not dry up the sea,
the waters of the great deep?
Did you not make[ac] a path through the depths of the sea,
so those delivered from bondage[ad] could cross over?
11 Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return;
they will enter Zion with a happy shout.
Unending joy will crown them,[ae]
happiness and joy will overwhelm[af] them;
grief and suffering will disappear.[ag]
12 “I, I am the one who consoles you.[ah]
Why are you afraid of mortal men,
of mere human beings who are as short-lived as grass?[ai]
13 Why do you forget[aj] the Lord, who made you,
who stretched out the sky[ak]
and founded the earth?
Why do you constantly tremble all day long[al]
at the anger of the oppressor,
when he makes plans to destroy?
Where is the anger of the oppressor?[am]
14 The one who suffers[an] will soon be released;
he will not die in prison,[ao]
he will not go hungry.[ap]
15 I am the Lord your God,
who churns up the sea so that its waves surge.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
Zion’s Time to Celebrate
16 “I commission you[aq] as my spokesman;[ar]
I cover you with the palm of my hand,[as]
to establish[at] the sky and to found the earth,
to say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”[au]
17 Wake up! Wake up!
Get up, O Jerusalem!
You drank from the cup the Lord passed to you,
which was full of his anger.[av]
You drained dry
the goblet full of intoxicating wine.[aw]
18 There was no one to lead her
among all the children she bore;
there was no one to take her by the hand
among all the children she raised.
19 These double disasters confronted you.
But who feels sorry for you?
Destruction and devastation,
famine and sword.
But who consoles you?[ax]
20 Your children faint;
they lie at the head of every street
like an antelope in a snare.
They are left in a stupor by the Lord’s anger,
by the battle cry of your God.[ay]
21 So listen to this, oppressed one,
who is drunk, but not from wine.
22 This is what your Sovereign[az] Lord, even your God who judges[ba] his people says:
“Look, I have removed from your hand
the cup of intoxicating wine,[bb]
the goblet full of my anger.[bc]
You will no longer have to drink it.
23 I will put it into the hand of your tormentors[bd]
who said to you, ‘Lie down, so we can walk over you.’
You made your back like the ground,
and like the street for those who walked over you.”
- Isaiah 51:1 tn Or “righteousness” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NAB “justice”; NLT “hope for deliverance.”
- Isaiah 51:1 tn Heb “the excavation of the hole.”
- Isaiah 51:1 sn The “rock” and “quarry” refer here to Abraham and Sarah, the progenitors of the nation.
- Isaiah 51:2 sn Although Abraham and Sarah are distant ancestors of the people the prophet is addressing, they are spoken of as the immediate parents.
- Isaiah 51:2 tn Heb “one”; NLT “was alone”; TEV “was childless.”
- Isaiah 51:2 tn “Bless” may here carry the sense of “endue with potency, reproductive power.” See Gen 1:28.
- Isaiah 51:2 tn Heb “and I made him numerous.”
- Isaiah 51:3 sn The rift valley (עֲרָבָה, ʿaravah) is known for its dry, desert-like conditions in the area of the Dead Sea and southward (although it also includes the Jordan Valley to the north). The wilderness (מִדְבָּר, midbar) is an area that receives less than twelve inches of rain per year and so can only support meager vegetation at best. The imagery here focuses on the transformation from arid and lifeless to watered and luxuriant.
- Isaiah 51:3 tn Heb “found in” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
- Isaiah 51:4 tn Or “certainly.”
- Isaiah 51:4 tn Heb “instruction [or “a law”] will go out from me.”
- Isaiah 51:4 tn Heb “and my justice for a light to the nations I will cause to rest.”
- Isaiah 51:5 tn Heb “my righteousness [or “vindication”] is near.”
- Isaiah 51:5 tn Heb “my deliverance goes forth.”
- Isaiah 51:5 tn Heb “and my arms will judge [on behalf of] nations.”
- Isaiah 51:5 tn Or “islands” (NIV); TEV “Distant lands.”
- Isaiah 51:5 tn Heb “for my arm” (so NIV, NRSV).
- Isaiah 51:6 tn Heb “will be torn in pieces.” The perfect indicates the certitude of the event, from the Lord’s rhetorical perspective.
- Isaiah 51:6 tn Heb “my deliverance.” The same Hebrew word can also be translated “salvation” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT); cf. CEV “victory.”
- Isaiah 51:6 tn Heb “my righteousness [or “vindication”].”
- Isaiah 51:6 tn Heb “will not be shattered [or “dismayed”].”
- Isaiah 51:7 tn Heb “people (who have) my law in their heart.”
- Isaiah 51:8 tn Heb “my vindication”; many English versions “my righteousness”; NRSV, TEV “my deliverance”; CEV “my victory.”
- Isaiah 51:9 tn The arm of the Lord is a symbol of divine military power. Here it is personified and told to arouse itself from sleep and prepare for action.
- Isaiah 51:9 tn Heb “Are you not the one who smashed?” The feminine singular forms agree grammatically with the feminine noun “arm.” The Hebrew text hasהַמַּחְצֶבֶת (hammakhtsevet), from the verbal root חָצַב (khatsav, “hew, chop”). The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has, probably correctly, המחצת, from the verbal root מָחַץ (makhats, “smash”) which is used in Job 26:12 to describe God’s victory over “the Proud One.”
- Isaiah 51:9 tn This title (רַהַב, rahav, “proud one”) is sometimes translated as a proper name: “Rahab” (cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). It is used here of a symbolic sea monster, known elsewhere in the Bible and in Ugaritic myth as Leviathan. This sea creature symbolizes the forces of chaos that seek to destroy the created order. In the Bible “the Proud One” opposes God’s creative work, but is defeated (see Job 26:12; Ps 89:10). Here the title refers to Pharaoh’s Egyptian army that opposed Israel at the Red Sea (see v. 10, and note also Isa 30:7 and Ps 87:4, where the title is used of Egypt).
- Isaiah 51:9 tn The words “did you not” are understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line). The rhetorical questions here and in v. 10 expect the answer, “Yes, you certainly did!”
- Isaiah 51:9 tn Hebrew תַּנִּין (tannin) is another name for the symbolic sea monster. See the note at 27:1. In this context the sea creature represents Egypt. See the note on the title “Proud One” earlier in this verse.
- Isaiah 51:10 tn The Hebrew text reads literally, “Are you not the one who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made…?”
- Isaiah 51:10 tn Heb “the redeemed” (so ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); KJV “the ransomed.”
- Isaiah 51:11 tn Heb “[will be] on their head[s].” “Joy” may be likened here to a crown (cf. 2 Sam 1:10). The statement may also be an ironic twist on the idiom “earth/dust on the head” (cf. 2 Sam 1:2; 13:19; 15:32; Job 2:12), referring to a mourning practice.
- Isaiah 51:11 tn Heb “overtake” (so NIV); NASB “they will obtain.”
- Isaiah 51:11 tn Heb “grief and groaning will flee.”
- Isaiah 51:12 tc The plural suffix should probably be emended to the second masculine singular (which is used in v. 13). The final mem (ם) is probably dittographic; note the mem at the beginning of the next word.
- Isaiah 51:12 tn Heb “Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who [as] grass is given up?” The feminine singular forms should probably be emended to the masculine singular (see v. 13). They have probably been influenced by the construction אַתְּ־הִיא (ʾat-hiʾ) in vv. 9-10.
- Isaiah 51:13 tn Heb “and that you forget.”
- Isaiah 51:13 tn Or “the heavens” (also in v. 16). The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.
- Isaiah 51:13 tn Heb “and that you tremble constantly all the day.”
- Isaiah 51:13 tn The question anticipates the answer, “Ready to disappear!” See v. 14.
- Isaiah 51:14 tn Heb “who is stooped over” (under a burden).
- Isaiah 51:14 tn Heb “the pit” (so KJV); ASV, NAB “die and go down into the pit”; NASB, NIV “dungeon”; NCV “prison.”
- Isaiah 51:14 tn Heb “he will not lack his bread.”
- Isaiah 51:16 tn The addressee (second masculine singular, as in vv. 13, 15) in this verse is unclear. The exiles are addressed in the immediately preceding verses (note the critical tone of vv. 12-13 and the reference to the exiles in v. 14). However, it seems unlikely that they are addressed in v. 16, for the addressee appears to be commissioned to tell Zion, who here represents the restored exiles, “you are my people.” The addressee is distinct from the exiles. The language of v. 16a is reminiscent of 49:2 and 50:4, where the Lord’s special servant says he is God’s spokesman and effective instrument. Perhaps the Lord, having spoken to the exiles in vv. 1-15, now responds to this servant, who spoke just prior to this in 50:4-11.
- Isaiah 51:16 tn Heb “I place my words in your mouth.”
- Isaiah 51:16 tn Heb “with the shadow of my hand.”
- Isaiah 51:16 tc The Hebrew text has לִנְטֹעַ (lintoaʿ, “to plant”). Several scholars prefer to emend this form to לִנְטֹת (lintot) from נָטָה (natah, “to stretch out”); see v. 13, as well as 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; cf. NAB, NCV, NRSV. However, since the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa, LXX (and Aquila and Symmachus), and Vulgate support the MT reading, there is no need to emend the form. The interpretation is clear enough: Yahweh fixed the sky in its place.
- Isaiah 51:16 tn The infinitives in v. 16b are most naturally understood as indicating the purpose of the divine actions described in v. 16a. The relationship of the third infinitive to the commission is clear enough—the Lord has made the addressee (his special servant?) his spokesman so that the latter might speak encouraging words to those in Zion. But how do the first two infinitives relate? The text seems to indicate that the Lord has commissioned the addressee so that the latter might create the universe! Perhaps creation imagery is employed metaphorically here to refer to the transformation that Jerusalem will experience (see 65:17-18).
- Isaiah 51:17 tn Heb “[you] who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his anger.”
- Isaiah 51:17 tn Heb “the goblet, the cup [that causes] staggering, you drank, you drained.”
- Isaiah 51:19 tc The Hebrew text has אֲנַחֲמֵךְ (ʾanakhamekh), a first person form, but the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa reads correctly יְנַחֲמֵךְ (yenakhamekh), a third person form.
- Isaiah 51:20 tn Heb “those who are full of the anger of the Lord, the shout [or “rebuke”] of your God.”
- Isaiah 51:22 tn Or “Lord,” from אֲדוֹן (ʾadon).
- Isaiah 51:22 tn Many translations say “pleads the cause of his people” (KJV, NRSV, ESV) or similarly (NASB, NIV). The verb רִיב (riv, “to contend, dispute, conduct a law suit”) normally conveys that notion with the cognate direct object רִיב (riv, “cause, dispute, legal case”), but that is lacking here. Instead “his people” are the direct object, an unusual construction. The verb רִיב typically uses a preposition to indicate whether the action is done for or against someone. The syntax here may reflect Isa 3:13 where God is said to judge his people. There רִיב occurs without a direct object, but “his people” are supplied by parallelism in the second half of the line. The immediate context here is about the reversal of judgment, so referring to God as the one who judges his people but now takes his cup of judgement away would fit well.
- Isaiah 51:22 tn Heb “the cup of [= that causes] staggering” (so ASV, NAB, NRSV); NASB “the cup of reeling.”
- Isaiah 51:22 tn Heb “the goblet of the cup of my anger.”
- Isaiah 51:23 tn That is, to make them drink it.