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Chapter 59

Salvation Delayed

[a]No, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.(A)
Rather, it is your crimes
    that separate you from your God,
It is your sins that make him hide his face
    so that he does not hear you.
For your hands are defiled with blood,
    and your fingers with crime;
Your lips speak falsehood,
    and your tongue utters deceit.(B)
No one brings suit justly,
    no one pleads truthfully;
They trust an empty plea and tell lies;
    they conceive mischief and bring forth malice.
[b]They hatch adders’ eggs,
    and weave spiders’ webs:
Whoever eats the eggs will die,
    if one of them is crushed, it will hatch a viper;(C)
Their webs cannot serve as clothing,
    nor can they cover themselves with their works.
Their works are evil works,
    and deeds of violence are in their hands.
Their feet run to evil,
    and they hasten to shed innocent blood;
Their thoughts are thoughts of wickedness,
    violence and destruction are on their highways.(D)
The way of peace they know not,
    and there is no justice on their paths;
Their roads they have made crooked,
    no one who walks in them knows peace.

Acknowledgment of Transgressions

[c]That is why judgment is far from us
    and justice does not reach us.
We look for light, but there is darkness;
    for brightness, and we walk in gloom!(E)
10 Like those who are blind we grope along the wall,
    like people without eyes we feel our way.
We stumble at midday as if at twilight,
    among the vigorous, we are like the dead.
11 Like bears we all growl,
    like doves we moan without ceasing.
We cry out for justice, but it is not there;
    for salvation, but it is far from us.(F)
12 For our transgressions before you are many,
    our sins bear witness against us.
Our transgressions are present to us,
    and our crimes we acknowledge:
13 Transgressing, and denying the Lord,
    turning back from following our God,
Planning fraud and treachery,
    uttering lying words conceived in the heart.
14 Judgment is turned away,
    and justice stands far off;
For truth stumbles in the public square,
    and uprightness cannot enter.(G)
15 Fidelity is lacking,
    and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.

Divine Intervention

The Lord saw this, and was aggrieved
    that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
    was appalled that there was none to intervene;
Then his own arm brought about the victory,
    and his justice sustained him.
17 He put on justice as his breastplate,
    victory as a helmet on his head;
He clothed himself with garments of vengeance,
    wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.(H)
18 According to their deeds he repays his enemies
    and requites his foes with wrath;
    to the coastlands he renders recompense.
19 Those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord,
    and those in the east, his glory,
Coming like a pent-up stream
    driven on by the breath of the Lord.
20 Then for Zion shall come a redeemer,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression—oracle of the Lord.(I)
21 [d]This is my covenant with them,
    which I myself have made, says the Lord:
My spirit which is upon you
    and my words that I have put in your mouth
Shall not depart from your mouth,
    nor from the mouths of your children
Nor the mouths of your children’s children
    from this time forth and forever, says the Lord.(J)


  1. 59:1–20 This poem brings together a lament of the postexilic community and a harsh word of judgment from the prophet. After the opening rhetorical question, each of the stanzas begins with a reference to the justice and right judgment which are lacking among the people (vv. 4, 9, 14). Toward the end of the poem, God is depicted as a Divine Warrior (vv. 16–20) who is the only one who can intervene in order to bring redemption. This same Divine Warrior imagery is repeated in a similar fashion in 63:1–6.
  2. 59:5–6 The eggs signify evil works, doing positive harm; the webs are devices that serve no useful purpose.
  3. 59:9–15 The turning point in the poem comes when the people acknowledge their transgressions and describe the horror of their present state. Light is a metaphor for salvation (cf. 9:1; 42:16; 60:1–3, 19–20) and darkness represents sin and disaster.
  4. 59:21 This verse makes the transition from chaps. 56–59 to chaps. 60–62. Oracles of judgment yield to oracles about God’s redemptive action.