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Isaiah 1

1Here is the vision # 1:1 Or “prophecy.” This refers to the entire book as a divine revelation from God. The Hebrew word chazown means “to see spiritually,” “to have a revelation or dream,” or “to receive an oracle.” This word was commonly used to describe how the prophets received divine communication. that Isaiah, # 1:1 It is believed that Isaiah was an aristocrat, a member of the royal family, and the nephew of King Uzziah. His father, Amoz, was the brother of King Amaziah. the son of Amoz, received by divine revelation concerning what was going to happen to Judah and Jerusalem during the times of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. # 1:1 Even the names mentioned in v. 1 have something to teach us. Isaiah means “Yahweh is salvation [victory].” Amoz means “to be made strong or courageous.” Judah means “praise.” Jerusalem means “the teaching of peace (wholeness).” Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (“the power of Yahweh” or “mighty is Yahweh”), Jotham (“the one Yahweh makes perfect” or “Yahweh is upright”), Ahaz (“possessor” or “to lay hold of”), and Hezekiah (“strengthened by Yahweh” or “the one Yahweh makes firm”). Here is what the meanings in the names of v. 1 teach us: We can see that prophetic vision from a courageous prophet imparts the power of Yahweh, which releases those whom Yahweh makes perfect to maturity. They will be possessors and those who lay hold of heaven’s promises until they are strengthened by Yahweh and made firm in all their ways! All of this will take place in the land of praise and in the teaching of peace.
A Nation in Rebellion
2Listen, O heavens! Hear, # 1:2 The Hebrew is literally “ear me.” O earth!
For the Lord Yahweh has spoken: # 1:2 God summoned into his courtroom his two witnesses (see Deut. 19:15), the heavens and the earth, concerning God’s seven-count indictment against Israel for breaking covenant with him. See Deut. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1; Ps. 50:4; Jer. 2:12.
“I tenderly nurtured children and made them great, # 1:2 Or “raised them up high [exalted].” The words translated as “nurtured” and “made them great” are two Hebrew synonyms that could be translated “exalt,” “advance,” “set on high,” “mature,” “increase,” “magnify,” “promote,” “raise up,” or “cause to grow.” This is what Father God will do for his children. In the book of Isaiah, God’s love toward Israel is displayed in a threefold way: He is Father (see Isa. 1:2–3; 63:16; 64:8), a nursing Mother (see 66:12–13), and a Husband (see 54:5). God was Israel’s Father, Mother, and Husband.
but they have rebelled # 1:2 The Hebrew word for “rebelled” (pasha`) indicates the breaking of a contract. The covenant Israel entered into with Yahweh was broken by their idolatry and unbelief. It was as though God’s children disowned their Father. against me!
3Even a dumb ox instinctively knows its owner
and the stubborn mule knows the hand that feeds it, # 1:3 Or “where to find its master’s feeding trough [crib].” God is showing that “dumb” animals have more devotion to their masters than God’s people have toward him.
but Israel does not know me # 1:3 Although implied in the Hebrew, both the Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint (LXX) have “know me.” The Hebrew word for “know” is yaḏa‛ and refers to having a personal, intimate relationship with someone. God’s people had no intimacy with God, seemingly unaware of the incredible opportunity to be intimate with the God of heaven. At least the donkey knows where his master will feed him, while God’s people do not understand where they can be fed and strengthened by the Word and by the Spirit. It is time to know the Master and his manger. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus was laid in an animal’s manger at his birth? The “master’s feeding trough” is the birthplace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to feed us his living Bread.
nor do my people understand.” # 1:3 That is, “my people neither understand my ways nor how kind I am.”
Isaiah’s Indictment
4Oh, # 1:4 Or “Alas” or “Woe.” The Hebrew word (hoy) was used at funerals as a lament. how this nation keeps sinning!
See them dragging the heavy burden of their guilt!
They are corrupt children, descendants of evildoers.
They have turned their backs on the Lord God
and despised the Holy One of Israel! # 1:4 This is Isaiah’s favorite title of God; he uses it twenty-six times in this book. Twenty-six is the numerical value of the Hebrew name for God, YHWH (Yahweh).
They have cut themselves off from the help of God! # 1:4 Or “They are utterly estranged [alienated from God]” or “They have gone backward [running away from God].”
5Why would you seek to be injured further?
Why would you stubbornly continue in your rebellion? # 1:5 Or “Why, knowing you’ll be beaten again, do you rebel again?” This is more the lament of a loving father than the indictment of a judge. The broken heart of God toward his wayward people is revealed.
Your whole head is sick, # 1:5 The “head” speaks of at least two things: the leadership of the nation and the thoughts that have turned from God.
and your heart and your will are weak and faint.
6You are corrupt from the bottom of your feet
to the top of your head. There is no integrity # 1:6 Their corrupt “feet” speak of their walking away from God; “the top of the head” represents their thought lives that crowded out God.
nothing but bruises, putrefying sores, and raw open wounds!
They have not been drained or bandaged or soothed with oil. # 1:6 Yet, if we turn to God, he will bandage our wounds and bring us healing (see Luke 4:18; 10:34). Jesus was wounded from head to toe, bruised and beaten, to bring us life and healing. Jesus took all the punishment described in this chapter, and he took it all for us.
7Your country is devastated
and your cities burned to the ground; # 1:7 This was literally fulfilled about 175 years after this prophetic declaration with the invasion of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC. See Jer. 25.
foreigners plunder your crops before your eyes—
with nothing but devastation and destruction in their wake! # 1:7 God’s judgment takes the form of military invasion and destruction.
8And the daughter of Zion # 1:8 Even during devastation, God called his people the “daughter of Zion.” God’s people are his daughter, born out of Zion, the holy realm. Instead of being his dwelling place, they have become like a flimsy hut. The work of God, as seen in the book of Isaiah, is to restore this “hut” to the place of the divine shelter or dwelling place (see Isa. 66). Even the besieged city will one day become the New Jerusalem, where God and humanity mingle as one. is left as helpless as
a deserted shack in a vineyard or
a flimsy shelter in a field of cucumbers—
in every way like a city besieged! # 1:8 Isaiah might be prophesying of the coming Assyrian invasion of Judah under King Sennacherib. See Isa. 36–37.
9If the Lord of Angel Armies # 1:9 Or “the Lord of every sort of host” or “Yahweh, who is hosts.” had not left us survivors,
our fate would have been the same as Sodom and Gomorrah! # 1:9 But mercy won and took dominion over judgment (see James 2:13). God will leave survivors, a remnant in the land. A “holy seed” (Isa. 6:13) will spring up. The “remnant” is an important theme found in the message of the prophets (Isa. 6:13; 10:20–22; 11:11–13, 16; Jer. 6:9; 23:3; 31:7; Mic. 2:12; Zech. 8:12) and Paul (Rom. 9:27–29; 11:5). The theology of God preserving a remnant meant so much to Isaiah that he named one of his sons Shear-Jashub, “a remnant will return” (Isa. 7:3).
Justice, Not Hypocritical Worship
10Hear the word of Yahweh: # 1:10 Isaiah used this command twenty-three times in this book.
“You leaders of Sodom, heed the correction # 1:10 Although the Hebrew uses the word torah (“law,” “instruction”), it is used in this context to mean “correction” or “rebuke.” of our God!
People of Gomorrah, you’d better listen to his rebuke.”
11And Yahweh keeps saying:
“Why such countless sacrifices—what use are they to me?
I’ve had my fill of your burnt offerings of rams
and your fattened animals. # 1:11 Outward sacrifices are empty if there is no inward reality (see Ps. 51:16–17; Mic. 6:6–8; Matt. 23:23). God cannot be bought. He looks at the heart and requires offerings given in holiness and truth. The sacrifice of a fattened animal is an outward picture of what God wants to do inside of us. He wants to kill that “fattened” part of us that is stuffed not with the humility taught by the Word but only with the letter of the Word (see Deut. 8:2–3; 2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 66:2; James 1:21).
I find no delight in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats!
12When you come before my face,
who asked you to come trampling on my courtyards?
13Stop bringing your meaningless offerings. # 1:13 Or “your gifts of nothing.”
Your burning incense stinks!
Your sin-stained celebrations, # 1:13 Or “iniquity and obligatory assemblies,” a likely hendiadys. See Jer. 7:11.
your new moon festivals, Sabbaths,
your various pious meetings—I can’t stand them!
14With all my soul # 1:14 God has a soul with emotions and desires. He is perfect throughout. I hate
your new moon festivals and your feasts; # 1:14 God called them “your feasts,” not his (see Lev. 23:2). Their celebrations had become so shamefully sin-stained that God didn’t even want his holy name associated with their sinful conduct on those sacred days. See Amos 5:21–24.
they are nothing but a burden
that I’m sick and tired of carrying.
15When you stretch out your hands to pray,
I will hide my eyes from you. # 1:15 See Ps. 66:18; 1 Tim. 2:8.
Repeat your prayers all you want, but I will not listen,
for your hands are stained with innocent blood.
16Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean.
Remove your evil actions from my sight
and stop sinning! # 1:16 This was also the message of John the Baptizer (Matt. 3:8).
17Learn what it means to do what is good
by seeking righteousness and justice!
Rescue the oppressed. # 1:17 Or “Vindicate the victim.” Uphold the rights of the fatherless
and defend the widow’s cause. # 1:17 See Ps. 9:18; Isa. 58:7; Jer. 22:16; James 1:27.
18Come now and let’s deliberate over the next steps to take together.” # 1:18 Or “Come now and let us argue it out together.” This is taken from the Hebrew word yākah, which has clear judicial overtones with an implication of a verdict in court.
Yahweh promises you over and over: # 1:18 Instead of pronouncing judgment to the guilty, Judge-Yahweh, in his grace and mercy, offered complete forgiveness.
“Though your sins stain you like scarlet, # 1:18 The Hebrew for “scarlet” is taken from a root word for “double (dyed)” or “twice (dipped in scarlet dye),” making a permanent color.
I will whiten them like bright, new-fallen snow!
Even though they are deep red like crimson, # 1:18 The word for “crimson” (Hb. tola) is also the word for a worm that, when crushed, bleeds a deep crimson color and is then used to dye fabric a permanent color. Psalms refers to Jesus as a “worm [tola],” as one who was crushed and bleeding crimson blood. See Ps. 22:6.
they will be made white like wool! # 1:18 Snow and wool are both naturally white. The Lord will not only deal with our outward sins but he will cleanse our nature, changing us from the inside out. Grace includes full amnesty.
19If you have a willing heart to let me help you,
and if you will obey me, you will feast on the blessings
of an abundant harvest. # 1:19 Or “the best of the land.” For the believer today, this is the land of grace that the meek inherit. The best of the land is the fruit of the life of Jesus (“the fruit produced by the Spirit”; Gal. 5:22).
20But if you are stubborn and refuse to obey,
the sword will eat you instead.” # 1:20 The Hebrew text contains an obvious wordplay. “If you listen, you will eat the harvest; if you rebel, you will be eaten by the sword.” The devouring sword is the flashing sword of the Word, exposing us and penetrating to our very cores (see Heb. 4:12).
The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.
The Collapse of Society
21Look how the once faithful city
has become as unfaithful as a prostitute!
She who was once the “Center of Justice,”
where righteousness made its home,
is now the dwelling place of murderers! # 1:21 Or “those who cause to execute,” a possible indictment of judges who condemned the innocent to death.
22She was once like sterling silver, now only mixture;
once so pure, now diluted like watered-down wine. # 1:22 What was silver (redemption) had become dross. The choice wine (fullness and gifts of the Spirit) had become watered down and unintelligible. The gifts of God had been diluted by fleshly lives that did not measure up to the standard of holiness—the choice wine of the Spirit ruined (watered down) by the works of the flesh.
23Your rulers are rebellious and companions of crooks.
They are self-centered racketeers
who love a bribe and who chase after payoffs.
They don’t defend the fatherless
or consider the rights of a helpless widow.
24Therefore, here is what the Sovereign One,
the Lord God of Angel Armies, the Mighty One of Israel, decrees:
“Ah, # 1:24 Or “Woe!” The Septuagint reads “Woe to those who have power in Israel.” I will get relief from my adversaries
and avenge myself on my foes! # 1:24 Sadly, because the once faithful people and their leaders turned away from what is right, God now called them his “adversaries” and his “foes.” To fight against the sovereign God means that he may turn and fight against you.
25I will put my fiery hand upon you
and purify you with fire into something clean.” # 1:25 Or “I will purge you thoroughly from your dross and remove all your impurities.” The Septuagint adds a sentence not found in Hebrew: “I will destroy those who refuse to obey and remove the lawbreakers from your midst.” The Hebrew is “I will turn my hand against you and smelt away all your dross and remove your alloy.”
God Promises Deliverers
26“I will restore deliverers as in former times
and your wise counselors as at the beginning. # 1:26 God promised a restoration of deliverers (see Obad. 21) or “judges” and “wise counselors.” Apostolic judges and prophetic counselors are on their way. They are sent to challenge the status quo and make us consider our ways. The result of their needed ministries is that God’s people will become the Righteous City and be restored to be the Faithful City (church). This is Isaiah’s glimpse of the New Jerusalem, the Bridal City coming to the earth. It will be a “Righteous City,” for God will dwell with his people.
Only then will you be called the Righteous City
and the Faithful City!” # 1:26 See also Gal. 4:26.
27Yes, Zion will be redeemed with justice
and her repentant converts with righteousness. # 1:27 The Septuagint reads “mercy.”
28There will be a shattering of rebels and sinners together,
and those who forsake the Lord will be consumed.
29You will reap shame from the idols you once delighted in
and you will be humiliated by your cultic sacred groves, # 1:29 The Hebrew word for “sacred groves” (or “terebinths”) rhymes with the Hebrew word for “idols.” It is a play on words that is common to the prophets. The Baal cult worshiped at the groves of sacred oaks. See Ezek. 6:13; 20:28; Hos. 4:13.
where you chose to worship.
30You will be like an oak tree with faded, fallen leaves
and like a withered, waterless garden.
31The “powerful elite” will become like kindling
and their evil deeds like sparks—both will burn together
and no one will be able to put out the fire.

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