Isaiah 64


לוּא־קָרַעְתָּ שָׁמַיִם יָרַדְתָּ מִפָּנֶיךָ הָרִים נָזֹלּוּ׃   64:1

Isai. 64:1   Would that You had rent the heavens, had come down

                             -- In Your presence mountains tremble

כִּקְדֹחַ אֵשׁ הֲמָסִים מַיִם תִּבְעֶה־אֵשׁ לְהֹודִיעַ שִׁמְךָ לְצָרֶיךָ מִפָּנֶיךָ גֹּויִם יִרְגָּזוּ׃   64:2

Isai. 64:2   (as a fire kindles dry twigs,

                             the fire would make water boil)

                    to make Your name known to Your enemies!

                             In Your presence the nations would tremble.

בַּעֲשֹׂותְךָ נֹורָאֹות לֹא נְקַוֶּה יָרַדְתָּ מִפָּנֶיךָ הָרִים נָזֹלּוּ׃   64:3

Isai. 64:3   With Your working amazing things

                             we could not expect, You came down.

                     In Your presence mountains trembled.

וּמֵעֹולָם לֹא־שָׁמְעוּ לֹא הֶאֱזִינוּ עַיִן לֹא־רָאָתָה אֱלֹהִים זוּלָתְךָ יַעֲשֶׂה לִמְחַכֵּה־לֹו׃   64:4

Isai. 64:4   But from of old they did not hear,

                            they did not listen.

                    Eye did not see

                           a God beside You

                   would work for one who waits for Him.

Words have been added and others mistranslated in many bibles so this verse and the next would make more sense.  My translation accurately follows the Hebrew, and parts of both verses seem to make little sense.  Consider the last three lines of this verse.  In other places this is translated something like this:  “... neither has the eye seen a God beside You, [Who] works ....”  As such the word “Who” seems to add sensibility to the lines.  But consider this.  I believe Isaiah is saying something here that is being missed.  In the first two lines he speaks about the people not hearing, not listening.  Then he accents this with the observation that their eye had not ever seen any other god working for one who waits for him.  So their hearing may have been impaired, but their seeing was fine.  They simply disregarded their common sense.  Thus they were not just deaf, but also stupid.  I believe Isaiah is revealing his disdain for the people in this verse and as such it makes good sense.  It needs no imbelishment.

פָּגַעְתָּ אֶת־שָׂשׂ וְעֹשֵׂה צֶדֶק בִּדְרָכֶיךָ יִזְכְּרוּךָ הֵן־אַתָּה קָצַפְתָּ וַנֶּחֱטָא בָּהֶם עֹולָם וְנִוָּשֵׁעַ׃   64:5

Isai. 64:5   You lit upon one rejoicing

                           and doing righteousness;

                    by Your ways they could remember You.

                          Behold, You were “enraged,”

                    yet we could sin among them of old,

                          and we would be saved.

Again, given the first three lines of this verse, the last three lines make little sense, so other translators have set out to make it right.  For example, these lines have been translated something like “Behold, You were wroth, and we sinned.  Upon them have [we stayed] of old, that we might be saved.”  This translation and others like it are fairly accurate, except for two added words, one error, and one oversight.  The added words?  They are in the brackets.  The error?  The tense of the word translated by others as “and we sinned” is imperfect (with a non-inverting vav prefix), not perfect.  The oversight?  To whom or what does the pronoun them refer?  The presumption would have to be the ways mentioned in the previous line.  But the point of these verses is that the people did not follow in God’s ways.  Again, I believe the point of this verse is missed.  I believe Isaiah is contrasting God’s “anger” with the fact that in spite of everything the people did wrong, they would still be saved.  In other words, he is emphasizing God’s infinite mercy and love for Israel.

וַנְּהִי כַטָּמֵא כֻּלָּנוּ וּכְבֶגֶד עִדִּים כָּל־צִדְקֹתֵינוּ וַנָּבֶל כֶּעָלֶה כֻּלָּנוּ וַעֲוֹנֵנוּ כָּרוּחַ יִשָּׂאֻנוּ׃   64:6

Isai. 64:6   Now all of us, we are as one unclean,

                            and all our righteous acts are like filthy garments.

                    So each of us withers like a leaf,

                            and our iniquities, as would a wind, will carry us away.

וְאֵין־קֹורֵא בְשִׁמְךָ מִתְעֹורֵר לְהַחֲזִיק בָּךְ כִּי־הִסְתַּרְתָּ פָנֶיךָ מִמֶּנּוּ וַתְּמוּגֵנוּ בְּיַד־עֲוֹנֵנוּ׃   64:7

Isai. 64:7   And there is no one calling on Your name

                           who lifts himself up to hold fast to You,

                    when You have hidden Your “face” from us

                            and consumed us because of our iniquities.

וְעַתָּה יְהוָה אָבִינוּ אָתָּה אֲנַחְנוּ הַחֹמֶר וְאַתָּה יֹצְרֵנוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדְךָ כֻּלָּנוּ׃   64:8

Isai. 64:8   But now, O Lord, You are our Father.

                           We are clay and You are our Potter,

                    so each of us is the work of Your “hand.”

אַל־תִּקְצֹף יְהוָה עַד־מְאֹד וְאַל־לָעַד תִּזְכֹּר עָוֹן הֵן הַבֶּט־נָא עַמְּךָ כֻלָּנוּ׃   64:9

Isai. 64:9   You will not be angry, O Lord, ever more,

                            and You will not remember iniquity forever.

                    Behold, please consider!

                           We are all Your people.

עָרֵי קָדְשְׁךָ הָיוּ מִדְבָּר צִיֹּון מִדְבָּר הָיָתָה יְרוּשָׁלִַם שְׁמָמָה׃   64:10

Isai. 64:10   Your holy cities have become a wilderness;

                            Zion has become a wilderness,

                      Jerusalem, a desolation.

Why does Isaiah say cities?  Zion and Jerusalem are the same city.  There are three possibilities.  One, Zion may refer to the temple mount only here, and Jerusalem refers to the whole city.  Two, perhaps Isaiah is also thinking of Shiloh as one of the holy cities. Three, it may be merely poetic license.   I don’t think the mystery can be resolved.

בֵּית קָדְשֵׁנוּ וְתִפְאַרְתֵּנוּ אֲשֶׁר הִלְלוּךָ אֲבֹתֵינוּ הָיָה לִשְׂרֵפַת אֵשׁ וְכָל־מַחֲמַדֵּינוּ הָיָה לְחָרְבָּה׃   64:11

Isai. 64:11   Our holy and beautiful house,

                            where our fathers celebrated You,

                       has become a conflagration of fire,

                             and every one of our beloved things has become a waste.

הַעַל־אֵלֶּה תִתְאַפַּק יְהוָה תֶּחֱשֶׁה וּתְעַנֵּנוּ עַד־מְאֹד׃   64:12

Isai. 64:12   Will You be restrained because of these things, O Lord?

                            Will You keep silent so You can afflict us still more?

I am frequently reminded of Isaiah’s remarkable insight into his future and the future of Jerusalem.  Once more this chapter brings that realization home to me.  Remember that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple must have occurred more than 150 years after Isaiah’s death (see Isai. 1:1).  Yet he writes of those tragic events as if he were living through them.


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