Where the world comes to study the Bible

Isaiah 26

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Song of Trust in God's Protection A Song of Salvation Song of Victory God Will Give His People Victory A Hymn of Thanksgiving
26:1-6
(1-6)
26:1-11
(1b-6)
26:1-6
(1-6)
26:1-19
(1-6)
26:1-6
(1-6)
    Apocalyptic Psalm   A Psalm
26:7-10
(7-10)
(7-9) 26:7-15
(7-15)
(7-18) 26:7-19
(7-11)
  (10-11)      
26:11-19
(11-19)
       
  26:12-19
(12-15)
    (12-15)
  (16-18) 26:16-19
(16-19)
  (16-19)
  (19)   (19)  
  Take Refuge From the Coming Judgment Fourth Eschatological Section
(26:20-27:1)
Judgment and Restoration The Lord's Judgment
26:20-21
(20-21)
26:20-27:1
(20-21)
26:20-21
(20-21)
26:20-21 26:20-27:1
(20-21)

READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. It must be remembered that Isaiah 26 and 27 form part of a literary unit which began in chapter 24.

 

B. Chapters 24-27 are a literary unit positioned at the conclusion of a series of judgment oracles against the surrounding nations found in Isaiah 13-23. Judgment is not the last word! The God of grace and mercy has an eternal, inclusive, redemptive plan!

 

C. This entire section is a play on two cities.

1. the cities formed by the fallen human children of Cain, who try to meet their needs completely in their own resources (i.e., Genesis 10-11).

2. the city of Zion, where God dwells (i.e., above the wings of the two Cherubim located over the Ark of the covenant in the holiest inner shrine of the temple in Jerusalem) and where His people (Jew and Gentile) come to Him and worship Him (cf. 2:2-4; 19:18-25; Heb. 11:10; 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 21:1-2).

 

D. Cities represent people groups/nations.

 

Human Cities   God’s City
1:7,8, burned Judean cities 1:26, the city of righteousness, a faithful city
1:21, the faithful city has become a harlot 6:11, Judean cities devastated 14:17,21, all cities devastated 14:31 cities of Philistia 17:1-3,9, cities of Syria ruined  
19:2, cities of Egypt destroy each other  19:18-22, Egyptian cities worship God 19:23-25, all Egypt and Assyria included in God’s people
22:2,9, the exultant city, Jerusalem falls 23, Tyre destroyed 24:1-25:5, universal destruction of cities  
25:10-12, Moab and her palace, fortified   25:6-9, banquet on God’s mountain (i.e., cities trampled  Jerusalem)
26:5, the unassailable city, probably Moab 26:1, a strong city, Jerusalem, restored
27:10, fortified cities fall 29:1, "Ariel” (Jerusalem) 33:2,19, the jubilant city (Jerusalem)  
  45:13, My city (cf. 44:23)
48:2, the holy city, but in name only  
  52:1-6, the holy city 60:14, the city of the Lord 62:12, a city not forsaken
  66:6, a voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 26:1-6
1In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
"We have a strong city;
He sets up walls and ramparts for security.
2Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter,
The one that remains faithful.
3The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.
4Trust in the Lord forever,
For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
5For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city;
He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He casts it to the dust.
6The foot will trample it,
The feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless."

26:1 "In that day" This refers to God visiting His creation. It can be for blessing or for judgment. See full note at 2:11.

▣ "song" There are several songs in this literary unit (i.e., chapters 24-27).

1. judgment, 23:15-18

2. judgment, 24:7-11

3. worship, 24:14-16

4. thanksgiving and praise, 25:1,3,6,9

5. rejoicing, 26:1,19

6. rejoicing, 27:2

The type of music/praise reflects the coming of YHWH in judgment or blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28).

▣ "We have a strong city" The city referred to in vv. 1-6, with the possible exception of v. 5, is God's city, restored Jerusalem, which is symbolic of God's restoration of all His earth. See D in Background above.

"He sets up walls and ramparts for security" These ramparts were earthen works which did not allow siege machines to reach the walls of the city. The pronoun refers to YHWH.

The term "security" is literally "salvation" (BDB 446), see Special Topic at 33:2.

26:2 "Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter" This refers to access to the holy city and the temple (cf. 60:11,18; 62:10).

The word "nation" (BDB 156) is usually used in a derogatory way referring to Gentiles, but here it has a positive connotation referring to the faithful of Judah. Remember, context, context, context!

"The one that remains faithful" Verses 2-4 seem to be a play on the Hebrew word "faithful" or "trustworthy." See Special Topic at 22:23. The verse emphasizes the continuance of faith by

1. the Qal active participle of "keeps" (BDB 1036, KB 1581)

2. the plural of "faith" (BDB 53)

Again, it is uncertain if this is an individual being referred to or a national entity (cf. NRSV, JB, REB). It is somewhat similar to the problem in 24:13 (cf. Isa. 30:15). This idea of remaining faithful can be related to the concept of waiting on the Lord (cf. 25:9; 26:8). In the midst of judgment God's true people still trust Him.

26:3 "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace" Notice the covenantal aspect.

1. The believer's mind is stayed on YHWH (BDB 701, KB 759, Qal passive participle, but used in an active sense, cf. I Chr. 29:18).

2. YHWH keeps him/her (BDB 665 I, KB 718, Qal imperfect, the covenant relationship has two participants, see Special Topic at 1:19).

3. "Perfect peace" is a doubling of shalom (BDB 1022, cf. DSS). This doubling of words is very common in this section of Isaiah.

 

▣ "he trusts in You" The word "trust" (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal passive participle) means "trust" in YHWH (cf. 12:2; 26:4; 36:15; 37:10; 50:10). Notice that the next verse has the same word as an imperative. This is such an important theological concept of the need for a personal relationship with God, not just obedience. Both are crucial!

26:4 "Trust in the Lord forever" For the verb (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperative), see Special Topic at 22:23.

The name for Deity in the first line of v. 4 is YHWH; in the second line a contractionYah and YHWH, see Special Topic at 1:1.

The term "forever" (BDB 723 I), first the plural form and then the singular form (construct, cf 65:18; Ps. 83:18; 92:8). This construction, along with "everlasting" (BDB 761), used of YHWH, implies a personal relationship beyond this life (cf. vv. 14,19; Ps. 23:6).

"we have an everlasting rock" The word "rock" is a metaphor for God's unchanging character (cf. Psa. 18:1, 2; Isa. 17:10; 30:29; 44:8).

26:5 "the unassailable city" This may refer to the pride of Moab (cf. 25:10-12), particularly v. 12. Human pride and arrogance always result in Divine judgment.

26:6 Here YHWH acts on behalf of His people. The concept of "trampling" links this with 25:10, which is God's judgment on Moab that seems, in this context, to be a symbol of all human, sinful, rebellious society (similar to the use of Babylon in Revelation).

Notice the different words that relate to the foot.

1. verb, "tramples" (BDB 942, KB 1245, Qal imperfect)

2. noun, "foot" (BDB 919, singular)

3. noun, "foot" (BDB 919, plural)

4. noun, "steps" (BDB 821)

This chapter has several doubled words, which is characteristic of the larger context.

1. peace, v. 3

2. YHWH, v. 4

3. foot, v. 6

Remember all the doubled verbals in chapters 24-27.

1. "writhes," BDB 615, KB 663, Qal perfect, 24:4

2. "ceases," BDB 991, KB 1407, Qal perfect, 24:8

3. "drink," BDB 1059, KB 1667, Qal imperfect and participle, 24:9

4. "treacherously," BDB 93, KB 108, Qal participle and perfect (twice), 24:16

5. "be trodden," BDB 190, KB 218, Niphal perfect and infinitive, 25:10

6. "spread out," BDB 831, KB 975, Piel perfect and imperfect, 25:11

7. "swim," BDB 965, KB 1314, Qal participle and infinitive construct, 25:11

8. "trust," BDB 105, KB 120, Qal passive participle and Qal imperative, 25:3,4

9. "brought low," BDB 1050, KB 1631, Niphal imperfect (twice), 26:5

10. "see," BDB 302, KB 301, Qal imperfect (twice), 26:11

11. "increase," BDB 414, KB 418, Qal perfect (twice), 26:15

12. "let him make," BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (twice), 27:5

13. "strike," BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil participle and perfect, 27:7

 

▣ "The feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless" It is YHWH who tramples, but He often uses delegates (i.e., Assyria, Babylon). Here the weak and poor who have been abused will be His delegates (cf. 3:14-15).

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 26:7-10
7The way of the righteous is smooth;
O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.
8Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord,
We have waited for You eagerly;
Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls.
9At night my soul longs for You,
Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently;
For when the earth experiences Your judgments
The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10Though the wicked is shown favor,
He does not learn righteousness;
He deals unjustly in the land of uprightness,
And does not perceive the majesty of the Lord.

26:7 "The way. . .smooth. . .level" This is a play on the concept of preparing a road for a royal visit. It came to be used metaphorically for the spiritual preparation for the visitation of God. This is the concept that John the Baptist used to describe his own ministry (cf. 40:3,4; 42:16; 45:13; Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:25).

A level, smooth path would bring to mind a straight path which would denote lifestyle godliness and covenant obedience. A faithful believer is characterized by

1. a heart for God (personal relationship, cf. v. 9)

2. a life for God (obedience, cf. v. 8)

These must go together! They cannot be separate (cf. Luke 6:46).

NASB, NJB"O Upright One"
NKJV"O Most Upright"
NRSV, JPSOA"O Just One"

This is the only place in the Bible that this title is used for God. Some see it as being related to the concept of the "Righteous One" (cf. 24:16), while other translations make this a title for God, while others say it relates to His righteous followers' (LXX, Peshitta, JB, REB) smooth travel as they return to Him in a restored Jerusalem (cf. 42:16).

26:8 "the way" Notice how this word (lit. path, BDB 73) relates to "the way" of v. 7.

1. v. 7, literal path

2. v. 8, lifestyle

 

▣ "We have waited for You eagerly" The verb (BDB 875, KB 1082, Piel perfect) is translated by the NASB by adding the English adverb "eagerly." Other English translations do not have it. This reflects a patient trusting/waiting in God in the midst of difficult circumstances (cf. 8:17; 25:9; 33:2).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Terms for God's Revelation (Using Deuteronomy and Psalms)

▣ "Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls" This is the personal longing of a worshiper for his God (cf. v. 9; 25:9). "Your name" represented God's character (i.e., Exod. 3:15; Ps. 135:13). "Your memory" represented His great acts of redemption proclaimed in praise.

26:9 The first two lines of v. 9 sound like the Psalms. The worshiper deeply desires YHWH, not facts about Him, but He, Himself.

1. longs, BDB 16, KB 20, Piel perfect

2. seeks, BDB 1007, KB 1465, Piel imperfect, Ps. 63:1; 78:34; Hos. 5:15

This is such powerful, personal language. It reminds me of Ps. 42:1-2. We were made to know Him. We cannot find peace apart from Him! Our spirits, made in His image and likeness, long for Him!

The second two lines and v. 10 speak of the wicked who misunderstand God's patience and take advantage of His kindness (cf. Rom. 2:4-5). God's law (i.e., judgment) was meant to help the nations know Him (cf. v. 11), but Israel's disobedience clouded the revelation. Even Israelites themselves took advantage of their family traditions (i.e., the promises to Abraham).

The faithful inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (v. 9d), but the wicked do not (v. 10b).

▣ "judgments" See Special Topic: Judge, Judgment, Justice in Isaiah at 3:1.

26:10 "though the wicked is shown favor" This verse describes YHWH's revelatory intent (i.e., reach the wicked so as to convert them) and actions.

1. He shows them favor (i.e., gracious), BDB 335, KB 334, Hophal imperfect

2. they are allowed to live "in the land of uprightness"

3. He clearly signals (i.e., lifts His hand) them, v. 11

What is the wicked's response to YHWH's revelation of Himself?

1. does not learn righteousness, v. 10

2. does not deal justly, v. 10

3. does not perceive the majesty of the Lord, v. 10

4. does not see His zeal for His people, v. 11

 

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 26:11-19
11O Lord, Your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it.
They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame;
Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies.
12Lord, You will establish peace for us,
Since You have also performed for us all our works.
13O Lord our God, other masters besides You have ruled us;
But through You alone we confess Your name.
14The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise;
Therefore You have punished and destroyed them,
And You have wiped out all remembrance of them.
15You have increased the nation, O Lord,
You have increased the nation, You are glorified;
You have extended all the borders of the land.
16O Lord, they sought You in distress;
They could only whisper a prayer,
Your chastening was upon them.
17As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth,
She writhes and cries out in her labor pains,
Thus were we before You, O Lord.
18We were pregnant, we writhed in labor,
We gave birth, as it seems, only to wind.
We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth,
Nor were inhabitants of the world born.
19Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

26:11 "Your hand is lifted up" This is an idiom for YHWH's actions, both past and present. They are clear, but the enemies of His people do not see and understand Him (cf. v. 10; 5:12,25: 8:11; 9:12; 10:4,10; 11:15; 13:2; 14:26-27; 23:11; 25:10; 28:2, etc.).

▣ "fire will devour Your enemies" This could be an imperfect used in a jussive sense (i.e., "let fire devour Your enemies").

26:12 This is a strong affirmation of the sovereignty of YHWH. He acts on Israel's behalf (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38) for His greater redemptive purposes!

26:13 "other masters" It is possible that this refers to the false gods of 2:8; 27:9, but it could be an allusion to the national enemies (Syria, Assyria, Babylon) who Israel faced.

▣ "other masters than You have ruled us" This verb (BDB 127, KB 142, Qal perfect) can mean

1. possess as a wife or concubine, Gen. 20:3; Exod. 21:3,22; Deut. 22:22; 24:1

2. rule over, 26:13; I Chr. 4:22

This verse may refer to idolatry, particularly fertility worship. YHWH is their only true "master," "husband" (cf. Hos. 2:14-20).

NASB"we confess Your name"
NKJV"we make mention of Your name"
NRSV"we acknowledge your name"
NJB, REB"we invoke your name"
LXX"we name your name"

The verb (BDB 269II, KB 269, Hiphil imperfect) means "remember." KB says it means "to profess in praise" (i.e., hymns). This, therefore, denotes a worship setting where the character and acts of Israel's God are extolled (positively, i.e., Ps. 71:14-16; and negatively, do not mention other gods in praise, Exod. 23:13).

Notice that it is YHWH (i.e., "through You") that His people are able to worship.

1. national deliverance (cf. v. 15, the temple)

2. personal deliverance (cf. v. 16, desire to go there)

 

26:14 "The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise" This seems to be linked to v. 13, "the other masters," which refers to foreign kings who will not trouble Israel again. This verse is not meant to teach theology about the afterlife, specifically the annihilation of the wicked. There are too many other passages in the Bible which teach a general resurrection (cf. Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). This verse is saying that those kings, now judged and dead, will never again come back to life personally or symbolically, in another time, to hurt the people of God.

NASB"departed spirits"
NRSV, JPSOA"shades"
TEV, JB"ghosts"
NJB"shadows"

The Hebrew term (BDB 952 I) seems to be linked to the sunken ones, the powerless dead (cf. Job 26:5; Pro. 2:18; Isa. 14:9; in 26:19); the word is used for the righteous who are to be raised).

The same root (BDB 952 II) was one of the terms used for the giants. See Special Topic at 14:9. It is possible the Rephaim became a standardized metaphor for great warriors and symbolically for kings of powerful nations.

26:15 This was the covenant purpose of God towards Abraham's descendants. This is the same imagery often extended into the eschaton, whereby all nations come and worship YHWH in Jerusalem.

26:16 "They could only whisper a prayer" God's faithful were suffering under God's judgment on His people collectively. They sought God in low and guarded prayers amidst God's heavy hand.

There may be a theological word play.

1. whisper a prayer (BDB 538 #3)

2. whisper as part of Israel's idolatry (BDB 538 #1,2, cf. 3:3,20)

Remember, context, context, context determines meaning!

26:17 "As the pregnant woman" Often in the Bible, birth is used as a metaphor for the sudden coming of the pain of God's judgment. Some interpret vv. 17-18 as the Messianic birth (i.e., metaphor of the birth pains of the New Age, cf. Mark 13:8), but in context it seems to refer to judgment.

26:18 "We gave birth, as it were, only to wind.

We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth,

Nor were inhabitants of the world born" This verse is a reference to the missionary mandate of Israel to be a royal priesthood (cf. Exod. 19:4-6). She was meant to be a light to the nations (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4). However, because she never kept the law of God, the peoples of the earth only saw YHWH in judgment. This was not God's intent (cf. v. 15); therefore, God's purpose (cf. 25:1) for Israel and the world was thwarted.

The term "wind" (BDB 924) has several connotations in Isaiah.

1. breath, 11:4; 25:4; 27:8; 30:28,33; 33:11; 59:19

2. wind, 7:2; 11:15; 17:13; 26:18; 32:2; 41:16,29; 57:13; 64:6

3. spirit

a. God's Spirit, 11:2 (4 times); 30:1; 32:15; 34:16; 40:13; 42:1; 44:3; 48:16; 59:21; 61:1; 63:10, 11,14

b. human spirit, 4:4; 19:3,14; 26:9; 28:6; 29:10,24; 31:3; 37:7; 38:16: 42:5; 54:6; 57:15 (twice), 16; 61:3; 65:14; 66:2

However in Wisdom Literature the term denotes meaninglessness or emptiness (i.e., Eccl. 1:14,17; 2:11,17,26; 4:4,6,16; 5:16; 6:9). I think Isaiah's usage in 26:18 and 41:29 best fits this second connotation. Abraham's seed could not bring the nations to YHWH because of

1. their personal, individual fallenness

2. the nations' fallenness

but YHWH can (cf. v. 12)!

The term "born" (BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect) in v. 18d literally means "to drop" or "to fall," but is used metaphorically of giving birth. The Arabic root means to give birth; it is primarily used of animals (cf. NIV).

26:19 "Your dead will live;

Their corpses will rise" Verse 19 is contrasted with v. 14. That is why v. 14 cannot be the source of theology. Verse 19 has much theological affinity to 25:8. The question we looked at in 26:3 deals with whether this refers to a national entity or to an individual. The term "their" in v. 19b is literally "my" in Hebrew. Here again is this play on the individual versus the national. This resurrection of national Israel has much in common with Ezekiel 37.

There are two imperatives in the verse which describe what the dead ("you who lie in the dust") should do.

1. awake, BDB 884, KB 1098, Hiphil imperative

2. shout, BDB 943, KB 1247, Piel imperative

Resurrection is a concept that was apparently common in the ANE.

1. Job (Edom in 2000 b.c. period), 14:13-15; 19:25-27

2. Egypt mummification (starting 3000+ b.c., perfected in the Twenty First Dynasty)

3. but not in Mesopotamia

If humans were created for fellowship with God but sin caused death, then a reversal for the faithful seems logical. The rabbis (i.e., Pharisees) believed in a resurrection (cf. Acts 23:6; Heb. 6:1-2). Jesus believed in a resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:23-33; Luke 14:14; John 11:24-25). The concept of heaven is a fellowship issue. Gehenna is the permanent isolation of those who refuse faith and fellowship! The imagery of the Bible for the future is a restored Eden (cf. Revelation 21-22).

NASB"the dew of the dawn"
NKJV"the dew of herbs"
NRSV, NJB"a radiant dew"
TEV"as the sparkling dew"
REB"a dew of sparkling light"
Peshitta"a dew of light"
JPSOA"the dew or fresh growth"

This is literally "for a dew of light." The word "light" (BDB 21) has two connotations.

1. light of life vs. darkness of death (plural, BDB 21 I, possibly Esther 8:16)

2. herb (BDB 21 II, Gen. 1:11,12)

There are only two rainy seasons in Palestine. Between these times crops were sustained and grew by means of dew. Therefore, both "dew" and "light" are symbols of life and growth!

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 26:20-21
20Come, my people, enter into your rooms
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while
Until indignation runs its course.
21For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain.

26:20 God's people have sinned. There are consequences. Judgment is coming upon them, but it will pass.

There are four imperatives in this verse that address the faithful and how they should act during the period of divine judgment.

1. come, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

2. enter, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperative

3. close, BDB 688, KB 742, Qal imperative

4. hide, BDB 285, KB 285, Qal imperative

They are all masculine singular, but refer collectively to the faithful.

This is an allusion to the Passover experience of Exodus 12.

1. close door

2. verb, "pass over" (BDB 716) is not the same verb used in Exodus 12 (BDB 820), but the same idea

The faithful are saved from God's judgment.

26:21 "the Lord is about to come out from His place" This phrase is used only here and Micah 1:3. It seems to refer to

1. heaven (i.e., God's throne)

2. the temple (i.e., God's footstool)

 

▣ "the earth" Chapters 24-27 speak of a worldwide judgment!