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Isaiah 27

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Deliverance of Israel Take Refuge From the Coming Judgment
(26:20-27:1)
Fourth Eschatological Section
(26:20-27:1)
Judgment and Restoration
(26:20-27:13)
The Lord's Judgment
(26:20-27:1)
      26:20-27:1  
27:1
(1)
(27:1) 27:1   27:1
  The Restoration of Israel Fourth Apocalyptic Poem of Deliverance   Yahweh's Vineyard
27:2-11
(2-11)
27:2-11
(2-5)
27:2-11
(2-5)
27:2-5 27:2-5
(2-3)
(4)
(5)
        Pardon and Punishment
  (6) (6) 27:6 27:6-11
(6-11)
  (7-11) (7-11) 27:7-9  
    Concluding Oracle of Doom and Triumph 27:10-11 The Israelites Return
27:12-13 27:12-13
(12)
(13)
27:12-13 27:12 27:12-13
(12-13)
      27:13  

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. This is the concluding chapter of the literary unit which began in chapter 24.

 

B. The last two lines are a fitting highly metaphorical conclusion of end-time judgment, starting with Abraham's seed (cf. Jer. 25:29; Amos 3:2; I Pet. 4:17), but extending to all humans.

 

C. The last verse, like v. 5, extends hope to the Gentile nations (cf. 2:2-4; 19:18-23; 25:2-3).

 

D. This is a wonderful poetic chapter, but its beauty causes ambiguity and confusion. Remember, seek the meaning of strophes, not the details of poetic word plays or mythological allusions.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 27:1
1In that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.

27:1 "In that day" See note at 2:11.

▣ "Leviathan the fleeing serpent" Leviathan (BDB 531) seems to be a Ugaritic mythological sea animal (i.e., Job 41:19-21) mentioned in Job 3:8; Ps. 104:26; Amos 9:3. However, sometimes it is used as a symbol for an evil nation (cf. Ps. 74:13-14, possibly Egypt). It resembles a river snaking through their land. Sometimes this term is linked specifically to "Rahab," which is a way of referring to Egypt (cf. Ps. 87:4; 89:9-10; and Isa. 30:7). It seems to me that, in context, we are talking about a river symbolizing a national enemy, either Egypt or Assyria (cf. v. 12). The reason this term can be used symbolically so easily is that it was previously used in some of the mythological literature of Canaan (cf. Ps. 74:12-17; see G. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 239-240).

There is a parallelism between

1. the fleeing serpent (BDB 638 I) or sea monster (NASB footnote)

2. the twisted sea monster

3. the dragon who lives in the sea

This same allusion is found in (1) Ugaritic poems and (2) Isa. 51:9, using "Rahab," who is also identified by the term "dragon" (BDB 1072).

The only apparent connection between this verse and the context is vv. 11-12.

1. YHWH as creator, v. 11

2. rivers of the Euphrates and the brook of Egypt in v. 12

3. the end of time is like the beginning of time (i.e., Genesis 1-2; Revelation 21-22)

Apparently Isaiah is a compilation of his writings over many years and compiled on the basis of word plays or themes, not history.

▣ "dragon" This term (BDB 1072) means

1. serpent, Exod. 7:9,10,12; Deut. 32:33; Ps. 91:13

2. dragon, Neh. 2:13; Jer. 51:34

3. sea/river monster, Gen. 1:21; Job 7:12; Ps. 74:13; 148:7. It is parallel to Leviathan (cf. Psalm 74:13-14). It is used as a metaphor for Egypt in Isa. 27:1; 51:9,10; Ezek. 29:3; 32:2.

The two great river systems of the Ancient Near East were the cradles of civilization (i.e., the Nile and the Tigris/Euphrates).

Tanin (BDB 1072) is parallel with

1. Leviathan, Ps. 74:13-14; Isa. 27:1

2. Rahab, Isa. 51:9

3. Bashan, Ps. 68:22; Amos 9:3 (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 87)

 

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 27:2-6
2In that day,
"A vineyard of wine, sing of it!
3I, the Lord, am its keeper;
I water it every moment.
So that no one will damage it,
I guard it night and day.
4I have no wrath.
Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle,
Then I would step on them, I would burn them completely.
5Or let him rely on My protection,
Let him make peace with Me,
Let him make peace with Me."
6In the days to come Jacob will take root,
Israel will blossom and sprout,
And they will fill the whole world with fruit.

27:2

NASB"A vineyard of wine"
NKJV"a vineyard of red wine"
NRSV, TEV"a pleasant vineyard"
NJB, REB"the splendid vineyard"
LXX"a fair vineyard"
JPSOA"a Vineyard of Delight"

The Hebrew word for "pleasant" is חמד (BDB 326), which is in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, but the MT and the DSS have the ר not the ד. The Hebrew word for "wine" is חמר (BDB 330). The vowel points are the same for both words. The UBS Hebrew Text Project gives "pleasant"a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

The vineyard was a symbol of Israel (cf. 5:1-7; Peshitta), but here, because of the universal nature of chapters 24-27, it may be the whole earth (cf. 26:21; JPSOA footnote).

▣ "sing" This is a Piel imperative (BDB 777, KB 854). There are several "songs" mentioned in this literary unit. See note at 26:1b.

27:3 YHWH had a special relationship, a covenant relationship with the descendants of Abraham. They were uniquely His people. However, v. 6 shows He had a universal plan for all the world (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5).

27:4-5 There are several cohortatives and jussives in these verses.

1. I would step on them, BDB 832, KB 979, Qal cohortative (verb found only here in the OT)

2. I would burn them, BDB 428, KB 429, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

3. let him rely on My protection, BDB 304, KB 302, Hiphil jussive

4. let him make peace with Me, BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, twice

Verse 3 describes YHWH's care and protection for Abraham's descendants; verse 4 describes His willingness to protect and destroy her enemies; verse 5 is a call to trust in His care and protection; v. 6 is the result of the blessings which will one day fill the earth (the original intention of God in Genesis 1).

27:4

NASB"wrath"
NKJV"fury"
TEV, JB"angry"
NJB, LXX"wall"
REB"wine"
Peshitta"hedge"

Notice how many options.

1. חמה (BDB 404), "wrath," very common in Isaiah

2. חומה (BDB 327), "wall," used several times in this literary unit, cf. 2:15; 22:10,11; 25:12; 26:1

3. חמר (BDB 330), "wine," rare, only in 27:2 and Deut. 32:14

The UBS Hebrew Text Project gives "wrath" a "B" rating (some doubt).

27:5 "Or let him rely on My protection" This shows that human (even for God's enemies, cf. v. 4) response is part of God's plan (cf. Isa. 1:16-17,18-20). There is a paradox in the Bible between the sovereignty of God in history and God's will that humans respond to Him by faith. See Special Topic at 1:3. Verse 5 is God's offering of forgiveness and salvation to those Gentiles who trust in Him (cf. 2:2-4; 42:6; 45:22; 49:6).

▣ "Let him make peace with Me" This phrase is doubled, which is characteristic of this section of Isaiah. See note at 26:6.

Peace is such a crucial aspect of a faith relationship with God (cf. 26:12; 32:17; 52:7; 54:10; 55:12; 57:2,19; 60:17; 66:12; Phil. 4:7,9) and His Messiah (cf. 9:6,7; 53:5; Rom. 5:1; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19,21,26). It also involves peace between nations (cf. 2:4; 39:8), but there is no peace for the wicked (cf. 48:22; 57:1; 59:18).

Here the term denotes a peace treaty, initiated by YHWH, but must be accepted and lived out by the faithful.

27:6 "Israel will blossom and sprout;

And they will fill the whole world with fruit" Here again is the imagery of Mount Zion being raised to the highest of all mountains and all the other topological barriers eliminated so that all the world can flow to Jerusalem to worship God (cf. 2:2-4; 24:23; 25:6,7; 27:13). This faithfulness is the exact opposite of 26:18. Maybe part of the fruit is "raised ones" of 26:19.

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 27:7-11
7Like the striking of Him who has struck them, has He struck them?
Or like the slaughter of His slain, have they been slain?
8You contended with them by banishing them, by driving them away.
With His fierce wind He has expelled them on the day of the east wind.
9Therefore through this Jacob's iniquity will be forgiven;
And this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin:  
When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones;
When Asherim and incense altars will not stand.
10For the fortified city is isolated,
A homestead forlorn and forsaken like the desert;
There the calf will graze,
And there it will lie down and feed on its branches.
11When its limbs are dry, they are broken off;
Women come and make a fire with them,
For they are not a people of discernment,
Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them.
And their Creator will not be gracious to them.

27:7 This is a very difficult verse. It states that God's judgment is going to fall on those nations that He had used to judge His own people. (cf. 47:6).

Repetition of words and phrases is characteristic of this literary unit (see 26:6). Here the noun, הכמ (BDB 646, feminine, often used of YHWW bringing judgment on His own people, cf. Lev. 26:21; Deut. 28:61; Jer. 30:12), "to wound," or "to slaughter," is followed by the repeating of a related verb, הכנ (BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil participle and Hiphil perfect). Those who YHWH used to punish will be punished even more severely than they punished God's people (NET Bible).

27:8 "them" The "them" of v. 8 refers to Israel being divorced (i.e., "context," BDB 936, KB 1224, Qal imperfect, cf. Hos. 2:2) by God because she broke the covenant (cf. 50:1). Therefore, God brought foreign rulers to judge His people (cf. Deut. 28:49-57; i.e., Assyria, Isa. 10:5, and Babylon, Isaiah 14). However, God will judge them also (cf. v. 7; 47:6; 49:25).

NASB"by banishing them"
NKJV"in measure"
NRSV"by expulsion"
NJB"by expelling"
LXX"dismiss"
Peshitta"in measure by which he has measured"

The MT has בסאסאה (found only here), which can be understood as

1. סאה אסאה, "in measure by measure" (BDB 684, KB 738, Pilpel infinitive construct, Targums and Vulgate)

2. אסאסאה, by driving her out (see next paragraph)

The UBS Hebrew Text Project gives #1 a "B" rating (some doubt), possibly because doubling of words and phrases is so common in this literary unit.

The next Hebrew word is החלשׁב (BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel infinitive construct), which means "send away by exile." Several of the translations above simply leave out the first verbal and translate the second verbal.

▣ "by driving them away" The Hebrew verb (BDB 212, KB 237, Qal perfect) denotes a cleansing by removing impurities (from the refining of silver, cf. Pro. 25:4).

▣ "east wind" Often this refers to the powers of Mesopotamia (i.e., 46:11; Ezek. 17:10; Hos. 13:15) that invade Palestine, but that cannot be the meaning here because of v. 7. So it must be a metaphor of divine judgment (cf. Exod. 10:13; Ps. 48:7; Jer. 18:17). Sometimes the east wind is a divine act of blessing (cf. Exod. 14:21; 15:10; Num. 11:31; see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 871-873).

27:9 Here again many have asserted that this shows that Israel/Judah was forgiven because of the judgment that they experienced from the hand of God. But wait, they must also destroy all remnants of their fertility worship (lines 3, 4). However, this must be brought in line with the concept of "the Suffering Servant" found in Isa. 52:13-53:12. Again, it is not an either/or situation, but two different ways of looking at the actions of God in human history. The Messiah is the means of salvation, but people must respond to Him in faith and faithfulness.

▣ "altar stones. . .Asherim" These were the symbols of the male and female fertility deities of Canaan which were so devastating to the worship of YHWH. They will be destroyed! See Special Topic at 17:8.

▣ "chalk stones" This word (BDB 162) appears only here in the OT. It denotes a soft stone that can easily be pulverized.

The same word is found in Dan. 5:5, but in Aramaic, and refers to the plaster on the walls of the banquet room in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, Belshazzar.

27:10 "For the fortified city is isolated" This is a play on the term "city." See note at 24:10 and chart at chapter 26, Introduction, D.

27:11 The imagery of a deserted pasture representing the exiled, sinful people of God continues from v. 10 in v. 11, lines 1-2.

These disobedient covenant people are characterized:

1. they are not a people of discernment, cf. Hos. 4:14

2. their Maker (cf. 43:1,7; 44:2,21,24; Deut. 32:18) will not have compassion on them

3. their Creator will not be gracious to them

 

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 27:12-13
12In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. 13It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

27:12-13 This seems to form a concluding literary statement. Verse 12 is talking about God's dealing with (i.e., "thresh," BDB 286, KB 285, Qal imperfect which denotes an eschatological harvest with its separation of the faithful and unfaithful, cf. Matt. 13:36-43; 24:31; 25:32) His people, using national imagery. It refers to the limits of the Promised Land found so often in the OT (cf. Gen. 15:18; I Kgs. 8:65; Ezek. 47:15-19). Verse 13 is international in scope; it deals with those Gentile nations beyond the people of God who are also invited to respond to God by faith (i.e., 2:2-4; 19:18-25).

These last two verses reflect Deut. 30:1-10 in eschatological imagery ( note Hos. 11:8-11).

27:12 "from the flowing stream" This word (BDB 987) has two meanings.

1. flowing stream, BDB 987 I, cf. Ps. 69:2,15

2. gathering grain, BDB 987 II, cf. 17:5; Gen. 41:5,6,7,22,23,24,26,27; Ruth 2:2; Job 24:24

This chapter uses both senses. Number 1 fits the allusion in v. 1, but number 2 fits the immediate verb (thresh) and the metaphor for judgment (i.e., harvesting).

▣ "the brook of Egypt" This refers to the wadi El'arish, which is the southern boundary of the Promised Land.

27:13 "in that day a great trumpet will be blown" This is a recurrent eschatological theme using a worship or military metaphor of a blown trumpet (two kinds).

1. worship, Exod. 19:16,19; Lev. 25:9; Num. 10:2,8,10; I Chr. 15:24

2. military, Num. 10:9; Joshua 6; Jdgs. 3:27; 6:34; 7; I Sam. 13:3; II Sam. 2:28

3. eschatological, here and possibly Zech. 9:14; Matt. 24:31; I Cor. 15:52; I Thess. 4:16

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Who or what is Leviathan in Isaiah 27:1?

2. How is Isaiah 27:5 related to Isaiah 1:16-17? 

3. Why is Isaiah 27:6 so significant in light of God's plan for Jerusalem?

4. How are Isaiah 27:12 and 13 characteristic of this entire literary unit? (i.e. a play between the national and the international and the corporate and the individual)