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Isaiah 55

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Free Offer of Mercy An Invitation to Abundant Life A Hymn of Joy and Triumph God's Offer of Mercy Final Invitation
55:1-5  (1-5) 55:1-5  (1-5) 55:1-5  (1-5) 55:1-2  (1-2) 55:1-3a  (1-3a)
      55:3-5  (3-5) 55:3b-5  (3b-5)
55:6-13  (6-13) 55:6-7  (6-7) 55:6-9  (6-9) 55:6-9  (6-9) 55:6-11  (6-11)
  55:8-9  (8-9)      
  55:10-11  (10-11) 55:10-11  (10-11) 55:10-11  (10-11) Conclusion
  55:12-13)  (12-13) 55:12-13  (12-13) 55:12-13  (12-13) 55:12-13  (12-13)

 

READING CYCLE THREE

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.

 

PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS

1. To whom is this chapter speaking? (Jews in Exile or all humans)

2. What is it offering to them: (restoration to the Promised Land or spiritual salvation [i.e., Ibn Ezra])

3. This is where two hermeneutical principles collide!

a. Every passage should be interpreted in light of the original, inspired author's intent. The way to judge a proper interpretation is, "What would the original hearers (i.e., the target audience) have understood?" Every text has only one meaning.

b. The NT is the proper fulfillment and interpreter of the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). Jesus is the goal and purpose of the OT promises. In Him and in Him alone should the OT be interpreted. The NT is about Jesus and universal redemption, not about national Israel.

4. Notice that the return from exile is not specifically mentioned (unless v. 12a,b) or even alluded to. The invitation is more general, more broad!

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This setting is either the

1. Messianic banquet, Matt. 25:6-8; Luke 14:15-24; 22:16,18; Rev. 19:9

2. market place of Jerusalem

 

B. The OT Prophets often used the historical events of their own day to foreshadow eschatological events (see Appendix Two).

 

C. As a Great Commission Christian (i.e., Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) who believes in the priority of evangelism and discipleship, this chapter holds a dear place in my heart and ministry. YHWH, through His prophet, pleads for fallen humanity to return to Him so that He can give them full and free forgiveness (cf. vv. 1-5). This is the goal of Gen. 3:15!

 

However, there is a mandated covenant response (cf. vv. 6-7). Humans must repent, believe, obey, and persevere.

YHWH has an eternal redemptive plan (cf. vv. 8-11). See Special Topic at 40:15! God's revelation through Abraham's seed was a message for the whole world. Abraham's seed is now all believers in Christ (cf. Rom. 2:28-29)!

D. Notice the speaker in the poem is YHWH (or Personified Wisdom of Pro. 9:1-6). Only the invitation of vv. 6-7 is spoken by the prophet who was overwhelmed at the mercy of YHWH.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 55:1-5
1"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
2Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
3Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
4Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
A leader and commander for the peoples.
5Behold, you will call a nation you do not know,
And a nation which knows you not will run to you,
Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you."

55:1-3 YHWH's invitation to humanity (i.e., "everyone who thirsts," cf. v. 1a) has many commands which are mostly emphatic divine invitations.

1. come to the waters - Qal imperative (BDB 229, KB 246)

2. come - same as #1

3. buy - Qal imperative (BDB 991, KB 1404)

4. eat - Qal imperative (BDB 37, KB 46)

5. come - same as #1 and 2

6. buy - same as #3

7. listen carefully - Qal imperative and an infinitive absolute of the same root (BDB 1033, KB 1570) for emphasis

8. eat - same as #4

9. delight yourself - Qal imperfect (BDB 772, KB 851) used in a jussive sense

10. incline your ear - Hiphil imperative (BDB 639, KB 692)

11. come to Me - same as #1,2,5; notice the personal element

12. listen - Qal imperative (BDB 1033, KB 1570)

13. that you may live - Qal jussive (BDB 310, KB 309)

14. I will make an everlasting covenant with you - Qal cohortative (BDB 503, KB 560, see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT at 40:1)

 

55:1 "Every one" This speaks of the universal invitation of God (cf. vv. 4-5; Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; John 1:12; 3:16; 4:42; I Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; II Pet. 3:9; I John 2:1-2; 4:14).

▣ "thirsts" This seems to relate to a sense of spiritual need. This is always the first step a fallen human must take (cf. Matt. 5:6; Rev. 22:17).

▣ "the waters" The early church interpreted this as baptism. This is a good example of isogesis (reading into a text to back up what we believe). For desert people, this was a symbol of life and prosperity (cf. 41:17; 44:3).

▣ "you who have no money. . .for what does not satisfy" This refers to lack of personal resources. Grace, not merit, is mankind's, even Israel's, only hope (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

▣ "eat" A meal was a very significant act in the Middle East. Covenants and friendships were sealed over food.

▣ "buy. . .without cost" This is obviously a paradoxical statement meant to highlight mankind's search for peace with God.

1. it cannot be bought but a price must be paid

2. humans often desperately try to find peace and happiness, but to no avail (cf. Ecclesiastes 1-2)

3. God has provided a way through a new "David" to come to Him

4. there is still a cost, but it is now to repent and receive what God has freely offered in the Davidic Messiah

 

55:2 "Why do you spend money. . .for what does not satisfy" This reflects mankind's continuing search for happiness in things, pleasure, or power (cf. the book of Ecclesiastes).

▣ "delight yourself in abundance" God wants us happy and content in fellowship with Himself (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-28; John 5:11). The earth with its beauty and abundance is for mankind's enjoyment!

55:3 "come to Me" Personal relationship is the key to biblical faith! YHWH Himself is the goal, not just truths about Him! See Special Topic at 45:5.

▣ "Listen" This is from the word Shema (cf. Deut. 6:4-5). It means "listen and do."

▣ "an everlasting covenant" "Everlasting" (BDB 761, see Special Topic at 45:17) is used to describe many things in Isaiah 40-66. This is parallel phrasing to the "new covenant" of Jer. 31:31-34 described in Ezek. 36:22-28.

▣ "faithful mercies" This is from the word hesed (BDB 338). It means "covenant loyalty. See Special Topic at 40:6.

▣ "David" This is an example of God's love and care even to the undeserving (cf. Psalm 32,51). Also this reference has Messianic implications (cf. II Sam. 7:1ff), which have an eternal aspect.

55:4 ". . .a leader and commander for the peoples" This points beyond David to the Messiah (cf. II Samuel 7) because the object is the Gentiles (cf. vv. 4-5).

The MT and LXX have "him" referring to David's seed (i.e., the Messiah), but for some reason, the Syrian versions have "you." This is the same theological issue of the "Suffering Servant" text of 52:13-53:12.

▣ "the peoples. . .a nation" Gentiles are included (notice the plurals).

55:5 The nations will come to the God of Israel and honor His people (cf. 45:14,22-25; 49:6,12,23; Zech. 8:20-23). The question remains: Is this a reference to a believing, restored Israel (not the secular state of modern Israel) or is this an eschatological reference to the Great Commission?

Notice the names of Israel's Deity (see Special Topic at 40:3).

1. YHWH

2. your Elohim

3. the Holy One of Israel (see note at Isa. 1:4 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 55:6-13
6Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.
9"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
12For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the Lord,
For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off."

55:6 "Seek the Lord while He may be found" "Seek" is a Qal imperative (BDB 205, KB 233). This verb is often used of seeking God in a personal sense (cf. Deut. 4:29; Isa. 58:2; 65:10). This seeking is described well in Deut. 30:1-3,10 and Jer. 29:13-14; Amos 5:14-15.

▣ "while He may be found" No one can come to God unless He draws them (cf. 45:22; John 6:44,65), but when He draws, humans must respond then. God never forsakes His creation (cf. Ps. 103:8-14), but there is a time to choose. If that time passes, a hardness of the human heart develops into an inability to hear God and respond to Him.

▣ "Call upon Him while He is near" "Call" is also a Qal imperative (BDB 894, KB 1128). This line of poetry is parallel to the line above. This language denotes a worship setting, as does Rom. 10:9-13 or John 1:12. Humans must respond in repentance and faith (cf. Jer. 3:12-13; 4:1-4; Joel 2:12-13; Amos 5:4-7,14-15; Mark 1:15; John 3:16; Acts 20:21). This appropriate covenant response is true for the OT as well as the NT. YHWH desires a fellowship, a people!

55:7 "Let the wicked forsake his way" Lifestyle repentance is crucial. See Special Topic at 44:22.

Notice the parallelism between the first two lines. Evil is described in two ways.

1. lifestyle actions

2. the thought life

The rabbis have a helpful thought about this. They describe the thought life as a garden ready for seed. What we let in through our eyes and ears falls on that ready soil. If we choose to dwell on it then it becomes who we are. Sin begins in the thought life, but in time reaches the hand/foot/mouth! Guard your thought life!

The first three verbs of v. 7 are jussives.

1. forsake - Qal imperfect (BDB 736, KB 806) used in a jussive sense

2. return - Qal jussive (BDB 996, KB 1427, cf. 31:6; 44:22

3. will have compassion - Piel imperfect (BDB 933, KB 1216) used in a jussive sense, 49:10,13; 54:8

 

▣ "He will abundantly pardon" Wow, I love this chapter! It is a wonderful invitation to spiritually hungry people who are being aggressively sought after by a loving, forgiving, creator God!

Notice the powerful verbals.

1. "He will abundantly" - Hiphil imperfect

2. pardon - Qal infinitive construct

Those who have experienced God's love and forgiveness have a powerful, wonderful message to share with a frightened, confused, hurting, discouraged, sinful world!

▣ "He will have compassion. . .abundantly pardon" When God forgives, He forgets (cf. Ps. 103:12; Isa. 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Micah 7:19). What a wonderful truth of the love and forgiveness of God (cf. Heb. 9:14; I John 1:7). YHWH is willing, ready, and able to accept, forgive, and restore His fallen creation made in His image!

55:8-11 These verses have a unified theme, YHWH's redemptive purposes! The parallel lines of v. 8 speak of the uniqueness of His gracious character. Humans deserve death but He gives life, peace, and His personal presence! He is totally different from humans, but He loves humans. He created them like Himself (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) for fellowship (cf. Gen. 3:8; Lev. 26:12). He will not let us go! He is pursuing us in mercy and in Christ!

55:11 "My word. . .shall not return to Me empty" God is sovereign (cf. 40:8). God's spoken word had great power in the OT (cf. Genesis 1). In this chapter His powerful, purposeful word is for mercy, forgiveness, and fellowship (cf. 14:24; 25:1; 45:23; 46:10; 59:21; Matt. 24:35)!

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE

55:12-13 In this OT context the visible sign of God's presence and blessing was agricultural abundance (i.e., vv. 1-2). Creation is often personified as rejoicing at the presence of God. The idyllic fellowship of the Garden of Eden is restored!

An interpreter must ask, was this fulfilled in the return under Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, Nehemiah? The answer clearly is, it was not! Therefore, this must be viewed as an eschatological setting.

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods