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Isaiah 58


Observance of Fasts Fasting That Pleases God The Lord Does Not Desire Fasting, but Kindness and Justice True Fasting Fasting Pleasing To God
58:1-12  (1-12) 58:1-3a  (1-3a) 58:1-5  (1-5) 58:1-2 58:1-12  (1-12)
  58:3b-5  (3b-5)   58:3b-5  
  58:6-9a  (6-9a) 58:6-9a  (6-9a) 58:6-7  
  58:9b-12  (9b-12) 58:9b-12  (9b-12) 58:9b-12  
Keeping the Sabbath     The Reward For Keeping the Sabbath The Sabbath
58:13-14  (13-14) 58:13-14  (13-14) 58:13-14  (13-14) 58:13-14 58:13-14  (13-14)




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.



A. This chapter is a condemnation of religious ritual without personal faith (cf. Isa 29:13; Jeremiah 7).


B. This is the spiritual problem that caused the Exile.



1"Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins.
2Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
3'Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?'
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
4Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
5Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one's head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
6Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
11And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
12Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

58:1 This chapter, like many chapters in Isaiah (i.e., a typical literary marker for a new poem), starts with a series of imperatives. The questions of interpretation are:

1. who is the speaker?

2. who is the recipient?

Here is the list of what is commanded (note the parallelism):

1. cry loudly - Qal imperative, BDB 894, KB 1128

2. do not hold back - Qal imperfect, BDB 362, KB 359, used in a jussive sense

3. raise your voice - Hiphil imperative, BDB 926. KB 1202

4. declare - Hiphil imperative, BDB 616, KB 665

The speaker is YHWH by the mouth of His prophet and the recipients are:

1. pre-exilic Israel

2. exilic Israel

3. returning Israel

4. eschatological people of God


▣ "trumpet" This is BDB 1051. See Special Topic below.


▣ "their transgression. . .their sins" Formal ritual had replaced personal righteousness. They were religious but far from YHWH (cf. II Tim. 3:5). Religion can be a barrier to true personal faith!

58:2 Notice how the false faith is characterized.

1. They seek Me day by day.

2. They delight to know My ways.

3. A nation. . .has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.

4. They ask Me for just decisions.

5. They delight in the nearness of God.

All of this sounds great but it was a show, a farce, a religious game; words, not deeds (cf. 29:13).

▣ "As a nation that has done righteousness" This is sarcasm.

▣ "ask Me for just decisions" This refers to

1. the Urim and Thummin (i.e., the High Priest, cf. Exod. 28:30; Num. 27:23; Deut. 33:8; Neh. 7:65

2. the prophets

3. local Levites

58:3 "fasted. . .humbled ourselves" The word "fasted" (Qal perfect, BDB 847, KB 1012) parallels "humbled" (Piel perfect, BDB 776, KB 853, cf. Lev. 16:29,31). They thought God must bless their religious acts. The OT has only one fast a year (Leviticus 16), the Day of Atonement (cf. v. 6a). During the Exile the Jews had multiplied this to four fast days to commemorate tragic events in their national life (i.e., the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, etc., cf. Zech. 7:3,5; 8:19).

▣ "on the day of your fast you find your desire

 And drive hard all your workers" They fasted for "religious" reasons and would not allow their laborers off to participate! The effects of the Fall continue!

58:4 The fast days produced irritation not faith.

NASB"to strike with a wicked fist"
AB"strike the poor with the fist"
LXX"strike a humble person with your fists"

The MT has "to hit the wicked with fist," but notice how the LXX takes a clue from v. 3c-d.

▣ "to make your voice heard on high" One purpose of fasting was to help with prayers, but it caused the opposite reaction (cf. 1:15; 59:2).

58:5 This is a list of outward signs of mourning, like sackcloth and ashes, but in reality these were only for show (cf. Matt. 6:5,16-18). See Special Topic at 47:1.

58:6-7 "Is this not the fast which I chose" God lists what He really wants from His people (i.e., daily social justice, cf. Exod. 21:2; Lev. 25:39-41; Deut. 15:12; and Jer. 34:8-11, which refers to the year of Jubilee; Titus 1:16).

1. to loosen the bonds of wickedness - Piel infinitive absolute, BDB 834, KB 986

2. to undo the bonds of the yoke - Hiphil infinitive absolute, BDB 684, KB 736

3. to let the oppressed go free - Piel infinitive absolute, BDB 1018, KB 1511

4. to break every yoke - Piel passive participle, BDB 954, KB 1285

5. to divide your bread with the hungry - Qal infinitive absolute, BDB 828, KB 969

6. to bring the homeless poor into the house - Hiphil imperfect, BDB 97, KB 112, cf. Matt. 25:35; Rom. 12:13; I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; Heb. 13:2; I Pet. 4:9

7. to cover the naked - Piel perfect, BDB 491, KB 487, cf. James 2:14-18

8. not to hide yourself from your own flesh - Hithpael perfect, BDB 761, KB 834, cf. I Tim. 5:8

This is the origin of the glorified Messiah's criteria for dividing the sheep (faithful believers) from the goats (unbelievers who act selfishly) in Matt. 25:31-46. This is not a works-righteousness, but lifestyle evidence that the results of the Fall (i.e., self) have been reversed (i.e., others).

58:8-9b This is the promised restoration if they will repent and exhibit lifestyle faith. Notice what true faithfulness brings.

1. your light will break out like the dawn

2. your recovery will speedily spring forth

3. your righteousness will go before you

4. the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard

5. you will call and the Lord will answer

6. you will cry, and He will say "Here I am" (cf. 65:1)

This is what God wanted to do for His people, but their sin and rebellion caused judgment and separation!

▣ "the Lord will be your rear guard" This refers to the Shekinah cloud of glory being their protection as it was during the Exodus period (cf. Exod. 14:19 and Isa. 52:12).

58:9c-10 "If" This (cf. vv. 9 and 10) shows the conditional element of God's reciprocal covenantal relationship with His people. Note the conditions.

1. remove the yoke

2. stop the pointing of the finger, cf. Pro. 6:13

3. stop speaking wickedness

4. give yourself to the hungry (Hiphil jussive, BDB 807, KB 920)

5. satisfy the desire of the afflicted


58:9 "the pointing of the finger" This refers to evil gestures and words (cf. Pro 6:13).

58:10c-12 The "then" (blessing) part of the conditional covenant (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28-29) is spelled out.

1. your light will rise in darkness

2. your gloom will become like midday

3. the Lord will continually guide you

4. the Lord will satisfy your desire

5. the Lord will give strength to your bones

6. you will be like a watered garden

7. you will be like a spring of water whose waters do not fail

8. you will rebuild the ancient ruins

9. you will raise up the age old foundations

10. you will be called the repairer of the breach

11. you will be called the restorer of the streets

The prophet uses several sources of imagery to describe YHWH's presence and blessing.

1. light vs. darkness

2. shepherd imagery

3. agricultural blessing

4. rebuilding imagery


58:11 There are two textual issues in this verse.

1. v. 11b

NASB"satisfy your desire"
NKJV"satisfy your soul in drought
TEV"satisfy you with good things"
NJB"will satisfy your needs in the scorched land"
JPSOA"He will slake your thirst in parched places"
Peshitta"satisfy your soul with rich food"
LXX"you shall be satisfied exactly as your soul desires"

The word "desire" is nephesh (BDB 659) which has many connotations.

The "scorched places" is found only here (BDB 850, KB 1019) and the meaning is uncertain.

2. v. 11e

NASB, NKJV "whose waters do not fail"

The MT's verb (BDB 469, KB 467, Piel imperfect) means "to lie" or "to deceive." The sense seems to be "the waters God provides never 'lie' or 'deceive'" (i.e., always flows [NJB])


NASB"the restorer of the streets in which to dwell"
JPSOA"restorer of lanes for habitation" 
LXX"you shall cause the paths between them to rest"
Peshitta"the restorer of paths to dwell in"
REB"the restorer of houses in ruins"

The MT has "paths" (BDB 677), probably to be understood as "streets" because of the verb "to dwell" (Qal infinitive construct, BDB 442, KB 444).

13"If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable,
And honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure
And speaking your own word,
14Then you will take delight in the Lord ,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

58:13-14 This strophe uses obedience to the Sabbath requirements as a way to know a person's attitude and faithfulness.

1. turn your foot from doing your own pleasure, to YHWH's sabbath (cf. v. 13)

2. delight in the sabbath by calling it "honorable" (the verb דבכ, BDB 457, KB 455, is used twice in v. 13)

Notice again the conditional covenant ("if. . .then"). The benefits are listed in v. 14b,c.

58:13 "the sabbath" See Exodus 20:8-11 and Isaiah 56. See Special Topic below.


58:14 "For the mouth of the Lord has spoken" This expresses the trustworthiness and power of God's promises (cf. Isa. 55:11)!


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. What is the difference between biblical faith and religiosity?

2. How is ethics related to theology?

3. What is the purpose of fasting?

4. What is the purpose of the Sabbath? Is it valid in our day?


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