Isaiah 26:16-19

Isaiah 26:16-19
A Women’s Lectionary Christmas Eve


16 O Lord,A in distressB they soughtC you,

Notes on verse 16a

A “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
B “distress” = tsar. From tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). Properly, this is a narrow or constricted place. Figuratively, it can be trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress.
C “sought” = paqad. This is to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter. So, it can be to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge.

    they poured outD a prayerE
    when your chasteningF was on them.

Notes on verse 16b

D “poured out” = tsuq. 3x in OT. Perhaps related to tsuq (to press on, compress; figuratively, to oppress or bring distress). This is to smelt or pour out. It can also mean utter figuratively. It is used of copper, oil, and prayer.
E “prayer” = lachash. 5x in OT. From lachash (to whisper or charm i.e. murmur a spell like a magician does). This is a whispering or enchantment. Concretely, it could refer to an amulet, earring, or charmer. In a positive sense, it could be a whispered prayer. In a negative sense, it could be a magician’s spell.
F “chastening” = musar. From yasar (to discipline, correct, train, teach, punish; literally with blows, but figuratively using words). This is discipline, a correction a warning, or an instruction.

17 Like a woman with child,G
    who writhesH and cries outI in her pangsJ

Notes on verse 17a

G “woman with child” = harah. 16x in OT. From harah (to conceive or be pregnant –literal or figurative). This is conceive or pregnant.
H “writhes” = chul. This is whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain. It is used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear. It can also be falling in pain or waiting.
I “cries out” = zaaq. This is to cry or call out. It can be a call to assemble or gather together. By analogy, this could refer to a herald who announces a public gathering. It could also be a shriek from pain or danger.
J “pangs” = chebel. From chabal (to bind, pledge, or wind tight; figuratively, can refer to perverting or destroying something; can also be used of writhing in pain, particularly in reference to childbirth). This is a band, rope, measuring line, noose. It can be a company, territory, or country. It can also refer to a throe of labor or ruin.

    when she is near her time,K
soL wereM we because of you, O Lord;
18     we were with child, we writhed,
    but we gave birthN only to wind.O

Notes on verses 17b-18a

K “is near her time” = qarab + yalad. Qarab is to come near, offer, make ready, approach, take. Yalad is to bear or bring forth. It can mean to act as midwife or to show one’s lineage. This is often used for birth or begetting.
L “so” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
M “were” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v16. See note A above.
N “gave birth” = yalad. Same as “is near her time” in v17. See note K above.
O “wind” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.

We have wonP noQ victoriesR on earth,S
    and no one is bornT to inhabitU the world.V

Notes on verse 18b

P “won” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
Q “no” = bal. From balah (to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay). This is not, lest, neither. Properly, it refers to a failure, so it implies nothing or not at all.
R “victories” = yeshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
S “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
T “born” = naphal. This is to fall, whether by accident, to fall prostrate, or to fall in violent death. Figuratively, it can refer to personal ruin or calamity, a city falling, an attack or a falling away. It can also be a deep sleep or wasting away.
U “inhabit” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
V “world” = tebel. From yabal (to lead, bring, carry, conduct; properly, to flow; to bring or lead with fanfare). This is world, confusion, inhabited part of the earth, but also used for the whole world.

19 Your deadW shall live,X their corpsesY shall rise.Z

Notes on verse 19a

W “dead” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.
X “live” = chayah. This is to live or keep alive in a literal or figurative sense. So, it an be revive, nourish, or save.
Y “corpses” = nebelah. From nabel (to fall away, faint, wither, languish, sink; figuratively, being senseless, foolish, or wicked; to despise, disgrace, or fall to nothing, to be seen with contempt). This is a body, whether human or animal. It can also refer to an idol.
Z “rise” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.

    O dwellersAA in the dust,BB awakeCC and sing for joy!DD

Notes on verse 19b

AA “dwellers” = shakan. This is to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently. It can mean abide or continue. “Mishkan,” taken from this verb, is the Hebrew word for the Tabernacle (as a place where God abided).
BB “dust” = aphar. May be related to aphar (to throw dust, be dust). This is dust as powdered, perhaps gray colored. It could be ashes, powder, ground, dry earth, clay mud, or rubbish.
CC “awake” = quts. Related to qayits (fruit, harvest, dry season); from quts (summer, clip off). This is arise or watch. It is to awake in a literal or figurative sense.
DD “sing for joy” = ranan. This is a cry of joy or a joyful song. Properly, it is emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy.

For your dewEE is a radiantFF dew,
    and the earth will give birthGG to those long dead.HH

Notes on verse 19c

EE “dew” = tal. Perhaps from talal (to cover, roof, strew). This is dew or mist as something that covers plants.
FF “radiant” = orah. 5x in OT. From or (light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight; figuratively, light from instruction, light of a face – one that is cheerful or finds favor; prosperity, a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion); from or (to be or become light). This is something luminous. It can refer to a light, an herb, or, figuratively, prosperity.
GG “give birth” = naphal. Same as “born” in v18. See note T above.
HH “long dead” = rapha. 8x in OT. From raphah (to slacken in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be to hang, be feeble, fail, drop, be helpless, relax, slink, subside, or wait) OR from rapha (properly, to repair by stitching – figuratively to heal or cure; to make whole). This is ghosts or shades.

Image credit: “Refreshing the Soul…” by Sharon Tate Soberon, 2014.

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