Isaiah 51:1-8

Isaiah 51:1-8
A Women’s Lectionary – Fifth Sunday in Lent


ListenA to me, you that pursueB righteousness,C
    you that seekD the Lord.E

Notes on verse 1a

A “listen” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
B “pursue” = radaph. This is to chase after, pursue, hunt, or persecute. It is running after someone or something, generally with hostile motives.
C “righteousness” = tsedeq. This is rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity.
D “seek” = baqash. This is to seek, ask, desire, or request. It can be any kind of searching. It can also mean to worship or pray – implies a striving for.
E “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.

LookF to the rockG from which you were hewn,H
    and to the quarryI from which you were dug.J

Notes on verse 1b

F “look” = nabat. This is to behold, look at intently, consider, or scan. It can mean to have respect or regard someone favorably.
G “rock” = tsur. From tsur (to confine, cramp, or bind in a literal or figurative sense; to besiege, assault, or distress). This is rock, stone, cliff, boulder, rocky. It can also be a refuge, a way to refer to God.
H “hewn” = chatsab. This is to hew or cut material like wood or stone. It can also be to dig, quarry, split, or engrave.
I “quarry” = maqqebeth + bor. Maqqebeth is 2x in OT. From naqab (to pierce, bore holes, puncture; to make a hole more or less forcefully; also to curse or libel). This is literally something that perforates like a hammer or the piercing like a hole or excavation. Bor is from bur (to bore; figuratively, to explain, examine, or clear up). This is a pit – generally a cistern or dungeon. It could also be a well or fountain.
J “dug” = naqar. 6x in OT. This is to bore, dig, pick, gouge, pick out, quarry, or penetrate. It is used for gouging out eyes, having eyes pecked out, and a quarry being dug.

Look to AbrahamK your fatherL
    and to SarahM who boreN you;

Notes on verse 2a

K “Abraham” = Abraham. From the same as Abiram (exalted father, a high father – lofty) {from ab (father literal or figurative) + rum (rise, bring up, being high, extol, exalt, haughty; to raise in a literal or figurative sense)}. This is Abraham, father of many nations or father of a multitude.
L “father” = ab. Related to “Abraham” in v2. See note K above.
M “Sarah” = Sarah. From the same as Saray (princess, mistress, noble lady, queen); from sar (chief, ruler, captain, official, prince). This is Sarah, meaning princess.
N “bore” = 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.

for he was but oneO when I calledP him,
    but I blessedQ him and made him many.R

Notes on verse 2b

O “one” = echad. Perhaps from achad (to unify, continue on a path; figuratively, to gather one’s thoughts). This is the number one, first, united. It can also be alone, altogether, a certain, a few.
P “called” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
Q “blessed” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
R “made…many” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.

For the Lord will comfortS Zion;T
    he will comfort allU her waste places,V

Notes on verse 3a

S “comfort” = nacham. Properly, this is a strong breath or a sigh. This can be to be sorry, to pity, console. Comfort, or repent. But, one can also comfort oneself with less righteous thoughts, so this can also mean to avenge oneself.
T “Zion” = Tsiyyon. Related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.
U “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
V “waste places” = chorbah. From chareb (to be waste or desolate, destroyer). This is ruin, desert, waste place. Properly, it is a drought, which implies a desolated or decayed place.

and will makeW her wildernessX like Eden,Y
    her desertZ like the gardenAA of the Lord;

Notes on verse 3b

W “make” = sim. This is to put or place in a literal or figurative sense. It can be appoint, care, change, make, and may other things.
X “wilderness” = midbar. From dabar (to speak, command, declare). This is mouth or speech. It can also be desert or wilderness. Additionally, it can be used for a pasture to which one drives cattle.
Y “Eden” = eden. 16x in OT. Perhaps from the same as eden (luxury, delight, pleasure); from adan (to luxuriate). This is the garden of Eden and also the name of a Levite.
Z “desert” = arabah. From the same as arab (desert plateau, Arabia) OR from arab (to become evening); {from ereb (evening) or from arab (to exchange, give or take on pledge, braid, intermix)}. This is a desert valley or plain, wilderness. Also, the name of a place Arabah.
AA “garden” = gan. From ganan (to put a hedge around – generally, protect or defend; to cover or surround). This is a garden in that it is fenced in. It can also be an enclosure.

joyBB and gladnessCC will be foundDD in her,

Notes on verse 3c

BB “joy” = sason. From sus (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to be bright or cheerful). This is rejoicing, cheerfulness, and welcome.
CC “gladness” = simchah. From samach (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to brighten up; also used figuratively). This is joy, rejoicing, pleasure, or glee.
DD “found” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.

    thanksgivingEE and the voiceFF of song.GG

Notes on verse 3d

EE “thanksgiving” = todah. From yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise, to give thanks, or make a confession); from yad (hand, ability, power; hand in a literal sense; what one can do or the means by which one does it). This is properly extending one’s hand, which implies affirmation and adoration. It can be a song of thanksgiving, a choir of thanksgiving, confession, or praise. It can also be a thank offering.
FF “voice” = qol. This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
GG “song” = zimrah. 4x in OT. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody, psalm, or sound. It is sung to praise God or it might be a song sung with an instrument.

4 ListenHH to me, my people,II
    and give heedJJ to me, my nation;KK

Notes on verse 4a

HH “listen” = qashab. To listen, pay attention to, incline – used in the phrase incline the ears.
II “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
JJ “give heed” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, hearing, audience, show; properly, broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape). Properly, this is to expand or broaden one’s ear i.e. listen intently, pay attention, heed.
KK “nation” = leom. Root may refer to gathering. This is people, a community, or a nation.

for a teachingLL will go outMM from me,
    and my justiceNN for a lightOO to the peoples.PP

Notes on verse 4b

LL “teaching” = torah. From yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach). This is law, instruction, teaching, or statute. It can also refer to the first five books of the Bible – the Torah.
MM “go out” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
NN “justice” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
OO “light” = or. From or (to be or become light). This is light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight. Figuratively, it can refer to light from instruction, light of a face (that is to say one that is cheerful or finds favor). It can refer to prosperity or salvation; a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion.
PP {untranslated} = raga. 12x in OT. This is to toss violently, break, or disturb. It could be tossed about as on rough sea or the skin breaking out in skin disease. It can mean to shut the eyes and so to settle, east, rest, or quiet.

I will bring nearQQ my deliveranceRR swiftly,
    my salvationSS has gone out

Notes on verse 5a

QQ “near” = qarob. From qarab (to come near, offer, make ready). This is near whether nearby, related, near in time, or allied.
RR “deliverance” = tsedeq. Same as “righteousness” in v1. See note C above.
SS “salvation” = yesha. 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, rescue, safety, welfare, liberty.

    and my armsTT will ruleUU the peoples;
the coastlandsVV waitWW for me,
    and for my arm they hope.XX

Notes on verse 5b

TT “arms” = zeroa. Perhaps from zara (to sow, scatter seed, conceive). This is the arm, shoulder, or foreleg of an animal. It is figuratively used for power, force, might, or help.
UU “rule” = shaphat. Related to “justice” in v4. See note NN above.
VV “coastlands” = i. Perhaps from avah (to desire, crave, wish for, lust after). This is coastland, island, or region. It is a desirable place to live – dry land, coast.
WW “wait” = qavah. It can mean to bind or gather together, especially in the sense of twisting together. In that light, it can mean collect. Figuratively, this can mean to wait, await, expect, or tarry.
XX “hope” = yachal. This is to wait, which implies patience, hope, and trust. It can also be pained waiting.

Lift upYY your eyesZZ to the heavens,AAA
    and look at the earthBBB beneath;

Notes on verse 6a

YY “lift up” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
ZZ “eyes” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
AAA “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
BBB “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

for the heavens will vanishCCC like smoke,DDD
    the earth will wear outEEE like a garment,FFF

Notes on verse 6b

CCC “vanish” = malach. 5x in OT. This is properly, to pulverize, temper together, dissipate, vanish. It can also mean to season or salt It could be to vanish like dust does.
DDD “smoke” = ashan. Perhaps from ashan (to smoke or burn in a literal or figurative sense; to be angry). This is smoke, vapor, dust, or anger.
EEE “wear out” = balah. 17x in OT. This is to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay.
FFF “garment” = beged. From bagad (to cover or conceal; figuratively, to act in a covert or treacherous way, to transgress or pillage). This is clothing, garment, robe, or some other kind of clothing. Figuratively, it can be treachery or pillaging.

    and those who liveGGG on it will dieHHH likeIII gnats;

Notes on verse 6c

GGG “live” = 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.
HHH “die” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.
III “like” = 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.

but my salvationJJJ will beKKK forever,LLL
    and my deliveranceMMM will never be ended.NNN

Notes on verse 6d

JJJ “salvation” = yeshuah. Related to “salvation” in v5. From yasha (see note SS above). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
KKK “be” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v1. See note E above.
LLL “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
MMM “deliverance” = tsedaqah. Related to “righteousness” in v1. From the same as tsedeq (see note C above). This is righteousness, justice, righteous acts, and moral virtue.
NNN “be ended” = chathath. This is properly to prostrate. So it could be shatter, break, or break down in a literal, violent sense. It could also figuratively refer to being dismayed, discouraged, or frightened. It can also mean to stand in awe.

Listen to me, you who knowOOO righteousness,
    you people who have my teaching in your hearts;PPP
do not fearQQQ the reproachRRR of others,SSS
    and do not be dismayedTTT when they revileUUU you.

Notes on verse 7

OOO “know” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
PPP “hearts” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
QQQ “fear” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.
RRR “reproach” = cherpah. From charaph (to expose and so figuratively to reproach, defame, carp at, defy). This is reproach, rebuke, shame, or disgrace. It can also refer to genitals.
SSS “others” = enosh. From anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is human, humankind, another. It is mortal.
TTT “be dismayed” = chathath. Same as “be ended” in v6. See note NNN above.
UUU “revile” = gidduph. 3x in OT. From gadaph (to revile, reproach, use harsh words, blaspheme). This is reviling, vilification.

For the mothVVV will eat them upWWW like a garment,
    and the wormXXX will eat them like wool;YYY
but my deliverance will be forever,
    and my salvation to all generations.ZZZ

Notes on verse 8

VVV “moth” = ash. 12x in OT. From ashesh (to shrink or waste away; figuratively, to fail or be consumed). This is moth, moth-eaten, maggots, or grass.
WWW “eat…up” = akal. This is to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume. It can be eating in a literal or figurative sense.
XXX “worm” = sas. 1x in OT. Perhaps from the same as sus (crane, small bird, horse). This is a moth or grub.
YYY “wool” = tsemer. 16x in OT. This is wool or shaggy thing.
ZZZ “all generations” = dor + dor. Literally, “from generation to generations.” From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.

Image credit: “Incense Smoke Curls” by Vanessa Pike-Russell, 2007.

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