Isaiah 55:10-13

Isaiah 55:10-13
Ordinary A33


10 For as the rainA and the snowB come down from heaven,C
    and do not returnD there until they have wateredE the earth,

Notes on verse 10a

A “rain” = geshem. Perhaps from gasham (to rain). This is rain, shower, or rainy. It can be used figuratively for blessing or for destruction.
B “snow” = sheleg. 19x in OT. Perhaps from shalag (to snow, to be white). This is snow or snowy.
C “heaven” = 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.
D “return” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
E “watered” = ravah. 14x in OT. This is to have one’s thirst satisfied (or figuratively other cravings). It can aso mean to soak, water, or satisfy.

making it bring forthF and sprout,
    giving seedG to the sowerH and breadI to the eater,

Notes on verse 10b

F “bring forth” = yalad. This 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.
G “seed” = zera. From zara (to sow or scatter seed; conceive or yield). This is seed or sowing. It can, thus, mean a fruit, plant, sowing time, child, offspring, or posterity.
H “sower” = zara. Related to “seed” in v10. See note G above.
I “bread” = lechem. From lacham (to eat, feed on). This is bread, food, loaf. It can refer to food more generally for people or for animals.

11 so shall my wordJ be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,K
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,L
    and succeedM in the thing for which I sentN it.

Notes on verse 11

J “word” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
K “empty” = reqam. 16x in OT. From riq (this is to be empty or to make empty; also vanity, emptiness, something worthy, in vain); from ruq (to pour out in a literal or figurative sense, hence, to be or make empty). This is emptily, empty-handed, without cause, in vain, ineffectually, or undeservedly.
L “purpose” = chaphets. Properly, this means inclined towards or bending to. Figuratively, it means to desire, delight in, or be pleased with.
M “succeed” = tsalach. This is pushing forward in a literal or figurative sense. So it could be to break out, to come mightily, to rush, to go over. Figuratively, it could mean to prosper.
N “sent” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.

12 For you shall go out in joy,O
    and be led backP in peace;Q

Notes on verse 12a

O “joy” = simchah. From samach (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to brighten up; also used figuratively). This is joy, rejoicing, pleasure, or glee.
P “led back” = yabal. 18x in OT. This is to lead, bring, carry, conduct. Properly, it means to flow. It can mean to bring or lead with fanfare.
Q “peace” = shalom. From shalam (to be complete or sound; to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate; so, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated). This is completeness, soundness, welfare, favor, friend, good health. It is to be safe and figuratively well, happy, at peace, friendly. Abstractly, it includes the ideas of welfare and prosperity (not in excessive wealth, but in having enough).

the mountains and the hills before youR
    shall burstS into song,T
    and all the treesU of the field shall clapV their hands.W

Notes on verse 12b

R “before you” = paneh. Literally “before your face.”
S “burst” = patsach. 8x in OT. This is to burst forth with in joy or with a loud sound.
T “song” = rinnah. From ranan (a cry of joy or a joyful song; properly, emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy). This is a song, shout, cry of joy, or proclamation. It could also be a shout of grief.
U “trees” = ets. Perhaps from atsah (to shut, fasten, firm up, to close one’s eyes). This is tree or other things related to trees like wood, sticks, or stalks. It can also refer to wood products like a plank or staff or gallows. Additionally, this can refer to a carpenter.
V “clap” = macha. 3x in OT. This is to clap or rub one’s hands in celebration.
W “hands” = kaph. From kaphaph (to bend – from a root meaning curve or bend down). This is palm of the hand or sole of the foot, footstep, grasp. Figuratively, it can also mean power.

13 Instead of the thornX shall come up the cypress;Y
    instead of the brierZ shall come up the myrtle;AA

Notes on verse 13a

X “thorn” = naatsuts. 2x in OT. May come from a root that means to prick. This is likely a brier or some kind of thicket of thorn bushes.
Y “cypress” = berosh. This is a cypress, fir, or juniper. It can be something made of this wood like a lance of musical instrument.
Z “brier” = sirpad. 1x in OT. From saraph (burn, cremate); from saraph (to burn, kindle, an undertaker). This is a nettle or briar – a plant whose stinging is like a burn.
AA “myrtle” = hadas. 6x in OT. From the same as hadom (stool or footstool). This is a myrtle tree.

and it shall be to the LordBB for a memorial,CC
    for an everlastingDD signEE that shall not be cut off.FF

Notes on verse 13b

BB “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.
CC “memorial” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
DD “everlasting” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
EE “sign” = ot. From avah (to mark, sign, point out); OR from uth (to agree). This is a sign in a literal or figurative sense. It could be a flag or monument. It could be evidence or a mark. It could also be an omen or a miracle. 
FF “be cut off” = karat. This is to cut down, cut off, or make a covenant (idiom for making a covenant is “to cut a covenant”). It can also mean to destroy, fail, or consume.

Image credit: “Cypresses” by Vincent van Gogh, 1889.

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