Isaiah 63:7-9

Isaiah 63:7-9
Christmastide A5


7 I will recountA the gracious deedsB of the Lord,C
    the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has doneD for us,
    and the great favorE to the house of IsraelF
that he has shownG them according to his mercy,H
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love.I

Notes on verse 7

A  “recount” = zakar. This is to remember – to mark something so that you can recognize it. It can also mean to mention, be mindful of, or recount. Specially, it can mean to burn incense (as when one remembers God in an offering of worship.
B “gracious deeds” = chesed. From chasad (merciful; to be good, kind, show self to be merciful. Properly, this is bowing your neck as you would do as a courtesy to someone who is your equal. Hence, it meant being kind to another). This is favor, goodness, kindness, good deed, loving kindness, merciful kindness, pity, or reproach. As God towards humanity, this is loving kindness. As humanity to God, this is piety.
C “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.
D “done” = gamal. This word refers to how you deal with someone else, whether good or ill. It implies a response to the other person (you respond to someone as the fruits of how they have responded to you). So, this could be benefit or requite, reward or recompense. This word can imply weaning or ripening.
E “favor” = tub. From tob (to be pleasing or good, do better, cheer). This is good, good things, goodness, beauty, welfare, joy, gladness.
F “Israel” = yisrael. From sarah (to persist, persevere, contend, strive, wrestle) + el (God or a god). This means “God strives” or “one who wrestles with God.” It is another name for Jacob and for his offspring.
G “shown” = gamal. Same as “done” in v7.
H “mercy” = racham. From the same as rechem (womb); related to racham (to love, have compassion, be compassionate). This is compassion or tender love.
I “steadfast love” = chesed. Same as “gracious deeds” in v7.

8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
    childrenJ who will not deal falsely”;K
and he became their saviorL
9     in all their distress.M

Notes on verse 8-9a

J “children” = ben. Literally “sons.”
K “deal falsely” = shaqar. 6x in OT. From sheqer (deception, disappointment, deceit, lie. Implies a sham or can mean wrongfully). This is to do or deal falsely, to lie or fail. This is to cheat or be untrue – used particularly of words.
L “savior” = 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.
M “distress” = tsarah. From tsar (adversary, affliction, anguish, distress; a narrow or tight place – used figuratively for trouble); from tsarar (to bind, tie up, be narrow or restricted; to cramp literally or figuratively and so to besiege or be in affliction). This is, similarly, tightness and so used figuratively for trouble, anguish, distress, tribulation. It can also mean adversary.

It was no messengerN or angelO
    but his presenceP that savedQ them;
in his love and in his pityR he redeemedS them;
    he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.T

Notes on verse 9b

N “messenger” = tsar. Related to “distress” in v9. From tsarar (see note M). This is a narrow or tight place, used for trouble in a figurative sense. It can also be a pebble or an adversary as one who encroaches or crowds in on you.
O “angel” = malak. This is a messenger, an angel, or a deputy of some kind. Can be used for human messengers literally or for prophets, priests, or teachers as messengers of God. Also used for supernatural messengers i.e. angels.
P “presence” = paneh. From panah (to turn, to face). Face in a literally or figurative sense. Can be used for God’s favor.
Q “saved” = yasha. Same as “savior” in v8.
R “pity” = chemlah. 2x in OT. From chamal (to spare, have compassion or pity, commiserate). This is compassion, mercy, or pity.
S “redeemed” = gaal. This is to redeem someone or something according to kinship laws. So, it could be acting on a relative’s behalf to buy back their property, to marry one’s brother’s widow, etc. This could be more briefly translated as to redeem, acts as kinsman, or purchase. As a noun, it could be deliverer or avenger.
T “old” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

Image Credit: Mosaic from Kariye Camii showing Christ holding a baby, 1315-1321, Istanbul.

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