Isaiah 64:1-9

Isaiah 64:1-9
First Sunday of Advent B


O that you would tear openA the heavensB and come down,C

Notes on verse 1a

A “tear open” = qara. This is to tear or cut out in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be to revile or to apply eye make up – as though they are made to look larger.
B “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.
C “come down” = yarad. This is to go down, descend; going down in a literal or figurative sense. It can be going to the shore or a boundary, bringing down an enemy.

    so that the mountainsD would quakeE at your presenceF

Notes on verse 1b

D “mountains” = har. From harar (hill or mountain). This is mountain, hill, hilly region.
E “quake” = zalal. 8x in OT. This is to quake or blow down as something is shaken with the wind. Figuratively, it can refer to someone with shaky morals, a prodigal one, a glutton.
F “presence” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

as when fireG kindlesH brushwoodI
    and the fire causes waterJ to boilK

Notes on verse 2a

G “fire” = esh. This is fire, burning, flaming, hot. It is fire in a literal or figurative sense.
H “kindles” = qadach. This is to kindle or burn.
I “brushwood” = hemes. 1x in OT. It may come from a word that means to crackle. This is brushwood or a twig.
J “water” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
K “boil” = baah. 5x in OT. This is to inquire, search, boil, or swell out. Figuratively, it could be to sincerely desire.

to make your nameL knownM to your adversaries,N
    so that the nationsO might trembleP at your presence!

Notes on verse 2b

L “name” = 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.
M “make…known” = 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.
N “adversaries” = 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.
O “nations” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.
P “tremble” = ragaz. This is shaking from any strong emotion, particularly anger or fear. It can be agitated, excited, perturbed, afraid, quaking, quivering.

When you didQ awesome deedsR that we did not expect,S
    you came down; the mountains quaked at your presence.

Notes on verse 3

Q “did” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
R “awesome deeds” = 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.
S “expect” = 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.

From ages pastT no one has heard,U
    no ear has perceived,V

Notes on verse 4a

T “ages past” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
U “heard” = 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.
V “ear has perceived” = 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.

no eyeW has seenX any GodY besidesZ you,
    who worksAA for those who waitBB for him.

Notes on verse 4b

W “eye” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
X “seen” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
Y “God” = Elohim.
Z “besides” = zulah. 16x in OT. Perhaps from zul (to shake out, lavish, despise). This is removal, except, besides.
AA “works” = asah. Same as “did” in v3. See note Q above.
BB “wait” = chakah. 14x in OT. Perhaps related to chaqah (to carve, cut in). This is to long for, await, or lurk in ambush.

You meetCC those who gladlyDD do right,EE
    those who rememberFF you in your ways.GG

Notes on verse 5a

CC “meet” = paga. This is to meet or happen, whether unintentionally or of violence. It can also be plead, spare, reach, or intercede.
DD “gladly” = sus. This is to rejoice or be glad. Properly, it is to be bright or cheerful.
EE “right” = 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.
FF “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
GG “ways” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.

ButHH you were angry,II and we sinned;JJ
    because you hidKK yourself we transgressed.LL

Notes on verse 5b

HH {untranslated} = hen. This is a remark of surprise or excitement: lo! Behold! It can also mean if or though.
II “were angry” = qatsaph. This is angry or provoked to wrath. It suggests a bursting into anger.
JJ “sinned” = chata. This is properly to miss, and so figuratively it is used for sinning, bearing the blame. It implies a forfeiture or loss of something.
KK “hid” = olam. Same as “ages past” in v4. See note T above.
LL “transgressed” = 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.

We have all becomeMM like one who is unclean,NN
    and allOO our righteous deedsPP are like a filthyQQ cloth.RR

Notes on verse 6a

MM “become” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
NN “unclean” = tame. From tame (to defile, be unclean, pollute in a ritual or ethical sense). This is unclean, ill, or ritually impure.
OO “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
PP “righteous deeds” = tsedaqah. Related to “right” in v5. From the same as tsedeq (see note EE above). This is righteousness, justice, righteous acts, and moral virtue.
QQ “filthy” = ed. 1x in OT. Perhaps related to edah (testimony); from ud (to admonish, duplicate, testify, restore, record). It may also come from a word that refers to a specific period of time. This refers to a menstrual period as something that soils. So, it implies filthy.
RR “cloth” = 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.

We all fadeSS like a leaf,TT
    and our iniquities,UU like the wind,VV take us away.WW

Notes on verse 6b

SS “fade” = nabel. This is to fall away, faint, wither, languish, sink. Figuratively, it can mean being senseless, foolish, or wicked. Further, it can be to despise, disgrace, or fall to nothing, to be seen with contempt.
TT “leaf” = aleh. 18x in OT. From alah (to go up, climb, to be high; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is leaf, branch, or foliage.
UU “iniquities” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
VV “wind” = ruach. From ruach (smell, breathe, perceive, anticipate, accept, enjoy). 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.
WW “take…away” = 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.

There is no oneXX who callsYY on your name
    or attemptsZZ to take hold ofAAA you,

Notes on verse 7a

XX “no one” = ayin. Perhaps from a word that means to be nothing. This means nothing, none, non-existent. It can also simply mean not or are not.
YY “calls” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
ZZ “attempts” = ur. This is to arise, lift, exult, or stir. It is to wake in a literal or figurative sense
AAA “take hold of” = chazaq. This is to strengthen, seize, be courageous, repair, bind, heal, conquer, harden.

for you have hiddenBBB your faceCCC from us
    and have deliveredDDD us into the handEEE of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord,FFF you are our Father;GGG

Notes on verses 7b-8a

BBB “hidden” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.
CCC “face” = paneh. Same as “presence” in v1. See note F above.
DDD “delivered” = mug. 17x in OT. This is to let, dissolve, soften, flow. It can also mean to fear, dishearten, be faint, or disappear.
EEE “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
FFF “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “become” in v6. From the same as YHVH (the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton; pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place); {from havah (to be, become) or hayah (see note MM above)}. This is a secondary spelling of the Lord, the name of the God of Israel. It has the same meaning.
GGG “Father” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.

    we are the clay,HHH and you are our potter;III
    we are all the workJJJ of your hand.

Notes on verse 8b

HHH “clay” = chomer. From chamar (to boil up, ferment, be red befoul, trouble, daub). This is something that bubbles up like sea foam, mire, clay, a heap. It is also cement, mortar and a dry measure.
III “potter” = yatsar. Related to “adversaries” in v2. Perhaps related to yatsar (to be narrow, distressed, or vexed); perhaps related to tsarar (see note N above). This is to fashion or form, perhaps by squeezing something into a shape or form. Particularly, it is to create as a potter does. Figuratively, it is to determine.
JJJ “work” = maaseh. Related to “did” in v3. From asah (see note Q above). This is a work – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.

Do not be exceedinglyKKK angry, O Lord,LLL
    and do not remember iniquity forever.MMM

Notes on verse 9a

KKK “exceedingly” = ad + meod. Ad from the same as ad (old, perpetuity, eternity. It is a duration going back or forward); from adah (to advance or continue; to take away or remove; adorning oneself with ornaments). This is up to, until, before. Meod is perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.
LLL “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “become” in v6 & “Lord” in v8. See note FFF above.
MMM “forever” = ad. Related to “exceedingly” in v9. See note KKK above.

    NowNNN consider,OOO, PPP we are all your people.QQQ

Notes on verse 9b

NNN “now” = hen. Same as {untranslated} in v5. See note HH above.
OOO “consider” = nabat. This is to behold, look at intently, consider, or scan. It can mean to have respect or regard someone favorably.
PPP {untranslated} = na. This particle is used for requests or for urging. It can be we pray, now, I ask you, oh. This is the same “na” in “hosanna.”
QQQ “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.

Image credit: “Hole in the Sky” by Dru!, 2005.

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