Isaiah 64:1-9

Isaiah 64:1-9
Advent B1


O that you would tear openA the heavensB and come down,
    so that the mountains would quakeC at your presenceD

Notes on verse 1

A “tear open” = qara. This is to tear or cut out in a literal or figurative sense. It an 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 “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.
D “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 fire kindles brushwoodE
    and the fire causes water to boilF
to make your nameG knownH to your adversaries,I
    so that the nationsJ might trembleK at your presence!

Notes on verse 2

E “brushwood” = hemes. 1x in NT. Root might mean to crackle. So this could be a dry twig or melting.
F “causes…to boil” = baah. 5x in NT. This is to inquire, search, boil, or swell out. Figuratively, it could be to sincerely desire.
G “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.
H “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.
I “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.
J “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.
K “tremble” = ragaz. This is shaking from any strong emotion, particularly anger or fear. It can be agitated, excited, perturbed, afraid, quaking, quivering.

When you didL awesome deedsM that we did not expect,N
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

Notes on verse 3

L “did” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
M “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.
N “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 pastO no one has heard,P
    no ear has perceived,Q

Notes on verse 4a

O “ages past” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
P “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.
Q “ear has perceived” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, earing, 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 eyeR has seenS any GodT besides you,
    who worksU for those who waitV for him.

Notes on verse 4b

R “eye” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
S “seen” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
T “God” = Elohim.
U “works” = asah. Same as “did” in v3. See note L above.
V “wait” = chakah. 14x in NT. Perhaps related to chaqah (to carve, cut in). This is to long for, await, or lurk in ambush.

You meetW those who gladlyX do right,Y
    those who rememberZ you in your ways.AA

Notes on verse 5a

W “meet” = paga. This is to meet or happen, whether unintentionally or of violence. It can also be plead, spare, reach, or intercede.
X “gladly” = sus. This is to rejoice or be glad. Properly, it is to be bright or cheerful.
Y “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.
Z “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
AA “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.

ButBB you were angry,CC and we sinned;DD
    because you hid yourself we transgressed.EE

Notes on verse 5b

BB {untranslated} = hen. This is a remark of surprise or excitement: lo! Behold! It can also mean if or though.
CC “were angry” = qatsaph. This is angry or provoked to wrath. It suggests a bursting into anger.
DD “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.
EE “because you hid yourself we transgressed” = olam + yasha. Perhaps literally “in these ways we ever need to be saved.” Olam is the same as “ages past” in v4. See note O above. Yasha is 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 become like one who is unclean,FF
    and all our righteous deedsGG are like a filthyHH cloth.II

Notes on verse 6a

FF “unclean” = tame. From tame (to defile, be unclean, pollute in a ritual or ethical sense). This is unclean, ill, or ritually impure.
GG “righteous deeds” = tsedaqah. Related to “right” in v5. From the same as tsedeq (see note Y above). This is righteousness, justice, righteous acts, and moral virtue.
HH “filthy” = ed. 1x in NT. Related to edah (testimony); from ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve) OR it may come from a root that refers to a specific period of time. So, it refers to the menstrual flow and, by implication something soiling or filthy.
II “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 fadeJJ like a leaf,KK
    and our iniquities,LL like the wind,MM take us away.NN

Notes on verse 6b

JJ “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.
KK “leaf” = aleh. 18x in NT. From alah (to go up, climb, to be high; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is leaf, branch, or foliage.
LL “iniquities” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
MM “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.
NN “take…away” = nasa. This 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 one who callsOO on your name,
    or attemptsPP to take hold ofQQ you;

Notes on verse 7a

OO “calls” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
PP “attempts” = ur. This is to arise, lift, exult, or stir. It is to wake in a literal or figurative sense.
QQ “take hold of” = chazaq. This is to strengthen, seize, be courageous, repair, bind, heal, conquer, harden.

for you have hiddenRR your faceSS from us,
    and have deliveredTT us into the handUU of our iniquity.VV

Notes on verse 7b

RR “hidden” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.
SS “face” = paneh. Same as “presence” in v1. See note D above.
TT “delivered” = mug. 17x in NT. This is to let, dissolve, soften, flow. It can also mean to fear, dishearten, be faint, or disappear.
UU “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.
VV Literally “have melted us by the hand of our iniquities.”

Yet, O Lord,WW you are our Father;
    we are the clay,XX and you are our potter;YY
    we are all the workZZ of your hand.

Notes on verse 8

WW “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.
XX “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.
YY “potter” = yatsar. Perhaps related to yatsar (to be narrow, distressed, or vexed); perhaps related to tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). 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.
ZZ “work” = maaseh. Related to “did” in v3. From asah (see note L above). This is a word – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.

Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
    and do not remember iniquity forever.AAA
    NowBBB consider,CCC, DDD we are all your people.EEE

Notes on verse 9

AAA “forever” = ad. From adah (to advance or continue; to take away or remove; adorning oneself with ornaments). This is old, perpetuity, eternity. It is a duration going back or forward.
BBB “now” = hen. Same as {untranslated} in v5. See note BB above.
CCC “consider” = nabat. This is to behold, look at intently, consider, or scan. It can mean to have respect or regard someone favorably.
DDD {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.”
EEE “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: “Scientists and Technicians Window” at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

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