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20 But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured[a] by the sword.”
Know for certain that the Lord has spoken.[b]

Purifying Judgment

21 How tragic that the once-faithful city
has become a prostitute![c]
She was once a center of[d] justice;
fairness resided in her—
but now only murderers![e]
22 Your[f] silver has become scum,[g]
your beer is diluted with water.[h]

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Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 1:20 sn The wordplay in the Hebrew draws attention to the options. The people can obey, in which case they will “eat” v. 19 (תֹּאכֵלוּ [toʾkhelu], Qal active participle of אָכַל) God’s blessing, or they can disobey, in which case they will be devoured (Heb “eaten,” תְּאֻכְּלוּ, [teʾukkelu], Qal passive/Pual of אָכַל) by God’s judgment.
  2. Isaiah 1:20 tn Heb “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The introductory כִּי (ki) may be asseverative (as reflected in the translation) or causal/explanatory, explaining why the option chosen by the people will become reality (it is guaranteed by the divine word).
  3. Isaiah 1:21 tn Heb “How she has become a prostitute, the faithful city!” The exclamatory אֵיכָה (ʾekhah, “how!”) is used several times as the beginning of a lament (see Lam 1:1; 2:1; 4:1-2). Unlike a number of other OT passages that link references to Israel’s harlotry to idolatry, Isaiah here makes the connection with social and moral violations.
  4. Isaiah 1:21 tn Heb “filled with.”
  5. Isaiah 1:21 tn Or “assassins.” This refers to the oppressive rich and/or their henchmen. R. Ortlund (Whoredom, 78) posits that it serves as a synecdoche for all varieties of criminals, the worst being mentioned to imply all lesser ones. Since Isaiah often addressed his strongest rebuke to the rulers and leaders of Israel, he may have in mind the officials who bore the responsibility to uphold justice and righteousness.
  6. Isaiah 1:22 tn The pronoun is feminine singular; personified Jerusalem (see v. 21) is addressed.
  7. Isaiah 1:22 tn Or “dross.” The word refers to the scum or impurites floating on the top of melted metal.
  8. Isaiah 1:22 sn The metaphors of silver becoming impure and beer being watered down picture the moral and ethical degeneration that had occurred in Jerusalem.

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