New English Translation
The Lord Challenges the Nations
41 “Listen to me in silence, you coastlands![a]
Let the nations find renewed strength!
Let them approach and then speak;
let us come together for debate.[b]
2 Who stirs up this one from the east?[c]
Who[d] officially commissions him for service?[e]
He hands nations over to him,[f]
and enables him to subdue[g] kings.
He makes them like dust with his sword,
like windblown straw with his bow.[h]
3 He pursues them and passes by unharmed;[i]
he advances with great speed.[j]
4 Who acts and carries out decrees?[k]
Who[l] summons the successive generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, am present at the very beginning,
and at the very end—I am the one.[m]
5 The coastlands[n] see and are afraid;
the whole earth[o] trembles;
they approach and come.
6 They help one another;[p]
one says to the other, ‘Be strong!’
7 The craftsman encourages the metalsmith,
the one who wields the hammer encourages[q] the one who pounds on the anvil.
He approves the quality of the welding,[r]
and nails it down so it won’t fall over.
The Lord Encourages His People
8 “You, my servant Israel,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
offspring of Abraham my friend,[s]
9 you whom I am bringing back[t] from the earth’s extremities,
and have summoned from the remote regions—
I told you, ‘You are my servant.’
I have chosen you and not rejected you.
10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you!
Don’t be frightened, for I am your God![u]
I strengthen you—
yes, I help you—
yes, I uphold you with my victorious right hand![v]
11 Look, all who were angry at you will be ashamed and humiliated;
your adversaries[w] will be reduced to nothing[x] and perish.
12 When you will look for your opponents,[y] you will not find them;
your enemies[z] will be reduced to absolutely nothing.
13 For I am the Lord your God,
the one who takes hold of your right hand,
who says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am helping you.’
14 Don’t be afraid, despised insignificant Jacob,[aa]
men of[ab] Israel.
I am helping you,” says the Lord,
your Protector,[ac] the Holy One of Israel.[ad]
15 “Look, I am making you like[ae] a sharp threshing sledge,
new and double-edged.[af]
You will thresh the mountains and crush them;
you will make the hills like straw.[ag]
16 You will winnow them and the wind will blow them away;
the wind will scatter them.
You will rejoice in the Lord;
you will boast in the Holy One of Israel.
17 The oppressed and the poor look for water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched from thirst.
I, the Lord, will respond to their prayers;[ah]
I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.
18 I will make streams flow down the slopes
and produce springs in the middle of the valleys.
I will turn the wilderness into a pool of water
and the arid land into springs.
19 I will make cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees grow in the wilderness;
I will make evergreens, firs, and cypresses grow together in the arid rift valley.[ai]
20 I will do this so[aj] people[ak] will observe and recognize,
so they will pay attention and understand
that the Lord’s power[al] has accomplished this,
and that the Holy One of Israel has brought it into being.[am]
The Lord Challenges the Pagan Gods
21 “Present your argument,” says the Lord.
“Produce your evidence,”[an] says Jacob’s king.[ao]
22 “Let them produce evidence! Let them tell us what will happen!
Tell us about your earlier predictive oracles,[ap]
so we may examine them[aq] and see how they were fulfilled.[ar]
Or decree for us some future events!
23 Predict how future events will turn out,[as]
so we might know you are gods.
Yes, do something good or something bad,
so we might be frightened and in awe.[at]
24 Look, you are nothing, and your accomplishments are nonexistent;
the one who chooses to worship you is disgusting.[au]
25 I have stirred up one out of the north[av] and he advances,
one from the eastern horizon who prays in my name.[aw]
He steps on[ax] rulers as if they were clay,
like a potter treading the clay.
26 Who decreed this from the beginning, so we could know?
Who announced it[ay] ahead of time, so we could say, ‘He’s correct’?
Indeed, none of them decreed it.
Indeed, none of them announced it.
Indeed, no one heard you say anything!
27 I first decreed to Zion, ‘Look, here’s what will happen!’[az]
I sent a herald to Jerusalem.
28 I look, but there is no one,
among them there is no one who serves as an adviser,
that I might ask questions and receive answers.
29 Look, all of them are nothing,[ba]
their accomplishments are nonexistent;
their metal images lack any real substance.[bb]
- Isaiah 41:1 tn Or “islands” (KJV, NIV, CEV); TEV “distant lands”; NLT “lands beyond the sea.”
- Isaiah 41:1 tn The Hebrew term מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) could be translated “judgment,” but here it seems to refer to the dispute or debate between the Lord and the nations.
- Isaiah 41:2 sn The expression this one from the east refers to the Persian conqueror Cyrus, as later texts indicate (see 44:28-45:6; 46:11; 48:14-16).
- Isaiah 41:2 tn The interrogative particle is understood by ellipsis.
- Isaiah 41:2 tn Heb “[in] righteousness called him to his foot.”
- Isaiah 41:2 tn Heb “he [the Lord] places before him [Cyrus] nations.”
- Isaiah 41:2 tn The verb יַרְדְּ (yard) is an otherwise unattested Hiphil form from רָדָה (radah, “rule”). But the Hiphil makes no sense with “kings” as object; one must understand an ellipsis and supply “him” (Cyrus) as the object. The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has יוֹרִיד (yorid), which appears to be a Hiphil form from יָרַד (yarad, “go down”). Others suggest reading יָרֹד (yarod), a Qal form from רָדַד (radad, “beat down”).
- Isaiah 41:2 sn The point is that they are powerless before Cyrus’ military power and scatter before him.
- Isaiah 41:3 tn Heb “[in] peace”; KJV, ASV “safely”; NASB “in safety”; NIV “unscathed.”
- Isaiah 41:3 tn Heb “a way with his feet he does not come [or “enter”].” One could translate, “by a way he was not [previously] entering with his feet.” This would mean that he is advancing into new territory and expanding his conquests. The present translation assumes this is a hyperbolic description of his speedy advance. He moves so quickly he does not enter the way with his feet, i.e., his feet don’t even touch the ground. See C. R. North, Second Isaiah, 94.
- Isaiah 41:4 tn Heb “Who acts and accomplishes?”; NASB “Who has performed and accomplished it.”
- Isaiah 41:4 tn The interrogative particle is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).
- Isaiah 41:4 tn Heb “I, the Lord, [am with] the first, and with the last ones I [am] he.”
- Isaiah 41:5 tn Or “islands” (NIV, CEV); NCV “faraway places”; NLT “lands beyond the sea.”
- Isaiah 41:5 tn Heb “the ends of the earth,” but this is a merism, where the earth’s extremities stand for its entirety, i.e., the extremities and everything in between them.
- Isaiah 41:6 tn Heb “each his neighbor helps”; NCV “The workers help each other.”
- Isaiah 41:7 tn The verb “encourages” is understood by ellipsis (note the preceding line).
- Isaiah 41:7 tn Heb “saying of the welding, ‘It is good.’”
- Isaiah 41:8 tn Or perhaps, “covenantal partner” (see 1 Kgs 5:15 HT [5:1 ET]; 2 Chr 20:7).
- Isaiah 41:9 tn Heb “whom I have taken hold of [i.e., to lead back].”
- Isaiah 41:10 tn According to BDB (1043 s.v. שָׁעָה), the verb תִּשְׁתָּע (tishtaʿ) in the second line of the poetic couplet is a Hitpael form from the root שָׁעָה (shaʿah, “gaze,” with metathesis of the stem prefix and the first root letter). Taking the Hitpael as iterative, one may then translate “do not anxiously look about.” However, the alleged Hitpael form of שָׁעָה (shaʿah) only occurs here and in verse 23. HALOT 1671 s.v. שׁתע proposes that the verb is instead a Qal form from the root שׁתע (“fear”). Its attestation in cognate Semitic languages, including Ugaritic (discovered after the publishing of BDB), suggests the existence of this root. The poetic structure of v. 10 also supports the proposal, for the form in question is in synonymous parallelism to יָרֵא (yareʾ, “fear”).
- Isaiah 41:10 tn The “right hand” is a symbol of the Lord’s power to deliver (Exod 15:6, 12) and protect (Ps 63:9 HT [63:8 ET]). Here צֶדֶק (tsedeq) has its well-attested nuance of “vindicated righteousness,” i.e., “victory, deliverance” (see 45:8; 51:5, and BDB 841-42 s.v.).
- Isaiah 41:11 tn Heb “the men of your strife”; NASB “those who contend with you.”
- Isaiah 41:11 tn Heb “like nothing”; NAB “come to nought.”
- Isaiah 41:12 tn Heb “the men of your struggle”; NASB “those who quarrel with you.”
- Isaiah 41:12 tn Heb “the men of your battle”; NAB “who do battle with you.”
- Isaiah 41:14 tn Heb “O worm Jacob” (NAB, NIV). The worm metaphor suggests that Jacob is insignificant and despised.
- Isaiah 41:14 tn On the basis of the parallelism (note “worm”) and an alleged Akkadian cognate, some read “louse” or “weevil.” Cf. NAB “O maggot Israel”; NRSV “you insect Israel.”
- Isaiah 41:14 tn Heb “your kinsman redeemer.” A גֹּאֵל (goʾel, “kinsman redeemer”) was a protector of the extended family’s interests.
- Isaiah 41:14 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.
- Isaiah 41:15 tn Heb “into” (so NIV); ASV “have made thee to be.”
- Isaiah 41:15 tn Heb “owner of two-mouths,” i.e., double-edged.
- Isaiah 41:15 sn The mountains and hills symbolize hostile nations that are obstacles to Israel’s restoration.
- Isaiah 41:17 tn Heb “will answer them” (so ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT).
- Isaiah 41:19 sn The rift valley (עֲרָבָה, ʿaravah) is known for its arid, desert-like conditions in the area of the Dead Sea and southward (although it also includes the Jordan Valley, extending from Galilee to the Gulf of Aqaba). The point here is the contrast from its normal arid conditions to being productive with trees, which implies being watered. Similarly, the wilderness (מִדְבָּר, midbar) in the first line is an area that receives less than twelve inches of rainfall annually and so cannot support trees.
- Isaiah 41:20 tn The words “I will do this” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The Hebrew text has here simply, “in order that.”
- Isaiah 41:20 tn Heb “they”; NAB, NRSV “that all may see”; CEV, NLT “Everyone will see.”
- Isaiah 41:20 tn Heb “hand” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
- Isaiah 41:20 tn Or “created it” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); TEV “has made it happen.”
- Isaiah 41:21 tn Heb “strong [words],” see HALOT 870 s.v. *עֲצֻמוֹת.
- Isaiah 41:21 sn Apparently this challenge is addressed to the pagan idol gods, see vv. 23-24.
- Isaiah 41:22 tn Heb “As for the former things, tell us what they are!”
- Isaiah 41:22 tn Heb “so we might set [them to] our heart.”
- Isaiah 41:22 tn Heb “and might know their outcome.”
- Isaiah 41:23 tn Heb “Declare the coming things, with respect to the end.”
- Isaiah 41:23 tc The translation assumes the Qere (וְנִרְאֶה [venirʾeh], from יָרֵא [yareʾ], “be afraid”).tn Heb “so we might be frightened and afraid together.” On the meaning of the verb שָׁתָע (shataʿ), see the note at v. 10.
- Isaiah 41:24 tn Heb “an object of disgust [is he who] chooses you.”
- Isaiah 41:25 sn That is, Cyrus the Persian. See the note at v. 2.
- Isaiah 41:25 tn Heb “[one] from the rising of the sun [who] calls in my name.”
- Isaiah 41:25 tn The Hebrew text has וְיָבֹא (veyavoʾ, “and he comes”), but this likely needs to be emended to an original וַיָּבָס (vayyavas), from בּוּס (bus, “step on”).
- Isaiah 41:26 tn The words “who announced it” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The interrogative particle and verb are understood by ellipsis (see the preceding line).
- Isaiah 41:27 tn The Hebrew text reads simply, “First to Zion, ‘Look here they are!’” The words “I decreed” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Isaiah 41:29 tc The Hebrew text has אָוֶן (ʾaven, “deception,” i.e., “false”), but the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has אין (“nothing”), which forms a better parallel with אֶפֶס (ʾefes, “nothing”) in the next line. See also 40:17 and 41:12.
- Isaiah 41:29 tn Heb “their statues are wind and nothing”; NASB “wind and emptiness”; NIV “wind and confusion.”