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ISAIAH 4

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
A Remnant Prepared The Renewal of Zion Jerusalem's Restoration Jerusalem Will Be Restored Yahweh's Seedling
4:1
4:2-6 4:2 4:2-6 4:2-6 4:2-6
(2) (2-6)
4:3-6

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ISAIAH 4:1
  1For seven women will take hold of one man in that day, saying, "We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach!"

4:1-4 The JPSOA translation divides the text into two poetic sections and one prose.

  1. Isa. 4:1b-3
  2. Isa. 4:4
  3. Isa. 4:5-6 as prose

Most other versions take Isa. 4:1 with Isa. 3:16-4:1. They also do not structure these verses as poetry. The NKJV has Isa. 4:2 and NJB has Isa. 4:2-6 as one long poetic context (JB had poetic division at Isa. 4:2-3 and 4-6), but most of the others as prose. This should show us how difficult it is to know when a text is elevated prose or poetry and also where the natural/subject breaks occur. Be careful of modern chapter and verse divisions! They are not an inspired guide!

4:1 This verse seems to link with Isa. 3:6 (different verbs, Isa. 3:6, BDB 1074 and Isa. 4:1, BDB 304, but both mean "to grasp firmly"). It may surely link to the Messianic age (i.e., Isa. 4:2, "Branch", see Special Topic: Jesus the Nazarene). Hebrew poetry is difficult to "lock down." It is often a play on words and similar actions.

▣ "seven women" Seven is the number for perfection in Jewish thought relating to Genesis 1. Therefore, this , like Isa. 3:25-26, refers to all inhabitants of Jerusalem/Judah.

Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture, #4.

▣ "take hold" This verb (BDB 304, KB 302, Hiphil perfect) denotes someone taking a firm grip on another person or some object (i.e., Deut. 22:25; 25:11; 1 Sam. 15:27; 2 Sam. 1:11; 1 Kgs. 1:50; 2 Kgs. 2:12; 4:27; Pro. 7:13; 26:17; Zech. 8:23).

▣ "let us be called by your name" The name was a symbol of the person and his characteristics. The purpose of this action is revealed in the next phrase, "take away our reproach" (BDB 62, KB 74, Qal imperfect). Who can do this?

  1. the righteous of Isa. 3:10
  2. the Messianic "Branch" of Isa. 4:2-6

Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH (OT)

▣ "take away our reproach" This noun (BDB 357) may refer to

  1. a symbol of their sin and rebellion against YHWH
  2. their widowhood with no children because all the men were killed in battle (NASB Study Bible, p. 965, NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 75)

Isaiah 54:4 fits both options because "widowhood" could refer to being divorced (i.e., legal metaphor) by YHWH.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ISAIAH 4:2-6
  2In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. 3It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy-everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. 4When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, 5then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. 6There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.

4:2 "In that day" This refers to a future time when YHWH comes (for blessing or judgment) to His people (cf. Isa. 2:2,11,12,20; 3:7,18; 4:1,2). This is a recurrent theme in Isaiah. It is hard to be certain if this referred in Isaiah's mind to

  1. restoration from exile by Zerubabbel and Joshua in the Persian period (i.e., Ezra and Nehemiah)
  2. restoration by the Maccabees in the Seleucid period
  3. Jesus' first coming (inauguration of the New Age)
  4. Jesus' second coming (consummation of the New Age)

Notice how the Prophet swings from radical, complete judgment to radical complete forgiveness and restoration! This is typical in the prophetic literature. One could not be presented without the other! The purpose of judgment is always restoration.

Special Topic: Day (yom)

Special Topic: That Day

▣ "the Branch of the Lord" To describe this title (BDB 855, Targums interpreted it as the Messiah) let me quote from my commentary on Daniel and Zechariah where the term is also used (but just a note of caution, we must be careful about assigning a technical meaning everywhere a word or phrase is used-context, context, context is crucial). This term may have developed over time from a reference to ideal abundance to God's special Servant who will restore that abundance (i.e., a shoot, a branch).

Let me share notes from my commentary on Zechariah.

Zech. 3:8 "the Branch" This may be "sprout" (BDB 855). This is another Messianic title (cf. Isa. 6:12; Isa. 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15). See full discussion and Special Topic: Jsus the Nazarene.

 This title is used of Zerubbabel in Isa. 6:12 as a symbol of the royal Davidic line. It is surprising that it is used in this context, which emphasizes the priestly aspect of the Messiah. The twin aspects of redeemer (priestly, cf. Isaiah 53) and administrative leader (kingly, cf. Isa. 9:6-7) are merged in the book of Zechariah (cf. chapter 4).

Zech. 6:12 "Branch" This word (BDB 855) means "sprout" (cf. Isa. 3:8; 6:12; Isa. 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15). This is a title for the Messiah. In Zechariah it refers to Zerubbabel as a type of the Messiah (cf. Ibn Ezra and Rashi). The name, Zerubbabel, in Akkadian, means "shoot of Babylon." This was possibly a play on his name since he rebuilt the temple in 516 b.c., but it is really an ultimate reference to Jesus. This title and the matching verb ("will branch out," Qal imperfect) appear together in this verse.

A description of YHWH's "Branch" (NKJV, NRSV, JB)

  1. beautiful, BDB 840, cf. Jer. 3:19 (often used of Promised Land in Dan. 8:9; 11:16,41)
  2. glorious, BDB 458 means "abundance," "honor," and "glory" ("glory," BDB 802, also in this verse)

These two terms are often used together (cf. Isa. 13:19; 28:1,4,5).

Some versions take this verse as a reference to plant growth in the period of restoration (LXX, Peshitta, TEV, NJB, REB, NET Bible). In a sense the Messiah and the age of restoration are lexically linked (first part of Isa. 4:2; second part fruitful Promised Land).

▣ "the survivors of Israel" Isaiah addresses them and describes them often (cf. Isa. 10:20; 37:31,32; see Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses), but which group did he address? See opening comment on Isa. 4:2.

The Spirit is the true author of Scripture. In prophecy and apocalyptic passages often the human author did not fully realize the full extent of his own messages. I do think this means that these passages had multiple meanings (i.e., Sensus Plenior), but that progressive revelation clarified the intended meaning. Often the concept of multiple fulfillment is what links the full intent of the Spirit's message (i.e., Isa. 7:14). However, proper hermeneutics must begin with "authorial intent" as the place to begin and evaluate an interpretation of any biblical text and any genre.

4:3 This verse is probably what caused the Jews of Jeremiah's day who were not exiled to view themselves as YHWH's favored people, but Ezekiel shows this was not the case. YHWH would primarily deal with the returnees (cf. Ezra and Nehemiah).

▣ "everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem" There are two interpretive issues.

  1. Is this referring to life in Jerusalem the capital of Judah or "new Jerusalem," the symbol of the new age (cf. Revelation 21)? Is it historical or eschatological?
  2. The book of life

SPECIAL TOPIC: The Two Books of God

4:4 This verse has two metaphors for spiritual cleansing.

  1. washing
    1. wash away, BDB 934, KB 122, Qal perfect
    2. purged (lit. "rinsed away"), BDB 188, KB 216, Hiphil imperfect (had sacrificial connotation, cf. 2 Chr. 4:6; Ezek. 40:38)
  2. fire
    1. by a spirit of judgment, cf. Isa. 28:6
    2. by a spirit of burning, cf. Isa. 1:31; 9:19

It is quite possible that "spirit" (ruah) should be understood as a violent, destructive wind of YHWH's judgment. Judah will be judged and cleansed of her willful rebellion.

Special Topic: Baptism

Special Topic: Fire

▣ "filth" This is a strong term (BDB 844) which is used of sin.

  1. Isaiah 28:8 of human vomit
  2. Isaiah 36:12 of human feces (cf. Deut. 23:14; Ezek. 4:12)

▣ "the daughters of Zion" This is the metaphor used of Jerusalem in Isa. 3:16-26. It is parallel with "Jerusalem."

▣ "bloodshed" This (BDB 196) is metaphorical for the premeditated taking of life. Here it probably refers to the exploitation of the poor and socially ostracized (i.e., "from her midst").

4:5 This is a historical allusion to YHWH's personal presence and care during the Exodus and Wilderness Wandering Periods. It refers to the Shekinah cloud of glory (i.e., Exod. 13:21,22; 40:38; Num. 9:15-23; Ps. 78:14; 99:7; 105:39). He (or His angel) would personally lead His people again and provide for all their needs in abundance.

▣ "the Lord will create" This verb (BDB 135, KB 153, Qal perfect) is used only of God's creating (cf. Gen. 1:1).

▣ "canopy" The term (BDB 342 I) can refer to

  1. a protective covering like the Shekinah cloud (over the whole of the people, like the Exodus and Wilderness Wanderings)
  2. a covering for a wedding (cf. Ps. 19:5; Joel 2:16)

Some link this wedding metaphor to the desperate women of Isa. 4:1, while other commentators link it to the Tabernacle and a future restored Temple in Jerusalem, which would denote the union of YHWH/ Messiah and His people in a marriage metaphor (cf. Isa. 5:1; Hosea 1-3; Eph. 5:21-33).

4:6 There are several metaphors combined to show YHWH's protection (from heat and storm)

  1. shelter, BDB 697, cf. Isa. 1:8; Ps. 27:5; 31:20; same concept in Isa. 32:2
  2. refuge, BDB 340
    1. noun, Isa. 25:4
    2. verb, Isa. 14:23; 57:13
    3. in Psalms, 14:6; 46:1; 61:4; 62:7,8; 71:7; 73:28; 91:2,9; 94:22; 142:5
  3. from other texts in Isaiah, a "defense," BDB 731, cf. Isa. 17:10; 27:5

Often these metaphors refer to YHWH as

  1. a protective mother bird (i.e., under the shelter of its wings, see Special Topic: Shadow As a Metaphor for Protection and Care)
  2. a high fortress or stronghold (cf. Ps. 18:1)

Believers can trust the protection and tender care of their covenant God! He is with us and for us, if we only repent, believe, obey, serve, and persevere. The covenant has promises (benefits) and responsibilities (obligations). Both have consequences!

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