Leeser's Jewish Bible (1853)


Leeser’s Jewish Bible (1853)

The Twenty-four Books of the Holy Scriptures: Carefully Translated According to the Massoretic Text, On the Basis of the English Version, After the Best Jewish Authorities; and supplied with short explanatory notes. By Isaac Leeser. Philadelphia, 1853.

Isaac LeeserIsaac Leeser (1806-1868) was a leading figure among American Jews during the 1840’s and 50’s. He was born in Germany, and came to America at the age of seventeen. He was a devout Jew, and became the cantor of his congregation, and shortly thereafter the regular preacher. He was the first to preach sermons in English from the lecturn. He devoted himself to educational projects, became prominent as a writer and publisher of Jewish books, and, perhaps most important of all, founded and edited a monthly Jewish magazine, called The Occident and American Jewish Advocate. His Twenty-four Books of the Holy Scriptures (published by himself in 1853) was a revision of the King James Version, in which he aimed to substitute Jewish for Christian interpretations, and generally to improve the accuracy of the version. The scholarly sources he relied upon in this work are named in the Preface, which we reproduce in full below.

The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Leeser emphasizes his importance in the history of nineteenth-century American Judaism:

When Leeser commenced his public career the scattered Jewish individuals and the members of congregations in the United States did not number more than from 12,000 to 15,000. His purpose to mold these into a community was to be achieved in part by the pulpit and in part by the press.

Besides engaging in the activities sketched above, Leeser participated in all Jewish movements. He was the earnest promoter of all the national enterprises—the first congregational union, the first Hebrew day-schools, the first Hebrew college, the first Jewish publication society—and of numberless local undertakings. The “Occident” acquired a national and even an international reputation; the Maimonides’ College, of which he was president, paved the way for future Jewish colleges in the United States; and his translation of the Bible became an authorized version for the Jews of America.

In the religious controversies of his time Leeser took an active part on the Conservative side, and lived and died in the unshakable belief that the existence of opposing parties was but transient and short-lived.

Harry Orlinski makes the following remarks on Leeser’s work in his book Notes on the New Translation of the Torah (1969), p. 14.

Rabbi Isaac Leeser (1806-1868) of Philadelphia was responsible for the first Jewish translation of the Bible made for American Jewry. Leeser’s considerable learning in matters biblical and rabbinic derived in major measure from the fine research then flowering in Germany, and his translation of the Bible became in a short time the standard Bible for English-speaking Jews in America. First there appeared, in 1845 in Philadelphia, his version of the Pentateuch, Torat ha-Elohim (“The Torah of God”), in Hebrew and English (five volumes). This was followed eight years later by The Twenty-Four Books of the Holy Scriptures ... Carefully Translated According to the Masoretic Text on the Basis of the English Version, the Hebrew text facing the English translation. Leeser’s Bible, as it came to be known, had considerable merit, and it is useful even to this day. Its main fault lay in the style; too much of the Teutonic protruded in the translation. On the other hand, the grammatical niceties of biblical Hebrew frequently came through successfully, and the scholarship in general was on a consistently adequate level. Leeser’s Bible would have retained much more of its deserved popularity well into the twentieth century—for it is generally superior even to such early twentieth-century authorized translations as the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV)—had it not been for the appearance in 1917 of the translation sponsored by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Orlinksy’s statement that Leeser’s revision of the KJV is “generally superior even to such early twentieth-century authorized translations as the American Standard Version of 1901” is extravagant, but the version does deserve respect. Because Leeser adheres to the same Masoretic text that was used by the King James translators, the changes he introduces are relatively minor ones. Many of them represent nothing more than an attempt to conform the English styntax to the Hebrew word order, without any change in the meaning. The more substantial changes represent opinions about the meanings of words and phrases that were commonplace among Old Testament scholars during the nineteenth century — especially when these agree with Rashi and other Jewish expositors. The marginal notes mention only the Jewish commentators, but because they are brief and deal almost exclusively with philological questions, there is not much that can be called flagrantly Jewish in them. The revision is “Jewish” in that it eliminates a few renderings that Jews have associated with Christianity (such as “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14), and also by virtue of its religious adherence to the traditional Hebrew text. No Christian or secular scholar would so completely ignore the Septuagint and Vulgate versions as evidence for the correct text and interpretation, or cite the later Jewish Targums as often as Leeser does. As a sample of his work, we reproduce the first three chapters of his revision of Isaiah below.

Leeser’s translation is for the most part highly literal, but it does reflect traditional Jewish interpretations in some places where the rendering is not strictly literal. In Exodus 21: 6 we find the word לעלם (lit. “forever”) translated “till the jubilee.”

Then shall his master bring him unto the judges, and he shall bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him till the jubilee. *

* Lit. “for ever;” but servitude is hereafter (Levit. xxv. 10) limited to the jubilee, which is accordingly the eternity of bondage, beyond which it could not exist.

In the context of the abolitionist movement of the time, this was perhaps to emphasize the fact that the Law of Moses required periodic manumission of Israelite slaves. But the text before us is obviously not designed to make that point.

Another notable example of interpretive translation is in Ezekiel 20:25-6, which in the Hebrew reads as follows.

וגם־אני נתתי להם חקים לא טובים ומשפטים לא יחיו בהם׃ ואטמא אותם במתנותם בהעביר כל־פטר רחם למען אשמם למען אשר ידעו אשר אני יהוה

A literal translation of these words is, “Moreover also I gave them statutes that were not good, and ordinances wherein they should not live; and I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am Jehovah.” (ASV.) Needless to say, he is not referring to the Law given through Moses here, but to the vicious laws and customs of the heathen, which he “gave” to Israel only in the sense that he ordained them as an instrument of degrading punishment, for those Israelites who rejected his own Law. 1 There is a good deal of irony here. But it seems Leeser was worried about a possible misunderstanding, because he paraphrases: “I let them follow statutes” and “I let them be defiled.”

And I also let them follow* statutes that were not good, and ordinances whereby they could not live; And I let them be defiled though their gifts, in that they caused to pass (through the fire) all that openeth the womb, in order that I might destroy them, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord.

* Rashi, after Jonathan; meaning, as they had wilfully rebelled, God permitted them to follow their evil inclinations, till the measure of their sin was completed, and their destruction followed, as told in our history. Zunz and Philippson take it in the light, that to the sinners the law is a means of punishment, as its transgression brings painful consequences; wherefore the translation of Dr. P. is follows:—“And I also gave them laws which were injurious (to them), and ordinances through which they did not live; and I made them unclean through their gifts, when they set apart all that opened the womb,” etc., taking בהעביר “as setting aside,” not “as causing to pass (through the fire),” as given by Rashi. But both constructions, though apparently so different, have at last the same bearing, since to the pious the law of God brings happiness and life, not evil and death.

Leeser aimed to help the reader understand the verse correctly with this paraphrastic translation and its subjoined note, but the note seems to indicate that he did not understand it correctly himself.

The most serious errors from our point of view are those which represent anti-Christian tendencies. An example is in the ninth chapter of Isaiah:

1 The people that walketh in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death—a light shineth brightly over them. 2 Thou hast multiplied the nation, made great their joy; they rejoice before thee as with the joy in harvest, as men are glad when they divide the spoil. 3 For the yoke of their burden, and the staff on their shoulder, the rod of their oppressor, hast thou broken, as on the day of Midian. 4 For all the weapons of the fighter in the battle's tumult, and the garment rolled in blood, shall be burnt, become food for fire. 5 For a child is born unto us, a son hath been given unto us, and the government is placed on his shoulders; and his name is called, Wonderful, counsellor of the mighty God, of the everlasting Father, the prince of peace. * 6 For (promoting) the increase of the government, and for peace without end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to establish it and to support it through justice and righteousness, from henceforth and unto eternity; the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

* Heinemann; Rashi renders, "and the Wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, the everlasting Father, hath called his name The prince of peace." Aben Ezra, however, after whom Philippson, applies all the words as epithets of the prince, (Hezekiah,) and translates, "and people call him, Wonder, counsellor, mighty one of God, perpetual father, prince of peace." The only difficulty in the verse is the word אל which may as well be rendered with Aben Ezra "powerful," as God, as this word is found in the same sense in Exod. xv. 11, 15. Only the importance attached to this verse by controversialists has induced us to speak so much of it, as it evidently alludes to a child born already, נתן "hath been," not ינתן "shall be given."

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1. See Calvin’s commentary on Ezekiel, ad loc.


Bibliography and Internet Resources




PREFACE

IN presenting this work to the public, the translator would merely remark, that it is not a new notion by which he was seized of late years which impelled him to the task, but a desire entertained for more than a quarter of a century, since the day he quitted school in his native land to come to this country, to present to his fellow-Israelites an English version, made by one of themselves, of the Holy Word of God. From early infancy he was made conscious how much persons differing from us in religious ideas make use of Scripture to assail Israel’s hope and faith, by what he deems, in accordance with the well-settled opinions of sound critics, both Israelites and others, a perverted and hence erroneous rendering of the words of the original Bible. Therefore he always entertained the hope to be one day permitted to do for his fellow Hebrews who use the English as their vernacular, what had been done for the Germans by some of the most eminent minds whom the Almighty has endowed with the power of reanimating in us the almost expiring desire for critical inquiry into the sacred text. So much had been done by these, that the translator’s labours were rendered comparatively easy; since he had before him the best results of studies of modern German Israelites, carried on for the space of eighty years, commencing with Moses Mendelssohn, Herz Wesel, or, as he was called, Hartog Wessely, and Solomon of Dubno, down to Dr. L. Zunz,* of Berlin, whose work appeared in 1839, Dr. Solomon Herxheimer, Rabbi of Anhalt-Bernburg, whose work was completed five years ago, and of Dr. Lewis Philippson,† Rabbi of Magdeburg in Prussian Saxony, whose work is not yet quite completed‡ while writing this. In addition to these entire Bible translations, the translator has had access to partial versions of separate books, by Ottensosser, Heinemann, Obernik, Hochstatter, Wolfson, Lowenthal, and some anonymous writers, referred to occasionally in the notes appended to this work; besides which he has had the advantage of the copious notes of Dr. Philippson’s and Dr. Herxheimer’s Bibles, in which these learned men have collected the views of the investigators, both Israelites and others, in the path of biblical criticism. The ancient versions, also, of Onkelos, Jonathan, and the Jerusalem Targumist have been carefully consulted; and wherever accessible, the comments of the great expounders Rashi, (Rabbi Shelemoh Yizchaki,) Redak, (Rabbi David Kimchi,) Aben Ezra (Rabbi Abraham ben Meir ben Ezra,) Rashbam, (Rabbi Shelemoh ben Meir, the grandson of Rashi,) Ralbag, (Rabbi Levi ben Gershom,) and Rabbenu Sa’adyah (Saadias) Gaon, as also the Michlol Yophi, and the modern Biurim, have been sedulously compared, so as to insure the utmost accuracy of which the translator is capable. His library is not very extensive; but he trusts that the foregoing catalogue of auxiliary works will prove that he has had at hand as good materials as can be obtained anywhere to do justice to his undertaking. It must be left to those acquainted with the subject, to decide whether he has taken due advantage of the materials in his hand; but he trusts that the judgment will be in his favour, at least so far, that he has been honest and faithful.

The translator is an Israelite in faith, in the full sense of the word: he believes in the Scriptures as they have been handed down to us; in the truth and authenticity of prophecies and their ultimate literal fulfillment. He has always studied the Scriptures to find a confirmation for his faith and hope; nevertheless, he asserts fearlessly, that in his going through this work, he has thrown aside all bias, discarded every preconceived opinion, and translated the text before him without regard to the result thence arising for his creed. But no perversion or forced rendering of any text was needed to bear out his opinions or those of Israelites in general; and he for one would place but little confidence in them, if he were compelled to change the evident meaning of the Bible to find a support for them. He trusts, therefore, that to those who agree with him in their religious persuasion, he has rendered an acceptable service; as they will now have an opportunity to study a version of the Bible which has not been made by the authority of churches in which they can have no confidence; and that to those also who are of a different persuasion, his labours will not be unacceptable, as exhibiting, so far as he could do it, the progress of biblical criticism among ancient and modern Israelites — a task utterly beyond the power of any but a Jew by birth and conviction.

As regards the style, it has been endeavoured to adhere closely to that of the ordinary English version, which for simplicity cannot be surpassed; though, upon a critical examination, it will readily be perceived that the various translators differed materially in their method, and frequently rendered the same word in different ways. In the present version, great care has been taken to avoid this fault; but the translator does not mean to assert that he has succeeded to as great an extant as he could have desired. He will not enumerate what he has done; but let any one who is desirous to investigate this point compare the two translations, and he will readily convince himself that this may be called a new version, especially of the Prophets, Psalms, and Job; and he confidently hopes that the meaning has been rendered more clear by the version itself, and, where this was not altogether practicable, by the notes appended at the foot of the page.

He found great difficulty about coming to a satisfactory resolution with regard to the spelling of the proper nouns. Any one the least acquainted with the manner they are presented in the common versions and the languages of Western Europe, must know that they are very much corrupted; but they have in this shape become so much interwoven with the language of history and of daily conversation, that it would have produced endless confusion to spell them after the original manner. Hence the ordinary method had to be retained for words in constant use; but where this was not the case, a spelling more in accordance with the original has been resorted to. The j should always be pronounced as y, to accord with the Hebrew; and ia as ya. A should be sounded as long ah; e as long a; i as long ee; and u as oo. Ch stands for the Hebrew ח; where ע occurs in the Hebrew, an apostrophe ’ has been used for the most part; but there are no English letters to represent these sounds exactly. For instance, “Zechariah,” pronounce Zecharyah; “Jehu,” as Yay-hoo, &c.

The translator will not ask that his errors and misconceptions shall be excused; but he trusts that any fault which may be discovered will be kindly pointed out to him, so that he may be able to make use of all such remarks to correct his work in a future edition; and he for his own part will not be satisfied with what he has done, but endeavour to improve by future experience.

Whenever words have been supplied which are not in the text, but requisite to make the sense clear, they have been placed in parentheses; for instance, 1 Chron. iii.9, “(These were) all the sons of David,” where there is no equivalent in Hebrew for “these were,” though no sense could be made of the phrase without supplying these two words. The parenthesis is also used occasionally, but very seldom, to denote a construction, where an actual parenthesis of a whole sentence, or of one or more verses, occurs.

The whole work has been undertaken at the sole responsibility, both mercantile and literary, of the translator. No individual has been questioned respecting the meaning of a single sentence; and not an English book has been consulted, except Bagster’s Bible, a few notes of which have been incorporated with this. The peculiarity of the style will readily indicate them. The author’s name would have been appended, had it been known to the translator.

Although about the sixth part of the contents of this volume are notes, still he did not mean to write a commentary on the Bible, nor must the notes be regarded as any thing else than a mere slight aid for the explanation of grammatical and other difficulties. For this they are probably ample enough; otherwise they must appear very defective in quantity and manner.

With these few remarks the translator surrenders a labour in which he has been engaged, occasionally, for more than fifteen yeas, to the kindness of the public, trusting that, by the blessing of the Father of all, it may be made instrumental in diffusing a taste for Scripture reading among the community of Israelites, and be the means of better appreciation of the great treasures of revelation to many who never have had the opportunity of knowing what the Hebrews have done for mankind, not alone in preserving the sacred books, but by labouring to make them intelligible to the world at large.

Philadelphia,
Elul 17th, 5613.
Sept. 20th, 1853

* Dr. Zunz, whose work is often quoted in these notes, only translated the two books of Chronicles; but he was aided by Rabbai Chayim Arngeim, of Glogau, with Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, the Books of Kings, Ezekiel, Hosea, Obadiah, Jonah, Micha, Nahum, Zechariah, Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Nehemiah; by Michael Sachs, then of Prague, but now of Berlin, with Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, the Books of Samuel, Isaiah, Joel, Amos, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and Lamentations, (Jeremiah was translated by both conjointly;) and by Dr. Julius Fürst, of Leipzig, with Daniel and Ezra. Occasionally in the notes, “Zunz” is named; at other times, the special translators.

† The merit of the later translators consists therein that they have adhered to the letter of the text, and not rendered it freely, to avoid difficulties and to improve the style, as was done by Mendelssohn and his immediate followers. A close, literal rendering will be found to characterize this version also.

‡ Only to 1 Chronicles vi. 16.



Isaiah 1–3

KJV Notes KJV Leeser Leeser’s Notes
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of ‘Uzziyahu, Jotham, Achaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 2 Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken: Children have I nourished and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
* Heb. of heaviness
† Heb. alienated, or separated.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people *laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are †gone away backward. 4 Woe! sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupt: they have forsaken the Lord, they have incensed* the Holy One of Israel, they are departed backward. * Sachs, “rejected.” Philippson, “despised.”
* Heb. increase revolt. 5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will *revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 5 Why* will ye be stricken yet more? (that) ye increase the revolt? every head is sick, and every heart is faint. * Others, “where,” as all the body is already sore.
* Or, oil. 6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with *ointment. 6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed,* nor bound up, nor mollified with oil. * Rashi, “They have not been sprinkled with powder.” Others, “sqeezed out.”
* Heb. as the overthrow of strangers. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, *as overthrown by strangers. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire; your soil—in your presence, strangers devour it, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 8 And left is the daughter of Zion as a hut in a vineyard, as a lodge in a cucumber field, as a besieged* city. * Philippson, “as a city just released from siege.”
9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. 9 Unless the Lord of hosts had left unto us a remnant ever so small, like Sodom* should we have been, unto Gomorrah should we have been compared. * Correctly, Sedom, ’Amorah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom: give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
* Heb. great he goats. 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of *he goats. 11 For what serveth me the multitude of your sacrifices? saith the Lord: I am sated with the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fatted beasts; and the blood of bullocks, and of sheep, and of he-goats, I do not desire.
* Heb. to be seen. 12 When ye come to *appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 12 When ye come to appear in my presence—who hath required this at your hand, to tread down my courts?
* Or, grief. 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is *iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 13 Continue no more to bring an oblation of deceit; incense* of abomination is it unto me: new moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot bear misdeed with festive gathering. * Rashi. Others, “incense is an abomination.”
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are become a burden unto me; I am weary to bear them,
* Heb. multiply prayer.
† Heb. bloods.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye *make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of †blood. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will withdraw my eyes from you; yea, when ye make ever so many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 16 Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil;
* Or, righten. 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, *relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 17 Learn to do well; seek for justice, relieve the oppressed, do justice to the fatherless, plead for the widow.* * Only righteousness can appear before God.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins should be as scarlet, they shall become white as the snow; though they should be red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 19 If ye be willing and obey, the best of the land shall ye eat;
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, by the sword shall ye be devoured; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
21 How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 21 How is she become a harlot, the faithful town! she, that was full of justice; righteousness lodged therein; but now murderers.
22 Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: 22 Thy silver is become dross, thy wine is drugged with water;
23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. 23 Thy princes are rebels, and companions of thieves; every one loveth brides, and runneth after rewards; to the fatherless they will not do justice, and the cause of the widow doth not come unto them.
24 Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: 24 Therefore saith the Lord, the Eternal of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will take satisfaction on my adversaries, and be avenged on my enemies.
* Heb. according to pureness. 25 And I will turn my hand upon thee, and *purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 25 And I will turn my hand against thee, and purge away as with lye* thy dross, and remove all thy tin:† * The flux put into metal to remove the impurities.
† Others, “lead.”
26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. 26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning; after that shalt thou be called, The city of righteousness, the town that is faithful.
* Or, they that return of her. 27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and *her converts with righteousness. 27 Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and her converts through righteousness.
* Heb. breaking. 28 And the *destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. 28 But destruction shall come over transgressors and sinners together, and those that forsake the Lord shall perish.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. 29 For people shall be ashamed because of the terebinths* which ye had desired, and ye shall be put to the blush because of the gardens that ye had chosen. * Terebinths, or other spreading trees, were used to place images under their shade; and so in the gardens the domestic idols were set up. (See also chap. lxvi. 17.)
30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. 30 For ye shall be as a terebinth the leaves of which wither, and as a garden that hath no water.
* Or, and his work. 31 And the strong shall be as tow, *and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them. 31 And the mighty oppressor* shall become as tow, and his workman as a spark; and they shall both burn together, with none to quench. * Rashi. Jonathan, “And the strength of the wicked shall become as tow, and the work of their hand as a spark.” Heinemann comments, “the idol—and its worshipper.”
Chapter 2
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz foresaw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
* Or, prepared. 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be *established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and unto it shall flow all the nations.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us of his ways, and we may walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem.
* Or, sythes. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into *pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4 And he will judge among the nations, and decide* for many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-knives: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall not learn any more war. * This is the natural parallel to “judge.” Others, “shall rebuke,” “reprove.” Aben Ezra, “And he, the judge, the king Messiah, shall judge,” &c.
5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. 5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
* Or, more than the East.
† Or, abound with the children, &c.
6 Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished *from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they †please themselves in the children of strangers. 6 For* thou hast abandoned thy people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of witchcraft more than the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and with the children of strangers they unite† themselves. * The prophet now addresses God.—Rashi.
† Sachs, “they are full of the children,” &c. Redak, and Aben Ezra, “they abound (are content) with the laws (the mental children) of the stranger.” So also Jonathan, “they walk in the customs of the nations.” Rashi, however, refers it to intermarraige, and renders, “they are busied with the children of a strange marriage.”
7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots: 7 And full became their land of silver* and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; and full became their land of horses, and there is no end to their chariots; * The prophet first traces the demoralizing effects of wealth and then the reverses, as the divine vengeance.
8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 8 And full became their land of idols; to the work of their own hands they bow themselves, to what their own fingers have made.
9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not. 9 And so is bent down the son of earth, and humbled the man; and thou wilt not forgive them.
10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. 10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, because of the dread of the Lord, and because of the glory of his majesty.
11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 11 The looks of human pride shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bent down: and exalted shall be the Lord alone on that day.
12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: 12 For there is a day of judgment unto the Lord of hosts over every proud and lofty one; and over every exalted one, that he be brought low;
13 And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, 13 And over all the cedars of the Lebanon, the high and exalted, and over all the oaks of Bashan;
14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, 14 And over all the high mountains, and over all the exalted hills;
15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, 15 And over every high tower, and over every fortified wall;
* Heb. pictures of desire. 16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all *pleasant pictures. 16 And over all the ships of Tharshish; and over all desirable palaces.* * Rashi, “Palaces with costly floors.” Redak, “pictures.” Sachs, “what delighteth the eye.”
17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 17 And the pride of man shall be bent down, and the haughtiness of men shall be humbled: and exalted shall be the Lord alone on that day.
* Or, the idols shall utterly pass away. 18 And *the idols he shall utterly abolish. 18 And the idols will he utterly abolish.
* Heb. the dust. 19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the *earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. 19 And men shall enter into the caverns of rocks, and into the rifts of the earth, because of the dread of the Lord, and because of the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to terrify the earth.
* Heb. the idols of his silver, &c.
† Or, which they made for him.
20 In that day a man shall cast *his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, †which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; 20 On that day shall a man cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which have been made for him to worship, to the moles and to the bats;
21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. 21 To enter into the clefts of the rocks, and into the hollows of the cliffs, because of the dread of the Lord, and because of the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to terrify the earth.
22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? 22 Withdraw yourselves then from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; because, for what is he to be esteemed?* * i.e. What is his value in comparison with God?
Chapter 3
1 For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, 1 For, behold, the Lord, the Eternal of hosts, doth remove from Jerusalem and from Judah stay and staff,* every stay of bread, and every stay of water. * Arbarbanel renders, “stay and staff,” with “every prop;” i.e. the great, who are farther described.
2 The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, 2 The hero, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent,* and the ancient, * Rashi, “the king.” Sachs, “diviner.”
* Heb. A man eminent in countenance.
† Or, skilful of speach.
3 The captain of fifty, and the *honourable man, and the counseller, and the cunning artificer, and the †eloquent orator. 3 The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counsellor, and the skilful artificer,* and the eloquent orator. * Sachs, “Wizard and conjurer.”
4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. 4 And I will set up boys as their princes, and children shall rule over them.
5 And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable. 5 And so shall the people press man against man, and one against the other: the boy shall demean himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.
6 When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand: 6 When a man will seize hold on his brother in the house of his father, saying, Thou hast a garment, thou shalt be our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
* Heb. lift up the hand.
† Heb. binder up.
7 In that day *shall he swear, saying, I will not be an †healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people. 7 He will swear on that day, saying, I will not be a chief;* and in my house is neither bread nor clothing; you shall not appoint me a ruler of the people. * Jonathan. Others, “a physician,” taking חבש literally, as one who binds up a wound.—i.e. The public distress shall be so great that each one shall be afraid to rule.
8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. 8 For Jerusalem is sunk to decay, and Judah is fallen; because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to incense the eyes of his glory.
9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. 9 The boldness* of their face testifieth against them; and like Sodom they tell openly their sin, they conceal it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have prepared evil unto themselves. * Rashi. Sachs, after Aben Ezra, “the appearance,” or “traits.”
10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. 10 Say ye to the righteous, that he hath done well;* for the fruit of their† doings shall they eat. * Rashi. Sachs, after Jonathan, “Praise the righteous, for it goeth well with him.”
† The plural after the singular, or “all who are righteous.”
* Heb. done to him. 11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be *given him. 11 Woe unto the wicked who doeth evil;* for the recompense of his hands shall be bestowed on him. * Rashi, who takes רע as the adjective of רשע. Others, “it shall be ill with him.”
* Or, they which call thee blessed.
† Heb. swallow up.
12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, *they which lead thee cause thee to err, and †destroy the way of thy paths. 12 My people! their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O my people! thy leaders cause thee to err, and the direction* of thy paths they corrupt. * After Sachs; it means that they who ought to lead rightly, cause the people to swerve from the proper path into a wrong direction.
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people. 13 The Lord is stepped forth to plead, and standeth up to judge the people.
* Or, burnt. 14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have *eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and their princes; but ye—ye have eaten up the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts. 15 What mean ye that ye crush my people, and grind down the faces of the poor? saith the Lord the Eternal of hosts.
* Heb. deceiving with their eyes.
† Or, tripping nicely.
16 Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and *wanton eyes, walking and †mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: 16 And the Lord said, Forasmuch as the daughters of Zion are proud, and walk with stretched forth necks and casting about their eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
* Heb. make naked. 17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will *discover their secret parts. 17 Therefore will the Lord smite with leprosy the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay open their nakedness.
* Or, networks. 18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their *cauls, and their round tires like the moon, 18 On that day will the Lord take away the beauty of their tinkling shoe-buckles, and the hair-nets, and the crescent-shaped ornaments,
* Or, sweet balls.
† Or, spangled ornaments.
19 The *chains, and the bracelets, and the †mufflers, 19 The drops, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
* Heb. houses of the soul. 20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the *tablets, and the earrings, 20 The bonnets, and the foot-chains, and the head-bands,* and the tablets, and the earrings, * Zunz and others, “belts, smelling-boxes, and amulets.”
21 The rings, and nose jewels, 21 The finger-rings, and nose-jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, 22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the shawls, and the pockets.
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. 23 The mirrors, and the chemisettes,* and the turbans, and the long vails. * סדין here, is evidently not “fine linen,” but a garment made of it. We have followed Sachs and others, who render it with Hemdchen, the nearest term to which is the one we have chosen. On the whole, there is much uncertainty what precise ornaments and dresses are described here; but no doubt that luxury had attained a high point in Isaiah’s time.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. 24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be corruption; and instead of a girdle a rope; and instead of curled hair baldness; and instead of a wide garment a girding of sackcloth, a mark of burning instead of beauty.
* Heb. might. 25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy *mighty in the war. 25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty ones in the war.
* Or, emptied: Heb. cleansed. 26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being *desolate shall sit upon the ground. 26 And then shall her gates lament and mourn; and stript of all shall she sit upon the ground.