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Isaiah 50:1–3 Israel Is Faithless, Despite God’s Power
To properly interpret the verses in this section, one must comprehend the following three symbols: Jehovah is Israel’s husband (54:4; Jeremiah 3:14), Israel (or Zion) is depicted as His wife, and Israel’s inhabitants are their children. The Lord speaks to His wife and their children (the Hebrew uses the masculine plural form, “you”) using a series of rhetorical questions. JST and 2 Nephi 7:1–2 presents some textual variants.
Have I put you away? The language pertains to divorce in ancient Israel (see Deuteronomy 24:1–4). Here the Lord asks His wife (Israel) if He has put her away, or divorced her. The answer, of course, is no. The Lord has always remained faithful to her. divorce certificate. An ancient document that a husband gave to his wife, according to law, to legalize the divorce. to which of My creditors did I sell you? Now the Lord addresses the children and asks them if He has sold them to a creditor. The answer, of course, is no. He has always remained faithful to them. (Anciently, if a man owed money to a creditor and was unable to pay it, he would consider selling himself or a member of his family as a slave in order to pay the creditor (Exodus 21:7; 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5). for your iniquities you have been sold. The Lord had not sold His children, the house of Israel; rather, they sold themselves when they disobeyed Him. Not for debt but because of their iniquities were they sold.
Why when I come, there was no one there. Jehovah came to Israel by sending His prophets, but no one paid attention. When He “called” via the mouth of His prophets (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38), no one responded. O house of Israel. The Lord directly addresses His covenant people. Is My hand really too short to redeem? For this idiom, see also Numbers 11:23 and Isaiah 59:1. In Biblical Hebrew, “hand” (Hebrew yad) also denotes power; to support this idea, note that that the word “power” is found in the second line of the parallelism. In essence, the Lord is asking, do I lack power to redeem? The answer, of course, is no! Compare Numbers 11:23: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” And Isaiah 59:1: “Behold, the hand of the Lord is not shortened, that it cannot save.” To prove that the Lord does, indeed, have power, He declares: “At my rebuke I dry up the sea; I make their rivers a wilderness.” The dry sea recalls the drying of the Red Sea at the time of Moses. “Rebuke” recalls Jesus’s rebuking the unruly sea: “Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:26).
I clothe the heavens with blackness. Once again, in order to prove that He has power to redeem, the Lord states that He has absolute control over the elements—He can cause the heavens to become dark, even as He did in Egypt, at the time of Moses (Exodus 10:21).
These verses are repeated, with changes, in Doctrine and Covenants 133:66–69, which puts verses 2 and 3 in the context of the Second Coming.
Isaiah 50:4–9 Prophecies of the Messiah
This Messianic prophecy is quite different from others because the Messiah (Jesus Christ) speaks in the first person to the house of Israel—“I gave my back to the smiter. . . . I hid not my face from insults and spitting” and so forth. JST and 2 Nephi 7:4–9 present textual variants.
morning by morning. An idiom meaning “continually.” The Lord continually gives the Messiah divine communications. he wakens my ear. The Messiah is alert and attentive to the Lord’s messages and pays attention “as do the disciples” to their teacher.
to the smiter/plucked My beard/insults and spitting. Matthew wrote, “They spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands . . . and they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head” (Matthew 26:67; 27:30; Luke 18:33). When persecutors pluck off the beard, it is both extremely painful and a grave insult (2 Samuel 10:4). Being spit upon, too, was a great insult and shameful (Deuteronomy 25:9; Numbers 12:14; Job 30:10).
I set My face like flint. The Messiah was fixed and determined in His mission (Ezekiel 3:8–9).
Who is my adversary? . . . I will smite him with the strength of My mouth. Although Jesus’s adversaries “smote” Him in the face, He will, at the great judgment, “smite” them with His mouth, meaning He will render a judgment against them.
they all will wear out as a garment. Jesus’s adversaries will be consumed as easily as a moth eats a garment.
Isaiah 50:10–11 The Lord’s “Bright Light” Versus Mortal’s “Sparks”
In this section Isaiah skillfully contrasts God’s “bright light” with humankind’s “sparks.” Those who fear the Lord, trust in His name, and rely on Him (50:10) will receive His “bright light.” But those who rely on themselves, who wear a belt made of sparks (“who gird on sparks”) and “walk in the light” of their own fire, will eventually “lie down in sorrow.” (50:11).
lie down in sorrow. Doctrine and Covenants 133:70 uses similar language; speaking to those who do not hearken to His voice (see verse 63), the Lord said, “And this shall ye have of my hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.”
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