Isaiah Chapter 48 in Poetic Form

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According to Victor Ludlow, “Hebrew poetry comprises about one-third of the Old Testament, reaching beyond the so-called poetic books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and so on) into the rest of the scriptures. It is especially prominent in the prophetic books …For example, approximately ninety percent of Isaiah is written in poetry.”Ludlow suggests that ancient scribes, poets, and prophets all wrote this way to help audiences and readers more easily remember what they had to say. “Their messages were usually quite short and tightly structured like a song or poem.” They also used patterns and memory devices to make their message easier to remember and at the same time “allow the author spontaneity of expression. Thus, there was less material to be memorized, and the arrangement facilitated its memorization,” which makes sense since in ancient times parchment rolls were both rare and costly. Memorizing an epistle was one of the best ways to share God’s word.To better see the poetic form, Ludlow uses the New Jewish Version of this chapter with the Book of Mormon variants from 1 Nephi 20 added in italics and [brackets mark segments omitted] from the Book of Mormon.  We have placed this alongside the  King James Version of Isaiah 48 for comparison.

New Jewish Version
(italicized phrases from 1 Ne 20)
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King James Version

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1

x

x

 

Hearken and listen to this,
O House of Jacob,
Who bear the name Israel
And have issued from the waters of Judah,
Or out of the waters of baptism,
who swear by the name of the LORD,
and invoke the God of Israel—
Though they swear not in truth and sincerity—

Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the awaters of Judah, which bswear by the name of the Lord, and make cmention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.
x
x
x
2
xx

Nevertheless for you are called after the Holy City
x And you do not lean on the God of Isreal
x who is the Lord of hosts,
x Yea whose name is LORD of Hosts.

For they call themselves of the aholy city, and bstay themselves upon the God of Israel; The Lord of hosts is his name.
x
x
3
xx

Behold long ago, I foretold things that happened,
x From My mouth they issued,
x and I announced them;
x Suddenly I acted [and they came to pass].

I have  adeclared the bformer things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.
4
xx

And I did it because I know how stubborn you are
x (Your neck is like an iron sinew
x And your forehead bronze),

Because I knew that athou art bobstinate, and thy cneck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;
x
5
xx

Therefore I told you long beforehand,
x Announced things to you ere they happened—
And I showed them that you might not say, “My idol caused them,
x My carved and molten images ordained them.”

I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

6
xx

You have heard all this; look,
x must you not acknowledge it?
As of now, I announce to you new things,
x Well-guarded secrets you did not know.

Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.

7x

x

Only now are they created, and not of old;
x Before today you had not heard them;
x When they were declared unto you;
x You cannot say, “I knew them already.”

They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them.

 8x

x

You had never heard, you had never known,
x Your ears were not opened of old.
Though I know that you are treacherous,
x That you were called a rebel from birth,

Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the awomb.

9x

x

Nevertheless for the sake of My name I control My wrath;
x To My own glory, I am patient with you,
x And I will not destroy you.

¶ For my aname’s sake will I defer mine banger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.

10xxx

See, I refine you, but not as silver;
x I test you in the furnace of affliction.

Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the afurnace of baffliction
11
x
xx
For My sake, My own sake, do I act—
x Lest [My name] is dishonored!
x I will not give My glory to another.
x
For mine own asakeeven for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my bname be polluted? and I will not cgive my glory unto another.

12


x

Listen to Me, O Jacob,
x Israel, whom I have called:
I am He—I am the first,
x And I am the last as well.

¶ Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.
x

13


x

My own hand founded the earth,
x My right hand spread out the skies.
I call unto them,
x let them stand up.

Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the aearth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.
x

14

 

 


x

Assemble, all of you, and listen!
x Who among you foretold these things
x unto them:
“He whom the LORD loves
x And he will fulfill his word which he has
x declared by them;
x And he shall work His will against Babylon,
x And, with His might, against Chaldea”?

All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The Lord hath loved him: he will do his apleasure on bBabylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.
xx

15


x

Also, says the Lord; I the Lord
I, I predicted and I called him to declare,
x I have brought him and he shall succeed in
x his mission.

I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.
x
x

16

 


x

Draw near to Me [and hear this]:
x From the beginning, I did not speak in secret;
x From the time anything was
x declared
 [existed], have spoken [was there].
“And now the Lord GOD has sent me, endowed with His spirit.”

¶ Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in asecret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath bsent me.
x

17

 

xx

Thus said the LORD your Redeemer,
x The Holy One of Israel:
have sent him, the LORD am your God,
x Instructing you for your own benefit.
x Guiding you in the way you should go, has
x done it.

Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which aleadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
x
x

18

x

If only you would heed My commands!
x Then your prosperity would be like a river,
x Your triumph like the waves of the sea.

O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy apeace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

19

x

Your offspring would be as many as the sand,
x Their issue as many as its grains.
Their name would never be cut off
x Or obliterated from before Me.

Thy aseed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.
x

20

 

 

x

Go forth from Babylon,
Flee from Chaldea!
x Declare this with loud shouting,
Announce this,
Bring out the word to the ends of the earth!
x Say: “The LORD has redeemed
x His servant Jacob!”

 ¶ Go ye forth of aBabylon, flee ye from the bChaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.

x

21


x

They have known no thirst
Though He led them through parched places;
x He made water flow for them from the rock;
x He cleaved the rock and water gushed forth.

And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the awaters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.

22


x

And notwithstanding he has done all this, and greater also,
There is no safety—said the LORD—for the wicked.

There is no apeace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.

x

For detailed information on Hebrew poetry, you may want to purchase a copy of Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet by Victor L. Ludlow. His chapter “Parallelism in Old Testament Poetry and Prophecy” is excellent in helping readers learn how to navigate Isaiah (and other books in the Old Testament). In that section, he writes: “Parallelism is the most distinctive quality of Hebrew poetry, and it is found in most of the famous biblical passages. In parallelism, a thought, idea, grammar pattern, or keyword of the first line is repeated or continued in the second line.” If you look for that in the sample above, you find Isaiah repeating his message to reinforce the teaching.

He closes the chapter with this, “…parallelism served not only as an oral memory device, but it also enriched the messages of the prophets. Today, an awareness of parallelism aids the reader in his comprehension of vague and repetitive biblical passages.  …an understanding of this poetic style can increase one’s appreciation of the literary qualities and religious messages to be found in the scriptures.”

 

 

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Dr. Victor L. Ludlow is a scholar of Isaiah and Judaism. He graduated with high honors from BYU and was a Danforth Fellow at Harvard and Brandeis Universities, where he received a Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Professor Ludlow's scholarship explores the areas of Bible studies, the Middle East, Jewish history and theology, and comparative Latter-day Saint theology. He has authored numerous articles and the books: Unlocking the Old Testament; Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet; Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel; and Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. His most recent audio lecture is “Latter-day Insights: The Middle East.” Courses Taught: Writings of Isaiah, Judaism and the Gospel, Book of Mormon, Old Testament Areas of Expertise: Professor Ludlow's scholarship explores the areas of Bible studies, the Middle East, Jewish history and theology, and comparative Latter-day Saint theology, with a special emphasis upon covenants. Areas of Research: Isaiah, Covenants, Judaism, History of the House of Israel, Agency, Gospel Principles Languages: German (fluent), Hebrew (reading), some Arabic, French, and Latin

2 COMMENTS

  1. This poetic format is really appealing to me. I feel a smoother flow of words in contrast with standard verses and I like it better. Happily, the new pdf book, “Opening Isaiah—a Harmony” offers this same kind of side by side comparison.

  2. I am taking a stake Institute class on Isaiah. Last night we discussed the Servant Songs. In the second one, Nephi introduces it with this chapter. I wonder why?
    Joseph Spencer writes: “First Nephi is an extended introduction to Second Nephi, and it does its work of introduction by getting us acquainted with the two prophetic sources he brings together in 2 Nephi 6–30: Isaiah’s writings from the brass plates, and the prophetic tradition that began with his father. What’s more, it shows its readers at least preliminarily how those two sources are interrelated…
    “In Isaiah we have a record divided into two parts that are nonetheless deeply entangled with one another. You’ll remember that what scholars call First Isaiah focuses on prophecies of destruction, and they present a prophet who’s forced to write and then seal up his prophecies so they can be kept for a later generation. But then what scholars call Second Isaiah focuses on prophecies of restoration, of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant at last—all a consequence of the sealed book being opened and read among the faithful. Nephi saw his own vision mirrored rather perfectly in the writings of Isaiah, or he saw Isaiah’s writings mirrored rather perfectly in his own vision.”

    Spencer, Joseph M.. The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record (Part 1 of 2) (Kindle Locations 1580-1584). Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition.

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