I (sometimes) regret we have given up the distinction between the singular and plural you in English (Ye and Thee). We lose out here. There is little appeal in the rhythm or poetry of Comfort you when one is used to the archaic Comfort ye. But we scarcely hear the sense of it in either case. We don't add the pronoun for imperatives these days, so we may well think the comfort is to be directed at us.
|נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י |
|1||Comfort, comfort, my people, |
says your God.
|דַּבְּר֞וּ עַל־לֵ֤ב יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙ וְקִרְא֣וּ אֵלֶ֔יהָ כִּ֤י מָֽלְאָה֙ צְבָאָ֔הּ כִּ֥י נִרְצָ֖ה עֲוֺנָ֑הּ |
כִּ֤י לָקְחָה֙ מִיַּ֣ד יְהוָ֔ה כִּפְלַ֖יִם בְּכָל־חַטֹּאתֶֽיהָ
|2||Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her, for fulfilled is her pressed service, for accepted is her iniquity, |
for she has received from the hand of Yahweh double in all her sins.
|ק֣וֹל קוֹרֵ֔א בַּמִּדְבָּ֕ר פַּנּ֖וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהוָ֑ה |
יַשְּׁרוּ֙ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה מְסִלָּ֖ה לֵאלֹהֵֽינוּ
|3||B||The voice of one calling in the wilderness, Face the way of Yahweh. |
Make a level place in the steppe, a highway for our God.
|כָּל־גֶּיא֙ יִנָּשֵׂ֔א וְכָל־הַ֥ר וְגִבְעָ֖ה יִשְׁפָּ֑לוּ |
וְהָיָ֤ה הֶֽעָקֹב֙ לְמִישׁ֔וֹר וְהָרְכָסִ֖ים לְבִקְעָֽה
|4||Every gorge will be lifted up, and every hill and hillock will be abased, |
and the footstep will be for the level place and the cliques for the crevasse.
|וְנִגְלָ֖ה כְּב֣וֹד יְהוָ֑ה |
וְרָא֤וּ כָל־בָּשָׂר֙ יַחְדָּ֔ו כִּ֛י פִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה דִּבֵּֽר
|5||And disclosed is the glory of Yahweh, |
and all flesh will see together, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.
|ק֚וֹל אֹמֵ֣ר קְרָ֔א וְאָמַ֖ר מָ֣ה אֶקְרָ֑א |
כָּל־הַבָּשָׂ֣ר חָצִ֔יר וְכָל־חַסְדּ֖וֹ כְּצִ֥יץ הַשָּׂדֶֽה
|6||C||A voice said, Proclaim. And I said, What will I proclaim? |
All the flesh is grass, and its kindness as the blade of the field.
|יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בּ֑וֹ |
אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם
|7||Grass shrivels. Blossom withers, for the spirit of Yahweh dispatches it. |
Surely the people are grass.
|יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ |
וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעוֹלָֽם
|8||Grass shrivels. Blossom withers, |
and the word of our God is placed forever.
|עַ֣ל הַר־גָּבֹ֤הַ עֲלִי־לָךְ֙ מְבַשֶּׂ֣רֶת צִיּ֔וֹן הָרִ֤ימִי בַכֹּ֙חַ֙ קוֹלֵ֔ךְ מְבַשֶּׂ֖רֶת יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם |
הָרִ֙ימִי֙ אַל־תִּירָ֔אִי אִמְרִי֙ לְעָרֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה הִנֵּ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם
|9||B||Above a haughty hill, go up for yourself bearing good news, Zion. Lift high in power your voice bearing good news, Jerusalem. |
Lift high. Have no fear. Say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God.
|הִנֵּ֨ה אֲדֹנָ֤י יְהוִה֙ בְּחָזָ֣ק יָב֔וֹא וּזְרֹע֖וֹ מֹ֣שְׁלָה ל֑וֹ |
הִנֵּ֤ה שְׂכָרוֹ֙ אִתּ֔וֹ וּפְעֻלָּת֖וֹ לְפָנָֽיו
|10||Behold my Lord Yahweh, resolute will come, and his arm will govern for him. |
Behold his wages are with him, and his work in his presence.
|כְּרֹעֶה֙ עֶדְר֣וֹ יִרְעֶ֔ה בִּזְרֹעוֹ֙ יְקַבֵּ֣ץ טְלָאִ֔ים וּבְחֵיק֖וֹ יִשָּׂ֑א |
|11||As a shepherd, his troop he will tend. In his arm, he will collect the patchwork and in his embrace lift it up, |
Infants, he will refresh.
|מִֽי־מָדַ֨ד בְּשָׁעֳל֜וֹ מַ֗יִם וְשָׁמַ֙יִם֙ בַּזֶּ֣רֶת תִּכֵּ֔ן וְכָ֥ל בַּשָּׁלִ֖שׁ עֲפַ֣ר הָאָ֑רֶץ |
וְשָׁקַ֤ל בַּפֶּ֙לֶס֙ הָרִ֔ים וּגְבָע֖וֹת בְּמֹאזְנָֽיִם
|12||Who has measured his fistful of waters, or heaven in a span, stabilized, or nourished in three, the dust of the earth, |
or weighed in a level, the hills, and the hillocks in the balance?
|מִֽי־תִכֵּ֥ן אֶת־ר֖וּחַ יְהוָ֑ה |
וְאִ֥ישׁ עֲצָת֖וֹ יוֹדִיעֶֽנּוּ
|13||Who stabilizes the spirit of Yahweh, |
or as his counsel informs him?
|אֶת־מִ֤י נוֹעָץ֙ וַיְבִינֵ֔הוּ וַֽיְלַמְּדֵ֖הוּ בְּאֹ֣רַח מִשְׁפָּ֑ט |
וַיְלַמְּדֵ֣הוּ דַ֔עַת וְדֶ֥רֶךְ תְּבוּנ֖וֹת יוֹדִיעֶֽנּוּ
|14||With whom did he take counsel, that he would give him understanding, or teach him in the road of judgment, |
or teach him knowledge, and the way of understanding make known to him?
|הֵ֤ן גּוֹיִם֙ כְּמַ֣ר מִדְּלִ֔י וּכְשַׁ֥חַק מֹאזְנַ֖יִם נֶחְשָׁ֑בוּ |
הֵ֥ן אִיִּ֖ים כַּדַּ֥ק יִטּֽוֹל
|15||C||Lo, nations are as a brew distilled, as pulverized from balances, they are reckoned. |
Lo, coasts, as finely ground, he hurls down.
|וּלְבָנ֕וֹן אֵ֥ין דֵּ֖י בָּעֵ֑ר |
וְחַיָּת֔וֹ אֵ֥ין דֵּ֖י עוֹלָֽה
|16||And Lebanon is not enough for kindling, |
nor its animals enough for a burnt offering.
|כָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם כְּאַ֣יִן נֶגְדּ֑וֹ |
מֵאֶ֥פֶס וָתֹ֖הוּ נֶחְשְׁבוּ־לֽוֹ
|17||All the nations are as nothing before him. |
From an extreme and formless, they are considered by him.
|וְאֶל־מִ֖י תְּדַמְּי֣וּן אֵ֑ל |
וּמַה־דְּמ֖וּת תַּ֥עַרְכוּ לֽוֹ
|18||And to whom will you liken the One? |
Or to what likeness will you compare him?
|הַפֶּ֙סֶל֙ נָסַ֣ךְ חָרָ֔שׁ וְצֹרֵ֖ף בַּזָּהָ֣ב יְרַקְּעֶ֑נּוּ |
וּרְתֻק֥וֹת כֶּ֖סֶף צוֹרֵֽף
|19||The graven images spilled out by a smith, |
and with refined gold pummeled, and manacled with refined silver?
|הַֽמְסֻכָּ֣ן תְּרוּמָ֔ה עֵ֥ץ לֹֽא־יִרְקַ֖ב יִבְחָ֑ר |
חָרָ֤שׁ חָכָם֙ יְבַקֶּשׁ־ל֔וֹ לְהָכִ֥ין פֶּ֖סֶל לֹ֥א יִמּֽוֹט
|20||One who is destitute makes a contribution to a tree. One that is not rotten he will choose. |
He will seek a wise smith for him to establish a graven image not to be moved.
|הֲל֤וֹא תֵֽדְעוּ֙ הֲל֣וֹא תִשְׁמָ֔עוּ הֲל֛וֹא הֻגַּ֥ד מֵרֹ֖אשׁ לָכֶ֑ם |
הֲלוֹא֙ הֲבִ֣ינֹתֶ֔ם מוֹסְד֖וֹת הָאָֽרֶץ
|21||Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been evident from the beginning to you? |
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
|הַיֹּשֵׁב֙ עַל־ח֣וּג הָאָ֔רֶץ וְיֹשְׁבֶ֖יהָ כַּחֲגָבִ֑ים |
הַנּוֹטֶ֤ה כַדֹּק֙ שָׁמַ֔יִם וַיִּמְתָּחֵ֥ם כָּאֹ֖הֶל לָשָֽׁבֶת
|22||Who sits on the ambit of the earth, (and her inhabitants are like grasshoppers), |
stretching out, as if flimsy, the heavens, and unfurling them as a tent to settle in?
|הַנּוֹתֵ֥ן רוֹזְנִ֖ים לְאָ֑יִן |
שֹׁ֥פְטֵי אֶ֖רֶץ כַּתֹּ֥הוּ עָשָֽׂה
|23||Who consigns rule-makers to nothing, |
,those who judge the earth, he constructs as formless.
|אַ֣ף בַּל־נִטָּ֗עוּ אַ֚ף בַּל־זֹרָ֔עוּ אַ֛ף בַּל־שֹׁרֵ֥שׁ בָּאָ֖רֶץ גִּזְעָ֑ם |
וְגַם־נָשַׁ֤ף בָּהֶם֙ וַיִּבָ֔שׁוּ וּסְעָרָ֖ה כַּקַּ֥שׁ תִּשָּׂאֵֽם
|24||B||Indeed they will not be planted. Indeed they will not be sown. Indeed their stump will not be rooted in the earth. |
And moreover, he will breeze into them and they will be ashamed, and tempest as stubble will bear them away.
|וְאֶל־מִ֥י תְדַמְּי֖וּנִי וְאֶשְׁוֶ֑ה |
|25||And to whom will you liken me or will I be equaled? says the Holy One.||3e||4A||10|
|שְׂאוּ־מָר֨וֹם עֵינֵיכֶ֤ם וּרְאוּ֙ מִי־בָרָ֣א אֵ֔לֶּה הַמּוֹצִ֥יא בְמִסְפָּ֖ר צְבָאָ֑ם |
לְכֻלָּם֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם יִקְרָ֔א מֵרֹ֤ב אוֹנִים֙ וְאַמִּ֣יץ כֹּ֔חַ אִ֖ישׁ לֹ֥א נֶעְדָּֽר
|26||Lift up on high your eyes and see. Who created these? Who brings forth by count their host, calling to them all by name, |
from abundance of vigour and assurance of power? None lags behind.
|לָ֤מָּה תֹאמַר֙ יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב וּתְדַבֵּ֖ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל |
נִסְתְּרָ֤ה דַרְכִּי֙ מֵֽיְהוָ֔ה וּמֵאֱלֹהַ֖י מִשְׁפָּטִ֥י יַעֲבֽוֹר
|27||C||What do you say, Jacob? or speak, Israel? |
My way is hid from Yahweh, and from my God, my judgment will pass away?
|הֲל֨וֹא יָדַ֜עְתָּ אִם־לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֗עְתָּ אֱלֹהֵ֨י עוֹלָ֤ם ׀ יְהוָה֙ בּוֹרֵא֙ קְצ֣וֹת הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יִיעַ֖ף וְלֹ֣א יִיגָ֑ע |
אֵ֥ין חֵ֖קֶר לִתְבוּנָתֽוֹ
|28||Do you not know or have you not heard? God everlasting, Yahweh, who creates the extremes of the earth, does not tire nor is he weary. |
There is no examining his understanding.
|נֹתֵ֥ן לַיָּעֵ֖ף כֹּ֑חַ |
וּלְאֵ֥ין אוֹנִ֖ים עָצְמָ֥ה יַרְבֶּֽה
|29||He gives to the tired, power, |
to those without vigour, he increases staunchness.
|וְיִֽעֲפ֥וּ נְעָרִ֖ים וְיִגָ֑עוּ |
וּבַחוּרִ֖ים כָּשׁ֥וֹל יִכָּשֵֽׁלוּ
|30||And youngsters will tire and be weary, |
and youths in their prime, they will stumble.
|וְקוֹיֵ֤ יְהוָה֙ יַחֲלִ֣יפוּ כֹ֔חַ יַעֲל֥וּ אֵ֖בֶר כַּנְּשָׁרִ֑ים |
יָר֙וּצוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א יִיגָ֔עוּ יֵלְכ֖וּ וְלֹ֥א יִיעָֽפוּ
|31||But who waits for Yahweh will renew power. They will ascend on the pinions of eagles. |
They will race and not be weary. They will walk on and will not tire.
Though there is severe disadvantage in the awkwardness of computer aided glossing, I would never have guessed from reading the English that verse 6 included kindness, חסד. Goodliness doesn't quite cut it for me for this word. Here is a case where the translators have created a hapax from a common word. This word here applied to humanity (the flesh) is a critical and mysterious attribute of Yahweh. His חסד is for ever according to the Psalms. Here the same property attributed to flesh is transient. What is the relationship? Recently I heard a freed hostage asked if she had faith in humanity. And she spoke of the outpouring of help that she had received from her community during and after her ordeal. Is this the transient attribute that the prophet refers to or is it the for ever attribute of the Mystery?
In this chapter, our English ancestors were creative. And they were greatly helped by the visiting German musician of 100 years later.
Still, what is the central passage in this chapter? We know this is a remarkable book that we have scarcely touched so far. The servant songs, the exposure of the character of Yahweh, how did the prophet see such vision? The central passage is perhaps the rhetorical questions (verses 12-14). They are less well known since Handel did not set them, but they are quite current as questions concerning the unknowns of our universe, we who measure gravitational waves. Could we not be his counsel? What would you advise the Spirit today, though we are not very far around the circle of time? War or self-sacrifice? How would you advise standing up to the deification of the small minded?
I had to make a serious change to תכן which I had allowed to be balance. Here it occurs with אזן, ear, also balance. It would not do. I had allowed this as an exception since 2010. Now it is gone. And stabilize, is much more suitable, and close to כון establish, which sounds like תכן. And it fits everywhere, even though I had to change the Psalms (75.4) for its one occurrence - stabilizing the pillars. It has remarkable presence in the Proverbs.
Who can search for a nettle in a hapax? Bob the Butcher. [note having checked up שׁעל in the Latin concordance for verse 12, I see it traditionally is manipulus. I suspect here the allusion here is to the 'depths' of the waters above the heavens. KJV's rendering is a fine circumlocution, but I have shortened it for the syllable count.]