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The Prophet of Unclean Lips as Sign of a Confessing Remnant

Isaiah 6:5–8

Introduction – A Unique Construction

Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible are the words “unclean” (טמא) and “lips” (שפתים) paired together as they are in Isaiah 6:5 when the prophet bewails his and his people’s sinfulness by use of this peculiar construction. The Hebrew root from which “unclean” is derived is commonly found in Leviticus and Numbers, where it describes a state of ceremonial defilement resulting from forbidden contact with corpses, bodily fluids, and specific animals meant for consumption.  In Jeremiah and Isaiah, the root “טמא” refers to the actual persons engaged in sinful practices.  As for the agent of trespass, “שפת,” the sins of slander or prevarication usually associated with lips seem far exceeded by the greed, false worship, drunkenness, pride, and obstinacy ascribed to Israel’s population in the preceding five chapters. 

Considering the narrow (cultic) context in which the root “unclean” is typically seen and the broad spectrum of the populace’s sins, Isaiah’s choice of words appears especially mystifying.  Does the jarring image of unclean lips merely reflect the emotional disturbance of an awestruck prophet, or does this unusual joining of words alert us to a new symbolism critical to the interpretation of the rest of the text? In this essay I hope to demonstrate that Isaiah’s enigmatic outcry actually represents a fresh theological synthesis arising from a covenant-based community combing its traditions for signs of hope in an age of religious apostasy and political instability.  Read in conjunction with other portions of Isaiah and additional relevant Biblical references, the prophet’s words and actions in the vision of chapter 6 implicate him as a representative of a greater collective seeking a premise of salvation impervious to the conditions of time and human frailty. 

Our investigation into this new theological synthesis begins at the prophet’s response to his vision of the Almighty enthroned in a heavenly palace, attended by a seraphic host singing his praises (v. 1–3). At the shaking of the foundations of the heavenly palace and the ensuing smoke of verse 4 (two elements indicative of God’s presence at Sinai), Isaiah immediately cries out: “Woe to me! Surely I am destroyed! For a man unclean-of-lips am I, and in the middle of a people unclean-of-lips I am dwelling! For the King, the Lord of Hosts, my eyes have seen! What makes this utterance of the prophet so strange and intriguing is neither the intense terror he expresses, nor the assurance of his own destruction.  A pious Jew well-versed in the history of his tradition probably would not expect to survive a face-to-face encounter with the Holy one of Israel. The very king whose name Isaiah invokes in his superscription to chapter 6 was stricken with leprosy for presuming to offer incense in the temple, an office reserved for Levites alone.  Approaching the Sacred was well document as dangerous business.  Rather, it is the truly unique way Isaiah describes himself and his people in the frightful instant of divine revelation that captures the attention and begs further exploration.  

Canonical Approach to the Construction

In view of the single occurrence of this phrase in the Hebrew Bible, a canonical approach may prove an especially useful tool in excavating the meaning(s) behind this isolated reference.  The final form of the book of Isaiah and its inclusion within the Biblical canon may inform us of how the community of faith shaping and cherishing this text may have understood the prophet’s strange confession.  In his Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context, Brevard S. Childs make an observation about ritual purity laws which provides a place to begin our inquiry.  In his chapter devoted to the latter, he writes:

One of the most striking features of the ritual and purity laws, which they share with the Decalogue, is that the underlying motivation for a particular law is seldom offered. Rather, the emphasis falls heavily upon the purpose toward which the law points. Israel, as a covenant people, is separated unto God and her life is to reflect the nature of God which is above all holiness (Lev.19:1 ff).

Put another way, if Israel was rarely given the “why” of its laws, it was always given the “Who.” The Law promised the people of Israel that their obedience would distinguish them as God’s “Treasure possession among all the peoples” (Ex. 19:5). In His deliverance of the enslaved people from Egypt and impartation of the law at Sinai, Yahweh showed Israel that He was uniquely her God.  In turn, adherence to the law was Israel’s prescribed avenue of response to the covenant.  By faithfully keeping the law, Israel gratefully acknowledged that she was indeed “the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:7).

Indeed, Deuteronomy 6:4,5, often held up as a synoptic statement of the Jewish faith, clearly states that obedience is not only an affirmation of God’s sovereignty but also an expression of love to the Creator.  In this covenantal context, the observance of ritual and purity laws was one concrete way for Israel to actively reinforce her identity as a special community claimed by God.  Conversely, disobedience in this context constitutes no less than a rejection of Yahweh’s Lordship and His love. Indeed, this is precisely the divine complaint spelled out in the beginning of the first chapter of Isaiah: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: For the Lord has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up—And they have rebelled against Me! An ox knows its owner, an ass its master’s crib: Israel does not know, My people takes no thought.:” (Is, 1:2–3). 

Covenantal Context

In terms specific to our text, Isaiah’s self-identification with an “unclean” people places his confession firmly within a covenantal context.  Verse 5 then reads as a type of priestly confession (cf. Ezra 9:5ff) made on behalf of an obstinate people ignorant of their accountability to divine authority.  Isaiah, in contrast, is keenly aware of his moral destitution before his Maker.  The sequence of Isaiah’s words: “I am a man…I come from a people” articulates the prophet’s experience of his humanity in terms of his community.  Like Moses, Isaiah clearly identifies himself with his people Israel.  In his view, man and nation come from God; neither can exist apart from Him.

Read through the filter of this God-dependent (rather than independent) identity, “unclean” aptly describes what Isaiah sees as an appalling distortion of God’s original covenant with Israel.  By abandoning the covenant, Israel not only scorns the initiative God has taken in making her His own but also contemns His primary attribute. She becomes the nation set apart from God rather than nation set apart for God (i.e., טמא rather than קדש).  Indeed, Isaiah’s prophetic reassurance to King Ahaz immediately following in chapter 7 put to the test whether or not Israel will totally sever herself from her vital covenantal relationship with God by forming an alliance with Assyria (7:3–0).  Rezin is the head of Damascus, and the son of Remalia is the head of Samaria…will Yahweh remain the head of Jerusalem? 

Based on his acute understanding that not only was his personal survival at stake in the face of God’s holiness, but also the future survival of his people, Isaiah can be seen as a representative of a sinful nation brought to judgment.  In this light, Isaiah’s role in the vision will point to the fate of Israel, as God’s covenant is worked out both to her destruction and to her salvation.  We shall also see how the prophet’s “priestly” confession prompts a response from God that not only reveals His intentions for His people, but ultimately testifies to His character as the Holy One of Israel.  Before moving on to God’s response to Isaiah’s confession, however, further examination of the symbolic location of Israel’s covenantal “uncleanness” is in order. 

Significance of “Lips” within Isaiah

Isaiah’s admission to possessing unclean lips has often been held in contrast with the preceding seraphic praise and viewed as a general lamentation of human sinfulness which prevents the prophet from likewise engaging in the kind of authentic worship due a holy God (cf. Young, Keil-Delitzch, Leupold).  This generalized view, however, does not directly address the question of why the prophet would choose this particular part of the body to represent Israel’s faithlessness to Yahweh’s covenant.  The most obvious significance attached to the lips is the function of speech. As stated before, an admission to slander or prevarication does not ostensibly cover the wide variety of sinful practices paraded before the reader in the “woe” oracles of the preceding chapters.  Clearly, Isaiah’s use of “lips” must express something deeper and more encompassing, especially in light of the covenantal implications of the adjoin word “unclean.”

A first recourse is to review the incidence of lip-imagery elsewhere in the book of Isaiah.  From three references to the lips of God, interspersed in the beginning, middle and end of the book, a picture of the power of speech, particularly divine speech, emerges.  Chapter 11 verse 4 describes the means by which the Branch of Jesse punishes evil: “He shall strike down a land with the rod of His mouth / And slay the wicked with the breath of His lips.” (JPS).  It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for breath, “רוח” also appears in the Genesis account as the divine force hovering over the face of the deep at the moment God speaks the world into being (see Gen. 1:2).  Holding these two passages in mind we see that words are the means by which God wields the power to create and to destroy.  

The second reference in Is. 30:27 affirms the destruction effected by the unleashing of power through divine lips: “…His lips full of fire, His tongue like a devouring fire, And His breath like a raging torrent, Reaching halfway up the neck—To set a misguiding yoke upon nations, a misleading bridle upon peoples.” (JPS) In view of their respective contexts, the messianic reign and punishment of Israel’s enemy Assyria, both the 11:4 and 30:27 references to the destructive power of God’s lips testify to the ultimate triumph of divine justice over evil, a theme that permeates Isaianic prophecy. 

Juxtaposed against the specter of destruction is the promise of restoration, interwoven throughout the book of Isaiah.  This positive theme is again applied to the people of Israel in 57:18–19 by the use of lip imagery: “I have seen his ways, but I will heal Him; / I will lead Him and requite Him with comfort, / creating for his mourners the fruit of the lips. / Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, says the Lord; / I will heal Him.” Here God’s words are portrayed as nourishment rather than punishment for His people; fruit rather than fire.  The action of creation by which God will minister His comforted, denoted by the Hebrew verb ברא (“create”) is used only in reference to the Divine.  Accordingly, this verb also can be traced back to the first verse of the Genesis account, when God brings forth life where none existed before. 

These three passages reveal that the activity of God’s lips testifies to His character. He is a powerful, holy, loving, and just Deity, intent on effacing evil and engendering life.  In contrast, Isaiah’s references to the activity of human lips paint quite a different portrait of His creatures.  Chapter 59 in particular offers a panoramic view of the rebellion of Israel reflected in and perpetuated by the corrupted speech of her people. The chapter opens with the charge that Israel’s estrangement from God is her own doing: “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (v. 2). Matters of speech figure prominently in the ensuing list of offenses: “…your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly, they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies…” (3–4). The progression of indictments suggests that once the truth is no longer spoken, the community spirals into a state of lawlessness and violence.  

The voice of Judah appears in verse 9 after the judgment oracle, speaking in a confessional tone reminiscent of the visionary prophet’s lament before the throne of God in chapter 6.  Significantly, this repentant people also describes the extent of their apostasy by way of the “mouth” (as did Isaiah):

For out transgressions are multiplied before Thee

and our sins testify against us’

for our transgressions are with us

we know our iniquities;

transgressing, and denying the Lord

and turning away from following our God

speaking oppression and revolt,

conceiving and utter from the heart lying words.

(Is. 59:12–13, italics mine)

In this confession we hear an enlightening correlation made between speech and the heart, between words and the moral center from which they issue.  The turn away from God immediately results in subversive speech.  If we listen carefully to this and other relevant portions of the cannon, we will hear a consistent Biblical witness to the lips as a direct portal to the inner will of man. 

Significance of “Lips” in Wisdom and Psalmic Literature

The wisdom-sayings certainly testify to the connection between speech and the inward state, calling words “deep waters” (Prov. 18:4), an image of profundity, of hidden power beneath the surface. Agreeing with Isaiah, the Proverbs affirms that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).  Recognizing that man, like his Maker, can destroy with his words, Proverbs repeatedly urges restrain of the lips: “He who guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin: (Prov. 13:3).  Speech is portrayed as the ultimate moral battleground: “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble” (Prov. 12:13).  The wisdom sayings also attest to the restorative power of words noted in Isaiah 49: “there is one whose rash words are like sword thrust, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov. 12:18).  Cumulatively, these adages reveal a two-way dynamic at work: whether positive or negative, words both reflect and affect the soul’s condition. 

Nowhere is this two-way dynamic seen more clearly than in the Psalms, which for our purposes can be viewed as a collection of verse disclosing the “deep waters” of the soul. These poetic outpourings often show a marked transformation in the psalmist’s outlook as he meditates on and confesses the truth of God’s character.  Words of remorse or complain give way to praise. Psalm 13 begins with, “How long, O Lord? Will Thou forget me forever?” and ends with “I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (NASB) Psalm 32 attests to the necessity of speaking truth no only about God but about oneself. In verses 3–4 David explains that guilty silence can cause physical and emotional distress: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away…my vitality was drained away as with the fever-heat of summer.” In verse 5 he describes the positive result of his eventual admission of the truth: “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.” (NASB)

Now that we have established the Biblical-witnessed connection between speech and the inner parts, we may return to Isaiah in chapter 6 for a close reading of his puzzling confession and its result.  Considering the covenantal context of Israel’s full-blown apostasy, “unclean lips” in verse 5 might be expanded into the following statements:

“Unclean”:We have broken Your covenant.

We, Your chosen people, have rejected You.

We have blasphemed Your holiness.

“Lips”: As a result, our very wills have become thoroughly corrupted.

We consistently choose death and not life.

We are not truthful.

“Unclean Lips”: We are hopeless to fulfill Your covenant.

We will be cut off from You.

Without Your intervention, we are deservedly destroyed. 

Divine Response to Isaiah’s Confession

In verses 6 and 7, Isaiah’s weighted confession receives a correspondingly profound response worthy of consideration.  A seraphim touches the prophet’s “unclean lips” with a burning coal and says: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt will be turned away and your sin will be covered over.” That the seraphim does not single out speech-related sins but rather pronounces a general absolution confirms the lips as an entryway to the whole person.  Remembering the Isaiah has just given a priestly or representative confession, the question now arises as to whether this expurgation of guilt somehow prefigures the redemption of all of Israel.  If so, how will the atonement be achieved for the people of unclean lips? In light of the ensuing promise of “cities without inhabitant” and “houses without men” (v. 11), whom, exactly, does Isaiah represent? 

We find our answer in the few verses of chapter 4, which offer a brief glimpse of hope in the midst of destruction.  Framed on either side by “woe” oracles and images of the destructive fury of the Lord’s outstretched hand, a scene of future restoration is describe in language that resonates with Isaiah’s visionary experience:

And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem.  When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.”

(Is. 3:3,4; italics mine.)

In this passage we find the seraphim’s symbolic ministrations to the repentant prophet recreated in the larger context of his nation’s future.  The “spirit of judgment” corresponds to Isaiah’s terrified proclamation of personal/national guilt and the “spirit of burning” to the coals touching his lips/being.  These verses describe a process of cleansing or refinement from which the soul of the truant nation will emerge bearing the marks of her God’s holiness.  The Hebrew roots שאר (to be left over) and יתר (to remain) enacted by the subjects of refinement indicated that not all will survive this judgment.  

If we believe that the final form of the book of Isaiah reflects a theological understanding of the events of history, then the remnant spoken of here are the survivors of both the 8th century Assyrian invasion and the 6th century Babylonian exile. The collection of writings from these two periods together tell the story of a chosen nation who learned through experience that she could not survive apart from her God.  In this historical epic, only the community which acknowledges its guilt and casts itself upon the mercy of God will survive His judgment (cf. Is 1:18–20: “Come let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet they shall be white as snow…”).  

In this historical-theological context Isaiah functions as a sign of that faithful portion of Israel which actual survives the violent events of history brought on by God’s judgment.  The voice of this remnant arises throughout the book of Isaiah, speaking in liturgical language that recalls the specific events of Israel’s past while pointing towards the future:

You will say in that day:  I will give thanks to the, O  Lord, for Thou wast angry with me, Thy anger turned away and Thou didst comfort me.

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12:1,2

In this passage we hear a community in the future celebrating its deliverance (from Assyria) with the very words of their forefathers by the Red Sea (cf. Exodus 15).  In the larger theological picture, whether located in the 8th century, 6th century, or an unspecified future, the remnant recognizes that ultimately, salvation is achieved by God’s hand rather than His people’s unwavering adherence to His covenant. As in the case of Isaiah before God’s throne, it is the active confession of this truth that determines the survival of God’s judgment. 

In the latter portion of chapter 59, which, as we have already seen, contains such a confession (v. 9–15), God indeed effects salvation Himself. In verse 16 we witness the Almighty’s decision to redeem His repentant people from their adversity: “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene; then His own arm brought Him victory; and His righteousness upheld Him.” After a description of the Lord’s wrathful destruction of His adversaries, the chapter closes with two promises.  The first reaffirms the role of God and the role of His people in achieving salvation: “And He will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the Lord” (v. 20, italics mine).  We see here restored a positive mirroring of God in man.  Both Divine and Human parties exercise their will to engender life in a symbiotic relationship based on the Creator’s holiness.  Zion turns to her Lord, who responds by offering Himself on her behalf. 

The last verse of the chapter reveals the second promise of the Holy One to the remnant.  God ensures an ongoing relationship with those who respond to the revelation of His plan of redemption: “…My spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the Lord, from this time forth and forever more.” (v. 21). Recalling the metonymical function of speech in the Bible, it appears that God is not only placing His words in the prophet’s mouth, but His truth in the prophet’s soul.  As such, Isaiah represents the confessing remnant, preserved by God, which endures from generation to generation. Certainly the disclaimer of 8:18, spoken by the prophet at Israel’s refusal to trust God, points in this direction: “I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.”

Significance of the Prophet – Isaiah as Twofold Sign

Having interpreted Isaiah as a sign (אות) and a portent (מפת) of a confessing remnant that survives God’s impending judgment, we may now turn to our final question: what does the prophet “signify”? To whom or to what does he point? Remembering the significance of names such as Abraham, Jacob (Israel!), and Joshua, we might begin our inquiry with the prophet’s name, “ישעה” which means “salvation of Yah.” If the burning of the repentant prophet’s lips is understood as a prefigurative act, Isaiah points to the salvation of God which comes out of the surviving remnant.  And if the prophet’s voluntary attitude of verse 8 (“Here am I! Send me!”) speaks symbolically, this salvation of God comes on its own initiative.

Chapter 11 picks up and transforms the image of the stump used at the close of chapter 6 to describe the state of Israel after God’s judgment is unleashed.  Here it is called the stump of Jesse, and from these felled remains a “shoot” buds, who judges the earth with a form of power we have formerly seen attributed to God: “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked (11:4).  Verse 10 describes this ruling figure as an “ensign to the peoples” whom the nations seek.  Chapter 9, verses 6–7 assign divine names to this Davidic ruler and describe his kingdom as an eternal one.  Most significantly, verse ends with, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this,” confirming that this eternal king is established by God Himself.  He is pictured here as God’s anointed one or “Messiah.” (משעח) 

In contrast to the images of power and justice attributed to the Messiah in the passages above, chapter 53, or the “suffering servant” song develops a different picture of the “root” (שרש) of Jesses mentioned in 11:10.  In this chapter we discovered similar themes from our analysis of “unclean lips” revealing the manner by which the salvation of God is achieved.  Verse 6 invokes the covenantal apostasy that necessitates divine intercession: “And all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all on Him.’ (Italics mine)  Rather than wielding the power of life and death through his lips, this servant of God is described as a sacrificial lamb who does not open his mouth (v. 7). That this servant’s mouth contains no deceit (v. 9) testifies to the pure state of his soul (נפש), which he pours out to death in an act of propitiation for transgressors (v. 12). 

If Isaiah (“Salvation-of-Yah”) the prophet is a sign of the surviving remnant, then these passages also show Him to be an eschatological sign to the remnant of the coming of a suffering Intercessor and triumphant King.  As such, the salvation of God as presented in the book of Isaiah appears to require the will, soul, and strength of both Creator and creature alike.  Notably Is. 45:23–25 (italics mine) describes the full participation of each sign in the act of salvation in terms of a mutual confession: 

By Myself I have sworn

A word has come forth from My mouth in righteousness

And it will not return.

Surely to Me every knee will bow down.

Every tongue will swear.

Only in the Lord has one said:

Righteousness and might are unto Him.

And they will come and they will be ashamed

All the ones snorting [in anger] against Him.

In the Lord they will be justified and they will rejoice 

All the seed of Israel. 


When read in concert with other portions of Scripture, Isaiah’s construction of “unclean lips” expresses the total inability of even a favored nation to keep covenant with a holy God.  Redemption is achieved by a whole-hearted confession of this truth which presupposes a belief in God’s successful fulfillment of his covenant through a Messiah.  Ultimately, Isaiah’s visionary experience of atonement functions in the Biblical canon as a sign to all generations that salvation from certain judgment comes only by the Lamb and the word of true testimony.

1 Specifically idolatry in Jeremiah – cf. 2:23 and 19:13.

2 John F. A. Sawyer, Isaiah Volume I (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1973), 71. Also see Exodus 19:18.

3 Translation mine, italics mine.

4 Exodus 33:20 explicitly states the consequence of a human (even a favored servant) beholding God: “And He said, you are not able to see My face, for a man will not see Me and live.” (Translation mine).

5 See 2 Chronicles 26:16–21 (Sawyer’s reference).

6 Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 87. (Italics mine).

7 Translation mine.

8 One may look to the tone of personal offense present in God’s response to Israel’s request for a king as an affirmation that no sin is committed in a vacuum: “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also.” 1 Samuel 8:7–8.

9 Unless otherwise noted, all English translations are taken from the Oxford Annotated Bible (RSV).

10 Cf. Exodus 33:13: “Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider, too, that this nation is Thy people.”

11 “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy…” Lev. 11:44.

12 See Isaiah 45:8 for an example of the exclusive use of this verb. This verse makes clear that God is the sole author of Israel’s salvation.

13 Cf. Isaiah 45:19. Yahweh’s people do not reflect His Image with their speech.

14 The heart in the Hebrew Bible tends to represent the seat of decision making rather than emotion.

15 Interestingly, the Hebrew root for “deep”: (עמק) is used later in Isaiah 31:6 to describe the extent of Israel’s apostasy: “Return to Him from whom you have deeply defected, O sons of Israel.”

16 In my translation of this verse, I have rendered the Hebrew verbs רסר (root סור conjugated as perfect in vav reversive form) and תכפר (root כפר conjugated as imperfect form) in the future tense. Although most English versions (excluding the JPS Tanakh) place the action of these verbs in the present tense, I believe the Hebrew grammar clearly indicates activity that is not yet completed. The burning of Isaiah’s lips then is understood as a sign of future redemption—not a fait accompli. One must at least note the theological implications of the translational discrepancies, even if they cannot fully be discussed here.

17 The Hebrew word for “holy” (קדש) used in verse 3 is the same that appears in the seraphic liturgy of Is. 6:3. One must wonder whether the redemption spoken of here ultimately will reinstate in God’s people the Divine Image distorted by their rebellion.

18 Cf. Isaiah 43:25: “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake…”

19 See Brown-Driver-Briggs Dictionary Hebrew and English Lexicon, under root ישע– “to deliver.”

20 The suffering servant’s reticence may be interpreted as a sign of his voluntary consent, and/or as indication of his innocence (having no sins to confess).

21 Tense and stem of אמר (“said”) are problematic. See BHS text note 24a for other renderings.

22 יבוא, translated as a plural prefix pronoun according BHS emendation 24b.

23 Revelation 12:11