|In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
||In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw my Lord seated on a throne, highly exalted, the skirt of his robe filling the sanctuary.
||בִּשְׁנַת־מוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ עֻזִּיָּהוּ וָאֶרְאֶה אֶת־אֲדֹנָי יֹשֵׁב עַל־כִּסֵּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא וְשׁוּלָיו מְלֵאִים אֶת־הַהֵיכָל ׃
|Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
|| Seraphs stood by him overhead, each having six wings— with two they could veil their presence, with two conceal their location, and with two fly about.
||שְׂרָפִים עֹמְדִים מִמַּעַל לוֹ שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם לְאֶחָד בִּשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה פָנָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה רַגְלָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְעוֹפֵף ׃
|And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
||They called out to one another, and said,Most holy is Jehovah of Hosts;the consummation of all the earth is his glory!
||וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל־זֶה וְאָמַר קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ ׃
|And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
||The threshold shook to its foundation at the sound of those who called and a mist filled the temple.
||וַיָּנֻעוּ אַמּוֹת הַסִּפִּים מִקּוֹל הַקּוֹרֵא וְהַבַּיִת יִמָּלֵא עָשָׁן ׃
|Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
||Then I thought, Woe is me: I have been struck dumb, for I am a man of unclean speech, and I live among a people of unclean speech: I have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts, with my own eyes!
||וָאֹמַר אוֹי־לִי כִי־נִדְמֵיתִי כִּי אִישׁ טְמֵא־שְׂפָתַיִם אָנֹכִי וּבְתוֹךְ עַם־טְמֵא שְׂפָתַיִם אָנֹכִי יוֹשֵׁב כִּי אֶת־הַמֶּלֶךְ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת רָאוּ עֵינָי ׃
|Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
||Then one of the seraphs flew to me carrying an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
||וַיָּעָף אֵלַי אֶחָד מִן־הַשְּׂרָפִים וּבְיָדוֹ רִצְפָּה בְּמֶלְקַחַיִם לָקַח מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ ׃
|And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
||Touching it to my mouth, he said, See, this has touched your lips: your sins are taken away, your transgressions atoned for.
||וַיַּגַּע עַל־פִּי וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה נָגַע זֶה עַל־שְׂפָתֶיךָ וְסָר עֲוֹנֶךָ וְחַטָּאתְךָ תְּכֻפָּר ׃
|Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
||Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? And I replied, Here am I; send me!
||וָאֶשְׁמַע אֶת־קוֹל אֲדֹנָי אֹמֵר אֶת־מִי אֶשְׁלַח וּמִי יֵלֶךְ־לָנוּ וָאֹמַר הִנְנִי שְׁלָחֵנִי ׃
|And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
||And he said, Go, and say to these people,Go on hearing, but not understanding;Go on seeing, but not perceiving.
||וַיֹּאמֶר לֵךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ לָעָם הַזֶּה שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמוֹעַ וְאַל־תָּבִינוּ וּרְאוּ רָאוֹ וְאַל־תֵּדָעוּ ׃
|Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
||Make the heart of these people grow fat;dull their ears and shut their eyes,lest they see with their eyesand hear with their ears,understand in their heart,and repent, and be healed.
||הַשְׁמֵן לֵב־הָעָם הַזֶּה וְאָזְנָיו הַכְבֵּד וְעֵינָיו הָשַׁע פֶּן־יִרְאֶה בְעֵינָיו וּבְאָזְנָיו יִשְׁמָע וּלְבָבוֹ יָבִין וָשָׁב וְרָפָא לוֹ ׃
|Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
||And I replied, For how long, my Lord? And he said,Until the cities lie desolateand without inhabitant,the houses without a man,and the land ravaged to ruin.
||וָאֹמַר עַד־מָתַי אֲדֹנָי וַיֹּאמֶר עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם־שָׁאוּ עָרִים מֵאֵין יוֹשֵׁב וּבָתִּים מֵאֵין אָדָם וְהָאֲדָמָה תִּשָּׁאֶה שְׁמָמָה ׃
|And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
||For Jehovah will drive men away,and great shall be the exodusfrom the centers of the land.
||וְרִחַק יְהוָה אֶת־הָאָדָם וְרַבָּה הָעֲזוּבָה בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ ׃
|But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
||And while yet a tenth of the peopleremain in it, or return,they shall be burned.But like the terebinth or the oakwhen it is felled, whose stump remains alive,so shall the holy offspring be what is left standing.
||וְעוֹד בָּהּ עֲשִׂרִיָּה וְשָׁבָה וְהָיְתָה לְבָעֵר כָּאֵלָה וְכָאַלּוֹן אֲשֶׁר בְּשַׁלֶּכֶת מַצֶּבֶת בָּם זֶרַע קֹדֶשׁ מַצַּבְתָּהּ ׃
Although Isaiah locates chapter 6 within the first parallel unit of biographical material that comprises Part II of his Seven-Part Structure (Isaiah 6-8; 36-40), chronologically it is first in the Book of Isaiah, describing Isaiah’s calling as a prophet of God “in the year of King Uzziah’s death” in 742 B.C. As Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem contained no throne, Jehovah’s throne was not in the temple itself, though it may have appeared to Isaiah above the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. In his inaugural vision as a prophet, Isaiah sees Jehovah “highly exalted”—a divine attribute (Isaiah 57:15).
The spiritual level of “seraphs” (serapim) in the Book of Isaiah appears directly below that of Jehovah, as it does here. The fact that Isaiah sees Jehovah, on the other hand, identifies him with Isaiah’s son/servant category, immediately below that of seraphs. Together, these three spiritual levels constitute the highest in the Book of Isaiah’s hierarchy of seven. Later, after ministering as a prophet for more than forty years, Isaiah himself assumes the role of a seraph. The seraphs’ “wings” or “veils” (kenapayim) perhaps consist of energy fields that enable them to move or conceal themselves at will.
The Hebrew superlative “most holy” or “thrice holy” (qados, qados, qados) reflects the highest of Isaiah’s spiritual levels—Jehovah’s. Emulating Jehovah are those in Isaiah’s seraph and son/servant categories, who are also called “holy” (qados) (Isaiah 13:3; 52:10). The seraphs’ anthem—“The consummation of all the earth is his glory!” (melo’ kol-ha’ares kebodo)—identifies the purpose of the earth’s creation as Jehovah’s “glory.” In other words, Jehovah is glorified by bringing the earth to its “consummation,” its purpose being fulfilled when it begets “holy ones” like him (Isaiah 4:3; 62:12).
The threshold of the Holy of Holies’ shaking to its foundation at the seraphs’ cosmic hymn reflects the power of persons in the seraph category over the elements. Moses demonstrated that power when he smote the land of Egypt with plagues, divided the Red Sea, and brought forth water out of the earth (Exodus 9:22-25; 10:12-15; 14:16-28; 17:6). Similarly, Elijah multiplied the widow’s flour and oil, raised her child from the dead, and withheld the rain or returned it again (1 Kings 17:1-24; 18:42-45). The “mist” or cloud of glory that fills the temple attests to Jehovah’s manifesting his presence.
Confronted with the reality of Jehovah’s presence, Isaiah feels a sense of unworthiness. As often occurs when a person sees God with his physical eyes, he is physically impaired—in this case “struck dumb” (nidmeti). Believing he is smitten with a covenant curse, Isaiah is afraid not only for himself but for his people—as we observe in the common imagery of “unclean lips” or “unclean speech” (teme’ sepatayim)—leaving him with a desire to help his people. The title of “King” reflects Jehovah’s kingship over all the earth and its inhabitants (Isaiah 24:21-23; 33:17, 22; 37:16; 43:15; 44:6; 52:7).
There follows a classic opening-of-the mouth rite, such as also appears in Egyptian temple ordinances. The seraph’s taking an ember from the Altar of Atonement and declaring Isaiah clean implies that atonement has been made, or will be made, for his sins and transgressions. The burning ember signifies that Isaiah—by virtue of that atonement, and through his own repentance process—has attained a purified and sanctified state and is now deemed holy. The opening-of-the-mouth rite implies the proper functioning of all the senses, physical and spiritual, as becomes evident when Isaiah is healed.
Isaiah’s “seeing” Jehovah (v 5) and “hearing” his voice follows the pattern of a prophet seeing and hearing what God reveals to him in a vision (Isaiah 21:6-10). As Isaiah is healed of covenant curses through the atonement symbolized by the Altar of Atonement, moreover, so Jehovah himself is the author of that atonement: “Yet he bore our sufferings, endured our griefs, though we thought him stricken, smitten of God, and humbled. But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the price of our peace he incurred, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Here am I; send me! Now that Isaiah can again speak—and desiring to do for his people as has been done for him—he gladly accepts Jehovah’s prophetic commission to minister to his people. The verb “send” (salah) has the same Hebrew root as the noun “apostle” (saliah), signifying one who is “sent” to bear witness of what he has seen and heard. Although Jehovah personally commissions Isaiah, others have a vested interest in Isaiah’s fulfilling his prophetic ministry: the words “Who will go for us?” signifies that heaven will minister to Isaiah even as Isaiah ministers to Jehovah’s people.
The verb “go” denotes Jehovah’s actual commission of Isaiah as his prophet. The terms “these people” or “this people” (ha‘am hazzeh), however, reflect the people’s repudiation of their covenant relationship with Jehovah that is commonly expressed by the possessive “my people” (‘ammi). When they grow alienated, they see things their way, not his (Isaiah 55:8-9). Hence the words, “Go on hearing, but not understanding; Go on seeing, but not perceiving.” As Jehovah forewarns, a wayward people’s typical response when a prophet appeals to them to repent is to harden their hearts and dull their senses.
Although Isaiah’s role as a hardener of his people’s hearts seals upon them Jehovah’s condemnation, there exists a redeeming side to his prophetic ministry. “Seeing” with the eyes, “hearing” with the ears, “understanding” in the heart, and “repenting” at the same time constitutes Jehovah’s formula for “healing” or salvation. A remnant of Jehovah’s people—a “holy offspring” comprised of those who repent (v 13)—thus survives destruction in his Day of Judgment. Typifying them are Isaiah’s disciples, for whom Jehovah provides sanctuary at the time others suffer covenant curses (Isaiah 8:13-17).
Taken aback by the pessimistic prospect of his prophetic commission, Isaiah reveals his human side by asking how long his ministry will last. Jehovah’s response illustrates the utter desolation his unrepentant people will experience when a full measure of covenant curses overtakes them. Considering this scenario from an end-time perspective, we observe that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry serves as a type of the ministry of Jehovah’s servant. When given a similar prophetic commission to warn Jehovah’s people, the servant meets with a similar response (Isaiah 49:1-7; 50:1-11; 52:13-15; 61:1-7).
Although people may flee the cities en mass in Jehovah’s Day of Judgment, they find scant refuge in the countryside (Isaiah 5:30; 8:22). Using the imagery of tithing—in which the Israelites pay a tenth of the land’s yield to the Levites and the Levites pay a tenth of that tenth to the priests (Numbers 18:24-28)—Isaiah contrasts the many who perish with the few who survive. The “holy offspring” left standing—a tenth of the tenth—compares to a terebinth or oak that can renew itself when cut down. The one who fells the tree/s is the king of Assyria/Babylon, Jehovah’s axe and saw (Isaiah 10:15; 37:24).