Isaiah 41:4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

Who is this last with whom God is?


2 Answers 2


The "last" refers to the last or latest generation of man, with whom God will be coexistent. It is the counterbalance to "generations from the beginning" in the first half of the verse.

Your translation is just fine as a literal, nearly linear translation .I would only change the semicolon to a comma to match the tifha after "last" (אחרונים) in the Masoretic text. IMHO a semicolon should only be used where an atnaha is used to indicate the end of a clause.

The word "the last" is plural in this verse. The idiomatic pair "the first [people]" and "the last [people]" is common in the OT and later Hebrew and can be translated differently depending on the context. Here are some examples:

"The first" (ראשונים)

Leviticus 26:45

But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 19:14 (NIV):

Do not move your neighbor's boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

Ecclesiastes 1:11 (NIV):

No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

"The last" (אחרונים)

Deuteronomy 29:22

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it.

Both "first" and "last" (besides the current verse, Isaiah 41:4)

Ecclesiastes 4:16 (NIV):

There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Isaiah 8:23 (NIV)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan

  • Thanks for the reply. The analogy in your examples is close alright, but as to the certainty of it saying the same as Isaiah 41:4, I am yet to put my finger on it.
    – Ted O
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 21:20

That translation is questionable.

  • אני יי ראשון
  • ואת אחרנים
  • אני הוא

‏The articular preposition {את} is a dative indicator. It bears no other meaning other than as a dative indicator.

On occasions, translators needing to fulfill the cadence rules of English language structure, would decide to apply a meaning-bearing English preposition.

Such manoeuvres by translators are hermeneutically risky, and I would even say fraudulent by imbuing meaning to the dative-indicator {את}.

This is the problem when we want to read the Hebrew of the scriptures thro eurocentric grammatical familiarity and paradigms. Where we have manufactured grammatical rules upon grammatical rules obfuscatedly when all we need to do is to accept the "pidgenness" of reading biblical Hebrew as-is. One simply needs to go to papua new guinea and learn one of those "primitive" languages to exorcise all the eurocentric linguistic rules we have trained into our minds. Biblical Hebrew is a primitive language.

The phrase simply says

  • I AM {of first
  • and of last}
  • I be-He.

The question would then be if that is the message, then why not write this way?

  • אני יי ראשון
  • ו אחרנים
  • אני הוא

By writing that way the phrase becomes

  • {I AM of first} and last I be-He.

The {את} requires a prior verb (by virtue of being a dative-indicator of a verb). Where the name of HaShem is the verb.

  • אני יי ראשון ואני יי אחרנים
  • I AM of first and I AM of last

Then factorization

  • AB + AC = A(B+C)
  • (אני יי (ראשון ו אחרנים
  • I AM (of first and of last)

But as I had indicated, we don't want the phrase to say

  • {I AM of first} and last.


  • אני יי ראשון ואת אחרנים
  • I AM of first and of last

To translate {את} as {with} here, is erroneous and such an action is culpable to adding more than an iota to the scriptures.

Otherwise, would you translate Gen 1:1 as

  • בראשית ברא אלהים
    • In beginning created Elohim
  • את השמים
    • with the heavens
  • ואת הארץ
    • and with the earth


Is there a preposition {of}?

No, there isn't.

In Hebrew, the possessive is implied. Actually it is an adjectival phrase

  • מלכות דבד
  • malkhut dauid
  • David's kingdom

But in English, we are allowed to, and we might prefer to say

  • kingdom of David


  • אני יי ראשון

    • I first HaShem
    • I HaShem of the first
  • היא גשם ראשונה

    • it first's rain
    • it rain of first
    • Properly cadenced in English: it is the first rain

But due to the theo-grammatical implication of the Identity of G'd, the Identity of G'd is traversed as a verb,

  • אני יי ראשון

    • I first's AM
    • I AM first
  • ואת אחרנים

    • and et last

{את} can be transliterated as {et}.

In Hebrew, you could either say, datively implied,

  • אני הרג האיש
  • I kill the man

or emphasize the dative indirection,

  • אני הרג את האיש
  • I kill et the man
  • Thanks for your clarification. I will take your word for it as I am on the lowest ladder concerning Hebrew. However, would you clarify further why He says ''I AM of the first/ last,'' instead of ''I AM the first/last''?
    – Ted O
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 11:20
  • Appended explanation indicating actual absence of preposition in Hebrew.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 12:01
  • 1
    It's probably safe to say that Avishegnathian analysis of classical Hebrew differs markedly from the "standard account". ;)
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 13:01
  • I very very MUCH appreciate simplicity, but were you able to answer the OP's question? If so, can you summarize the conclusion? Your posting abruptly ends with no closure of logic. Thanks.
    – Joseph
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 14:09
  • 1
    @CynthiaAvishegnath Nothing wrong with having independent views, but it often isn't productive being a contrarian. It is odd to see you wanting to "exorcise all the eurocentric linguistic rules" on the one hand, and yet coming up with the "dative indirection" (?) on the other. My own understanding of את is in this answer -- FWIW!
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 8:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.