In Isaiah 11:5 it says:

He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. Isaiah 11:5 NLT

My question is why is truth likened to undergarment?

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your question. Please do not forget to take the tour below. Are you quoting the NLT version of the Bible in the question? I cannot find any other version that translates וְהָאֱמוּנָ֖ה (wə·hā·’ĕ·mū·nāh) as "truth". Most correctly render it "faithfulness". – user25930 Jul 31 '19 at 10:45
  • @Mac's Musings Yes, I am quoting the NLT version. – Audz Jul 31 '19 at 11:06
  • Both KJV and YLT have 'the girdle of his loins' and 'the girdle of his reins'. Green's Literal has 'the band of his thighs' and 'the band of his loins'. Welcome to BH. – Nigel J Jul 31 '19 at 15:01

I would translate Isa 11:5 as:

Righteousness shall be the belt of his loins and faithfulness the belt of his waist.

The question is how to translate the last word in the text, חֲלָצָֽיו׃ (ḥă·lā·ṣāw)? Is it "undergarments" as per NLT?

The structure of the verse is simple Hebrew parallelism with two abstract character qualities, Righteousness and Faithfulness, likened to a belt, [אֵז֣וֹר (’ê·zō·wr) in both cases] around some part of the body; in both cases the two words could be translated "loins" or "waist".

I can find no textual support for the NLT translating the last word, חֲלָצָֽיו׃ (ḥă·lā·ṣāw), as a garment (especially an undergarment) as opposed to an area of the body. However, Paul might be using this verse as a very general precent for Eph 6:14, but even there, I find to allusion to undergarments.

The image presented here is of a future Messiah who, rather than having a sword strapped to his waist, actually has much better weapons, namely righteousness and faithfulness.

Ellicott observes in his commentary:

Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins . . .—The image of clothing as the symbol of habit or character was already familiar (Psalm 109:18-19). The repetition of “girdle” has needlessly offended some fastidious critics, but the emphasis of iteration is quite after Isaiah’s manner (Isaiah 15:8; Isaiah 16:7; Isaiah 17:12-13). It perhaps implies an upper and a lower girdle as the symbol of complete equipment. In the “loins girt about with truth” of Ephesians 6:14, we may probably trace an allusive reference. The armour of the followers of Christ was to be like that of Christ Himself.

Benson also observes:

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins — It shall adorn him, and be the glory of his government, as a girdle was used for an ornament, Isaiah 3:24; and as an ensign of power, Job 12:18; and it shall constantly cleave to him in all his administrations, as a girdle cleaveth to a man’s loins. And faithfulness the girdle of his reins — The same thing in other words. Here then we have the basis and foundation of this kingdom, namely, the justice and fidelity of the king. These virtues shall be conspicuous in the whole administration of his government, and, at once, be the ornament and the support of it.

Barnes makes very similar comments:

And righteousness shall be the gridle of his loins - The sense of this verse is plain. He will always exhibit himself as a just and faithful king. "The girdle of the loins" refers to the cincture, or band, with which the ancients girded themselves. A part of their dress consisted of an outward, loose, flowing robe. This robe it was necessary to gird up, or to confine close to the body in active labor, or in running; and the meaning of the figure used here is, probably, that the virtues of righteousness and justice would adhere to him as closely and inseparably as the garment does to the body to which it was bound. The figure of representing the virtues as clothing, or describing them as parts of dress with which we are invested, is common in the Scriptures.

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  • This agrees fully with the competent translations, the 'reins' being the kidneys, therefore the girdle being about the waist. – Nigel J Jul 31 '19 at 23:29

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