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Sorry if I sound nit-picky.

Some English translations for Isaiah 26:3a add the emphasis the person being "steadfast"/"mind on"

-God

-while others do Not

Therefore, could someone please analyze , and expound upon the following Hebrew translation to see if the phrase that uses "steadfast"/"mind on" emphasizes God or does Not?

26:3 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex יֵ֣צֶר סָמ֔וּךְ תִּצֹּ֖ר שָׁלֹ֣ום ׀ שָׁלֹ֑ום כִּ֥י בְךָ֖ בָּטֽוּחַ׃

ESV (Isaiah 26:3)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

NKJV (Isaiah 26:3)

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

NASB (Isaiah 26:3)

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.

NASB 1995 (Isaiah 26:3) “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.

2 Answers 2

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Ellicott captures the essence of Isa 26:3 when he says:

(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.—The italics show that the English version is made up with several interpolated words. More literally, and more impressively, we read, Thou establishest a purpose firm; peace, peace, for in Thee is his trust. Completeness is expressed, as elsewhere, in the form of iteration. No adjectives can add to the fulness of the meaning of the noun.

Note that in Isa 26:3 of most versions "perfect peace" is a translation of שָׁל֣וֹם שָׁל֣וֹם = shalom shalom.

The first three words are trickier:

  • יֵצֶר = yetser = form, framing, purpose (BDB)
  • סָמַךְ = samak = to lean, lay, rest, support (BDB)
  • נָצַר = natsar = to watch, guard, keep (BDB)

Thus we end up with something like Ellicott's version. For a closer idiomatic meaning I prefer the NASB.

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  • In Ellicott's literal translation, "Thou establishest a purpose firm; peace, peace, for in Thee is his trust." , why isn't there any mention of something like "steadfast" , "steadfast mind" , "mind" , "mind stayed" or wording to that affect? Or am I missing something? Jan 8, 2022 at 16:21
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    @crazyTech - note that the word for "mind" does not exist - it is the noun יֵצֶר = yetser = form, framing, purpose; similarly, with the others as listed above. "Mind" is a somewhat interpretive translation.
    – Dottard
    Jan 8, 2022 at 20:26
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Isaiah 26:3

The confident mind You guard in safety, in safety because it trusts in You. (NJPS)
יֵצֶר סָמוּךְ תִּצֹּר שָׁלוֹם שָׁלוֹם כִּי בְךָ בָּטֽוּחַ

The NJPS treats שָׁלוֹם as "safety" rather than "peace" and, as most translations, divides verse in two parts. The first part has two verbs, סמוך, literally, upheld, which the NJPS considers action by a person, and תצר, preserved, action from the LORD.

Strophes with two parallel thoughts (A and B) are common in Hebrew poetry:

The notion of parallelism with which we began conceived of it basically as an emphatic, elevating feature, 'seconding.' Sometimes what B added to A was significantly different. a definite going-beyond in force or specificity; sometimes A and B were related in a manner best expressed by some subordination in English ('when,' 'if, 'just as') ; sometimes B's 'what's more' was a reassertion of A via the most conventional pairs.1

Stated simply, "A is so, and what's more, B"2In other words, the second part typically receives greater emphasis. In this case, as the repetition of שָׁלוֹם divides 26:3a and 26:3b, the emphasis should be placed on the second half: safety, or peace which is based on trust (in the LORD cf. 26:4). This is consistent with the NJPS treatment: the confident mind is kept in safety, or peace, (by the LORD) because (the confident mind) trusts in you (the LORD). The "what's more" is the LORD who acts (preserves the mind in peace) and is the source of trust. To the extent, steadfast mind gives emphasis to the person, it goes against the typical arrangement where emphasis on the second part, which here is what the LORD does.

Isaiah 26
Benjamin D. Sommer notes Isaiah 26 can be divided into two parts:

26. 1-21: A song of thanksgiving and supplication. This chapter is highly varied: It begins with a song of describing a future act of salvation, moves on to entreaties, and ends with a surprising prediction of triumph over death. 1-7: The thanksgiving song that will be sung in the future. This text resembles psalms of thanksgiving and praise in the book of Psalms, such as Psalms 117, 118. The song contrasts the security of a mighty city (v. 1), presumably Jerusalem, and the downfall of a secure city (v. 5; better "exalted city"), which is not identified and is likely to be symbolic of oppressive nations generally.3

Since the verse falls within a song, the meaning must be consistent with that context.

1 In that day, this song shall be sung In the land of Judah: Ours is a mighty city; He makes victory our inner and outer wall. 2 Open the gates, and let a righteous nation enter, [a nation] that keeps faith. 3 The confident mind You guard in safety, in safety because it trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD for ever and ever, for in Yah the LORD you have an everlasting Rock. 5 For He has brought low those who dwelt high up, has humbled the secure city, humbled it to the ground, leveled it with the dust— 6 To be trampled underfoot, by the feet of the needy, by the soles of the poor. 7 The path is level for the righteous man; O Just One, You make smooth the course of the righteous. (Isaiah 26 NJPS)

The passage begins with an anacrusis identifying it as a song. The song is made up of strophes which usually have two parts. For example, (26:1b) Ours is a mighty city (26:1c) He makes victory our inner and outer wall. The strophes have been arranged as a chiasmus centered on verse 4:

A: Ours is a mighty city; He makes victory our inner and outer wall.
 B: Open the gates, and let a righteous nation enter, [a nation] that keeps faith.
  C: The confident mind You guard in safety, in safety because it trusts in You.
   D:Trust in the LORD for ever and ever for in Yah the LORD you have an everlasting Rock
  C’: For He has brought low those who dwelt high up, has humbled the secure city,
      humbled it to the ground, leveled it with the dust—
 B': To be trampled underfoot, by the feet of the needy, by the soles of the poor.
A’: The path is level for the righteous man; O Just One, You make smooth the course
    of the righteous.

Read Concentrically
Passages like Isaiah 26:1-7 may have a movement which John Breck called concentric parallelism:

To describe the concentric aspect of of chiastic parallelism, it seems appropriate to speak of a spiraling, or more precisely, a helical effect that on one hand produces the forward focusing movement from line to line and strophe to strophe, and on the other provides meaning to the passage by focusing upon its thematic center.4

Concentric parallelism means the flow of thought is from one set of paired strophes to the next (i.e. A then A') The theme within the song flows from one pair of strophes to the next (i.e. A->A'->B->B' and so forth) culminating in the main theme. In this case A->A'->B->B'->C->C'->D:

A:  Ours is a mighty city; He makes victory our inner and outer wall.
A’: The path is level for the righteous man; O Just One, You make smooth the course
    of the righteous.
 B:  Open the gates, and let a righteous nation enter, [a nation] that keeps faith.
 B': To be trampled underfoot, by the feet of the needy, by the soles of the poor.
  C:  The confident mind You guard in safety, in safety because it trusts in You.
  C’: For He has brought low those who dwelt high up, has humbled the secure city,
      humbled it to the ground, leveled it with the dust—
   D: Trust in the LORD for ever and ever for in Yah the LORD you have an everlasting Rock

Read concentrically, 26:3 falls after B and B' and is continued to completion in C':

(B) Open the gates, and let a righteous nation enter, [a nation] that keeps faith. (B') To be trampled underfoot, by the feet of the needy, by the soles of the poor. (C) The confident mind You guard in safety, in safety because it trusts in You. (C') For He has brought low those who dwelt high up, has humbled the secure city, humbled it to the ground, leveled it with the dust—

The gates of a mighty city are opened for a righteous nation (that keeps faith) to enter. They are trampled by the feet of the needy and the soles of the poor. But the confident mind (of the righteous) is kept in safety, or peace, because it trusts in the LORD who has brought low those who dwelt high up, has humbled the secure city, humbled it to the ground, leveled it with the dust—

The individual's confidence in peace, is based on their trust in the LORD to bring peace and is "reinforced" because He has humbled the inhabitants of the high and lofty city, which He destroyed. Therefore, in both the verse itself and its meaning within the song, the emphasis should be on the LORD and not on any action taken by the individual.


1. James L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry, Parallelism and Its History, Yale University Press, 1981, p. 171
2. John Breck. The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in Scriptures and Beyond, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1994, p. 38
3. Benjamin D. Sommer, The Jewish Study Bible, Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 833
4. Breck, p. 42
3. Breck, p. 38

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