6

We read:

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭44:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Thus says Yahweh, the king of Israel, and its redeemer, Yahweh of hosts: “I am the first, and I am the last, and there is no god besides me.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭44:6‬ ‭LEB

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭44:6‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

Similar questions: In Isaiah 44:6, who/what does the word "his" refer to?

In Isaiah 44:6, to whom is the second usage of the word Lord referring?

Does Isaiah 44:6 present a contradiction with respect to the nature of God, the Father and his Son?

Q: Is there a distinction of persons here or titles?

NOTE: The name Yahweh is used twice and the words say: “And his Redeemer” which sounds possessive in terms of a relationship.

Is God naming Himself twice or not? What are the rules of language & grammar here?

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    There was a time when I thought there was distinction of persons in this verse. However, if you look at Isaiah 44:24 it says, "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer." NASB If you continue reading the verse you will notice He stretched the heavens "by Myself and spread the earth all Alone." Keil and Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary explains it. studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/isaiah-44.html
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 21:32
  • 2
    Excellent question. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 1:10

4 Answers 4

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+100

YHWH is given two titles:

 Thus says 
     YHWH, the king of Israel and it's redeemer (title 1)
     YHWH, the Lord of Hosts (title 2)

To see this, look at the first clause:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה מֶלֶךְ-יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ

| Thus | says | YHWH | king-Israel | and his-redeemer |

enter image description here

The vav + pronominal suffix "and+his redeemer" (וְגֹאֲל֖וֹ) means "and his/it's redeemer". We know the pronominal suffix must be third person masculine singular because it is a וֹ -- see page 3 of the table. If the dot above the vav was shifted down to the left of the mid-point of the vav, making it a "u" sound, and if it was preceded by a nun, then it would be "our redeemer" as in Isaiah 47.4, and if it would end in "chem", like in Isaiah 43.14, then it would be "your redeemer" -- you can examine the MT in all of these. But in 44.6 the BHS text - see the screenshot - has the dot above the vav and without a nun, and so it means "his/its redemeer". Thus it must reference one of the two masculine singular substantives that precede it, either King-of-Israel, or YHWH - but unless there is some reason why it shouldn't, the default referent will be the first masculine, singular noun that precedes it - it doesn't skip over king-of-israel to reference YHWH. Thus the "his" refers to king-of-israel.

Think of "John, Jim, and his dog". Unless you know that only John has a dog, the his will refer to Jim - and even if you know only John has a dog, it would be an odd construction to say "John, Jim, and his dog" as you'd more likely say "John, and his dog, and Jim". So ultimately this is about word order, which is important in Hebrew.

Therefore two titles are given to YHWH and then He declares two more:

 I am the first and I am the last
 Beside me there is no other

The commentaries also agree. Here is WBC:

6a The herald presents God by a double title. He is “King of Israel.” In this empire and especially in its capital city this is easily forgotten. When Israel has lost its Davidic king, one might assume that YHWH’s royal status and authority over Israel have also gone. Daniel’s struggles and those of his friends (Dan 1–6) illustrate this. However, YHWH still claims his title and position. He demonstrates his authority and power by bringing a new emperor to restore his city and set his people free. He is revealed in this act as Israel’s “redeemer, YHWH of Hosts,” in a new setting. He had redeemed Israel from Egypt at the beginning of their history as a people. Now, with Israel in exile and under imperial bondage again, it will take a new ransom price to get her free. God promised Cyrus the treasures of Egypt as his reward for rebuilding Jerusalem and freeing the Jews (43:3–4). 6b This verse with its counterpart in v 8d states the essential core of Israel’s monotheistic faith: “I am first and I am last! Apart from me, there is no God!” Israel had to agree to worship only YHWH in order to enter into covenant with God (Exod 20:2–4; Deut 6). So now she must affirm that YHWH alone is God; he is unique. There is nothing and no one with which to compare him (see C. J. Labuschagne, The Incomparability of YHWH in the Old Testament [Leiden: Brill, 1966]). This singularity applies to all time, first and last. Idol cults rose and fell, as that period of Babylonian history showed, but YHWH stands above and beyond the cyclical waves of popular acclaim. (1)

Hermeneia presents the two titles as two aspects of God's provision:

Yahweh is Israel’s king. Two things are bound up with this assertion. When the royal title is given to the deity, it means first of all that he is “king over the gods.” A god proves his kingship by acting as judge over the gods. But because the gods do not exist (אֵין אֱלֹהִים, 44:6*), only the peoples stand before Yahweh. The denial of a theogony is endorsed once more (44:6*; cf. 43:10–11*). But if Yahweh himself is Israel’s king,262 then this can also mean that no human king for Israel can be expected. It is Cyrus, the foreign ruler, who is sent to Babylon (43:15*) to bring about the liberation. It is Yahweh himself who wages the real battle (43:16–21*). It is he, as Yahweh Sabaoth (v. 6*).263 In the trial described in this scene too, Yahweh is probably represented by a spokesman, as the introductory formula “thus says Yahweh” shows.(2)

Related Verses

We can look for other constructions in which there is a phrase referencing the diety that contains two sub-phrases which also reference the diety. In "the (king of Israel) and (it's redeemer)", the two noun-phrases placed next to each other can be said to be in apposition. The following syntax search for other examples of apposition corresponding to Diety noun-phrases results in only two hits, as per the Andersen-Forbes phrase marker dataset(3):

syntax search query

with result this passage and Job 27.2:

syntax search results


  1. John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 34–66, Revised Edition., vol. 25, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 688.

  2. Klaus Baltzer, Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40–55, ed. Peter Machinist, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), 188.

  3. Andersen, Francis I., and A. Dean Forbes. The Hebrew Bible: Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009.

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    "The herald presents God by a double title" is correct. It is not God who "names himself twice" but Isaiah who introduces God as Israel's king and redeemer, just as Christians speak of Jesus as their Lord and savior. I was going to provide my own answer but the bounty should go to @Robert. Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 15:54
  • @DanFefferman Thanks, I made the change
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 16:46
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    No, in Hebrew the to-be verb is usually dropped and the nouns are placed next to each other. So if I wanted to say, "YHWH is my peace", I'd say "YHWH my-peace" with the masculine "my" suffix. If it was "YHWH who is my peace, says X" you'd say "YHWH my-peace, says X". The "who is" is an anglicism meant to link subject and complement, but is not present in the Hebrew. See Gen 42.30, Num 16.5, etc. You would usually include "he/who" if it is a direct object - Num 12.7
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 20:23
  • 1
    Why do you think the grammar will be different if it is God giving himself titles? There is no special title-grammar. Really you should consult a hebrew grammar, but here are more examples: 1 Sam 16.16, 2 Sam 22.4, Ps 42.11, Ps 43.5. But I will search my syntax database to see if I can find more.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 21:49
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    Aha! This is interesting. In the entire OT, there are only two examples of noun-phrases that refer to the Diety which are in apposition! Isaiah 44.6 and Job 27.2. That's pretty cool. I'm not sure if it will help you, but there it is.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 22:03
3

Here is my literal translation of Isa 44:6 based on the fairly simple grammar involved -

Thus says YHWH King of Israel, and his [Israel's] Redeemer, YHWH of hosts (armies), I am the first and I am the last; and besides me - no God.

Set out even more clearly, the verse gives a series of titles to Yahweh which might be translated as follows:

Thus says YHWH

  • King of Israel [compare 1 Sam 8:7, 8, 24:6, Ps 5:2, 44:4, Isa 41:21]
  • Redeemer of Israel [compare Isa 43:1, 3, 11, 45:17, 21]
  • YHWH of hosts/armies [Compare Isa 1:9, 18:17, Jer 46:10, Zech 1:3, 8:9, etc]
  • I am the first and I am the last [compare Isa 41:4, 44:6, 48:12]

besides me there is no God. [compare Deut 4:35, 6:4, etc]

The primary function of this declaration of the absolute sovereignty and uniqueness of YHWH-God is to contrast God with false idol-gods.

[I will resist the temptation to show that all these titles of YHWH are used of Jesus in the NT as this is another question.]

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Isaiah 44:6 MT first clause is:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת

This is the prophet speaking to the public on behalf of God, a form known in Hebrew as מדבר בעדו, "speaking for him". The prophet introduces God in a series of two titles, a common emphatic form in later prophesy. The titles are:

  1. YHVH, king and redeemer of Israel
  2. YHVH of hosts

In this introductory clause of the verse there are two different possessive forms in succession:

  1. juxtaposition (סמיכות) in מלק ישראל
  2. masculine singular possessive suffix waw (ו)in גואלו

This form, possessive juxtaposition followed by a conjunctive waw and ending in a possessive waw, in both OT and modern Hebrew is a single, extended possessive phrase and should be translated as such.

In the translations cited in the OP, the waw, as a second person possessive suffix to גֹאֲלוֹ, "redeemer", is incorrectly included in the English translation as "his", in addition to the possessive adjacent or juxtaposition form (סמיכות) of "king". This breaks the single Hebrew possessive phrase into two English possessive phrases, and this is what leads to confusion about the meaning of the verse. This waw possessive is an extension of the first possessive form and should not be explicitly translated into English separately as "his". The correct understanding of the Hebrew in modern English is:

So says YHVH, Israel's king and redeemer, YHVH of hosts,...

Isaiah 48:17 makes it clear that this is the true intent:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה גֹּאַלְךָ קְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מְלַמֶּדְךָ לְהוֹעִיל מַדְרִיכֲךָ בְּדֶרֶךְ תֵּלֵךְ

ESV:

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel...

The most well known parallel to Isaiah 46:5 in modern Hebrew is in the prayer for the peace of the state of Israel, second line:

צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ Rock-fortress and redeemer of Yisra’el

Where "king" is replaced with "rock", according to Rabbinical usage from pre-modern times.

There is no justification in the MT to capitalize "king" or "redeemer". This type of capitalization reads something into the text that is not there and confuses the non-Hebrew reading reader into thinking that the prophet refers to some special spiritual concepts of "King" and "Redeemer". That's just not how the text sounds in Hebrew and there is no paper trail of ancient commentary to support it.

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  • 1
    -1 as you are making a simple grammatical error of not recognizing a third person masculine singular pronominal suffix while accusing the entire body of biblical hebrew knowledge to be wrong when you say the vav is incorrectly translated as "his/its". Please provide a reputable source for this bizarre claim of incorrect translation.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 21:46
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    @Cork88 it depends on how much time/money you have. You can go from a low cost online class to an accredited online class with exams/homework/etc - e.g. both Dallas Theological Seminary and Hebrew Univ offer online classes for credit in Biblical Hebrew. But you should still rely on reputable commentaries and translations, as these are done by scholars that have spent their lives studying Biblical Hebrew. The purpose of taking classes is to help make the text come to life for you, not to start "fixing" existing translations or come up with private heterodox translations
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 22:23
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    @Robert I added some clarifications just now. It could be that my first explanation was not clear enough, but there is no grammatical mistake. The possessive waw in this construction should not be included in the English translation as a separate possessive expression "his". Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 6:07
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    @Nhi Exactly, that's what is obvious and not even a question to the Hebrew reader.In the modern Hebrew prayer for the peace of the state of Israel the phrase is צור ישראל וגואלו, "Rock of Israel and (his/its') redeemer", or better "Israel's rock and redeemer". This modern Hebrew usage reflects the unquestioned understanding of the OT usage as also referring to Israel. There are no ancient commentaries that suggest otherwise. It is even more clear in the Aramaic translation attributed to Jonathan ben Uziel, כִּדְנַן אֲמַר יְיָ מַלְכָּא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל וּפַרְקֵהּ Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 6:44
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    @Nhi I added what looks to me like the clincher verse, Isaiah 48:17 and an example from modern Hebrew. Thanks for the constructive comment. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 16:55
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This verse is not needed to show that Yeshua was YHWH in the flesh, although you can make it connect but not how most Trinitarians who reach do… The simple fact that in Isaiah 44:6 B , it states ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. That should be enough when combined with Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 22:13. You can’t have two separate Gods, stating they are both the FIRST and LAST, and also saying there is NO GOD BESIDES ME. It’s either Yeshua is YHWH and John 1:1 holds true, that He was the Word who was with God AND was God or Yeshua was a fraud, along with his disciples and all who put together the New Testament . I’ll go with the first…

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