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Robert Young's Analytical Concordance gives machah as the word in both Isaiah 43:25 and Isaiah 44:22 (and occurring a total of sixteen times in the Hebrew Bible) :

I -- I am He who is blotting out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, And thy sins I do not remember. [Young's Literal Isaiah 43:25]

I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, And as a cloud thy sins ... [Young's Literal Isaiah 44:22]

Biblehub shows moheh for Isaiah 43:25 and mahiti for Isaiah 44:25 each word occurring once in all of scripture, both being inflections of machah Strong 4229.


Taking Robert Young's rendering of Isaiah 43:25 the Lord repeats 'I' in emphasis. 'I' - 'I' am he that is ... So it is the Lord himself who 'blots out'. But to 'blot out' on paper is to leave a massive stain on the page - a dark remembrance of what was guiltily there.

How could one ever forget ?

Unless one pays attention to the repeated 'I'. It is he, himself, who stands in the way. One cannot see past the Almighty. One cannot reach the ends of his limits to 'peer around the corner' at what is 'behind his back' - if I might put it so, with due reverence.

This is apparent, also, in Psalm 32.

Blessed the man not does impute Jehovah iniquity ... [Biblehub Interlinear Psalm 32:2]

'Jehovah' on the very page, stands between 'the man' and 'iniquity'.

It is the Lord, himself, who prevents one seeing one's own sin. He stands in the way. His presence prevents one's view from envisioning. Thence the blessedness.


The concept is seen in Acts 3:19 when Peter, perhaps, alludes to this very verse :

Repent ... and be converted ... that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord. [Acts 3:19 KJV]

It is the presence of the Lord which will be responsible for the refreshing times when sins will be 'blotted out'.

But aleipho (nine times in scripture) means 'to anoint' and thus exaleipho (five times in scripture, once here in Acts 3:19) cannot mean 'blot out' (with more oil ? ?). In other places 'wipe away' has been used as of tears in Revelation 7:17 and 21:4.

But I suggest that the source of the tears will be dried up. Not that tears will be wiped off the cheeks as they drizzle down, for then the subject of the Lord's gracious ministration . . . is still weeping !

I suggest that the tear ducts will no more have a cause to form tears in the first place.

'Remove' all tears from the eyes - is, I suggest, the concept ; they being impossible to form.

And 'remove from view' is what I suggest is the effect of the Lord Jehovah standing in the way of one's sins, making them impossible to view.

Does the Hebrew of Young's quoted machah (Biblehub's reference to both moheh and mahiti) allow of such a rendering ?

Do we need a better concept than the image in the mind of a massive blot of ink being smeared over some writing, leaving an indelible stain to remind oneself of one's transgressions ?

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    Indeed "blotting out as a thick cloud" sounds like obscuring from view by intervention rather than removal. Could Isaiah be picturing the passing over of former sins in forbearance until the Christ would take them away? Jun 1, 2022 at 13:05
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    @MikeBorden Well, my understanding of that matter is that nasa ('uplifting') and kaphar 'containment in hand' (kaph) conveys the concept of God 'uplifting' David's sins (see Psalm 32) and 'containing in hand' until such time as the promised Redeeme r is come to resolve the matter righteously. Thus David is 'uburdened' righteously until the time of just resolution. So, yes, your idea of 'intervention' prior to 'removal' agrees with the other concept 'uplifting' and 'containment' until 'resolution'.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 1, 2022 at 13:14

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Most phrases using the expression “blot out” mean to obscure or cover by something placed before the object [1]. For example, dark clouds blot out the sun so we cannot see it – but the sun is still there. You can blot out a painful memory by keeping busy or by thinking about something else – a form of denial. But the memory is still there, only buried, and it will resurface.

To blot out words written in ink means to cover the words with an ink blot. The excess of ink renders the original words unreadable, leaving an ugly stain on the paper or parchment.

Stains made by, for example, red wine, are very difficult to remove, but not impossible. The image here is not just covering up something with another stain, but removing the stain completely, dissolving it.

The "out" is an adverb and indicates complete removal as in "The landlord said he was drunk so he threw him out" or "They put the fire out".

These are all literal examples. Applying this figuratively, to something that is intangible (e.g., sins) is another matter altogether.

From another question on a similar subject, I found a reference to a figurative example regarding the expression to “blot out”. I don’t have the link but it comes from the OED:

5.a. figurative. To efface, wipe out of existence, sight, or memory; to annihilate, destroy. (Usually with ‘out’)

Thinking about what it means to have our sins blotted out, I was reminded of Isaiah 1:18:

Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

From there to Revelation 7:14:

These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

That speaks to me of a complete erasure and a transformation.

To 'blot out' on paper is to leave a massive stain on the page - a dark remembrance of what was guiltily there. But the forgiveness we receive means they are never brought to mind (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12).

How can this be? Because standing between the believer and their sins is the New Covenant. When we gather together to remember what our Lord and Saviour suffered in order that our sins might be forgiven, the focus is on Him, who was Himself sinless but took upon Himself the sins of the world. No more does the believer need to dwell upon their sins because the Lord God has Himself “blotted them out”. As we partake of the bread and the wine we remember Him in His suffering and rejoice that our scarlet robes (our sins) have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

Standing between the transgressor and their transgressions is the Lord God, like a thick cloud if you like, who has blotted out our sins which shall never be brought to mind or held against us.

[1] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/blot-out-something?q=blot-out-something.

https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/blot-out#:~:

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    My early days at school had scrappy nib pens, dipped into bottles of black liquid ink, which I had to use to write in a paper notepad - my "copy-book". When an unwanted splurge of ink ran from the nib, the letters I'd just written would be obliterated with the blob. Ah, but we had blotting paper to hand! Rapidly pressed down, most of the offending ink would be soaked up, but, still, I had "blotted my copy-book". This school memory hindered me from understanding the question, but your answer is helpful. The Lord deals with my stain of sin personally and perfectly.
    – Anne
    Jun 5, 2022 at 12:03
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I think the source of this question is a mistranslation. Macha does not mean to "blot out." It means to "wipe away" or "erase."

You see this clearly in Isaiah 25:8:

וּמָחָ֨ה אֲדֹנָ֧י יְהוִ֛ה דִּמְעָ֖ה מֵעַ֣ל כָּל־פָּנִ֑ים My Lord G-d will wipe away the tears from all faces

One does not "blot out" tears, one wipes away tears.

Similary the term is often used to reference the erasing of a memory. See Exodus 17:14, 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 25:6, 19.

In Numbers 5:23, it is clearly being used to refer to erasing writing from a paper using water.

And in Proverbs 30:20, it is used to refer to a woman wiping her mouth after eating.

In none of these does translating "macha" (or its conjugations) make sense as "blot out."

With this in mind, Isaiah 44:22 should be translated:

I will wipe away your sins like [I wipe away] a cloud, like a cloud your sins. Return to me because I will redeem you.

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  • Hod would you say a 'cloud' can 'wipe away' something, conceptually. Can you describe the imagery of the metaphor, perhaps ? I can imagine dew 'washing away' something, as it does every morning. Would rain be involved ?
    – Nigel J
    Jun 3, 2022 at 14:48
  • It's not the cloud doing the wiping away. Your sins get wiped away the same way clouds are wiped away and the sky becomes blue again. Clouds are ephemeral. You might think your sins are solid objects that cannot easily be removed. No, your sins will be like a cloud, easily swept away in the wind. Jun 3, 2022 at 15:07
  • But the text specifically states a 'thick cloud' . . . . 'blots out'. Your metaphor is about a cloud dissipating. But the cloud is not the sins. If the cloud wipes away the sins then the cloud, itself, is not the sins. You refer, also, to 'erasing writing from paper with water'. Have you ever tried doing that ? One just ends up with soggy, written on, paper. (And they didn't have 'paper' : they had vellum or papyrus.) You can't wash engraved writing (made by impress) from skins.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 3, 2022 at 16:16
  • The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; [Jeremiah 17:1] That is why we need exaleipho : for the writing to be lifted off the medium on which it is writ.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 3, 2022 at 16:21
  • It doesn't say "blots out." That's my point. It is a mistranslation. The Hebrew is מָחִ֤יתִי כָעָב֙ פְּשָׁעֶ֔יךָ וְכֶעָנָ֖ן חַטֹּאותֶ֑יךָ. The last two words וְכֶעָנָ֖ן חַטֹּאותֶ֑יךָ literally mean, "And like a cloud your sins." It is clear that in the metaphor cloud = sins. Jun 3, 2022 at 16:24
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There are a few versions that use the word wipe away instead of blot out which is a huge difference.

I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44:23

Wiping something away means it doesn't exist anymore . God can do that as easily as just wiping a cloud away or a heavy mist and it's gone and all you see is blue sky. One can bask in sunshine then. That is what God is saying is that I have wiped away your transgressions and sins. When one believes that it does bring happiness to both parties. God wiped them away for His sake as well.

As a sidenote there is a difference between transgressions and sins that have been wiped away. So both of them have been wiped away.

In the same way that sins our wiped away so our tears. Basically that is a reference to sorrows . They will be all wiped away. There will be no more sorrow in our hearts. Gone.

OP asked, Do we need a better concept than the image in the mind of a massive blot of ink being smeared over some writing, leaving an indelible stain to remind oneself of one's transgressions ?

Jesus came to take away the sin of the world not blot it out. Of course we don't see that yet but there will come a time when there will be not one speck of sin in the universe anywhere. Those who believe that their sins are gone, buried, and the proof that Jesus was resurrected after He bore them brings great peace now.

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