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Your first father sinned,
And your mediators have transgressed against Me.
Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary;
I will give Jacob to the curse,
And Israel to reproaches. (Isaiah 43:27-28)

What is the meaning of "your first father" here? Does it refer to Adam and the original sin? Or does it refer to the founder of "Jacob/Israel" as a nation? If so which of the founders is meant?

Commentators give widely varying answers:

  • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Undoubtedly Jacob, the eponymous hero of the nation, is meant (cf. Hosea 12:3 f.), not Abraham (who is never spoken of in the later literature as sinful), nor the earliest ancestors collectively; still less Adam.

  • Pulpit Commentary: Even thy first father, Abraham, sinned (Genesis 12:13, 18; Genesis 17:17; Genesis 20:2); and thy teachers have transgressed.

  • Benson: Some think that Urijah, who was high-priest in the time of Ahaz, is here especially meant: see 2 Kings 16:10-11. But it is more probable that the expression is put for their forefathers collectively; and so he tells them, that as they were sinners, so also were all their progenitors, yea, even the best of them.

  • Ellicott: The words have been interpreted: (1) of Adam; (2) of Abraham; (3) of Jacob; (4) of the ancestors of Israel collectively; (5) of this or that high priest individually. (3) fits in best.

I would add one more possibility. In the quote, "Jacob" is contrasted with "Israel." In that sense, "Jacob" means the nation of Judah and "Israel" means the northern tribes. [note: this argument is incorrect. See below.] In that case the most likely candidate for the "first father" would be either David or Solomon, the kings who ruled before the nation divided. David's sins were mostly personal and not disqualifying to the nation. Solomon, however, committed the sin of supporting idolatry, the very sin which the Bible says resulted in the destruction of both Judah and Israel as independent nations. So if the quote refers to Jacob and Israel as nations, Solomon is the most likely culprit.

The question again: Who is "your first father" in Isaiah 43:27?


Note: I need to withdraw the argument that Isaiah contrasts Jacob and Israel. In fact he consistently uses them as synonyms. My suggestion of Solomon as the culprit here is still worthy of consideration however.

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  • Note that "Israel" and "Jacob" are used synonymously in Isa 43:22 & 28.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 20:58
  • God point. Indeed I see now that Isaiah does this often and consistently. This part of my argument fails, but I still think that Solomon MAY be the nation's father here. Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 23:21
  • There is little doubt that David (humanly speaking) was the founder of the Israelite royal line and not Solomon. This is confirmed by the very existence of the Davidic covenant as found in 2 Sam 7, 23:5, 1 Kings 6:11, 12, 8:25, 1 Chron 17:11-14, 2 Chron 6:14-16, 7:17, 18, 13:5, Ps 89:4, 29, 34, 39, 132:11, 12, Jer 33:21, Eze 37:15-28. However, that does not make David the "first father".
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 23:29
  • I admit that David was the founder. Another strike against my suggestion of Solomon. (one more an I'm out.) Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 17:00

2 Answers 2

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There are some arguments for a number of interpretations for the identity of "your first father" in Isa 43:27, such as:

  1. Adam: Rom 5:12-20 presents Adam as the original sinner.
  2. Abraham: The Jews always referred to Abraham as their "Father", eg, Isa 51:2, 63:16, John 8:39, 53, Luke 3:8, 16:24, Matt 3:9, Acts 7:2, James 2:21, etc. While this is true, later Scriptures never recount Abrahams sin's (Gen 12:13, 18; 17:17; 20:2) thus, the assertion that Abraham fits Isa 43:27 appears inconsistent with Biblical usage and idiom.
  3. Jacob: Jacob is the eponymous founder of the nation of Israel; but this argument I find rather hollow and a mere stretch, an option that is "too easy". The only way to strengthen this idea is to observe that "you mediators/leaders" is parallel to "first father"; but this could be applied to Abraham and Adam as well.

The only other place such an idea exists in Scripture is in Ex 20:5, Num 14:18, Deut 5:9, Jer 11:10, 32:18, but they are in the plural and so is not germane.

Therefore, I would argue that "Adam" is the best fit for Isa 43:27.

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  • Up-voted and agreed. Adam.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:16
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    +! Adam is the best fit because "first" is unqualified, making anything other than the literal first father an arbitrary choice, and thus one that cannot be meant... Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 19:54
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"Your first father" is a collective name to those Israelites who sinned and died in the 40 years of wandering in the deserts, before the nation of Israelites inherited Canaan.

Isaiah 43:1-7 revealed a parallel situation of the redemption of Israelites from Egypt, and the redemption of Israelites from Exile, which was a prophesy of Isaiah.

Isaiah 43:8-13 asserted Israelites were the Lord witnesses, and the Lord is the only true God of all nations that His word will deliver.

Isaiah 43:14-21 reminded the Israelites the Lord is the Redeemer. There was a parallel link that The Lord took Egypt as the ransom for them in the past, Babylon would be the ransom when He regather the Israelites. It was because "the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise" (Isaiah 43:21).

Now let's review Isaiah 43:25-27

25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

26 Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence.

27 Your first father sinned; those I sent to teach you rebelled against me.

If these verses had a connection to previous context, verse 25 referred to Moses pleaded to the Lord, not to strike them down for their sins. Numbers 14:18-20 read

18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’

19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. (NIV)

Isaiah 43:26 - So if the present Israelites disagreed with the Lord's judgement, let them bring the argument to state their innocence; stated their innocence how they were different to their first father, who sinned in the desert.

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