Isaiah 63:8 NASB

For He said, “Surely they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Savior.

Does this directly contradict verse 10?

But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy and fought against them.

Does God speak in verse 8 in a literal sense (He believed they would not deal falsely with Him) or in a more hypothetical, hopeful sense, even though He knew they would rebel against Him?

3 Answers 3


I suggest the answer lies in recognising that the passage beginning in v7, "I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord" is going back through past history.

"He became their Saviour" relates to the events of the Exodus. Their "afflictions" in v9 were the afflictions experienced in Egypt. He lifted and carried them out of Egypt- and here we may compare "I bore you on eagles' wimgs and brought you to myself" (Exodus ch19 v4). Their rebellions and punishments, v10, are the rebellions of Numbers and Judges. Then in each case he "remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant" (v11) and made peace with them. The rest of the chapter is about how much Israel needs a repeat of the old saving action of "taking them out of the sea".

So the "trust" in v8 is what committed him to help his people in the time of Moses, and must have been more "hopeful" than literal. God knows we will let him down, but he helps us anyway.


For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. (Isaiah 63:8, KJV)

The Hebrew language is often more flexible in its potential breadth of interpretation than many realize. In this particular verse, several of the words could have been translated differently, as might be more usual in other passages.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אַךְ־עַמִּ֣י הֵ֔מָּה בָּנִ֖ים לֹ֣א יְשַׁקֵּ֑רוּ וַיְהִ֥י לָהֶ֖ם לְמֹושִֽׁיעַ׃ (Isaiah 63:8, TR)

Parsing the Verse

The first word in that verse, "וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙/way·yō·mer", is more frequently translated as "And he said". Many argue that the "and", the leading "vav" prefix to this wayyiqtol verb, can also be translated as some other conjunction, such as "now", "but", "so", or "then", or sometimes even be omitted as it is really just part of the verb form itself. In this case the translators rendered it as "for", but it is certainly not limited to this meaning, and could intend a different nuance. The verb is simply used to indicate the sequence of events, as when telling a story, and it does often occur at the beginning of a sentence. Wayyiqtol verbs are the substance of the narration: "And this happened, then that happened, then...." etc. until we reach a verb of another form that gets the real attention.

The second word, "אַךְ־/’aḵ-", is translated in the KJV as "surely." This word caught my attention because it often occurs when a concept is repeated in Hebrew for emphasis, such as in Genesis 2:17 where God addresses Adam saying that in the day he eats of the forbidden fruit he will "die die" (Hebrew: "muwt muwt"): most English translations will say "surely die", as opposed to something like "die the death". However, here in Isaiah, this "surely" is not based on a repetition: it is a separate adverb, but it can mean other things, including: indeed, however, but, only, or yet.

The third word is an easy one: "עַמִּ֣י/‘am·mî". This is the "am", meaning people, to which which the possessive pronominal suffix meaning "my" is added--so "my people."

The fourth word is also simple: "הֵ֔מָּה/hêm·māh", meaning "they" (third-person masculine plural pronoun).

The word "are" is correctly added in the English translation between "my people" and "they", and the order is usually reversed in English to say "they are my people" in place of "my people are they" or "my people they are"--the meaning is the same in each case. This "nominal sentence" in which the verb of being "are" must be added in translation is formed because the two words in Hebrew are of unequal definiteness, the first being definite (all words with pronominal suffixes are definite) and the latter indefinite.

The next word "בָּנִ֖ים/bā·nîm" means literally "sons", but can be understood as "children" as a mixed group of sons and daughters might also be addressed simply as "sons" in Hebrew.

This is followed by "לֹ֣א/lō", meaning "no" or "not".

Then we have "יְשַׁקֵּ֑רוּ/yə·šaq·qê·rū", which is an imperfect tense verb of the Piel form. It can mean "lie" or "deal falsely", and because it is imperfect it is usually translated as future tense in English (Hebrew does not have a true past/present/future paradigm). As a Piel verb, it intensifies the action. For example, the Piel form of the word meaning "to break" might get translated, instead, as "to smash to pieces"--it is more intense than the normal conjugation. This is interesting here, because the "lie" is in this intense form in Hebrew; yet that significance is lost in the English translation.

The next verb, "וַיְהִ֥י/way·hî", is again of the wayyiqtol form, indicating part of the narration of the sequence of events. It is translated as "so he was" in the KJV, but it might also be translated as "and he became". The usage of "so" implies motive or causation in English which does not properly convey the intent of this Hebrew verb. The verb is simply narrating what happened.

The final two words, "לָהֶ֖ם/lā·hem" and "לְמוֹשִֽׁיעַ/lə·mō·wō·šî·a‘" are fairly straightforward, the first being the pronoun "they/their" and the second being the Hebrew participle form of "to save" which acts as a noun (like a gerund in English) and means "one who saves"--properly translated as "savior" in English.


The Hebrew is not so cut-and-dried as the English translation makes it appear. The text has more of a narrative tone than the predicative or causative tone which its English translation implies.

It could be translated as:

And he said, yet they are my people, children who will not deceive; and he was their Savior.


My personal understanding of this, realizing that it is also a poetic passage in Hebrew which means it may not have a complete set of words (just like poetry in English), is that it may even be saying something like:

And he said,
they are only my people
[who are] children that will not lie;
and he came to be their Savior.

The "who are" which I added could easily be read into this passage assuming a missing "אֲשֶׁר־/’ă·šer-", the Hebrew equivalent for "who/whom/that/which/what/whatever". In Hebrew, this word is often dropped, but more especially in poetry. In Genesis, for example, the word, in its full form, exists in at least 127 verses; whereas Isaiah, a book of nearly equivalent length (16% different in verse count), has only 33 such verses. In Isaiah 63, the word occurs only in verse 7.

In other words, God may be calling those "His people" who do not lie--and this may be why, two verses later, He rejects them.


I would say, it is neither literal nor hypothetical. It is a determination to achieve the best from the worst. Like a parent brought their kids into the world, though the world is wicked, and their children may go with it, but there is always hope, faith and trust, for the Lord has the power and will to fix it.

Isaiah 63:7 - 64:12 is a prayer. Isaiah prayed for the whole nation of Israel, admitted their sins and asked for the mercy and forgiveness of God to restore the nation. It began with the assertion that the Lord has compassion and kindness (63:7). Then it came to 63:8. Did it really conflict to 63:10?

First take a look from another parable in Ezekiel 16:1-22, NIV gave it a headline 'Jerusalem as an Adulterous Wife'. It used a baby to represent Jerusalem (Israelites), how it grew from nothing to its glory;

At the time the Lord found Jerusalem (Israelites), He described:

4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.

5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

6 “‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” (NIV)

8b .......I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine. ( Compare this with Isaiah 63:8b '.......and so he became their Savior' ). (NIV)

The Lord further described how He nurtured the baby (Israelites) to become prominent (Ezekiel 16:9-14);

14 And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord. ( Compare 'made your beauty perfect' with Isaiah 63:8a 'He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”' )

Then the Lord described when the baby grown and came to fame, lust filled his mind and turned astray. Forgot his Savior who save him at birth, by that time his survival was at stake.

22 In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood. ( Compare this with Isaiah 63:10a 'Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit' )

Yet Isaiah 63:8 & 63:10 came too closed a contrast that made them apparently contradicted. Bearing in mind the purpose of this prayer was asking for the Lord's forgiveness and restoration, and not to describe a history of the nation, and therefore the thousand years of history was squeezed into two verses early in the prayer.

The next question is, the omniscient Lord knew the Israelites would go astray, why would He said in the beginning; “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”?

Answer to this question depends on 'When did the Israelites become the children of God'. Should it base on 'The covenant of Abraham', or 'The Mosaic covenant'? It is surely the new covenant is the fulfillment of the Abraham covenant, and therefore the Lord did not lie, for the forefathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all true to God.

It has been said; "If there is no faith, there is no beginning". We may imply Isaiah 63:8 demonstrated as the faith of the Lord to us, and we return Him by faith as well.

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