I’m probably being annoyingly nit-picky and nitty-gritty, and/or asking the obvious but here goes.

Isaiah 29:13-16 NASB95

13 Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, 14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” 15 Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?” 16 You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 29:13-16 NKJV

13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” 15 Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?” 16 Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

29:13-16 The Westminster Leningrad Codex

13 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲדֹנָ֗י יַ֚עַן כִּ֤י נִגַּשׁ֙ הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה בְּפִ֤יו וּבִשְׂפָתָיו֙ כִּבְּד֔וּנִי וְלִבּ֖וֹ רִחַ֣ק מִמֶּ֑נִּי וַתְּהִ֤י יִרְאָתָם֙ אֹתִ֔י מִצְוַ֥ת אֲנָשִׁ֖ים מְלֻמָּדָֽה׃

14 לָכֵ֗ן הִנְנִ֥י יוֹסִ֛ף לְהַפְלִ֥יא אֶת־הָֽעָם־הַזֶּ֖ה הַפְלֵ֣א וָפֶ֑לֶא וְאָֽבְדָה֙ חָכְמַ֣ת חֲכָמָ֔יו וּבִינַ֥ת נְבֹנָ֖יו תִּסְתַּתָּֽר׃ ס

15 ה֛וֹי הַמַּעֲמִיקִ֥ים מֵֽיהוָ֖ה לַסְתִּ֣ר עֵצָ֑ה וְהָיָ֤ה בְמַחְשָׁךְ֙ מַֽעֲשֵׂיהֶ֔ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מִ֥י רֹאֵ֖נוּ וּמִ֥י יוֹדְעֵֽנוּ׃

16 הַ֨פְכְּכֶ֔ם אִם־כְּחֹ֥מֶר הַיֹּצֵ֖ר יֵֽחָשֵׁ֑ב כִּֽי־יֹאמַ֨ר מַעֲשֶׂ֤ה לְעֹשֵׂ֙הוּ֙ לֹ֣א עָשָׂ֔נִי וְיֵ֛צֶר אָמַ֥ר לְיוֹצְר֖וֹ לֹ֥א הֵבִֽין׃

Within the larger context of Isaiah 29:13-16, when I read most of the English translations of Isaiah 29:14, it seems that Isaiah 29:14 is meant to be sarcastic.

The reason being is that most of the Isaiah 29:13-16 passage is harshly critical of Israel, but Isaiah 29:14 uses phrases like “deal marvelously” and “wondrously marvelous” regarding how God will treat the Israelites. “Marvelous” is usually a term that suggests something that is positive, encouraging, admirable, or complementary.

I’m curious because when English speakers use the word “incredible”, I’ve noticed it can be either positive or negative.

For example:

  • "In the year 2008, there was an incredible financial disaster." (negative)

  • "The Olympic athlete performed incredibly." (usually assumed to be positive)

In light of the Hebrew translation & within the larger context of Isaiah 29:13-16, would the Old Testament Isaiah 29:14 mean to be sarcastic?

2 Answers 2


I do not see any irony or sarcasm in Isa 29. The main "problem" is the same as described by Jesus when He quotes this passage (V13) in Matt 15:8, 9 and Mark 7:6, 7 - people refuse believe the revelation of God as presented but construct their own self-aggrandizing theories.

Paul also addresses the same idea in Rom 1 -

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

There is the same idea in Isaiah 29 and Jesus' day - people constructed fantastic theories to excuse themselves from responsibility to God.

But Isaiah goes a step further - he then says that such people become immune to further revelations about the divinity of God, despite the marvelous wonders God performs, Isa 29:14. However, others observing such stubborn people can see what is happening and just how silly such self-proclaimed intelligent people become.

Such self-important, arrogant people (spiritually) are very sad. Paul quotes Isa 29:14 (from the LXX) when he writes:

1 Cor 1:18-20 - For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?


Rather to say Isaiah 29:14 is sarcastic, I found Isaiah 29:16 is truly sarcastic.

16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?

In Isaiah 29:14, the Lord told Isaiah He was going to do a wondrously marvelous thing that the people who claimed to be wise and intelligent could not comprehend. This was because they had turned things upside down and lost their logical reasoning. The Lord then gave two allegories in Isaiah 29:16, which vividly described the foolishness of these people who were supposed to be wise and intelligent. These two allegories were sarcastic.

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