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In most of the English translations of Isaiah 33:15, when it comes to Isaiah 33:15 (d)

Isaiah 33:15 (d) He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed

it seems like there might have been a translation problem.

The reason being is that a modern day 21st century bible reader might misinterpret/misread some of the English translations of Isaiah 33:15 (d) in such a way that it is exalting those who “turn a deaf ear” to events involving bloodshed.

Furthermore, Isaiah 33:15 (d) mentions "bloodshed" by and in itself--in other words, withOut any adjectives like unjustifiable, justifiable, and does Not state anything like "bloodshed of the innocent" or "bloodshed of the wicked". Therefore, I am going to assume that since it mentions "bloodshed" by and in itself, it is implicitly implying "unjustifiable bloodshed of the innocent"

To elaborate, someone might mistakenly interpret Isaiah 33:15 (d) as stating that it's alright to "turn a deaf ear" to the unjustifiable bloodshed of the innocent which does Not make sense in the larger context of Isaiah 33:14-16.

Based on the larger context of Isaiah 33:14-16, I’m assuming it was meant to exalt those who do Not participate and/or do Not align themselves with those encourage unjustifiable bloodshed of the innocent.

Isaiah 33:15

New American Standard Bible 1995

15 (a) He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, (b) He who rejects [a]unjust gain (c) And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; (d) He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed (e) And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;

Isaiah 33:15

New King James Version

15 (a) He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, (b) He who despises the gain of oppressions, (c) Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, (d) Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, (e) And shuts his eyes from seeing evil:

33:15 The Westminster Leningrad Codex 15 הֹלֵ֣ךְ צְדָק֔וֹת וְדֹבֵ֖ר מֵֽישָׁרִ֑ים מֹאֵ֞ס בְּבֶ֣צַע מַעֲשַׁקּ֗וֹת נֹעֵ֤ר כַּפָּיו֙ מִתְּמֹ֣ךְ בַּשֹּׁ֔חַד אֹטֵ֤ם אָזְנוֹ֙ מִשְּׁמֹ֣עַ דָּמִ֔ים וְעֹצֵ֥ם עֵינָ֖יו מֵרְא֥וֹת בְּרָֽע

׃

In any case, could someone please review the Old Testament Hebrew translation, and give a deeper evaluation of the translation for Isaiah 33:15(d) ? Furthermore, why do most of the modern 21st century English translations translate Isaiah 33:15(d) in the manner they currently translate it?

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    Bloodshed is sometimes necessary. "Who so sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man ." Am I right in thinking that the question is based on pacifism per se ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 14:14
  • It would be weird for the passage to be about not hearing about violence when two verses earlier explicitly commands in the voice of God to hear about some violence. “Now I will arise,” says the Lord. [...] "The peoples will be as if burned to lime, like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire. Hear, you who are far off, what I have done."
    – g s
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 22:13

1 Answer 1

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It took me about 10 times reading through the question. And I think I might get the premise: The issue isn't as much about the 'bloodshed' as it is about the 'hearing' of it. Specifically, it seems you're talking about "going along with" or "enabling" the 'bloodshed.'

With that in mind I'll take a stab at an answer:

Context

If we back up a verse we see the context. Who gets to dwell 'in front of God's face and close to who he is (a consuming fire)? That's the context in vs. 14. The answer then is found in vs. 15: the one who is perfect and holy and shows it.

This thought is nothing new in the OT. In psalm 24, David writes:

“<3> Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? <4> The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. <5> He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3–5 CSB17)

Who gets to be in God's presence? Anyone who has...

  • clean hands (not ever doing evil)
  • pure heart (not ever planning/desiring evil)

With that in mind, we can tackle the next verse:

vs. 15

The Hebrew text reads:

”הֹלֵ֣ךְ צְדָק֔וֹת וְדֹבֵ֖ר מֵֽישָׁרִ֑ים מֹאֵ֞ס בְּבֶ֣צַע מַעֲשַׁקּ֗וֹת נֹעֵ֤ר כַּפָּיו֙ מִתְּמֹ֣ךְ בַּשֹּׁ֔חַד אֹטֵ֤ם אָזְנוֹ֙ מִשְּׁמֹ֣עַ דָּמִ֔ים וְעֹצֵ֥ם עֵינָ֖יו מֵרְא֥וֹת בְּרָֽע“ (Isaiah 33:15 HMT-W4)

My translation:

The one who carries out righteousness

Who speaks upright thoughts

Who refuses the unjust gain from extortion

Who never shakes his hand, receiving a bribe

Who closes up his ear when it comes to hearing about bloodshed

Who shuts his eyes from looking at evil.

The last two lines deserve our attention. They are in direct, synonymous parallelism. Who is the one who, on his own, get himself into heaven in God's presence? It's the who who has always stayed away. That person will have always stayed from from entertaining the idea of joining together with others in bloodshed/bloodguilt. That person will have stayed away from gazing on evil as if it were a good thing (knowing that he can't do it because he might get caught)

So the context is not one of enabling or looking the other way. The context is about temptation in one's own heart. People may not carry out bloodshed. But sinful human hearts have deep and enduring temptation to listen to it, and on the inside take delight in it. The same is true with the eyes.

Translation Issues

This is one the many examples where using a formal translation is of no help. Formal translations work to take the original and dump it into the English, trusting that you have enough Hebrew/Greek tools at your disposal to get the context. This is a prime example of where formal translations fail, since they are not able to carry over the ideas faithfully into the receptor language. There are uses/advantages of using a formal translation. But this example highlights one of the weaknesses.

There are other translations that take a more functional approach (working to carry over the idea from the source language and bring it into the target language). The CSB, though not a highly-functional translation, does a good job with this verse:

“The one who lives righteously and speaks rightly, who refuses profit from extortion, whose hand never takes a bribe, who stops his ears from listening to murderous plots and shuts his eyes against evil schemes—” (Isaiah 33:15 CSB17)

They add the extra details...

  • murderous plots
  • evil schemes

They do this to help the English reader get the context of the Hebrew.

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  • +1 Thanks. (Quote)"So the context is not one of enabling or looking the other way. The context is about temptation in one's own heart. People may not carry out bloodshed. But sinful human hearts have deep and enduring temptation to listen to it, and on the inside take delight in it. The same is true with the eyes." -- Essentially, are you saying that the righteous would Not gloat and/or would Not have schadenfreude if someone else is the victim of bloodshed or evil? Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 16:06
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    @user1338998 Yes, but even more so: not just joy at someone else's shameful consequences; but also, there is a temptation, for example, to watch violence on TV, and vicariously indulge in those thoughts/desires, simply because we know we could never get away with it in our every day lives if we actually did those things. But again, notice the point in context: no one is able to live up to this. Righteousness cannot come from the inside; it has to come from the outside (esp. Jesus).
    – Epimanes
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 16:45
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    +1. Good answer.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 21:05
  • @user1338998 there is nothing wrong in celebrating or causing the deaths, even genocide of the wicked (isis Germany Russia etc). Not all killing is murder. Read Deuteronomy and Joshua. This context is about bloodshed of the innocent which is murder. God commands the believers to kill evil, which is according to justice
    – Michael16
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 3:54

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