Isaiah 18:7


Hello people, I came across a bible verse that has a contradictory tone in different translations. The prevalent picture of Isaiah 18:7, as found in NIV, NKJV etc.:

In that time a present will be brought to the Lord of hosts
From a people tall and smooth of skin,
And from a people terrible from their beginning onward,
A nation powerful and treading down,
Whose land the rivers divide—
To the place of the name of the Lord of hosts,
To Mount Zion.

(Isaiah 18:7, New King James Version, 1975)

While in the original KJV and the 21st Century KJV the passage is translated as

In that time shall a present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto, a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled—to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion.

(Isaiah 18:7, King James Version 1611, 21st Century King James Version 1994)

How come this anthitesis? Is it the translator’s circumstances, or is it the ambiguity of the Hebrew original text? Thank you for your council in advance.


According to Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary, taken in context, it appears the second translation is the better one: I recommend reading the commentary on the whole chapter. :slight_smile:


Shouldn’t we expect that, give Haydock’s was published in the mid 19th century, long before the other source cited by the OP?..Haydock was good, but I don’t think he could see into the future.


Haydock cited Church Fathers and other scholars closer to bibilcal times. Also, Protestants bibical scholars, who were definitely not equal to the Church Fathers, often translated verses differently in order to make the verses fit into their theology. I think the translation Haydock provides in this instance is sufficient for any layperson’s needs.


Perhaps…but relying on one source for a commentary is like relying on one source for news.

My point was, that by relying on a commentary 150 years old, it is difficult to determine how that commentary might have changed as the theologian was exposed to late dated information.

Its like saying today, that the 1920 Ford is the best automobile ever made, because a prominent engineer in 1920 said so.

That’s all I was saying.


Indeed. We’ve learned a great deal about Biblical Hebrew in the last 150 years; one wouldn’t suggest for example that information about medical treatment from 150 years ago is superior simply because it’s older. For translation issues like this one it is best to rely on the most up-to-date information possible.

That having been said, the Hebrew here is pretty obscure. The people offering tribute in this verse are “pulled and polished”. Does “pulled” mean “tall”? Or “pulled apart”?


That’s fine. Biblical scholarship can and should advance like any other area of study. But, if the commentary is sound there’s no need to look further. This passage is rather obscure, to begin with. The author was probably using an idiom that his original readers would have understood, like us saying it’s raining cats and dogs. Such expressions lose their context and their meaning outside the time and culture in which they arose. That means we probably have lost the fullness of the orginal expression. It’s no cause for concern, though since our salvation hardly depends on understanding this one passage. :slight_smile:

closed #8

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