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Isaiah 49:14-51:3

In this second of the seven haftarot of consolation (Aramaic: שבע דנחמתא), Isaiah calls out to and comforts God’s exiled people more intensely than in the first. He states that God has not rejected them and will redeem them even from powerful nations seeking to prevent their return. Conversing with a forlorn Zion (Jerusalem), God reassures “her” that her “children” (the Jewish people) will return to her in large numbers and that her ruins shall be rebuilt. He reassures the minority of exiles who heed his word and return that they will multiply. The prophet also describes the courage God gives him to speak despite powerful opposition.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 49:14-16: God has not forgotten Zion and not abandoned her.

Isaiah 49:16

Behold on [My] hands have I engraved you; your walls are before Me always.

הֵ֥ן עַל־כַּפַּ֖יִם חַקֹּתִ֑יךְ חוֹמֹתַ֥יִךְ נֶגְדִּ֖י תָּמִֽיד׃

Verses 49:17-23: God will return the Jewish people to Zion, mustering the forces of the world to do so...

Isaiah 49:21-22

And you [Zion] shall say to yourself, "Who begot these for me, [seeing that] I am bereaved and solitary, exiled and rejected? Who raised these? Behold I was left alone; these-[from] where are they?” So said the Lord God, "Behold I will raise My hand to the nations, and to the peoples will I raise My standard, and they shall bring your sons in the bosoms of their garments, and your daughters shall be borne on their shoulder[s].

וְאָמַ֣רְתְּ בִּלְבָבֵ֗ךְ מִ֤י יָֽלַד־לִי֙ אֶת־אֵ֔לֶּה וַאֲנִ֥י שְׁכוּלָ֖ה וְגַלְמוּדָ֑ה גֹּלָ֣ה ׀ וְסוּרָ֗ה וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ מִ֣י גִדֵּ֔ל הֵ֤ן אֲנִי֙ נִשְׁאַ֣רְתִּי לְבַדִּ֔י אֵ֖לֶּה אֵיפֹ֥ה הֵֽם:כֹּֽה־אָמַ֞ר אֲדֹ-נָ֣י ה' הִנֵּ֨ה אֶשָּׂ֤א אֶל־גּוֹיִם֙ יָדִ֔י וְאֶל־עַמִּ֖ים אָרִ֣ים נִסִּ֑י וְהֵבִ֤יאוּ בָנַ֙יִךְ֙ בְּחֹ֔צֶן וּבְנֹתַ֖יִךְ עַל־כָּתֵ֥ף תִּנָּשֶֽׂאנָה׃

Verses 49:24-26: ...and God will take His people out of mighty nations.

Isaiah 49:25

For so said the Lord, "Even the captives of a mighty warrior can be taken and the prey of a tyrant shall escape, and with your contender will I contend, and your sons I will save.”

כִּי־כֹ֣ה ׀ אָמַ֣ר ה' גַּם־שְׁבִ֤י גִבּוֹר֙ יֻקָּ֔ח וּמַלְק֥וֹחַ עָרִ֖יץ יִמָּלֵ֑ט וְאֶת־יְרִיבֵךְ֙ אָנֹכִ֣י אָרִ֔יב וְאֶת־בָּנַ֖יִךְ אָנֹכִ֥י אוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

Verses 50:1-3: God has not rejected His exiled people, and will save them.

Isaiah 50:1

So said the Lord, "Where is your mother's bill of divorce that I sent her away? Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold! For your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions, your mother was sent away.

כֹּ֣ה ׀ אָמַ֣ר ה' אֵ֣י זֶ֠ה סֵ֣פֶר כְּרִית֤וּת אִמְּכֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר שִׁלַּחְתִּ֔יהָ א֚וֹ מִ֣י מִנּוֹשַׁ֔י אֲשֶׁר־מָכַ֥רְתִּי אֶתְכֶ֖ם ל֑וֹ הֵ֤ן בַּעֲוֺנֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ נִמְכַּרְתֶּ֔ם וּבְפִשְׁעֵיכֶ֖ם שֻׁלְּחָ֥ה אִמְּכֶֽם׃

Verses 50:4-9: God has given the Prophet the strength to announce God’s message, despite opposition...

Isaiah 50:4

The Lord God gave me a tongue for teaching, to know to establish times for the faint [for His] word; He awakens me every morning, He awakens My ear, to hear according to the teachings.

אֲדֹנָ֣י ה' נָ֤תַן לִי֙ לְשׁ֣וֹן לִמּוּדִ֔ים לָדַ֛עַת לָע֥וּת אֶת־יָעֵ֖ף דָּבָ֑ר יָעִ֣יר ׀ בַּבֹּ֣קֶר בַּבֹּ֗קֶר יָעִ֥יר לִי֙ אֹ֔זֶן לִשְׁמֹ֖עַ כַּלִּמּוּדִֽים׃

Verses 50:10-11: … and God will reject those who do not heed his words.

Isaiah 50:10

Who among you is God-fearing, who hearkens to the voice of His servant, who went in darkness and who has no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord and lean on his God.

מִ֤י בָכֶם֙ יְרֵ֣א ה' שֹׁמֵ֖עַ בְּק֣וֹל עַבְדּ֑וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר ׀ הָלַ֣ךְ חֲשֵׁכִ֗ים וְאֵ֥ין נֹ֙גַהּ֙ ל֔וֹ יִבְטַח֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם ה' וְיִשָּׁעֵ֖ן בֵּאלֹקיו׃

Verses 51:1-3: As He did for Abraham, God will multiply the small number of returnees.

Isaiah 51:2

Look at Abraham your father and at Sarah who bore you, for when he was but one I called him, and I blessed him and made him many.

הַבִּ֙יטוּ֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֣ם אֲבִיכֶ֔ם וְאֶל־שָׂרָ֖ה תְּחוֹלֶלְכֶ֑ם כִּי־אֶחָ֣ד קְרָאתִ֔יו וַאֲבָרְכֵ֖הוּ וְאַרְבֵּֽהוּ׃

Important Themes

Zion: A major character in the Haftarah is Zion, who represents Jerusalem and the land of Israel. She is depicted as a mother who has lost her children. However, God promises that he will remember Zion, and return her “children”. See verses 49:14-21, 51:3.

Other Connections

The Talmud elaborates on one of the main themes of the Haftarah, the feeling of abandonment by God.

Sanhedrin 105a

Shmuel said: Ten people came and sat before the prophet Ezekiel. He said to them: “Repent.” They said to Ezekiel: “[In the case of] a slave sold by his owner, or a woman divorced by her husband, does this person have any claim upon that person?” [When God sold or divorced the Jewish people by exiling them, He terminated their mutual covenant.] The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to the prophet: “Go say to them: ‘Where is your mother’s scroll of severance, with which I sent her away? Or to which of My creditors have I sold you? For your iniquities were you sold, and for your transgressions was your mother sent away’ (Isaiah 50:1).”

שמואל אמר באו עשרה בני אדם וישבו לפניו אמר להן חזרו בתשובה אמרו לו עבד שמכרו רבו ואשה שגרשה בעלה כלום יש לזה על זה כלום אמר לו הקב"ה לנביא לך אמור להן (ישעיהו נ, א) איזה ספר כריתות אמכם אשר שלחתיה או מי מנושי אשר מכרתי אתכם לו הן בעונותיכם נמכרתם ובפשעכם שלחה אמכם

With emendations, biblical translations are by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg, and other translations are from Sefaria.org.

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