Isaiah Query

Robert Vining rvining at
Mon Jul 16 12:06:42 EDT 2001

Isaiah Ending Query

In the JPS version of the Tanakh,  Isaiah ends on a positive note,
66:24b. This appears to be achieved by tacking on a refrain of the
preceding verse, 66:23.

   "And new moon after new moon, and sabbath after sabbath,
     All flesh shall come to worship Me, said the Lord"

All my other versions end without this apparent emendation, resulting in
the most beloved prophet Isaiah concluding his great work with this most
gruesome picture-

 "They shall go out and gaze on the corpses of the men who rebelled
against Me:
   Their worms shall not die, nor their fire be  quenched;
   They shall be a horror to all flesh" 66:24

Having just finished reading through again the Book of Isaiah,  my
unscientific observation  is,  that on balance,  there  is much more of
God's angry  judgment depicted than the wondrous vision of all  coming
to worship Him in Jerusalem. In that sense, to be consistent with the
Book's emphasis, it seems appropriate to leave the early text alone, and
conclude with the horror scene. Has the author's intention to finish his
book with one final blast at evil-doers been thwarted by  well
intentioned correctors who thought they could improve his work?

It surely put a downer on the wondrous vision of the people of all
nations, some exilic returnees, perhaps some first-timers, who come to
worship the true God in Jerusalem. That they should see as they leave a
sight most disgusting to all mankind. Dead bodies in the streets, eaten
by worms that never die, and burned by  fire that cannot be put out.*

Can we assume  that handlers of the JPS text found it to be quite an
unpalatable way to wind up such a glorious work, and exercised their
prerogative to change the text so it  read more to their liking?


*Mark  (only of the gospel writers) cites this passage as the words of
Jesus, 9:48. Some manuscripts have the never dying worm that eats the
corpses, and the unquenchable fire that burns, repeated 3 times. See
footnote in the Good News Bible.

Robert Vining, Owen Sound, Ontario      rvining at

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