Crime or Sin?

כ וּבָ֤א לְצִיּוֹן֙ גּוֹאֵ֔ל וּלְשָׁבֵ֥י פֶ֖שַׁע בְּיַֽעֲקֹ֑ב נְאֻ֖ם יְהֹוָֽה: — ישעיה נט, כ

To Tzion comes a redeemer. Repent from crime, Jacob, is G!d’s Word. (Isaiah 59:20)

Jacob is a poetic description of Israel’s kingdom, and our prophetic storyteller is unhappy with Jacob. Isaiah has said that a redeemer will emerge, not that the redeemer will. This makes a pun: a redeemer (go’él) will emerge — or profanity will pollute (go’ahl).

It is not clear, whether in standard interpretation or mine, to whom a redeemer will come. Most interpretations suggest “to those in Jacob who turn from transgression”, to paraphrase (and modernise) the old Jewish Publication Society translation. I’m less definite: “Repent from crime, Jacob”. It’s not clear to me that Jacob will be redeemed: perhaps it is those affected by Jacob’s go’ahl.

What is clear to me, though, is that the choice is Jacob’s only until such time as it is G!d’s.

Posted on