What does Isaiah 6:13 mean?
ESV: And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
NIV: And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.'
NASB: Yet there will still be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be subject to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is cut down. The holy seed is its stump.'
CSB: Though a tenth will remain in the land, it will be burned again. Like the terebinth or the oak that leaves a stump when felled, the holy seed is the stump.
NLT: If even a tenth — a remnant — survive, it will be invaded again and burned. But as a terebinth or oak tree leaves a stump when it is cut down, so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.'
KJV: But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
When Isaiah has asked the Lord, "How long?", he seems to have meant how long he must keep preaching about God's coming judgment. The Lord has said that Isaiah must continue preaching until judgment comes in the form of the people being carried off into exile and the land being left in desolation and emptiness (Isaiah 6:11–12).
If even a ten percent of the people remain in the Lord, judgement will come again. In mentioning the terebinth tree and the oak, the Lord is describing a forest that has been cut down and the remaining stumps are burned to keep them from growing back. The destruction left behind offers little hope of new life.
However, these harsh verses of warning end with the slightest hope, "the holy seed is its stump". In other words, out of the burned remains of one of the trees of Judah, metaphorically speaking, a shoot of new growth will spring up.
Though the people of his generation will not respond to his preaching, the hope of Isaiah's messages rest in this "holy seed". This "seed" points to the coming Messiah who will bring salvation to the world.
Isaiah 6:8–13 finds Isaiah newly cleansed with his sin atoned for. In response to the Lord's question about who to send, Isaiah eagerly volunteers to take God's message to his people in Judah. The Lord reveals to Isaiah that the message will not penetrate the hearts of the people. They will reject the warnings about the coming judgment. Yet they will not be given any excuses. Isaiah must continue to preach until that judgment happens and the land is laid to waste with the people are exiled. A remnant will remain, however.
Isaiah 6 describes the vision of God, experienced by Isaiah, which began his work as a prophet. He sees the Lord in royal robes sitting on a throne in the temple. There are angelic seraphim calling out to each other about His holiness. Isaiah is overwhelmed by his own uncleanness until one seraph touches his lips with a burning coal from the altar. With his sin symbolically atoned for, Isaiah volunteers to go to his people on behalf of the Lord. The message he preaches will not penetrate their dull hearts. Yet Isaiah must preach until the judgment comes.
Isaiah 6 seems to answer the question of why Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1) was qualified to speak of Judah's sin and the Lord's coming judgment. The previous five chapters have already been on this topic. Isaiah describes seeing God in the temple on a throne, while hearing seraphim calling out about the Lord's holiness. After his lips are cleansed, Isaiah volunteers to take the Lord's message to his people Judah. The Lord shows Isaiah that message will not be received and that he will preach until the judgment comes. Chapters 7 and 8 detail Isaiah's early prophecies, including a famous prediction about the Messiah.
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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