In Isaiah 47:17 Yahweh assures Zion that He has not forgotten her, but will disburse her enemies and gather her children. The verse is wonderfully musical.

The first and last words of the verse are plural verbs ending in “oo”: meharu and yetz’u . The two words are not only connected be wound but by sense. The first verb means “hurry” and in context means “hurry toward”; the last word of the verse means “depart.” As the children of Zion hurry toward her, her persecutors depart.

Between these words are four words that end with the second person pronomial suffix “k,” and nearly all of them end with the sound ” ayik .” Three of the words begin with a mem , and the two central words in the verse begin with mahar - and machar - respectively, echoing the opening verb. Again, sense and sound work together: They “hurry” toward Zion, but the words for the enemies of Zion, her destroyers and devastators, are also mahar - words. The punning implies that Zion’s enemies are hurrying too, in the opposite direction.

The verse as a whole sounds like this: maharu banayik maharsayik umacharibayik mimmek yetz’u .

One last note: In the Massoretic Text, the verb of the first clause is “your sons,” but early versions translate instead as “builders.” It’s an understandable shift, since “son” is ben and the verb build is banah . And the early translations suggest that Isaiah made an intentional pun. Zion has been devastated by the destroyers, but now her sons are coming, and her sons are builders who can’t wait to start rebuilding their mother city. Filial craftsmen chase Zion’s enemies away.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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