Could you explain Isaiah 26:14, 19? Isn’t there a contradiction?


It might appear so at first sight, but upon closer scrutiny, we will see that there is no contradiction.

Isaiah 26:13-14 states: “O LORD our God, masters besides You Have had dominion over us; But by You only we make mention of Your name. They are dead, they will not live; They are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And made all their memory to perish.”

On the other hand, we read in Isaiah 26:19:

“Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead.”

At first sight, these statements might say that while God’s dead—those who were faithful–will be raised in a resurrection, God’s enemies will never come back to life. However, we know that all will come back to life (compare John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Revelation 20:4-6, 11-15).

All will be raised in one of three resurrections—either in the first resurrection of eternal life; or in the second resurrection of judgment; or in the third resurrection of eternal condemnation or destruction. Please read our Q&A on the three resurrections, and study our free booklet, “Is That in the Bible?—The Mystery of the Book of Revelation.” 

What then is the meaning of the passages in Isaiah 26, as quoted above?

In Isaiah 26:13-14, Isaiah is not denying the resurrection of the wicked. Rather, the context is that they will not rise again to have dominion or power over others. If the reference is to those being raised in the third and final resurrection, which will destroy the wicked, then this is self-evident. But even in the context of the second resurrection, when the dead will be raised to physical life to be given their first opportunity to accept Jesus Christ and embrace God’s Way, they will not be allowed to have autocratic power to abuse and persecute others. If they repent and are forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit, they would ultimately qualify to become immortal kings and priests in the Family of God—but the power to rule that God would give them would be associated with justice, fairness, love and compassion.

Notice how several commentaries understand and explain the passage in Isaiah 26:13-14.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible writes, referring strictly to the third resurrection, even though he seems to be confused about the last two resurrections:

“They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise… The above tyrannical lords, the kings of the earth and their mighty men…  shall not live again in this world, nor rise from their graves, and return to their former state, power, and authority; or tyrannise over, molest, disturb, oppress, and persecute the people of God any more; though they shall live again at the end of the thousand years, and shall awake to everlasting shame and contempt, and come forth to the resurrection of damnation.”

The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament states:

“The tyrants who usurped the rule over Israel have now utterly disappeared… The meaning is not that Jehovah had put them to death because there was no resurrection at all after death; for… the prophet was acquainted with such a resurrection…”

Wesley’s Notes add:

“Those tyrants are destroyed; they shall never live or rise again to molest us.”

By contrast, Isaiah continues to say in verse 19 that the persecuted, downcast and maligned people of God will be raised in power. Even though they are now abused subjects and victims of this world’s terrible oppressions, they will become loving and almighty Spirit beings—God beings–in the Family of God, ruling over those who had harmed them in this life.

Some commentaries say that this verse does not primarily teach the resurrection from the dead, but merely a restoration of the tribe of Judah to power and rule. Even though it is true that the modern houses of Israel and Judah will be restored and placed in the Promised Land, when Christ returns, and that also those of the houses of Israel and Judah, who died and who will be resurrected in the second resurrection, will be brought back to the Promised Land, this is not what Isaiah is primarily emphasizing here.

The reason is that Isaiah includes himself, saying that his dead body will also arise in the future. Some commentaries point out that the words “Together with” in verse 19 (“Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise”) are not in the original, and that therefore Isaiah is not referring to himself in this statement. However, he clearly is including himself, as the words, “my dead body” are in the original. Some try to contradict this by saying that the phrase “my dead body” should be rendered as, “my dead bodies” or even “their dead bodies,” but this is not what the original Hebrew says.

The Interlinear Hebrew/English Old Testament renders Isaiah 26:19 as follows: “Your dead ones shall live, my dead body, they shall arise…” The Zuercher Bible confirms that in the Hebrew it says, “my dead body,” but adds that the meaning is uncertain. The Tanakh, even though rendering the phrase as, “let corpses arise,” says in an annotation that the Hebrew Grammar is uncertain.

What is certain is that Isaiah knew that he will rise to eternal life in the first resurrection, and that he will not remain dead forever, or that he will only be brought back to physical life in the second resurrection. Even though Isaiah says that his dead body will arise together with the other dead of God, he is not saying that he will be raised in a “bodily” physical resurrection, but that he will be resurrected to eternal life; and that he will receive a spiritual glorified body. For more information, please read our Q&A on the bodily resurrection.

Note the following comment by Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“And the earth shall cast out the dead – This is language which is derived from the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; and shows also that that doctrine was understood by the Hebrews in the time of Isaiah. The sense is, that as the earth shall cast forth its dead in the resurrection, so the people of God in Babylon should be restored to life, and to their former privileges in their own land.”

This statement could be confusing, when referring to the “resurrection of the body,” and in addition, it is not quite what Isaiah had in mind, as he primarily emphasized the first resurrection—not the restoration of the Jewish people. The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament states more accurately:

“When compared with the New Testament Apocalypse, it is ‘the first resurrection’ which is here predicted by Isaiah. The confessors of Jehovah are awakened in their graves to form one glorious church with those who are still in the body.”

Notice too this comment by the Nelson Study Bible:

“Isaiah, addressing his faithful peers, assures them that their dead will rise in the resurrection (Job 19:26; Dan. 12:2). Dew is a picture of new life and blessing (Ps. 133:3; Hos. 14:5).”

The Soncino commentary adds:

“This verse [Isaiah 26:19] is the source of the belief in the resurrection of the dead, a fundamental of Jewish dogma… [Isaiah] knew that he was righteous and would [be in] the [first] resurrection.”

In conclusion, the above-quoted passages in Isaiah 26 do not contradict each other, but they explain the fate of different categories of people. While the wicked oppressors will not rise again to abuse and persecute God’s people—and as such, even the memory of their oppression will fade away—God’s people will rise to eternal glory and power. Isaiah does not deny the second or third resurrection, and he does not say that those who were wicked in this life would never come back to life—he only says that they won’t come back to life to be given opportunity to oppress others again.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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