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New Light on the Prophets

So far we have new translations of Yeshayahu (Isaiah), Hoshea (Hosea), and part of Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah). Where not otherwise noted, commentary is compiled from weekly discussions held at Congregation Beth Lechem, near Columbia, South Carolina. (See "Related Links" page for more information about our congregation.)

Why another English translation of the Bible?

First and foremost, because most translations use foreign names for the Creator--names that, during the age of grace may have been adequate to communicate the idea of "the highest deity", but which still borrowed the names of deities known in various culturolinguistic contexts that did not presuppose an accurate worldview, and thus brought with them baggage that we have had to, at best, "un-learn".

As renters know well, the days of grace do not last forever. As knowledge increases, so does our responsibility to jettison every bit of paganism that is brought to light. Not only did YHWH specifically forbid His people to even have the names of foreign deities on our lips (Exodus 23:13), but specifically commanded us to use His revealed name (Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:21). He also forbade us specifically from setting a table to Gad (Isaiah 65:11), which is pronounced exactly like the name of the Germanic deity (God) whose name is most often substituted for YHWH's; even if there is no linguistic connection (which is not yet proven). Though one of the tribes of Israel has the same name, in the context of worship we must be much more cautious. The term "Lord", while it later came to have other meanings, also stems from a similar pagan ruler's name --and one associated with swine-farmers, no less!

English translations normally do not make a clear distinction between "YHWH" and "Elohim" (a term with much broader applicability). This has led to much theological confusion. Things are often clearer in Hebrew, so this version uses the original Hebrew names. "Yahweh" (or perhaps "Yahuweh") is the
pronunciation, but to remind the reader to speak it only with the utmost reverence, the four-letter equivalent of the unpointed Hebrew word (YHWH) is used here.

Most English spellings of Biblical names are based on German transliterations, which are generally fairly close to the Hebrew. But due to linguistic shifts, they are no longer pronounced the same in English, and
thus the spellings we usually have carried us further from the names to which these people would answer. Therefore, proper names are transliterated phonetically, with the common English equivalent sometimes added for clarity. In some cases church-oriented translations have cloaked ordinary, everyday Hebrew words with an almost "magical" meaning and need to be demystified. On the other hand, as in English, a Hebrew word may have many meanings. As an analogy, in English, the word "right" most often means "correct", but it also often means a particular side of the body, and can even mean "90 degrees". Being so far removed from the original context (and often too proud to ask those who spoke Hebrew), many translators often opted for the most common meaning of a word if the exact sense was not known, and thus, while perhaps not giving false information, the "bugle" has been given an
indistinct sound, and "no one prepares for battle". Thus, even a translation made a year ago is already out of date in this sense, and there is always room for revision. Now, many prophecies were "sealed up" until the time they were needed. But now that Hebrew has become an everyday language again,
linguistic science has turned up more insights into rhetorical styles, and archaeological knowledge has mushroomed, we have many more resources at our disposal to decipher just what the Biblical writers were referring to.

The "Lost Sheep of the House of Israel"--the Northern Kingdom that YHWH promised to bring back into covenant as an entire people in the latter days--are only now rediscovering their roots. This has come to light so recently that, to our knowledge, no other translation has noted that this prophecy has now begun to be fulfilled, yet there are so many passages in the Torah that can only be understood in light of this marvelous truth. One of the main purposes of this translation is to highlight the "road signs" that
point us back to the "ancient path" that we are discovering to be our own heritage as well as Judah's.
"To the Torah and to the testimony! If they do not speak in agreement with this word, they have no light..." (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 8:20) If an interpretation of any part of Scripture contradicts this "constitution" of
the whole House of Israel, then it is mistaken, or at best the emphasis is misplaced. What is often called the "New Testament" is actually a renewal of this one, with only slight modifications in light of Messiah's first coming and a few allowances made during our exile from the Promised Land. To miss this continuity leads to heartbreaking misperceptions. A correct understanding of Israel's founding document is absolutely essential.

Finally, I have attempted to make the text as literal as possible, rearranging word order or inserting words in brackets only where necessary to smooth out the English readability. Except where the original language clearly implies a fuller rendering, I have reserved most explanations, clarifications, and alternate readings for the notes that appear below the pertinent verses.

May YHWH bless you and add insight as you read this rendering of His Word.

Stephen Zimmerman,
Translator and compiler of commentary

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