Hebrew In Israel | Isaiah 58:13 – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel | Isaiah 58:13 – Learn Torah

Admin 2 comments

An interesting question that comes up when reading Isaiah 58:13 where it says:

אִםתָּשִׁיב מִשַּׁבָּת רַגְלֶךָ, עֲשׂוֹת חֲפָצֶךָ בְּיוֹם קָדְשִׁי; וְקָרָאתָ לַשַּׁבָּת עֹנֶג, לִקְדוֹשׁ יְהוָה מְכֻבָּד, וְכִבַּדְתּוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת דְּרָכֶיךָ, מִמְּצוֹא חֶפְצְךָ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and YHWH’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words”

The words “going your own way “, or any other words that have the same meaning, are a mistranslation due to the misunderstanding of the term “מֵעֲשׂוֹת דְּרָכֶיךָ “” m`asot dǝraḴeḴa.  When translating, one needs to be aware of terminology and not just words meanings.  It is true that if we only translate the words they would translate as presented in the above translation, but that would miss the point of what is actually being said.  In our case, it seems to be that we are dealing with an idiomatic expression taken from a very specific world of concepts.  This concept was also lost in time to Hebrew speakers, and created a world of interpretation that sometimes is not to the point.

The words here are probably part of a terminology that can be found in context in Akkadian documents as ḫarrᾱnam epēšu which means “to go on a way (to do business)” (CAD E, p208).  It is interesting that the first half of the verse also mentions feet, and fits in perfectly with the sequence of walking to a place to do business.  In the Akkadian text, the document gives permission to a person to walk to another city to do business for him in his name.  As can be seen, the terminology is very close and uses the same words to describe the action.

The same idea also relates to the next set of words “ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר“.  This expression can be found in the Akkadian text as dibbᾱtu dabᾱbu (CAD D, p.131) which translates “to speak words”.  This same set of words is used again in a business contract, and not just saying words in an every day manner. 

Many people have had dilemmas about doing things on Shabbat which are not “Holy” or Bible related.  The same issue was dealt with in the Talmud, and certain restrictions on mundane actions were created.  However, after finding a possible context to this verse, I think it is safe to say that if you are interested in going out to the park, go for a walk, chat with friends, or anything of this nature that does not involve work, you may do so and call the Shabbat a delight.

As a side note on the subject, many scholars (such as Winfield) argue that most work was equated with the field, and if one did not do the action in an agricultural way, there was no prohibition at all.  This raises some questions in regards to what is “work” and do we relate similar forms of action to be forbidden on Shabbat.


Photo Attribution:  Suq Aftimos old market entrance, Jerusalem, Israel.; By Rastaman3000 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Originally Published:  27 January 2015



June 25, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Thank you Yoel!
This short study, together with your podcasts related to Shabbat are very informative. I have to say that I had very similar interpretation before listening to your studies. Hope it’s not “confirmation bias” on my part 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join My Group Bible Class TODAY!

The class is done in a virtual class room with multiple participants. We meet on Sundays at 11:45am US eastern, or 6:45pm Israel time. You do not need to know Hebrew for this class, and you also receive a recording of the classes every month. For the link and how to join, click the More Info Button to email us.