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Series Theme: Bible Study Approaches



The Example: Isa 58




































Title:   22. Example of Writing your own Commentary

                                      - Isaiah, Ch.58


How writing your own version can help understanding





Very often when we read the Bible, we really don't take in what is being said, either because the ideas are new to us, or perhaps because of the nature of the language being used.

A simple way to overcome this is to take a passage of Scripture and then write it in your own words.

In the example that follows, the alternate version is NOT a translation but simply a version of what is there in the Scriptures in this writers form. 

It is important to understand this:  this example is purely an example of how one modern-day Christian took the English words, there in the New International Version of the Bible, and tried to put them in a different, free-flowing way to help him understand the Scripture. 

Please understand - his version is very imperfect and will not cover every detail of what is recorded in the Scripture passage. That is not the objective. It is simply to try to catch the overall sense being conveyed, and it is something personal.

Such an approach is NOT to replace the Scripture but simply help increase personal understanding of what the Scripture passage was saying. No doubt if this student-writer repeated the exercise again in the future, he would use different words, but hopefully still come up with the same overall sense.   We hope you understand.

Isaiah 58 has been chosen for no other reason than it was one that the student-writer was considering. It speaks for itself.


The Example : Isaiah 58

The Bible Version


This student's version

1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.


Isaiah, shout this out so everyone who is part of the people of God hears it! You're going to tell them about their rebellion and their sins!

Look, they give the appearance of being really spiritual. They look like they are keen to know my ways, as if they wanted to do right. They come seeking me as if they want me to be there for them, guiding and helping them.


3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'  "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.


Look, they say, we've fasted, we've humbled ourselves and God doesn't seem to have taken any notice.

You don't know why? Because even on the days when you fast you still are self-centred, doing your own thing, trying to manipulate God for your own ends while you are exploiting your workers, quarrelling and fighting among yourselves. You can't be all spiritual on one hand and carry on acting like this on the other, and expect me to respond!


5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?



Is your idea of fasting simply to do outward acts of piety, apparently humbling yourself by bowing down, even wearing sackcloth with ashes? Is that your idea of fasting, because it's not mine!

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?



The fasting that I have in mind involves acting in such a way that justice prevails in all you do, those who are captive or oppressed are set free, and you provide food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, clothes for the naked, and you, especially, provide for your own kin. Fasting involves being pious in every area of your lives.

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.


When you do this, you'll start shining like the people you're designed to be and then healing and righteousness will return to your lives, indeed they will go ahead of you preparing your future for you, while the glory and wonder of the Lord will be seen following all you do.

At such a time when you call on me, I will answer, and a closeness of relationship will be re-established between us.


"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.


Again I say, do away with wrong behaviour, oppressing those who are weaker than you, gossiping maliciously, dragging one another down with words. Instead put your energies into feeding the hungry and setting the oppressed free. When you do this you'll shine in the darkness of the world and your lives will be full of light all the time.


11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.



Again, when you do this, the Lord will be your constant guide and will bring satisfaction to you even when life seems dry and barren and you feel weak. Instead you will flourish like a well watered garden.

At that time you will restore what was broken down and lost in the past, and you will be seen as those who bring order and blessing to the community.

13 "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 the LORD's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD , and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken.


Look, this all includes how you honour God on the day he's given you to rest. If you restore this day and make it a blessing instead of a bane, in the way you honour the Lord, then you will find a joy returning to your relationship with the Lord and I will enable you to rise up and enjoy even the difficult parts of life, and really receive and rejoice in all the good things that I have designed for my obedient people to have. I have spoken!


( Summary : This people looked and sounded really spiritual while they were still doing wrong. God would not go with that. He called them to care for the poor and oppressed and said when they did that His blessing would return to their lives )


We hope this example both shows an approach as to how to increase understanding, while at the same time helping this particular passage come alive in a new way.

Why don't you take a Bible and find a passage of Scripture and write it out in your own words and see what it says to you?



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