What Does Isaiah 41: 10 Mean?
This Old Testament verse is one that has brought comfort to generations of Christians, but before we take a closer look at what it means, let’s consider who wrote it.
Who wrote Isaiah 41: 10?
The prophet Isaiah ben Amoz lived during the 8th Century B.C. We know from his writings that he was married and had children. The Book of Isaiah covers a historical period of around two centuries and scholars are agreed that it must have been the work of several writers, however, scholars also agree that despite multiple authors the book has a unity of tone and message. We should not be surprised by this, for God uses many mouths to tell us his truths. Scholars divide the book into three parts:
Proto-Isaiah, Chapters 1-39. Written by the prophet Isaiah and comprising of warnings of the coming judgment and prophecies of the coming Messiah.
Deutro-Isaiah, Chapters 40-55. Written 150 years later by a number of anonymous authors at a time when the Israelites were in exile in Babylon.
Trito-Isaiah, Chapters 56-66. Written by multiple authors after the Israelites’ return from exile.
So, according to this analysis, Isaiah 41: 10 was written by an anonymous author some 150 years after the prophet Isaiah.
What is the meaning of Isaiah 41: 10?
‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ NIV
In this verse, God speaks directly to us, the personal pronoun ‘I’ appears four times to emphasize God’s intervention. An instruction is immediately followed by an explanation of that instruction: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you’. When God is with us what is there to fear?
‘Do not be dismayed’. Dismay is less intense than fear, it is a sadness at a state of affairs, but there is no place for dismay amongst those who have faith in God. The final sentence of this verse is an assertion of divine help. God will ‘strengthen you and help you.’ The verse ends with the promise that god will ‘uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ ‘Righteous’ means just, virtuous, the perfection of the divine being and the right hand is a place of honour and status throughout the bible. Jesus sits at God’s right hand. For the faithful, the support of God is absolute. We’ve looked here at the verse, as it appears in the New International Version of the Bible, now let’s look at some other Bible versions.
Isaiah 41:10 KJV
‘Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’
This is not the oldest English language version of the Bible but it is certainly the most influential and its beautiful language has found its way into many everyday expressions that we use to this day. Of course language is constantly changing and however beautiful the poetry of the King James Version may be, there are parts of this 400-year-old language that the modern reader might find confusing. For example, ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ both mean ‘you’ the former is subject and the later is object, but you really don’t need to worry about the grammatical niceties in order to understand their use in the Bible. The other thing that a modern reader might find odd is the inversion of word order, such as ‘Fear thou not’. You might have to work a little harder to get the meaning from this version but is that such a bad thing? What this version has to recommend it is the power of its rhythm. Read it aloud and you’ll see what I mean. For many Christians, poetry is the best way to communicate the beauty of God’s message. Finally, there’s that little word ‘yea’, used twice, it simply means ‘yes’. Modern versions drop it but to me that air punching affirmation is just great.
Isaiah 41:10 NASB
‘Do not fear, for I am with you:
Do not be afraid, for I am your God,
I will strengthen you; I will also help you,
I will also uphold you with my righteous right hand.
The New American Standard Bible follows the KJV closely, retaining the rhythms and much of the language but taking out those words, which the modern reader may find archaic. The phrase ‘righteous right hand’ however, does not mean the same as ‘the right hand of my righteousness’. The first phrase suggests that the right hand is righteous though the left hand may not be; the KJV text says that it is the right hand of God’s righteousness, which seems to me much more on target. I also find those two ‘also’ awkward. What do you think?
Isaiah 41:10 MSG
‘Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God,
I’ll give you strength, I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
It’s a noble aim, to make the word of God accessible to all, to present the Bible in language that a child can understand. The problem for me is that if you take out the word ‘God’ this sounds just like a parent talking to a child and perhaps that is exactly the author’s intention, but doesn’t that diminish the power of the message? What do you think?
Isaiah 41:10 in context
Isaiah is one of the most referenced books in the entire Bible. It is a call to turn back to God and put our faith in him and its prophecies of a coming Messiah set the stage for Jesus Christ. Written at a time of great political instability the book offers a future of hope when God would restore the people of Israel to their land and reward their faith.
Reflections on Isaiah 41:10
Despite the thousands of years that separate us from the writer of Isaiah 41:10 our situation is not so very different from that of the Israelites. We too live in a time of political instability, we too are filled with fears and we too feel dismay when we look about us. Not surprising then that so many Christians turn to this verse and take comfort from its unequivocal promise of divine help.
Read next: What Does Isaiah 43:2 Mean? "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." God knows that in this world we will face many trials but throughout His Word, He has given us encouragement and comfort. One of the Bible verses that He uses to comfort us is Isaiah 43:2. What is its meaning?