“I will rise up against them, says the Lord of hosts, and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, offspring and posterity, says the Lord. And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction, says the Lord of hosts.”
Within this prophetic book as Isaiah speaks a mock lament to Israel’s oppressor, this time Babylon, is our creature, hedgehogs. As a mighty and powerful nation is no match for God, their land will become water, uninhabitable as even a wild animal like a hedgehog makes it their home. Maybe the image of hedgehogs wobbling and weaving through a land isn’t as frightening to you either but as I trace back, did hedgehogs even live in ancient Israel and it’s surrounding lands? It did not and this is one example of attempts to translate an obscure Hebrew word into a word recognizable to contemporary readers. Context clues tell translators it is an animal, but what? It’s not a word for other wild animals found in other places of Isaiah, as this word appears only one additional time. In Isaiah 34:11, in another listing of wild animals who will possess a land and make it wild and uninhabitable for humans as well. Both the NRSV and other translations note this word “Hebrew uncertain” meaning as we noted above, because its only found in the Bible within Isaiah translators are taking a guess on what animal today it could be naming. And the animal hedgehog most likely came from the KJV as they were and are plentiful in England. Yet I am sure Isaiah did not intend his listeners to begin to giggle as they picture fluffy hedgehogs popping up within the destruction of Babylon, but maybe so?
Creative Creator, as we picture your creature both great and small, we are delighted in such ingenuity. From hedgehogs and these unknown animals of old that Isaiah speaks of, we know your creative hand is at work and also your power to choose the last first and the first to be last is a promise we hold fast. In Christ’s redeeming power and gracious love, we pray. Amen.