In Isaiah 44:3, what does “pour out floods” on a dry land mean? By Jack Kettler
In this study, the meaning of “pour out floods on a dry land” will be considered.
“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3)
From the Strong’s Lexicon:
Noun - masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 4325: 1) water, waters 1a) water 1b) water of the feet, urine 1c) of danger, violence, transitory things, refreshment (fig.)”
While one can see from the Strong’s why the KJV translators chose floods to translate ma·yim, there is room in the Hebrew for other words to be used.
For example, consider the following translations:
New International Version
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
New Living Translation
“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.”
English Standard Version
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
Berean Standard Bible
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and currents on the dry ground. I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”
New American Standard Bible
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And My blessing on your descendants.” (Underlining emphasis mine)
The reader will notice the range of meaning the Hebrew allows, such as floods, currents, streams, and irrigating.
In his commentary, Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible has this to say:
“For I will pour water - Floods, rivers, streams, and waters, are often used in the Scriptures, and especially in Isaiah, to denote plenteous divine blessings, particularly the abundant influences of the Holy Spirit (see the note at Isaiah 35:6-7). That it here refers to the Holy Spirit and his influences, is proved by the parallel expressions in the subsequent part of the verse.”
“Upon him that is thirsty - Or rather, 'on the thirsty land.' The word צמא tsâmē' refers here rather to land, and the figure is taken from a burning sandy desert, where waters would be made to burst out in copious streams (see Isaiah 35:6-7). The sense is, that God would bestow blessings upon them as signal and marvelous, as if floods of waters were made to descend on the dry, parched, and desolated earth.”
“And floods - The word נוזלים nôzelı̂ym, from נזל nâzal, “to flow,” to run as liquids, means properly flowings, and is used for streams and rivers Exodus 15:8; Psalm 78:16; Proverbs 5:15; Jeremiah 18 It means here that the spiritual influences which would descend on the afflicted, desolate, comfortless, and exiled people, would be like torrents of rain poured on the thirsty earth. This beautiful figure is common in the Scriptures:”
“He shall come down like rain upon the grass,”
“And as showers that water the earth.”
From J. C. Philpot's Daily Portions:
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Isaiah 44:3
In pouring out his Spirit upon Zion's offspring, God pours out there with every spiritual blessing that there is in his heart or hands to bestow. Whatever earthly good you may enjoy, without the blessing of God it will but prove a curse; whatever afflictions fall to your earthly lot, if God blesses them, they must all eventually be made a blessing. Nor is this blessing niggardly given, for the Lord has here promised that he will POUR it out! It shall be given as profusely and as abundantly as the Spirit himself. Nor shall Zion doubt either the blessing itself or the source whence it comes, for it carries its own evidence, shines in the light of its own testimony, and manifests itself by its own effects.”
“And does not the contrast between the dry ground and the promised showers of blessing enhance it all the more? Your very barrenness and sterility make the promise all the more suitable, and therefore all the more sweet. If you look into yourself, a barren wilderness meets your view. If you look up, you see the clouds of blessing floating in the pure sky. You see that the Lord has promised to “pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” You beg of him to fulfill that promise to your soul. You have no other plea but his own word of promise, no other recommendation but your own miserable barrenness. He enables you to cry to him. He listens to that cry, and in his own time pours water upon your thirsty soul, and floods upon your dry and parched heart. O may a sense of our poverty and destitution be ever a means, in his sacred hand, of leading us to seek that blessing which he alone can bestow!”
Philpot captures the New Testament Messianic implications of Isaiah 44:3 perfectly.
In closing, a summary of the Isaiah passage from Matthew Poole's Commentary:
“I will pour water; my Spirit and blessing, which is frequently compared to water; and so, it is expounded in the latter part of the verse.”
“Upon him that is thirsty: either,”
1. “Upon him that desires it. Or rather,”
2. “Upon him that is destitute of it; for what is here thirsty, in the next clause it is called dry ground.”
“My Spirit; the gifts and graces of my Spirit; which expression he seems designedly to use, to lift up the minds and hearts of the Jews from carnal and worldly things, to which they were too much addicted, unto spiritual and heavenly blessings, and thereby to prepare them for the better entertainment of the gospel.”
“My blessing; all the blessings of my covenant, both spiritual and temporal.”
The passage from Isaiah 44:3 is one of encouragement for God’s people. Using the word picture of floods or streams being poured upon the dry or thirsty land, one can see two-fold blessings, one literal for dry land in need of moisture, and another, a spiritual or heavenly blessing.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 7, p.1044.
2. Philpot's Daily Portions: Daily Readings for Christians.
3. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 424.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com