Breaking the Yoke
Let us look at several translations of Isaiah 10:27, which has to do with breaking a burdensome yoke. We will start with the King James Version (KJV):
And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.
The KJV a wonderful translation. It has a certain beauty, power, and authority. True, some of the language is archaic. However, the translation on the whole is a fairly accurate one, except for the verse we are exploring.
What does the original Hebrew say? The text reads, “The yoke shall be destroyed because of shamen” (pronounced SHA-MEN). The KJV translators understood shamen to be the equivalent of shemen, oil, which apparently led them to think of oil for anointing.
What is the text actually saying? It’s best to understand shamen here as “fatness” (pronounced SHA-MEYN), which would produce a literal translation of, “The yoke will be destroyed because of the fat.”
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is a very literal translation.
So it will be in that day, that his burden will be removed from your shoulders and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be broken because of fatness.
It is accurate, but is not the most readable. What does fatness mean?
The New International Version (NIV) expresses it well:
In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat.
The NIV is somewhat of a paraphrase, but its meaning is not obscure. It gets right to the point.
What about our “modern” New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)?
On that day his burden will be removed from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your neck.
The NRSV bypassed the whole discussion of fatness altogether.
Let us look at fatness. We have an ox with a yoke on its neck, enslaving it to the will of its master. But eventually, it gets so healthy and fat that the yoke simply bursts from off its neck. That ox is now free!
Today is Fat Tuesday. It refers to the day when people might fatten themselves up with food and drink in order to prepare for the day of fasting that follows on Ash Wednesday.
Perhaps we need to fatten ourselves up in a different fashion. When we find ourselves bound or oppressed or beaten into submission by the enemy. We simply feed our spirits the living Word day and night, we continue in worship and praise and prayer and communion, and little by little, we get so healthy and strong—so “fat”—that suddenly the yoke of oppression has to burst. The fatness destroys the yoke!