By Christina M Wilson
God “Opens Up”
Current news stories often use the phrase, so-and-so “opens up” about something. To “open up” about something often means to tell one’s subjective feelings about a current or prior experience. In this last cycle of repetition in the book of Isaiah (see Devotional 2.87), God seems to be “opening up” about everything that’s gone before in Israel’s history.
Clearly, chapters 63-66 of Septuagint Isaiah are the last chapters in the book. They form the conclusion to the whole. But not only do these chapters conclude the book of Isaiah, they also perform the function of summarizing God’s entire history with his people. In a sense, they summarize the Old Testament. At times the prophet uses his own voice to review this history (Isaiah 63:7-14; 64:10-11). In other portions of the text, God speaks out, revealing the pain in his heart in a most remarkable way (Isaiah 65:2-7, 11-13) (1).
God also announces “new things” (Isaiah 43:19). He is about to take an enormous turn, a leap into a future realm that will be completely different from what has gone before.
65:1 I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:1, see also Isaiah 65:1 ESV)
So, in this last packet God “opens up” and explains himself fully, not that he hasn’t already done so several times throughout all the previous chapters. But this packet gives an overview of the whole, accompanied by a preview of future changes.
The last packet of the book (the final cycle of repetition) opens with a vision. Isaiah the prophet, as though he were a watchman upon a wall, announces in Isaiah 63:1 the approach of a figure dressed in bright red clothing (verses 1-2). The observer recognizes the great power of this figure and asks who this is. The Lord replies in first person.
1 [the watchman asks] Who is this that is come from Edom, with red garments from Bosor? thus fair in his apparel, with mighty strength? [the figure replies] I speak of righteousness and saving judgment. (Isaiah 63:1, LXE; see also Isaiah 63:1, ESV)
Although Isaiah never names the figure in red, the words themselves of verses 1-6 indicate that this is the Lord. Only God has the authority and power to speak and do what the text describes. The figure is divine. Yet because the text provides a physical description of the figure, it seems reasonable to conclude that the divine figure is not God Almighty, who has never been seen. There is no other divine being in Isaiah other than God’s Servant from chapter 53 and elsewhere. It is true that occasionally the Spirit of God is also mentioned, but this figure is not God’s Spirit. The words and voice of the figure’s speech belong to Yahweh, Israel’s God of the Old Testament.
The watchman next asks the figure to explain why his clothes are bright red, as one who treads in a winepress (Isaiah 63:2). The figure’s answer shocks with the force of its violence.
3 I am full of trodden grape, and of the nations there is not a man with me; and I trampled them in my fury, and dashed them to pieces as earth, and brought down their blood to the earth. (LXE)
In the subsequent verse the Lord speaks of condemnation and salvation in the same breath.
4 For the day of recompence has come upon them, and the year of redemption is at hand. (LXE)
For some there is condemnation, and for others, salvation.
- Verse 1 specifies Edom and Bozrah as recipients of God’s anger. In verse 6, the Septuagint translation simply writes “them.” The Masoretic text, on the other hand, uses a Hebrew word that can mean either “people, peoples, nation, tribe, non-Israelites,” depending on context. I believe it is safe to describe those in both verses as the enemies of Israel.
- God, however, saves his own people.
Verse 5 expands the two statements of verse 4–both the recompense and the redemption.
5 And I looked, and there was no helper; and I observed, and none upheld: therefore my arm delivered them, and my anger drew near. (LXE)
Verse 6, as previously discussed, closes this section of God’s expressed anger against those who harm his people.
6 And I trampled them in my anger, and brought down their blood to the earth. (LXE) (2)
When Do These Things Happen?
Isaiah at times uses prophetic present and past tenses to indicate future occurrences. Examples occur in Septuagint Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 53:1-8. But do all Isaiah’s visions refer to the future? Although some might disagree, I propose that the vision of Septuagint Isaiah 63:1-6 refers to what has already occurred in Israel’s past. The remainder of chapters 63-66 support this conjecture.
First, the words of verse 7, the very next verse, look to the past.
Isaiah 63:7 I remembered the mercy of the Lord, the praises of the Lord in all things wherein he recompenses us. The Lord is a good judge to the house of Israel; he deals with us according to his mercy, and according to the abundance of his righteousness. (LXE)
The prophet in verse 7 states that he remembers. Remembering indicates past events. Then, following verse 7, verses 8-14 recount the history of God and his people. Chapter 64 also recounts past events. Therefore, grouping the first six verses as introductory to the subsequent eight verses makes good sense. In all his past actions, God has recompensed Israel’s enemies and shown mercy to his own people.
Interpretations which see a future fulfillment of this passage cut out and separate the first six verses of chapter 63 from the multitude of verses which follow in the remainder of chapters 63 and chapter 64. While treating the vision of the figure in red as a separate, isolated passage, some interpreters say that these verses describe a situation following the far, far distant “great tribulation” and the Lord’s return to set up a millennial kingdom.
All such ideas are imported from interpretations of biblical passages elsewhere in Scripture. Nothing in Isaiah itself provides any time marker to indicate that the prophet speaks of tremendously future events, or even any future event. By “tremendously future,” I mean events that would jump over and beyond the most significant happening in all of human history–the advent of Christ, the birthing, life, death, and resurrection of very God of very in the flesh. No vision of any “millennial kingdom” will ever surpass this event in awesome wonder and glory.
A Summary of Isaiah’s Closing Chapters
The vision of the Figure in red presents the image of God as a vengeful warrior protecting his favored child from their enemies (Isaiah 63:1-6). The next three verses present the image of God rescuing his children. On the one hand, God destroys Israel’s enemies. On the other hand, but at the same time, God rescues those children.
63:8 The Lord said, “These are my people. My children will not lie to me.” So the Lord saved them. (ICB)
Then, in verse 10, the prophet becomes a narrator. He relates how the children turned against the Lord and his Holy Spirit, bringing him grief. So, the Lord himself contended against them (v 10). Eventually, the people remembered their first exodus from Egypt with Moses, by the hand of the Lord, when his name became wonderful to them (vv 11-14). Upon this remembrance, the prophet/narrator shifts to intercession (v 15). His intercession continues from Isaiah 63:15 through the end of the next chapter in Isaiah 64:12.
At this point, after such heart-felt confession and pleading for yet another salvation (Isaiah 63:15-64:12), the reader might reasonably expect the Lord to relent. It would not be out of his character, the character he consistently displayed for nearly two thousand years. The reader might expect the Lord to say, [in paraphrase] “Okay, yes, I hear you. I will forgive you once again and bear you in my arms for deliverance from your enemies one more time. I will behave in the same manner I did when I trod down in my wrath the grapes of the nations who sought to annihilate you (Isaiah 63:1-6). I will come through for you and rescue you yet again.”
But, that is not what the Lord says in reply to Isaiah’s intercession on behalf of the Lord’s people. Rather, he announces a sharp turn in history. The Lord answers Isaiah’s importunate pleadings with this paraphrase, “No. Not again. This time, I’m turning to the Gentiles.” (For corroboration from the parables of Jesus, see footnote 3.)
Isaiah 65:1 I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint version)
The Lord then rehearses his many grievances against his people (65:2-7). This is not the first time in Isaiah that the Lord has plainly shared the faults he finds with those he blesses so ardently throughout the many long centuries of their history (see Isaiah 1:2-14; 5:1-14; 57:1-13).
But yet, in spite of all his wrath, God does respond positively to Isaiah’s intercession in Isaiah 65:8-9. He will save a faithful remnant (grapes with juice in them). He describes their blessings (Isaiah 65:8-10). Then, from Isaiah 65:11-16, the Lord describes the punishment he will give to the unfaithful of his own people. He doesn’t speak of their enemies this time, as he did in Isaiah 63:1-6, but of they themselves. He contrasts these punishments with the reward he will give his faithful remnant. These contrasts continue through to the end of the book. We will end the detailed paraphrase here.
A Five Sentence Paraphrase
The following five sentences summarize the closing four chapters of Septuagint Isaiah.
It used to be like this with Israel. It will soon be this other way. Nevertheless, I will redeem and bless my faithful remnant. And, I will extend my blessings and redemption to Gentiles (Isaiah 65:1). The world is about to change.
1 Since the God who speaks is Yahweh, then yes, God does feel pain. (He is passible.) Yahweh is the God of Old Testament Israel who manifests himself in remarkably human-relatable ways. This same Yahweh is he who incarnates in the New Testament, where he cries out from the cross, “I thirst!” (John 19:28).
2 Isaiah 6:1-13 provides another example of a visually expressive vision. Note that this vision occurs near the beginning of the book, while the vision of the figure in red occurs near the end. The vision in Isaiah 6 is also an overview of Israel’s entire history up until return from the exile. But where the vision in chapter 6 looks forward, the vision in Isaiah 63 looks backward.
3 In his parables, Jesus/Servant/Messiah often taught the same message as the prophet Isaiah. See, for example, the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-15), the Parable of the Vineyard (Luke 20:9-20), the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9), and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:16-31).
By Christina M Wilson
Cycle 3: Patterns of Repetition
Isaiah 63 begins the third prophetic cycle of repetition in Volume 2 (see prior post for a description of the cycles). What patterns of repetition in the text indicate for readers that a new cycle has begun?
Details that Indicate a New Cycle
I. A Major “Throwback”
Watching Isaiah perform another abrupt turnabout should not surprise readers who follow him closely. What about this turnabout? First, chapters 60-62 speak unremittingly of blessings to Sion/Jerusalem. These names collectively represent the faithful remnant of Israel. God joins believing Gentiles to this remnant. It appears the prophet takes the reader right up near the end of all history. Jerusalem’s blessings will be permanent. But then, without warning, chapter 63 switches back to condemnation.
At first, it appears that the figure dressed in red (verse 1) condemns the nations. But a little further on, the condemnation switches to the Lord’s own people (verses 63:9-10f). How can the Lord be condemning those in chapter 63 whom he just blessed in chapter 62? Once again in the book of Isaiah, the reader must decide, is God unstable? The answer is, of course, no. God is not unstable. Isaiah simply begins a new cycle of repetition.
II. Volume 2 Repeats the Closing of Volume 1
If we consider Isaiah 36-39 about Hezekiah to be an addendum to Volume 1 of Isaiah, then chapters 34 and 35 constitute its conclusion.
- Septuagint Isaiah 34 deals mostly with the final judgment of the world. Verses 1-4 concern the nations. Verses 5-14 specifically describe the judgment upon Idumea (Edom) and Bosor (Bozrah), a city within Edom. These together represent the area where Esau and his progeny settled.
- After chapter 34 concerning judgment, then Septuagint Isaiah 35 describes the eternal joy of those
who participate in God’s blessings. These include the faithful of Israel (“my people” of verse 2) and all the redeemed of the world (Isaiah 35:10). Sion (Zion) will be their eternal home.
Septuagint Isaiah 63-66 concludes both Volume 2 and the book of Isaiah as a whole. Chapters 63-66 repeat the pattern of chapters 34-35.
- The judgment of Septuagint Isaiah 63:1-6 strongly resembles the judgment of Septuagint Isaiah 34. Both judgments specifically mention Edom and Bosra (Isaiah 34:5-6 and Isaiah 63:1). Both chapters use the word recompence (or recompense) (Septuagint Isaiah 34:8 and Septuagint Isaiah 63:4).
- Both passages describe the eternal blessings of the redeemed.
- One difference between the two sets of concluding chapters is detail. Chapters 34 and 35 present an overview of both judgment and redemption. Chapters 63-66, on the other hand, go into great detail concerning God’s protracted dealings with Israel throughout its long history.
- A second difference is that the judgment and redemption sections of chapters 34 and 35 do not mix. First, the judgment is described, then the joyous state of the redeemed. The text does not switch back and forth between the two. In the closing chapters of Volume 2, however, the prophet continually addresses both judgment and salvation in a back and forth manner, alternating the one with the other. In fact, the entire book closes with a single, horrible description of final judgment.
III. Cycles One, Two, and Three of Volume 2
Cycle 3 of Isaiah (Isaiah 63-66) contains each of the four elements of cycle 1 (Isaiah 40:1-56:8) and cycle 2 (Isaiah 56:9-62:12) (see Cycles of Repetition in Isaiah). These elements are 1) Israel’s need (Septuagint Isaiah 63:10-64:12), 2) the Servant’s coming and sacrifice (Septuagint Isaiah 63:8-9), 3) outcome for believing Israel and believing Gentiles (Isaiah 63:9; 65:1, 8-10, 15-25; 66:12-14, 18-23), and 4) judgment upon the rebellious (Isaiah 63:1-6; 65:3-7, 11-15; 66:3-4, 15-18, 24).
Difficulties in Reading Isaiah
Readers encounter many difficulties in the study of Isaiah. The book is a large, somewhat overwhelming book of prophecy. Readers can become lost in its seemingly minute details. The text manifests few time markers. Enormous, abrupt shifts in topic occur, often without any transition words whatsoever. God himself seems to flip-flop between the judgment of condemnation for his people and pronouncements of magnificent blessings.
Two Textual Keys
Two important keys of interpretation exist. The first is to realize from the text itself that “not all Israel is Israel.” God consistently addresses two different groups of people within the body politic. The first group consists of Israelites who are rebellious in heart. The second group consists of those who display a willingness to confess and turn to God. God condemns the rebellious people and blesses the contrite. These groups manifest throughout the entire book.
A second key of interpretation is the realization that Isaiah does not progress in an orderly, chronological fashion. Rather, Isaiah progresses in somewhat disorderly, topical fashion. Isaiah’s message contains relatively few major topics. These include 1) judgment upon the nations, 2) judgment upon unfaithful Israel, 3) salvation of repentant and obedient Israel, 4) the Servant, who bears the totality of deliverance, and 5) inclusion of believing Gentiles within the Servant’s kingdom.
As these topics continually repeat, especially in Volume 2 (chapters 40-66), a reader begins to perceive discrete packets. I have called these packets “cycles of repetition”. These cycles of repetition form the structure of the book. By allowing Isaiah to interpret Isaiah, that is, by not importing theological constructs from elsewhere, a reader will begin to perceive Isaiah’s strongly gospel-centered, New Testament message of judgment and salvation through God’s Servant, who is God himself.
Isaiah’s Final Chapters
Chapters 63-66 conclude both Volume 2 and the entire book. Within this cycle of repetition, God in his own words reveals and explains his heart in a directly open and bluntly clear way. His words span the course of Israel’s entire history from its inception to its future, eternal end. Within this overview, God does not neglect to mention his inclusion of Gentiles within the community of Sion and Jerusalem, whom he chooses to bless. The text also gives readers a deep view into the heart of Israel’s redeemed, as well as descriptions of the rebellious ways of the condemned. None of this is new material. Chapters 63-66 repeat what Isaiah has already said elsewhere. This cycle of repetition constitutes a summary of both God’s judgmental anger and merciful salvation. In these chapters, God speaks with a strength and coherency fitting for the conclusion of the book.
… Lord willing, the next post will begin consideration of the details of Isaiah’s final cycle of repetition.
By Christina M Wilson
Structure: Cycles of Repetition in Isaiah Volume 2
The prophet structures his text with cycles of repetition in Isaiah Volume 2. The text does not proceed in chronological fashion. (Similarly, cycles of repetition also occur in the book of Revelation.) Each cycle of repetition relates an account of 1) Israel’s need, 2) the Servant’s coming and sacrifice, 3) results for God’s believing people and believing Gentiles, 4) statements of God’s judgment upon those who willfully and persistently disobey. Isaiah presents each of the repeated accounts of the Servant’s Advent from a different point of view, that is, with a different emphasis.
Cycle 1 of repetition is the longest. It stretches from Septuagint Isaiah 40:1 to 56:8.
1 Israel’s Need
Cycle 1 is the only cycle that begins with the theme of comfort. The comfort of cycle 1 in Volume 2 answers Israel’s need for a Savior, which Volume 1 so thoroughly develops. Nevertheless, cycle 1 of repetition also presents Israel’s need (see, for example, Isaiah 42:18-25).
II The Servant’s Coming and Sacrifice
The centerpiece of cycle 1 is Septuagint Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Here the focus falls most heavily upon the Servant himself. The verses describe the Servant’s work of sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53:4-6, 11-12), his rejection by Israel (Isaiah 52:14-53:3), his acceptance by Gentiles (Isaiah 52:15), and his own ultimate reward (Isaiah 52:13; 53:10-12) (1).
III Outcome for Believing Israel and Believing Gentiles
Still within cycle 1, the text after chapter 53 (concerning the Servant’s work) immediately begins a description of the outcome of the Servant’s work for believing Israel (the barren woman of Septuagint Isaiah 54:1) (2). The rejoicing that begins there continues all the way through Septuagint Isaiah 56:8. God includes Gentiles in Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; 54:2-3; 55:4-5; and 56:2-8. The Septuagint is very clear in these verses.
IV Judgment Upon the Rebellious
As the book of Isaiah progresses through its pages, the message of “two Israels” becomes increasingly clear. First, there is the believing remnant. Second, there is everyone else. As concerns the first group, through the prophet Isaiah, God promises to rescue and bless his believing remnant. But, scattered throughout the chapters are descriptive statements of the actions of the ungodly and God’s ultimate condemnation of them.
The distinction between these two groups is not as clear in Cycle 1 as later in the book (3). Nevertheless, readers find God’s condemnation of Israel’s nonbelieving group in Septuagint Isaiah 48:22. This verse stuns the reader, because it follows immediately upon God’s pronouncement of tenderest blessings upon those whom he addresses as, “my people” in 48:21. The Septuagint contrasts these verses most effectively.
I Israel’s Need
The text shifts abruptly from God’s blessings and expectations in the new order following the Servant’s cleansing work (cycle 1) to a harsh and seemingly final judgment of condemnation for those who refuse to follow God’s holy and just ways (cycle 2). The text presents no transition between the two verses (Isaiah 56:8, 9). Further, the condemnation continues Isaiah 57:13a. The reader feels as though she has returned to Volume 1, before the Advent of the Servant. And, I believe, the text does return both to conditions prior to the exile and prior to the salvation that is to be accomplished by the Servant.
II The Servant
Cycle 2 extends from Septuagint Isaiah 59:16 through Septuagint Isaiah 62. Isaiah 59, at the beginning of cycle 2, describes the saving work of God’s Servant, again. Verses 16 through the chapter’s close in verse 21 describe the Servant’s work and the new covenant he inaugurates (verse 59:21) (4). But, this portion of repetition, as contrasted with cycle 1, emphasizes God’s accomplished salvation through the sacrifice of his Servant as it affects the people of God.
III Blessings for God’s Believing People and Gentiles
Chapters 60-62 describe the outcome of the Servant’s work as blessings for his people, including Gentiles. The text names God’s people Zion and Jerusalem as those who will benefit (Septuagint Isaiah 60:1, 14). Gentiles from all over the world, who come and join themselves to God’s believing people, share in God’s blessings upon Zion (Septuagint Isaiah 60:10-11, 16). The people of Zion adopt as their own the children of the Gentiles (Septuagint Isaiah 60:3-4, 8-9; 62:10-11).
III Judgment of Condemnation for the Rebellious
The text in cycle 2 draws sharper distinctions within Israel’s people between those who reject outright God’s ways and those who are willing to repent and believe in his salvation. Largely through God’s condemning speeches, the text presents the theme that “not all Israel are God’s people.” Not everyone will be saved. The faithful obedience of turning toward God to confess and repent is what God rewards. God will not save, or favor, those of his people who remain hard-hearted and self-willed (Septuagint Isaiah 56:11-57:13a, 20).
But those who cleave to the Lord shall possess the land and inherit God’s holy mountain (Septuagint Isaiah 57:13b). God will pour his Spirit upon the “faint-hearted” and “broken-hearted” (Septuagint Isaiah 57:15-16). These he will heal, and to these God will give his “true comfort” and “peace upon peace” (Septuagint Isaiah 57:18-19).
The text devotes all of chapter 58 of cycle 2 to God’s chastising his people and calling them to repentance. He makes glorious promises to them should they repent. In chapter 59:1-10, God condemns those who appear to have no interest at all in repentance. The voice of repentance occurs in Septuagint Isaiah 59:12-15. The next major piece of repentance occurs in Cycle Three, Septuagint Isaiah 64:5-9.
Septuagint Isaiah 63 begins the third and final cycle of repetition in Isaiah Volume 2. Readers will recall that each of these cycles contains four elements: 1) Israel’s need, 2) the coming of the Servant and his work, 3) the blessings of the Servant’s work upon all God’s believing people, which includes Gentiles, and finally, 4) God’s condemnation upon the rebellious.
I Israel’s Need
Chapter 63 begins by summarizing the deeds of Yahweh (Old Testament Israel’s Lord) with a focus on God’s historical judgment of Israel. These verses alternate with recollection of God’s historical mercy (verses 1-14).
II The Servant and His Saving Work
The Servant in cycle 3 appears in both his judgmental role and his salvific role. (See, for example, Septuagint Isaiah 63:1-8.)
III Blessings for God’s Believing People and Gentiles
Cycle 3 contains one of the longest prayers of confession and intercession in the entire book (see Isaiah 63:15-64:12). In direct response to this prayer, God speaks the famous words that indicate his calling of Gentiles to his salvation.
I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:1, Romans 10:20-21)
IV Condemnation upon the Rebellious
Chapter 65 reveals to readers much about God’s overall plan. As mentioned above, after the believing remnant’s prayer of confession, God responds by announcing his inclusion of Gentiles among his beloved. Then God speaks again of that portion of Israel who consistently rebel (Isaiah 65:2-7). Their reward is God’s wrathful retribution (verse 5). But, God turns again in Isaiah 65:8-10 to speak of the good “grape-stone” (the remnant) in the desiccated cluster. They, his elect (verse 9), shall “inherit my holy mountain.” In verses 11-15a, God repeats his decision to exclude the disobedient of Israel from his blessing. (It is indeed difficult to contemplate this judgment upon those who reject God and his ways.)
This post describes the structure of Septuagint Isaiah Volume Two. The text of Isaiah Volume 2 reveals cycles of repetition. In other words, the text does not proceed in a chronological flow. Far from it. Each of three cycles contains elements that develop four major themes. Cycle one gives the most detail concerning the suffering Servant himself. Cycle two emphasizes God’s believing people, both among those of Israel and among the Gentiles. Cycle three contrasts the results for apostate Israel and repentant, believing Israel. God himself places ethnic Israelites and Gentiles together in this single, believing unit. The strokes of cycle three seem the broadest in the entire book. They reveal God’s heart throughout the ages from the past into the eternal future. Cycle three deals with God’s game-plan and reveals his end-goal. The text also reveals the Lord (God’s Servant) to be the Yahweh who accompanied Israel all the years of their long history with him. He appears as both Judge and Savior. All three cycles deal with Israel’s past history, the first coming of God’s Servant, and the eternal results of the salvation he brings.
…As these posts progress, we will uncover, Lord willing, some of the details of the four chapters that conclude Isaiah with cycle three.
3 For a verse even earlier in Volume 1 that distinguishes the two “groups,” see Septuagint Isaiah 33:2, “[Group One:] Lord, have mercy upon us; for we have trusted in thee: [Group Two:] the seed of the rebellious is gone to destruction, [Group One:] but our deliverance was in a time of affliction.”
4 For the New Covenant, see Isaiah Devotional 2.77.
By Christina M Wilson
Clarification: Septuagint Isaiah 62 NOT a Return from Babylon
The main point of Septuagint Isaiah is not the physical exile to Babylon–both its occurrence and the people’s return. Nor is the main point the salvation of Zion. No, rather, Septuagint Isaiah’s main point is the salvation of Zion and the Gentile world by means of God’s Servant. The Servant and his work are the fulcrum from which all else flows. On the downward side is judgment. On the upward side is glory for Zion and the annexed Gentile believers. When the main point is realized, understanding the story line of the text becomes much easier.
The New Testament quotes Isaiah approximately 52 times, according to Archer and Chirichingno (1). Other than the Psalter (Psalms), Isaiah is the book most frequently quoted by New Testament authors. Most people familiar with the Gospels and New Testament epistles recognize that the bulk of the gospel message concerns the Christ’s incarnation, divine powers, and work of salvation. In other words, the Gospel writers did not concern themselves with Old Testament Israel’s return from Babylon. The quotations from Isaiah in the New Testament concern the Servant’s/Messiah’s/Christ’s divine identity and saving work for Israel and the world at large.
Therefore, to read Isaiah 62 with the Israelites’ return from Babylon primarily in view is to miss the main point of Isaiah’s prophecy. For example, some commentators place the thrust of the message of chapter 62 chronologically before the exile. They may write that verses 10-12 make reference to passing through Babylon’s gates in return to their homeland. Please understand, I am not denying that for Israelites in the year 700 BC, Babylon may have been first and foremost in their line of vision. But as Jesus himself explains in Luke 24:25-27, the important message of the Prophets concerned himself.
The current section of Isaiah begins in Septuagint Isaiah 56:9. This fresh repetition does take the reader back to a time before the exile (see Devotional 2.73). However, a recounting of God’s salvation through his Servant begins with a confession of sin spoken by a representative of the remnant in Septuagint Isaiah 59:12-15. The narrative of the Servant begins in verse 16 of that same chapter. It continues through the end of the chapter. The climax in Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 is God’s New Covenant, the pouring out of his Spirit in response to the Savior’s cleansing work. Immediately, chapters 60-62 celebrate this amazing work. Chapter 62 does not leap back in time to a period before the exile, but remains firmly fixed in the outcome of the Servant’s work, as recounted in Septuagint Isaiah 59:16-21.
Verses 6-9: Protection for God’s People
1. Watchmen on Her Walls: 6-7
In Septuagint verse 6, God himself speaks (not Isaiah the prophet). God appoints “watchmen all day and all night.” The watchmen of verse 6 “never cease making mention of the Lord.” These watchmen appear to be witnesses to the Lord. The Septuagint text differs from the Masoretic in this verse. It is the Lord these watchmen talk about. Verse 7 gives the reason. There will be none like Jerusalem when the Lord establishes her and makes her a praise on the earth. In other words, this figure could be applied to a bride who is always talking about her betrothed (see verse 5). The reason is that he has treated her extremely well, she being very special to him. Therefore, she spends all her time recounting his praises and what he has done for her (2).
62:6 And upon your walls, O Ierousalem, I have posted sentinels all day and all night, who shall never be silent, making mention of the Lord. 7 For you [plural] have none like him [singular], if he should restore Ierousalem and make it a boast on the earth. (Silva, M. NETS) (3)
2. Protection and Praise: 8-9
8 For the Lord has sworn by his glory, and by the might of his arm, I will no more give your corn and your provisions to your enemies; nor shall strangers any more drink your wine, for which you have laboured. 9 But they that have gathered them shall eat them, and they shall praise the Lord; and they that have gathered the grapes shall drink thereof in my holy courts. (Septuagint Isaiah, Brenton LXE)
In verses 8 and 9, the bridegroom of verse 5 promises to protect his bride from all her enemies. She will labor, harvest, and enjoy the fruits of her labor (Matthew 6:19-20). In return, the bride “shall praise the Lord.” Isaiah presents metaphorical figures. “They” are the people of Jerusalem. Verse 5 explains in metaphor that the Lord will rejoice over his people in the same way that a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.
Verses 10-11: A Missionary Directive
62:10 Go through my gates, and make a way for my people; and cast the stones out of the way; lift up a standard for the Gentiles. 11 For behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, say you to the daughter of Sion, Behold, your Saviour has come to you, having his reward and his work before his face. (LXE) (Reference Bibles point the reader to Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5; and John 12:15)
The extended context of Septuagint Isaiah 62:10-11 is everything that’s gone before in chapters 60-61. In these chapters, Sion and Jerusalem have already been redeemed. The chapters present Jerusalem (the people of God) rejoicing and celebrating over the goodness and provision of the Lord. Because the text mentions the phrase “my gates,” this does not of necessity refer to Babylon. The last direct reference to Babylon occurs in chapter 48. Chapter 53 brings the time frame up to the advent of the Lord. Chapter 59 repeats the advent, while chapters 60-62 expound the beneficial outcome of the advent for God’s people. Specifically, 62:1-9 describe the glories of Jerusalem, God’s people, in the period following God’s new covenant of Spirit with them in Isaiah 59:21. As readers may recall, God enacted his covenant of Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-39) and elsewhere in book of Acts.
There is further support of the premise that the word “gates” do not refer to Babylon. While the Masoretic translations write “the gates” in 62:10, the Septuagint states, “my gates.” It seems most likely that God’s gates would be those at the entrance/exit of Jerusalem, rather than the gates of Cyrus the Persian. But consider. These verses describe God’s people as already living in Jerusalem. Verse 10 pictures a different scenario than the exit from Babylon. Rather, the flow is from Jerusalem outward.
“Go!” in 62:10 is a verbal imperative directed toward God’s people who live in Sion. God directs them to go out from Sion and prepare a road for the Gentiles, who will be advancing toward Sion. See Matthew 28:19 for the same Greek word, “Go!”. (In Isaiah the word is πορεύεσθε (por-EV-es-thay) and in Matthew the text reads πορευθέντες (por-ev-THEN-tes). The first is active and the second is passive. The Greek word for “standard” in Septuagint verse 10 is σύσσημον (SIS-see-mon). This is a composite word made of a prefix and the base word “sign.” Early Christians, it is said, used the sign of a fish. This represented an anagram for the words, “Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.” Later Christians up to the present have used the sign of the cross.
The point of verses 10-11 is to proclaim God’s purpose of broadcasting Jerusalem’s salvation to the end of the earth. The command is to prepare the way for Gentiles the world over to travel to Jerusalem to partake of God’s blessings, remembering that Jerusalem is a metaphor (as defined and used repeatedly by Isaiah himself) for God’s believing people (see all of Isaiah 54) (4).
Verse 12: A Holy People
12 And one shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord: and you shall be called a city sought out, and not forsaken. (LXE)
The New Testament refers to believers as “saints” some 46 times, outside of the gospels and Revelation. The NIV and CEB use the phrase “holy people” in nearly half of these occurrences. Philippians 1:1 represents a typical example of this usage.
Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: (ESV)
Paul in Galatians explains the redemption that Christ (the Servant) brings.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (ESV)
Paul also writes:
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (ESV)
And see Titus 2:14.
God accomplishes both the pouring out of the Spirit and the adoption as sons solely based upon of the cleansing work of the Servant, as Isaiah describes it in Isaiah 53 (see Isaiah 53:5-6, 9-12).
Verse 12: A City Sought Out and Not Forsaken
12 And one shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord: and you shall be called a city sought out, and not forsaken. (LXE)
Jerusalem in Isaiah 62 is a geographical location with land (verse 4), a bride (verse 5), a holy people (verse 12), and a city (verses 6 and 12). Jerusalem in verse 12 shall be called a “city sought out” and “not forsaken.” The sense of the Greek word for “forsaken” is “left-over,” that is, what remains after the bulk has been used or taken away. Its stem is the same as that for the word “remnant.”
The believing people of Israel were so small in number that Isaiah calls them a “remnant,” (Isaiah 10:22). After the influx of the Gentiles, they will be a remnant no longer (Septuagint Isaiah 54:1-3).
1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (LXE)
Rather than being called a “remnant,” “forsaken,” they “shall be called a city sought out, and not forsaken” (Septuagint Isaiah 62:12).
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews sums up Septuagint Isaiah 62 quite well. Notice how many of the ideas and images these verses present are present in Isaiah, as well.
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (ESV)
And, of course, the book of Hebrews applies the above verses to the church, the assembly of God’s people now, both “Jew” and Gentile, those believers who receive the work of God’s Servant (as presented in Isaiah) and offer their allegiance to him.
1 Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983. See also Christianity.com which writes, “What’s more, fully 90% of the New Testament’s 260 chapters quote from Isaiah’s writings. It’s that important.” More information can be found at SimplyBible.com and JesusWalk.com.
2 Does this sound a bit like a Christian worship service? As mentioned above, the Masoretic text renders a completely different interpretation (see Masoretic Isaiah 62:6-7 ESV).
3 Silva, Moíses. A New English Translation of the Septuagint: Esaias. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Available online at A New English Translation of the Septuagint. 33. Esaias (upenn.edu). Accessed July 22, 2022.
4 At least one commentator who brings in the “millennium” as the time frame for the blessings of verse 7 also brings in ancient, concrete-literal Babylon as the location and time frame of the “gates” in verse 10. Isaiah does not jump around in such an erratic fashion. Nothing in the context of Isaiah in these verses and chapters makes reference to a “millennium.” If this were the case, then God’s people are still waiting for fulfillment of God’s word. And why, if such were the case, would Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter be citing Isaiah in reference to the incarnation of Christ? Rather, the Lord’s people–both descendants of Israelites and Gentiles–enjoy God’s communal protection and blessings now. His presence among them comforts them now. They praise the Lord as a bride her groom, now.
By Christina M Wilson
God Weds Himself to Zion–Septuagint Isaiah 62:3-5
[… a peek ahead: God has joined believing Israelites with believing Gentiles. There is one God and Lord, one marriage of God to his people, and one bride in the holiest of all matrimonies.]
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless… 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church. (NIV)
Is There Room in God’s Heart for Bigamy?
Does God have two brides? One–Zion, and the second, the church?
Septuagint Isaiah 62:3-5 And you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 And you shall no more be called Forsaken; and your land shall no more be called Desert: for you shall be called My Pleasure, and your land Inhabited: for the Lord has taken pleasure in you, and your land shall be inhabited. 5 And as a young man lives with a virgin, so shall your sons dwell in you: and it shall come to pass that as a bridegroom will rejoice over a bride, so will the Lord rejoice over you. (LXE)
A more pointed translation than the above verses is Isaiah 54:5 in the Masoretic texts.
Isaiah 54:5 For your husband is the one who made you– the LORD who commands armies is his name. He is your protector, the Holy One of Israel. He is called “God of the entire earth.” (NET)
Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. (ESV)
God is one. This is the foundation of Old Testament Israel. There is one God, and from this it follows that God has one bride–his saved people, those of every tribe, nation, and tongue, who love him in return and pledge their allegiance to him.
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (ESV)
The Lord Jesus himself corroborates this in the Gospel of Mark.
Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes… asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (ESV)
Jesus speaks even more bluntly in John 10:30.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” (ESV)
So once again, is God a bigamist? Clearly, to think such would border on heresy. Therefore, one of the strongest evidences of the unity of God’s beloved Zion with Gentile believers through the Servant is the marriage imagery in Septuagint Isaiah 62:3-5, 54:5, and elsewhere in Scripture, especially in the New Testament with regard to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 19:9).
A Wedding Celebration: Verse 3
3 And you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (LXE)
54:11 Afflicted and outcast you have not been comforted: behold, I will prepare carbuncle for your stones, and sapphire for your foundations; 12 and I will make your buttresses jasper, and your gates crystal, and your border precious stones. (LXE)
A reader becomes so accustomed to metaphor in this portion of Isaiah that often its use escapes conscious notice. But verse three in its entirety makes use of metaphor. This statement cannot possibly be concrete-literal. (A people cannot be a physical crown; the Lord, who is Spirit, does not have hands; and so forth.) But the statement is very much spiritual-literal. That is, spiritually, God is doing an amazingly beautiful thing in his transformation of Zion.
Various English translations of Masoretic Zechariah 9:16 parallel Isaiah 62:3.
Zechariah 9:16 On that day the LORD their God will deliver them as the flock of his people, for they are the precious stones of a crown sparkling over his land. (NET)
And in the New Testament, the Apostle Peter thinks similarly.
1 Peter 3:3 Do not let your adorning be external– the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, (ESV)
The sanctified Zion, made holy by the Servant’s sacrifice of himself, will gladly submit herself to God. Argument and complaint, disobedience, and outright rebellion characterized Old Testament Israel’s relationship with their God. Occasionally, when hard-pressed by their enemies, Old Testament Israel turned to their God. But because of the work of God’s Servant and the outpouring of his Spirit, the newly created Zion will be completely different. Like a crown of beauty and a royal diadem in God’s hand, they will gladly submit themselves to him, as a satisfied woman to her own husband.
Septuagint Isaiah 62:4 And you shall no more be called Forsaken; and your land shall no more be called Desert: for you shall be called My Pleasure, and your land Inhabited: for the Lord has taken pleasure in you, and your land shall be inhabited.
Verse 4 continues to define the context as that of marriage. For some, it may seem a stretch to regard God’s inhabiting Zion’s land as a metaphor for a marital relationship. Readers should remember, however, that God is Spirit. To inhabit the land of his people means that God shall be with Zion in the most intimate of relationships. Hear how the Hebrew versions state this beautiful truth.
Isaiah 62:4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. (ESV)
Isaiah 62:4 You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,” and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.” Indeed, you will be called “My Delight is in Her,” and your land “Married.” For the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married to him. (NET)
God has joined believing Israelites with believing Gentiles. There is one God and Lord, one marriage of God to his people, and one bride in the holiest of all matrimonies.
5 And as a young man lives with a virgin, so shall your sons dwell in you: and it shall come to pass that as a bridegroom will rejoice over a bride, so will the Lord rejoice over you. (LXE)
By Christina M Wilson
Septuagint Isaiah 62:1-2
Verse 1: Righteousness, Light, and Salvation
1 For Sion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as light, and my salvation burn as a torch. (LXE) (Septuagint in English, Brenton) (1)
The Septuagint translation clearly presents God as the speaker in verse 1. This is because of the phrase, “my salvation.” Septuagint Isaiah 59:15-16 indicates that only God saves. The text states that God’s salvation through his Servant (see prior chapters in Isaiah, especially 53) accomplishes righteousness for the people of Jerusalem. Her righteousness shall go forth as light.
The Servant himself came as light. Chapter 61:1 states, “Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Paul in Ephesians 5:14 identifies the light that shines as the Servant/Christ. John the apostle also identifies Christ as light in John 1:4-9. The Servant speaks of the light that shines from his followers in Luke 8:16-17; 11:33-36. The light of which the Servant speaks in Isaiah is the same light that emanated from the first followers of Christ. The time frame, of course, was immediately after the Servant’s incarnation.
Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (ESV)
In the above passage, the phrase “the Lord has commanded us” refers back to Isaiah 49:6. There, the Servant relates how God had spoken to him and given him the assignment of bringing in Gentiles the world over into the fold of Israel and Jacob. Clearly, God’s will is that his beloved people of Zion should share one salvation with Gentile believers.
Salvation, Spirit, Light, and Fire
Verse 62:1 quotes God (and the Servant) as stating, “my salvation [will] burn as a torch.” Revelation 4:5 represents the “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne” as the “seven Spirits of God” (NASB). Isaiah prophesies the pouring forth of God’s Spirit in connection with the Servant’s salvation ministry (see Isaiah 57:16; 59:21; and 61:1-3). Paul teaches that believers who are saved receive the seal of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). And, the disciples first shone brightly in their testimony to the Servant/Christ in the streets of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. This followed the descent upon them of God’s Spirit, as tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4).
Verses 2-4: The Church and Zion
As a youngster in Christ (a baby in the Lord), I grew up in him singing worship songs with a congregation of Christians. We often sang these words from the prophet Jeremiah.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. Jeremiah 31:12 (2)
Now, in context, Jeremiah spoke of ethnic Israelites who would return to their homeland Zion. But even more than that, Jeremiah spoke of the birth of the Servant/Christ in verse 15, just three verses forward. The point is, Christians recognize many of the Old Testament passages and promises as applying to both Jewish believers and Gentile believers in Christ.
Verse 2: Gentiles and a New Name
2 And the Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and kings your glory: and one shall call you by a new name, which the Lord shall name.
Righteousness: Much of the New Testament focuses on mandating Christians to practice love and righteousness (Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Colossians 3:14; Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 12:22-24; Ephesians 4:17-32). Jesus said that the testimony of his followers to the world would be their love (John 13:35).
Glory: The New Testament bears witness to and fulfills the prophesies of Isaiah again and again. The love for humanity (both Israelites and Gentiles) that God prophesies and expresses through Isaiah shines so brightly that it creates glory (see again Acts 13:47-48, Isaiah 49:6, and John 13:35). The Servant’s fruitful sacrifice upon the cross for Israel and for all humanity shines brightly. The Servant’s accomplished work of salvation by means of the cross is the most glorious act of God ever witnessed. This sacrifice still shines brightly today.
New Name: The righteousness and glory that God accomplishes for humanity through his Servant far exceeds the geographical boundaries of Israel. God’s glory is spirit. His glory in his Servant cannot fully be expressed by any concrete, materialistic means, such as jewels, precious metals, and magnificent architecture. God’s glory is in his living Spirit, which enlightens and unifies the spirits of every willing human being who lives by faith in his Servant/Son.
Therefore, Isaiah teaches in Isaiah 62:2 that God’s people need a new name. Their tent has stretched far beyond the boundaries of its former pegs (Isaiah 54:2-3). The new name indicates the radical change God infuses into the very heart of Zion by the pouring out of his Spirit. The cleansing and sanctifying work of his Servant on the cross makes the union of Spirit with humanity possible. The new name honors the Servant/Anointed One of God. The Servant’s followers are named after the Servant. Their new name is “Christian.”
Acts 11:26 … For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Acts 26:28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
The gathered people of Zion were formerly known as a “synagogue,” a “bringing together.” The new name of the gathered people of Zion, which now includes believing Gentiles, is “church,” or “called out.” God “calls out” people to gather together with him. God meets with his people through his Spirit.
The Greek word for “church” occurs in the Old Testament. A “church” is an assembly of people. Translations of the Old Testament use the word “assembly,” rather than “church.” See Judges 21:8; 1 Chronicles 29:1; Deuteronomy 31:30; and Joshua 8:35.
God Calls Gentiles to Join His People: For the calling that God performs, see Isaiah 41:8-9; 41:25; 42:6 and 49:1 (God calls his Servant); Isaiah 43:7; 51:2 (God calls Abraham); and Isaiah 54:5 (God calls Zion, the barren one of Isaiah 54:1).
The following verses also relate God’s prevailing intention to summon and join believing Gentiles with his people of believing Israel. See Isaiah 2:2-3; 5:26; 11:10, 12; 12:4; 25:6; 42:1, 4, 6; 49:6, 8 (Septuagint), Isaiah 49:22-23; Isaiah 51:4-5; 52:10; 54:3; 55:4, 5; 56:7; 60:3, 5, 9, 11, 12, 16.
In this portion of Isaiah, the prophet writes mostly about God’s relation with his people. He has great plans for them. Part of this plan includes an influx of Gentiles. On this point, the text is clear. Zion will be different from the time of the Servant’s Advent forward. A new day is dawning. And with that new day, in honor of the Lord’s Servant, his christened one, God provides a new name for those in Zion whom God saves.
60:1 Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and there shall be gross darkness on the nations: but the Lord shall appear upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you. 3 And kings shall walk in your light, and nations in your brightness. 4 Lift up your eyes round about, and behold your children gathered: all your sons have come from far, and your daughters shall be borne on men’s shoulders. 5 Then shall you see, and fear, and be amazed in your heart; for the wealth of the sea shall come round to you, and of nations and peoples; and herds of camels shall come to you… 62:1 For Sion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as light, and my salvation burn as a torch. 2 And the Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and kings your glory: and one shall call you by a new name, which the Lord shall name. (Septuagint Isaiah 60:1-5; 62:1-2)
1 The online version is a translation of the Greek Septuagint by Sir Lancelot Brenton, updated into Americanized English in 2012. Public domain copyright information can be found here: LXX2012: Septuagint in American English 2012 (ebible.org).
2 Words taken from Jeremiah 31:12 (Bible Gateway) and sung to the tune available here: Hymnal.net.
By Christina M Wilson
Septuagint Isaiah 61 describes the results of the Servant’s advent for the people of the Lord. Who are these people? Prior passages in Isaiah establish that God will bless Israel’s faithful remnant. Prior texts also establish that God will not bless the rebellious of the nation of Israel, even though they may be ethnic Israelites by descent (Isaiah Devotional 2.81). Further, the text of Isaiah continually makes reference to the inclusion of Gentiles as recipients of God’s blessings through his Servant (ibid; see also Isaiah Devotional 2.80).
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
In a sense, when God brought Gentiles into the blessings he bestowed on the remnant of Israel, he made the two one. What does Paul talk about in Ephesians 1:9-10 and 2:11-21, if not this? Consider also Romans 9-11. One can also read many of the parables of Jesus with the thought of “Jew” and Gentile in mind. Consider, for example, the parable of the great dinner (Luke 14:15-24) and the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).
Concrete or Spiritual?
Many Christians cling to the idea of two separate peoples of God. The first group comprises Israel of the Old Testament extended forward until the dawning of eternity. The second group comprises Christians. They place these groups on two separate tracks. To the first group, they reserve certain concrete blessings, such as land. To the second group, they assign spiritual blessings. But is this what Scripture teaches?
The current chapters in Isaiah are difficult to decipher. Does Isaiah intend the blessings he describes (land, gold, wealth of the Gentiles, position, honor–Septuagint Isaiah 60:9-21; 61:4-7) to be considered as concrete (physical, material) or spiritual? I propose that how one answers this question will determine one’s hermeneutic, rather than vice versa. How one reads Scripture is largely a matter of faith and preference, rather than a set of hermeneutic rules.
Contrasts Between the Spiritual and Concrete
My faith, heart-preferences, and subsequent hermeneutic have always caused me to read God’s word with spirit as a guiding principle, rather than adhering strictly to the concrete. I believe that when Isaiah speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit in Septuagint Isaiah 57:16; 59:21; and 61:1-3, he meant these words to be taken literally. The pouring out of God’s Spirit is much more than a sea change. It is impossible to overstate the significance of the permanent entrance of the Spirit into the human hearts of believers. The pouring out of God’s Spirit changes how we hear and read Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
Jesus taught the same. The apostle John wonderfully presents two contrasting viewpoints in John 3:1-10 and John 4:5-15. Both the elevated rabbi, Nicodemus, the “teacher of Israel,” and the lowly, anonymous “woman at the well” represent the Old Testament viewpoint in which concrete realities dominate.
1. When Jesus teaches Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3, 6-7), Nicodemus can perceive these remarks in concrete terms only. His is an Old Testament way of thinking. Likewise, when Jesus describes to the woman at the well the “living water” that he can provide, she perceives his remarks in concrete terms (John 4:10-15).
2. Jesus’s own viewpoint, however, was spiritual (John 3:3-8 and John 4:23-24). Nevertheless, Jesus continued teaching by means of parables. Parables express spiritual realities by means of concrete images and actions. Jesus knew that his audience could not yet receive pure spiritual truth, because the Spirit had not yet been given (Matthew 13:10-14; John 14:26). Paul speaks of this very topic in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.
Hallmarks of Each
In a very general sense, some premillennialists tend toward concrete interpretations. Those, on the other hand, who see a single advent and a single and final second coming tend towards interpretation of certain concrete images as references to spiritual realities. In the same general sense, some premillennial interpretations tend to exclude Gentiles from many of God’s Old Testament promises. Whereas non-dispensational interpretations include believing Gentiles as recipients of God’s Old Testament promises, even though certain texts present these promises in concrete terms. I am far from alone in my interpretation that God intends the promises and descriptions of believing Zion in Isaiah 60 and 61 to include the multitudes of Gentiles who listen and obey God’s invitation to them to “Come.” God locates himself among his people, whom he calls Zion (Isaiah 51:16). And God includes among his people Gentiles whom he joins with the remnant of believing Zion (Septuagint Isaiah 60:3-4).
Isaiah straddles two eras. He lived in the era of concrete Israelite history. (This does not imply that Isaiah could not see spiritual realities the Lord showed him.) And, he prophesied to both concrete historical events (for example, the exile and return) and spiritual events–i.e., life in the Spirit in the Kingdom of Christ, as inaugurated on the day of Pentecost (Isaiah 44:3; 48:16; 59:21; Acts 2:1-4).
But Isaiah spoke to a people who knew only the concrete things of God. Humankind died to God after the fall in the Garden. People were cut off, separated from God. God’s living presence within humankind occurs on the day of Pentecost, when God sends his Spirit to dwell in and among believers in Christ. Pentecost follows the atonement–the putting away of sin and restoration of right standing with God (i.e., a return to holiness in Christ). Before Pentecost, Christ the Servant is already crucified, resurrected, and ascended. After this work, then Christ sends the promised Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Galatians 3:14).
Hear what the Apostle Paul says concerning life and the Spirit.
Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him… 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (ESV)
Because of the theological significance of Gentiles also receiving the Spirit of God, the Jerusalem council knew that Gentiles did not need to follow the circumcision precept of Moses in order to partake of fellowship with ethnic Jews who believed in Christ (Acts 15:7-9; Isaiah 43:5-7). The Spirit excels the flesh. Gentiles receive the greater blessing of the Spirit. What sense would it make to withhold from them the lesser blessings of concrete flesh (i.e., land, etc.)?
Septuagint Isaiah 61 follows God’s announcement of the New Covenant of the Spirit in Isaiah 59:21. It opens with the Servant’s proclamation of the promised Spirit upon him. These are the words that the Servant/Christ read aloud as he began his public ministry (Luke 4:16-21). The Servant is Christ. The word Christ means “anointed.” Anointed with what? God anointed his Servant with the Spirit (John 1:32-34).
Without doubt, Isaiah 61, especially in the Masoretic, lends itself to the interpretation of Gentiles becoming subservient to ethnic Israelites. (But even if this were true, Isaiah never introduces a “millennium.”) However, this interpretation does not agree with the vast bulk of Scripture, including other portions of Isaiah (some which lie ahead of us still). In my opinion, viewing Gentile believers in God’s Servant as co-workers with believing ethnic Israelites accords best with the bulk of Isaiah recorded outside of chapter 61.
There is but one God and one salvation of God through his Servant/Christ. And, God built this salvation upon the foundation of the prophets (Old Testament) and apostles (New Testament). Gentile converts come to God’s original olive tree, which is believing Israel. They acknowledge the God of Israel as the one true God. They acknowledge the believing remnant of Israel as the firstfruits of God’s salvation (Romans 11:16). In this sense Gentiles will serve Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:11-14), much as Christians today serve the Church. The remainder of Isaiah 60-61 bears witness that Gentiles are welcome co-participants and parents of the children of God’s people Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:1, 3-4).
Does God Favor Israel?
Does God favor Israel? Absolutely. God chose the ethnic family of Abraham, narrowed to the children of Jacob, to be his “special” people. He chose them to be the showcase of his love, grace, and justice. Through their ethnic seed, the Servant/Messiah was born (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5).
Nevertheless, God’s ultimate plan for his people Zion centers on his Son, the singular seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Ethnic Israelites, as well as every other ethnicity on the entire planet, will find their only permanent blessing in and through God’s anointed Servant/Christ. God’s spiritual blessing of eternal life in the very presence of God is primary. All concrete blessings, whatever they may be, are secondary.
I am a Gentile believer in Christ. Speaking as a Gentile, a former outcast of God’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-12), my heart screams, “No!” to any biblical interpretation that would separate the Lord’s people into a hierarchy based upon ethnicity. We are all one in Christ (John 17:21-23; Ephesians 2:11-22, 14-16).
Septuagint Isaiah 61:10 … Let my soul rejoice in the Lord; for he has clothed me with the robe of salvation, and the garment of joy: he has put a mitre on me as on a bridegroom, and adorned me with ornaments as a bride. 11 And as the earth putting forth her flowers, and as a garden its seed; so shall the Lord, even the Lord, cause righteousness to spring forth, and exultation before all nations.
… next time, Lord willing, Septuagint Isaiah 62
By Christina M Wilson
Main Themes in Septuagint Isaiah
Here is a brief summary of the main themes in Septuagint Isaiah.
I. God Himself Saves
The overriding theme in Septuagint Isaiah is God is Savior of Israel. He himself has done it (Septuagint Isaiah 59:16-18). There is no Savior of Israel but God. The main theme in Septuagint Isaiah is to prophesy God’s saving of Israel by means of the sending of his divine Servant to them as a sacrifice for their sins (Isaiah 53). Everything else Isaiah says flows out from this main theme.
II. None Other Can Save
Isaiah spends a great portion of text proving that both the nations outside of Israel and Israel itself are rebelliously sinful and unable to obtain God’s righteousness on their own. No person of the nations nor of Israel can come forward to save. They are all deserving of God’s wrath (Septuagint Isaiah 59:16). God alone can save, and he does so by sending his Servant (Septuagint Isaiah 53).
III. A Remnant of Israel Will Be Saved
IV. God Includes Gentiles in His Plans for Israel’s Future
He further establishes by repetition that God will bring Gentile believers to build up the numbers and strength of redeemed Israel, the remnant who will be saved (Septuagint Isaiah 2:2-3; 42:6-7; 55:4-5; 60:2-5). God’s salvation of Israel extends as blessing to the entire world (Septuagint Isaiah 2:2; 52:10; 56:7; 61:11).
Where Is the “Millennium”?
Isaiah’s text continually returns to the “first” Advent of the Servant. We know that Septuagint Isaiah 61:1-2 speaks of the Servant’s initial coming, because Jesus Christ quotes these verses at the outset of his ministry (Luke 4:18-19). There is no reason to suppose that the text of the remainder of chapter 61 jumps to an unnamed, unspecified “second” Advent. Any such idea would be imported and inserted into the text from elsewhere. Isaiah himself (up to this point) knows but one Advent.
So, where is the “millennium” in Septuagint Isaiah 61? Not present. All of chapter 61, in its own context of everything that has preceded, speaks of the Servant’s one advent (complete life) and ministry.
The fact that the Servant would accomplish His ministry in two advents, separated by thousands of years, was unknown to the Old Testament prophets. –Dr. Thomas Constable (1)
The context of the above quotation from Dr. Constable indicates his own belief in “two advents.” Nevertheless, by his own admission, as clearly and plainly stated in the sentence quoted just above, Isaiah himself knew nothing of the idea of “two advents.” The purpose of this blog is to follow Septuagint Isaiah as closely as possible. Within the context of Isaiah from 56:9 forward, Isaiah speaks of one advent. The results of this singularity in human history for God’s people Israel and for all humankind are overwhelmingly significant. The remainder of chapter 61 details some of these results.
1 Constable, Thomas. DD. “Commentary on Isaiah 61”. “Dr. Constable’s Expository Notes”, available at https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/isaiah-61.html. 2012, accessed July 6, 2022.
By Christina M Wilson on June 5, 2022
God Introduces to Jerusalem Her Gentile Children
Context of Comfort
In all of Scripture, context is everything. In this sense, Scripture is like ordinary, everyday speech. Much of Scripture, certainly not all, connects with what went before and what comes after. Isaiah establishes the context by speaking a message of comfort and grace to Jerusalem (God’s people) in Volume 2 (beginning with 40:1). With some exceptions (see chapters 47-48 against Babylon), God repeats his theme of mercy for his people–those who are willing to repent (Septuagint Isaiah 59:12-15).
Strands of condemnation for the rebellious weave throughout the theme of grace for God’s people. As mentioned above, God condemns Babylon for its pride and wickedness. But God also condemns those of Israel who refuse his offer of grace (see for example Septuagint Isaiah 59:1-10 and 57:21). Nevertheless, God adheres to his purpose of comforting his people in this latter third of Isaiah’s prophecy (chapters 40-66). The text also specifies the basis of God’s comfort. God’s Servant will live, die, rise, and reign in a new Jerusalem.
Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. 2 Speak, ye priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins. (LXE, Brenton)
Isaiah Straddles Two Covenants
God positions Isaiah the prophet at the turning point of two covenants. The first covenant, the Law given by Moses, Israel breaks repeatedly and finally. God says so. In this, Israel is no different than the rest of humanity. God also acts upon his judgment by sending the nation into captivity. But mixed with Isaiah’s prophecies of their physical return from exile, Isaiah also prophesies a new covenant, the covenant of grace.
21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21) (1)
Consideration of God’s new covenant of grace brings joy to Isaiah. He bursts forth in chapter 60 describing the reconciliation between God and his people. Isaiah describes the means of the reconciliation God accomplishes in chapter 53. Chapter 53 is the passion chapter about the Lord’s Servant.
Isaiah Repeats Himself
Like all good teachers, Isaiah goes back and repeats his message. Sometimes, when he does so, the emphasis may shift from one point to another. Or, he may add an element to one telling not present in another. For example, chapter 53 focuses entirely upon God’s Servant. The text does not mention Israel by name. However, Isaiah himself functions as a priest when he offers a short prayer of confession on behalf of the people (Septuagint Isaiah 53:4-6). Then, in chapters 54 and 55, Isaiah shifts his focus to the “barren one who does not bear” (54:1). She is the one for whom the Servant dies a sacrificial death. She is God’s people, who display the faith of Abraham and Sarah. These two chapters ring out with the joy of salvation. Readers of Isaiah learn to expect cycles of repetition as he intertwines his varying harmonies of theme.
Context Before and Context After Chapter 60
CONTEXT BEFORE CHAPTER 60
Chapter 59 represents a cycle of repetition. It repeats the reasons why God sent his Servant as a sacrifice. In this chapter Isaiah repeats the wicked behavior of Israel through the eyes of the Lord (verses 1-10). Verse 11 forms a transition. Notice that the text mentions two animals, a bear and a dove. These animals proceed together.
11 They shall proceed together as a bear and as a dove… (LXE)
Verses 1-10 describe the bear. Verses 11b through 15 describe the dove. Unravelling Isaiah’s poetic metaphor, the bear represents those in Israel who embrace rebellious behavior against God’s law. The dove represents those in Israel who acknowledge their sin before the Lord (Proverbs 28:15; Isaiah 11:7; 38:14). These two “proceed together.”
In the remainder of chapter 59 (verses 15b-21), Isaiah presents the Lord’s solution to Israel’s problem, namely, His Servant. The Servant bears the Lord’s Spirit upon him. Also, God places his words in the Servant’s mouth. The Spirit and the words God also promises to the Servant’s seed, forever. This is the new covenant.
CONTEXT AFTER CHAPTER 60
Chapter 61 opens with the following well-known words.
1 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; 2 to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompence; to comfort all that mourn; 3 that there should be given to them that mourn in Sion glory instead of ashes, the oil of joy to the mourners, the garment of glory for the spirit of heaviness: and they shall be called generations of righteousness, the planting of the Lord for glory.
Many people know these words because God’s Servant/Messiah/Jesus opens his New Testament ministry by reading from Isaiah’s scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-19).
CONCLUSION CONCERNING TIMEFRAME OF CHAPTER 60
Because Isaiah chapter 59 concerns the sacrifice for sin of the Lord’s incarnated Servant (59:15b-20), and because chapter 61 concerns the ministry of the incarnated Servant and its results, it seems fair to conclude that chapter 60 also deals with the outcome of the Servant’s sacrifice during his incarnation. Everything we have read together in Isaiah Volume 2 up to this point focuses on the work and results accomplished by God’s Servant during his incarnation.
This is not an overstatement of the Servant’s importance. Up until the Servant’s incarnation, God himself has never (never ever ever) incarnated himself as a human child. And he will never do so again. This is a once-in-all-of-time event in the whole universe. God through his prophet Isaiah focuses continually on this most glorious of all conceivable outcomes.
CHAPTER 60 NOT A “MILLENNIAL” CHAPTER
In short, chapter 60 is not a “millennial,” “second coming” chapter. Like the chapters before it and the chapter immediately following it, chapter 60 describes the aftermath of the Servant’s sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice occurs during the Servant’s incarnation.
The Text Brings in Gentiles… Again… (and Again)
The question here is not, Does chapter 60 talk about Gentiles? Many readers know it does. Brenton’s Septuagint translates the word “nations” in verses 11 and 16 as Gentiles. And in the Masoretic, “nations,” as distinguished from “Israel,” refers to Gentile nations. (Israel is but one nation.) Rather, the question brought out by many commentators concerns the timeframe and the status of these Gentile nations.
This and prior posts already establish the timeframe of chapter 60 as belonging to the context that immediately follows the Servant’s sacrificial incarnation.
What is the status, or position, of the Gentiles in Septuagint Isaiah’s chapter 60 relative to Jerusalem of verse one? Some interpret that chapter 60 describes the subservience of the nations to Israel in a national, political sense in which Israel dominates. They say this fulfills God’s ancient promises to Israel. Others (including myself) see chapter 60 as God introducing his Gentile children to his beloved people Jerusalem as the means by which he chooses to build up her population and wealth. God presents them as a gift to his remnant. God gives Jerusalem the Gentile nations as a gift of blessing. God loves the Gentiles, as he loves Jerusalem. He wants to share the wealth and treasure of his Servant’s victory with the whole world. The relationship between Jerusalem and the Gentile nations is mutually beneficial. The wayward son has come home (Luke 15:10-32).
The Servant and Gentiles in Isaiah
Whenever the text of Isaiah presents the Servant, it also presents the inclusion of Gentiles somewhere nearby. Chapter 60 follows this pattern. Examples follow.
- Isaiah 2:1-4 (the “he” of verse 4 refers to the Lord)
- Isaiah 11:1-12 (see especially verse 10)
- Isaiah 25:6-9
- Isaiah 42:1-7 (first Servant song)
- Isaiah 49:1-6 (second Servant song); Isaiah 49:8, 22-23
- Isaiah 51:4-5
- Isaiah 54:1-3
- Isaiah 55:1-5 (especially 4-5)
- Isaiah 56:1-8 (especially 4-8)
- Isaiah 60:1-3
God is generous. He shines the glorious light of his Servant much further than the one people of Jerusalem.
49:6 And he said to me, It is a great thing for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth. (LXE)
WHAT THE GENTILES DO AND DO NOT BRING
Notice that the Gentile nations in chapter 6o bring children (verse 4), sons and daughters. They do not bring weapons of war. They bring the wealth of the sea (verse 5), frankincense (verse 6), and a gospel message (“they shall publish the salvation of the Lord”, verse 6). They bring their treasures because “the Holy One of Israel is glorified.” Strangers build Jerusalem’s walls. They do not bring hatred and enmity and attempts to tear down Jerusalem’s walls, as in the former days of Nebuchadnezzar and others. They bring gifts of valuable timbers to “glorify my [God’s] holy place” (verse 13). The Gentiles come with gentle milk (not with spears) and with treasures (verses 16-17). God makes Jerusalem’s “princes peaceable” and her “overseers righteous.” These are not words of dominance, but of cooperation and mutual respect.
Isaiah in chapter 60 writes as a poet who describes God’s great love for his people. The new covenant (59:21) changes God’s relationship to his people from physical concrete (temples built of stone, tents of animal skins in the wilderness, daily and yearly sacrifices upon a physical altar) to Spirit and God’s own eternal words upon everyone’s lips. In the same way, the sacrifice of the Servant changes how God’s people Jerusalem will relate to Gentiles from every nation under the sun. But as a poet who reaches and stretches for words and images to convey the emotion of love, Isaiah uses the words of every day kingdom living to describe the wealth that the Gentiles shall contribute to Jerusalem. This is a friendly chapter. The images are of glad people from many nations pouring into a glad Jerusalem who receives them with open gates (verse 11). The gates of Jerusalem will not be shut day or night (verse 11).
Chapter 60’s Central Figure
The text of chapter 60 repeatedly names God as the source of Sion’s blessing. God in his goodness and mercy rebuilds Sion as “the city of of the Holy One of Israel.” God glorifies Jerusalem because it is his very own “holy place” (verses 13-15).
Yet, as explained above in the paragraph titled, “Isaiah Repeats Himself,” the focus of chapter 6o is Jerusalem. Chapter 60 tells the outcome of the Servant’s sacrifice as his victory affects God’s own people.
THE TIMEFRAME IS NOW AND FOREVER
Verses 18-22 are poetically and spiritually extremely beautiful. For all who know and experience the Lord’s goodness upon their lives and souls daily, these verses apply to their current condition in the Lord’s Servant/Christ.
18 And injustice shall no more be heard in your land, nor destruction nor misery in your coasts; but your walls shall be called Salvation, and your gates Sculptured Work. 19 And you shall no more have the sun for a light by day, nor shall the rising of the moon lighten your night; but the Lord shall be your everlasting light, and God your glory. 20 For the sun shall no more set, nor shall the moon be eclipsed; for the Lord shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be completed. 21 Your people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, preserving that which they have planted, even the works of their hands, for glory. 22 The little one shall become thousands, and the least a great nation; I the Lord will gather them in due time. (Septuagint Isaiah 60:18-22)
Looking Ahead to Chapter 61
Chapter 61 continues the stream of joy. The focus broadens, however, to include more-or-less equal emphasis upon the Servant himself (verses 1-3), God’s people Sion (verses 4-8), and Gentiles (9-10a). The Servant and the work he accomplishes bless everyone.
… next time, Lord willing, we will move ahead to Septuagint Isaiah chapter 61.
… Note: I will be spending several weeks with family. The next post may be postponed for up to one month… a good time to go back and reread, review, and meditate upon the ways of God. My thanks to God for all of you who are with me in this journey through Septuagint Isaiah.
1 See Devotional 2.77 for reasons why “you” and “your” in Isaiah 59:21 most likely refer to God’s special Servant, rather than to Jerusalem.
By Christina M Wilson on 05-31-2022
God’s Victory: Chapter 60 Flows from Chapter 59
Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 is one of the more amazing verses in all of Isaiah. It follows upon chapters and chapters of judgment upon both the nations, the two kingdoms of Israel, and most recently, God’s remnant people themselves (Septuagint Isaiah 59:2-10). Then Isaiah repents on behalf of God’s people (59:13). The exact translation, “We have sinned,” occurs only here and once again in 64:5. (The Greeks words for “sin” differ in these two verses.)
The Lord in chapter 59:15 responds to Isaiah’s heart of repentance by searching for someone to restore judgment (a strong and accurate sense of right and wrong in every dealing, followed by doing what is right.) The Lord finds no one (verse 16). So, he decides to “do it himself.”
16 And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy. 17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries. 19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:16-19)
God Loves Gentiles
In this portion of Isaiah (Volume 2), God does not “hate” Gentiles. Gentiles, per se, are not the enemy God deals with. As in Ephesians 6:11-18, the enemy is spiritual. God welcomes repentant Gentiles into his Israelite family. It is, I believe, this basic misunderstanding of God’s intention for his people, as concerns the inclusion of Gentiles, that leads so many to think that the above passage deals with the Lord’s coming a second time to overpower them for the sake of Israel.
No, the enemy, remember, is sin. As developed so carefully and extensively in previous posts, God’s intention is to fill out the numbers of Israel’s believing “remnant” by summoning multitudes of like-minded believers from the “isles,” or the Gentile nations (1). The enemy is sin, nourished by Satan’s wicked activities. Sin is spiritual. It is not a concrete-physical item that can be touched.
It will profit us at this point to look back on what Isaiah writes elsewhere concerning inclusion of Gentile believers.
Septuagint Isaiah 51:4 Hear me, hear me, my people; and you kings, listen to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not fail.
Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
Victory Over Sin
Isaiah 53 develops in great detail how God’s Servant conquers sin. This is not a military battle. It is an infinitely mysterious sacrificial death of God himself that brings victory. One of the magnanimous consequences of God’s victory in his Servant is God’s new covenant with his people (2 Corinthians 3:6; 3:16-18; Hebrews 7:22; 8:6), The elements of the covenant are “My Spirit” and “the words which I have put in your mouth,” “for ever” (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21).
The Very Next Thing
The very next thing to happen in Isaiah is this wonderful victory celebration over God’s splendidly glorious achievement through his Servant on behalf of his repentant, believing people (chapter 60). Why would God immediately jump from his once-in-all-of-creation achievement (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21) through his Servant to a “second coming,” as though his first were insufficient for Israel? Readers of Isaiah, and most especially, those who lived in his own day, have barely begun to grasp the significance of the incarnation, let alone immediately to jump to something which some 2,500 years later still has not occurred. It is this fixation on the physical, concrete military victory for Israel which obscures the brilliance of the spiritual.
2 Corinthians 3:10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
A Personal Statement of Belief
Yes, I believe that Israel is very special. I agree with the Apostle Paul when he writes:
Romans 9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
I also believe strongly that God’s Servant/Christ is coming again.
Revelation 22:11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” 12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done… 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price… 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
What I do not believe is that Isaiah writes about a “second coming” here in Isaiah 60. Here, he celebrates the first coming.
Words that Celebrate Victory Already Achieved
God’s victory is not yet complete. There is eternity yet to come. This is the “already not yet” so popular in Christian writing today. But the major portion, the most difficult part, has already been achieved.
John 19:30 … “It is finished” …
Let us give God our “selah” and pause to celebrate with him and Isaiah in chapter 60.
…to be continued