By Christina M Wilson. Text published Simultaneously at The Dragon and a Vineyard: Isaiah Devotional Journal 56 – justonesmallvoice.com
Isaiah 27:1–The Very End
Isaiah foretells the very end of this age in Isaiah 27:1. As such, this verse fits better with Isaiah 26 and what preceded it than with Isaiah 27. See “Back and Forth Spiritual War” in Journal 54 (1).
Isaiah 27:1 In that day God shall bring His holy and great and strong sword upon the dragon, even the serpent that flees, upon the dragon, the crooked serpent; He shall destroy the dragon. (CAB, LXE)
Notes for the Orthodox Study Bible (Septuagint text) state, “The sword is Christ, the Incarnate God, who will slay the dragon, Satan.” (2) This accords with the Apostle John’s use of these words in the book of Revelation. See Revelation 12:1-17, especially Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2; and Revelation 20:10. The final and complete destruction of Satan occurs near the very end of Scripture and marks the end of this creation. Chapter 21 introduces the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1).
The evidence that 27:1 fits best with Chapter 26, rather than with 27 is this: 1) Other parts of Scripture (see above) interpret the various animal names of Isaiah 27:1 as synonyms for Satan. 2) Satan is finally destroyed. 3) Satan’s destruction at the very end of this age of human history is applicable to the entire world and all of humanity. 4) Chapter 26 concerns the world, and chapter 27 concerns Israel. 5) Therefore, verse 27:1 is the conclusion of Christ’s victory for the whole world, i.e., Chapter 26.
Isaiah 27:2-6–The Vineyard
Septuagint (Greek) and Masoretic (Hebrew) Textual Differences
I. A PRIOR VINEYARD PASSAGE
Many authors compare this passage of the vineyard with Isaiah’s prior passage in Isaiah 5:1-7. That vineyard was profitless, in that it yielded wild grapes (vv 2, 4), or “thorns” in the Septuagint.
II. THE MASORETIC VINEYARD (Link to Parallel Versions: ISAIAH 27:2-5, Septuagint and Masoretic side by side)
In Isaiah, the opening phrase “in that day” indicates a time future to Isaiah, the era of Messiah. There is a pleasant vineyard that inspires the LORD himself to break into song. The picture the song about the vineyard presents lies in striking contrast to the vineyard passage that begins in Isaiah 5:1.
In Chapter 27, the first person speaker, “I, the LORD,” describes in verse how mindfully he protects and cares for the vineyard. As an example of his passion, in verse 4, he even (poetically) wishes that the vineyard had thorns and briers that he could battle against and burn up. The ESV text does not indicate whether the thorns and briers would be internal enemies growing out of Israel itself, or external enemies. In either event, the LORD would destroy and burn them all. Or, even better, the LORD invites these enemies to come to him for protection and to make peace with him. Overall, this is a positive, kindly picture of the vineyard. Verse 6 follows, and there is no contradiction between it and the previous verses 2-5.
27:6 In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit. ESV
III. THE SEPTUAGINT VINEYARD (Link to Parallel Versions: ISAIAH 27:2-5, Septuagint and Masoretic side by side)
27:2 In that day there shall be a fair vineyard, and a desire to commence a song concerning it. 3 I am a strong city, a city in a siege; in vain shall I water it; for it shall be taken by night, and by day the wall shall fall. 4 There is no woman that has not taken hold of it; who will set me to watch stubble in the field? Because of this enemy I have set her aside; therefore on this account the Lord has done all that He appointed. 5 I am burned up; they that dwell in her shall cry, Let us make peace with Him, let us make peace;
Septuagint verse 2 begins just as the Masoretic. It opens, “In that day.” The statement of a “fair,” or pleasant, vineyard follows. This vineyard also inspires song. Here in the Septuagint, however, the LORD seems not to be the speaker. The “I” more likely is the vineyard itself, in a metaphorical comparison to a strong city. The last time this nearly identical phrase presented itself was Isaiah 26:1. In that verse, the people of Judah sing, “We have a strong city,” with reference to themselves.
The Septuagint in 27:2 makes an immediate turn, however, departing from the Masoretic of that same verse. In the Septuagint, the city is in siege. Quickly, the speaker appears to change, although not identified. The text uses only pronouns throughout. The caretaker of the vineyard, possibly the Lord, waters it in vain. The vineyard shall be captured by night, and in the morning, its wall will fall (See 2 Kings 25:10-11).
Verse 4 poetically describes the utter collapse of the vineyard/city. The “I” in this verse appears to be the Lord, admitting that he used the warring enemy as the occasion in which he set his vineyard (Israel) aside. Returning to third person, an unnamed narrator states that in this manner, through the warring actions of an enemy, the Lord (whom the text names for the first time) accomplished all that he had planned. In other words, in these verses Isaiah states that the Lord accomplished the destruction he had appointed for Judah and Jerusalem. (Isaiah uses as prophetic past tense, since the Babylonian invasion is still future to Isaiah’s time.)
In verse 5 the vineyard/city itself speaks and is identified, “‘I am burned up,’” they that dwell in her shall cry, ‘Let us make peace with Him, let us make peace;’” The destruction of the vineyard/city works into its inhabitants a spirit of repentance and turning toward the Lord. They surrender.
The reader can take note that there is nothing in this version (LXX) that does not accord with what Isaiah states elsewhere. Rather, unlike the Masoretic text, there is a smooth flow into verse 6, “they that are coming are the children of Jacob. Israel shall bud and blossom, and the world shall be filled with his fruit (LXE).”
IV. THE SEPTUAGINT AND MASORETIC JOIN
Both the Septuagint and Masoretic agree on verse 6. Israel shall bud and blossom, and the world shall be filled with its fruit. From this point to the end of the chapter, both textual traditions remain in basic agreement. Commentators, however, do not agree on the specific meaning of the text. The persistence of unreferenced pronouns (they are not identified with specific nouns) and poetic metaphors contribute to the difficulty of comprehending Isaiah’s own meaning.
To Be Continued
1 Some commentators place Isaiah 27:1 with Chapter 26 and others with Chapter 27.
2 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.