Isaiah 31: Devotional Journal 67
By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at Isaiah 31: Devotional Journal 67 – justonesmallvoice.com
Isaiah 31 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Rebuke of Assyria and Israel
In Isaiah 31, Isaiah continues to rebuke Assyria. The rebuke specifically and locally (in the time frame of Isaiah’s own life) began in Isaiah 30:31-33. There is more to God’s anger, however. Isaiah also rebukes Israel.
1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, who trust in horses and chariots, for they are many; and in horses, which are a great multitude; and have not trusted in the Holy One of Israel, and have not sought the Lord. 2 Therefore He has wisely brought evils upon them, and His word shall not be frustrated; and He shall rise up against the houses of wicked men, and against their vain hope, 3 even an Egyptian, a man, and not God; the flesh of horses, and there is no help in them; but the Lord shall bring His hand upon them, and the helpers shall fail, and all shall perish together. (CAB, LXE) (1)
Who Is the Object of “Woe to them” Verses 1-3?
We know from biblical history that Assyria did not seek help from Egypt in their attack against Israel. On the contrary, Israel sought help from Egypt. It is likely that the regions of Judah not under the direct control and protection of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem may also have journeyed to Egypt for help (2 Kings 18:13). The Bible records that King Hezekiah appealed to and trusted in the Lord. Therefore, God preserved Jerusalem, while the rest of Judah fell (2).
Verses 1-3, quoted above, clearly state God’s anger against Israel and possibly those in Judah’s “strong cities” who went down to Egypt for help. In fact, Isaiah 31:2 (LXX) states that God himself “wisely brings evils upon them, and His word cannot be set aside…”
Change-up in Verse 5
5 As birds flying, so shall the Lord of hosts defend; He shall defend Jerusalem, and He shall rescue, and save and deliver.
Rather suddenly, which is not unusual in Isaiah, the prophecy turns. Assyria is now the object of God’s anger. God protects Jerusalem.
Question: we know that God used Assyria to punish his errant children Israel. Why then, did he turn against Assyria? Isaiah 30:33 LXX gives one reason: Assyria overstepped its bounds.
Isaiah 30:33 For you shall be required before your time; has it been prepared for you also to reign? … (CAB, LXE)
Anyone reading the Rabshaka’s words (2 Kings 18:19-37; 19:4) will recognize the arrogant pride with which he spoke. Speaking in Sennacherib’s name, his emissary resembled Satan in his exaltation of self and denial of God. God had set limits upon the punishment of his children. He intended to spare Jerusalem all along. (At a later time, however, even Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians.) In keeping with his intent to spare Jerusalem, God placed the godly King Hezekiah there at just the right moment. Hezekiah called upon God’s name and asked mercy for Jerusalem. God granted this.
What About Verse 4?
A NET Bible study note, note 14, indicates debate over a preposition. Namely, is God, roaring like a lion, fighting for Mt Zion or against it? In addition to Masoretic translators disagreeing on the Hebrew, Septuagint translators also differ. Two of three independent translations indicate that God, the metaphorical lion, fights for Mt Zion. One translation indicates against.
The consequence is that if verse 4 indicates God fighting against Zion, then verse 4 belongs with verses 1-3. If, however, God fights for Zion, then verse 4 contains the sudden switch-up. In this case it belongs with verse 5.
The Main Points Are Clear
Ultimately, Isaiah’s main points are clear. And yes, Isaiah transitions very suddenly without warning.
- Verses 1-3 prophecy against the Israelites who turn to Egypt for help, but not to God.
- Verse 5 prophesies God’s defense of Jerusalem.
- Verses 8-9 prophesy the defeat of Assyria by means of God’s own sword, “a sword not of man.“
That Leaves Verses 6 and 7
In verse 6, God through Isaiah calls out to his people to return to him. Isaiah lived and prophesied in the years just before the northern kingdom’s fall. There was still time for them to repent, as the people of Ninevah did in response to Jonah’s prophesying there.
NET Isaiah 31:6 You Israelites! Return to the one against whom you have so blatantly rebelled! (Isa 31:6 NET)
6 Turn, you children of Israel, who devise a deep and sinful counsel. (CAB, LXE)
Verse 7 looks to the far future. A far future is indicated for two reasons, one textual and the other historical.
7 For in that day men shall renounce their silver idols and their golden idols, which their hands have made. (CAB, LXE)
1. The text. “In that day” in Isaiah often indicates the future in which Messiah shall reign.
2. The historical record. First, the record of 2 Kings indicates that Israel the northern kingdom did not repent and turn to God. The Assyrians carried them off into captivity. Second, Sennacherib of Assyria overran the “strong cities of Judah” and took them (2 Kings 18:13 LXX). Third, King Hezekiah began his reign by removing the high places of pagan worship (2 Kings 18:1-7). Therefore, he is not specifically in view in these verses.
Isaiah does not present a new message in Chapter 31. Rather, he repeats the warnings of judgment he previously gave. He also prophesies, as he had in prior chapters, that Jerusalem would be spared (Isaiah 8:7-8; 30:31).
Repetition is good. Parents and teachers endlessly repeat, repeat, repeat what their children need to learn. Repetition indicates God’s great desire for the salvation of his people. God does not hide his counsel, but he proclaims it loudly.
Some things never change. Today as much as ever, the world and the people of God need to hear that there is final hope in none but God. Other people and nations may supply help for a season. But ultimately, only God saves. We as individuals, churches, people groups, and nations need to know and pay attention. God’s call for us to turn away from vanity and to him is as relevant today as it ever was in Isaiah’s time, as presented in Isaiah 31.
Finally, God is sovereign. What he says he will do, he does. God is not against people. Rather, God is for people. In his prophecies through Isaiah, God’s love shines through strong.
1 The Complete Apostles’ Bible. Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito, and, The English Majority Text Version (EMTV) of the Holy Bible, New Testament. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito.
2 See Link to Isaiah 30 Two Kingdoms and 2 Kings 17-19. Isaiah 36-37 also records these details.
Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21: Journal 66
By Christina Wilson. Published simultaneously at Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21: Devotional Journal 66 – justonesmallvoice.com.
Isaiah 30 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21 Differs from the Masoretic
Not uncommonly a reader encounters a Septuagint verse or word that casts a different color of meaning than the Masoretic text. Rarely, one finds an entire statement exactly opposite from what the Masoretic contains. Such is the case with Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21. Its meaning is quite different from the often quoted verse found in the Masoretic text of most popular English versions.
The first quotation below is from the Masoretic. The second shows the same verses from the Septuagint.
20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!” (ESV)
20 And though the Lord shall give you the bread of affliction and scant water, yet they that cause you to err shall no more at all draw near to you; for your eyes shall see those that cause you to err, 21 and your ears shall hear the words of them that went after you to lead you astray, who say, This is the way, let us walk in it, whether to the right or to the left. 22 And you shall pollute the plated idols, and you shall grind to powder the gilt ones, and shall scatter them as the water of a removed woman, and you shall thrust them forth as dung. (LXE, CAB) (1)
What Are the Differences?
I The Well-Known Masoretic
As many will recognize, these verses from Masoretic (Hebrew) Isaiah are well known, often quoted, and the subject of devotionals. (I attended a Bible study on 1 John in which the leader quoted these verses just last evening.) They used to be among my personal favorites when I was a young Christian.
In this version, the Lord is the Teacher whom the subject sees (verse 20). And, presumably it is the Lord’s voice the subject hears behind her. The voice confirms that the believer is walking on the right path whenever they turn to the right or to the left.
Notice that the first part of verse 20 states that the Teacher had been hidden from the subject’s eyes. Some versions state that the Teacher had hidden himself (for example, ESV and NRS). Other versions use a passive voice, which removes the intent (for example, NET and NIV).
The end result of the action is that the subject will no longer be walking blind, as it were. She will have the Lord as both her visible and audible guide. This, of course, is very good and encouraging to someone who has just been eating the bread of adversity and drinking the water of affliction. Every believer desires guidance from the Lord during tough times. She is extremely grateful to see and hear the Lord.
II The Virtually Unknown Septuagint
The Septuagint verses (Greek) tell a completely different story. The end result of encouragement and blessing is the same, however. This link presents both a translation from the Greek (Septuagint) and a standard translation from the Hebrew (Masoretic) side by side: LINK TO TEXT.
A bit of context will help understand the Greek version. Israel as a whole had been unfaithful to the Lord, especially the northern kingdom. Verse 19 introduces a new section by stating that a “holy” people shall live in Zion. The Masoretic does not contain the word “holy.” Jerusalem repents in both versions, asking for mercy, which the Lord grants.
In the first portion of verse 20, both versions similarly state that the Lord will give the people the bread of affliction and the water of adversity. But immediately after this, the Septuagint diverges to tell a different story, “They that cause you to err shall no more at all draw near to you; for your eyes shall see those that cause you to err.” What is the difference here?
THE FIRST DIFFERENCE
One difference is that in the Masoretic, the Teacher, or teachers (Lord is not named but implied) either hid himself from their sight or was hidden from them. But in the Septuagint, the “holy people” and repentant Jerusalem will not be seeing the Lord. Rather, they will see those who had been leading them astray and stay far from them. In other words, the Septuagint tells the story that the decision makers had been listening to false counsel from deceptive sources. These deceivers had been leading them astray. They didn’t know that before, but now they do. And, it wasn’t that the Lord had been hiding from them. In Isaiah, the Lord bends over backward to get their attention.
A SECOND DIFFERENCE
A second difference occurs in verse 21. The Masoretic seems to assume that the voice behind the subject is the voice of the Lord. This voice verifies that the person is walking on the correct path whenever that person has turned to either the right or to the left. Again, the Septuagint tells a different story.
First, the blind eyes of the people had been opened, so that they could see their deceivers and their deception (verse 20.) Now, in verse 21, their ears hear and recognize as false the words that had been purposefully leading them astray. The idea is that the correct path proceeds straight. The deceptive voices had been attempting to turn the people off the correct path onto false paths that went either to the right or to the left. “Your ears shall hear words behind you leading you astray, saying, ‘This is the way; let us walk in it,’ either to the right hand or to the left.” (2)
A SUMMARY OF THE SEPTUGINT PLOT LINE
Deceptive counselors had led Israel astray. For one thing, they had given them advice to appeal to Egypt for help (Isaiah 30:2). The Lord complained that they had not consulted him at all (Isaiah 30:1). After the Lord sent them trials (verse 20), they woke up. Their eyes saw and recognized their deceivers as such (verse 20). Their ears discerned the counsel as purposefully deceptive (verse 21). Now able to distinguish truth from lies, they destroyed their idols (verse 22). The Lord blessed them (verses 23-26).
The plot of Septuagint Isaiah 30:19-26 relates the spiritual journey of new believers. Following lies from birth, a person reaches the end of their rope or the bottom of their pit. Crying out to the Lord for help, he responds. He opens their blind eyes and deaf ears. New believers see their deceivers as such and discern the voice of truth and error. They understand the deceptions of their former way of life. The young sheep recognize the lies of voices telling them to turn off the path, either to the right or to the left. As they continue to follow the Lord’s straight path (his teaching), they progress in the Lord’s way. And he blesses them with spiritual growth and prosperity.
Septuagint Isaiah 30:19-26 tells a good story, one filled with truth.
1 The Complete Apostles’ Bible Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito, and, The English Majority Text Version (EMTV) of the Holy Bible, New Testament. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito.
2 SAAS. “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at Repentance and Blessing: Isaiah Devotional Journal 65 – justonesmallvoice.com.
Isaiah 30 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Repentance and Blessing
The first section of this chapter (verses 1-18) left off with the northern kingdom of Israel rejecting the Lord, but here, introducing the second section (verses 19-26), Isaiah presents Judah in a posture of submissive prayer. The Lord gives blessing when his children show repentance.
Because a holy people shall dwell in Sion, and Ierousalem wept with weeping, “Have mercy on me,” he will have mercy on you for the voice of your cry; when he saw, he listened to you. (Isaiah 30:19 NETS New English Translation of the Septuagint)
The contrast is stark between the repentance and blessing of verse 19 and the apostasy and its consequences of the prior section.
Isaiah 30:15 Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel: When you turn back and groan, then you shall be saved and realize where you were; when you placed your trust in vain things, your strength became vain. And you were not willing to hear 16 but said, “We will flee upon horses”—therefore you shall flee! (NETS)
Time Frame of Section Two
What is the time frame of the second section of Isaiah 30, beginning with verse 19? Isaiah transitions from the first section to the second in verse 18. The time frame of the first section appears to be specifically just before the Assyrians took Israel the northern kingdom into the captivity from which they never returned (Isaiah 30 Septuagint-Two Kingdoms: Journal 64 – justonesmallvoice.com). But the time frame of the second section of chapter 30, verses 19 through 26, is looser.
First, Isaiah writes completely in an unspecified future tense, unlike in the first section. There, he addressers a present condition which finds rapid fulfillment (the northern kingdom fell to Assyria). Second, in the Septuagint, the prophet uses the phrase, “in that day,” two times (verses 23 and 25). This phrase in Isaiah often signals a future day of Messiah’s reign (see, for example, Isaiah 4:2-6, Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–13 – justonesmallvoice.com). Finally, Isaiah uses metaphors that can signal a spiritual application. For example, he writes, “Your ears shall hear words behind you… “(verse 21), as though he were speaking to a concrete individual. The agricultural metaphors seem extraordinarily idealistic (verses 23-24). Also, the metaphors concerning the light of the sun and moon lend themselves readily to an eschatological (end times), spiritual application (verse 26). Finally, verse 25 seems very much eschatological. In light of the New Testament, verse 25 is also messianic.
The failure of the people of Israel as a whole (representing all people) and the victory of Messiah, who is God himself, is Isaiah’s overall theme.
Isaiah 1:18 And come, let us reason together, says the Lord; and though your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow; and though they be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool. (CAB, LXE)
Time Frame of Section Three
In review, the first section of Isaiah (verses 1-17) speaks to the people of Israel the northern kingdom just before their overthrow by the Assyrians. It is a local chapter in an immediate time frame. The time frame of section two (verses 19-26) is an unspecified time in Jerusalem’s future, an eschatological period of Messiah’s reign. Verse 18 stands as a bridge between these two sections. Verse 18 foretells how God will show compassion and mercy when “He will be exalted.” This foretells the New Testament event of God’s Son being “lifted up,” or “exalted,” on the cross (Isaiah Devotional Journal 64. See also John 3:14; 8:28; and 12:34.) What then is the time frame of section three, verses 27-33?
1. A LOCAL SETTING AND TIME
Because the text names the “Assyrians” in verse 31, the third section of chapter 30 speaks to the kingdom of Judah’s near future. In good King Hezekiah’s sixth year, Israel the northern kingdom fell completely to Assyria, as Isaiah foretold (2 Kings 18:10). Some eight years later (2 Kings 18:13-17), Assyria stood outside the walls of Jerusalem. The remainder of 2 Kings chapter 18 and all of chapter 19 tell how Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and the Lord himself delivered Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Isaiah 30:27-33 poetically describes this historical event. In addition to the detailed record in 2 Kings, Isaiah 36-37 records the details of how God delivered Jerusalem and Judah.
2. AN ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME FRAME
But the third section of Isaiah 30 can carry eschatological prophesy, as well. Consider how verse 27 follows from verse 26 in the Septuagint.
26 And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold in the day when the Lord shall heal the breach of His people, and shall heal the pain of your wound.
27 Behold, the name of the Lord comes after a long time, burning wrath; the word of His lips is with glory, a word full of anger, and the anger of His wrath shall devour like fire. (CAB, LXE)
Verse 26 finds its fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. He in turn sends the Holy Spirit to continue what he begins. Then, “after a long time (1), burning wrath” and “the anger of His wrath shall devour like fire.” The remainder of section three describes God’s wrath with a poetic vehemence that could be applied to an end of time scenario. We find God’s wrath poured out during the end times depicted in the latter chapters of Revelation.
To summarize, first comes God’s salvation through Messiah, described in verses 18-26. Then, “after a long time” comes his end times wrath. Verse 27 combines the “glory” proceeding from the lips of Christ, with the “wrath” which will “devour like fire” in the last judgment. Additionally, Isaiah writes a specifically local application in verse 31, dealing with Sennacherib and Hezekiah. So, this section, as is so often the case in prophecy, describes an already/not yet time frame.
1 The Septuagint differs from the Masoretic in this verse. The Septuagint states, “The name of the Lord comes after a long time,” while the Masoretic writes, “The name of the Lord comes from afar.”
By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at Isaiah 30 Septuagint-Two Kingdoms: Journal 64 – justonesmallvoice.com
Isaiah 30 Septuagint-Two Kingdoms: Devotional 64
Isaiah 30 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Two Kingdoms, Blessing, and Judgment: Chapter Breakdown
- Tragedy for Israel, the northern kingdom — verses 1-18
- Blessing in Zion and Jerusalem — verses 19-26
- Judgment — verses 27-33
Two Kingdoms? A Reader’s Responsibility
As a reader of Scripture, when I appear before God and he considers my life (Hebrews 9:27), he may ask me what I did with his Holy Word. I doubt he will ask me what my favorite commentator or teacher did with the Word he gave me to read. I believe that I am ultimately responsible to God for my interpretation of the Scripture he gives me. I am always free to say, “Lord, I don’t know what this means,” just as the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:34. I find that God often gives wisdom, through various means, when I ask for it.
Many, if not most, commentators interpret Isaiah 30:1-18 as God’s message to Judah. I disagree. I interpret this portion as another of God’s messages to the northern kingdom, Israel. Here are my reasons why.
Why Is Isaiah 30 Septuagint about Two Kingdoms?
Verses 1-18 are about the northern kingdom of Israel, rather than about Judah. Why is this?
- The main reason is the text itself. The text harshly describes the stance of the subject as willfully unwilling to listen and obey God’s direction to them.
- This hardness of heart best describes the northern kingdom of Israel during this time frame, rather than the southern kingdom of Judah.
- The historical record in 2 Kings supports this conclusion.
- There is nothing in Isaiah itself to contradict this interpretation.
I. Language of Apostasy
The text describes an apostate people. Quotations are from the Septuagint, although the Masoretic does not differ greatly.
Woe to the apostate children (τέκνα ἀποστάται, vs 1)
they that proceed to go down into Egypt, but they have not enquired of me (vs 2)
For the people is disobedient, false children, who would not hear the law of God: (vs 9)
“Turn us aside from this way; remove from us this path, and remove from us the oracle of Israel.” (lit. the Holy One of Israel, vs 11)
Therefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye have refused to obey these words, and have trusted in falsehood; and because thou hast murmured (vs 12)
therefore shall this sin be to you as a wall suddenly falling… as the breaking of an earthen vessel, as small fragments of a pitcher, so that you should not find among them a sherd, with which you might take up fire, and with which you should draw a little water (i.e., complete destruction). (vv 13-14)
When you shall turn and mourn, then you shall be saved… yet you would not hearken; (vs 15)
When Israel traveled through the wilderness with Moses, such apostasy merited death.
And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the Lord hated us, he has brought us out of the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 1:27 LXE)
Let us make a ruler, and return into Egypt (Numbers 14:4 LXE)
As I live, saith the Lord… Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness… all that murmured against me… shall not enter into the land (Numbers 14:28-30 LXE)
Thus it is with thee and all thy congregation which is gathered together against God: and who is Aaron, that ye murmur against him? 12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiron sons of Eliab; and they said, We will not go up… we will not go up… the ground opened, and swallowed them up (Numbers 16:11-12, 14, 32 LXE)
II. The Language of Apostasy Describes the Northern Kingdom, Not Judah
WHAT TIME FRAME IS THIS?
The time frame is important, since King Hezekiah submitted to God but King Hoshea of Israel did not. Did their reigns overlap? Is it reasonable to suppose that Isaiah might address the two different kingdoms in the same chapter? (One should also remember that when Isaiah wrote, there were no chapter divisions.)
As revealed by the math of 2 Kings 16:2 and 2 Kings 17:1 and directly by 2 Kings 18:1, 9, and 10, King Hezekiah reigned in Jerusalem during more than half of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel. He was king of Judah when Israel was taken. Therefore, it is very possible that Isaiah in 30:1-18 could have been addressing the northern kingdom during the first years of King Hezekiah’s reign. Isaiah writes the first portion in present tense. The third portion consists entirely of future tense. Since the third portion of the chapter concerns Assyria and Judah, it seems reasonable to conclude that the first portion concerns Assyria and Israel at a slightly earlier time.
ISAIAH’S LANGUAGE AND THE HISTORICAL RECORD OF 2 KINGS
Compare the following verses written about King Hezekiah with the language of apostasy used in Isaiah 30:1-18 (see above).
And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. (2Kings 18:3)
He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. (2Kings 18:5)
For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered… (2Kings 18:6-7 )
Israel, on the other hand, “did not obey the voice of the LORD… They neither listened nor obeyed.” (2 Kings 18:12)
Therefore, Isaiah’s language in 30:1-18 meshes better with the historical record of 2 Kings that concerns Israel.
THERE IS NOTHING IN ISAIAH TO CONTRADICT HIS SPEAKING OF ISRAEL IN VERSES 1-18
1. What we’ve seen so far is that Hezekiah and Hoshea’s reigns overlapped. Hezekiah witnessed the Assyrians carrying off the northern kingdom to captivity (2 Kings 18:10). Eight years later, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah (2 Kings 18:10, 13).
2. Egypt enters into the text in the first section, verses 2 through 7. Biblical history records in 2 Kings 17:4 that King Hoshea of the northern kingdom did send messengers to Egypt to ask for help. In order to reach Egypt from the northern kingdom, the messengers would need to pass through the desert south of Judah, the Negev. This is where they would have encountered the lions and vipers of verse 6. The wealth carried on the backs of donkeys may have been a payment to Egypt for their help.
3. But when commentators say that King Hezekiah of Judah sent to Egypt for help when facing Sennacherib, they are merely inferring that he did. They use 2 Kings 18:21 and 24 as evidence. However, this evidence proceeds from the lying mouth of the agent of Sennacherib, the enemy. He is playing psychological games with Hezekiah. His information may have been outdated, from a prior king even.
The agent demonstrates that he is playing all angles, because in the very next verse, 2 Kings 18:22, he admits that Hezekiah had told him, “We trust on the Lord God:” (2Kings 18:22 LXE). Then he proceeds to argue against that position. The Assyrian shows by the words that proceed from his mouth that he neither understands God nor Hezekiah’s relationship with Him. In other words, Sennacherib’s agent is not a trustworthy witness to Hezekiah’s actions.
Scripture makes no direct statement that King Hezekiah himself sent to Egypt during the time when the Assyrians laid seize upon Jerusalem. Scripture does make such a statement about King Hoshea of the northern kingdom of Israel. And contrary to this, Scripture states that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord and sent to the prophet Isaiah for counsel.
2 Kings 19:1 And it came to pass when king Ezekias heard it, that he rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth, an went into the house of the Lord. 2 And he sent Heliakim the steward, and Somnas the scribe, and the elders of the priests, clothed with sackcloth, to Esaias the prophet the son of Amos. (LXE)
3. Finally, in brief, Isaiah 28, barely two chapters prior, spoke of the northern kingdom. Why shouldn’t chapter 30?
Why Does This Matter?
Why should it matter whether or not the first eighteen verses of chapter 30 in Isaiah reference Israel or Judah? For a reader such as myself, it is important to distinguish carefully concerning the language of Scripture. If the entirety of Isaiah 30 refers to Judah, then it is as though one need not take God’s warnings seriously. For example, in verse 15 God says, “When you return and groan [as in repentant prayer], then you will be saved… and you did not will to listen (SAAS).” (1) Rephrased in the positive, they purposefully chose not to listen. God calls them “apostate children” (vs 1), “a disobedient people, false children, children who are unwilling to hear the law of God” (vs 9) (SAAS). They said, “Take away from us the Holy One of Israel” (vs 11 SAAS).
When God expressed his willingness to forgive (vs 15), they “did not will to listen” (vs 15, SAAS). Aside from the fact that this text does not describe King Hezekiah, how could God move from the strong language of impending judgment in the first section of Isaiah 30 to language of blessing in the second and third sections with no sign from these people of any sort of repentance? At this point in history, with no repentance in sight, God chose to give up Israel the northern kingdom to their own will (Isaiah 30:16), just as he said he would. (See 2 Kings 17:23.) God’s actions were consistent with his words.
But…God’s Mercy, Yes…But, the Caveat of Messiah’s Cross
But, nevertheless, God is patient, longsuffering, and gracious. Verse 18 expresses God’s infinite patience and grace. Isaiah 30:18 speaks of the compassion and mercy of God for his people. God is willing to wait. But there is a caveat. His grace ultimately comes through Jesus Christ, Messiah. There is no grace without judgment. “The Lord our God is a judge” (NETS). God’s mercy arrives as his judgment falls on Christ. “And again God will wait to have compassion on you; therefore he will be exalted to show mercy to you, because the Lord our God is a judge… ” (NETS).
God expresses his mercy when Christ is “exalted,” or “lifted up,” (ὑψωθήσεται) on the cross. Septuagint Isaiah uses the same flexible Greek word (ὑψόω) that John uses in John 3:14; 8:28; and 12:34 . Yes indeed, God expressed his grace in Christ while we were yet enemies (Romans 5:10). But, neither Israel’s nor Judah’s salvation is automatic, nor inevitable, simply because they bear that name. When God expresses his grace, Israel must receive it according to God’s own standards. The prophet asks in Septuagint Isaiah 30:18 (SAAS, NETS), “And where will you leave your glory?” (NETS). They have a choice. Then Isaiah supplies the only right answer, “Blessed are those who abide in Him” (SAAS) (1).
Isaiah 30:18 And again God will wait, that He may have mercy on you, because the Lord our God is a judge, and where will you leave behind your glory? Blessed are all those who abide in Him.” SAAS (1) (See also NETS).
And here is the crux of why it matters whether or not Isaiah addresses Israel or Judah in Septuagint Isaiah 30:1-18. The language of this passage is harshly accusatory against its recipient. Nevertheless, God is willing to extend mercy, but he will do so only on his own terms. His terms involve his own exaltation (the cross). At this point in history, there were two kingdoms with two exactly opposite responses. Israel the northern kingdom chose to reject God and walk away from him. They steadfastly pursued this course of apostasy. And God let them go, consistent with his statements of intention in Scripture.
On the other hand, Scripture records that Hezekiah of the kingdom of Judah “rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 19:1 LXE). He also sent to Isaiah for counsel and help. He trusted God and moved toward him, not away from him. The rest of Isaiah 30:19-33 shows that help and salvation came to Hezekiah and Jerusalem.
The crux is that salvation only comes through the cross of Christ, whether your name is Israel, Judah, or Gentile. There is no difference (Galatians 3:27). “All Israel” will not be saved until all Israel does it God’s way in Christ. Fortunately, God left a remnant, even for the northern kingdom of Israel. 2 Kings 17:27-28 records how the king of the Assyrians sent back a tiny remnant into the land of the northern kingdom, Israel. God is faithful to his promise. For this reason, Scripture also records that Jesus, Messiah, “had to pass through Samaria.” In preaching to the remnant there, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him… And many more believed because of his word” (John 4:39-41 ESV). As Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33 ESV).
For those who refuse God’s offer of mercy, only judgment remains (Hebrews 9:27). Please, dear reader, don’t be one of those of whom Scripture says, “They would not” (2 Kings 17:14). But I hope and pray better things for those reading this.
1 SAAS. “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”