By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at The Holy Spirit Comes: Isaiah Devotional Journal 71 – justonesmallvoice.com.
Isaiah 32:9-20 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Judah Stumbles and the Holy Spirit Blesses
Romans 11:11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (ESV)
Overview of Chapter 32
Chapter 32 of Isaiah contains both an indictment of God’s Old Testament people and God’s blessing of his New Testament people (1). The blessing comes through the reign of Messiah, the righteous King. (See posts 68, 69, and 70). It continues by means of God’s pouring out his Holy Spirit during the King’s reign. Verses 9-20 continue the pattern previously established in the earlier portion of the chapter. This portion includes pronouncements of both desolation and further blessing.
Outline of Chapter 32
- The blessings of Messiah: verses 1-4
- Contrast between the foolish wicked and the godly wise: verses 5-8
- Warning of the desolation to come: verses 9-14
- Messianic blessings: verses 15-20
Warning of the Desolation to Come: Time Indicators and Their Difficulties
There are three time markers in this section. They occur in verses 10, 14, and 15. Yet, each of these markers presents difficulties to a concrete-literal understanding.
FIRST TIME MARKER
10 Remember for a full year in pain, yet with hope; the vintage has been cut off; it has ceased, it shall by no means come again. (CAB, LXE)
Verse 10 provides the only numerical time marker in all of Chapter 32. The “one year” would seem to indicate the siege of Judah and Jerusalem by the Assyrian general Sennacherib in the days of king Hezekiah. However, because God intervened, the nation experienced another long period (many decades) of relative prosperity during the remainder of Hezekiah’s reign. Then began a period of decline as Babylon began to invade the land. Approximately 100 years after Isaiah made the pronouncement in verse 10, the nation fell completely and was carried into exile. So, it is difficult to find the reality of this verse (a persistent lack of vintage after one year) in Jerusalem’s actual history.
SECOND TIME MARKER
14 As for the rich city, the houses are deserted; they shall abandon the wealth of the city, and the pleasant houses; and the villages shall be caves forever, the joy of wild donkeys, shepherds’ pastures; (CAB, LXE)
Verse 14 provides a second, non-numerical time marker. The text states, “… the villages shall be caves forever.” Here again, the word “forever” presents difficulties. The villages of Jerusalem and Judah did not remain caves forever. Commentators step around this difficulty by saying that “forever” doesn’t mean “forever,” but a very long time. But even that has problems.
First, the exile lasted 70 years. That is a shorter time than the period after this prophecy and before the exile began (about 100 years). It hardly qualifies for use of the word “forever” in its description. And yes, it is true that after the exile, complete prosperity never returned to an independent Israel. Yet, during the Second Temple period, it would not be true to say that the villages remained caves. When Jesus of Nazareth was born, for example, Jerusalem was a bustling city with visitors from all over the world. Witness the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-6).
THIRD TIME MARKER
14 and the villages shall be caves forever, … 15 until the Spirit shall come upon you from on high, and Carmel shall be desert, and Carmel shall be counted for a forest.
Verse 15 qualifies the “forever” of verse 14. “The villages shall be caves forever … until the Spirit shall come upon you from on high.” But even this presents problems to a concrete-literal understanding.
The first problem is that Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. This was just a few years after the coming of the Holy Spirit. History reveals that destruction of the land continued until Israel completely ceased to exist as a nation. And yet, the Spirit has stayed with us continually. So in conclusion, there exists a contradiction between the material blessings described in verses 15-20 and the reality of Israel’s history.
THE GREAT DIVIDE BETWEEN THE TWO TESTAMENTS
What is the great difference between life lived in the Old Testament and life lived in the New Testament? Of course, the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the King is the correct answer. There is a second answer, however.
Galatians 3:14 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)
Not only Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, but believing Jewish people, as well. All believers in Christ receive his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s blessing to both the church, his people, and to this fallen humanity. Old Testament saints received the Holy Spirit occasionally, externally, and for specific prophetic purposes. Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, the Holy Spirit did not dwell in close communion with people. Now that Christ has come, fellowship between God and humans has been restored (Hebrews 4:16).
GOD’S LANGUAGE ALSO CHANGED
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (ESV)
John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (ESV)
Some examples will help. First, when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 4, Nicodemus could not understand his words. Why not? God had not yet given the Spirit. Nicodemus was a “natural person,” as Paul would say.
As a second example, when Jesus taught in parables, he used concrete metaphors to describe spiritual realities to his “natural” listeners. Is there a Christian anywhere who does not understand that when Jesus says in John 4:35, “‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” he is not speaking of concrete-literal grain that one boils and bakes? He is speaking of human souls. And, when Jesus called to his future disciples in Matthew 4:13, “‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,'” which Christian among us truly believes he was speaking of fishing hooks or nets with human beings in them?
If Jesus and the New Testament writers describe spiritual realities with concrete-literal words, why do so many academics and biblical interpreters insist that readers first and foremost understand nearly every word of Old Testament prophecy in a concrete-literal way? Do we truly believe that God would not give Isaiah concrete-literal words to describe New Testament spiritual realities?
THE GOSPEL OF ISAIAH
There is a reason why Isaiah is one of the most often quoted books in the New Testament. Isaiah was a prophet who straddled both testaments. God gave him visions and insights into his own era and also into the new era. Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, and he reported it.
John 12: 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (ESV)
In his book, Isaiah writes of two topics: 1) the coming Messiah and 2) the dismal failure of Israel as a whole to embrace God as their King. Chapter 32 encompasses both of these topics. Because the time markers fail to represent accurately the concrete-literal history of Israel, it is good biblical hermeneutics to interpret the language of this chapter spiritually. Using concrete-literal language, Isaiah prophesies the spiritual demise of one kingdom and the arrival of a new King. The new kingdom will be eternal.
To be continued…verse 19: another variation between the Septuagint and the Masoretic textual traditions
1 Of course, Isaiah didn’t think in terms of two biblical testaments. Nor did he have an exact means to measure the times involved.