By Christina M Wilson. Published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/god-rebukes-doubt-lxx-isaiah-2-3/.
Jesus as Creator
Christians know that Jesus created the world.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… 10… the world was made through him…
Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.
1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
Divisions of Isaiah 40
- Verses 1-11, the Coming One
- verses 1-2, Introduction
- verses 3-11, Messiah comes, who is God the good shepherd
- Verses 12-31, God the Creator
- verses 12-26, facts about God the Creator
- verse 27, chastisement
- verses 28-31, corrective to the disbelief exhibited by Israel in verse 27
- verse 31, promise of renewal that leads to sustained hope
Who Is Who in Chapter 40?
The prior post records how Isaiah 40:1-11 speaks of the Coming One whom John the Baptist announced. This one is Jesus of Nazareth. But readers must look carefully at the referents Isaiah uses. Of whom does he speak?
“God” and “Lord” the Same in Isaiah 40:1-11
The Septuagint translation uses the name “God” (theos) five times in Isaiah 40:1-11. It uses the name “Lord” (kupios) five times. Plain speech leads everyday readers to conclude that the text uses these names synonymously. There is nothing in the text to indicate otherwise. Only the New Testament reveals that the voice which cries in the wilderness speaks of Jesus Christ.
This is exactly the point.
In this first section of Isaiah, the prophet does not distinguish between “God” and “Lord.” They are one and the same.
Therefore, when New Testament Scripture reveals the God and Lord of verses 9 and 10 to be Jesus Christ Messiah, Isaiah has already identified these names to be identical, synonymous. Messiah, the Lord (Jesus) is God. Realizing this helps explain to readers today why the Pharisees bore such passionate hatred to Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. They understood that he claimed to be God. Obviously, they rejected this man as Messiah. He did not exemplify the kind of God they wanted.
From Comfort to Chastisement
Isaiah 40 opens with comfort.
1 Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God. 2 Speak, you 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 for her sins. (CAB, LXE) (1)
But the prophet employs a tone of chastisement, of mild rebuke, in verses 12-31. God chastises Jacob, that is, Israel (verse 27).
Isaiah 40:27 For do not say, O Jacob, and why have you spoken, O Israel, saying, My way is hid from God, and my God has taken away my judgment, and has departed? (CAB, LXE)
(2) In today’s American English, verse 27 appears to be a “throwback” to earlier chapters of Isaiah. Careful readers should notice and store up these nuances. Why? The tone differs so greatly between Isaiah 40:1-2 and Isaiah 40:12-30 that a careful reader might question whether Isaiah speaks to the same group of people. Does the “My people” of verse 1, to whom God speaks so tenderly, refer to the same “O Jacob,” “O Israel” of verse 27? God chastises doubters and naysayers in verse 27. Are these two groups the same groups? Or, is God schizophrenic? These are questions to store up in our hearts as we continue reading. (3)
How Does Division 2 Relate to Division 1?
How do the two divisions of this chapter connect? As noted above, the two “divisions” in Chapter 40 differ in tone. The first is favorable and tender. The second challenges disbelief. These read as though something is missing in the middle. Perhaps in the second division God answers Israel’s response to his overture of forgiveness and comfort from verse 2. If so, Israel’s response itself has not been recorded.
Certainly, verse 27 reveals Israel’s doubts concerning the nearness of God. They perceive themselves as far removed from God, hidden. They perceive God as having packed his bags, so to speak, and departed. The phrase “my judgment” in verse 27 is difficult for the modern ear. This way of thinking is not part of our lives. It could be used as a recently pardoned criminal might use it. Their condemnation is removed. They’re now invisible to the law, free. Or, it could be used as a child might speak of their parent. If a parent were to depart, then their guiding hand of discipline, both positive and negative, would have departed with them. The following translation captures, I think, the intended meaning in its context.
Why do you say, Jacob, and declare, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD my God ignores my predicament”? (Isaiah 40:27 CEB, Common English Bible)
What is clear is that God through the prophet represents Israel as confessing a separation from God. This would indeed match the scenario of a people in exile after a period of seventy years. They feel that they are on their own, invisible to him. God is not pleased with their doubt. Thus, he replies by describing his power and might. His reply appears to be a combination of mild rebuke and a pep talk designed to inspire belief and motivation.
- In verses 12-17, God compares himself with all the nations. He is a giant of unfathomable size and might. All humanity is nothing in comparison.
- Verses 18-20 describes the temporary, corruptible nature of human idols
- God on the other hand created all things in heaven and on earth, verses 21-26
The point, then of verses 12-26, is God answering the doubts Israel expresses in verse 27. He sums up his position in verse 28.
28 And now, have you not known? Have you not heard? The eternal God, the God that formed the ends of the earth, shall not hunger, nor be weary, and there is no searching of His understanding. (CAB, LXE)
To support his claim, God provides examples of his power over human beings. These examples indicate that God often turns things topsy-turvy to our expectations. He does the opposite of what might be suppose will happen.
- he gives strength to the hungry (v 29)
- he gives sorrow to those who do not mourn (v 29)
- youths (young people) will faint and grow weary (v 30)
- the elect (chosen ones) will be without strength (v 30) (good to consult various translations for this verse)
But… Application for Today
Verse 31 provides the capstone for division 2 of Chapter 40.
31 but they that wait on God shall renew their strength; they shall put forth new feathers like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. (CAB, LXE)
This verse encourages people who have endured much and waited long. God’s promise is for us today, as well as for the Israelites in captivity. It applies also to Anna, Zechariah, and the other saints, few in number, who understood God’s promise to send a Messiah, Savior, to them. They faithfully waited. They endured the keeping of their hope alive to the full length of their lives. Most likely, they had no daily encouragement, no little signs along the way. They heard, understood, and treasured God’s promise of Messiah in their hearts, faithfully waiting until either fulfillment or the end of their lives. For Anna, he waiting yielded fulfillment (Luke 2:36-38).
We should continue to wait patiently on the Lord. He is not like us (Isaiah 40:12-29). His promises never fail.
Conclusion and Summary
One other important application is to do as Mary did, “to treasure up” these things in our heart (Luke 2:19). As we continue to study Septuagint Isaiah together, let us bear in mind Isaiah 40:3-11. This portion does not fit the scenario of God’s returning a captive people back to their homeland after exile in Babylonia. It doesn’t blend in at all with our development of this chapter in the traditional way–that is, God’s challenging a doubtful people to believe him. Yet, Isaiah has given verses 3-11the place of prime importance, the beginning of Chapter 40. Chapter 40 introduces the rest of the book.
And, verses 3-11 dovetail beautifully with Isaiah 40:1-2. Therefore, I prefer to think of what I have called Division 1 (Isaiah 40:1-11) as a separate section entirely. Isaiah never meant it to “blend in” with the rest of the chapter. In this way, Division 2 would be local to Israel’s historical position of nearing the end of their captivity in Babylon. Division 1, a stand-alone section, looks to the then far future of the coming Messiah. Its weight and scope is eternal.
1 Complete Apostles’ Bible, Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito. (The CAB is a recent translation in today’s English of the ancient Greek Septuagint text, as translated by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton (LXE, Septuagint English Version).
2 Notice that in this portion, Volume 2, the text loses the distinction between Israel (the northern tribes) and Judah. Throughout Volume 1 (the first thirty-nine chapters), Isaiah had fairly consistently maintained that distinction. This fact is another indication that the book has shifted its focus. In a certain sense, a reader might even conclude that the generalizing use of “Israel” in reference to the twelve tribes is a form of metaphor.
For example, if, as many commentators say, Isaiah in these verses addresses the exiles in Babylonia, aren’t they predominately from Judah? Yet, by calling Israel Jacob, the prophet draws specific attention to the twelve tribes. Yet the northern nation ceased to exist over a century before the southern. Therefore, by speaking to the whole of the original nation in this way, the flavor of the appellation takes on a rather idealistic tone–as stated previously, a metaphorical tone. “Israel” and “Jacob,” without regard to the facts of the specific histories of these two kingdoms, appear to mean “God’s people,” as opposed, perhaps, to the Gentile races.
3 Readers might recall all of Isaiah’s references to the “remnant” in Volume 1. For example, see Isaiah 10:20-22 and Isaiah 37:32.
By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/the-coming-messiah-lxx-isaiah-2-2/.
Isaiah 40:1-11: Structure of the Opening Verses
The first unit of Volume 2 of Isaiah (verses 40:1-11) boldly and joyfully announces the coming Messiah. Yes, the return of the captives from Babylonia hides in the background. “Hides” is a good word. This portion of Isaiah is nowhere as specific and blunt as the first thirty-nine chapters, which comprise Volume 1. Readers must look closely to find actual mention of Babylonia in these first four chapters of Volume 2 (See Isaiah 43:14, 47:1, 48:14, 20). Commentators who insert the history of Babylon and the captivity of Judah into this prelude do so by reading into the text a secular history well known from other portions of biblical history, such as found in Ezra. Isaiah himself never names Babylon directly in these early chapters of Volume 2. Consequently, the coming Messiah is not a secondary application here, but the primary application.
- The first subsection introduces the theme of Volume 2: comfort and forgiveness for God’s people, Jerusalem. (See Introduction.)
- The second proclaims the forerunner of the coming Messiah (see “The Church” in Concrete and Spiritual).
- The third introduces the Shepherd and his love more fully. He is the eternal Word (John 1:1-5, 14), as differentiated from mortal human beings (vv 7-8). This post focuses on the third subsection.
6 A voice of one saying, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass; all the glory of man is like the flower of grass. 7 The grass has withered, and the flower has fallen, 8 but the word of our God remains forever. (NETS) (1)
NOTE: Verse 6 says “a voice,” even though the noun in Greek has no article. Translators are nearly unanimous that “a” is correct. Otherwise, context would indicate that the voice is the same as in verse 3, the voice in the wilderness, i.e., John the Baptist. This is unlikely to be the intended meaning. This voice is an unidentified voice, perhaps that of the Lord or an angel, speaking to the prophet. The voice tells the prophet what to “cry out,” or proclaim loudly.
Verse 6 speaks of the short lifespan of humans. Because a single lifespan is so short, the person’s work is often futile. Verse 7 continues the thought. The glory of everything humans create fades rapidly and disappears. In context of ancient Israel, this would include the temple that human hands built and will build again after the exile. Everything that humans build eventually falls into decay. This includes earthly kingdoms and institutions. Within the fallen created order everything decays and dies.
Contrasted with the work of humans is the “word of our God” (verse 7). The prophet confesses God to be his own. The Apostle Peter identifies the “word” in this verse to be the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:24, 25). Unlike any human temple ever built, the spiritual temple that Christ builds is eternal (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
Christ’s kingdom “remains forever” (verse 7). By contrast, the so-called concrete-literal, millennial kingdom will only last 1,000 years. As Isaiah 40:6 states, what is the point? “The grass has withered, the flower has fallen.” Christians should seek to understand that a concrete, physical temple is nowhere nearly as glorious as the spiritual temple Christ himself is building.
These first verses at the beginning of Chapter 40 are the best news the prophet could possibly bring. The good news, “the word of our God” is about the glory of Christ, the coming Messiah. It is not about the destined-to-fade glory of Israel. Let us prayerfully seek to know and commune with the Holy Spirit, who resides in the heart of every believer in Christ. “Christ in you” is “the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27). The greatest gift we can ever give is to tell others the “good news,” about Jesus Christ and his kingdom. This is the word that will live forever.
9 O you that brings glad tidings to Zion, go up on the high mountain; lift up your voice with strength, you that brings glad tidings to Jerusalem; lift it up, fear not; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold the Lord! The Lord is coming with strength, and His arm is with power; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. 11 He shall tend His flock as a shepherd, and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and He shall soothe them that are with young. (CAB, LXE)
This section is very interesting. The “glad tidings” of verse 9, translated literally, mean “to evangelize.” This is the same “good news” as in verse 8, “the word of our God.” The Apostle Peter identifies this “word” as the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom (1 Peter 1:24, 25). Christ’s kingdom is Mount Zion on which Jerusalem sits (Hebrews 12:22-29).
The voice (verse 6) tells the prophet here to preach the good news of the King and his coming kingdom. To whom should the prophet Isaiah preach? He should preach to “Zion…Jerusalem” and “the cities of Judah.” Yet the context continues to strongly indicate that this is a New Testament message. Further, the context and corroborating verses in 1 Peter demonstrate that the time of the “coming” is the first coming of Christ. This is not a “millennial” message. This is a “shepherd” passage. The gospel is clear: “Behold your God…the Lord,” your coming Messiah! Later chapters of Isaiah explain that the blessing of the coming Messiah includes far more than Israel. The kingdom of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).
Does the prophet Isaiah separate and distinguish his Messianic message between Israel and the Gentiles? One blessing for Israel and a separate, different blessing for Gentiles? No, he doesn’t. Isaiah 40:10-11 speaks to Zion, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah. They clearly indicate the Jesus who walks through the pages of the four gospels. There is one coming Messiah King who will bless and gather one people for himself (Ephesians 2:11, 11-22; Galatians 3:28-29).
This good news should be an amazing cause of great joy. Indeed, as the book of Isaiah progresses, the prophet continues to express the great joy of the “word of our God,” the “shepherd” who “gathers the lambs,” and of Him who “shall soothe them that are with young.”
1 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 September 17, 2021.
By Christina M Wilson. Republished from https://justonesmallvoice.com/concrete-and-spiritual-lxx-isaiah-journal-vol-2-1/.
God Calls His People a City
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. (Isaiah 40:1-2 LXE)
In Isaiah 40:1-2, God commands the priests to speak the comfort of reconciliation to his people, Jerusalem. In verse one, he refers to his people as, “my people.” In verse two, he refers to this same group as “Jerusalem.” God commands the priests to speak to “the heart of Jerusalem.” He says to them that Jerusalem’s humiliation is over. “Her sin is put away, for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins.” Would any honest person argue that by “Jerusalem” God means the pile of rubble that the Babylonians left behind? (Do rocks and stones and wooden pillars “sin”?) In these verses, God equates in a figure of speech the city “Jerusalem” with “my people.” In verse 2, God refers to Jerusalem as a female, singular. God calls his people by a singular, female appellation. The point is that if “Jerusalem” means the people of Jerusalem here, then it may also mean so later in the book of Isaiah.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
How readers interpret Scripture is called “hermeneutics.” Hermeneutics is the study of the underlying assumptions and interpretive principles different readers bring to a text. Isaiah is an example of poetic prophecy. Characteristic of Isaiah and other books of prophecy (see Zechariah, for example), the writer uses imagery whose referents are not always clear. In other words, when readers, especially readers today, read certain prophetic passages, they often come away not knowing who or what or when specifically the passage is about. It is common for readers and biblical commentators to fill the gaps with their own presuppositions, their own hermeneutical preferences.
Scripture informs us that not knowing the specific referent was sometimes the case even for the Old Testament prophets themselves. Peter writes:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1Peter 1:10-12 ESV)
God himself was the original source, the origin, of the words the prophets spoke.
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Peter 1:20-21 ESV)
The entire passage, 2 Peter 1:16-21, is good and relevant to Isaiah 40:1-5. Peter’s point is that Jesus Christ is the main point of the prophetic witness. He tells how the booming voice from heaven revealed to himself and others on the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The “Holy Spirit sent from heaven,” further verifies to all believers Christ’s identity as Messiah, Son of God. This knowledge from the future is highly relevant to this portion of Isaiah.
What Do Readers Know About God’s People?
Both Testaments speak of God’s having chosen a “people.” In the Old Testament, God’s people are the community whose native or adopted land is Israel. God chose to “reside” in the temple constructed in Jerusalem, the religious and governmental capital of the land of Israel. But even in the Old Testament, after the dispersion to Babylon and elsewhere, people who identified with Israel and its religion considered themselves the people of God.
In the New Testament, God’s people are those who believe in and display loyalty to Christ, their King. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was Jewish. His first followers were Israelites, the people of Israel. But New Testament authors, especially Paul, expanded the Old Testament concept of “God’s people” to include all peoples everywhere who follow Christ. God’s people includes Jewish folk and Gentile folk alike. Paul teaches that Abraham’s children are those who believe in Christ (Galatians 3:22-29). He teaches that non-Jewish believers in Christ have been “grafted in” to the native “olive tree” of Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Now, by faith in Christ, God’s people are Israelites (Jewish people) and Gentiles (non-Jewish people) together as one (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Concrete or Spiritual?
The New Testament identity of Jerusalem is a touchy subject. For example, will Old Testament prophecies concerning Jerusalem be fulfilled literally, that is, with physical concreteness concerning bricks and mortar? Or, will these prophecies find fulfillment in a spiritual way that includes all believers, rather than ethnic Israel exclusively?
The framing of the question is important. Those who frame the question as though inclusion of Gentile believers in Christ excludes “ethnic” and “national” Israel are misinterpreting Scripture and their rhetorical opponents. Both Testaments are very clear that God discriminates against no one, no one, according to ethnicity or national citizenship. The following is a quotation from a study Bible.
“Interpretive challenges…on whether Isaiah’s prophecies will receive literal fulfillment or not, and on whether the Lord, in His program, has abandoned national Israel and permanently replaced the nation with the church…”
“… He [God] would not reject the people whom He has created and chosen…”
“…To contend that those yet unfulfilled [prophecies of Isaiah] will see non-literal fulfillment is biblically groundless… disqualifies the case for proposing that the church receives some of the promises made originally to Israel. The kingdom promised to David belongs to Israel, not the church.”
The quotations above are taken from “The MacArthur Study Bible,” by John MacArthur, Author and General Editor, published at Nashville, et al., by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Copyright 2006, page 935.
I think it’s important to let God interpret his own Scripture. As a Christian, I do allow the New Testament to expand, clarify, and enlighten the Old. God is so much larger than all of us combined. Our understanding of his ways is meager, and paltry, and minimal at best. I do not believe it is necessary to set up an either/or hermeneutic as the above writer and many others have done. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD,” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV).
I believe that God is infinite. Our logic and best efforts to restate God in our own words falls infinitely short of his power and grace. I believe that God will honor his promises to the fathers of Old Testament Israel and he will honor his promises to New Testament saints at one and the same time. These are not mutually exclusive. God can be faithful to the Old Testament fathers and faithful to his Gentile believers now. The two are no longer distinguishable.
One thing I do know, a particular Study Bible does not have the final word on either God or his outcomes. Saying, This is what God means and what he must be bound to, does not make it so. That is human interpretation. I will not be robbed of portions of God’s biblical promises to David because a certain interpreter says, that as a Gentile believer, I have no stake in these promises. Nor would I rob anyone else. This is for God to settle, not we his people.
However, as far as this blog is concerned, I pray that I will always take the high road of placing Christ, not physical Jerusalem, at the center. I pray that I will place Christ, not ethnic Israel, at the center of my interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Application to Isaiah?
What do the biblical books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians have to do with the book of Isaiah? Simply this. When I, as a 21st century non-Jewish Christian, read God’s words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” can I apply these words to myself? I believe that the New Testament teaches that yes, I can. God is also speaking to me. And, the Holy Spirit within me says, yes, I am God’s child, every bit as much as his Old Testament people. For I, as a believer in Christ, am one of “God’s people.” This is basic Christianity.
To say that the New Testament church is co-partaker with God’s Old Testament people, Israel, by no means implies an either/or situation. All the promises in Christ are yes (2 Corinthians 1:19-22). Because God through Christ grafted Gentiles into Israel’s native olive tree does not by any means imply that Israel will no longer receive God’s promises. However, I believe that those who wish to make an application of any of God’s promises to Israel only, excluding the church, are misreading Scripture and making assumptions that God never intended.
What does it mean when Scripture says, he who is our peace “made us both one” (Ephesians 2:11-22)? The context of these words is ethnic Jewish believers and ethnic Gentile believers. Doesn’t the plain sense of the words indicate that literally, concretely, both of these groups in their entirety are one in Christ? Paul makes no disclaimers. He does not say, “I am speaking spiritually here. I do not mean that “literally” they are one. Of course literally they are still separated. Only in the Spirit are they one.” Paul did not write that.
That is not what the biblical text states. Christ does not say yes yes and no no (2 Corinthians 1:17-19). Scripture does not say to the church, yes to the “spiritual” and no to the “concrete”. Using plain words, Isaiah did not distinguish–this is “literal,” and this is “spiritual.” Those who see such distinctions are reading their own desires into Scripture. For we are all one in Christ. In plain English, one means one.
Paul follows Isaiah. He clearly states, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise,” (Galatians 3:29 ESV). Paul does not qualify his statement by explaining that he means, “heirs of the spiritual blessing that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant.” (1) Paul states, “heirs according to promise,” not, Heirs of spiritual [only] blessing. I repeat, God is big enough to fulfill all the biblical promises he has ever made at every level, spiritual and concrete, without excluding anyone. It is a shortage of insight and love that causes some to set these prophecies up as an either/or situation.
The Very Next Verses Introduce the Church
Volume 2 of Isaiah opens with Isaiah 40:1-2 announcing comfort to God’s people and the perfect, complete putting away of Jerusalem’s sin [i.e., the people of Jerusalem’s sin]. Why does the Lord introduce the church in the very next verse? Someone might say, “But where is the church?” Verses 3-5 announce the Incarnation of the Lord God, and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” (verse 5).
This would be a very odd juxtaposition if verses 1 and 2 apply only to the ethnic people of God and a physically destroyed Jerusalem, both in the prophet’s own day. The introduction of Messiah at this point signals a much grander plan, a fuller pardon, and a far wider scope than a purely local fulfillment to be accomplished by the return of the exiles to their native land.
Nor does Isaiah specify when or by what means God’s pardon occurs. He does not state the specifics of when or how Jerusalem’s having received “double” for her sins has transpired. I believe God placed the next three verses to indicate that Messiah is for all ages and all people. “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Christ’s atonement works for all peoples of all times. His atonement worked backward to the prior centuries of Israel’s guilt and forward to our time. Why else would Scripture place this prophetically clear announcement of Christ’s birth just here? (See Matthew 3:3, 11:10; Mark 1:2,3; Luke 1:76, 3:4, 7:27; John 1:23; and Malachi 3:1.)
This post is long, I realize. Nevertheless, the first five verses of Isaiah chapter 40 are a unit. They should be read together. They deal with the same topic: God’s pardon and plan of salvation for his own people and for all humanity, at one and the same time. What is amazing is that Scripture can pack so much into so few words. Truly, God is to be praised.
Because I have dealt so fully with my biblical preferences and biases (presuppositions) here, perhaps I will not need to do so as we progress through Isaiah, Lord willing.
1 MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, page 1763.
Previously published by Christina M Wilson on September 12, 2021 at https://justonesmallvoice.com/septuagint-isaiah-introduction-to-volume-2/.
Septuagint Isaiah Introduction to Volume 2: Why Divide into Volumes?
In this Introduction to Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2, I want to answer the question, “Why divide into volumes?” I stated in the Introduction to the series, “I am too old to begin an academic study of Isaiah… Nor would I want to.” There are already plenty of academic approaches to this awesome book of Scripture. Many of them include greatly detailed discussions of whether one, two, or even three authors wrote the book. One more “scholarly” study by someone not qualified to undertake such a task would just muddy the waters. My approach is that of an ordinary devotional reader, just one small voice who wants to share her love for Jesus Christ. More basic than this, I personally am not interested in the academics of Isaiah. Rather, guided I believe by the Holy Spirit, whose promise to every believer is to do so, I am a seeker of Christ.
So Why the Division?
So why, then, the division into two volumes?
- First, the closing of Chapter 39 and the life of King Hezekiah is a natural stopping point. It is a good place to pause and refresh oneself before beginning the journey again. I did take such a break.
- The last words of Isaiah the prophet to King Hezekiah informed him that the Babylonians would come and take some of his own sons to “be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon,” (Isaiah 39:7).
- In a certain sense, the history of the Old Testament closes down, as a funnel, to the Babylonian captivity. Yes, Old Testament Scripture does record the return from captivity, the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls, the struggles of the people, and the sins they again fall into. These were the same sins they had previously committed. (See the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai.) Nevertheless, after the return from captivity, the Old Testament quietly diminishes and fades softly into centuries of silence. For those who never awaken to the dawn of Christ, the story ends in a kind of whimper.
- But Isaiah 40 clearly opens with a powerful dawn. The turning of the page begins a new, victorious chapter in the chronicles of God’s people. God announces, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” (Isaiah 40:1 LXE). These words toll like a clear bell calling out a new era of God’s favor and forgiveness.
- That era is Christ in his Incarnation, followed by his reign of glory. The Holy Spirit, who authored the Bible, scattered splashes of Isaiah’s message throughout both the Old and New Testaments. We will read of these in ensuing posts.
Differences Between Volume 1 and Volume 2
As a general summary, “Volume 1” of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, speak of failure and judgment of both God’s own people and of the nations. It includes brief flashes of the coming Messiah. Yet the bulk of this portion of the book devotes itself to demonstrating why a new, Messianic King is needful. Again, as a generalizing summary, the bulk of “Volume 2” of Isaiah speaks of the coming King in clear words. It describes his Passion and his triumphant glory. In Volume 1, we see the coming King as through a “mirror, darkly.” In Volume 2, we see very nearly “face to face.”
I personally love this latter part of Isaiah. The first two-thirds entail struggle, effort, halting steps, and much stumbling. In comparison, the prophet speaks plainly enough in the last portion, so plainly, that even “small” people, such as I am, can hear him.