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God Speaks: Isaiah Journal 2.11

By Christina M Wilson. Previously posted at

God Speaks: Isaiah 42:5-7

A Simple Reading Lesson

God has been speaking all along in Isaiah. I encourage readers to go back through the paragraphs and chapters to locate the verses in which Isaiah writes, “… says the Lord God,” or, “… thus says the Lord God…” God often speaks in Isaiah. In fact, he speaks so often that a reader may come to take his speech for granted and barely notice. Therefore, readers need to read attentively for the portions in which God speaks directly.

Many Bibles use quotation marks to set boundaries around the portions God directly speaks. A few others use no quotation marks. Readers must judge by context who is speaking and the boundaries of the speech. Sometimes various translations disagree one from another and place the quotation marks differently. Generally speaking, the context, the content, and the exact words of the text in its original language provide the best indicators of speech and its boundaries.

For literary and spiritual purposes, direct speech is dramatic and effective. An example of the former is nearly any literary work of fiction, whether a play, a novel, a song, or poetry. Authors use speech, or dialogue to bring the piece home (make it real) to the reader or listener’s ear. Spiritually, God’s Holy Spirit uses speech in Scripture to interact with readers from all ages and places. Imagine the effect on a child of God (or soon-to-be child of God) when the Holy Spirit applies in a most personally direct way the words from Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” straight into that reader’s heart. The effect can be profound and life changing.

When seeking to understand a biblical text, careful readers pay attention to dialogue. Who is speaking to whom?

Verse 5: Dialogue Set in a Broader Context

Isaiah 42:5 defines the context for God’s speech to his Servant in the verses that follow.

Thus saith the Lord God, who made the heaven, and established it; who settled the earth, and the things in it, and gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to them that tread on it: (LXE, Brenton)

Isaiah the narrator presents God the speaker as Creator of the heaven, the earth, and all things in it, especially people. God is the source of life (spirit, breath) to all people. (Confer John 1:4 and Acts 17:25.) God as Creator, and therefore as sovereign ruler, all knowing and powerful, is the theme of chapter 40 through at least 48. In these chapters, God continually sets himself apart from the idols his people continually worship. God argues that he alone is God; idols are merely human creations. As Creator and sustainer, God has power both to foretell the future and to bring it to pass. Which of the idols can do that? By these prophecies God proves his identity and his power.

God throughout Volume 2 is calling his people back to himself. That is God’s purpose in displaying himself to his people as God Almighty, a Prophet with power to foretell and bring about the future. He earnestly desires his people to forsake their idols and return to him. He prophesies in advance the advent of his Servant in order to help his people believe. He gives them the solid evidence of prophecy as proof of his identity as God.

God Addresses the Servant

6 I the Lord God have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will strengthen thee: and I have given thee for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 to open the eyes of the blind, to bring the bound and them that sit in darkness out of bonds and the prison-house.  (Isaiah 42:6-7 LXE, Brenton

God addresses the Servant. This is in itself amazing. There are two identities present in this verse: the speaker and his addressee. Peeking ahead to chapter 49–we find that the Servant also speaks. There are two eternal Beings, right here in these texts of Isaiah.

But where in the Old Testament or in Israel’s post-exilic history is this prophecy fulfilled? If someone answers, “In Cyrus,” then what a tremendous disappointment for readers today. Cyrus has been dead and buried for millennia. What hope would his dead, desiccated corpse provide today’s bruised and nearly extinguished people the world over? But thank God the prophecy refers to one greater than Cyrus. Thank God for the fulfillment of his words of prophecy to the Servant, as recorded in the New Testament.

The Old Testament does not record the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah (unless one counts the strictly local life and death of Cyrus the Persian). And God would not be God if this prophecy of Isaiah were not fulfilled. Thank God for the New Testament! Thank God for these “new things” (Isaiah 42:9) whose fulfillment the New Testament records. God always intended the Old and New Testaments to be a unified whole, the former prophesying in detail and the latter recording fulfillment of the former.

1  Peter 1:10 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. (ESV )

Israel’s Messiah

Messiah has always existed within the pages of the Old Testament. In early Genesis, he is there (Genesis 1:1 {אֱלֹהִים noun common masculine plural absolute}; Genesis 1:26). In Moses, he is there (Deuteronomy 18:15; John 8:55-59). In the Psalter, Messiah is there (Psalm 2; Psalm 110:1). And here in Isaiah, Messiah is right here.

6 I the Lord God have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will strengthen thee: and I have given thee for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 to open the eyes of the blind, to bring the bound and them that sit in darkness out of bonds and the prison-house.  (Isaiah 42:6-7 LXE, Brenton

Luke 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (ESV)

Praise God on behalf of his people Israel and Gentiles alike for the New Testament fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. God the Creator is God indeed.

Characteristics of the Servant: Isaiah Journal 2.10

By Christina M Wilson. Previously posted at https://justonesmallvoice.com/characteristics-of-the-servant-isaiah-devotional-2-10/.

Characteristics of the Servant: 42:1-4

The Masoretic text (Hebrew) of Isaiah 42 does not name the servant. The Septuagint text (Greek) names him, “Jacob” and “Israel” (vs 1). What are the characteristics of the servant?

  • verse 1 (Septuagint)
    • helped by God
    • chosen by God
    • accepted by God
    • the Spirit of God placed by God upon him (the three persons of the Trinity in one verse)
    • he will bring “judgment” to the Gentiles; i.e., he will fulfill the purpose of God’s Law among the Gentiles
  • verse 2
    • he will not cry out, nor raise his voice, nor cause his voice to be heard outside; i.e., he will not be a “rabble rouser”, nor an instigator, nor a politician, nor a mighty speech maker
  • verse 3
    • a bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench; i.e., he will be gentle towards the weak and lowly (cf., Isaiah 40:11)
    • but (the Septuagint includes a strong contrastive conjunction (ἀλλὰ)  in Isaiah 42:3, LXX; the Masoretic contains no connector (Isaiah 42:3, ESV). The contrastive connector “but” joins the foregoing (bruised reeds, smoking flax) as the context for that which follows, “he will bring forth judgment to (or in) truth.” In other words, he will treat justly (or fairly) and truthfully those people who have been bruised and beaten down, unlike the established norm (“but” = contrary to the norm). An example of this verse in Christ’s ministry is the woman caught in adultery. The ruling righteous (the falsely righteous scribes and Pharisees) wanted him to declare that she should be stoned to death. But (ἀλλὰ)  Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn (“judge against”) you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  (See John 8:3-12.) Jesus brought “justice to truth.” That is, he brought a full understanding of the intent of God’s law to truthfully bear upon this situation. Strongly implied in this passage is Jesus’s awareness that the woman’s sin was not of her doing alone. He applied the Law equally to everyone, regardless of their station. And, he acted with great compassion toward the woman, who was a “bruised reed” and a “smoking flax,” or in other words, a “dimly burning wick.”
  • verse 4
    • he will “shine forth” (SAAS), or “shine out” (Brenton), or “blaze up” (NETS, Silva). This is the exact opposite of the prior “smoking wick” (NETS) of the previous verse.
    • “and not be overwhelmed until” (NETS) See John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
    • “until he has established judgment (righteousness) on the earth”; in other words, the scope of his activities and influence will be worldwide. Even for Cyrus, this would be a grandiose prophecy.
    • “and in his name shall the Gentiles trust” (Brenton), or, “will hope” (SAAS); Isaiah 42:4, LXX. Here is a direct, explicit statement in the Old Testament that the Christ’s ministry (the Servant whom God will anoint with his Spirit, see verse 1) will extend to and intentionally include Gentiles. (Clearly, the Church is not a “parenthesis,” as some Christians claim.)

The Singular Servant: Isaiah Journal 2.9

By Christina M Wilson. Previously posted at https://justonesmallvoice.com/the-singular-servant-isaiah-devotional-2-9/.

Servant Song–Isaiah 42:1-4

Isaiah 42:1, ESV Jacob is my servant, I will help him: Israel is my chosen, my soul has accepted him; I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor shall his voice be heard without. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench; but he shall bring forth judgment to truth. 4 He shall shine out, and shall not be discouraged, until he have set judgment on the earth: and in his name shall the Gentiles trust. (LXE, Brenton)

Servant (A Group-Collective) 

Scripture clearly states that Old Testament Israel, as a collective whole, is the servant of God. 

Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant Jacob, and he whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraam, whom I have loved: 9 whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and from the high places of it I have called thee, and said to thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and I have not forsaken thee. (LXE, Brenton)

But, by this point in the book of Isaiah, is there any doubt that Israel has failed to fulfill God’s commission to Abraham, “In you all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3)? Those who read straight through the chapters in this portion of the book will realize that Israel appears to sabotage God’s plan for them again and again. Their failure stems from their lack of belief and trust in, and loyalty to their one true God. They worship idols. God’s desire was to bless Israel and through them the whole world, but they would not. 

42:21 It pleased the LORD for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious… 24 Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. 25 So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart. (NIV)

Servant (Singular)

Scripture also clearly states that God will not abandon forever his servant, Israel. God must stand by his promise to Abraham, yet the people Israel make this impossible. Therefore, because of their repeated failures, God creates a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19). This “new thing” is his Servant, a very singular Servant, one person, one man, unique, one of a kind, God’s Son. God calls his Son “Israel.”

Chapter 42 of Isaiah does not state that “my servant” is God’s Son. Matthew, the Gospel author, does so state.

Matthew 12:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (ESV)

Without the Servant, Isaiah a Bleak Book

If the reader were to read Isaiah 41 followed immediately by Isaiah 43, the picture would be bleak, barren, depressing, and static. Isaiah 42:1-17 introduces the contrasts of joy, happiness, excitement, hope, and a flowing river that carries the depressed human soul forward. The book of Isaiah without the Servant would be utter darkness–just like the book of a human life without the Lord, Christ, God’s Servant Son. Believers and non-believers alike, let us all make room for Christ in our lives. As the chapters of our lives unfold, let us never leave out God’s solution to our existential problem of sin and hopelessness. God gave his Servant to Israel the people and to all the Gentile peoples of the world as a gift. Let us come to his light and partake freely of the abundantly flowing waters of life.

Gleanings #6-7: Isaiah Devotional 2.8

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleanings-6-7-isaiah-journal-2-8/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

Continued from Prior Posts

VI. Isaiah 41:17-20 Gleaning #6

“The Poor and the Needy” 

17And the poor and the needy shall exult; for when they shall seek water, and there shall be none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord God, I the God of Israel will hear, and will not forsake them… 20 that they may see, and know, and perceive, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has wrought these works, and the Holy One of Israel has displayed them. (LXE, Brenton)

(οἱ πτωχοὶ καὶ οἱ ἐνδεεῖς) (ee p-toe-khee kay ee-ende-eess)

The word “poor” in Greek is the same as in Matthew 5:3, mGNT, or simply Matthew 5:3. It signifies either one who is concretely poor in this world’s goods or metaphorically oppressed, beaten down. The second word “needy” is rare. It occurs only here in the Septuagint and once in the New Testament in Acts 4:34, ESV. It also means poor in this world’s goods. The passage in Isaiah 41:17-20, LXE could work both ways, concrete-literally and metaphorically.

An example of an explicitly metaphorical passage in Isaiah that speaks of water is Isaiah 58:11, LXE.

Isaiah 58:11 and thy God shall be with thee continually, and thou shalt be satisfied according as thy soul desires; and thy bones shall be made fat, and shall be as a well-watered garden, and as a fountain from which the water has not failed. (LXE, Brenton)

God’s Attitude Toward the “Poor and Needy”

What is God’s attitude toward the poor and needy?

Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy; the Lord will take care of me; thou art my helper, and my defender, O my God, delay not. (LXE, Brenton)

Psalm 70:5 But I am poor and needy; O God, help me: thou art my helper and deliverer, O Lord, delay not. (LXE, Brenton)

The passage in Isaiah clearly spells our God’s intended blessings upon the poor and needy. The blessing appears as future to Isaiah’s point of reference.

Isaiah 41:17 And the poor and the needy shall exult; for when they shall seek water, and there shall be none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord God, I the God of Israel will hear, and will not forsake them: 18 but I will open rivers on the mountains, and fountains in the midst of plains: I will make the desert pools of water, and a thirsty land watercourses. 19 I will plant in the dry land the cedar and box, the myrtle and cypress, and white poplar: 20 that they may see, and know, and perceive, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has wrought these works, and the Holy One of Israel has displayed them. (LXE, Brenton)

Christian Applications

Readers should bear in mind that all of Chapter 41 is future to Isaiah’s time frame, however one calculates when he prophesied Volume 2. Minimally, God’s people haven’t yet returned from exile to Babylonia. If the prophecy were intended to be physical-concrete only, it might seem strange to the exiles in a foreign land, who may or may not have had sufficient water there.

From a Christian standpoint, however, the words are spiritually highly applicable. First, there is Jesus’s own ministry to the poor and needy peoples of Palestine. They were both concretely-literally poor and spiritually poor and oppressed.

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (ESV) 

Second, Jesus used imagery of water freely flowing to signify the Holy Spirit.

 John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ESV) 

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (ESV)

VII. Isaiah 41 Gleaning #7

God Is For Us!

 Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (ESV)

The sum total of Isaiah 41 is that “God is for us!” Who is us? The chapter teaches that God is for his people, the seed of Abraham, his servant. Who are the seed of Abraham? The New Testament teaches that all those from any ethnicity whatsoever  who believe as Abraham believed are Abraham’s seed. There is no need to be physically descended from Abraham to be a child of God.

“Us” includes the poor and needy. God is for the poor and needy of every ethnicity who depend upon him. But, Isaiah 41 teaches that those of  any ethnicity who gather together against God and his Anointed are not God’s people (“You are of your father the devil.”) Yet, if they repent, they can be. God is not stingy, nor unkind. He all but begs, rather he does beg, people everywhere to turn to him and be saved.

Isaiah knew these facts about God. He prophesied the gift of Messiah’s coming well. That is why New Testament authors and characters quote him so freely. Isaiah knew that God is for us.

Gleaning #5: Isaiah Devotional 2.7

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleaning-5-isaiah-journal-2-7/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

I. Isaiah 41:1 Gleaning #1: Isaiah Journal 2.5

II. Isaiah 41:2-3 Gleaning #2: Isaiah Journal 2.6

III. Isaiah 41:4 Gleaning #3: Isaiah Journal 2.6

IV. Isaiah 41:25 Gleaning #4: Isaiah Journal 2.6 

V. Isaiah 41:8-16 Gleaning #5: This Post

GOD HAS A SPECIAL PEOPLE, ISRAEL

8 But thou, Israel, art my servant Jacob, and he whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraam, whom I have  loved: 9 whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and from the high places of it I have called thee, and said to thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and I have not forsaken thee. 10 Fear not; for I am with thee: wander not; for I am thy God, who have strengthened thee; and I have helped thee, and have established thee with my just right hand. (LXE, Brenton)

Yes, indeed, thank God, he has a special people, Israel, whom he loves and cares for. Today, the question is, Who is Israel? The answer, apparently, appears difficult for large numbers of Christians to accept.

1. THE SHORT ANSWER

The text itself clearly answers the question, Who is Israel? “But you, O Israel, are My servant, and Jacob, whom I chose, the seed of Abraham, whom I loved.” (SAAS) (1) Clearly, the text speaks of a people, not a geo-political country. At the time of Isaiah’s writing, the people of Israel are in exile in Babylonia. Babylonia will soon to be taken by Cyrus, the Persian. The people, Israel, have no country. And yet, God’s people have not ceased to exist. “Israel…the seed of Abraham, whom I loved” has always been a people, not a geo-political nation.

2. OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL–A PEOPLE

  1. God called Abraham to leave his country, his “land.” God sent him to another “land.” (Genesis 12:1). Genesis 12:2-3 states God’s original promise to Abraham.
    2 And I will make of you a great nation [ἔθνος, eth-nos, nation, people. Cf ethnicity], and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV)
  2. Abraham wandered in the wilderness and became a nomad. Later, Abraham’s descendants, the sons of Jacob, remained in slavery in Egypt for some 400 years. But they were still God’s people, even without their own country.
  3. After Isaiah, the geo-political region known as Israel belonged at various times to the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. By the time Messiah arrived on the scene, the geo-political entity called Israel still remained an occupied land. Then, Rome demolished its capital, Jerusalem, along with the temple in 70 CE. Many of the descendants of Abraham went into exile. The New Testament prophesies this event (Luke 21:20-24; Matthew 24:2) but does not record its occurrence.
  4. But God specifically called Israel, “the seed of Abraham.” In God’s eyes, Israel has always been a people, not a country.
  5. The inclusion of Gentiles among God’s people hovers ever-present in the background of Isaiah to this point (Isaiah 11:10, 12; 12:4). In future chapters, the promise becomes more explicit (Isaiah 49:21-23; 54:2; 56:3-7).

3. NEW TESTAMENT

  1. The New Testament all but drops the subject of “land” entirely. When Scripture does mention the land, we find that the promise to Abraham and his descendants has turned from “land” into “world” or “earth.”
    • In Matthew 5:5, when Jesus promises the meek that they shall inherit the “earth,” Scripture uses the same Greek word (γῆν, geen) that it uses in God’s command to Abraham in Septuagint Genesis 12:1, LXX.
    • Paul explicitly states that God promised Abraham that he and his descendants would be “heir of the world” (κόσμου, kos-moo) (Romans 4:13).
  2. The apostle Paul devotes many chapters in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians to prove with Scripture that Gentiles are included among the offspring of Abraham. Just a few examples are Romans 4:16 and 18 and Galatians 3:29).

4. QUESTIONS

  1. In all honesty, dear Christian reading this post, do you find comfort and personal application in Isaiah’s words to “Israel” in Isaiah 40:1-2; 41:8-14, and 17-20? I certainly do.

2. Assuming a positive response, does it make any spiritual sense at all to delineate division between a) spiritual only blessings upon all of Abraham’s children by faith, and b) concrete (real estate) blessings upon his racial-only progeny? Does Scripture as a totality (Old and New Testaments together) teach race? No, it does not. Not by any means.

Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)

Conclusion

It is not the purpose of this blog to be contentious. Nevertheless, there seem still to be large numbers of Christians who cling to earthly, carnal, political fulfillment of God’s precious promises to all peoples everywhere from every tribe, language, people, and nation. God is inclusive, not exclusive. Reserving certain promises of God to those of a particular racial ethnicity robs other Christians of different ethnic descent of their full blessings in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:18-22). Plus, it complicates Scriptural interpretations enormously. Christians the world over should all be rejoicing together, as one, as Christ and his Father intend it to be (John 17). Inserting any kind of ethnic divisions into the mix ruins rejoicing as one.

As we shall see in the next post, Lord willing, “the God of Israel” favors the “poor and needy” (Isiah 41:17-20). Let us all seek to become one of these. The “poor and needy” throughout Scripture are God’s special people (Matthew 5:3-6).

__________

1 “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved,” in The Orthodox Study Bible, Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

Gleaning #2: Isaiah Devotional 2.6

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleaning-2-isaiah-journal-2-6/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

RECAP

Picking up the “story line” from the last post (Isaiah Journal 2.5), in Chapter 41of Isaiah, God summons the nations to renew their strength, gather themselves in consultation together, then “debate” (Isaiah 42:1, NET) with him. The debate will determine who is more powerful, God or his united enemies.

Differences Between Septuagint and Masoretic Texts

God speaks first in Isaiah 41:2-4 (1). The narrative of the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic in verses 2-3.

II. Isaiah 41:2-3 (2)

A. The Masoretic

The Masoretic text (Hebrew) portrays the victorious conqueror from the east accomplishing his militaristic feats through violence.

41:2 Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow.
3 He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod. (ESV)

Verse 3 appears obscure. What does it mean that he pursues nations “by paths his feet have not trod,”? Readers can compare translations at this website: Blue Letter Bible.

B. The Septuagint

The Septuagint text (Greek), on the other hand, portrays the victorious conqueror accomplishing his feats peacefully.

41:2 Who raised up righteousness from the east, and called it to his feet, so that it should go? shall appoint it an adversary of Gentiles, and shall dismay kings, and bury their swords in the earth, and cast forth their bows and arrows as sticks? 3 And he shall pursue them; the way of his feet shall proceed in peace. (LXE, Brenton)

C. Application

  1. I do not pretend to be an historian. Readers may consult online encyclopedias to discover that some accounts state that Cyrus achieved takeover of Babylonia peacefully by diverting waterways that protected the city. His soldiers marched through thigh high water by night. The Babylonians caved without resistance. Not all accounts agree with this. They vary by source material used.
  2. Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1 mention Cyrus by name. We have not arrived at these verses yet in our study. However, Isaiah does use metaphor. Cyrus could well be a metaphor for God’s shepherd, Christ. The Orthodox Study Bible (3) contains study notes that so indicate.
  3. If a reader chooses to interpret the phrases “righteousness from the east” and “his feet shall proceed in peace” as prophecies extending to God’s Messiah, then indeed, they are true. Christ, through his followers, spiritually conquered Gentile nations by means of peaceful preaching of the gospel.
  4. In any event, these questions concerning the meaning of verses two and three would most likely not be asked if the reader only consulted the Masoretic text.

III. Isaiah 41:4

Isaiah 41:4, LXX pops in the Septuagint text. The last two words state, “I Am.”

4 Who has wrought and done these things? he has called it who called it from the generations of old; I God, the first and to all futurity, I AM. (LXE, Brenton

A study note for this verse appears in the Orthodox Study Bible (3).

41:4 I Am, repeated twenty-seven times in chs. 41-49, means “I am the existing One.” This phrase is traditionally written in Greek in Christ’s halo on Orthodox icons (OΩN). This is how the Son and Word of God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex 3:14).

Additionally, the high priest tore his garments when Jesus spoke these words in Mark 14:62-63. On another occasion in John 8:58-59, the religious leaders picked up stones to hurl at Jesus when he spoke these words. These are actions Jewish people performed whenever they heard blasphemy. Because Isaiah consistently uses the “I am” phrase with reference to Yahweh, the Lord God Almighty, they understood that when Jesus spoke “I am” with reference to himself, he equated himself with Yahweh, the Old Testament Lord and God. This resulted in charges of blasphemy, by their interpretation.

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (ESV)

In all fairness, yes, the English versions of the Masoretic text do bring out the force of Isaiah 41:4, ESV, some more than others (see Isaiah 41:4, NET). But to anyone with an Old Testament Septuagint interlinear, the text in Greek immediately calls to mind New Testament parallels. (See also Revelation 1:8, 17 and 22:13).

IV. Isaiah 41:25

With much less dramatic impact, verse 25 contains a small difference worth notice.

The Masoretic (Hebrew) reads:

41:25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name; (ESV)

Another version translates the Hebrew differently:

41:25 I have stirred up one out of the north and he advances, one from the eastern horizon who prays in my name. (NET)

The Greek text reads:

41:25 But I have raised up him that comes from the north, and him that comes from the rising of the sun: they shall be called by my name: (LXE, Brenton)

The introduction of “they” here, in association with “him” calls to mind a New Testament text that points to Christ and his followers. “They shall be called by my name” finds fulfillment in Acts.

Acts 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (ESV)

CONCLUSION

Not too many years ago, many church “scholars” and pundits considered the Septuagint translation as “less than.” I, for one, encountered discouragement toward its use. In the past several years, however, a fresh appreciation of the Septuagint has grown. Some English translations of the Masoretic use it to inform their text, when the Hebrew meaning seems less clear or certain.

New Testament authors quoted extensively from the Septuagint. I find the linguistic connections between it and the New Testament to be many and rich. Septuagint Isaiah is a book in which the gospel connections between the Old Testament and Christ in the New are brought to light, rather than obscured. Lord willing, may he permit and encourage me to continue exploring its treasures.

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1 In fact, the nations never speak in all of this chapter. God speaks throughout. Rather, the text shows us their actions of constructing their idols together.

2 The prior post contains point one: Isaiah Journal 2.5

3Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

Gleaning #1: Isaiah Devotional 2.5

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/gleaning-1-isaiah-journal-2-5/.

Gleanings from Isaiah 41

Differences Between Septuagint and Masoretic Texts

I. Isaiah 41:1

A. The Details

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 hunger.


41:1 Hold a feast to me, ye islands: for the princes shall renew their strength: let them draw nigh and speak together: then let them declare judgment. (Septuagint {LXX}, Brenton translation {1})

Compare the above verses from the Septuagint with those from the Masoretic below.

40:31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.


41:1 Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. (ESV)

A main difference in these verses is placement (location) of the word “together” in verse 41:1. In both the Septuagint English translation (LXE, Brenton) and the Greek text itself, “together” (ἅμα) refers to the action of the “princes.” The verb “shall renew” is future active indicative. This describes what will happen. In view of this, God states, “Let them” draw near and speak together.” In other words, with their newly found strength, God invites, or commands, the “princes,” or rulers, to draw near to one another and speak together with each other. “Then,” says the text, let them declare their judgment. (Conclusions will be drawn below.)

Another difference in verse 41:1 is the word translated “princes” in Brenton’s English Septuagint. The Septuagint, as translated by Moisés Silva (2), reads “rulers.” The princes are rulers.

The Masoretic text (ESV) for this word reads “peoples.” Also, the Masoretic assigns the word “together” with reference to God and the peoples, rather than to the peoples together among themselves. Further, unlike the Septuagint, God invites the peoples to renew their strength (“let the peoples renew”). Finally, they and God will “together draw near for judgment.” This order and grouping becomes very apparent in the NET translation.

“Listen to me in silence, you coastlands! Let the nations find renewed strength! Let them approach and then speak; let us come together for debate! (Isaiah 41:1, NET)

B. Gleanings from the Details 

By now, most likely, many casual readers have long since disappeared from the scene. “So what? Big deal. Who cares? This is really picking through straws,” some of them might say. But the Septuagint Greek text contains many treasures of richness in God’s holy Word, for those who have patience to read, reread, compare texts, listen, and notice. One reader’s chaff is another’s golden thread.

A STORY LINE REVEALED

Verses 40:31-41:1 reveal a story in the Greek text. We include Isaiah 40:31 because of the verbal tie established by repetition of the word “renew.” Isaiah 40:31 is one of the more popular verses from Isaiah. This verse has been set to music, and decorative wall plaques containing this verse adorn people’s homes.

Considering 40:31 and 41:1 together, side by side as they are, the reader perceives two distinct groups which renew their strength. One group are the blessed, “they that wait on God.” Waiting on God in Scripture is a marvelous thing to do. God favors those who wait on him. The other group are composed of the rulers, the nations, the far off islands. These words refer not so much to geography in this context, but to spiritual condition. Those far from God abide so because they oppose him; they have no interest in him. But God says they shall renew their strength. And being strengthened, God bids them to gather together with one another, to converse together in a huddle, to plan their strategy in opposition to God.

Now ordinarily, the peoples of islands, or far off nations, would not speak the same language. God confused the languages at the tower of Babel and scattered the people groups. Here they come together in a united front of opposition against God. A comparison with other Scriptures helps us to see that this is the case.

Psalm 2:2 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers gathered themselves together, against the Lord, and against his Christ; (LXE) 

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

God’s people, on the other hand, are not united by a “cause.” They are united by nature, for they share the nature and character of Christ.

John 17:11… Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one… 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me… 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one… (ESV)

As the story line progresses through the chapter, the reader discovers that the united enemies of God, the “rulers,” lose the argument. They and their idols neither foresee the future nor bring it about. God, however, created the world, foretells its future history, and in his might and power brings it to pass (see prior post).

Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (ESV)

CONCLUSION: GLEANING #1 God is in control. He designs the outcome and brings it to pass.

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1 English Septuagint Translation, Brenton, available at eng-Brenton_ISA.pdf (ebible.org), October 7, 2021.

The Structure of Isaiah 41: Isaiah Devotional 2.4

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/the-structure-of-isaiah-41-isaiah-journal-2-4/.

Recap: Three Major Themes

Isaiah chapter 40 begins what is commonly called the book’s second volume. As such, this introductory chapter presents the book’s three major themes.

I. God’s People

Isaiah 40 begins with the words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” The theme of comfort for God’s people will continue as a major emphasis throughout the remainder of the book

II. God’s Savior Messiah

Then immediately, in verse 3, Isaiah announces a prophecy of the coming Messiah and his forerunner (Isaiah 40:3-11). Of course, Isaiah doesn’t use the word “Messiah.” Rather, he says, “Behold your God” (verse 9), and “Behold, the Lord” (verse 10). Because the New Testament quotes some of these verses in relation to John the Baptist and others in relation to Christ, they establish that Messiah (Christ) is indeed God. The coming of the Lord Christ, God’s Son, Savior, is the over-riding theme of this second portion of Isaiah. The Savior/Servant provides the comfort and salvation God promises. God’s Son the Savior, not Israel, is the prophet’s focus.

III. God’s Credentials

In Isaiah 40:12-31, God displays his credentials as Creator. Previous chapters in Isaiah did not present God as Creator of heaven and earth.

NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF ISAIAH’S THEMES

The Introduction to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) contains all three of the major elements of Isaiah 40, though in a different form.

1. First and foremost, the Gospel of John concerns God’s Son, Israel’s Savior (John 1:12-13, 17). Just as in Isaiah, the Scripture of John presents the Son as its focus, not the nation Israel.

2. Secondly, the Son existed eternally in the beginning, face to face with God (John 1:1-3). The Son, the Word of God, created all things (John 1:3-4). He is Creator, co-partner with God.

3. Finally, the Introduction to John’s Gospel introduces the major theme of comfort (salvation) for all those who believe, Jew and Gentile alike (John 1:7, 9, 12-13). John identifies God’s people, his “children,” as all those who believe (John 1:12), without regard to race or ethnicity. The Apostle Paul also emphasizes this theme of sonship in the family of God without regard to race in many of his letters. See, for example, Galatians 3:7-9. As the second volume of Isaiah progresses beyond its opening chapter, the theme of salvation for Gentiles very nearly takes center stage.

Isaiah 41 (Septuagint)

How This Chapter Functions in the Whole

Chapter 41 of Isaiah may seem opaque, difficult, even at first, second, and third glances. It would be an easy chapter to brush aside without much bother and to move on to the more gritty “stuff” (content) that may seem more easily accessible. Eventually, however, especially by comparing translations, the flow and meaning of Chapter 41 becomes clear.

God is about to do a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in the history of humankind. This new thing is the advent of the God-man. Very soon, (in a few hundred years, as reckoned from Isaiah’s viewpoint), an Israelite woman will give birth to a human being who is God incarnate. This was and remains unique in all of human history. This advent has received, continues to receive, and should receive a giant exclamation point. In Isaiah, as one of several biblical places, God begins to lay the groundwork for the Advent through his chosen prophet. Chapter 41 is part of this preliminary groundwork.

Some Details Concerning Structure

The layout of Chapter 41 is chunky. Isaiah 41:1 opens with God calling to the coastlands or islands, rulers, people, or nations (depending which translation the reader is using) to gather and come to him for a spoken meeting. These are the Gentile nations. But is this portion, Isaiah 41:1-7, positive or negative? Within the book of Isaiah, both are possible. It is only when the reader arrives at verse 7 that the meaning becomes clear. The nations are cooperating among themselves in order to create idols in opposition to God.

Following this address to the nations, God through the prophet speaks in first person to Israel. The passage from verse 8 through verse 20 is beyond doubt a very positive passage. It resembles Isaiah 40:1-5 and 27-31. God’s words offer great comfort to Israel.

But then, without warning, God suddenly states, “Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob,” (Isaiah 41:21, ESV). The challenging tone of this verse continues through to the end of the chapter in verse 29. Where is the transition? Where does the text identify to whom God is speaking? So be it, the text leaves the reader on her own to figure this out. Eventually, however, the persistent reader comes to realize that God through Isaiah has again turned his attention to the nations he addresses in verses 1-7.

SUMMARY: So, in this chapter Isaiah presents three actors. 1) The first is God. He speaks in first person throughout. God’s speech alone moves the chapter along. There is no narrative. Nor does the prophet Isaiah comment at all. God’s first person speech pounds like a hammer. 2) The second actor is the Gentile nations collectively. Their role is passive. God addresses them. The reader must assume their presence and envision them listening to God and attempting to respond to his demands. 3) The third actor is Israel collectively. Like the Gentiles, their role is passive. They also appear only as listeners. Clearly, God is the main actor in Isaiah 41.

God’s Argument

God designed Chapter 41 to be a sledgehammer. He intends to draw attention to the fact that he is prophesying in advance the astounding events soon to occur. 

PARAPHRASE

  1. Announcement of the Prophecy

Pay attention, God says. I am prophesying. I want you to notice this. No one among the Gentile nations is able to prophesy as I do (Isaiah 41:22, 23, 26, 28). I am from the beginning (Isaiah 41:4). I control history. I will prophesy what will happen, and it will come to pass.

  1. The Prophecy
  • Israel will crush and thresh the mountains of the nations (Isaiah 41:15-16).
  • I will, says God, abundantly provide for the poor and needy (Isaiah 41:17-20).
  • I will open new water sources in the land that will cause lush vegetation to grow (Isaiah 41:18-19).
  • Jacob (Messiah), My Servant, My chosen, will come (Isaiah 42:1f).

Outline of Structure

  1. Isaiah 41:1-7. God addresses non-believing Gentile nations, calling them to attention and challenging them to a contest of prophecy.
  2. Isaiah 41:8-20. God addresses Israel, “my servant,” with comfort and promise. God through the prophet introduces this section with “but you…”
  3. Isaiah 41:21-28. God addresses the non-believing Gentile nations a second time.
    • Verses 21-24. God challenges these nations and their idols to do something amazing to display their power. One thing they might do is prophesy the future to demonstrate that they are gods.
    • Verse25. God appeals to his raising forth of “one from the north…and from the rising of the sun” to demonstrate his power.
    • Verses 26-28. God displays his credentials through prophesy. God states that no one from among the nations knew or foretold this. But he, God, did. He foretold, and he brings to pass. 
  4. Isaiah 41:29. God sums up his argument with the Gentiles and their idols, “Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.” (ESV)

TO BE CONTINUED: The next post, Lord willing, will explore some of the details of particular verses in this chapter. A brief local application to the time and place of Isaiah will be presented. A Christian viewpoint will be considered.

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