Home » Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2 » Septuagint Isaiah 48: Isaiah Journal 2.24

Septuagint Isaiah 48: Isaiah Journal 2.24

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/septuagint-isaiah-48-isaiah-devotional-2-24/.

Good News for a Rebellious People

Septuagint Isaiah 48: God Speaks to Nonbelieving Israel

In chapter 45, God addresses Cyrus and Gentiles. He speaks to the “house of Jacob and (1) all the remnant of Israel” in chapter 46. Then God addresses Babylon in chapter 47. In chapter 48, God again addresses the nonbelieving portion of Israel.

Hear these words, you house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and have come forth out of Juda, who swear by the name of the Lord God of Israel, making mention of it, but not with truth, nor with righteousness; 2 maintaining also the name of the holy city, and staying themselves on the God of Israel: the Lord of hosts is his name… (LXE)

Clearly, God reads the heart. The people referred to in verses 1 and 2, those who call themselves Israelites, speak words of belief but not sincerely.

Chapter 48 Themes

God through the prophet Isaiah emphasizes three themes in chapter 48. These he weaves together, as in a braid. These three themes are 1) rebuke for Israel, 2) God’s self-defense, and 3) God’s plans for the restoration and salvation of Israel. A fourth theme, 4) the coming deliverer, brings excitement and expectation to the whole.

1 God Rebukes Israel

As God continues to chastise the Israelites, he also defends himself to them. The obvious question is, Why would he have to? God is, after all, God, and these folk say they are his people. They, however, worship idols (verse 5). God defends himself by claiming his unique ability to prophesy events far in advance of their actual fulfillment. They, for their part, nonchalantly deny that this is “news” to them (verse 7). Or, they say that their idols accomplished the feats God brought to pass (verse 5). God’s words to them are straightforward and harsh.

4 I know that you are stubborn, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your forehead brazen… 8… I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and would be called a transgressor even from the womb. (LXE)

God states his people hear what he says, but have no knowledge, no understanding. (It goes in one ear and out the other.) Their claims of knowledge do not match the reality of God’s truth.

6 You have heard all this, but you have not known: yet I have made known to you the new things from henceforth, which are coming to pass, and you said not, 7 Now they come to pass, and not formerly: and you heard not of them in former days: say not you, Yes, I know them. 8 You have neither known, nor understood, 

God announces that he will show his people his anger and his glorious acts.

9 For my own sake will I show you my wrath, and will bring before you my glorious acts, that I may not utterly destroy you. (LXE)

God sold them (verse 10) but not for silver. That is, he sold them as something of not much value. This demonstrates his wrath. Then, he delivered them out of the “furnace of poverty” (also verse 10). The anger of God convicts of his righteousness and judgment. His glorious acts convict of his love. He will perform his act of deliverance for his people because without this, his name is profaned among the nations. He will not give his glory to another (verse 11).

2 God Defends Himself

After all these years, the Israelites should know who God is. Yet, he must tell them. He must defend himself to them. As in previous chapters, God’s argues that he alone is the eternal creator. Second, God alone states ahead of time what will come to pass, and it does come to pass.

DEFENSE ONE: HE IS THE ETERNAL CREATOR

12 Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel whom I call; I am the first, and I endure for ever.

{1} 13 My hand also has founded the earth, and my right hand has fixed the sky: I will call them, and they shall stand together. {literally: “I am the first, and I am unto eternity.”} (LXE)

DEFENSE TWO: GOD PROPHESIES TRUTHFULLY

3 and they that have proceeded out of my mouth, and it became well known; I wrought suddenly, and the events came to pass. (LXE)

3 God’s Plans for Restoration and Salvation

God plans to restore Israel to her homeland. Babylon was a world power. Israel was enslaved there. No one would have ever expected that they would return to their homeland. But God announces this fact in advance, so that when it happens, everyone will know that God did it.

14… Out of love to you I have fulfilled your desire on Babylon, to abolish the seed of the Chaldeans… 20 Go forth of Babylon, you that flee from the Chaldeans: utter aloud a voice of joy, and let this be made known, proclaim it to the end of the earth; say you, The Lord has delivered his servant Jacob. (LXE

God’s word announced (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1) that Cyrus the Persian would defeat Babylonia. History records this defeat. Cyrus then very rapidly sent the Israelites home.

4 The Deliverer

CONTEXT

God readies the stage for his announcement about the deliverer he will send to rescue his people from the Chaldeans, that is, the Babylonians. Verses 12-14 provide the immediate context. In the Septuagint and Masoretic, God names whom he calls (καλέω, ka-lay-o) to listen. He calls Jacob and Israel to listen.

12 Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel whom I call;… (LXE)

Then, as previously quoted, God names himself as first and unto forever, the eternal one (still in verse 12). Verse 13 continues with the description of how God created. The last statement of verse 13 states, “I shall call them, and they will stand together.” Verse 14 continues, “All shall be gathered and hear: Who declared these things to them?

These words all flow together in a stream. The question for textual interpretation is, Who are “them” in verses 13 and 14? Are they the same or different?

12 Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel whom I call; I am the first, and I endure for ever. 13 My hand also has founded the earth, and my right hand has fixed the sky: I will call them, and they shall stand together. 14 And all shall be gathered, and shall hear: who has told them these things? Out of love to you I have fulfilled your desire on Babylon, to abolish the seed of the Chaldeans. (LXE)

The statement in verses 15-16, concerning Israel’s deliverer, can actually stand on its own two feet without a prior introduction or context. It’s a clear statement. Commentators, however, present no consensus on who the several uses of “them” in verses 12-14 refer to. To my ear, the text makes most sense when paraphrased as I do below.

Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel whom I call. I am eternal. 13 My hand has also founded the earth, and my right hand has fixed the sky: These are my credentials of authority as the one who calls. I will call Jacob and Israel, and they shall stand before me to listen. 14 All Jacob and Israel, I repeat, shall be gathered, and shall hear: Who has told Jacob and Israel these things? …

It is not certain that the Masoretic text is any clearer. Fortunately, as already stated, proper understanding of verses 15-16 does not depend upon a correct assessment of the previous verses. What is clear from those verses is that God is about to make a big announcement. He wants to make sure that everyone is paying close attention.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT: VERSE 15

Here, then, is the announcement.

15 I have spoken, I have called, I have brought him, and made his way prosperous. 

Verse 15 above indeed does have a local application in Cyrus. God called Cyrus and prospered him, that is, blessed him. God sent Cyrus to overthrow the Babylonians and to send the Israelite captives back to their homes in Israel.

The Exciting Part: Messiah Speaks

16 Draw near to me, and hear you these words; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning: when it took place, there was I, and now the Lord, even the Lord, and his Spirit, has sent me. (LXE

These are amazing words. A short way further on, chapter 49 of Isaiah records what many call the second Servant Song (2). In that second song, the Servant speaks and makes his identity clear. (At least to the writers of the New Testament it is clear). He is Messiah.

The words of verse 16 precede this speech, yet are similar to it. The words of verse 16 could not possibly be spoken by any human being without charges of blasphemy. A simpler translation from the Masoretic is the following.

16 Come to me and listen to this. From the beginning I have spoken openly. From the time it began, I was there… (ICB)

The Septuagint words “there was I” (“I was there” in the Masoretic) is a different tense (imperfect middle) of the divine formula, “I am.” At the beginning, when things began, I am (I was there.)

What occurs here in Isaiah 48:16 is almost the most exciting part of the book so far. Readers and listeners hear a second divine person speaking. The Messiah, Christ, speaks in the biblical presence of his Father in the Old Testament. He speaks even more in chapter 49. The Messiah himself states, “The Lord and His Spirit have sent Me” (SAAS).

More Chastisement

A section of chastisement immediately follows Messiah’s introduction of himself. For those whose eyes see the third person of the Trinity as Old Testament “Lord,” the preincarnate Yahweh (Christ), this section also, could be from him. Otherwise, the speaker switches back to God the Father.

17 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the Holy One of Israel; I am your God, I have shown you how you should find the way wherein you should walk. 18 And if you had listened to my commandments, then would your peace have been like a river, and your righteousness as a wave of the sea. 19 Your seed also would have been as the sand, and the offspring of your belly as the dust of the ground: neither now shall you by any means be utterly destroyed, neither shall your name perish before me. (LXE

A Remnant

The three verses above explain the difference between corporate Israel and the remnant.

God made a promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as “the sand” in the sea (Genesis 22:17). Here in verses 18 and 19, conditions have been placed on that promise. “And if you had listened to my commandments, then…” and “Your seed also would have been… ” Paul in the New Testament explains that God kept his promise to those of like faith as Abraham (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7-8). Corporate Israel, because of their disobedience, failed to attain to the fulfillment of God’s promise. The Gentiles, to whom the Servant brings light in chapter 49–these Gentiles will soon become the faithful who fill out the numbers to the proportion of the “sands of the sea.”

However, as the verses in Isaiah quoted just above state, “neither now shall you by any means be utterly destroyed, neither shall your name perish before me.” As so often in Isaiah, God distinguishes that a remnant shall be saved.

Isaiah 10:22  And though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved. (LXE

This explains why, after such a hopeful passage as Isaiah 48:20-21, God can close the chapter by stating, “‘There is no rejoicing,” says the Lord, “for the ungodly.'” 

God’s Decree to Go Forth

God chastised his people in verses 17-19. In the next two verses, he sends them forth from Babylon. Accompanying his proclamation is a command for them to proclaim the voice of gladness “to the end of the earth (verse 20). This proclamation is local. It applies to the second exodus after the victory of Cyrus over the Babylonians.

The Decree Broadens to a Prophecy of Messiah

In one sense, verse 21 also applies to the Israelites’ journey through the desert to return to their homeland from the confines of Babylonia. The terms used in the verse, within the context of everything from chapters 40 through the present chapter and on into chapter 49, suggest that God also has a much grander salvation more largely in view.

20 Go forth of Babylon, you that flee from the Chaldeans: utter aloud a voice of joy, and let this be made known, proclaim it to the end of the earth; say you, The Lord has delivered his servant Jacob. 21 And if they shall thirst, he shall lead them through the desert; he shall bring forth water to them out of the rock: the rock shall be cloven, and the water shall flow forth, and my people shall drink. (LXE)

The telltale phrase is, “he shall bring forth water to them out of the rock: the rock shall be cloven, and the water shall flow forth, and my people shall drink.”

The cleaving of the rock to provide water is reminiscent of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. During that journey, such an event happened twice (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11). Paul explains the significance of the rock in 1 Corinthians 10:4, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 

The immediate context that justifies application of Christ to these words in Isaiah 48:21 is found in verses 15-16. There, the Spirit is mentioned directly in connection with God’s sending of the Servant Deliverer. Chapter 49 continues this same context.

Summary

Chapter 48 is simple enough in content, yet the details are complex. Basically, there are four themes in this chapter, none of which are introduced here for the first time. These four themes are 1) rebuke for Israel, 2) God’s self-defense, 3) God’s plans for the restoration and salvation of Israel, and 4) the coming deliverer. The most exciting verses are verses 15 and 16. In verse 15, God introduces the deliverer. And in verse 16, the deliverer speaks. The exciting part is that the words the deliverer speaks place him beside God. Readers should find themselves in a state of anticipation for Isaiah to continue. In chapter 49, they will not be disappointed.

THE TRINITY IN THE SEPTUAGINT: VERSE 16

Some English translations of the Septuagint indicate a different word order in verse 16 than some English translations of the Hebrew Masoretic. (All translations by their very nature are interpretations.) The tenses of the Greek phrase “and his Spirit” indicate that the Spirit is subjective rather than objective (accusative). This means that God and the Spirit did the sending. To the contrary, certain translations indicate that God sent the Servant and with him he sent the Spirit. But in the Greek text, the Spirit participated in the sending. Examples of two English translations follow.

16 …I have not spoken in secret from the beginning: when it took place, there was I, and now the Lord, even the Lord, and his Spirit, hath sent me. (Septuagint, Brenton)

16 …Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit. (ESV)

Septuagint English translations that place “and his Spirit” in front of the verb are the LXE and SAAS. NETS places the phrase after. The actual Greek words occur after; it’s the tenses which indicate that “and his Spirit” are subjective.

Masoretic English translations that indicate God sends his Spirit along with the Servant are the NET and NIV.

“Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, endowed with his Spirit. (Isaiah 48:16 NIV)

Contrary to the NIV, the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV leave the possibility of the Spirit’s participating in the sending open. (See the ESV translation above.) The Greek Septuagint text itself is clear that the Spirit participated in the sending.

__________

1 The Septuagint contains the word “and” between the phrase “house of Jacob” and “all the remnant of Israel.” The Masoretic does contain “and.” However, neither the ESV, NET, nor NIV translate it. Rather, they place a comma before “remnant,” turning the phrase into an appositive. That is, these translations equate the house of Jacob with the remnant, making them synonymous. On the other hand, the KJV, NKJV, and the NASB do include the word “and.” Why does it matter? With the “and” included, the possibility exists that God addresses two distinguishable groups: a remnant, and all the rest. Throughout Isaiah, most strongly in Isaiah 10:22, the prophecies distinguish a remnant. The prophesied outcome for the remnant differs from the outcome for the bulk of nonbelieving Israel.

2 The first Servant Song occurs in Isaiah 42:1-4.


1 Comment

  1. gaustin00 says:

    As always excellent post and is humbling to read. Why is that we are so dense to understand what is so plain to the eye, ear and mind?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: