Home » Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2 » Septuagint a Powerful Translation: Isaiah Journal 2.28

Septuagint a Powerful Translation: Isaiah Journal 2.28

By Christina M Wilson. Previously posted at https://justonesmallvoice.com/septuagint-a-powerful-translation-isaiah-devotional-2-28/.

Septuagint Isaiah 49:7 A Powerful Translation

It is good for readers to be reminded that Septuagint Isaiah is a powerful translation. The Septuagint text does not shrink back from exulting Christ in the Old Testament. This is the translation that the biblical authors of the New Testament read, studied, and very often quoted. Septuagint Isaiah 49:7 is a good example of this translation’s unique characteristic of favor towards the deity of Christ.

7 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the God of Israel, Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes: kings shall behold him, and princes shall arise, and shall worship him, for the Lord’s sake: for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and I have chosen you. (LXE)

Notice the many differences between Septuagint Isaiah 49:7 (above) and the Masoretic version below.

7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (ESV)

What Are the Differences?

FIRST DIFFERENCE–REDEMPTION

First, up until this point in Isaiah 49, Isaiah the narrator has not spoken. All the text from verse 1 through verse 6 has been spoken by either God or his Servant. Verse 7 opens with an unnamed narrator, presumably Isaiah, speaking. The narrator says, “Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the God of Israel.” The narrator identifies the Lord in two ways: 1) He “delivered you,” and 2) He is “the God of Israel.” We will get to the identity of the person called “you” in a moment.

The Masoretic differs. The Masoretic identifies the Lord as “the Redeemer of Israel” and as “his Holy One”. This is a very large difference. A question arises because of this difference. Does Isaiah 49:7 claim that the Lord redeems Israel or that the Lord has delivered his Servant? To answer this question, a reader must trace back through the previous six verses and the following verses. Having done so, the conclusion is that “you” in the Septuagint is the Servant who dialogues with God throughout the entire passage through verse nine.

God’s having delivered his Servant is a concept entirely absent in the Masoretic text. Historically, when did God, as kinsman-redeemer, rescue his Servant? God rescued his Servant when he resurrected him from death by crucifixion. (The Greek words do not contain the concept of kinsman-redeemer. The Hebrew in the equivalent verse does.)

SECOND DIFFERENCE–HE DESPISES HIS LIFE

Going back to the two texts above, readers observe that God begins speaking sooner in the Septuagint text than in the Masoretic. God states in the Septuagint, “Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations.” The Masoretic reads, “Thus says the LORD… to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation...” This also is a very large difference.

The Septuagint adds the specific information that the Servant is the one who “despises his life.” In what becomes repetition in the context of the following phrase, the Masoretic states that it is the nation which both despises and abhors the person being referred to. Historically, it is true that the nation of Israel despised and abhorred God’s Servant. But what the Septuagint adds is very precious. The Servant “despises” his own life.

What Does It Mean to “Despise His Life”?

Historically, the New Testament sheds light on the phrase, “him that despises his life”.

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (ESV)

Jesus the Christ did not hesitate to lay his life down for his sheep. Because he freely gave up his life, he “hated” it (cf. John 12:25 and Philippians 2:5-8). He depreciated his life. He willingly lost his life to benefit others. The Septuagint prophesies this in Isaiah 49:7.

THIRD DIFFERENCE–SANCTIFICATION

(For reader convenience, here again are the two verses under consideration.)

7 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the God of Israel, Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes: kings shall behold him, and princes shall arise, and shall worship him, for the Lord’s sake: for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and I have chosen you. (LXE)

7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (ESV)

When the Lord first speaks in the Septuagint text, he says, “Sanctify him that despises his life.” The Masoretic does not include the phrase “sanctify him.” The concept of holiness in the Masoretic gets absorbed into the second title of God, “his Holy One.” The Masoretic opens with three phrases: 1) the LORD, 2) the Redeemer of Israel, and 3) his Holy One.

The Septuagint, on the other hand, opens with four phrases: 1) the Lord, 2) that delivered you, 3) the God of Israel, and 4) Sanctify him. In the expanded version of the Septuagint, the Lord directly addresses an unspecified plural number of people in the phrase, “Sanctify him.” The Lord’s speech in the Septuagint begins with the phrase, “Sanctify him.” In contrast to this, the Lord’s speech in the Masoretic begins much later with the phrase “Kings shall see.”

This is also a very large difference. In the Septuagint version, the Lord tells the people (possibly the people of Israel) to sanctify the Servant. Sanctify in this sense would mean, “to reverence or acknowledge to be venerable, to hallow” (1). The Lord’s command to the people amounts to his placing the Servant on a level equal to himself. This results from God’s being One in Israel (Deuteronomy 6:4). He alone is to be worshiped. The religious leaders of Israel accused Jesus Christ, God’s Servant, of blasphemy when he spoke of himself as being equal to God. (See Matthew 26:64-65; John 10:33, 36.) As I stated in the opening, the Septuagint is bold in its presentation of Christ.

FOURTH DIFFERENCE–ABHORRED BY THE NATIONS

The fourth difference does not appear to be as significant as the prior differences. The Septuagint reads, “Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes.” This text makes two statements about the one whom the Lord commands the unnamed plural people to sanctify: 1) he “despises his life,” and 2) he is “abhorred by the nations.” The descriptive phrase “that are the servants of princes” grammatically modifies the nations. The Servant is abhorred by nations who themselves are servants of princes.

The Masoretic, on the other hand, reads, “to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers.” This text makes three statements about the one whom the Lord addresses: 1) he is “deeply despised,” 2) he is “abhorred by the nation,” and 3) he is “the servant of rulers.”

What is the main difference? The main difference between these two texts is that the Masoretic claims that the Lord’s Servant (for he is the one whom the Lord addresses, as demonstrated by the context of the passage) also serves rulers. “Thus says the LORD… 1) to one deeply despised, 2) [to one] abhorred by the nation, 3) [to one who is] the servant of rulers.” This raises the question, is the Lord’s Servant also the “servant of rulers”? The gospels would all say, “No.” Christ, the Servant, served God and him alone, as should we all.

The Septuagint, on the other hand, makes no statement that the Servant of the Lord also serves rulers. Rather, as if to emphasize his humble position, the Septuagint states that the Lord’s Servant was abhorred by nations who themselves were servants. That places him fairly low on the social scale. Nevertheless, the Servant’s integrity is intact, as Jesus himself taught, “13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other... ” (Luke 16:13).

FIFTH DIFFERENCE–WHO IS THE “HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL”?

Once again, for the sake of convenience, below are the two versions under consideration.

7 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the God of Israel, Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes: kings shall behold him, and princes shall arise, and shall worship him, for the Lord’s sake: for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and I have chosen you. (LXE)

7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (ESV)

Before we ask and answer, “Who is the “Holy One of Israel?” in this verse, we must address a prior fact. The fact is that both texts agree that the Lord addresses (speaks directly to) the one who is abhorred by the nation(s). The Lord states that Kings and princes shall look upon this one and adopt postures of reverence and worship, because of the Lord, or “for the Lord’s sake,” as in the Septuagint. Of the two, the Septuagint states the matter more strongly. The Septuagint reads, “princes shall arise, and shall worship him.” The act of prostrating oneself, as the Masoretic text reads, may indeed imply worship, but certainly not as strongly as actually stating so. The Septuagint clearly and directly states that princes shall worship the Servant.

But wait. How is this possible? We need to slow down to allow the enormous significance of this verse to sink in. God himself, in the Old Testament, both in the Masoretic and in the Septuagint, prophesies that princes will worship his Servant. This can only mean one thing. In today’s language, God is okay with this. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that the Servant is deity, just as God is (2). This implication of the Servant’s deity is even clearer than the prior statement in the same Septuagint verse. The Septuagint prepares the reader for this moment when it presents the God of Israel commanding people to “Sanctify him that despises his life.” Here in Isaiah 49:7, the reader encounters Old Testament evidence of two of the three persons of the Trinity. And they are speaking with one another!

Who, Then, Is the “Holy One of Israel”?

Who, then, is the “Holy One of Israel”? First, nearly all the English versions based upon the Masoretic text make clear that the Lord God, the speaker, is the Holy One of Israel. He is the faithful one. But the Masoretic is interesting. Look at it carefully.

Isaiah 49:7 ESV Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

The first portion of the verse clearly states that the Lord is about to speak “to one deeply despised.” However, the statement the Lord makes has third person subjects throughout. There is no first person. Even when the Lord speaks about himself, the grammar of the Masoretic translations indicates that the Lord uses third person. Even the last clause with the object word, “you,” is entirely third person in its subject, “who has chosen you.” Might that seem an odd way for one person to address another?

The Septuagint is different. Only once does the text have the Lord referring to himself in third person: “for the Lord’s sake.”

7 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the God of Israel, Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes: kings shall behold him, and princes shall arise, and shall worship him, for the Lord’s sake: for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and I have chosen you. (LXE)

The question the Septuagint presents us is, Why shall the princes worship “him,” the Servant? The text answers, “for the Lord’s sake: for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and I have chosen you.” There are two choices. First, the Lord might be speaking about himself in third person. That is, he might be referring to himself as “the Holy One of Israel” who is faithful. Or, second, the grammar of the Greek sentence allows that “the Holy One of Israel is faithful” refers to the Servant.

The Evidence

There are several points of evidence that “the Holy One of Israel is faithful” refers to the Servant.

1. First, the context of the entire passage from verse 1 through verse 13 concerns the Servant, rather than God the Lord. In other words, this passage is much more about the Servant than about God. Remember, we are trying to understand why God is happy with his pronouncement that “Kings shall behold and princes shall arise and shall worship him,” the Servant. The word “for” introduces the phrase, “the Holy One of Israel.” This word means “because.” The princes shall worship the Servant because… (ὅτι). Which seems more likely (remember that the grammar works both ways), that the princes shall worship the Servant because God the Lord is faithful or because the Servant is faithful?

2. Second, a prior phrase in this same verse has already established that the people are to consider the Servant holy. “Sanctify him that despises his life.” The words “sanctify” and “holy” in “Holy One of Israel” have the same base. They are two different grammatical forms built upon the same root word. The word “sanctify” is a verb form that builds upon the adjective “holy.” (Using Strong’s, “sanctify” is number 37, which derives from number 40. Number 40 is “holy.”) To summarize, God has already told the people to consider the Servant holy, that is, to “sanctify” him, to treat him with reverence. Later in the verse, he accords the Servant his own special name. How can this be acceptable?

3. It is acceptable to God to refer to the Servant by his own name, “the Holy One of Israel,” because God has already prophesied that princes shall worship the Servant. And Christians and Israelites both know that “God is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

ONE LAST DIFFERENCE–“I” HAVE CHOSEN YOU

In the section above, we had been discussing why the princes will worship the Servant. The text offers two reasons. One, if readers accept it this way, is because the Servant is faithful. That is, “the Holy One of Israel is faithful.” The text now provides a second reason, “I have chosen you.” That is, God the Lord has chosen the Servant. Therefore, princes shall worship him.

This is the first time in Septuagint verse 7 that the speaker, the Lord (“Thus says the Lord”) uses first person. The Masoretic differs here, as well. The Masoretic in verse 7 never uses first person. The Masoretic continues to present God referring to himself in third person, “the LORD… who has chosen you”. Below again, is the Masoretic.

Isaiah 49:7 ESV Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Two persons dialoguing with each other would not generally use this format. Nevertheless, the Septuagint also displays a surprising inconsistency.

7 Thus says the Lord that delivered you, the God of Israel, Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes: kings shall behold him, and princes shall arise, and shall worship him, for the Lord’s sake: for the Holy One of Israel is faithful, and I have chosen you. (LXE)

The inconsistency is that the Lord begins by addressing a group of unspecified people, “Sanctify (plural verb) him… ” But the same speech by the Lord ends when the Lord suddenly turns to the Servant and addresses him directly, “and I have chosen you.”

Summary

In short, Isaiah 49:7 Septuagint presents a strong statement that the Servant will be worshiped, as God is worshiped. The Masoretic, however, is not as clear. 

The New Testament book of Philippians summarizes the entire sense and meaning of Isaiah 49:7 Septuagint.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

__________
1 Thayer, Joseph. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Abridged and Revised Thayer Lexicon). Ontario, Canada, 1997, ἁγιάζω.

2 This verse, especially in this clause, provides additional evidence that the Servant is far, far greater than Israel. God would never be satisfied with the notion of princes worshiping the nation Israel. Further, the Servant’s identity is far more than that of a person who functions as an “idealized Israel.” Yes, the Servant does indeed minister to the world as God had intended Israel to minister, but that is not the point. The point is that the Servant is God. God intended Israel to be patterned after the image of the true Servant, not vice versa. The question Christians must ask themselves is, Who is at the center of our worship? Are we placing Christ at the center, or are we placing the nation of Israel at the center? 


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