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Isaiah 51:1-8 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.35

By Christina M Wilson. Taken from https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-51-1-8-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-35/.

Switchback and Bookends

Isaiah 51:1-8 LXX features another switchback. Bookends identify the addressees of this segment in verses 1 and 7.  Remember that in most of Chapter 50, God has been rebuking the unbelieving and rebellious among his people (See Devotional 2.34). Here in this section, God defines a new people and supplies comfort and promise to them.

BOOKEND ONE

Isaiah 51:1 LXX Listen to me, you that follow after righteousness, and seek the Lord… 

BOOKEND TWO

Isaiah 51:7 LXX Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 

Clearly, in this set of verses, the Lord addresses his faithful followers. The verses between these bookends provide exhortation, comfort, and promise to the non-rebellious.

Exhortation

1. LISTEN

Listen to me, says the Lord in verse one. This exhortation echoes Isaiah’s own exhortation in Isaiah 50:10, Who among you fears the Lord? Let him listen to the voice of His Servant (SAAS) (1). Indeed, it could be the Servant who speaks the words from 51:1 through at least verse 8. God and his Servant have one and the same message.

Isaiah 51:4 repeats the exhortation of verse 1, Listen to Me, listen, O My people and kings, give ear to Me… Obedience begins with listening. The biblical Greek often uses the same word (ἀκούω ah-ku-oh) for hearing, listening, and obeying. Isaiah 51:7 again repeats the command to “Listen.

2. LOOK

God tells those who pursue righteousness to “Look to the solid rock which you hewed, and the hole of the pit which you dug” (SAAS). Verse 2, which follows, clarifies that those who seek the Lord should look to Abraham their father and to Sarah their mother (2).

Comfort

God’s intends to comfort his people when he exhorts them to look to Abraham and Sarah as their first parents and founders of their faith. God reminds them that Abraham “was alone when I called him, and blessed him, and loved him, and multiplied him.” (3) In other words, God says in effect, “Look what I did with Abraham and Sarah, who were just two individual people. Look how I blessed and multiplied them. I can do the same with you.”

Readers may be reminded that very few people returned from exile in Babylon. They would have been very intimidated by the task before them. But, the larger context includes the Servant and his ministry. The Lord continues to bear this ministry in mind, as he has for the last several chapters. As history demonstrates, the original faithful after the Servant’s death and resurrection, before the sending of the Holy Spirit, were very few in number (Acts 1:15 ESV).

In Isaiah 51:3 the Lord states positively that he will comfort Zion. In fact, he repeats the promise using prophetic past tense, as though the restoration of the desert places to conditions in the “Garden of the Lord” had already occurred.

And now I will comfort you, O Sion: and I have comforted all her desert places… (LXE).

Promise

God’s comfort takes the form of promise.

3 … and I will make her desert places as a garden, and her western places as the garden of the Lord [like Eden]; they shall find in her gladness and exultation, thanksgiving and the voice of praise. (LXE)

Topography and geography testify that a concrete-literal fulfillment of this prophecy has yet to occur. On the other hand, the spiritual-literal fulfillment of these words occurred immediately on the day of Pentecost and continues among God’s people to this day (Acts 2:46-47).

God Defines a New People

Throughout the Book of Isaiah, God periodically includes Gentiles in his promises of blessing. Most recently, God indicates his blessing upon Gentiles in Isaiah 42:1, 4, and 6 and 49:1 and 6. We have seen how verses 1 and 7 of Chapter 51 serve as bookends that unify what lies between. In this section, God specifically addresses those who “pursue righteousness and seek the Lord” (verse 1). He also addresses “My people” in verse 7.

GOD’S PEOPLE ONE

Verses 1-3 speak of Israel, as birthed by Abraham and Sarah. God includes Sion (or Zion) as a people and as a location that includes desert places (verse 3).

GOD’S PEOPLE TWO

Verse 4 transitions. In verse 4, God addresses “O My people” and “kings.” This is curious, since Israel has but one king at a time (with one or two brief exceptions). The word “kings” indicates more nations than Israel. But verse 4 also names “Gentiles” as those who should listen and who will receive the light of the Lord.

4 Hear me, hear me, my people; and you kings, listen to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. (LXE)

VERSE 5 SEALS THE DEAL

Readers may perk up their ears in verse 4. But verse 5 spells out what perhaps they only suspect in verse 4. That is, God includes Gentiles in his promises to his people.

5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light (4), and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust.

Verse 5 contains no qualifications. Everything connects in verses 4 through 5 with a series of the strong conjunction “and.”

VERSES 6 THROUGH 8

From verse 6 through verse 8, the two are one. The text no longer distinguishes two groups–Israelite and Gentile. The two are included together in the phrase, “you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law” (verse 7).

Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not fail. 7 Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 8 For as a garment will be devoured by time, and as wool will be devoured by a moth, so shall they be consumed; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation for all generations. (LXE)

“YOU THAT KNOW JUDGMENT” and “IN WHOSE HEART IS MY LAW”

Verse 4 identifies that God’s “judgment shall be for a light of the nations [Gentiles].” Verse 4 also states that “a law shall proceed from me.” What is this law? See Isaiah 2:3, which includes Gentiles. Verse 7 specifies the location of God’s “law” as the hearts of those he calls his people.

7 Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: 

The Apostle Paul speaks in Romans 2:15 concerning Gentiles in whose heart the law is written. But here in this section of Isaiah, God specifically includes Gentiles among his chosen people, as those for whom his salvation is also intended.

Isaiah 51:5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light (4), and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. (LXE)

Gentiles will also have God’s law written on their hearts.

Obedience Not Ethnicity

The passage in Isaiah 51:1-8 narrows down to two people groups: those who follow God and those who do not. In these verses the emphasis falls on obedience, not ethnicity. God clearly elects to include the blessing of salvation to both the faithful of ethnic Israel and to the faithful among the Gentile nations. The two become one. This occurs within the context of God’s Servant.

What is of most importance to God? Faithfulness to his law of righteousness and honoring his justice. For those faithful people who honor God’s justice God promises, “My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness will not fail” (SAAS). God wants an obedient, loyal people who reflect his likeness. These are the ones he chooses to bless. Ethnicity is of no importance.

Opposition

Verse 7 indicates opposition to the group who guards God’s law in their heart.

… fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. (LXE)

The Lord’s followers will be subject to the same contempt the Servant experiences in the previous chapter.

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting: (LXE)

And for both the Servant and the Lord’s faithful, the answer to those who oppose them is the same.

As concerns the Servant…

Isaiah 50:9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all you shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. (LXE)

As concerns the Lord’s faithful followers…

Isaiah 51:7… fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 8 For as a garment will be devoured by time, and as wool will be devoured by a moth, so shall they be consumed; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation for all generations. (LXE)

Conclusion

As a Gentile believer in both God and his Servant, I can only humbly bow in grateful and thankful submission to the Savior of my soul.

Romans 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (ESV)

__________
1 St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint, 2008.

2 Of note, the Septuagint uses the active voice in verse 1, while the Masoretic uses the passive. That is, the Septuagint states that they should look to the rock which they hewed and to the pit (to hold water) which they dug. The Masoretic, on the other hand, asks them to look to the rock from which they were hewn (passive) and to the pit (quarry) from which they were dug. See Isaiah 51:1 ESV. The active point acknowledges the active role that faith plays in following God’s commands. That is, the people of Israel actively participated in acknowledging Abraham and Sarah as their first parents.

3 Septuagint in American English, 2012. NETS translates similarly.

4 The phrase “as light” is not present in all Greek texts.

Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.34

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-50-10-11-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-34/.

Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX: Introduction

The book of Isaiah simultaneously prophesies the best news in the world and the worst news in the world. The best news is the Advent of God’s Servant, Messiah, the second Person of the Trinity. As readers progress through Volume 2, the theme of God’s Servant grows larger and more dominant. Chapter 50 reaches a crisis point–a fork in the road. In Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX, Isaiah the man perceives the implications of what he reports. It is as though he runs onto the stage in verse 10 and proselytizes on his own.

A Brief Transition

Isaiah’s message has reached a critical juncture. God through Isaiah has been revealing the Advent of his Servant to his people Israel. The Servant himself has spoken several times (Isaiah 42:1-4; 48:16; 49:1-6; 50:4-9). Soon the people must decide: will they open their ears to understand and obey the voice of God’s Servant, or will they hurl their rebellious abuse at him (Isaiah 50:6)?

God recounts throughout the previous chapters how his people have been all too willing to worship idols which their very own hands had formed from non-living materials. Yet there are a few people, a remnant, who have not done so. These remain faithful to God, however imperfectly so. Addressing this group, verse 10 marks a brief transition from God’s previous speeches. The voice of Isaiah the prophet himself breaks through.

A Change of Speakers

Isaiah 50:10 LXX Who is among you that fears the Lord? let him listen to the voice of his servant: you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God. (Septuagint, Brenton, LXE, modernized)

Even though the name of the book is Isaiah, and even though God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, the voice of the prophet himself remains mostly silent in Volume 2, beginning with chapter 40. Readers mainly hear the voice of God. In Isaiah 50:10, however, the voice of the prophet briefly breaks through. The following paraphrase sums up the urgency of Isaiah’s outburst.

Paraphrase

Listen, O you people, my fellow Israelites! I know you’re out there–that small number of you who fear (worship, adore, reverence, and obey) the Lord. There’s something new going on here. Our dear and precious, familiar Yahweh is doing something new. He is about to send his Servant, whom he favors, to visit us. Yahweh’s Servant will accomplish Yahweh’s work. Listen to the voice of his Servant. It is imperative that you do.

I know you walk in darkness. We’ve been in exile a very long time. I know you have no light, but do this one thing. Trust in the name of the Lord and stay fixed upon God. We’re getting near the end here. Something new is about to happen. We are approaching the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up or go astray now. There will be great peril and destruction for those who ignore and rebel against Yahweh’s Servant. Don’t be one of them.

Verse 10 in Its Context

In the culture of today’s church vocabulary, verse 10 is an altar call wedged between two warnings of “hell.” The Servant himself warns of death and corruption in verse 9. Then God warns of great sorrow in verse 11. In between these two divine voices, Isaiah the prophet makes his plea to the people.

[The Servant:] 9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all you shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. 

[Isaiah the Prophet:] 10 Who is among you that fears the Lord? let him listen to the voice of his servant: you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God. 

[God:] 11 Behold, you all kindle a fire, and feed a flame: walk in the light of your fire, and in the flame which you have kindled. This has happened to you for my sake; you shall lie down in sorrow. (LXE)

Notice how the statements of both the Servant and God resemble warnings the incarnate Christ gives.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, (Matthew 6:19 ESV)

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47-48 ESV)

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42 ESV)

Darkness and Light

The themes of darkness and light dominate these verses. The prophet in verse 10 acknowledges that the then current season of Israel’s history in exile is dark. There is no light. He offers the people a choice, a way out. The way out is to listen to the voice of Yahweh’s Servant, to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay fixed and focused upon God, “… you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God.” (1)

Notice the timing. Isaiah speaks when the people are in exile, or even before then. The return from exile occurs many hundreds of years before the Servant arrives. Therefore, the context indicates events much larger than the merely local, historical return from exile.

God appears to foresee in verse 11 that his people will ignore his prophet’s warning. The alternative to the light that God will provide through his Servant is ordinary physical light–a fire, a torch, a flame. Go ahead, God says (paraphrase). Continue in the path you have chosen for yourselves. Kindle a physical fire, feed a physical flame, walk in the physical light of the fire you have provided for yourselves. Continue ignoring me and the voice of my Servant. Believe me, everything bad that befalls you is on account of me. Conditions will not improve for you. You shall lie down in sorrow.

WHERE ELSE IN ISAIAH DO DARKNESS AND LIGHT APPEAR?

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; who make darkness light, and light darkness; who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter. (LXE)

Isaiah 9:2 O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: you that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you. (LXE)

Isaiah 42:16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and I will cause them to tread paths which they have not known: I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight. These things will I do, and will not forsake them. 17 But they are turned back: be you utterly ashamed that trust in graven images, who say to the molten images, You are our gods. (LXE)

Isaiah 45:7 I am he that prepared light, and formed darkness; who make peace, and create evil; I am the Lord God, that does all these things. (LXE) [Why then, Israelites, do you insist on walking in the paltry light of the flame that you fashion for yourselves? Turn to me, who creates the light that accompanies life.]

NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLMENT OF ISAIAH’S PROPHESIED LIGHT

Both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John open with the Servant’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesied light.

76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79 ESV)

4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

Looking Forward

Chapter 50 ends with God speaking. In Chapter 51, God continues to speak. That will be the topic, Lord willing, of the next post.

Isaiah 50:4-9 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.33

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-50-4-11-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-33/.

Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Introduction

Most commentators accept Isaiah 50:4-9 (ESV) as Isaiah’s third servant speech (see Septuagint translation here). This should have people jumping up and down. Christians everywhere know Jesus Christ God’s Son to be God’s Servant (John 5:30; 4:34; 6:38; 7:18; Matthew 26:39). To hear the preincarnate Christ speaking in the Old Testament is amazing. Don’t you find it so? God gave us the inestimable gift in Scripture of hearing two of the three persons of God in close proximity, interacting with one another. God does not hide himself. He reveals himself in countless ways. Everyone and anyone who wants to know God and his Christ need only approach him and honestly ask.

Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Verses 4 and 5

Here are the words of God’s Servant in Isaiah’s third servant speech, Isaiah 50:4-5 Septuagint (LXE).

4 The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction, to know when it is fit to speak a word: he has appointed for me early, he has given me an ear to hear: 5 and the instruction of the Lord, even the Lord, opens my ears, and I do not disobey, nor dispute. [See Isaiah 50:4-5 LXX.]

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. (ESV)

Everyone familiar with the Gospels will recognize that Isaiah’s third servant speech aptly characterizes Jesus of Nazareth and his ministry. Some remember Jesus for his miracles, yet as much as he did do miracles, he also taught everyone, those who wanted to listen and those who did not.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

Matthew 5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (ESV) [See also Matthew 13:54; Mark 1:22; 10:1; Luke 4:15; 5:3; John 6:59; 8:2; 18:20.] 

Just as Isaiah prophesied, Christ–God’s Servant–claimed that he learned what to say and teach from God.

John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (ESV)

Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (ESV)

As God’s singular Servant Israel, Christ gave what God’s people Jacob failed to give–his wholehearted obedience.

5 and the instruction of the Lord, even the Lord, opens my ears, and I do not disobey, nor dispute. Septuagint (LXE) 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. (ESV) [Emphasis added.]

Isaiah 48:1 Hear these words, ye 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;… 8 You have neither known, nor understood, neither from the beginning have I opened your ears: for I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and would be called a transgressor even from the womb. Septuagint (LXE)

8 You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. (ESV) [Emphasis added.]

Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Verses 6 through 9

Christians everywhere know that Christ suffered and was crucified. They often read Isaiah 53 aloud to describe his sufferings. But here in Isaiah 50:6, the Servant himself prophetically describes in first person some of the things he will suffer. He uses the prophetic perfect tense (past tense) throughout. Then, in verses 7-9, the Servant describes how he trusts in God.

6 I gave my back to scourges [μάστιγας mas-tee-gas], and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting: Septuagint (LXE)

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, (ESV)

Matthew 27:30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. (ESV)

John 19:1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged [ἐμαστίγωσεν ay-mas-tee-go-sen] Him. (NKJ)

The Servant Trusts in God

Isaiah 50:7 but the Lord God became my helper; therefore I was not ashamed, but I set my face as a solid rock; and I know that I shall never be ashamed, 8 for he that has justified me draws near; Septuagint (LXE)

God’s Servant died and was buried (Matthew 27:50, 59-60; Mark 15:37, 46; Luke 23:46, 53; John 19:33-42). On the third day, God his Helper drew near and resurrected him from the dead. Jesus was not ashamed; rather, God glorified him and sat him on a throne right next to himself (Matthew 19:28; 25:31; Revelation 5:13).

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I [Paul] delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (ESV)

The Outcome of Those Who Hurt God’s Servant

For those who hurt God’s Servant and never repented, it will not go so well.

8… who is he that pleads with me? let him stand up against me at the same time: yea, who is he that pleads with me? let him draw nigh to me. 9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all ye shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. Septuagint (LXE)

These verses do not prophesy directly the Servant’s death and resurrection. Isaiah 53 will do that. The Servant does, however, challenge his opponents and prophesy their death, “Behold, all ye shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you” (verse 9). The Masoretic text states it this way, “Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up” (ESV).

The Voice of the Prophet Breaks Through

In verse 10, the voice of Isaiah the prophet breaks through to comment upon the preceding revelations. That will be a topic for the next post.

Isaiah 50:1-3 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.32

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-50-1-3-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-32/.

Israel Displeases God

Septuagint Isaiah 50:1-3 LXX Fit Well with Chapter 49

Septuagint Isaiah 50:1 Thus says the Lord, Of what kind is your mother’s bill of divorcement, by which I put her away? or to which debtor have I sold you? Behold, you are sold for your sins, and for your iniquities have I put your mother away. 2 Why did I come, and there was no man? why did I call, and there was none to listen? Is not my hand strong to redeem? or can I not deliver? behold, by my rebuke I will dry up the sea, and make rivers a wilderness; and their fish shall be dried up because there is no water, and shall die for thirst. 3 I will clothe the sky with darkness, and will make its covering as sackcloth. (LXE)

In Isaiah 49:14, the people of Sion spoke.

49:14 The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. (LXE

1. In the remainder of Chapter 49, through verse 26, the Lord replies to Sion. He declares his long-abiding love for Sion, as a mother would love her child (verse 15). He prophesies that Sion will become heavily populated with an inflow of Gentile children (verses 22-23; see prior post Isaiah Devotional 2.31).

2. Now, in Chapter 50:1-3, the Lord challenges Sion more directly. Rather than professing his never-ending love for them, he places the blame for their banishment upon themselves–upon their own sins and iniquities (verse 1).

3. Then, in verses 2 and 3, the Lord takes a new tack. He claims that he did go to save his people, but they did not respond.

Isaiah 50:2 Why did I come, and there was no man? why did I call, and there was none to listen? [Note: the word for “man” is ἄνθρωπος (an-thro-pos) here. In this sentence it can mean any human being of either sex.] (LXE) and (Isaiah 50, LXX). 

But when did this happen? When did the Lord reach out to save Sion and they ignored him?

Understanding Prophetic Poetry

First, readers must recognize that Isaiah 50:1-3 is highly poetic. These three verses contain both structural and linguistic elements of poetry. In a brevity of conciseness which only poetry can achieve, two verses present the three major events of Israel’s salvation history (1). Two are past, and one is yet future to Isaiah’s own time.

The Structural Elements of Isaiah’s Prophetic Poetry

First, what structural elements of Hebrew poetry do these verses contain?

CHIASM-VERSE 1

A Of what kind is your mother’s bill of divorcement, by which I put her away?

B or to which debtor have I sold you?

B Behold, you are sold for your sins,

A and for your iniquities have I put your mother away

DOUBLETS AND TRIPLETS-VERSES 2 AND 3

A1 (vs 2) Why did I come, and there was no man?
A2 why did I call, and there was none to listen?

B1 Is not my hand strong to redeem?
B2  or can I not deliver?

C1 behold, by my rebuke I will dry up the sea,
C2 and make rivers a wilderness;

D1 and their fish shall be dried up because there is no water,
D2 and shall die for thirst.

C3 (vs 3) I will clothe the sky with darkness,
C3d and will make its covering as sackcloth.

In the above two verses readers will find five doublets and one triplet. The items labeled with a “C” form the triplet. Notice that the third element of the triplet (C3 and C3d) is itself a doublet. The following original paraphrase expresses the logical structure of God’s argument in Isaiah 50:1-3 LXE.

In verse 49:14 Sion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me” [notice the doublet]. God answers Sion’s false claim in three ways.

1) First, the Lord states that he has not and will never forget Sion (Isaiah 49:15-26).

2a) Second, the Lord reprimands Sion. If, he says, I have forsaken and forgotten you, then

a) show me the certificate of your mother’s divorce (Isaiah 50:1). [The Lord states this challenge as a rhetorical question. Clearly, there is no certificate.]
b) or, name the debtor to which I have sold you. [The Lord also states this as a rhetorical question.]

2b) The Lord then states positively that Sion was sold [passive tense] on account of their own sins. They caused their own sale, not God. Further, the Lord does state that he did send Sion’s mother away because of her sins and because of their lawlessness. In other words, the Lord did not himself abandon and forsake Sion. He stayed where he always was. Rather, he sent them away on account of their unfaithfulness and sins. They spurned God, rather than the reverse. Again, it was their own fault.

3) Third and finally, God declares that three times he did in fact intervene to deliver Sion. But they neither responded positively nor obeyed (ὑπακούων) (Isaiah 50:2).

God then describes his three salvific interventions (Isaiah 50:2-3).

METAPHOR-VERSES 1-3

Because the section concerning metaphor is long and important, it will be placed in its own heading.

Metaphor-Verses 1-3

The entire pericope Isaiah 50:1-3 is an extended metaphor.

1. First, Sion is not in fact a woman. It is both a location (Jerusalem the city and its temple) and a people. God speaks to his people as a group. Because the group of God’s people spanning several generations does not have a biological “mother”, the entire concept is a metaphorical figure of speech. Additionally, God, as Spirit, never literally married his people in a physical-concrete way. Rather, God’s language creates a spiritual metaphor to help us in our finite, fallen (spiritually dead) condition to understand his relation to his people.

2. Second, the concept of God’s sending away Sion’s mother is a double metaphor. First, the metaphor describes Israel’s exile to Babylon. Second, the metaphor describes the people of Israel’s spiritual estrangement from God.

3. Third, God did not literally “sell” Sion to anyone. Nor did Sion in any literal/physically-concrete way sell themselves. A physical exchange of concrete money, accompanied by a bill of sale never occurred. True, a literal debtor, Babylon, existed. The Babylonians as conquerors stole material goods from Israel (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:10). Yet, God’s intention in this passage is much greater than a physical, local application to Babylon. In a metaphor that permeates the entire Bible, Israel, representative of all humankind, sold itself into slavery to sin, death, and Satan when they rebelled against God.

Three Metaphors of God’s Salvation

God defends his creative power and his might to deliver his people in Isaiah 50:2-3. The metaphor the Lord uses is called metonymy. Metonymy occurs when a part of something represents the whole. So, each of the three specific actions God names represents his entire might and ability to save. In the first metaphor, God states that by a verbal command he can 1) dry up the sea. In the second metaphor, he states that 2) he can turn rivers into deserts.

Then, in the third metaphor, God states that 3) he can  “clothe the sky with darkness, and will make its covering as sackcloth.” This figure of speech has a further metaphoric aspect than the two previous metonymies. This figure is a metaphor because God does not place literal-concrete clothing upon the sky. Nor does a literally-concrete, physically darkened sky mourn and grieve as though one had died. The figure is of women, even today, who often cover themselves in black clothing to indicate their mourning over a dead loved one, generally a husband.

But, even though God uses figures of speech to describe his power to save, these metaphors in reality actually occurred in literally physical, concrete ways.

The Three Salvation Metaphors Are Literal-Concrete

The three “metaphors” of Isaiah 50:2-3 actually occurred in Israel’s literal-concrete history. These events may read like metaphors of God’s power to deliver. Each one is a metonymy, a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole. However, each of them describes an actual, historical event in Israel’s salvation history.

I. Metaphor One and Historical Salvation One

Isaiah 50:2 behold, by my rebuke I will dry up the sea, (Septuagint, LXE)

The Bible records in Exodus how God dried up (parted) the Great Sea for Moses and the Israelites to escape Pharaoh’s army and Egypt. This is Israel’s first great salvation in Scripture. (Exodus 14:15-31). Scripture also records how quickly Israel abandoned their “belief” in God (Exodus 32:1-5).

II. Metaphor Two and Historical Salvation Two

Isaiah 50:2 behold, by my rebuke I will… make rivers a wilderness; and their fish shall be dried up because there is no water, and shall die for thirst. (Septuagint, LXE)

God dried up (parted) the river Jordan when Joshua led God’s people to cross over into the promised land (Joshua 3:14-17).

What About the Fish?

The statement in verse 2 concerning fish drying up and dying for lack of water grammatically can apply to both the dried up sea and the dried up rivers. Historically, the crossing of both the Red Sea and the River Jordan may have taken the better part of a day, since the people of Israel numbered so many. They also carried their supplies. Additionally, the women with children would probably have moved slowly. Fish could very easily have suffocated and dried up during both these crossings.

III. Metaphor Three and Historical Salvation Three

The third “metaphor” reads more like a metaphor than the first two.

Isaiah 50:3 I will clothe the sky with darkness, and will make its covering as sackcloth. (Septuagint, LXE

In Isaiah’s time frame, this salvation event remained future to him. As the chapters move forward, however, this salvation becomes more and more Isaiah’s focus. If any readers have not yet recognized this salvation, the metonymy (part for the whole) of a darkened sky describes the death by crucifixion of Christ, God’s Servant, on the cross.

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. (ESV)

Immediately upon the ninth hour, Jesus died. Readers can find this event also described in Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44-45. Isaiah predicts the darkness and describes it with the metaphor “sackcloth,” the clothing worn to indicate great mourning and grief. Even the heavens (sky) respond by wearing sackcloth at the death of their Creator.

But Where is Sion?

But God asks Sion, where were you when I came and called?

Isaiah 50:2 Why did I come, and there was no man? why did I call, and there was none to listen? (Septuagint, LXE)

The grammar of the sentence uses past tense. Future prophecy is often stated in past tense. For example, Isaiah 53:1-9 in both Septuagint and Masoretic texts are written in past tense throughout. Yet, the Christian world commonly accepts these verses in reference to Christ’s passion. The Passion remained future to Isaiah, however. Grammarians call a future event written in past tense the prophetic perfect tense.

In verse 2, therefore, it’s entirely possible that the event God describes is still future to Isaiah’s timeframe. What event would this be? In agreement with verse 3, which tells the third of the great salvation events the Lord (the speaker) describes, verse 2 most likely makes reference to the actual, historic “coming” of God’s Servant, his Christ, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Language Supports Reference to Christ’s Incarnation

Summarizing briefly, the Lord in the first three verses of chapter 50 continues to rebut Sion’s claim that he forgot and forsook them (Isaiah 49:14). Oh, but I did come, says the Lord in Isaiah 50:2. But there was no one to meet me. No one answered when I called. No one obeyed my command. The Lord states these claims as rhetorical questions. Then, in the latter portion of verse 2 and continuing in verse 3, the Lord names the three great salvation events in Israel’s history. Two are past and one remains future. These three great salvation events are 1) the parting of the Red Sea, led by Moses, 2) the parting of the Jordan River, led by Joshua, and 3) the parting of the barrier between death and life, sin and holiness, led by Jesus Christ through the cross.

The Lord uses the phrase, “Why, when I came…” or, depending on the translation, “Why did I come…” or some such variation. The word in Greek is ἦλθον (eel-thon), from the verb ἔρχομαι (air-cho-may), meaning to “come.” Jesus uses this exact form (ἦλθον) at least 12 unique times in the four gospels with reference to himself. In these verses, the “coming” he speaks of  refers to his Father having sent him on mission to earth in incarnate form.

Jesus Often Spoke of His Coming

Jesus often spoke of his “coming.” Here are just a few examples, all from the ESV.

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Mark 2:17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 12:49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!

John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.

John 16:27 “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

The Servant Speaks

In the context of the Lord’s coming, in the very next verse after verse 3, with its reference in metaphor to the crucifixion, the Servant begins his third direct speech. He says, “The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction, to know when it is fit to speak a word: he has appointed for me early, he has given me an ear to hear:” (Septuagint, LXE). The following post will present details of the Servant’s speech.

God, the Lord Yahweh, and His Servant Are One

Has any reader of the New Testament ever wondered how its writers arrived at the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth and God the Father are one? Where in the Old Testament, which is the only Scripture these writers knew, can this knowledge be found? For example, Paul writes the following.

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. (ESV)

Jesus himself claimed:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” (ESV)

One of many exciting discoveries in the first three verses of Septuagint Isaiah 50 is the logical deduction that the Father and his Servant are one. In Isaiah 50:1, “Thus says the Lord…,” the word Lord is κύριος (kee-ree-oss) in Greek. It translates “Lord.” In the Masoretic the word for “Lord” or “LORD” is יְהוָ֗הpronounced Yahweh, or Jehovah. The Lord then asks in verse 2, “Why, when I came, was there no man?” So Yahweh, the Old Testament Lord of the Israelites, states that he “came.”

And, we have just seen how Jesus Christ characterized his incarnation as his “coming.” Jesus “came.” Then, in the context of the Lord’s coming, the Servant begins to speak in Isaiah 50:4, “The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction…” It was the Servant who came, and yet Jehovah God states that He came. The inevitable conclusion is that these two are one.

*A Personal Note to My Readers*

I often speak of my blog to just a few close friends as the blog that “no one reads.” Indeed, I have very few readers. Nevertheless, this is good for now.

I do hope and pray, however, that someone somewhere reads and finds encouragement in what I do here. I purposefully chose to study Septuagint Isaiah without help or confirmation from outside sources. In other words, what I find I find in the text itself. In contrast, when I wrote about finding Christ in the Septuagint Psalter, I scoured every source available to me for confirmation that I was not shooting in the dark. One practical consideration heavily influenced my decision regarding Isaiah. That is, there are just too many books out there for me at this late date in my life to consult. Concerning Septuagint Isaiah, however, I suspect that there is far less material available.

A secondary reason I chose not to consider outside sources has become a major purpose for me. That is, I wish to demonstrate that ordinary, everyday readers, such as I am, can access even a book as difficult as Isaiah with the help of the Holy Spirit. I’ve tried to leave a transparent trail as I go along. Nearly every language source I use is available online to anyone with a computer.

The basic procedure is to discover where your greatest hunger lies. My greatest desire was for God to reveal to me what Christ showed his disciples on the road to Emmaus concerning himself and the pages of Old Testament Scripture. A second step is to pray to God for his light. God’s light will feed your hunger. Finally, have patience. Read slowly, read again and again. Let it rest, pray, and wait for God. Listen. God promises that he will show up in the quiet spaces and reveal Christ to those who seek him.

One other note, for the few who may have noticed, I’ve chosen for the most part to let the text stand on its own feet without bringing in other Old Testament text for corroboration. I mean that I’m reading Septuagint Isaiah devotionally for Isaiah’s sake. I do refer to historical portions of Scripture. But my basic approach is, what if Isaiah were the only Old Testament book I have? What does it say? Obviously, I do bring in the New Testament quite a bit. This is because I see Septuagint Isaiah as The Gospel of Isaiah. Isaiah greatly influenced New Testament writers. My desire is to see this magnificent book about Christ the way they saw it. And, I decided to share with others as I move along. This keeps me accountable and helps motivate me to keep struggling towards the end goal.

Heartfelt blessings and prayers for my very few readers, Christina.

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1 The insights of this article are original to myself (I did not search the literature for corroboration). I used as my starting point Translation for Translators, Copyright © 2008-2017 Ellis W. Deibler, Jr., accessed January 3, 2022, at Bible – Windows (ebible.org).

2 One set of Bible study notes for this verse states, “Another possibility is to take the verbs as referring to past events: “Why did no one meet me when I came? Why did no one answer when I called?” In this case the Lord might be asking why Israel rejected his calls to repent and his offer to deliver them.” NET Bible note, accessed on January 5, 2022, at Isaiah 50 | Lumina (netbible.org).

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