Isaiah Labels Faithful Israel: Journal 2.59
By Christina M Wilson
… continued from Devotional 2.58
Descriptors of Faithful Israel
Chapter 40 indicates that God does not intend to bless “all Israel.” Rather, he chooses to bless those who hunger and wait on him. To “wait” in this sense, means to trust steadfastly in God alone. Often, as Christians, we pray to the Lord for our need. When a solution does not appear immediately, we may quit waiting for God and undertake ourselves. The matriarch Sarah abandoned her waiting upon God and convinced her husband Abraham to do so as well. Ishmael resulted from their impatience and lack of trusting God. Obedience to the Lord often involves quiet trust and waiting. (See also Isaiah 64:4.)
God in chapter 41 does not at first glance seem to make distinctions among Israel. He appears mostly to speak to the people as a whole.
- 14 Fear not, Jacob, and you Israel few in number; I have helped you, says your God, he that redeems you, O Israel.
- 27 I will give dominion to Sion, and will comfort Jerusalem by the way.
But then, a slow and careful reading reveals verses that may cause readers to pause and think that God does have a particular profile in mind.
- 8 But you, Israel, are 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 you, and said to you, You are my servant; I have chosen you, and I have not forsaken you. 10 Fear not; for I am with you: wander not; for I am your God, who have strengthened you; and I have helped you, and have established you with my just right hand.
—Paul, as interpreter of Abraham and his seed, argues that “the seed of Abraham” includes those and only those who placed their faith in God. He explains this in Romans 4:16-18; 9:6-8; and Galatians 3:26-29.
- 17 And the poor and the needy shall exult;
–The context of the statements in Isaiah 41:14-19 flows continuously from verse 8 above. Notice that God does single out the “poor and needy” for particular mention.
The first of four Servant Songs appears in Septuagint chapter 42:1-7. Verse 1 reads, “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.” This verse adds a new layer of meaning to Septuagint Isaiah 41:8, “But you, Israel, are my servant Jacob, and he whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraam, whom I have loved.” Matthew quotes 42:1-4, although he appears to do so from the Masoretic. The Masoretic writes, “Behold, my servant,” leaving out the label “Jacob,” which the Septuagint includes. (See Matthew 12:17-21 ESV.)
One of my principles of scriptural interpretation is that Christ taught his disciples to apply the light of his life, death, and resurrection upon Old Testament prophecy (Luke 24:27, 44-47). Therefore, Matthew’s application of the Isaiah passage is highly relevant. Now, Matthew didn’t merely apply the Isaiah passage to Christ, as though there were a different, original meaning. Rather, Jesus’s words in Luke indicate that the details the Old Testament prophets gave originally referred to himself. When he opens his disciples’ minds to “understand” and tells them that “it is written that the Christ should…,” he unequivocally means that these prophecies concerned himself in their original meanings and intent. The Septuagint bible brings these meanings forward to a greater extent than the Masoretic.
All this applies to our topic in a special way. God in Isaiah 41 and Isaiah 42 funnels his blessings to Israel through his Servant. The New Testament reveals the identity of God’s Servant as Jesus the Christ, Messiah.
A PARENTHESIS TO DISCUSS GENTILE INCLUSION IN CONTRAST TO A “MILLENNIAL” KINGDOM
My intention is to gather into a future post the many scriptures concerning God’s inclusion of Gentiles within the Servant’s flock. Here, however, I want to mention one point. If God intends special, exclusive blessings to “all Israel” as a nation (e.g., to rule the world in his name during a millennial kingdom), why would he consistently introduce the topic of Gentile inclusion in the multitude of prophecies concerning the Servant? Chapter 42 is filled with such references.
As a Christian, I read the verses below from Isaiah with the light Jesus supplies in Luke 24:45-47, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures… “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer… 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” These words in Luke are among the very first which Christ spoke to his disciples after his resurrection. Minimally, a reasonable conclusion would be that God’s blessing of Gentiles weighed far more heavily on Christ’s resurrected heart than any supposed millennial kingdom. In fact, the resurrected Lord Jesus spoke so little, if at all, about a “millennial” kingdom that his disciples began to grow impatient. They asked him point blank just before his ascension when the kingdom would be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6). I believe it fair to say that he avoided replying directly (Acts 1:7).
DESCRIPTIVE LABELS IN CHAPTER 42
Here are some verses from Septuagint Isaiah 42 that indicate whom God will bless.
- 1 Jacob is my servant… Israel is my chosen… I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
- 4 … and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
- 6 I the Lord God… have given you 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.
- 10 Sing a new hymn to the Lord: you who are his dominion, glorify his name from the end of the earth: you that go down to the sea, and sail upon it; the islands, and they that dwell in them. 11 Rejoice, you wilderness, and the villages thereof, the hamlets, and the dwellers in Kedar: the inhabitants of the rock shall rejoice, they shall shout from the top of the mountains. 12 They shall give glory to God, and shall proclaim his praises in the islands.
- 16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not… I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight… and will not forsake them.
And here is how God chastises those among his own people who refuse to see, hear, and obey.
17 … be you utterly ashamed that trust in graven images, who say to the molten images, You are our gods. 18 Hear, you deaf, and look up, you blind, to see. 19 And who is blind, but my servants? and deaf, but they that rule over them? yes, the servants of God have been made blind… 24 For what did he give to Jacob up to spoil, and Israel to them that plundered him? Did not God do it against whom they sinned? and they would not walk in his ways, nor listen to his law. 25 So he brought upon them the fury of his wrath; and the war, and those that burned round about them, prevailed against them; yet no one of them knew it, neither did they lay it to heart. (Isaiah 42:17-25)
… to be continued
Isaiah Labels Faithful Israel: Journal 2.58
By Christina M Wilson.
Volume Two: Verses Without “Remnant”
The text of Isaiah labels faithful Israel. The last devotional considered verses concerning faithful Israel that contain the Greek word “remnant.” All but one of these occur in Greek Septuagint Isaiah “Volume 1” (Link to prior post). Devotional 2.58 will move forward in examination of how Septuagint Isaiah labels faithful Israel without using the word “remnant.”
Volume Two of Septuagint Isaiah contains ample quantities of direct speech by God. Up to our present location in Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint, God directs a good portion of his speech to his people. Sometimes he chastises. He often warns. And, God’s words provide a great deal of comfort. Often, God alternates rapidly between words of chastisement and warning and words of comfort and blessing. As asked in previous posts (Isaiah Devotional 60, Isaiah Devotional 2.14), is God schizophrenic? Does he have multiple personalities? Do the frequent changes of tone in God’s speech and intention indicate a supreme being who waffles? Someone who cannot make up his mind? Do these frequent changes indicate uncertainty on God’s part? The thesis of this devotional blog on the Septuagint text of Isaiah is that God addresses differing groups of Israel’s people.
This is not to say that there are hard lines cast in cement between “this group and that group.” Rather, among the totality of ethnic Israel in Isaiah’s day, some people displayed hearts which in the long run sought to obey God, while others remained steadfastly rebellious and hard of heart in their behaviors concerning God. Perhaps one should call these different “kinds” of people, rather than groups of people.
The text of Isaiah labels, or tags, these different kinds of people within the ethnic body of Israel. Readers who observe carefully can distinguish to which sort of Israelite God speaks when he directly addresses his people. His message to each group is distinctly different.
Begin at the Beginning
Volume Two of Septuagint Isaiah speaks comfort to God’s people. The very first words announce this theme.
40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. 2 Speak, ye priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins. (Brenton, Septuagint in English, LXE)
This text considers Israel as a whole. It appears to include everyone. Verse 9 adds the additional labels “Zion” and “cities of Juda.” Isaiah indicates no distinctions.
But then, verse 27 indicates a first hint of negativity on the part of God’s people. Not all is roses and sunshine.
40:27 For say not you, O Jacob, and why have you spoken, Israel, saying, My way is hid from God, and my God has taken away my judgement, and has departed? (Brenton, Septuagint in American English)
God then defends himself from these allegations in verse 28. The following three verses contain marvelous promises from God through the mouth of Isaiah his prophet. Note carefully, however, that God does specify with labels who exactly will receive these blessings. Further, he sets up contrasting categories of blessing versus non-blessing. The chart below the verse summarizes these.
40:29 He gives strength to the hungry, and sorrow to them that are not suffering. 30 For the young men shall hunger, and the youths shall be weary, and the choice men shall be powerless: 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. (LXE)
These verses demonstrate that God does make distinctions among those whom he chooses to bless or not-bless. Whatever else we may conclude about these categories, we clearly can see the profile of person, and in this case Israelite (verse 27), whom God chooses to bless.
… to be continued
The “Barren”–Faithful Israel: Journal 2.57
By Christina M Wilson.
The “Barren” Woman of Isaiah 54:1 Is Faithful Israel
Readers who have followed along this blog have discovered reasons why the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 cannot be either Gentiles (Link to Devotional 2.56) or the unfaithful of Israel (Link to Devotional 2.55). God in the preceding chapters addresses two distinct audiences: 1) Israel’s hardened of heart, and 2) those whom God also chastises, but later calls and blesses. This post will further develop Isaiah’s recognition of different outcomes for those Israelites who rebel against God versus those whom God chooses to bless. The roadmap of this post is to demonstrate how Isaiah 54:1 lies on the path of those faithful Israelites whom God blesses.
Does Isaiah Distinguish Between the “Faithful” and “Unfaithful”?
Many would agree that the prophet Isaiah was not a “theologian” per se. Isaiah was not a theologian in the sense that the Apostle Paul was. And yet, when Paul received his knowledge of Christ by “revelation” (Galatians 1:11-12), part of that revelation surely included an enlightened understanding of the Old Testament (Luke 24:18-27). Paul relied heavily on the Old Testament (2 Timothy 4:13). He specifically quotes Isaiah six times, once in Acts (Acts 28:25-28) and five times in Romans. Four of those quotations occur in his discussion of what he calls the anguish in his heart concerning his kinsmen of Israel (Romans 9:27-33, 27, 29; Romans 10:16-21, 16, 20). Therefore, when considering the “Gospel of Isaiah” (Devotional 51), Paul remains highly relevant.
The gist of Romans 9-11 is that “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6). Paul bases the argument of these chapters about Israel on the idea of the “remnant” of Israel (Romans 9:27-29). Paul’s thought, which he apparently garnered at least in part from Isaiah, is that the people of national Israel of the Old Testament will not all be saved. Only a remnant of ethnic Israelites, those who try in the long run to follow God, rather than rebel against him, receive God’s promise of salvation. The idea is that a necessary aspect of salvation includes belief in God (which means a faithful following of his way). God excludes the persistently disobedient from his promises of blessing, comfort, and salvation.
So, the question becomes, does Isaiah indeed distinguish among Israelites in this manner? And, what does this have to do with the barren woman of Isaiah 54:1? This post proposes that yes, Isaiah does distinguish between the faithful and unfaithful followers of God within Israel. Further, the barren woman represents the faithful only, not everyone.
Volume 1: The Remnant
Of the ten uses of the word “remnant” in Septuagint Isaiah with reference to Israel (not to other nations), nine of these occur in what we call Volume 1 (chapters 1 through 39). These are the ten occurrences, all from the Septuagint text: Isaiah 4:2; 4:3 twice; Isaiah 10:20, 21, 22; 11:11; 28:5; 37:32; and 46:3.
Here is the text of a few of the above examples, as they appear in the Septuagint.
4:2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel. 3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are appointed to life [Greek, written for life, γραφέντες εἰς ζωὴν] in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. (1)
10:21 And the remnant of Jacob shall trust on the mighty God. 22 And though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved. (Romans 9:27, 28)
28:5 In that day the Lord of hosts shall be the crown of hope, the woven crown of glory, to the remnant of the people.
Someone may object that in context the use of “remnant” simply indicates quantity, not character. I would reply that when Paul quotes Isaiah 10:21-22 Septuagint, he does so in the context of Israel’s having failed to reach the righteousness that is by faith (Romans 9:27-33). Even so, Isaiah does do more to develop the concept of faithfulness versus hardness of heart as the book progresses.
Volume 2: Israelites Hard of Heart
EXAMPLE ONE: ISAIAH 46
In Isaiah 46, two contrasting attitudes of God are displayed. Rather than perceive God as one who cannot make up his mind, as one who constantly flips back and forth in his resolve, it makes better sense to perceive by careful reading that God addresses two sets of people. One set he intends to save until the end. The other set receives stern words of warning. These words indicate that it is still not too late for them to change their ways and turn back to God. The Greek word “remnant” occurs in Isaiah for the last time in Septuagint Isaiah 46:3. Listen for the tone of forbearance and commitment to save which God expresses in these verses to his remnant.
3 Hear me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of Israel, who are borne by me from the womb, and taught by me from infancy, even to old age: 4 I am he; and until you shall have grown old, I am he: I bear you, I have made, and I will relieve, I will take up and save you.
A footnote in Brenton’s translation indicates that the English word “relieve” represents a Greek word that can mean “put up with.” We still use this phrase in exclamations of exasperation, “How do I put up with you?” Other translations emphasize the word’s connotation of child-training. Make note of God’s commitment to these people. He comforts them with promises of enduring help and salvation. The two verses say little or nothing about the character of these whom God bears.
Immediately afterward, however, God’s tone changes dramatically to displeasure and stern warning. His words also describe the character and actions of the addressees. In the Septuagint, God labels them, “You that go astray.”
5 To whom have you compared me? see, consider, you that go astray. 6 They… make idols, and bow down, and worship them… repent, you that have gone astray, return in your heart… 12 Listen to me, you senseless ones, that are far from righteousness: 13 I have brought near my righteousness, and I will not be slow with the salvation that is from me: I have given salvation in Sion to Israel for glory. (Isaiah 46:5-13 Septuagint)
In this example, God does not go so far as to say that he will withdraw his blessing from these people. However, his displeasure and warning to them is clear. There are two paths, God says in effect. Your path is far from me. You choose to make idols and then worship them. You rely upon these lifeless creations of your own hands to help you. But I am the source of righteousness. I will give my “salvation in Sion to Israel for glory.”
The question is, Does God address the same group of people as in the previous two verses? Does he tell the same people that he is committed to save them unconditionally, as it appears in the first two verses, and then in the very next breath warn the same people that they are far from his righteousness? At this point in Volume 2 it may be difficult to answer this question. As the book progresses, the indications that God addresses two entirely distinct audiences becomes stronger.
There is one thing, however, that we can notice here. The text does not say, “All Israel will be saved no matter what.” God does not moddy-coddle these disobedient people of ethnic Israel and say, “It’s okay, I will change your heart in the end. Don’t worry. My salvation for you is inevitable. The world will move over for you, and they will be happy to do so.” No. Rather, God warns these ones who turn their backs to him that they are far from the path of his righteous blessing and salvation. He places a burden upon his listeners to repent. The next post will provide, Lord willing, more examples from Isaiah for us to consider.
… to be continued
1 Compare Isaiah 4:3 Septuagint with Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; and 21:27.
The “Barren”–Not Gentiles: Journal 2.56
By Christina M Wilson.
The prior post (Link) discusses why the “barren” or “barren woman” of Isaiah 54:1 is most likely not apostate Israel. This post discusses why the barren does not refer to Gentiles.
The Barren Woman–Negatives
Isaiah does not address Gentiles in his command to “you barren that bear not.”
1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (Isaiah 54:1-3 LXE)
Are the Gentiles Barren?
Yes, they are. At this point in biblical history, Gentiles as a group have been excluded from God’s people. From time to time, God uses Gentiles for his purposes, both to do good and to do bad. God’s law had always provided for Gentile proselytes, or those who convert to Judaism. But overall, in the sense of their spiritual relationship with God, Gentiles have been barren up to this point in the biblical timeline.
Will the Gentiles Be Coming In?
Yes, the Gentiles will be joining the barren one’s tent. Isaiah 54:3 Septuagint specifically states, “your seed shall inherit the Gentiles.” God commands the barren one to expand her tent to make room for the newcomers. But, are these newcomers the “barren” whom God addresses? No, they are not.
WHY DOES THE “BARREN” NOT REFER TO GENTILES?
The Septuagint grammar indicates that Isaiah speaks 54:1 and God begins speaking in 54:2. God continues speaking throughout the remainder of chapter 54. Neither does the addressee change throughout the chapter. The “you” of verse 1 is the same “you” of verse 17.
The Major Reason
The major reason the “barren” woman does not refer to Gentiles is that God does not address Gentiles directly up to this point in Isaiah. Consider the following examples from the Septuagint.
2 For in the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be glorious, and the house of God shall be on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall come to it. 3 And many nations shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will tell us his way, and we will walk in it: for out of Sion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 LXE)
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10 LXE)
6 And the Lord of hosts shall make a feast for all the nations: on this mount they shall drink gladness, they shall drink wine: 7 they shall anoint themselves with ointment in this mountain. Impart you all these things to the nations; for this is God’s counsel upon all the nations. (Isaiah 25:6-7 LXE)
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. (Isaiah 42:4 LXE)
6 And he said to me, It is a great thing for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth… 8 Thus says the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard you, and in a day of salvation have I succored you: and I have formed you, and given you for a covenant of the nations, to establish the earth, and to cause to inherit the desert heritages: (Isaiah 49:6, 8 LXE)
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. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. (Isaiah 51:4-5 LXE)
All the previous examples contain text that speak about God’s plan of salvation for the Gentiles. Yet in none of these texts does God speak directly to the Gentiles.
AN OBVIOUS REASON
The content of the first three verses argues against the “barren” of verse 1 as addressee. What this means is that verse 3 labels the children of verse 1 as Gentiles.
1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband… 3 … for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles (Isaiah 54:1, 3 LXE)
In plain, ordinary speech it does not make sense to say that someone inherits themselves. If the “barren” means Gentiles, then verse 3 indicates that the children (“seed”) of the Gentiles “shall inherit the Gentiles.”
The extended context through chapter 55 provides strong support that God continues speaking to the same “you” that Isaiah addresses in 54:1. We find the following in 55:4-5.
4 Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles. 5 Nations which know you not, shall call upon you, and peoples which are not acquainted with you, shall flee to you for refuge, for the sake of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you. (Isaiah 55:4-5 LXE)
As in the previous several examples, the speaker refers to the Gentiles in speech about them, but not to them.
Therefore, by using evidence that the book of Isaiah itself supplies, readers can feel confident that the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 does not refer to Gentiles.
The next post, Lord willing, will consider positive evidence concerning who the “barren” woman most likely is.
Identity of the Barren Woman: Journal 2.55
By Christina M Wilson.
The Lord Addresses the “Barren [Woman]”
Who is the “barren woman?” The Lord begins addressing this person in Isaiah 54:1 and continues without a break through the end of the chapter in verse 17. There are few choices.
God himself speaks the bulk of the text of Isaiah from chapter 40 to the present chapter. Fortunately, throughout the entirety of this text, Isaiah announces with labels the person or group whom the Lord addresses. Consider, for example, the first verse. Clearly, there God directly addresses his own people.
Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. (Brenton, Septuagint)
But Isaiah 54:1 bears a metaphorical label for which there is no explanation apart from the context.
Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, (Isaiah 54:1 LXE)
The reader is on her own to determine who is the “barren that bear[s] not.” Isaiah also refers to this person as “the desolate.” We do know that the addressee is a woman. The noun inflections signify female. Also, women bear children, not men. But is the metaphorical woman a nation, a people group, an individual? These are questions the reader must ask.
How one answers these questions is important, because the answer may determine a reader’s eschatological viewpoint. Chapter 53 concerns the “passion” of God’s Servant in Isaiah’s gospel. It is a turning point, a crux, a very large occurrence in human and theological history. Many writers appear to have assumed that the text immediately following chapter 53 speaks of a far future millennial kingdom. Yet, this is nowhere in the text itself. Therefore, I have decided not to move on quickly, but to spend time on this verse until I am confident that I understand the identity of the barren woman.
Whom can the reader be fairly certain that God does not address as “thou barren” (Brenton, Septuagint)?
1. APOSTATE ISRAEL
God is not addressing unfaithful Israel. He last spoke to “apostate” Israel, that is, to those who are unfaithful, in chapter 48.
48:1 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… 4 I know that you are stubborn, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your forehead brazen. 5 And I told you of old what should be before it came upon you; I made it known to you, lest you should say, My idols have done it for me; and should say, My graven and molten images have commanded me… 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. 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… 11 For my own sake I will do this for you, because my name is profaned… (Septuagint)
Notice, immediately after this passage ends in verse 11, God speaks to a different group of people, whom he also labels. God addresses “Jacob and Israel whom I call” (Isaiah 48:12 Septuagint). God speaks differently to this group.
48:14… Out of love to you I have fulfilled your desire on Babylon, to abolish the seed of the Chaldeans. 15 I have spoken, I have called, I have brought him, and made his way prosperous. 16 Draw near to me, and hear you these words… 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. 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. (Isaiah 48:12-21 Septuagint)
God uses a different tone with the second group, those whom he “calls.” He chastises them for disobedience (verse 18), yes, but he labels them His “servant” (verse 20). He declares himself to be their God (verse 17). He promises them water from the rock (verse 21). And finally, he names them “my people” (verse 21).
God’s words to the former group (48:1-11) are all chastisement. Importantly, God states that he will nonetheless save them, but not for their sake, but for the sake of his own name which is profaned on their account (verses 9 and 11). On the contrary, God rescues the second group from the Chaldeans “out of love to you” (verse 13).
Chapter 48 closes with contrasting pronouncements–one for each group. One group are the unfaithful and treacherous. The other group are those whom God chastises and heals.
GROUP 1: “There is no joy, says the Lord, to the ungodly” (Isaiah 48:22 Septuagint).
GROUP 2: “20… 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” (Isaiah 48:20-21 Septuagint).
BACK TO CHAPTER 54
Within the text of Isaiah, God does not address apostate Israel again from 48:22 through the close of chapter 53. In chapter 53, the prophet/narrator confesses on behalf of the sins of the people. The people for whom he speaks would be the second group of chapter 48. The first group in that chapter (verses 1-11 and 22) display hard hearts that turn away from God.
Now, the tone of God’s voice in 54:1-6 and continuing for quite a way beyond is the same tone he uses with the second group, whom we have called the faithful group (Isaiah 48:12-21 Septuagint). They are the group that disobey God yet later receive his love and pardon. The tone God uses with that faithful group in chapter 48 matches the tone he uses with the people to whom he speaks in chapter 54, beginning with verse one.
Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that the “barren,” or “barren one,” or “barren woman” whom God addresses in Isaiah 54:1 is not apostate (unfaithful) Israel.
This is the first negative. The next post, Lord willing, will consider another negative, that is, who the identity of the “barren” is most likely not.
… to be continued
Israel and Gentiles Together: Journal 2.54
By Christina M Wilson
“My People” and Gentiles Together in One Tent
Septuagint Isaiah 52:15 introduces what Septuagint Isaiah 54:1-3 completes. Namely, God intends to include Gentiles in Israel’s own tent of habitation. Most importantly, however, the Servant dominates the prophesies of these several chapters. It is by means of his Servant that God accomplishes all he intends for his own people and for Gentiles.
I. God’s Servant
The person of the Servant dominates from 52:13 through at least 55:5.
A. THE SERVANT’S EXALTATION
First, God glorifies his Servant.
Behold, my servant shall understand, and be exalted, and exceedingly. (Isaiah 52:13 LXE)
B. REJECTION AND SUFFERING
Second, verse 52:14 and the bulk of Isaiah 53 delineate the Servant’s rejection and suffering at the hands of the “sons of men” (vs 14).
As many shall be amazed at you, so shall your face be without glory from men, and your glory shall not be honored by the sons of men. (Isaiah 52:14 LXE)
C. GLORIFIED AGAIN
Finally, the Servant shall be glorified again.
54:5b for he has glorified you… 12a Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; (Isaiah 55:5, 12a Septuagint)
Beginning in Isaiah 52:11, God addresses his own people directly. He continues interacting with his people up to and including chapter 54. God specifically names his people in Isaiah 53:8, “… because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.” When chapter 54 opens, God still addresses his people. When he tells them in Isaiah 54:2-3 to “enlarge the place of your tent… for you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,” he clearly means the tent of his own people.
Readers have no doubt that in spite of the reprehensible way his people treated his Servant, God intends to bless them. The text speaks about God’s own people. This is so strongly stated, it’s not even debatable.
But then, God brings Gentiles into the Servant’s realm. Specific mention of Gentile inclusion occurs both at the beginning and ending of the “Fourth Servant Song.”
GENTILES AT THE BEGINNING
52:15 Thus shall many nations wonder at him; and kings shall keep their mouths shut: for they to whom no report was brought concerning him, shall see; and they who have not heard, shall consider. (Isaiah 52:15 Septuagint)
GENTILES AT THE ENDING
Even though commentators specify that the Fourth Servant Song ends with chapter 53, biblical context itself includes the verses which follow.
54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (Isaiah 54:1-3 Septuagint)
Without the New Testament, it might be difficult to verify that the children of 54:1 refers to Gentiles. But Paul quotes this verse in Galatians 4:27.
In Paul’s context, Sarah, wife of Abraham, is “the desolate one.” Her children he calls “children of promise,” born by the “Jerusalem above.” He refers of course, to the inclusion of believing Gentiles among Abraham’s extended progeny.
Whatever clarity of identification Isaiah’s verse 1 lacks, however, verse 3 supplies by name. The “children of the desolate” (the children of the barren woman) are Gentiles.
WHOSE “SEED SHALL INHERIT THE GENTILES”?
Who is the one whose seed inherits the Gentiles? Who is this the “desolate” or “barren woman”? The Septuagint text of Isaiah 54:3 (LXE) states, “Your seed shall inherit the Gentiles.” The verb “shall inherit” is active (verb indicative future active third person singular.) The word “your” in the phrase “your seed” refers back to the “barren” woman of verse 1. The particular form of the verb “to inherit” implies an object, which the word “Gentiles” supplies. So, the seed of the barren woman will inherit the Gentiles.
But who is this barren woman? Although the Septuagint text itself does not specifically indicate Sarah or Israel as the barren woman, Isaiah’s context strongly indicates Israel. Additionally, Paul indicates Isaac, born of Sarah, as the son of “promise” in Galatians 4:23. He adds to this that Isaiah’s children born to the barren woman refers to Gentile believers (Galatians 4:27.) This is the verse where he quotes Isaiah 54:3. Combining all these evidences, it seems likely that Isaiah addresses Israel directly in 54:1-3 Septuagint. And although it would be difficult to prove, it is at least possible that Isaiah himself looks back to Sarah as the “barren woman.” It remains clear, however, that the seed of the barren, or desolate woman, are they whom Isaiah commands to “Rejoice!”
Although the above paragraphs may appear circular, the context of Isaiah 54:1-3 LXE allows readers to first determine that Gentile believers are the ones whom the barren woman will inherit. Knowing this fact allows readers to determine from Isaiah and Paul in Galatians that the barren woman is Israel, and more specifically, Sarah. It is Sarah to whom the “son of promise” is born. The progeny (seed) of this one, according to Paul, includes all believers, both Gentile and Israelite.
DIFFERENCE IN TEXT–SEPTUAGINT VERSUS MASORETIC
Here is a difference between the Septuagint text and the Masoretic. As presented above, the Septuagint states that “the seed” of the barren woman (the seed of Sarah, according to Paul) “shall inherit the Gentiles.” Translations based upon the Masoretic text, however, use words with a different nuance. For example, the ESV writes, “Your offspring will possess the nations.” NET Bible interprets the word possess as “conquer.” “Your descendants will conquer nations.” The NIV writes, “Your descendants will dispossess the nations.” Thankfully, the older KJV lines up with the Septuagint. It translates the Hebrew as, “Thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles.”
POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE FOR GENTILES?
The point of all this is that the Septuagint text calls for great rejoicing. The synopsis of the plot is that Israel, God’s people, will reject their Messiah, the chosen Servant of the Lord. He will suffer and die at their hands, as he bears their sin and shame (Isaiah 53:12). Then, Isaiah performs a sudden about face and opens chapter 54 with “Rejoice!” (verse 1). He follows with the birth announcement of a vast number of children. This calls for celebration! For children are a blessing in this culture.
2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3a spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: (Isaiah 54:2-3a LXE)
These extra children are Gentile believers in God’s Servant (Isaiah 54:3b LXE). What happens to these Gentiles? In the Septuagint and the KJV, they join God’s people inside Israel’s own enlarged tent. They live with God’s people. Isaiah here describes one tent, in which both Israel and Gentiles dwell together. And Isaiah says to Israel, “REJOICE!” This is not a conquering, a subjugation, or a setting aside of nations, as in the NET; this is inclusion–an adoption. Paul spells this out extremely clearly in Ephesians 2:11-21.
There Is No “Parenthesis”
Some commentators insist that the “church” is a “parenthesis.” This kind of statement is so not true. Throughout all of Isaiah and especially here, God demonstrates that his heart has always been for both Israel and Gentiles. “For God so loved the world…” Because God chose to work through a particular race at the beginning of his calling a people to himself, does not mean that he ever intended for that race exclusively to be his own child in a special way unique to themselves.
Yes, Israel came first in point of time. But that timing does not make Israel privileged above all the rest. In fact, God has only one, unique and particular special child. That individual is his Servant, God’s only-begotten. He is the “firstborn” of God (Colossians 1:15, 18; Revelation 1:5). He alone is superior and more blessed than everyone else (John 1:1-18). And this Servant shares his inheritance in God freely with Israel first, then Gentiles–the whole world of believers gathered together in one tent.
The Point of Isaiah’s Text
The point of Isaiah’s text in chapters 52-53 is to announce his blessing upon all people through his Servant. God includes both believing Israel and believing Gentiles in his blessing. God through his Servant blesses both together, as one. They will live in one tent.
Isaiah rejoices over this. God rejoices. God and Isaiah intend for us, God’s original family and extended family to rejoice, as well. Like the father of the prodigal son, God through his prophet calls for joyful celebration and song. We rejoice because God’s family has grown. His provision through his Servant is abundantly sufficient for everyone together.
Dear reader, let none of us commit the grievous error of the prodigal’s elder brother (Luke 15:11-32). This one went about moping and sulking because he was no longer “special.” He behaved jealously in response to his father’s open welcoming of a lost sinner into the fold. Let us not be like this elder brother. We are one family in Christ. Let us rejoice in God and his Servant together.
Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Journal 2.53
By Christina M Wilson
The Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Journal 2.53 discusses the Septuagint report of Isaiah 53:10-12.
Content: Part Seven
10 The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If you can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed: 11 the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to show him light, and to form him with understanding; to justify the just one who serves many well; and he shall bear their sins. 12 Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-12 LXE)
Summary of the Plot
Although the details of the Greek, and even the Hebrew, are uncertain here, the overall thrust of the passage is clear. Here is what we know:
- The Servant is innocent and righteous before God (Isaiah 53:4-9).
- The Servant died as a sacrifice for the sins of others (Isaiah 53:4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12 and LXE).
- The Lord receives with satisfaction offering for sin. Life is given to those who make such offering (verse 10).
- Like a passive sheep and silent lamb, the Servant allows himself to be such an offering (verse 7).
- God is delighted to reward his Servant (verses 10-12).
PART ONE: REWARD FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
Verses 11 and 12 state that the Servant is indeed the sin-offering presented in verse 10. Isaiah 53:10 Septuagint explains, “If you offer for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived offspring” (NETS). The Servant presented himself to God as such an offering. The passage explains, “He shall bear their sins” (verse 11), and “He bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquity” (verse 12).
Notice the subtlety. As many people as may make a sin-offering to God, God will bless on an individual basis. “If you offer (both the pronoun and verb are plural) for sin, your (plural) soul (singular) shall see (singular) a long-lived offspring.” The words “if” and “offer” form a third class condition (1). That is, the blessing is conditioned upon the offering. God doesn’t offer universal forgiveness because of the Servant’s offering, nor does he offer it to the nation as a whole. The people one by one must offer to God their sin-offering, who is the Servant.
We hear many testimonies today about how someone “received” Christ into their heart as their own personal Savior. But this language falls short. It’s not just that believers must “receive” Christ into their heart. They must give Christ to God as their own personal sin-offering. Belief in Christ entails this element of vicarious (substitutionary) sin-offering by the Servant. God places no limit on the number of people who can so offer. Verse 12 states that the Servant bore the sins of “many.”
If all this appears difficult to understand, I agree. I believe it is difficult to understand. The disciples didn’t understand, not until Jesus himself explained it to them. And, marvelous blessing, God gave us Paul and the other New Testament writers to explain even more.
But with all this grammar, we must not cease to be amazed that both God and his Servant wanted to do this. “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NET). And even without the details of the grammar, Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song makes clear the Servant’s role. He is the sacrifice for the iniquities of many. John explains in his gospel that the “many” are all who believe (πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων) on him. Isaiah explains that God’s blessing comes to all who give to God the Servant as their offering for their sin. This is what it means to “believe on him.” Worshipers believe on God’s Servant (Christ) by giving him to God as their sin-offering.
PART TWO: REWARD FOR THE SERVANT
The Servant suffered horrendously, but in the end, it is a win-win-win situation. God wins. Because he punished his Servant, he did not need to destroy the world. The people win. Those who accept the Servant and present him to God as their sin-offering get blessed by God with long life and progeny. And finally, the Servant wins. This passage makes clear that God is very well-pleased with his Servant.
- “The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke” (verse 10)
- “the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul” (verse 11)
- “to show him light” (v 11)
- “and to form him with understanding” (v 11)
- “to justify the just one who serves many well” (v 11)
- “Therefore he shall inherit many” (verse 12)
- “and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty” (v 12)
Truly, the Fourth Servant Song is a song of God’s deepest pleasure in his Servant. These verses burst with God’s delight in him. The Apostle Paul sums this chapter up in his letter to the Philippians.
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. (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)
And in Isaiah’s own words:
Behold, my servant shall understand, and be exalted, and glorified exceedingly. (Isaiah 52:13 LXE)
1 Wallace, Daniel. Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics. Zondervan, 1996, pg. 689.
Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Journal 2.52
By Christina M Wilson
The Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Journal 2.52 discusses the Septuagint report of Isaiah 53:8-9.
Content: Part Six
8 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death. 9 And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth. (Isaiah 53:8-9 LXE)
Questions About the Word “Judgment”
The phrase, “his judgment was taken away” is difficult to understand. The Greek word for “judgment” (κρίσις–from which we get our English word “crisis”) can mean a trial or the sentence passed down at a trial, including a pronouncement of innocence, as the case may be. “Who shall declare his generation?” is easier. In context, this phrase means that no one will be able to recite the names of his progeny in his lineage, “for his life is taken away from the earth.” “Before he bore any children” is implied.
As a whole then, the text reveals clearly that the Servant died (“because of the the iniquities of my people he was led to death”) and was buried (“I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death…”). His “humiliation” refers back to his dishonor (vs 3), the pain of his bearing “our” sins (vs 4), his trouble, suffering, and affliction (vs 4), his wounds, chastisement, and bruises (vs 5), and his not opening his mouth to defend himself.
Definitely, the “trial” was most unjust. Readers know this because the text constantly mentions the vicarious nature of the Servant’s suffering. That is, he bore the sins of others. He took upon himself the suffering justly due to others. Nor did he protest. He did not open his mouth to defend himself, and no one else rose up to defend him.
CONCLUSION CONCERNING “JUDGMENT”
Bearing in mind all of the above contextual considerations, it seems best to adopt here the reading derived from the Masoretic text. NET offers a stunning paraphrase which seems to catch the meaning.
He was led away after an unjust trial– but who even cared? (Isaiah 53:8 NET)
The NRS writes:
By a perversion of justice he was taken away. (Isaiah 53:8 RSV)
Paul also summarizes the content of verses 8-9:
For I 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… (1Corinthians 15:3 ESV)
“The Wicked for His Burial”
9 And I will give the wicked for his burial… (Isaiah 53:9a LXE)
Here again, it remains difficult for readers today to discover an exact translation or paraphrase for the meaning of these words. The Greek specifically states, “I will give the wicked” (plural). The Greek word translated as “for” (ἀντί) however, can also mean “instead of” (Thayer). Although I will not press the point, it might be possible to understand the entire phrase as, “I will give the wicked in exchange for his burial.” In this regard, all four gospel accounts reveal how Pilate gave the notorious criminal Barabbas his freedom in exchange for fulfilling the Jewish leaders’ desire to have Christ crucified (Matthew 27:15-26).
“The Rich for His Death”
The Greek sentence reads, “I will give the wicked [in exchange for] his burial and the rich [in exchange for his death]; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth” (2 Peter 2:22). Once again, the NET paraphrases the sense of the meaning:
They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully. (Isaiah 53:9 NET)
Not only did the trial judge, the Roman governor Pilate, exchange an attested criminal (Barabbas) for the life of Messiah, but Christ also hung between two other convicted criminals (Luke 23:32, 39-41; John 19:18). Ordinarily, he would have been dumped into a pit or left out in the open (1) with the two convicted robbers, but Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, buried Jesus the Christ in his own immaculate tomb (John 19:38-41).
God, the Speaker in Isaiah 8b-9a
The text of Chapter 53 changes speaker in the latter portion of verse 8. Previously, a narrator, most likely Isaiah speaking for all the faithful people, spoke about the Servant, referring to him in third person (he, him). Yet, readers infer the presence of God in the background, because verse 1 begins with the second person direct address, “O Lord” (not present in the Masoretic).
In verse 8b, God himself speaks:
…because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death. (Isaiah 53:8b LXE) (2)
The use of first person continues through verse 9a in the Septuagint, although the Masoretic text changes back to third person plural (they). When considering these things, readers need always to bear in mind that the writers of the New Testament relied heavily upon the Septuagint in their understanding of the Old. Verse 9a Septuagint reads:
And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death;… (Isaiah 53:9a LXE)
The verbs concerning the Servant are for the most part third person passive in the entire Fourth Servant Song. The song has others describing what will happen to the Servant, as though he is a passive spectator. The introduction of first person here in verses 8 and 9 is therefore startling.
Readers know that Isaiah himself is not the first person speaker. First, throughout the book, Isaiah never claims to be the “owner” of “my people” in the sense the phrase is used here. The prophet may at times identify with God’s people, but he never calls the people his own, as though he were their leader or great guide. Further, Isaiah is not the one who controls the death and burial of God’s Servant, as though he had power to direct events. Therefore, the speaker must be God.
IMPLICATIONS OF GOD AS SPEAKER
Why interject God’s first person voice at this moment in the text? Namely, the appearance of God inserting himself into the narrative in first person singular establishes the fact of his being in charge of this whole situation concerning his Servant. He claims the people as his own. He acknowledges that his own people’s iniquities lead to the Servant’s passive death. Further, God names himself as the one who controls the situation in detail. God arranges the exchange between the wicked and his Servant in burial, as well as the exchange with a rich man in his death.
If God were not in charge of this situation, would it make any sense for the Servant to pray to him in the Garden of Gethsemane that he remove “this cup” from his lips? (Luke 22:42). Jesus Messiah did not blame Pilate for his death. Rather, he acknowledged to this governor/judge that God directed these events (John 19:10-11). Even on the cross, the Servant knew that God’s will prevailed in this situation (Mark 15:34).
God is the one who delivered to Moses the laws and commandments concerning the sacrificial system to atone for the sins of the people. Here, in Isaiah 53:8b and 9a Septuagint, God continues to exert his control over the details of the sacrifice that he will declare sufficient to assuage his own sense of justice.
And God manifests his satisfaction with the sacrifice of his Servant in the very next verse.
To be continued Lord willing… Content: Part Seven
1 “Roman Funerary Practices,” accessed March 12, 2022 at Roman funerary practices – Wikipedia.
2 A NET translator’s note for their paraphrase of the Masoretic text acknowledges that the Hebrew does indeed contain the pronoun “my.” However, for reasons of their own, they prefer to substitute “his own people” for “my people.”
Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Journal 2.51
By Christina M Wilson. Reposted from JustOneSmallVoice.com.
The Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Devotional 2.51 discusses the Septuagint report of Isaiah 53:7.
Content: Part Five
7 And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 LXE)
A Simple Solution to an Awkward Text: Verse 7
The way the Greek reads (as reflected in the majority of English translations), the text of verse 7 appears to the American ear to be saying something like this, He was afflicted, and because he was so afflicted, [therefore] he opens not his mouth. In other words, it sounds as though the affliction was causing him not to open his mouth in protest. Obviously, this meaning is difficult to understand in the context of the overall situation of the Servant.
But, the Greek language, wonderfully, has the amazing characteristic of not depending upon word order to generate meaning. This is due to the high degree of inflection (grammatical tagging) built into nearly every word. This character trait of Greek differs from English. English over the years has dropped most of its grammatical tags, or inflections. In exchange for these, English depends upon word order to establish a good degree of its meaning.
An alternate translation into English of the Septuagint text of 53:7 clarifies the meaning of the sentence as a whole. By simply exchanging the order of the phrases but nothing else, the sense of the entire sentence (as attested by nearly everyone) becomes so much clearer.
7 And he opens not his mouth on account of ill-treatment. As a sheep is led to the slaughter and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth (1).
The above word order accords with the interpretation most English translations supply. The statement now gives the meaning, In spite of ill-treatment, he opens not his mouth.
The Metaphors of Verse 7
Isaiah uses two metaphors in verse 7.
- a sheep led to slaughter
- a lamb about to have its coat sheared
Why aren’t the Greek nouns switched around? Why not a lamb about to be killed and a sheep about to be sheared?
METAPHOR ONE: A SHEEP LED TO SLAUGHTER
1. An Image of Violence
The image of the first metaphor establishes the act, or action, that befell the Servant. The entire phrase, “a sheep led to slaughter,” is violent. The metaphor, as written, does not reflect the somber, reverential, and orderly sacrificing of a lamb to God, according to the law given in the Old Testament. While it is true that the New Testament characterizes Messiah as the “lamb” of God who was sacrificed for our sins (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; and Revelation 5:12), the Septuagint phrase displays neither honor nor reverence.
The word “slaughter” in Isaiah and elsewhere refers to a negative judgment and punishment. See for example Isaiah 34:2, 6; 65:12; and Romans 8:36. The Servant of Isaiah 52:13 LXE will be “glorified exceedingly.” But this same Servant will be led like an unprotesting sheep about to be violently killed. In God’s eyes, the Servant was a sacrifice for sins. According to human eyes, the Servant was brutally punished in falsehood of having committed crimes of which he was innocent.
2. An Image of Human Identification
Verse 6 states, “All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins.” The Servant represents humankind so strongly that Isaiah refers to him in verse 7 as one of us, as a “sheep.” Whereas our being sheep led to sin and lostness, the Servant’s being a sheep led to a violent death. Our failure to stay close to the precepts of God led to the servant’s slaughter at the hands of unrighteous men. Our sheep-like nature led us into sin. The Servant’s sheep-like nature led him to follow God’s lead to his own slaughter, a violent death (see Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 4:15).
METAPHOR TWO: A LAMB BEFORE THE SHEARER
How many parents remember the first haircut they ever gave their child? Perhaps this occurred at home; perhaps in a professional salon or barbershop. The image of the second metaphor establishes the character of the Servant. The Servant behaved himself like a young sheep, a lamb, inexperienced and innocent. Some of our children behave as an inexperienced lamb when they receive their first haircut. More often, perhaps, the children cried and screamed when they saw the barber’s blade.
Little lambs have never had their wool cut. They can be led to the shearer quietly, without protest. This is the image Isaiah establishes. This image focuses on the character and nature of the Servant as he faces his “slaughter.” He is quiet, calm, and trusting of the hand that leads him. He does not defend himself. The New Testament paints the accurate fulfillment of this prophecy. See Matthew 26:62-63; Mark 15:4-5; Luke 23:8-9; and John 18:10-11.
It is good at this point to revisit Isaiah 53:1a, “O Lord, who has believed our report?” In paraphrase of that statement, These things are so astonishing that they seem beyond belief. That the Servant of God, portrayed cumulatively throughout Isaiah as divine, that such a one should silently endure this kind of treatment seems preposterous. Perhaps this is why no one recognized Christ the Servant when he came. Perhaps, refusing to accept this difficult report of Isaiah, they reinterpreted it or rubbed it from their minds.
To be continued… Content: Part Six, Verse 8
1 Watson, Francis B. (2009) ‘Mistranslation and the death of Christ : Isaiah 53 LXX and its Pauline Reception.’,
in Translating the New Testament : text, translation, theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, pp. 215-250. Available at https://dro.dur.ac.uk/8991/1/. Accessed on March 11, 2022.
In answer to the question, Why read the Septuagint of Isaiah? Watson writes on page 233, “From one perspective, Isaiah 53 in Greek is a seriously flawed representative of the Hebrew original. From another perspective, it can be seen as supplanting that Hebrew original, functioning directly as scripture in Greek-speaking Jewish and Christian communities with no possibility but also no need of recourse to the Hebrew. Thus it is this text that survives in multiple copies, whereas the more accurate translation of Symmachus must be laboriously reconstructed from scattered fragments of evidence. If the Greek text is at some points less lucid than the Hebrew. at other points it is more so – notably in its testimony to the Servant’s death and vindication. If each of its “mistranslations” represents the loss of an original semantic content, its place is always taken by a new semantic content, or at least by a semantic potential waiting to be realized. Ironically, it is precisely the deviations from the Hebrew that establish this as an independent text in its own right, not as a mere local representative of a distant foreign original. Without recognizing them as such, it was precisely in the deviations that early Christians first glimpsed the possibility of a positive soteriological interpretation of the death of Christ. In the light of such momentous discoveries as this, it is unsurprising that the Septuagint could be viewed as an inspired text in its own right.”
Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Journal 2.50
By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/fourth-servant-song-septuagint-devotional-2-50/.
The Fourth Servant Song Septuagint: Devotional 2.50 discusses the Septuagint report of Isaiah 53:4-6.
Content: Part Four
4 He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. 5 But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. 6 All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins. (Isaiah 53:4-6 LXE) 
Recollections of a Young Christian
When I became a Christian, I only knew that I needed a Savior, and God was the only such person on my horizon. He helped me and introduced me to his Son, the Lord Jesus. In those first years, I confess I did not understand the connection between the cross and my being made right with God. How did Jesus’s dying on a cross mean that I was okay with God? How did his action help me? Why did God perceive Christ’s crucifixion as relevant to me and my sins?
Isaiah 53:4-6 Septuagint supplies the answer to my question. And, apparently I was not alone in my lack of comprehension. The people Isaiah writes about in Chapter 53 neither believed (Isaiah 53:1) nor understood (Isaiah 53:4-6). I am eternally grateful to God for his grace in saving this ignorant enemy, myself. Yes, before I in desperation cried out to him for his help, I was an enemy, like the rest (Romans 5:10).
Why the Servant Suffers
I. THE HUMAN VANTAGE
The NET Bible supplies a useful paraphrase for verse 4b.
… even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. (Isaiah 53:4 NET)
Those who witnessed the Servant’s suffering looked upon him without understanding. They saw someone whom God punished for his own sins, “for something he had done.” Even the Servant’s disciples remained completely confused by what had transpired (Luke 24:10-11 ESV, 13-26 ESV).
On a personal note, I remember a time as a nonbelieving adolescent, when I looked upon Jesus exactly like this. I saw him as a naked, broken man, shamefully and publicly exposed, a completely humble and humiliated person. I in my blindly ignorant pride did not want to be associated either with him or his followers. How very “foolish” and “slow of heart” I was (Luke 24:25 ESV).
Isaiah explains the cause of the disbelief and lack of understanding.
All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way… (Isaiah 53:6a LXE)
II. GOD’S VANTAGE
God’s vantage is infinitely higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). God punished his Servant out of love for us, his created sheep.
4 He bears our sins, and is pained for us… 5 But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. 6 … and the Lord gave him up for our sins. (Isaiah 53:4-6 LXE)
The Septuagint version brings out this concept fully. God’s Servant became a sin offering, a sacrifice for our sin. And once more, on a personal note, I give thanks to God that he turned my heart around. God enabled me to see my sin as sin. When I was in position to see this and the destruction of life my own sin caused myself and others, then, and only then, did I cry out to God for his help. And he came. He helped. He pointed me to the Lord Jesus Christ. And I believed. Praise God for his mercy to individuals everywhere.
1 The Septuagint reads differently than the Masoretic in the first portion of 53:4. The Masoretic states, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried.” The Septuagint writes, “He bears our sins, and is pained for us.” According to Archer and Chirichigno, Matthew in 8:17 apparently translates from the Hebrew (Masoretic) rather than from the Septuagint. In context, Matthew’s verse reads, “16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:16-17 ESV).
Definitely, Matthew applies Isaiah’s griefs and sorrows (Masoretic) to physical ailments, which Jesus healed. While sin is the root cause of all illness, Matthew’s text does not so state. The Septuagint’s text lacks Matthew’s dimension of physical healing, which has richly supplied countless believers of all times.
To be continued… Content: Part Five