By Christina M Wilson.
… continued from Devotional 2.59
Descriptors of Faithful Israel
At this point, we are moving through the very broad context of Isaiah 54:1 chapter by chapter in order to help us determine who the “barren” woman might be.
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: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)
We have determined that this desolate one can be neither Gentiles (Devotional 2.56) nor apostate (faithless) Israel (Devotional 2.55). The thesis of these posts is that God in Isaiah distinguishes between the faithful and the unfaithful. His promises will be fulfilled in the faithful.
In Chapter 43 God appears to address Israel as a whole. He applies few direct labels, such as “those who hunger” (Isaiah 40:29-31). When he chastises, he chastises the whole of Israel. When he loves and forgives, he appears to love and forgive all of them. Israel is one. Nor does God choose a new or a different people. God keeps Israel.
43:2 … O Jacob… O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine. (LXE)
43:4 Since you became precious in my sight, you have become glorious, and I have loved you: (LXE)
Nevertheless, before the close of chapter 43, God again chastises Israel and Jacob. Chapter 43 exemplifies the problem God faces in the Old Testament: God loves his people, but his people reject him.
43:27 Your fathers first, and your princes have transgressed against me. (LXE)
43:28 And the princes have defiled my sanctuaries: so I gave Jacob to enemies to destroy, and Israel to reproach. (LXE)
“ISRAEL” LARGER THAN LOCAL
Isaiah chapter 43 also appears to indicate that God includes more people within the name “Israel” than the sum total of those sent to captivity, living in Babylon, or remaining on the land as a remnant.
43:5 Fear not; for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the east, and will gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, Bring; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from the land afar off, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; 7 even all who are called by my name… (LXE)
SEPTUAGINT AMBIGUITY IN 43:7b-9a
Readers know that Isaiah introduces God’s Servant, Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7; 42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). At this point in chapter 43, however, the prophet has not fully developed the Servant theme. Therefore, Septuagint Isaiah 43:7b and 43:15 appear to contain ambiguous foreshadows of God’s Servant.
43:7b for I have prepared him for my glory, and I have formed him, and have made him:
Who is “him”? This person could be a personification of Israel as a whole. In the largest context of Isaiah, however, “him” could mean God’s Servant. Isaiah 42:1-7 recently introduced him The verse immediately following the verse containing the reference to “him” describes God’s calling of the blind and deaf.
43:8 and I have brought forth the blind people; for their eyes are alike blind, and they that have ears are deaf. (LXE)
When Messiah came, he, of course, healed the physically blind and deaf (Matthew 11:5). He also called those who recognized and confessed their own spiritual blindness (John 9:40-41; Mark 2:16-17). This verse, then, does seem to distinguish a particular kind of people whom God brings forth. But, could this still be Israel as a whole? Yes, because all the people are “alike blind.”
Greek text carries no punctuation. Moving on from mention of the blind and deaf, readers conceivably could connect Septuagint Isaiah 43:9a with the passage immediately prior (“I have prepared him for my glory” and “I have brought forth the blind people”) rather than what follows. That is, readers could place a strong semantic period after “shall be gathered out of them” (see below).
43:8-9a and I have brought forth the blind people; for their eyes are alike blind, and they that have ears are deaf. 9 All the nations are gathered together, and princes [rulers] shall be gathered out of them:
Verse 9a received fulfillment after the Servant’s death, resurrection, and ascension (1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 1 Peter 2:9).
The coming of God’s Servant, Messiah, solves God’s Old Testament difficulty.
- The Servant follows God’s law whole heartedly.
- The Servant calls the blind and deaf, who repent of their rebellion against God.
- God saves Israel.
- Septuagint Isaiah 43 demonstrates that God does not intend to abandon Israel. Further, Israel remains Israel. The chapter does indicate, however, that Israel’s tendency is to wander and rebel (verses 22-28). Verse 7 continues what Isaiah previously began in chapters 9 and 42–the introduction of a singular person who will glorify God, in other words, God’s Servant. He will gather the blind and deaf. In verse 8, God does not state that he will bring forth all the people of Israel. Rather, “I have brought forth the blind people.”
- The chapter’s prophecies extend beyond the strictly local.
- “bring my sons from the land afar off, and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (verse 6)
- “All the nations are gathered together” (verse 9)
BUT WHO IS THE “BARREN” WOMAN OF ISAIAH 54:1?
Unfortunately, the context of Chapter 43 does not appear to add information concerning her identity, at least not to this poor student.