By Christina M Wilson
… chapter by chapter context clues continued. This post describes the marching orders God gives to faithful Sion before he delivers them from captivity into the light of salvation.
Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel
The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.
To the current point in Septuagint Isaiah 51:9, the context has revealed that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is the faithful remnant of Israel. God will call Gentiles to join them in trusting God for the light of his salvation (Devotional 2.66).
Septuagint Isaiah 51:9-52:12 forms a tightly bound unit. In these verses, God addresses the faithful remnant of Israel, whom he calls Sion and Jerusalem. God’s marching orders for them mean nothing less than deliverance from captivity and oppression.
THREE CALLS FOLLOWED BY MARCHING ORDERS
Three times in the Septuagint passage God commands Jerusalem to “Awake awake”! (1) These three calls form a progression.
1. 51:9 Awake, awake, O Jerusalem, and put on the strength of your arm;
2. 51:17Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem,
3. 52:1 Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and do thou put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city:
After the third call to awaken, God gives his marching orders.
52:11 Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that brings up your rear. (LXE) [2 Corinthians 6:17 quotes verse 11]
FOURTH SERVANT SONG
Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song begins immediately after God’s promise of deliverance in the quoted verses (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The Servant theme unifies Volume 2 of Isaiah. The Fourth Servant Song describes the manner of God’s deliverance: punishment and death of the Servant. By the time the Servant arrives several centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy, most of Israel (except for a small remnant) appears to have forgotten this passage. And apparently no one understood its meaning.
WORD STUDIES AND OTHER COMMENTS
Jerusalem and Sion
The text seems to use “Jerusalem” and “Sion” interchangeably.
Jerusalem the Holy City
The third call to awaken identifies Jerusalem as “the holy city.”
Analogy of Faith Between Exodus from Egypt and Exodus from Babylon
The first call reveals the analogy of faith that accomplished the exodus from Egypt and will also accomplish the prophesied exodus from Babylon, both spiritual and physical.
First Call: Awake! Awake! Put on Strength!
The people of Jerusalem live in captivity in Babylon during the time when Isaiah prophesies. The first call to Jerusalem presents an analogy between the exodus from Babylon and the exodus from Egypt (LXE). In the same way that the faith of the people enacted the physical miracles God performed in delivering them from Egypt, so now God calls them to awaken and “put on the strength of your arm” (51:9). The “strength of [their] arm” represents the same kind of trust in God that enabled them to cross the Red Sea. The text describes the Red Sea water as “the abundance of the deep” and “the depths of the sea” (51:10).
51:11 for by the help of the Lord they shall return, and come to Sion with joy and everlasting exultation, for praise and joy shall come upon their head: pain, and grief, and groaning, have fled away. (LXE)
Notice the similarity of 51:11 with 51:6c and 51:8. There God announces that his “righteousness shall be for ever,” and his “salvation for all generations.” Readers begin to suspect that the hyperbole of the text may represent more than a physical return from Babylon.
Second Call: Awake, Awake! Arise!
The second call to Jerusalem to “Awake, awake!” is pregnant with meaning in the Greek.
51:17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, that have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury: for you have drunk out and drained the cup of calamity, the cup of wrath: (LXE)
51:17a ἐξεγείρου ἐξεγείρου ἀνάστηθι Ιερουσαλημ (Kata Biblon Greek Septuagint)
The Greek base word for “stand up” is ἀνίστημι (an-IS-tee-mee). Its intransitive middle form does mean to literally stand from a reclining position. However, the grammatical form in this verse is second person aorist imperative. In other words, God commands Jerusalem to stand up, or arise.
What makes use of the word interesting here is its use in John 6:39, where Jesus speaks of resurrecting (raising up) on the last day everything the Lord has given him. Even more to the point is Ephesians 5:13-14, where Paul quotes this very verse and alludes to its context in Septuagint Isaiah 51:5.
13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV)
51:5 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. (LXE)
In the first quotation from Ephesians, Paul combines with our current verse and Isaiah 26:19.
26:19 The dead shall rise, and they that are in the tombs shall be raised, and they that are in the earth shall rejoice… (LXE)
Paul’s understanding of God’s command to Jerusalem is “spiritual,” rather than concrete-physical. In Isaiah’s own day, his text would mean both the concrete-physical return from exile in Babylon and the spiritual application of resurrection from the dead. By the time the Servant-Savior came and Paul wrote about the power of his resurrection, the concrete-physical return from Babylon would have paled in importance against the resurrection from the dead the Servant commands. So it should be with us, to whom Christ gave the Key (himself) that unlocks the Old Testament.
Within the section containing the second call to awaken, God supplies the reason why the advent of the Servant became necessary. No one else in all of Israel had the power to save.
51:18 and there was none to comfort you of all the children whom you bore; and there was none to take hold of your hand, not even of all the children whom you have reared. 19 Therefore these things are against you… 20 Your sons are the perplexed ones, that sleep at the top of every street as a half-boiled beet; they that are full of the anger of the Lord, caused to faint by the Lord God. (LXE)
Third Call: Awake! Awake! Put on Strength! Put on Glory! Shake Off the Dust and Arise! Sit Down! Put Off the Band of Your Neck!
52:1 Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and o you put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city: there shall no more pass through you, the uncircumcised and unclean. 2 Shake off the dust and arise; sit down, Jerusalem: put off the band of your neck, captive daughter of Sion. (LXE)
The third call combines and extends calls one and two.
- The phrase “put on your strength” repeats call one (51:9) of the Septuagint (1).
- The command to “arise” is identical to the command translated “stand up” in the second call of 51:17.
- Sion and Jerusalem appear together twice in two consecutive verses.
- “Put off the band of your neck” and “sit down” signals a transition from slavery in captivity to freedom, well-being, and status in the realm of the Lord God.
- The text reveals Jerusalem as “the holy city.”
Verses 5 and 10 of the third call demonstrate again in Isaiah God’s love and concern for Gentiles (the nations). In verse 5 God expresses irritation that the poor behavior of his own people has caused Gentiles to blaspheme his name (Romans 2:24). In verse 10, Isaiah prophesies that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God.”
4. VERSE 52:9 FORESHADOWS 54:1
52:9 Let the waste places of Jerusalem break forth in joy together, because the Lord has had mercy upon her, and has delivered Jerusalem. (LXE)
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: (LXE)
Points to Notice
- The context of both verses is joy.
- “Waste places” builds from the identical Greek base word as “barren.” The base word is ἔρημος (ER-ee-moss). Of places, it means “solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited” (Thayer). Of people, it means “deserted by others; deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially of friends, acquaintances, kindred; bereft” (Thayer).
- The phrases “break forth in joy together” in 52:9 and “break forth and cry” in 54:1 both use the identical Greek word “break forth.” This word is plural in 52:9 and singular in 54:1.
- The final phrase of 52:9 paraphrases, or interprets, the cause of joy in 54:1.
- In summary, all the phrases of 52:9 in the third call to Jerusalem to “Awake!” correspond closely to all the phrases of 54:1. Therefore, one can again safely conclude that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is faithful Sion and Jerusalem, the holy city.
GOD’S MARCHING ORDERS
Isaiah closes the long section containing the three calls to Jerusalem to “Awake, awake” with marching orders to leave captivity. Notice the symmetry: “Awake, awake” and “Depart, depart.” Both the Israelites of Isaiah’s day and Christians of all ages can find delight in the joyful promise of these two verses.
52:11 Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that brings up your rear. (LXE)
THE FOURTH SERVANT SONG
The details presented above represent the trees of the forest. The forest, in this analogy, is God’s Servant. The longest passage concerning the Servant up to this point in all of Isaiah follows immediately after God’s call to Jerusalem and Sion to awake, arise, and sit down in his presence. He summarizes these verses with the command to “Depart, depart” (see above). And, situated most importantly above everything else of significance in Isaiah, the fourth Servant passage describes how God intends to deliver and redeem Israel.
SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION
By the time Isaiah speaks out the Fourth Servant Song, the context of the whole has moved far beyond the strictly concrete-physical, local context of return from the physical location of Babylon. The spiritual aspect of the Servant’s suffering and dying as a sacrifice for the sins of his people claims center stage.
With the entirety of Isaiah’s context as backdrop, the “barren” woman whom Paul describes in Galatians 4:21-31 becomes more readily accessible. Lord willing, we will discuss Paul’s use of these Isaian passages in the next post.
1 The Masoretic text (Hebrew tradition) of Isaiah differs from the Septuagint (Greek tradition) in 51:9. In the Septuagint, God addresses “O Jerusalem” or Sion three times. For the first of these, the Masoretic does not use the word “Jerusalem.” Rather, the text shows the people [of Israel] attempting to awaken God, “O arm of the LORD.” This, however, contradicts the entire sense of the last several chapters. They reveal that God is very much awake. The opposite holds true for the people of Israel. They appear to be depressed, chastened, and rebellious in their captivity. God himself initiates deliverance for Israel through his Servant. The previous chapters do not reveal Israel pleading with God.