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Septuagint Isaiah 58–Journal 2.74

By Christina M Wilson

Septuagint Isaiah 58:1-59:21
The Ins and Outs of Living with God

No Time Markers

Once again, Septuagint Isaiah 58:1-59:19 displays no verbal “time markers.” That is, the text contains no words or phrases that might specifically indicate where in a span of many hundreds of years before or after the exile these prophecies might be most applicable. Obviously, the unrighteous conditions God specifies apply in Isaiah’s day. And further, the Servant/Christ applies them during the days of his incarnation (Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 11:38-54). Paul the Apostle quotes from this and from passages of Psalms and Proverbs in Romans 3:9-18. Then comes the destruction of the physical city of Jerusalem with its temple in 70 C.E. In all this time, the religious rulers and leaders of Israel the nation never repent from the behaviors God in Isaiah specifies.

God Accuses–Part One

In Septuagint Isaiah 58:1-5 God spells out the “sins” of “my people… and to the house of Jacob their iniquities” (58:1). The phrase “house of Jacob” most likely indicates that God addresses the nation as a whole. The phrase “my people” indicate that special group of people who later repent and turn back to God. The text assigns the word “sins” (τὰ ἁμαρτήματα) to “my people.” This word is equivalent to “transgressions.” Then, it gives the word “iniquities” to “the house of Jacob.” The Greek word differs here. This word means “acts of lawlessness” (τὰς ἀνομίας). ]

As for the first word, those who live under the law–that is, those who acknowledge the validity and righteousness of God’s law–may still sin. They transgress the law. Then, they may repent of their sins. All this they do within the boundaries of God’s law. Paul’s portrait of the sinful man in Romans 7 provides an example of this kind of person. In the realm of the second word are those who act with “lawlessness.” These are they who do not even acknowledge God’s law but completely “do their own thing.” How can someone repent, who does not even acknowledge God’s right to govern?

In these verses from chapters 58 and 59, God uncovers the following failures in the nation as a whole, including those whom he calls “Sion” in past chapters.

1. They plead with God to bless them, as though God were the one at fault. In other words, they pretend to be a holy people who honors the difference between right and wrong, performing the former and not the latter. Why, then, does God ignore them when they fast and pray? (58:2-3).

2. But these people ignore and harm those whom God cares about–the lowly, even striking them with their fists. They quarrel among themselves. Though they fast outwardly by denying food to their stomachs, this is not the kind of “fast” that God desires.

What God Desires

God makes his desires known in Septuagint Isaiah 58:6-7, 13 

1. First, God wants the house of Jacob to “loose every bond of injustice; undo the knots of contracts made by force; let the oppressed go free, and tear up every unjust note” (NETS). It is interesting to note that those who consider themselves to be above and beyond the law use the legality of written contracts to unjustly keep the “bruised” and oppressed in bondage. This is the opposite of what God desires.

2. Second, God commands those with means, “Break your bread to the hungry, and lead the unsheltered poor to your house: if you see one naked, clothe him, and you shall not disregard the relations of your own seed.” The last phrase is interesting. In paraphrase the text states, While you are off doing good for those across town and around the world, do not neglect the poor among your own relatives.

3. Finally, God desires that his people honor and obey his Sabbath, “If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, so as not to do your pleasure on the holy days, and shall call the sabbaths delightful, holy to God; if you shall not lift up your foot to work, nor speak a word in anger out of your mouth, then… ” (58:13).

God’s Servant incarnate, Jesus Christ, did all these things and more during his ministry among the people. He especially clarified what “work” was and was not acceptable to God on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-5).

The Reward

If you do these things, says God, then you shall have reward. The list of rewards is utterly amazing.

  • your light break forth as the morning
  • your health shall speedily spring forth
  • your righteousness shall go before you
  • the glory of God shall compass you
  • you [shall] cry, and God shall listen to you
  • while you are yet speaking he will say, Behold, I am here
  • your light [shall] spring up in darkness
  • your darkness shall be as noon-day
  • your God shall be with you continually
  • you shall be satisfied according as your soul desires
  • your bones shall be made fat
  • and shall be as a well-watered garden
  • and as a fountain from which the water has not failed (Septuagint Isaiah 58:8-11)

There’s More

  • your old waste desert places shall be built up
  • your foundations shall last through all generations
  • you shall be called a repairer of breaches
  • you shall cause your paths between to be in peace
  • you [shall] trust on the Lord
  • he shall bring you up to the good places of the land
  • [he shall] feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father
  • for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. (Septuagint Isaiah 58:12-14) (1)

Confer the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

A Challenge for Us as We Read

Slowly, but slowly, as I read through chapters 58 and 59, I begin to perceive that what God is after is a way of life. He wants his people to follow his heart, day in and day out, in both the large and the small. The reward reveals itself as more than a piece of property (58:14). The reward is an ongoing relationship and fellowship with God (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)–to abide where he abides in the heavenly places. This relationship with God must be sufficient in and of itself. Being close to God carries its own reward. Otherwise, the wait would be too long and the work too difficult.

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1 Notice that the two sets of blessings appear to be different. The first deals with personal and corporate blessings as concerns people (their spirits). The second set of blessings names characteristics of God’s first covenant blessings upon Jacob and his progeny. I’m going to postpone further discussion of these two sets of blessings until we reach Septuagint Isaiah 59:21.

… to be continued with Chapter 59

Condemnation Versus Blessing: Journal 2.73

By Christina M Wilson

Quick Summary

Before moving on to Isaiah’s next theme of condemnation versus blessing in Devotional 2.73, let us consider a brief recap. Isaiah has carried us deep into the vision of God’s heart for the future of his people. Ceasing to be angry, he will forgive their transgressions and shortcomings. He will send his Servant to them as a sacrifice (Isaiah 53:4-9). The prophet speaks of resurrection for his Servant and the victory of justification (Isaiah 53:10-11). He will inherit many children (Isaiah 53:12), largely from among the Gentiles (Isaiah 54:1-3). (See also Septuagint Isaiah 53 and 54.) The good news of God’s favor and blessing upon his reconciled children continues through all of chapters 54, 55, and up through 56:8. Then, quite suddenly, the comfort ends. The text picks up once more the strain of  condemnation for Israel’s stubbornly rebellious leaders, which the prophet develops in previous chapters. Here is where we begin the section for today, Septuagint Isaiah 56:9-57:13a (LXE).

Septuagint Isaiah–Condemnation

Sadly, the text returns to the theme of condemnation for Israel’s stubbornly rebellious leaders in Septuagint Isaiah 56:9-57:13a. Isaiah uses no “time markers” in this portion. That is, he makes no statements, such as, “Now we look forward to what comes after the Servant… ” Or, “This looks backward to just before the exile into Babylonia.” In fact, the text presents not a single transition word or phrase. The prophet simply shifts gears abruptly. Therefore, the reader must read, reread, compare text with text within Isaiah, and prayerfully consider to what time this portion refers (see 1 Peter 1:10).

Bearing these thoughts in mind, it would appear that Isaiah returns to the time just before the exile. The leaders sacrifice to idols and erect memorials to their false gods. They even sacrifice their children “in the valleys among the rocks” (LXE, 57:5).

Who Is the Speaker?

The Lord himself speaks throughout the section immediately preceding 56:9 (LXE). Readers must go all the way down to 57:10 to find definite indications that the Lord continues to speak. This, however, appears to be so. It is the Lord who describes the infidelity of the “lawless children.”

57:3 But draw you near hither, you lawless children, the seed of adulterers and the harlot. (LXE)

Lawless “Children”

Twice, the text refers to the ones whom the Lord condemns as “children” (See 57:3 just above). These are not “foreigners” or “Gentiles” or “immigrants” (proselytes). Hear what Isaiah writes.

57:4 … are you not children of perdition? a lawless seed? (LXE

The Lord further describes these false children and names their actions.

56:10 See how they are all blinded: they have not known; they are dumb dogs… 11 Yes, they are insatiable dogs, … and they are wicked, having no understanding: all have followed their own ways, each according to his will. (LXE

57:8 … Did you think that if you should depart from me, you would gain? you have loved those that lay with you; 9 and you have multiplied your whoredom with them, and you have increased the number of them that are far from you, and have sent ambassadors beyond your borders, and have been debased even to hell. 10 … you said not, I will cease to strengthen myself: for you have done these things; therefore you have not supplicated me. 11 Through dread of whom have you feared, and lied against me, and has not remembered, nor considered me, nor regarded me, yes, though when I see you I pass you by, yet you have not feared me. (LXE

The Outcome

As so frequently in Isaiah, the Lord sifts his people Israel into two groups. In the first group are those who will die horrible deaths and not receive mercy for eternity.

57:13a When you cry out, let them [the idols you worship] deliver you in your affliction: for all these [the idols] the wind shall take, and the tempest shall carry them away… (LXE

In the second group are those upon whom he will display his mercy.

57:13b … but they that cleave to me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain. (LXE

The text returns to the second group in verses 13 through 19.

Blessings for Those Upon Whom God Shows Mercy

Verse 13b, the transitioning sentence, is written above. Verse 14 mildly echoes Isaiah 40:3-4.

57:14 And they shall say, Clear the ways before him, and take up the stumbling blocks out of the way of my people. (LXE

The First Blessing

God will send his first blessing to all those willing to receive it. The first blessing is his Servant, who will suffer as a sacrifice for their sins.

The Septuagint differs from the Masoretic in 57:14. Notice that the Septuagint (see above) includes a personal object phrase, “before him.” In this entire section of Isaiah, focused as the Lord is on the Servant, “him” would refer to the Lord’s Servant. In paraphrase, “Clear the ways before my Servant.” The literal meaning of “clear” is “cleanse” (New English Translation of the Septuagint, NETS), or “purge” (a translator’s note in Brenton). This is exactly what John the Baptist does when he calls the people of the land to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord (Matthew 3:1-3). The stumbling blocks the verse mentions are literally “thorns” (NETS).

Then, after the above verse, notice below how beautiful is the comfort God gives to both his sacrificial Servant and the people.

57:15 Thus says the Most High, who dwells on high for ever, Holy in the holies, is his name, the Most High resting in the holies, and giving patience to the faint-hearted, and giving life to the broken-hearted: 16 I will not take vengeance on you for ever, neither will I be always angry with you: for my Spirit shall go forth from me, and I have created all breath.

The Septuagint text above does not exclude the possibility that the first occurrence of the word “you” in verse 16  is God speaking directly to his Servant. The Servant is ever-present in Volume 2 of Isaiah (beginning in chapter 40). He is either directly in the text or hovering over it. God says, “I will not take vengeance on you for ever.” The word “you” is singular. This statement accords completely with the entirety of chapter 53. God did take vengeance on his Servant as a sacrifice unto death for the sins of his people (53:8). Yet, it was not forever. Septuagint Isaiah 53:10-12 describes what later comes to be known as Christ’s resurrection.

The Second Blessing

The second occurrence of “you,” almost immediately after the first one in 57:16, is plural. This “you” refers to the people. God will send his Spirit upon them. This is exactly what happens on the day of Pentecost in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4; 17-18). Having the Holy Spirit of God dwell among us restores what was lost in the Garden–life in God’s presence. And, the New Testament teaches that the blessing God gives to believers after the Servant’s sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension is even better than what Adam and Eve have in the Garden. There, God walks with them (Genesis 3:8-10). In the New Kingdom of God’s Son, the Holy Spirit lives in them.

A Third Blessing

A third blessing is comfort and peace. Verses 17 and 18 summarize Chapter 53. They refer to the Servant.

57:17 On account of sin for a little while I grieved him, and struck him, and turned away my face from him; and he was grieved, and he went on sorrowful in his ways. 18 I have seen his ways, and healed him, and comforted him, and given him true comfort; (LXE

After these, verse 19 refers to the people who receive the Servant.

57:19 peace upon peace to them that are far off, and to them that are near: and the Lord has said, I will heal them. (LXE

It is possible that the phrase, “the Lord has said,” in verse 19 refers to the Servant. Indeed, part of the Servant’s ministry includes healing.

Outcome for the Unrighteous

God, as speaker, closes chapter 57 with a summarizing statement of doom and gloom for the “ungodly.” These are they whom he describes and addresses in verses 56:9-57:13a. These are the “lawless children, the seed of adulterers and the harlot” (LXE).

57:20 But thus shall the unrighteous be tossed like waves, and shall not be able to rest. 21 There is no joy for the impious [ungodly], said the Lord God. (NETS

An Unusual Tense

Notice that the translation just above says, “… said God.” This tense is unusual in Isaiah. It occurs in 39:6; 54:6; 57:19, 20;  and twice in 66:9. The aorist translation “said” represents a “snapshot,” rather than the continuous nature of present tense. A “snapshot” is like a summary. In a sense, it expresses finality more than the present tense. For example, if a speaker “says” something in present tense, even though the statement may occur in the past, there seems to be an option that the speaker might change his mind. Present tense indicates ongoing speech. But if a speaker speaks (or spoke) in aorist tense, then that’s it. That statement sums up the long and short of it. In other words, it appears that God is not going to change his mind about this one. He speaks directly, clearly, and simply concerning the outcome for the ungodly.

An Important Conclusion

The Septuagint text presents in plain speech two different types of people within Israel. These are the ungodly (57:20), as distinguished from “the faint-hearted” and “the broken-hearted” (verse 57:15). This portion of Isaiah clearly teaches two distinct outcomes, mutually exclusive, for these two groups of people. One group will receive blessings of forgiveness, peace, comfort, and the Holy Spirit. The text indicates that God will not bless the other group.

The Apostle Paul writes a single, isolated, cryptic comment in Romans 11:26, “all Israel will be saved.” This statement protrudes like an hermeneutic thorn that creates in its wake immeasurable havoc among Christian denominations. But I think it fair to say that Paul does not draw his stated conclusion from this portion of Isaiah. Up to this point in the entire book, God does not make “blanket” promises that apply to “national” Israel as a whole.

Here in chapters 56-57, God through the prophet clearly presents two types of Israelite. He will save the one, but not the other. God applies his promise of blessing to the broken-hearted of his people, those who are amenable to his Servant. The other group he labels with the harshest of terms and appears to cast out of his kingdom. Please, I am not arguing with Paul, I am merely stating that in this portion of Isaiah, there is no statement to the effect that “all [national] Israel will be saved.”

Consistently in Isaiah, “Israel” appears as a heterogenous group. God in Septuagint Isaiah does not give promises of salvation as a blanket statement to the nation of Israel as a whole. Rather, he gives his promises to his people. Sometimes he calls these people “Israel,” or “Zion.” But chapters 56-57 indicate in plain speech that God does not welcome into his assembly everyone found to be of Israelite descent.  And, in Septuagint Isaiah 56:3-8, God welcomes among his people the eunuch, the foreigner, and worshipers from “all nations” (all those whom “national Israel” formerly excluded). The “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) is not an ethnically or socially identifiable group identical with national Israel. Rather, the “Israel of God” are those who submit to God’s salvation through the sacrifice of his Servant. Some of these are ethnic Israelites, and many are not.

Strangers and Eunuchs: Journal 2.72

By Christina M Wilson

continued from Devotional 2.71

Strangers and Eunuchs 

3 Let not the stranger who attaches himself to the Lord, say, Surely the Lord will separate me from his people: and let not the eunuch say, I am a dry tree. (LXE)

In Septuagint Isaiah 56:3-8, the Lord welcomes strangers and eunuchs into his place of worship.

Points of Interest

I. “Stranger” is a different word than “Gentile”

God through Isaiah has already spoken a great deal about Gentiles being the ones who would increase his people (LXX Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; 54:1-3; and 55:4-5.) The Greek word used in all these texts is “ETH-nos, ἔθνος,” meaning “a people” “nation” or “race.” It is sometimes translated as “nations” and more often in the Septuagint, as Gentiles. The Greek word Septuagint 56:3 uses is “allo-gen-NEES, ἀλλογενὴς.” It means “other-born,” that is, a foreigner, a stranger.

II. Eunuchs

Eunuchs are males who cannot procreate. Often, their bodies have been altered so that physical procreation becomes impossible (Matthew 19:12).

III. Old Testament Law Concerning Eunuchs and Strangers

Old Testament law states that eunuchs “shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1 LXE). Thus, they were excluded from Israel’s worship of Jehovah. The law also required that strangers (foreigners) receive circumcision before they could enter into fellowship with those of God’s people who were native born (Exodus 12:48). The issue of whether or not Gentile converts to Christianity needed to receive circumcision loomed large in the New Testament (Acts 11:1-3; 1-18; Acts 15:1-31; Galatians 2:2-14f; 5:1-12; 6:12-15).

God’s Will for Eunuchs and Strangers

Isaiah clearly states God’s intention for eunuchs and strangers. He welcomes them!

To the eunuchs, God says:

56:4 Thus says the Lord to the eunuchs, as many as shall keep my sabbaths, and choose the things which I take pleasure in, and take hold of my covenant; 5 I will give to them in my house and within my walls an honorable place, better than sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, and it shall not fail. (LXE)

And, for the foreigners, God declares:

56:6-7 And I will give it to the strangers that attach themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be to him servants and handmaids; and as for all that keep my sabbaths from profaning them, and that take hold of my covenant; 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain, and gladden them in my house of prayer: their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,

Eunuchs and strangers will be fully included on God’s holy mountain, in his temple, and at his altar. He will give them an everlasting name.

God’s Requirements for Eunuchs and Strangers

God’s specifies the same requirements for eunuchs and strangers as for his own children in verses 1 and 2. They must keep his Sabbath and do what pleases him (verses 1-2, 4). He will reward the stranger who clings (attaches) to the Lord, serves him, and loves him. And, God specifically includes women–“daughters,” “servants and handmaids” (Septuagint 56:5, 6).

God sees no difference between his own “ethnic” children who believe in him and the children who are strangers and eunuchs. Each shall have an equal place of equality with the other.

Verse 8

Both this section and the longer context concerning everything about the Lord’s Servant end with verse 8. Verse 8 sums up the Lord’s intention in the new order his Servant’s death and sacrifice usher in.

56:7 … 8 says the Lord that gathers the dispersed of Israel; for I will gather to him a congregation. (LXE)

A NET Bible translator’s note concludes that “the meaning of the statement is unclear” (1).

The ESV finds clarity.

The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8 ESV)

And most fortunately, the Lord Jesus understood perfectly the Servant’s mission.

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16 and context ESV)

WHO IS “HIM” IN SEPTUAGINT 56:8?

Within the context of the last several chapters, once again “him” refers to the Lord’s Servant. The Servant is the subject and focal point of God’s plan of redemption for the remnant of his people and for the whole world. The Septuagint explains in verse 8 that the Lord will gather a congregation to his Servant (see Septuagint Isaiah 53:12-53:3). The New Testament church completely fulfills the prophecy of Septuagint Isaiah 56:8 (LXE).

Are These Changes Easy?

The changes which the Lord announces throughout this portion of Isaiah (and specifically in 56:2-8) are not easy changes. One might say that they are “mind-boggling” groundswells on the order of all the ice in the Arctic completely melting or the entire Rock of Gibraltar dissolving into the Mediterranean Sea. Jesus, the Lord’s Servant, understood the upsetting nature of his ministry and God’s plan and purpose from his incarnation forward.

Matthew 9:16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17 ESV)

In the parable just above, the old wineskin is the Old Testament Kingdom of God–i.e., the congregation of Israel with its entire religious system. The new wine is God’s Kingdom in his Servant. The changes God enacts in moving his people from the old to the new are enormous. They are so foundational that God gives the Kingdom of his Servant a “new name” (2).

Isaiah 62:2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and kings thy glory: and one shall call thee by a new name, which the Lord shall name. (LXE)

Isaiah 65:15 For ye shall leave your name for a loathing to my chosen, and the Lord shall destroy you: but my servants shall be called by a new name, (LXE)

All the Way Back to Noah

God’s plan and purpose in gathering “to him a congregation” (LXX Isaiah 56:8) goes all the way back to Noah. God’s plan of redemption in his Servant for all humankind predates his calling of Abraham.

54:9 From the time of the water of Noe this is my purpose: as I sware to him at that time, saying of the earth, I will no more be angry with you, neither when you are threatened, 10 shall the mountains depart, nor shall your hills be removed: so neither shall my mercy fail you, nor shall the covenant of your peace be at all removed: for the Lord who is gracious to you has spoken it. (Septuagint Isaiah 54:9-10)

As God once destroyed air-breathing life by water, so he destroyed his Servant by crucifixion. Each of these events is enormous with enormous consequences.

God’s People Remain–He Sees to That

But God keeps his people. In the ark, there was one believer with seven of his relatives. After Abraham and Moses, God kept a believing remnant among the ethnic tribes of Israel. After the death, resurrection, and ascension of his Servant, God expands the number of his believing people greatly. He fills their ranks by drawing from all nations, tribes, and tongues. Yet, these are always one and the same people–those from all ages who believe and invest themselves entirely in the Lord.

Isaiah captures the Lord’s vision here in Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8.

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1 New English Translation, NET2 online version, available at Isaiah 56 | Lumina (netbible.org).

2 Readers, please forgive me for jumping ahead to material we have not yet reached.

Denouement: Journal 2.71

By Christina M Wilson

Denouement: Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8

If Septuagint Isaiah Volume 2 (that is, chapters 40 to the present chapter) were a drama, we would call Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8 the denouement, or resolution. The drama climaxes in chapter 53, the death and resurrection of the Lord’s Servant. Chapters 54 and 55 reveal the glorious outcome of the Servant’s work for God’s people in Israel (the “barren” of 54:1–named the “remnant” elsewhere in Isaiah). The glorious outcome for the “barren” woman includes the whole world.

In a relatively minor sense, these chapters also speak to Israel’s condition in exile. That exile will soon be ended. But collectively, the people who worship God and his Servant will live in a spiritual place called Sion. Jesus, God’s Servant, spoke of the spiritual nature of his kingdom many times (1). After Rome destroys Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E., the spiritual nature of the collective body of Christ (those whom God will “gather to him”–Septuagint Isaiah 56:8) becomes more apparent.

Most importantly, the main event, the climax, of Isaiah’s story is the revelation of God’s incarnated Servant (Septuagint Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Historically, the Servant appears in person centuries after the return from exile. The Servant’s work changes the course of human history, humankind’s relationship with God, and therefore, the structure of the entire universe. This is why the last of Isaiah’s four Servant Songs in Septuagint Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the climax of Isaiah’s story.

For Israel and for humankind, God accomplishes a huge change in biblical history through the life, death, and resurrection of his Servant. God now includes Gentiles–those from “every nation and tribe and language and people” (Revelation 14:6). Isaiah repeats this refrain so often that its meaning is unmistakable. The remnant of Israel is first, the elder son, and now God includes everyone else (2), even eunuchs. Septuagint Isaiah 56:3-8 explains this seismic shift in detail.

In the entire passage, verses 1-8, the Lord summarizes the new order. In the first two of these verses, the Lord describes his standard of behavior for his people. He names their reward. Then, in the following six verses, the Lord spells out how he includes the eunuch and the foreigner and how he blesses them equally with his elder son.

Details: Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8

Verses 56:1-8 fall neatly into two sections. The current passage follows a long segment of blessing that goes back to at least Isaiah 52:13. Verse 9, which follows the current passage, reverts back to another statement of God’s unending anger with those who reject his ways. The text supplies many such statements previously. Two of these occur in Isaiah 48:22 and 50:11. The condemnation which Septuagint Isaiah 56:9 begins continues through Septuagint Isaiah 57:13a.

Two Sections

The passage Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8 divides neatly into two sections. The first two verses summarize the Lord’s behavior requirements for the community (verse 1) and the individual (verse 2). The Lord states the reward he will give to those who loyally follow these. In the second section (verses 3 through 8) the Lord gives an open invitation to the foreigner and the eunuch to join the community of Israel. The second section forms the bulk of the passage.

Section One: Verses 1 and 2

BEHAVIOR FOR THE COMMUNITY

Septuagint verse 1 uses the plural forms of its verbs. The commands the Lord speaks would therefore apply to the entire community. The Lord commands, “Keep judgment; do righteousness” (NETS) (3). My informal translation of these commands is, “Maintain a clear knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Do what is right.”

BEHAVIOR FOR INDIVIDUALS

Using singular verbs, Septuagint verse 2 states that the individual should keep the sabbaths and not profane them. He should hold back from doing what is wrong. In my own paraphrase, verses 1 and 2 say, “As a community, know, declare, and guard what is right, as opposed to what is wrong. Do what is right. Don’t do what is wrong. Recognize the Lord’s day of rest, and let your employees rest as well.”

The Sabbath

Remember that Israel went into exile for a period of time equal to the number of Sabbaths they had not maintained (Exodus 20:8; Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-14; Daniel 9:2; Nehemiah 13:22). By the time Jesus the Lord’s Servant arrived, the religious leaders had made a mockery of God’s Sabbath by a cruel legalism that ignored God’s love and mercy (Matthew 12:1-2; Luke 13:14; John 5:1-10; 9:13-16). God wants his people to enter his rest, refrain from providing for themselves, and depend upon him for their sustenance during these times of inactivity. He doesn’t want them to forsake “judgment” and fail to do what is right.

Messiah/Servant/Christ is God’s Sabbath rest (Hebrews 3:12-4:11). Those who come to him cease from their legalistic labors to please God (the Mosaic law), and simply rest in the Lord’s sufficiency for them. Each person individually must enter the Lord’s rest, his Sabbath. Empowered and guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit, they must strive to do what is right in pleasing the Lord and to not do what is wrong in the eyes of God. They must seek to understand God’s standard of right and wrong. They must try to honor and obey the Lord’s standard, rather than their own. When individuals within the community do these things, the community as a whole will guard God’s way (his righteous, loving, just, fair, and merciful ways) and do good.

REWARDS

In Septuagint Isaiah 56:1, the Lord will reward the community of those who “keep judgment” and “do righteousness” with the blessing of his “salvation” and “mercy” about to come and to be revealed. In verse 2, the Lord pronounces blessing over two individuals. The first is a male man in Greek (ἀνὴρ–a-NEER), and the second is a generic human being (ἄνθρωπος–AN-thro-pos). The NETS Bible (3), translates the first as “the man,” and the second as “the person” (4). The Lord blesses these individuals in verse 2. These are the individuals who do what God commands in verse 1, who hold God’s precepts fast against all difficulties (See Psalm 119), who keep God’s Sabbath, and who restrain themselves from doing unrighteousness.

Section Two: Verses 3 through 8

… to be continued

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1 See John 3:1-8; 4:5-26, 21-24. See also “Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New” in this blog’s Gems of John series, available in the menu above. Or, see “Outline of the Gospel of John: JustOneSmallVoice.com” for the Gems of John table of contents.

2 The writer of the letter to the Hebrews corrects the perception of the position of Israel which I state in this paragraph (Hebrews 1:6). Israel is not the “eldest” son, the first-born. The Servant is. Everything in God’s plan revolves around the Son, not Israel. (See also Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18; and Revelation 1:5). Of all the Servant’s brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom (Hebrews 2:11), the sons of the remnant of Israel came first in point of time, but not in position. This is the glorious message of the New Testament.

3 A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), Esaias, translated by Moisés Silva, available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/33-esaias-nets.pdf.

4 This attention to detail in the Greek text recalls to the reader’s mind Septuagint Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of evil men.” The first words of Psalm 1:1 and the first words of verse 2 in Isaiah 56 are identical in Greek (and in Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint). The text states in Greek, “μακάριος ἀνήρ–ma-KA-ree-os a-NEER”. In Psalm 1, the text refers to Messiah (see Psalm 1:Introduction to the Psalter for more on how the Greek phrase, “Blessed is the man” points to Christ). These words here in Isaiah can also refer specifically to God’s Servant. He is the one who accomplishes the salvation and mercy to which verse 1 refers. The NET notes on the Hebrew of Isaiah 56:2 are also interesting. For the second use of “man” (translated as “the person” in the Greek Septuagint of Silva), the NET notes state, “4 )tn Heb “the son of mankind who takes hold of it.” Readers will immediately recognize the formula which Jesus, God’s Servant, applies to himself so often, especially in the gospel of Luke. For just one example, see Luke 6:5,  “And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.'”

The Blessings of Married Life: Journal 2.70

By Christina M Wilson

Three Chapters in a Nutshell

If I were asked to write a headline summary of Septuagint Isaiah 53-55, I would write the following:

I. The Servant Expresses His Love–LXX Isaiah 53
II. Reconciliation–LXX Isaiah 54
III. Invitation to the Bride and Promises of Prosperity–LXX Isaiah 55

The Lord Calls His Bride

In Isaiah 55 the Lord calls his people. The Servant has accomplished salvation (chapter 53). God has expressed his vows of love and forgiveness for his wayward children (chapter 54). Now, in chapter 55, the Lord invites those who will to come and live with him.

  • The Lord sends out his invitation to everyone who is needy (verses 1-3).
  • He presents the foundation of the invitation (verses 4-5).
  • He calls again (verses 6-7).
  • The Lord provides his character references (verses 8-11a).
  • Finally, the Lord describes the blessings of prosperity for those who respond to his love (verses 11b-13).

The Invitation

1 You that thirst, go to the water, and all that have no money, go and buy; and eat and drink wine and fat without money or price. 2 Therefore do you value at the price of money, and give your labor for that which will not satisfy? listen to me, and you shall eat that which is good, and your soul shall feast itself on good things. 3 Give heed with your ears, and follow my ways: listen to me, and your soul shall live in prosperity; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the sure mercies of David. (LXE 55)

The Lord Christ, God’s incarnated Servant, offers similar invitations to those who will.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ESV)

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (ESV)

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)

VERSE THREE

Verse three of Isaiah 55 refers to “an everlasting covenant, the sure mercies of David” (LXE 55). Both God’s Servant in Isaiah and Christ descended from King David. God had made an “everlasting covenant” with David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Paul declares in Acts 13:34 that God fulfills this everlasting covenant with Christ, the descendant of David.

Acts 13:34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ (ESV)

How do we know that Isaiah has the Servant in mind? Verse 4, immediately following the mention of God’s covenant with David, says “Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles.” The “him,” when used this way in the last several chapters of Isaiah, refers to God’s Servant. (See Journal 2.60.)

Foundation of the Invitation

The Lord extends his invitation to the whole world.

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. (LXE Isaiah 55)

As previously mentioned, in the context of the last dozen or so chapters, the “him” that God has made “a testimony among the Gentiles” is, of course, his Servant. See, for example, Septuagint Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 49:1, 6, 8, 22; 51:4-5; and 54:1-3.

VERSE 5

Interestingly, God’s speech in verse 5 (LXE 55) could be directed to God’s Servant or to his people. In the first scenario, verse 4 refers to the Servant. Then, in verse 5, God could simply turn towards the Servant and speak directly to him. In the second scenario, verse 5 can refer to those whom God calls in verses 1-3. Those who respond to his invitation in those verses are his people. God then announces inclusion of Gentiles in verse 4. In verse 5, God can be addressing all those who respond to his invitation. These are all of God’s people, that is, the formerly barren woman (54:1). This is the group whom he addresses for the bulk of the chapter. Both interpretations are possible.

SIGNIFICANCE OF VERSE 5

In Scripture, when God joins a man and woman in marriage, they become one (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). When Christ the Servant “marries” his people, he and his people become one. This is what Paul teaches so explicitly in Ephesians 5:23, 30-31 and 1 Corinthians 12:27. So, here, in this verse in Isaiah (LXE 55), the wording of the text makes the interpretation possible that the Servant and his people are one. God glorifies both the risen Servant (Isaiah 52:13 [“glorified exceedingly”–Septuagint]) and his fulness, the people who respond to his call (Isaiah 55:5). The glory of the followers of the Servant resides in the Servant’s glory. Without the work of the Servant, there would be no glory for Israel.

The Lord Repeats the Call

6 Seek you the Lord, and when you find him, call upon him; and when he shall draw near to you, 7 let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord, and he shall find mercy; for he shall abundantly pardon your sins. (LXE 55)

God first calls the thirsty and the impoverished–those who have no money (verses 1-2). In his initial call, God promises prosperity, an everlasting covenant, and the sure mercies of David (verse 3). He includes Gentiles in verses 4-5. Then, in verses 6-7, the Lord repeats his call. Readers can assume from the prior verses (4 and 5) that this second invitation goes forth to everyone.

In verse 6, the Lord promises to respond with fellowship to those who seek him. In verse 7, the text clearly states that God calls the “ungodly” and the “transgressor.” God’s Servant in the New Testament repeats these calls.

Revelation 3:20 Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. (NET)

Matthew 9:13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (ESV)

Both the call of the Lord in Isaiah (see verses 6-7 above) and the call of God’s Servant/Messiah in the New Testament require a turning away from previous ungodly ways.

Isaiah 55:7 let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: (Septuagint)

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV)

John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (ESV)

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (ESV)

The Lord Gives His Character References

In verses 8-11, the Lord describes his powers. When they consider his power, those who hear the Lord’s call will know that he is able to perform all that he promises. There is none other like the Lord.

8 For my counsels are not as your counsels, nor are my ways as your ways, says the Lord. 9 But as the heaven is distant from the earth, so is my way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from my mind. 10 For as rain shall come down, or snow, from heaven, and shall not return until it has saturated the earth, and it bring forth, and bud, and give seed to the sower, and bread for food: 11 so shall my word be, whatever shall proceed out of my mouth, it shall by no means turn back, until all the things which I willed shall have been accomplished; and I will make your ways prosperous, and will effect my commands. (LXE Isaiah 55

Promises of Joy and Prosperity

Isaiah closes the chapter with the Lord’s promise of joy and prosperity for those who respond to his call (1).

11 … and I will make your ways prosperous, and will effect my commands. 12 For you shall go forth with joy, and shall be taught with gladness: for the mountains and the hills shall exult to welcome you with joy, and all the trees of the field shall applaud with their branches. 13 And instead of the bramble shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle: and the Lord shall be for a name, and for an everlasting sign, and shall not fail. (LXE Isaiah 55

Notice the similarity between the imagery of nature in these verses and the figure of speech God employs when he calls his faithful responders the “barren” and the “desolate” in 54:1. Those who repent in Israel and return to God throughout Isaiah are a small number, a mere remnant. In this sense, they are like a desolate desert. Plants such as the bramble and nettle grow in deserted places.

The metaphor of fruitfulness the Lord chooses in these verses is truly beautiful. Paul seems to recall these verses when he speaks of the new creation in Romans 8.

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (ESV)

As we wait for the final, eternal revelation of Christ in his church, in Spirit now those who receive God’s Servant in their hearts experience a rejuvenation similar to  brambles being replaced by the cypress and nettles being replaced by the gentle, peaceful myrtle. Surely, those whose hearts have been softened to repent and know the Lord do go out with joy and are taught with gladness. Praise and bless You, Lord.

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1 The Lord throughout this chapter never addresses the nation of “Israel” as a whole. In Isaiah 54:1, the Lord speaks to the “barren,” commanding her to “Rejoice!” Previous chapters reveal that the “barren” are those of Israel who display the faith in God of Abraham and Sarah. To this group, God joins Gentiles who believe. Various speech tags indicate that the Lord continues to speak to the barren woman throughout chapter 54 and for the entirety of chapter 55. These speech tags include the following: 1) “you barren”–54:1, 2) “thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles”–54:3, 3) “There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and you shall be righteous before me”–54:17, 4) “You that thirst…and all that have no money”–55:1, 5) “Give heed…and follow my ways: listen to me and your soul shall live in prosperity” [i.e., those who are willing to obey]–54:3, 6) “Nations which know you not, shall call upon you” [Gentiles]–54:5, 7) “Seek you the Lord” [i.e., those who desire the Lord; the nation as a whole rejects God in Isaiah (see, for example, Isaiah 48:18-19 Septuagint)]–55:6, 8) “Let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord…” [i.e., those who repent, which the bulk of national Israel does not do]–55:7.

For those who may have difficulty accepting that the Lord’s promise of prosperity is not a blanket, unconditional promise to national Israel, please let me offer this thought. In the Christian church, extremely few, if any, pastors teach that all humanity will be saved. No, God’s promise in Christ is for “whosoever” (anyone and everyone) who is willing to receive Christ by faith. Why would the Lord treat a particular nation or race of people differently than he treats all humanity? In other words, why would the precepts that distinguish God’s relationship with the people of a nation (Israel) be different than his precepts for the people of his world-wide church? God, let us remember, shows no “partiality” (Ephesians 6:9 NET). Our prayers should always be that people of Jewish ethnicity (and people the world over of all ethnicities) would come to know the Lord.

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