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.
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.
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.
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.