By Christina M Wilson
Overview: Isaiah 65
- God presents himself to Gentiles (Isaiah 65:1).
- God condemns rebellious Israel (Isaiah 65:2-7, 11-12).
- God rewards the repentant remnant (Isaiah 65:8-10).
- Verses 13-16 rapidly alternate between the two groups (Isaiah 65:13-16).
- Verses 17-25 describe a “new heaven and a new earth” (Septuagint Isaiah 65:17-25).
God Rewards His Remnant
In Isaiah 65:8, the Lord speaks a metaphor that visually expresses the relationship between mercy and judgment, justice and love. Like a lone, juicy grape in a cluster of desiccated skins, verses 8-11 shine brightly in the middle of text that shouts out the finality of God’s wrath under the Old Covenant. The wrath of God is the end product of the Mosaic covenant of works. The mercy the Lord extends to the lone “grape-stone” represents the eternal promise of God to Abraham. God brings this promise to reality in the New Covenant of grace. He ratifies the Covenant of grace with the blood of his Servant Christ (Isaiah 59:21; Luke 22:20).
Septuagint Isaiah 65:8 Thus says the Lord, As a grape-stone shall be found in the cluster, and they shall say, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for the sake of him that serves me, for his sake I will not destroy them all.
Recipients of the Reward
Following verse 8, verse 9 speaks of the “seed” of Jacob and Juda, the same “seed” of the promise God gave to Abraham. In both the Genesis and Isaiah texts, the Septuagint uses the same Greek form of the word for seed, or offspring.
9 And I will lead forth the seed [σπέρμα, sperma, neuter, singular] that came of Jacob and of Juda, and they shall inherit my holy mountain: and my elect and my servants shall inherit it, and shall dwell there. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:9)
See also Isaiah 65:9 ESV; Galatians 3:16 ESV; Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7.
Verse 9 tells the reader that the promised seed of Jacob and Juda will inherit God’s holy mountain. As the verse continues, the text includes God’s “elect” and his servants among those who will inherit. Also, readers should remember that in the background of all of chapter 65, stands the introductory first verse.
I became manifest to them that asked not for me; I was found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold, I am here, to a nation, who called not on my name. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:1)
Paul agrees with Isaiah when he includes Gentiles in the promises God makes to Abraham’s seed. This seed are they who have the like-minded faith of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9, 14; Romans 10:8-13). In God’s blessings to both the remnant of Israel and to Gentiles who choose him, readers discover that God himself underlies all his promises. He bestows his new covenant of grace upon those who desire him through faith. His rewards are not based upon human behavior.
God’s Motive for the Reward
8 Thus says the Lord, As a grape-stone shall be found in the cluster, and they shall say, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for the sake of him that serves me, for his sake I will not destroy them all. (Septuagint Isaiah 65:8 Brenton)
Septuagint Isaiah 65:8 above states the reason why God does not destroy the whole nation. Here is one location in which the Septuagint provides a nugget of silver, with regard to God’s Servant. God states his motive for sparing the remnant in singular tense. When a reader takes this sentence completely out of context and isolates it, it appears like this: “So I will do for the sake of him that serves me, for his sake I will not destroy them all.” Out of context, the sentence reads as though God holds a particular individual in his mind, “… for the sake of the one who serves me, for him I will not destroy… ” Returning God’s statement to the context of Isaiah, there is one person who serves the Lord completely. He is God’s Servant, Messiah. For His sake, God will spare a remnant. Why? These will be the Servant’s people. They will be the ones who believe and receive him (John 1:9-13).
The Masoretic (Hebrew) text, on the other hand, also uses the singular word “servant.” However, translators interpret the singular tense noun as a common noun representing a group of people. Therefore, the meaning becomes that God will spare the servants (plural) for the sake of the servants (Isaiah 65:8 ESV). Readers, of course, are free to choose the translation they prefer (1).
Nature of the Reward
9 And I will lead forth the seed that came of Jacob and of Juda, and they shall inherit my holy mountain: and my elect and my servants shall inherit it, and shall dwell there. (LXE, NETS, Isaiah 65:9 LXX)
Verse 9 tells the reader that the seed of Jacob and Juda will inherit God’s holy mountain (2). For those who associate this verse with New Testament fulfillment, the gospel writers took great care to demonstrate that the Christ, who was Jesus of Nazareth, descended in the flesh from Jacob and Judah. This places him among God’s rightful heirs, the “firstborn of many brothers [and sisters, NET]” (Romans 8:29).
Septuagint Isaiah 65:9-10 relates that the seed shall inherit God’s holy mountain, the place where God himself chooses to dwell (See Joel 3:17 and Zechariah 8:3. See also Isaiah 11:9; 27:13; 56:7; 57:13). This will be a place of bounty–a forest filled with flocks, and the valley of Achor (in the east, a former site of trouble) will be a resting place for herds. And, once again, verse 10 states that these blessings shall be for “my people, who have sought me.”
1 The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) provides an alternate English translation of the Greek text. For the sentences in question, the NETS text reads, “… so I will do for the sake of the one who is subject to me. For the sake of this one I will not destroy them all.” Notice how the English translation changes the active singular participle “the one serving me (τοῦ δουλεύοντός μοι)” of the Greek text into a passive adjective (“the one who is subject to me”). This changes the particular noun of the Greek text into a representative descriptive noun. It’s also not the way the Greek text is written. This is an example of how presuppositional biases affect the words translators choose to use. For the original text in Greek, see Isaiah 65:8 LXX.
2 Here again, the reader of the Greek Septuagint text must decide for herself if the “seed” (neuter singular) means the Seed (Galatians 3:16) or “seeds” plural. If plural, then the next phrase uses synonyms to clarify “my seed.” “my seed… [who are] my elect and my servants shall inherit.” If the singular “seed” means the singular Seed, then there would be added information in this sentence. “my Seed… [and] my elect and my servants shall inherit.” Notice that the “and” in each of the three instances is a hard “and” (καὶ).
Isaiah 65:9 καὶ ἐξάξω τὸ ἐξ Ιακωβ σπέρμα [singular] καὶ τὸ ἐξ Ιουδα καὶ κληρονομήσει [third person singular] τὸ ὄρος τὸ ἅγιόν μου καὶ κληρονομήσουσιν [third person plural] οἱ ἐκλεκτοί μου [plural] καὶ οἱ δοῦλοί [plural] μου καὶ κατοικήσουσιν [plural] ἐκεῖ (Isaiah 65:9 LXX).
For those who may be interested, the NETS Bible translates “shall inherit (singular)” as “it will inherit (singular)”. By choosing a neuter tense that matches the neuter tense of the word “seed,” they evade the necessity of committing to either singular or plural. So, once again, the reader can see how one’s theological preferences and biblical presuppositions influence one’s interpretation of text which can be read with more than correct grammatical meaning.
… next time, LW, punishments and rewards contrasted