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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.

Happy Easter!

IS CHRIST’S RESURRECTION HISTORICAL?

By Christina M Wilson

Sometimes Christians will hear a so-called “scholar” or nay-sayer proclaim that the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is not “historical.” Yes, it is historical, and here’s why.

In 2004 I had the blessed experience to accompany the mother of a close friend back to her home on a commune near Haifa. Towards the end of my trip, I had a few days on my own. I visited Jerusalem.

When it was time to leave, I wandered around the streets just outside the old city walls looking for a bus stop. I happened upon a quiet sign that read, “Garden Tomb.” A short while later, I sat alone in a dug out portion of rock in the face of a small cliff.

I sat for some time waiting for a “spiritual message” as I read various Scriptures posted on the wall. One said, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” –Matthew 28:6. All else lay quiet, including my heart.

Eventually, the message broke through to me, “He is not here.” Indeed, except for myself, the tomb remained quite empty. So, I also left. What is the point?

What this “doubting Thomas” learned is that Jesus is not in his tomb. I saw it with my own eyes. And this whole experience has remained with me over the years. It is part of my “history” with the Lord—a personal interaction he and I experienced together. There are many, many more.

This Easter, ask your friends who claim to know the Lord what their history is with him. Everyone who claims to know the Lord has such a history. It’s called their testimony. Maybe someone might want to share theirs below.

The first photo below is what the tomb looks like, a la Wikipedia. I lost the photo taken of me by some passersby. (But I was still wearing a long black jacket and carrying a black backpack purse–just like today!

The second photo is one I took inside the city walls. It reminds me that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

Isaiah 52:1-12 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.41

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-52-1-12-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-41/.

… Continued from Isaiah 52:1-12 LXX: Isaiah Devotional 2.40 – justonesmallvoice.com

Recap: Evidence of the Incarnation in Verse Six

  1. “In that day” 
  2. Use of the Particular Phrase “I AM (ego eimi) he” 
  3. The Statement “Therefore, my people shall  know my name.” 
  4. The Statement, “I am present” 
  5. The Context Following Verse 6

Verse 10, Gentiles, and the Servant’s Incarnation

Septuagint Isaiah 52:10 further supports the theme of the Servant’s incarnation introduced in verse 6.

10 And the Lord shall reveal his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God. (LXE)

Brenton’s translation above writes “all the nations” for the Greek phrase πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν (pantone-tone-ethnone) in Isaiah 52:10 LXX. Often, however, the word for “nations” is translated “Gentiles.” The translation in today’s Orthodox Study Bible (1) is “The Lord will reveal His holy arm before all the Gentiles, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.”  The phrase “all the nations” means those nations who are not Israel. (See Isaiah 41:2; 42:4, 6; 49:6; 51:5; and 52:5, also in Brenton.) The phrase “all the ends of the earth” also signifies Gentiles, since Israel never extended that far.

SIGNIFICANCE

What does inclusion of Gentile nations at this point signify? The text explicitly states that “all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God.” Will all these Gentile people simply “see” God saving those belonging to Jerusalem and Sion? Or, will they also experience that salvation first hand? The answer is both, as Paul writes in Romans 10:14-15 ESV.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 ESV) 

The Servant (Christ) gave his final commandment before ascending into heaven.

Matthew 28:19 ESV Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

The Greek word translated “nations” in verse 19 above is identical (excluding grammatical form) to the word Isaiah uses. Biblically and historically, the only time-frame in which God offers the identical salvation to Gentiles en masse that he offers to his people Sion occurs after the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God’s chosen Servant.

Finally, in other widely accepted messianic passages in Isaiah, the prophet mentions salvation for Gentiles.

And he said to me, It is a great thing for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)

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. (Isaiah 51:5)

See also Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; and 42:1, 4, and 6.

Verses 11 and 12: Change of Topic

In a brusque manner without transition, verses 11 and 12 leave the specific topic of the incarnation. The words appear to be spoken by Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah 52:11 LXX forms a call, a command to separate and depart from what is unclean, or unholy. Verse 12 describes the manner of departure.

Verse 11

The text of verse 11 follows just below.

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. (Septuagint Isaiah 52:11 LXE

LINGUISTIC POINTS OF INTEREST

  1. The phrase “depart… depart” in Greek translates the same root as that of the New Testament’s word “apostate.” So here in Isaiah, God is commanding his people to apostatize from the pagan religion of the peoples surrounding them in Babylonia.
  2. The text does not specify the location from which God orders his people to leave. “Go out from the midst of her.” According to the local circumstance of the people who first heard Isaiah, the “her” could apply to Babylonia, the nation of their exile. But in the larger context of the advent of God’s Servant, “her” would have no concrete-physical application. The Lord Christ never gave order for anyone to physically leave Jerusalem or anywhere else.
  3. The Greek text uses the phrase “separate yourselves,” while the Hebrew text (ESV) specifies “purify.” Many a sermon and Bible study lesson has been taught concerning the relationship between separation and purity.
  4. God through Isaiah commands “You who bear the vessels of the Lord” to depart from the midst of her. This phrase would indicate that the command specifically concerns Levites and priests (1 Kings 8:4). However, as the book of Ezra records, King Cyrus of Persia invited families of several tribes, not just the tribe of Levi, to leave Babylon (Ezra 1:3-5). While this perhaps may be a minor point, the New Testament does describe all believers as priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).
  5. The Greek New Testament uses various grammatical forms of the word “ἐκκλησία” (ek-lee-see-a), meaning “church”, more than 100 times. This word literally means “called out” or “called forth” (Thayer). So already in Septuagint Isaiah we see that God is calling out his church.

VERSE 11 IN NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXT

How does the call to depart, separate, and go out relate to New Testament teaching? The following New Testament verses draw excellent analogies with Isaiah 52:11. Verse 17 of the first example quotes Isaiah directly.

17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ESV)

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, (Colossians 1:13 ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1Peter 2:9 ESV)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. (1John 3:14 ESV)

Someone might say that an application such as the above “spiritualizes” the text of Isaiah. But if that is so, then it is God through his Word who spiritualizes.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:24 ESV)

Verse 12

The text of verse 12 follows just below.

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

Verse 12 describes the manner in which the people shall go “out from the midst of her” (verse 11). It shall be an orderly, calm, and measured exit. The Lord (Yahweh in Hebrew and κύριος-kurios-in Greek) shall lead. The “God of Israel” will bring up the rear. The actual Greek text reads, “Lord the God of Israel.” “Lord” is mentioned twice in verse 12.

POINTS OF INTEREST

1. Septuagint verse 12 clearly establishes that the Lord (Yahweh in Hebrew and κύριος-kurios-in Greek) is identical to the God of Israel. Verse 12 writes “God” as θεὸς (theos) in Greek. As many students of the New Testament know, Jesus Christ was well known by the title “Lord,” which is κύριος-kurios.

2. The image this verse provides for the exodus is similar to the way hiking groups organize themselves for a trek. The hike leader walks in front, choosing the way. The other team member, who is very nearly as important, is the person who follows behind. Hikers call this person the “sweep.” The image is of a broom sweeping up everyone and keeping the group together. Without a sweep, stragglers or the slightly rebellious (those who are prone to wander) might get separated from the group and lost, injured, or even attacked by a wild animal, such as a mountain lion. The sweep also animates the dawdlers to keep up, so that the entire group makes good progress. Isaiah presents the image of God in front and God in the rear. Truly, the group is well-protected with God all around.

3. The New English Translation Septuagint writes “the Lord God of Israel is the one who gathers you together” in verse 12. Brenton appears to base his translation (“he that brings up your rear”) upon the Masoretic text (see Isaiah 52:12 ESV), although he does include a footnote explaining that the Greek word means “gathers you.” The Greek word itself is “ἐπισυνάγων” (epi-syn-ά-goan). Some may recognize the word “synagogue” within it. The meaning of the verb is “to gather together besides, to bring together to others already assembled” or “to gather together in one place” (both definitions from Thayer). The Greek New Testament uses forms of this word some 56 times to mean “synagogue.”

4. The description of the orderly, calm, and protected manner in which God calls out of his people in Septuagint Isaiah 52:12 contrasts sharply with the exodus from Jerusalem which Jesus describes in Matthew 24:15-22 ESV. It would seem that he (Messiah) knew that concrete-physical Jerusalem would not always remain the capital city of his chosen people. Confer Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 ESV.

A New Section

The final two verses of chapter 52 comprise a new section. Many Bibles mark out a new paragraph here. Verse 6 introduced the topic of the Servant’s incarnation and his work on earth. Verses 11 and 12 describe the outcome: formation of the Lord’s church. Then in verse 13 God speaks again. He directly names “My Servant,” and speaks of his glory and exaltation. We will consider these verses more fully in the next post, Lord willing.

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1 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

Isaiah 51:9-16 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.37

By Christina M Wilson. Published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-51-9-16-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-37/.

–continued from Septuagint Isaiah Devotional 2.36

Section 3: Gleanings for Today

Recap

The previous post established that in the Septuagint, the prophet Isaiah himself (or possibly God) addresses the Israelite people collectively as “Jerusalem.” The words exhort them to “Wake up! Wake up!” You used to have great faith back in the early days, says the prophet. Remember when by faith in God you accompanied Moses? By faith he dried up the Red Sea (Hebrews 11:29 ESV), even that deep, deep water. And by your faith in God you crossed over dry and unharmed.

Continuing Forward

After rousing Jerusalem from their lethargic slumber, Isaiah prophesies. Listen, he says, here is what I predict will happen.

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. Septuagint Isaiah 51:11 

CHRISTIAN APPLICATION: A PERSONAL NOTE

At the Bible believing church where I worshipped for many years, we often sang this verse after communion, towards the end of the service. The song featured a rousing, upbeat rhythm and melody. In a decidedly Christian setting, we believers applied these words to our current standing in Christ. In Jesus Christ we had returned to Zion–his kingdom. We sang, and our praises acknowledged the everlasting joy Christ promised all believers in God through himself (Luke 2:10; John 16:20-22; 17:13).

A LOCAL APPLICATION

Of course, clearly, the words of Septuagint Isaiah 51:11 forward could rightly be applied to the literal-concrete return of a group of exiles from Babylon to Zion in the 6th century BC. Very possibly, many or even most of Isaiah’s listeners understood his prophesy to mean just such a return. They would have been entirely correct in their local interpretation.

However, to limit Isaiah’s words to this local and passing application would be to ignore the entirety of his message. In passages before this point and in even more pointed passages that follow (for example, Septuagint Isaiah 53 forward), God indicates a much broader context. We today have thousands of years of history behind us. We need not be bound by the limited vantage of a listener in Isaiah’s own day. God, after all, is eternal. Through Isaiah, he speaks from his own eternal point of view. He words have more than a local-only fulfillment.

God Speaks Again

In Septuagint Isaiah 51:12-16 God himself speaks again.

12 I, even I, am he that comforts you: consider who you are, that you were afraid of mortal man, and of the son of man, who are withered as grass. (LXE)

COMFORT

The Greek words that open verse 12 translate literally as, “I am, I am” (ἐγώ εἰμι ἐγώ εἰμι). This is the formula that Jesus Christ used to declare his divinity in Mark 14:62, John 4:26, and elsewhere. The Christ is very much present in the context of everything Isaiah writes here. Recall that he prophesies the Servant’s ministry in Isaiah 51:4-6. These words in verse 12 also echo the opening verse of what we are calling Volume 2, “Comfort you, comfort you my people, says God” (Isaiah 40:1). They also repeat the comfort God gives in verse 3 of this chapter (LXE).

12 … consider who you are, that you were afraid of mortal man, and of the son of man, who are withered as grass. 13 And you have forgotten God who made you, who made the sky and founded the earth; and you were continually afraid because of the wrath of him that afflicted you: for  whereas he counselled to take you away, yet now where is the wrath of him that afflicted you? (LXE)

God knows and understands his people. He holds no illusions concerning them. In verses 12-13 he describes them as those who fear mortal people. They die quickly, as grass at the end of its season. God’s people should fear God, who created them. Not only did God create people, but he also created the sky and the earth. Yet his people forget him. They fear the mortal oppressor who afflicted them. But where is this oppressor now? asks God. You will not find him.

GOD WILL SAVE

God speaks directly in verses 12-13 and 15-16. But who speaks verse 14? The subject in Septuagint verse 14 changes grammatically from first person–I, God–to third person–he. It might be best to consider these verses as another interjection by Isaiah, as in Septuagint Isaiah 50:10. The content of reassurance continues, however, whoever we might think speaks the words.

14 For in your deliverance he shall not halt, nor wait; (LXE)

This would have been exciting news for listeners in Isaiah’s day. As some of the characters in Chronicles of Narnia might say, “Aslan is on the move!” God is on the move. His deliverance will not take long now. The return from exile in Babylonia supplies a preview of the return from the kingdom of sin and darkness under the leadership of God’s Servant (Mark 4:16-17).

15 for I am your God, that troubles the sea, and causes the waves thereof to roar: the Lord of hosts is my name. (LXE)

Israel’s security rests in God alone. God has not changed. He is the same God who works throughout all history. He displays his power by controlling the waters of the sea. He is the commander of heaven’s armies. The best news is that this Almighty Being declares himself to Israel as, “your God.” Remember, however, that God addresses a certain group within the people of Israel (Isaiah 51:1, 7 ESV) throughout this chapter. He addresses “you that follow after righteousness, and seek the Lord” (verse 1) and “you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law,” (verse 7). (See also Isaiah Devotional 2.35.) According to the text, God does not address the nation of Israel as a whole in this chapter. But for those who believe the Lord and seek him, this is good news indeed.

GOD CLAIMS HIS OWN

16 I will put my words into your mouth, and I will shelter you under the shadow of my hand, with which I fixed the sky, and founded the earth: and the Lord shall say to Sion, You are my people. (LXE

As occurs frequently in Isaiah, the author does not identify his pronouns. Whose mouth does “your mouth” refer to? And, whom specifically will God shelter under the shadow of his hand?

  1. I like to think that these words refer to his Servant, during the time of his Incarnation (regarding the “mouth” see John 14:10, 24 ESV; regarding the “shelter” see John 8:58-59 and 19:11).
  2. These words can also apply to the church (Matthew 10:19).
  3. Finally, especially as written in the Masoretic, these words can refer to Isaiah the prophet.

SION

Finally, however, in the final clause of verse 16, God addresses Sion, “You are my people.” As readers may recall from a prior paragraph, God in Chapter 51 addresses his believers, those who seek him. Sion, then, according to the grammatical construction of the Greek sentence, could be defined as “the people of God.” This presents to the beleaguered exiles the greatest assurance of all. They belong to God. God claims them as his very own. Because God has everywhere in this book defended his character and motives, these words provide great comfort.

Christian, our comfort and eternal security rests not on ourselves and our performance before an Almighty, holy God. Rather, our security rests upon the nature, character, and will of the one who claims us as his own. Let us cling to this knowledge during troubled times and not become proud in our hearts during the good times.

Isaiah 51:1-8 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.35

By Christina M Wilson. Taken from https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-51-1-8-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-35/.

Switchback and Bookends

Isaiah 51:1-8 LXX features another switchback. Bookends identify the addressees of this segment in verses 1 and 7.  Remember that in most of Chapter 50, God has been rebuking the unbelieving and rebellious among his people (See Devotional 2.34). Here in this section, God defines a new people and supplies comfort and promise to them.

BOOKEND ONE

Isaiah 51:1 LXX Listen to me, you that follow after righteousness, and seek the Lord… 

BOOKEND TWO

Isaiah 51:7 LXX Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 

Clearly, in this set of verses, the Lord addresses his faithful followers. The verses between these bookends provide exhortation, comfort, and promise to the non-rebellious.

Exhortation

1. LISTEN

Listen to me, says the Lord in verse one. This exhortation echoes Isaiah’s own exhortation in Isaiah 50:10, Who among you fears the Lord? Let him listen to the voice of His Servant (SAAS) (1). Indeed, it could be the Servant who speaks the words from 51:1 through at least verse 8. God and his Servant have one and the same message.

Isaiah 51:4 repeats the exhortation of verse 1, Listen to Me, listen, O My people and kings, give ear to Me… Obedience begins with listening. The biblical Greek often uses the same word (ἀκούω ah-ku-oh) for hearing, listening, and obeying. Isaiah 51:7 again repeats the command to “Listen.

2. LOOK

God tells those who pursue righteousness to “Look to the solid rock which you hewed, and the hole of the pit which you dug” (SAAS). Verse 2, which follows, clarifies that those who seek the Lord should look to Abraham their father and to Sarah their mother (2).

Comfort

God’s intends to comfort his people when he exhorts them to look to Abraham and Sarah as their first parents and founders of their faith. God reminds them that Abraham “was alone when I called him, and blessed him, and loved him, and multiplied him.” (3) In other words, God says in effect, “Look what I did with Abraham and Sarah, who were just two individual people. Look how I blessed and multiplied them. I can do the same with you.”

Readers may be reminded that very few people returned from exile in Babylon. They would have been very intimidated by the task before them. But, the larger context includes the Servant and his ministry. The Lord continues to bear this ministry in mind, as he has for the last several chapters. As history demonstrates, the original faithful after the Servant’s death and resurrection, before the sending of the Holy Spirit, were very few in number (Acts 1:15 ESV).

In Isaiah 51:3 the Lord states positively that he will comfort Zion. In fact, he repeats the promise using prophetic past tense, as though the restoration of the desert places to conditions in the “Garden of the Lord” had already occurred.

And now I will comfort you, O Sion: and I have comforted all her desert places… (LXE).

Promise

God’s comfort takes the form of promise.

3 … and I will make her desert places as a garden, and her western places as the garden of the Lord [like Eden]; they shall find in her gladness and exultation, thanksgiving and the voice of praise. (LXE)

Topography and geography testify that a concrete-literal fulfillment of this prophecy has yet to occur. On the other hand, the spiritual-literal fulfillment of these words occurred immediately on the day of Pentecost and continues among God’s people to this day (Acts 2:46-47).

God Defines a New People

Throughout the Book of Isaiah, God periodically includes Gentiles in his promises of blessing. Most recently, God indicates his blessing upon Gentiles in Isaiah 42:1, 4, and 6 and 49:1 and 6. We have seen how verses 1 and 7 of Chapter 51 serve as bookends that unify what lies between. In this section, God specifically addresses those who “pursue righteousness and seek the Lord” (verse 1). He also addresses “My people” in verse 7.

GOD’S PEOPLE ONE

Verses 1-3 speak of Israel, as birthed by Abraham and Sarah. God includes Sion (or Zion) as a people and as a location that includes desert places (verse 3).

GOD’S PEOPLE TWO

Verse 4 transitions. In verse 4, God addresses “O My people” and “kings.” This is curious, since Israel has but one king at a time (with one or two brief exceptions). The word “kings” indicates more nations than Israel. But verse 4 also names “Gentiles” as those who should listen and who will receive the light of the Lord.

4 Hear me, hear me, my people; and you kings, listen to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. (LXE)

VERSE 5 SEALS THE DEAL

Readers may perk up their ears in verse 4. But verse 5 spells out what perhaps they only suspect in verse 4. That is, God includes Gentiles in his promises to his people.

5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light (4), and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust.

Verse 5 contains no qualifications. Everything connects in verses 4 through 5 with a series of the strong conjunction “and.”

VERSES 6 THROUGH 8

From verse 6 through verse 8, the two are one. The text no longer distinguishes two groups–Israelite and Gentile. The two are included together in the phrase, “you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law” (verse 7).

Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not fail. 7 Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 8 For as a garment will be devoured by time, and as wool will be devoured by a moth, so shall they be consumed; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation for all generations. (LXE)

“YOU THAT KNOW JUDGMENT” and “IN WHOSE HEART IS MY LAW”

Verse 4 identifies that God’s “judgment shall be for a light of the nations [Gentiles].” Verse 4 also states that “a law shall proceed from me.” What is this law? See Isaiah 2:3, which includes Gentiles. Verse 7 specifies the location of God’s “law” as the hearts of those he calls his people.

7 Hear me, you that know judgment, the people in whose heart is my law: 

The Apostle Paul speaks in Romans 2:15 concerning Gentiles in whose heart the law is written. But here in this section of Isaiah, God specifically includes Gentiles among his chosen people, as those for whom his salvation is also intended.

Isaiah 51:5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light (4), and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. (LXE)

Gentiles will also have God’s law written on their hearts.

Obedience Not Ethnicity

The passage in Isaiah 51:1-8 narrows down to two people groups: those who follow God and those who do not. In these verses the emphasis falls on obedience, not ethnicity. God clearly elects to include the blessing of salvation to both the faithful of ethnic Israel and to the faithful among the Gentile nations. The two become one. This occurs within the context of God’s Servant.

What is of most importance to God? Faithfulness to his law of righteousness and honoring his justice. For those faithful people who honor God’s justice God promises, “My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness will not fail” (SAAS). God wants an obedient, loyal people who reflect his likeness. These are the ones he chooses to bless. Ethnicity is of no importance.

Opposition

Verse 7 indicates opposition to the group who guards God’s law in their heart.

… fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. (LXE)

The Lord’s followers will be subject to the same contempt the Servant experiences in the previous chapter.

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting: (LXE)

And for both the Servant and the Lord’s faithful, the answer to those who oppose them is the same.

As concerns the Servant…

Isaiah 50:9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all you shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. (LXE)

As concerns the Lord’s faithful followers…

Isaiah 51:7… fear not the reproach of men, and be not overcome by their contempt. 8 For as a garment will be devoured by time, and as wool will be devoured by a moth, so shall they be consumed; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation for all generations. (LXE)

Conclusion

As a Gentile believer in both God and his Servant, I can only humbly bow in grateful and thankful submission to the Savior of my soul.

Romans 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (ESV)

__________
1 St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint, 2008.

2 Of note, the Septuagint uses the active voice in verse 1, while the Masoretic uses the passive. That is, the Septuagint states that they should look to the rock which they hewed and to the pit (to hold water) which they dug. The Masoretic, on the other hand, asks them to look to the rock from which they were hewn (passive) and to the pit (quarry) from which they were dug. See Isaiah 51:1 ESV. The active point acknowledges the active role that faith plays in following God’s commands. That is, the people of Israel actively participated in acknowledging Abraham and Sarah as their first parents.

3 Septuagint in American English, 2012. NETS translates similarly.

4 The phrase “as light” is not present in all Greek texts.

Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.34

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-50-10-11-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-34/.

Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX: Introduction

The book of Isaiah simultaneously prophesies the best news in the world and the worst news in the world. The best news is the Advent of God’s Servant, Messiah, the second Person of the Trinity. As readers progress through Volume 2, the theme of God’s Servant grows larger and more dominant. Chapter 50 reaches a crisis point–a fork in the road. In Isaiah 50:10-11 LXX, Isaiah the man perceives the implications of what he reports. It is as though he runs onto the stage in verse 10 and proselytizes on his own.

A Brief Transition

Isaiah’s message has reached a critical juncture. God through Isaiah has been revealing the Advent of his Servant to his people Israel. The Servant himself has spoken several times (Isaiah 42:1-4; 48:16; 49:1-6; 50:4-9). Soon the people must decide: will they open their ears to understand and obey the voice of God’s Servant, or will they hurl their rebellious abuse at him (Isaiah 50:6)?

God recounts throughout the previous chapters how his people have been all too willing to worship idols which their very own hands had formed from non-living materials. Yet there are a few people, a remnant, who have not done so. These remain faithful to God, however imperfectly so. Addressing this group, verse 10 marks a brief transition from God’s previous speeches. The voice of Isaiah the prophet himself breaks through.

A Change of Speakers

Isaiah 50:10 LXX Who is among you that fears the Lord? let him listen to the voice of his servant: you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God. (Septuagint, Brenton, LXE, modernized)

Even though the name of the book is Isaiah, and even though God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, the voice of the prophet himself remains mostly silent in Volume 2, beginning with chapter 40. Readers mainly hear the voice of God. In Isaiah 50:10, however, the voice of the prophet briefly breaks through. The following paraphrase sums up the urgency of Isaiah’s outburst.

Paraphrase

Listen, O you people, my fellow Israelites! I know you’re out there–that small number of you who fear (worship, adore, reverence, and obey) the Lord. There’s something new going on here. Our dear and precious, familiar Yahweh is doing something new. He is about to send his Servant, whom he favors, to visit us. Yahweh’s Servant will accomplish Yahweh’s work. Listen to the voice of his Servant. It is imperative that you do.

I know you walk in darkness. We’ve been in exile a very long time. I know you have no light, but do this one thing. Trust in the name of the Lord and stay fixed upon God. We’re getting near the end here. Something new is about to happen. We are approaching the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up or go astray now. There will be great peril and destruction for those who ignore and rebel against Yahweh’s Servant. Don’t be one of them.

Verse 10 in Its Context

In the culture of today’s church vocabulary, verse 10 is an altar call wedged between two warnings of “hell.” The Servant himself warns of death and corruption in verse 9. Then God warns of great sorrow in verse 11. In between these two divine voices, Isaiah the prophet makes his plea to the people.

[The Servant:] 9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all you shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. 

[Isaiah the Prophet:] 10 Who is among you that fears the Lord? let him listen to the voice of his servant: you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God. 

[God:] 11 Behold, you all kindle a fire, and feed a flame: walk in the light of your fire, and in the flame which you have kindled. This has happened to you for my sake; you shall lie down in sorrow. (LXE)

Notice how the statements of both the Servant and God resemble warnings the incarnate Christ gives.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, (Matthew 6:19 ESV)

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47-48 ESV)

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42 ESV)

Darkness and Light

The themes of darkness and light dominate these verses. The prophet in verse 10 acknowledges that the then current season of Israel’s history in exile is dark. There is no light. He offers the people a choice, a way out. The way out is to listen to the voice of Yahweh’s Servant, to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay fixed and focused upon God, “… you that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon God.” (1)

Notice the timing. Isaiah speaks when the people are in exile, or even before then. The return from exile occurs many hundreds of years before the Servant arrives. Therefore, the context indicates events much larger than the merely local, historical return from exile.

God appears to foresee in verse 11 that his people will ignore his prophet’s warning. The alternative to the light that God will provide through his Servant is ordinary physical light–a fire, a torch, a flame. Go ahead, God says (paraphrase). Continue in the path you have chosen for yourselves. Kindle a physical fire, feed a physical flame, walk in the physical light of the fire you have provided for yourselves. Continue ignoring me and the voice of my Servant. Believe me, everything bad that befalls you is on account of me. Conditions will not improve for you. You shall lie down in sorrow.

WHERE ELSE IN ISAIAH DO DARKNESS AND LIGHT APPEAR?

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; who make darkness light, and light darkness; who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter. (LXE)

Isaiah 9:2 O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: you that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you. (LXE)

Isaiah 42:16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and I will cause them to tread paths which they have not known: I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight. These things will I do, and will not forsake them. 17 But they are turned back: be you utterly ashamed that trust in graven images, who say to the molten images, You are our gods. (LXE)

Isaiah 45:7 I am he that prepared light, and formed darkness; who make peace, and create evil; I am the Lord God, that does all these things. (LXE) [Why then, Israelites, do you insist on walking in the paltry light of the flame that you fashion for yourselves? Turn to me, who creates the light that accompanies life.]

NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLMENT OF ISAIAH’S PROPHESIED LIGHT

Both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John open with the Servant’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesied light.

76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79 ESV)

4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

Looking Forward

Chapter 50 ends with God speaking. In Chapter 51, God continues to speak. That will be the topic, Lord willing, of the next post.

Isaiah 50:4-9 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.33

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-50-4-11-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-33/.

Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Introduction

Most commentators accept Isaiah 50:4-9 (ESV) as Isaiah’s third servant speech (see Septuagint translation here). This should have people jumping up and down. Christians everywhere know Jesus Christ God’s Son to be God’s Servant (John 5:30; 4:34; 6:38; 7:18; Matthew 26:39). To hear the preincarnate Christ speaking in the Old Testament is amazing. Don’t you find it so? God gave us the inestimable gift in Scripture of hearing two of the three persons of God in close proximity, interacting with one another. God does not hide himself. He reveals himself in countless ways. Everyone and anyone who wants to know God and his Christ need only approach him and honestly ask.

Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Verses 4 and 5

Here are the words of God’s Servant in Isaiah’s third servant speech, Isaiah 50:4-5 Septuagint (LXE).

4 The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction, to know when it is fit to speak a word: he has appointed for me early, he has given me an ear to hear: 5 and the instruction of the Lord, even the Lord, opens my ears, and I do not disobey, nor dispute. [See Isaiah 50:4-5 LXX.]

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. (ESV)

Everyone familiar with the Gospels will recognize that Isaiah’s third servant speech aptly characterizes Jesus of Nazareth and his ministry. Some remember Jesus for his miracles, yet as much as he did do miracles, he also taught everyone, those who wanted to listen and those who did not.

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)

Matthew 5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (ESV) [See also Matthew 13:54; Mark 1:22; 10:1; Luke 4:15; 5:3; John 6:59; 8:2; 18:20.] 

Just as Isaiah prophesied, Christ–God’s Servant–claimed that he learned what to say and teach from God.

John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (ESV)

Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (ESV)

As God’s singular Servant Israel, Christ gave what God’s people Jacob failed to give–his wholehearted obedience.

5 and the instruction of the Lord, even the Lord, opens my ears, and I do not disobey, nor dispute. Septuagint (LXE) 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. (ESV) [Emphasis added.]

Isaiah 48:1 Hear these words, ye house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and have come forth out of Juda, who swear by the name of the Lord God of Israel, making mention of it, but not with truth, nor with righteousness;… 8 You have neither known, nor understood, neither from the beginning have I opened your ears: for I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and would be called a transgressor even from the womb. Septuagint (LXE)

8 You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. (ESV) [Emphasis added.]

Isaiah’s Third Servant Speech: Verses 6 through 9

Christians everywhere know that Christ suffered and was crucified. They often read Isaiah 53 aloud to describe his sufferings. But here in Isaiah 50:6, the Servant himself prophetically describes in first person some of the things he will suffer. He uses the prophetic perfect tense (past tense) throughout. Then, in verses 7-9, the Servant describes how he trusts in God.

6 I gave my back to scourges [μάστιγας mas-tee-gas], and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting: Septuagint (LXE)

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, (ESV)

Matthew 27:30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. (ESV)

John 19:1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged [ἐμαστίγωσεν ay-mas-tee-go-sen] Him. (NKJ)

The Servant Trusts in God

Isaiah 50:7 but the Lord God became my helper; therefore I was not ashamed, but I set my face as a solid rock; and I know that I shall never be ashamed, 8 for he that has justified me draws near; Septuagint (LXE)

God’s Servant died and was buried (Matthew 27:50, 59-60; Mark 15:37, 46; Luke 23:46, 53; John 19:33-42). On the third day, God his Helper drew near and resurrected him from the dead. Jesus was not ashamed; rather, God glorified him and sat him on a throne right next to himself (Matthew 19:28; 25:31; Revelation 5:13).

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I [Paul] delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (ESV)

The Outcome of Those Who Hurt God’s Servant

For those who hurt God’s Servant and never repented, it will not go so well.

8… who is he that pleads with me? let him stand up against me at the same time: yea, who is he that pleads with me? let him draw nigh to me. 9 Behold, the Lord, the Lord, will help me; who will hurt me? behold, all ye shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you. Septuagint (LXE)

These verses do not prophesy directly the Servant’s death and resurrection. Isaiah 53 will do that. The Servant does, however, challenge his opponents and prophesy their death, “Behold, all ye shall wax old as a garment, and a moth shall devour you” (verse 9). The Masoretic text states it this way, “Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up” (ESV).

The Voice of the Prophet Breaks Through

In verse 10, the voice of Isaiah the prophet breaks through to comment upon the preceding revelations. That will be a topic for the next post.

Isaiah 50:1-3 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.32

By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-50-1-3-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-32/.

Israel Displeases God

Septuagint Isaiah 50:1-3 LXX Fit Well with Chapter 49

Septuagint Isaiah 50:1 Thus says the Lord, Of what kind is your mother’s bill of divorcement, by which I put her away? or to which debtor have I sold you? Behold, you are sold for your sins, and for your iniquities have I put your mother away. 2 Why did I come, and there was no man? why did I call, and there was none to listen? Is not my hand strong to redeem? or can I not deliver? behold, by my rebuke I will dry up the sea, and make rivers a wilderness; and their fish shall be dried up because there is no water, and shall die for thirst. 3 I will clothe the sky with darkness, and will make its covering as sackcloth. (LXE)

In Isaiah 49:14, the people of Sion spoke.

49:14 The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. (LXE

1. In the remainder of Chapter 49, through verse 26, the Lord replies to Sion. He declares his long-abiding love for Sion, as a mother would love her child (verse 15). He prophesies that Sion will become heavily populated with an inflow of Gentile children (verses 22-23; see prior post Isaiah Devotional 2.31).

2. Now, in Chapter 50:1-3, the Lord challenges Sion more directly. Rather than professing his never-ending love for them, he places the blame for their banishment upon themselves–upon their own sins and iniquities (verse 1).

3. Then, in verses 2 and 3, the Lord takes a new tack. He claims that he did go to save his people, but they did not respond.

Isaiah 50:2 Why did I come, and there was no man? why did I call, and there was none to listen? [Note: the word for “man” is ἄνθρωπος (an-thro-pos) here. In this sentence it can mean any human being of either sex.] (LXE) and (Isaiah 50, LXX). 

But when did this happen? When did the Lord reach out to save Sion and they ignored him?

Understanding Prophetic Poetry

First, readers must recognize that Isaiah 50:1-3 is highly poetic. These three verses contain both structural and linguistic elements of poetry. In a brevity of conciseness which only poetry can achieve, two verses present the three major events of Israel’s salvation history (1). Two are past, and one is yet future to Isaiah’s own time.

The Structural Elements of Isaiah’s Prophetic Poetry

First, what structural elements of Hebrew poetry do these verses contain?

CHIASM-VERSE 1

A Of what kind is your mother’s bill of divorcement, by which I put her away?

B or to which debtor have I sold you?

B Behold, you are sold for your sins,

A and for your iniquities have I put your mother away

DOUBLETS AND TRIPLETS-VERSES 2 AND 3

A1 (vs 2) Why did I come, and there was no man?
A2 why did I call, and there was none to listen?

B1 Is not my hand strong to redeem?
B2  or can I not deliver?

C1 behold, by my rebuke I will dry up the sea,
C2 and make rivers a wilderness;

D1 and their fish shall be dried up because there is no water,
D2 and shall die for thirst.

C3 (vs 3) I will clothe the sky with darkness,
C3d and will make its covering as sackcloth.

In the above two verses readers will find five doublets and one triplet. The items labeled with a “C” form the triplet. Notice that the third element of the triplet (C3 and C3d) is itself a doublet. The following original paraphrase expresses the logical structure of God’s argument in Isaiah 50:1-3 LXE.

In verse 49:14 Sion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me” [notice the doublet]. God answers Sion’s false claim in three ways.

1) First, the Lord states that he has not and will never forget Sion (Isaiah 49:15-26).

2a) Second, the Lord reprimands Sion. If, he says, I have forsaken and forgotten you, then

a) show me the certificate of your mother’s divorce (Isaiah 50:1). [The Lord states this challenge as a rhetorical question. Clearly, there is no certificate.]
b) or, name the debtor to which I have sold you. [The Lord also states this as a rhetorical question.]

2b) The Lord then states positively that Sion was sold [passive tense] on account of their own sins. They caused their own sale, not God. Further, the Lord does state that he did send Sion’s mother away because of her sins and because of their lawlessness. In other words, the Lord did not himself abandon and forsake Sion. He stayed where he always was. Rather, he sent them away on account of their unfaithfulness and sins. They spurned God, rather than the reverse. Again, it was their own fault.

3) Third and finally, God declares that three times he did in fact intervene to deliver Sion. But they neither responded positively nor obeyed (ὑπακούων) (Isaiah 50:2).

God then describes his three salvific interventions (Isaiah 50:2-3).

METAPHOR-VERSES 1-3

Because the section concerning metaphor is long and important, it will be placed in its own heading.

Metaphor-Verses 1-3

The entire pericope Isaiah 50:1-3 is an extended metaphor.

1. First, Sion is not in fact a woman. It is both a location (Jerusalem the city and its temple) and a people. God speaks to his people as a group. Because the group of God’s people spanning several generations does not have a biological “mother”, the entire concept is a metaphorical figure of speech. Additionally, God, as Spirit, never literally married his people in a physical-concrete way. Rather, God’s language creates a spiritual metaphor to help us in our finite, fallen (spiritually dead) condition to understand his relation to his people.

2. Second, the concept of God’s sending away Sion’s mother is a double metaphor. First, the metaphor describes Israel’s exile to Babylon. Second, the metaphor describes the people of Israel’s spiritual estrangement from God.

3. Third, God did not literally “sell” Sion to anyone. Nor did Sion in any literal/physically-concrete way sell themselves. A physical exchange of concrete money, accompanied by a bill of sale never occurred. True, a literal debtor, Babylon, existed. The Babylonians as conquerors stole material goods from Israel (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:10). Yet, God’s intention in this passage is much greater than a physical, local application to Babylon. In a metaphor that permeates the entire Bible, Israel, representative of all humankind, sold itself into slavery to sin, death, and Satan when they rebelled against God.

Three Metaphors of God’s Salvation

God defends his creative power and his might to deliver his people in Isaiah 50:2-3. The metaphor the Lord uses is called metonymy. Metonymy occurs when a part of something represents the whole. So, each of the three specific actions God names represents his entire might and ability to save. In the first metaphor, God states that by a verbal command he can 1) dry up the sea. In the second metaphor, he states that 2) he can turn rivers into deserts.

Then, in the third metaphor, God states that 3) he can  “clothe the sky with darkness, and will make its covering as sackcloth.” This figure of speech has a further metaphoric aspect than the two previous metonymies. This figure is a metaphor because God does not place literal-concrete clothing upon the sky. Nor does a literally-concrete, physically darkened sky mourn and grieve as though one had died. The figure is of women, even today, who often cover themselves in black clothing to indicate their mourning over a dead loved one, generally a husband.

But, even though God uses figures of speech to describe his power to save, these metaphors in reality actually occurred in literally physical, concrete ways.

The Three Salvation Metaphors Are Literal-Concrete

The three “metaphors” of Isaiah 50:2-3 actually occurred in Israel’s literal-concrete history. These events may read like metaphors of God’s power to deliver. Each one is a metonymy, a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole. However, each of them describes an actual, historical event in Israel’s salvation history.

I. Metaphor One and Historical Salvation One

Isaiah 50:2 behold, by my rebuke I will dry up the sea, (Septuagint, LXE)

The Bible records in Exodus how God dried up (parted) the Great Sea for Moses and the Israelites to escape Pharaoh’s army and Egypt. This is Israel’s first great salvation in Scripture. (Exodus 14:15-31). Scripture also records how quickly Israel abandoned their “belief” in God (Exodus 32:1-5).

II. Metaphor Two and Historical Salvation Two

Isaiah 50:2 behold, by my rebuke I will… make rivers a wilderness; and their fish shall be dried up because there is no water, and shall die for thirst. (Septuagint, LXE)

God dried up (parted) the river Jordan when Joshua led God’s people to cross over into the promised land (Joshua 3:14-17).

What About the Fish?

The statement in verse 2 concerning fish drying up and dying for lack of water grammatically can apply to both the dried up sea and the dried up rivers. Historically, the crossing of both the Red Sea and the River Jordan may have taken the better part of a day, since the people of Israel numbered so many. They also carried their supplies. Additionally, the women with children would probably have moved slowly. Fish could very easily have suffocated and dried up during both these crossings.

III. Metaphor Three and Historical Salvation Three

The third “metaphor” reads more like a metaphor than the first two.

Isaiah 50:3 I will clothe the sky with darkness, and will make its covering as sackcloth. (Septuagint, LXE

In Isaiah’s time frame, this salvation event remained future to him. As the chapters move forward, however, this salvation becomes more and more Isaiah’s focus. If any readers have not yet recognized this salvation, the metonymy (part for the whole) of a darkened sky describes the death by crucifixion of Christ, God’s Servant, on the cross.

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. (ESV)

Immediately upon the ninth hour, Jesus died. Readers can find this event also described in Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44-45. Isaiah predicts the darkness and describes it with the metaphor “sackcloth,” the clothing worn to indicate great mourning and grief. Even the heavens (sky) respond by wearing sackcloth at the death of their Creator.

But Where is Sion?

But God asks Sion, where were you when I came and called?

Isaiah 50:2 Why did I come, and there was no man? why did I call, and there was none to listen? (Septuagint, LXE)

The grammar of the sentence uses past tense. Future prophecy is often stated in past tense. For example, Isaiah 53:1-9 in both Septuagint and Masoretic texts are written in past tense throughout. Yet, the Christian world commonly accepts these verses in reference to Christ’s passion. The Passion remained future to Isaiah, however. Grammarians call a future event written in past tense the prophetic perfect tense.

In verse 2, therefore, it’s entirely possible that the event God describes is still future to Isaiah’s timeframe. What event would this be? In agreement with verse 3, which tells the third of the great salvation events the Lord (the speaker) describes, verse 2 most likely makes reference to the actual, historic “coming” of God’s Servant, his Christ, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Language Supports Reference to Christ’s Incarnation

Summarizing briefly, the Lord in the first three verses of chapter 50 continues to rebut Sion’s claim that he forgot and forsook them (Isaiah 49:14). Oh, but I did come, says the Lord in Isaiah 50:2. But there was no one to meet me. No one answered when I called. No one obeyed my command. The Lord states these claims as rhetorical questions. Then, in the latter portion of verse 2 and continuing in verse 3, the Lord names the three great salvation events in Israel’s history. Two are past and one remains future. These three great salvation events are 1) the parting of the Red Sea, led by Moses, 2) the parting of the Jordan River, led by Joshua, and 3) the parting of the barrier between death and life, sin and holiness, led by Jesus Christ through the cross.

The Lord uses the phrase, “Why, when I came…” or, depending on the translation, “Why did I come…” or some such variation. The word in Greek is ἦλθον (eel-thon), from the verb ἔρχομαι (air-cho-may), meaning to “come.” Jesus uses this exact form (ἦλθον) at least 12 unique times in the four gospels with reference to himself. In these verses, the “coming” he speaks of  refers to his Father having sent him on mission to earth in incarnate form.

Jesus Often Spoke of His Coming

Jesus often spoke of his “coming.” Here are just a few examples, all from the ESV.

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Mark 2:17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 12:49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!

John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.

John 16:27 “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

The Servant Speaks

In the context of the Lord’s coming, in the very next verse after verse 3, with its reference in metaphor to the crucifixion, the Servant begins his third direct speech. He says, “The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction, to know when it is fit to speak a word: he has appointed for me early, he has given me an ear to hear:” (Septuagint, LXE). The following post will present details of the Servant’s speech.

God, the Lord Yahweh, and His Servant Are One

Has any reader of the New Testament ever wondered how its writers arrived at the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth and God the Father are one? Where in the Old Testament, which is the only Scripture these writers knew, can this knowledge be found? For example, Paul writes the following.

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (ESV)

Jesus himself claimed:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” (ESV)

One of many exciting discoveries in the first three verses of Septuagint Isaiah 50 is the logical deduction that the Father and his Servant are one. In Isaiah 50:1, “Thus says the Lord…,” the word Lord is κύριος (kee-ree-oss) in Greek. It translates “Lord.” In the Masoretic the word for “Lord” or “LORD” is יְהוָ֗הpronounced Yahweh, or Jehovah. The Lord then asks in verse 2, “Why, when I came, was there no man?” So Yahweh, the Old Testament Lord of the Israelites, states that he “came.”

And, we have just seen how Jesus Christ characterized his incarnation as his “coming.” Jesus “came.” Then, in the context of the Lord’s coming, the Servant begins to speak in Isaiah 50:4, “The Lord even God gives me the tongue of instruction…” It was the Servant who came, and yet Jehovah God states that He came. The inevitable conclusion is that these two are one.

*A Personal Note to My Readers*

I often speak of my blog to just a few close friends as the blog that “no one reads.” Indeed, I have very few readers. Nevertheless, this is good for now.

I do hope and pray, however, that someone somewhere reads and finds encouragement in what I do here. I purposefully chose to study Septuagint Isaiah without help or confirmation from outside sources. In other words, what I find I find in the text itself. In contrast, when I wrote about finding Christ in the Septuagint Psalter, I scoured every source available to me for confirmation that I was not shooting in the dark. One practical consideration heavily influenced my decision regarding Isaiah. That is, there are just too many books out there for me at this late date in my life to consult. Concerning Septuagint Isaiah, however, I suspect that there is far less material available.

A secondary reason I chose not to consider outside sources has become a major purpose for me. That is, I wish to demonstrate that ordinary, everyday readers, such as I am, can access even a book as difficult as Isaiah with the help of the Holy Spirit. I’ve tried to leave a transparent trail as I go along. Nearly every language source I use is available online to anyone with a computer.

The basic procedure is to discover where your greatest hunger lies. My greatest desire was for God to reveal to me what Christ showed his disciples on the road to Emmaus concerning himself and the pages of Old Testament Scripture. A second step is to pray to God for his light. God’s light will feed your hunger. Finally, have patience. Read slowly, read again and again. Let it rest, pray, and wait for God. Listen. God promises that he will show up in the quiet spaces and reveal Christ to those who seek him.

One other note, for the few who may have noticed, I’ve chosen for the most part to let the text stand on its own feet without bringing in other Old Testament text for corroboration. I mean that I’m reading Septuagint Isaiah devotionally for Isaiah’s sake. I do refer to historical portions of Scripture. But my basic approach is, what if Isaiah were the only Old Testament book I have? What does it say? Obviously, I do bring in the New Testament quite a bit. This is because I see Septuagint Isaiah as The Gospel of Isaiah. Isaiah greatly influenced New Testament writers. My desire is to see this magnificent book about Christ the way they saw it. And, I decided to share with others as I move along. This keeps me accountable and helps motivate me to keep struggling towards the end goal.

Heartfelt blessings and prayers for my very few readers, Christina.

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1 The insights of this article are original to myself (I did not search the literature for corroboration). I used as my starting point Translation for Translators, Copyright © 2008-2017 Ellis W. Deibler, Jr., accessed January 3, 2022, at Bible – Windows (ebible.org).

2 One set of Bible study notes for this verse states, “Another possibility is to take the verbs as referring to past events: “Why did no one meet me when I came? Why did no one answer when I called?” In this case the Lord might be asking why Israel rejected his calls to repent and his offer to deliver them.” NET Bible note, accessed on January 5, 2022, at Isaiah 50 | Lumina (netbible.org).

Isaiah 49:14-26 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.31

Previously published by Christina M Wilson at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-49-14-26-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-31/.

Isaiah 49:14-26 LXX (Septuagint)–God Defeats Zion’s Enemies

RECAP

The Septuagint text of Isaiah 49:1-13 reveals God’s great mission plan for the Gentile peoples of the world. And verse 13 clearly includes Israel. Readers may reasonably conclude that the Apostle Paul studied these verses and the entire section that begins in Chapter 40. His theology concerning Gentiles and Israel sounds remarkably like Isaiah. Even more, the entire New Testament presentation of Gentiles having been united to God’s people Israel through and in Christ strongly resembles the prophecies of Isaiah (See Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; Acts 15:14; Romans 9:25; and 1 Peter 2:10; Ephesians 2:1-22; Romans 9-11; and Galatians 3:26-29).

ISAIAH 49:14 LXX

But Sion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. LXE

In the verse above, Sion most likely indicates a poetic name for Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where God designated Israel to worship him. In the Old Testament, Sion represents the place where God spiritually dwells. In the context of verses 1 through 14, Sion is distinct from Israel, its people. And of course, Sion is distinct from the land of the Gentiles. It is also distinct from God’s Servant Israel. The introduction of Sion here indicates that God himself is speaking on behalf of his own interests.

After the marvelous promises, praises, and joy that precede this verse in all of chapter 49 to this point, the question becomes, Why would the people of Sion feel forsaken and forgotten? Surely God includes Sion in the plan and purpose he presents for his Servant in the previous verses (Cf. Isaiah 49:5-6)? Certainly, by no means does the prophet give the slightest indication that God excludes his own dwelling place in this glorious vision. Why then, does Sion feel forsaken and forgotten?

WHY WOULD SION FEEL FORSAKEN AND FORGOTTEN?

One reason might be that at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, return from exile had not yet occurred. That is, when Isaiah spoke these words, Cyrus had not yet given the decree for the Israelites to leave Persia and return to their homeland (Ezra 1:1-3; 5:12-13). At that point in time, the physical Jerusalem and its temple did indeed stand in mostly uninhabited ruins. God does reply in Isaiah 49:17-21 that he will resettle the place with a multitude of incomers. There will be so many inhabitants that Sion will be surprised and even confused, “And you shall say in your heart, Who has begotten me these? whereas I was childless, and a widow; but who has brought up these for me? and I was left alone; but whence came these to me?” (verse 21).

But does the entire context speak of more than a concrete-physical return to Jerusalem? Yes, it does. The salvation announced in the prior verses extends from God’s special Servant to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6, 8, 9-13). Additionally, God later repeats in Isaiah 49:22-23 that he will call and bring Sion’s new inhabitants from among the Gentiles. Thus, the verse concerning Jerusalem (verse 14) is surrounded by verses that speak of God’s call to the whole world.

Therefore, it appears that the entire chapter speaks of events far greater than a rather small number of refugees returning from exile in Babylon to a physical location in Israel. The entire chapter speaks of God’s mission to Gentiles of the whole world. “… and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers you, and that upholds the strength of Jacob” Isaiah 49:26 LXE. The designation “Jacob” refers here to God’s people, not to a physical location.

Is the Above a “Spiritual” Interpretation?

Is the statement that God will call Gentiles from around the world to inhabit Sion a “spiritual” interpretation of Isaiah? Yes. Absolutely. The entire New Testament is spiritual. Jesus told Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well that it would be so (John 3:1-4:42). Between the two testaments a seismic shift from the physical-concrete (physically literal) to the spiritual occurs. This is what the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’s day failed to grasp (1 Corinthians 2:1-16).

Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit

Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross, his physical resurrection from death, and his ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of God ushered in an entirely new era–a New Testament era. In addition to forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life, the New Testament ushered in the presence of the Holy Spirit among believers worldwide. The very name of Jesus, Immanuel, means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). When Jesus ascended into heaven, he did not leave us orphans (John 14:18). He sent the Holy Spirit to take his place and be with us still. The Spirit of God replaced the physical incarnation of God.

The Holy Spirit abides where two or more gather in the Lord’s name (Matthew 18:20). The Holy Spirit also indwells every believer whom the Lord receives (John 1:12-13; 3:5-6; Romans 8:6-11). Jesus Christ reversed the spiritual death brought on by Adam’s sin (John 14:16-17, 26). The coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell human hearts is tremendously good news. This good news of “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:24-27) is far bigger and better news than any physical-concrete-literal return to a physical city called Sion could ever possibly be. The advent of the Holy Spirit means that humankind is reunited with their Creator. His very presence walks among us once again.

Granted, chapter 49 of Isaiah does not produce this level of revelation concerning God’s Spirit reuniting with human kind. It does, however, prophesy the joining of Gentiles with God’s elder chosen son, the people Israel.

But Sion… 

But Sion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. LXE

With all the good news about God’s call to Gentiles, both preceding and following Isaiah 49:14, why would Sion respond in such a dejected way? I cannot help but think of Jesus’s parable concerning the prodigal son in this regard (Luke 15:11-32). Although most elements of the parable do not match the details of Isaiah 49, the older brother’s reaction in each text is similar. Sion in Isaiah became dejected in the context of God’s blessing upon his singular Servant and the worldwide call to Gentiles. Likewise, the older son in the parable resented his father’s blessing upon his profligate younger brother. And in both accounts, neither Sion nor the elder brother suffered loss of their own due to God’s beneficence upon others not previously under his protection.

Paul tackles the issue of sibling rivalry in Romans 9.

3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (ESV)

And again, Paul approaches the question of blessing in Romans 3:1-2.

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (ESV)

Because God entrusted his people Israel with all these treasures, the kings (Isaiah 49:23), queens (ibid.), and ordinary Gentiles will flock to Sion from faraway places carrying adoptive children for Sion in their arms and on their shoulders (Isaiah 49:12, 22). Having been invited by God, they, too, want to partake in these treasures. What are these treasures God also wants Gentiles to have? They are the “adoption, the glory, the covenants, the… law, the worship, and the promises… the patriarchs… and from their race, according to the flesh… the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Gentiles will regard these treasures as so valuable that they will poetically “bow down to you [Sion] on the face of the earth, and shall lick the dust of your feet” (Isaiah 49:23 LXE). Every last speck of the gifts (poetically, even the dust itself) God gave Israel shall be eagerly valued by the Gentile newcomers.

Isaiah 49:24-26 LXE 

As happens so frequently in Isaiah, God in these last verses defends himself and states his power to accomplish all his promises for his people. Because God is loyal to himself, he professes his loyalty to them. This is God’s assertive reply to Sion’s complaint in verse 14, “No, you are neither forsaken nor forgotten. I myself will reclaim what you in your weakness allowed the enemy to capture.”

24 Will any one take spoils from a giant? and if one should take a man captive unjustly, shall he be delivered? 25 For thus says the Lord, If one should take a giant captive, he shall take spoils, and he who takes them from a mighty man shall be delivered: for I will plead your cause, and I will deliver your children. 26 And they that afflicted you shall eat their own flesh; and they shall drink their own blood as new wine, and shall be drunken: and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers you, and that upholds the strength of Jacob. LXE

Israel’s physical captivity in Babylon resulted from their having abandoned and forgotten the ways of their God. The entire book bears witness to this. They merited God’s just discipline of them. Nevertheless, God remains faithful to their fathers. Their first father, Abraham, unlike his progeny, had remained faithful to God. In vivid, metaphorical language, God declares in verses 24-26 that he will turn the viciousness of Israel’s captors upon themselves. Rather than destroying others, these strong enemies will turn inward and destroy themselves.

Application

Human kind’s greatest enemy is sin. God’s greatest spiritual foe is Satan. Of course, Satan’s power as a created being is finite and limited. Christ conquered sin, death, and Satan by means of the cross. God’s stated purpose in restoring Israel to their own land, as well as his purpose in conquering sin and in defeating the strong man enemy Satan is to manifest his identity as Lord of all, “… and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers you, and that upholds the strength of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26).

Psalm 65:1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. 2 O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. (ESV)

Psalm 145:21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever. (LXE)

Isaiah 66:23 And it shall come to pass from month to month, and from sabbath to sabbath, that all flesh shall come to worship before me in Jerusalem, saith the Lord. (LXE)

Luke 3:6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (ESV)

Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (ESV)

Amen!

Isaiah 49:9-13 LXX: Isaiah Journal 2.30

By Christina M Wilson. Previously posted at https://justonesmallvoice.com/isaiah-49-9-12-lxx-isaiah-devotional-2-30/.

Isaiah 49:9-13 Septuagint
Spiritual Benefits the Servant Brings

RECAP

Isaiah 49:9-13 Septuagint presents an amazing dialogue between God and his Servant. As the dialogue unfolds, the text clearly presents a Savior of both Israel and Gentiles.  The Servant/Savior can only be God himself. Verse 8 closes with God’s address to his Servant.

I give You as a covenant to the Gentiles, to establish the earth and to inherit the inheritance of the desert; SAAS (1)

We learned in the previous post (Isaiah Devotional Journal 2.29) that God gave his faithful Servant authority over the earth (Matthew 28:18). Now, in verses 9-12, the text explains what the formulaic phrase “inherit the inheritance of the desert” means.

SHOULD WE READ 9-12 CONCRETE/LITERALLY?

For verses 9-12, “concrete/literally”  would mean what exists in three dimensional space, that is, the physical reality of the world. Even a glance through these verses reveals that on a concrete/literal level this prophecy remains to be fulfilled (Isaiah 49:9-12 ESV). Yet, the previous prophecies have been fulfilled. The Servant did come. He did “despise his life” by submitting to the cross (verse 7). He has become a “covenant of a race and… the light of the Gentiles” (vs 6). He indeed has brought “salvation to the ends of the earth” (vs 6) (2).

But why then, would verses 9-12 remain unfulfilled for the past 2,000 years? They belong to the same set of prophecies as those in the passage surrounding them. These have all been fulfilled in God’s Servant Jesus Christ. I propose that just as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well, these words find their fulfillment in the Spirit of God who indwells all believers.

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (ESV)

PROMISE OF SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS

8… I have… given you for a covenant of the nations… to cause to inherit the desert heritages: 9 saying to them that are in bonds, Go forth; and bidding them that are in darkness show themselves. They shall be fed in all the ways, and in all the paths shall be their pasture. 10 They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun strike them; but he that has mercy on them shall comfort them, and by fountains of waters shall he lead them. 11 And I will make every mountain a way, and every path a pasture to them. 12 Behold, these shall come from far: and these from the north and the west, and others from the land of the Persians. 13 Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (Isaiah 49:9-12 LXE)

WHO ARE “THEY”?

God speaks concerning his promises to a group of people he identifies in third person plural: they, them, their. Does the reader know who these people are? Yes, because the passage flows smoothly from one verse to another without breaks or transitions. In Isaiah 49:1, God specifically addresses “Gentiles” (Septuagint) or “peoples from afar” (Masoretic, ESV). In Isaiah 49:6, God informs his Servant, “I give you as the light of the Gentiles, that You should be the salvation to the ends of the earth” (SAAS) (1). Verse 8 repeats mention of the Gentiles, “I give you as a covenant to the Gentiles” (SAAS, Isaiah 49:8). Brenton’s Septuagint translation says “nations,” rather than Gentiles (3).

Even more compelling, Revelation 7:16 quotes part of verse 10. And Revelation 7:17 alludes to “springs” or “fountains” of waters, as in Isaiah 49:10.

Revelation 7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat… 17… and he will guide them to springs of living water (ESV)

Isaiah 49:10 They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun strike them; but he that has mercy on them shall comfort them, and by fountains of waters shall he lead them. (LXE, Brenton)

Revelation 7:9 identifies these people (“they” and “them”) as “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” In other words, they are the Gentile nations. Both Isaiah and Revelation describe the spiritual benefits of those who worship the Lamb, the Servant, of God. He is their shepherd. Whether or not these blessings will also one day be physical is beyond the scope of this post. Nor does it matter to many. Spiritually, these blessings belong to the nations now, and millions worldwide enjoy the spiritual benefits of believing in their Savior, God’s Servant.

Isaiah Bursts into Praise

Isaiah himself realizes the magnitude of the words the Lord has given him to write. In verse 13, Isaiah bursts into a praise song in response to the wonderful blessings God has revealed. These blessings belong to the worldwide mission God assigns his Servant.

Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (Isaiah 49:13 LXE)

Verses 12 and 13 form an interesting unit. In the entire passage from verse 1, God and his Servant speak mostly concerning the nations, the Gentiles. Verse 12 also indicates that God speaks of Gentiles.

Behold, these shall come from far: and these from the north and the west, and others from the land of the Persians. (Isaiah 49:12 LXE)

Yet verse 13 speaks twice of “his people,” that is, the Lord’s people. Readers have known all along that Israel comprises the “Lord’s people.” And here in verse 13, the word people is no longer the plural of “ethnos,” as in verses 1, 6, 7, and 8. The word for people in verse 13 is “laos.” This word is fluid in the same way that “ethnos” is fluid. It can refer specifically to the people of Israel. And, on other occasions, it can refer to “a church of Christians gathered from among the Gentiles” (4). For verses which use the word this way, see Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; Acts 15:14; Romans 9:25; and 1 Peter 2:10.

Reading Isaiah’s text straight through from verse 1 through 13, the conclusion that makes most sense is that “people” refers both to God’s people of Israel and God’s people of the Gentile nations. Verse 13 seamlessly unites both groups without distinction. To claim that this verse refers exclusively to Israel does not make contextual sense. Indeed, the Apostle Paul’s message throughout the New Testament, and especially in Romans 9-11, is that Gentiles have been grafted in to God’s family.

CONCLUSION

So, I join my voice with that of Isaiah in praising God this wonderful Advent season.

Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (Isaiah 49:13 LXE)

May God pour his richest blessings upon us all, through Jesus Christ, his singular Servant, and may the Lord make us truly one.

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1 “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

2 All quotations in this paragraph are from the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint (SAAS).

3 “The third clause of verse 8 states that God gave Messiah (“you”) “for a covenant of the nations.” The word “nations” in Greek is “ethnos.” In verse 8, ethnos is plural. Generally, the plural of ethnos in Scripture refers to Gentiles (Cf. Nehemiah 5:17Psalm 2:1102:15Isaiah 42:661:11Daniel 7:14).” The previous quote taken from JustOneSmallVoice, Isaiah 49:8 LXX: Isaiah Devotional 2.29 – justonesmallvoice.com. See also Mark 10:42; Acts 14:5; and Romans 9:24, among many examples.

4 Thayer, Joseph. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Abridged and Revised Thayer Lexicon). Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997. BibleWorks, v.9. 

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