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Septuagint Isaiah 59:21–Journal 2.76

By Christina M Wilson.

Septuagint Isaiah 59
The Spirit and the Covenant

And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)

The New Testament does not speak much of God’s land promises to Abraham and Jacob. However, the Servant/Deliverer/Messiah extends the land promise to include the entire “earth” (Matthew 5:3 and 5). The Apostle Paul associates the “blessing of Abraham” with “Gentiles” who will receive “the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Septuagint Isaiah 59:19 and 21 provide warrant for both of these.

17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries. 19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. 20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (LXE)

ELEMENTS WITHIN ISAIAH’S STATEMENT

Readers will find seven elements in the verses quoted above.

1) First, there is the Lord (verse 21).
2) Next, there is the deliverer/Servant (verse 17-18, 20, and 21–“you”).
3) There are Gentile believers (verse 19).
4) The word “Sion” indicates ethnic believers of Israeli descent.
5) Fifth, there is the Lord’s Spirit (verses 19 and 21).
6) Sixth, the Lord announces his covenant (verse 21).
7) Finally, the Lord places his “words” in the mouth of the Deliverer and the mouth of his seed, for ever (verse 21).

Readers will without too much difficulty find the Deliverer in the above set of verses. “He” is the Servant (verses 17 and 18), according to Isaiah’s entire context, both near and far (1). Following these verses, verse 20 explicitly names “the deliverer.” Further, in verse 21, the grammar and overall sense and context of Isaiah allow the “you” (singular) and “your” to refer to the Deliverer. Verse 20 names “Sion” and “Jacob.” With verses 19 and 20 combined, the words “them” and “your seed” in verse 21 would include both Sion and Gentiles.

Context of Mercy

The Septuagint emphasizes that the context of chapter 59 is God’s “mercy.” Verses 2 and 16 in the Septuagint both contain the word “mercy.”

Septuagint Isaiah 59:2 Nay, your iniquities separate between you and God, and because of your sins has he turned away his face from you, so as not to have mercy upon you.

Septuagint Isaiah 59:16 And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy.

God’s ultimate actions in chapter 59 proceed from his “mercy”. Summarizing the chapter, because of Israel’s sin God had turned his face away. The prophet Isaiah on behalf of the people repents in verses 12-15. Following this, God apparently turns his face toward them again. The text reads that he “saw” (verse 15) and he “looked” and “observed” (verse 16). Then, contrary to verse 2 (where God has no mercy), in verse 16, God uses his mercy to establish his people.

In the Septuagint, God’s motive for making a covenant with his people (verse 21) is his mercy. The Masoretic, on the other hand, appears neither to contain nor emphasize this point.

Isaiah 59:2 ESV but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Isaiah 59:16 ESV He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.

God’s Mercy Drives the Action

Within the context of Isaiah 59, Gentiles are not the reason that the people of Israel suffer. Verse 2 states that it is their own iniquity that separates them from God. Who is the father of iniquity? Is it not the Lord’s great enemy Satan? Wouldn’t Satan then be an “adversary” of the Lord? For the most part, Volume 2 of Isaiah from chapter 40 to this point concerns itself with God’s relationship with his people, rather than his dealings with Israel’s enemies. Volume 1 deals with Israel’s enemies. Volume 2 deals with Israel’s own sins and poor relationship with their God.

After Isaiah’s confession in verses 12-15, God concludes that his people cannot save themselves. It is just not in them. “There was no man” and “no one to intercede” (verse 16). God saves Israel himself by sending the Deliverer (verses 16 and 20). Readers need always to remind themselves that when the Deliverer comes, he dies as a sacrificial Lamb for Israel’s sin (Isaiah 53). Likewise, God’s Servant/Messiah, as revealed in the four Gospel accounts, does not avenge himself on Israel’s political adversaries. Far from it, he includes the Roman centurion in his ministry of healing (Matthew 8:5-13). Nor does God avenge himself historically against Israel’s political foes. Rather, he allows Rome to sack Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.

But does this mean that Isaiah’s prophecy “stands still” and remains unfulfilled? Far from it. There are adversaries whom the Servant conquers by means of his sacrificial death. And, the events prophesied in verse 21 began with the Servant’s incarnation and continue to this day.

17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries… 21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (LXE)

A Millennial Kingdom?

But perhaps these verses refer to a millennial kingdom? No. The content of verse 21 speaks emphatically of the Servant’s incarnation. The Deliverer establishes a covenant.

And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21)

“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20 ESV)

And the Deliverer sends God’s Spirit.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5 ESV)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 ESV)

Therefore, even though verses 16-19 speak of wrath, adversaries, vengeance, recompence, and reproach, I propose that these words refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit, rather than to actions against Gentiles.

Fear

The Septuagint uses the word “fear” in verse 19. But, Gentiles shall “fear” the “name of the Lord” and “his glorious name.”

19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. 20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (LXE

In many portions of Old Testament Scripture, “fear” is a positive emotion of reverence, awe, respect, and worshipful obedience to the Lord. (As one example only, see Psalm 111:10). Other examples follow.

Sanctify you the Lord himself; and he shall be your fear. (Septuagint Isaiah 8:13)

1  And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: 2 and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness shall fill him; 3 the spirit of the fear of God. He shall not judge according to appearance, nor reprove according to report: 4 but he shall judge the cause of the lowly, and shall reprove the lowly of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he destroy the ungodly one. 5 And he shall have his loins girded with righteousness, and his sides clothed with truth. (Septuagint Isaiah 11:1-5)

The verses above demonstrate that when Septuagint Isaiah 59:19 speaks of those from the west and east fearing the glorious name of the Lord, the meaning can quite easily indicate the reverence and humility of salvation.

And, there are places in Scripture that speak of God’s Holy Spirit in connection with wrath and water. We will look at some of these below.

The Spirit

Clearly, verse 21 names the Lord’s Spirit with the phrase, “My Spirit.” Additionally, I propose that within the context of the Deliverer, when verse 19 speaks of “the wrath of the Lord” coming as “a mighty river” with “fury,” the Greek words indicate the Holy Spirit. Before examining the Greek of the Septuagint, consider the Masoretic of verse 19.

So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. (Isaiah 59:19 ESV)

… For he comes like a rushing stream driven on by wind sent from the LORD. (Isaiah 59:19 NET)

Readers may recall that the Spirit fell upon those disciples gathered together on the day of Pentecost. Scripture reports that, “There came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).

And what was the first result of the Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost? In brief, the disciples who received the Spirit in the form of tongues of fire spoke openly in other languages. Many people had gathered in Jerusalem in celebration. These heard the disciples praising God in their own languages.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together… each one was hearing them speak in his own language… 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians– we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:5-11 ESV)

Then Peter began preaching.

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, (Acts 2:17 ESV)

Many Gentiles from many nations received salvation.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41 ESV)

In other words, the coming of the Holy Spirit ushered in the missionary age. And the New Testament is clear throughout its pages that Gentiles also receive God’s Spirit. It seems unlikely that Isaiah would prophesy against Gentiles as adversaries in verses 17-19, and then suddenly include them in covenant blessings in verse 21.

What About the Wrath?

Septuagint Isaiah 59:19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury.

Malachi foretold the cleansing nature of the Servant’s ministry (Malachi 3: 1-5). The Lord’s Servant Jesus fulfilled all of Malachi’s descriptions as he tore into the sins of the Pharisees, lawyers, scribes, and religious leaders of the land. He cleansed his Father’s house of prayer by overturning the tables of the deceitful money changers.

John the Baptist foretold that Jesus (God’s Servant) would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). In describing the work of the Holy Spirit, the Servant himself speaks of its judgmental nature.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (ESV)

The “ruler of this world” (John 16:11) indicates Satan (see also John 12:31 and John 14:30). The coming of the Deliverer destroys the power of Satan.

Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (ESV)

GOD’S WRATH POURED UPON HIS SERVANT

But with the coming of the Lord, God pours out his greatest wrath upon the Servant himself.

“… his souls was given over to death, and he was reckoned among the lawless, and he bore the sins of many, and because of their sins he was given over.” (Isaiah 53:12 NETS)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– (Galatians 3:13 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah (Psalm 88:7 ESV)

As a result of God’s wrath poured upon his Servant, God invites everyone from the west to the east to “fear” (honor, respect, and reverentially obey) “the name of the Lord… his glorious name” (Septuagint Isaiah 59:19).

The Spirit, Water, and Wind

Scripture often associates the Holy Spirit with water. Earlier in Isaiah, the prophet uses poetic symbolism to describe the rebirth and renewal of the Spirit.

17 And the poor and the needy shall exult; for when they shall seek water, and there shall be none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord God, I the God of Israel will hear, and will not forsake them: 18 but I will open rivers on the mountains, and fountains in the midst of plains: I will make the desert pools of water, and a thirsty land watercourses. 19 I will plant in the dry land the cedar and box, the myrtle and cypress, and white poplar: 20 that they may see, and know, and perceive, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has wrought these works, and the Holy One of Israel has displayed them. (Septuagint Isaiah 41:17-20)

Perhaps Isaiah 41 seems a bit too early in the book to forsake an entirely literal interpretation? Well, in chapter 59 the text openly uses explicit simile to describe the coming of the Lord. Notice the similarity between the images of Isaiah 41:17-20 above and 59:19 below. I’ve quoted this verse  from both the Masoretic and the Septuagint.

Isaiah 59:19 So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. (ESV)

So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. (LXE

New Testament Scripture often associates the Holy Spirit and water. Examples can be found in John 3:5; 4:5-14; Titus 3:4-7.

Wind is another motif the New Testament associates with God’s Spirit. See John 3:8 and Acts 2:2-4.

The Lord’s Covenant

…to be continued

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1 See, for example, Isaiah’s four “Servant Song” passages in Septuagint Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-6, 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12.

Septuagint Isaiah 59–Journal 2.75

By Christina M Wilson

Septuagint Isaiah 59
The Deliverer and the Spirit

Septuagint Isaiah 59 hides quietly behind its poetic images. Yet it presents the entire Gospel message of Jesus Christ, God’s Servant. This gospel message is: 1) Every person needs deliverance from sin. 2) God himself, through his Servant, is the Deliverer. 3) Everyone is invited. 4) God sends his Spirit to those who embrace the Deliverer. The four points below expand upon this message of the Deliverer and the Spirit.

I. God gave Isaiah an assignment to present the Deliverer and the Spirit. During the span of centuries which Isaiah covers, Israel’s history demonstrates the incapacity of humankind to deliver themselves. This is point one of God’s message. Isaiah begins to deliver this message in the very first chapters. Septuagint Isaiah 59 develops this theme through poetic images and metaphors (59:1-16a).

The Lord had given his people Israel every advantage. These include his presence with them in many times, forms, places, and situations, his law, godly leaders strategically placed, and multiple rescues from their enemies. Nevertheless, as chapter 59 demonstrates, even after the return from exile, “… there was no judgment. And he [the Lord] looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help (59:15-16).

II. Point two of God’s gospel message through Isaiah is that God himself will deliver Sion from her sins. He will send his divine Servant to drive out sin for him (59:16b-20).

III. God presents point three in 59:19. He intends to redeem the whole world. The book of Isaiah repeats this theme from start to finish (see, for example, Septuagint Isaiah 2:2-4).

IV. Finally, God will send his Spirit to the Servant and his seed forever (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21). (See also Septuagint Isaiah 4:2-6 LXE; 11:1-3; 32:14-18; 42:1-8; 44:2-4; 48:16; 57:16; and 59:21.)

The Deliverer and the Spirit in the New Testament

The New Testament delivers the same gospel message as Isaiah in chapter 59.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (ESV)

Titus 3:3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (ESV)

John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)

The Deliverer and the Spirit in John 4

John 4 demonstrates the love of God for all people. In this chapter, the Servant/Messiah/Deliverer speaks of sending his Spirit. Septuagint 59:16 likewise displays God’s love. There, the word is “mercy.” Following this, verse 21 tells of the Spirit.

And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy. (Septuagint 59:16)

20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 21 And this shall be my covenant with them, said the Lord; My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, henceforth and for ever. (Septuagint 59:20-21)

God, the speaker, connects mention of “My Spirit” (the Holy Spirit) with “my covenant with them.” What covenant is this? This will be the topic of the next post, Lord willing.

… to be continued

Septuagint Isaiah 58–Journal 2.74

By Christina M Wilson

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

No Time Markers

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

God Accuses–Part One

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

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

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

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

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

What God Desires

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

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

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

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

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

The Reward

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

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

There’s More

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

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

A Challenge for Us as We Read

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

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

… to be continued with Chapter 59

Condemnation Versus Blessing: Journal 2.73

By Christina M Wilson

Quick Summary

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

Septuagint Isaiah–Condemnation

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

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

Who Is the Speaker?

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

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

Lawless “Children”

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

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

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

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

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

The Outcome

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings for Those Upon Whom God Shows Mercy

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

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

The First Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Blessing

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

A Third Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome for the Unrighteous

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

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

An Unusual Tense

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

An Important Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Denouement: Journal 2.71

By Christina M Wilson

Denouement: Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

Details: Septuagint Isaiah 56:1-8

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

Two Sections

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

Section One: Verses 1 and 2

BEHAVIOR FOR THE COMMUNITY

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

BEHAVIOR FOR INDIVIDUALS

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

The Sabbath

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

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

REWARDS

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

Section Two: Verses 3 through 8

… to be continued

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

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

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

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

The Blessings of Married Life: Journal 2.70

By Christina M Wilson

Three Chapters in a Nutshell

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

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

The Lord Calls His Bride

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

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

The Invitation

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

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

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

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

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

VERSE THREE

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

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

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

Foundation of the Invitation

The Lord extends his invitation to the whole world.

4 Behold I have made him a testimony among the Gentiles, a prince and commander to the Gentiles. 5 Nations which know you not, shall call upon you, and peoples which are not acquainted with you, shall flee to you for refuge, for the sake of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you. (LXE Isaiah 55)

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

VERSE 5

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

SIGNIFICANCE OF VERSE 5

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

The Lord Repeats the Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord Gives His Character References

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

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

Promises of Joy and Prosperity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy and Comfort: Journal 2.69

By Christina M Wilson

Septuagint Isaiah 54 speaks joy and comfort to God’s people, Jerusalem.

Introduction: Context

Septuagint Isaiah 54 presents God’s assurances of joy and comfort to his beleaguered people, Sion (whom God also addresses as Jerusalem.) Over the course of several chapters, Isaiah narrows the term “Sion” to refer to those faithful few in Israel who “follow after righteousness” and “seek the Lord” (God’s Faithful: Devotional 2.66). These are the “remnant” of Volume 1 (Isaiah 4:3). Nowhere in this chapter (chapter 54) or previous chapters does Isaiah indicate that God’s promise is to the nation of Israel as a whole. God speaks consistently of joylessness and sorrow for those of Israel who rebel against him by refusing to follow his precepts. These prefer instead to worship idols.

Isaiah 48:18 And if you had listened to my commandments, then would your peace have been like a river, and your righteousness as a wave of the sea. 19 Your seed also would have been as the sand, and the offspring of your belly as the dust of the ground: neither now shall you by any means be utterly destroyed [there will be a remnant], neither shall your name perish before me… 22 There is no joy, says the Lord, to the ungodly. (LXE) (See also Isaiah 57:20-21 in its context.)

Isaiah 50:11 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 [the exile] has happened to you for my sake; you shall lie down in sorrow. (LXE)

Chapter 54 immediately follows the Fourth Servant Song. The Fourth Servant Song establishes the context for chapter 54. The Fourth Song reveals God’s Servant in his fullness: his glory (52:13-15), his passion (53:2-9), and his reward (53:10-12). Within the context of the sacrifice accomplished by God’s Servant, chapter 54 echoes and extends the opening verses of Chapter 40. Parallels exist between Chapter 54 and Chapter 40. Joy breaks forth.

Parallels Between Chapters 54 and 40:1-11 

Isaiah chapter 40:1-11 and Isaiah chapter 54 present the same message from different points of view. Isaiah 49:1-11 looks forward to the Advent of God’s Servant. Isaiah 54 reflects on the consequences for Sion of the Servant’s already having come.

Synopsis of Chapter 40

In chapter 40:1-11, God comforts Sion. The text uses the word “Jerusalem.” God tells the priests to speak to the “heart of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is equivalent to “my people.”

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says God. 2 Speak, you priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins. 

According to Isaiah’s vantage in chapter 40, Israel resides in exile in Babylon. God through Isaiah tells his people that he sent them there because of their sins against God. The remainder of this chapter and following chapters develop in detail the theme of Sion’s sin. But in these verses, God prophesies to Jerusalem that his punishment of their sins is finished.

Verses 3 through 11 describe the Advent of Messiah, God’s Servant (Devotional 2.2). Readers can note that Isaiah does not introduce the word “Servant” in this section. In this section, those “who bring glad tidings to Zion” should announce that “the Lord is coming” (verse 10). Verse 10 describes the Lord’s power, strength, and reward. Verse 11 describes his gentle care of God’s lambs, as a shepherd. The Servant, Jesus Christ, fulfilled all these descriptors in his first Advent. These verses give readers (and listeners) of Isaiah a preview of this Advent.

The MAIN POINT of this section is that God has finished punishing his people. Something new is about to happen. He is sending “the Lord” with blessings of strength, power, and love for the people. He will be like a Shepherd to them.

Synopsis of Chapter 54

While chapter 40 looks forward to the Servant’s Advent, chapter 54 looks back to the Advent. Chapter 53 describes in detail how God punishes his Servant for the sins of his people (Septuagint Isaiah 53:8-10). God states in these verses that the punishment upon the Servant is sufficient for all time (verse 8). He will show his people everlasting mercy. There will be an inflow of “strangers” sent by God who will “sojourn” with them and “run” to them for “refuge” (footnote 1). They will need to increase the size of their tent to accommodate all the new people God will send to live with them. God describes the glory of Sion’s dwelling by naming precious stones with which he will build her. Finally, God closes the chapter with a promise of righteousness.

17 … There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and you shall be righteous before me, says the Lord. ( Septuagint Isaiah 54:17). 

Interpretation

Various readers interpret this passage differently from one another.

I. CONCRETE-PHYSICAL OR METAPHORIC?

The first point of basic difference is one of hermeneutics. Is chapter 54 concrete-physical or metaphoric?

1. First, previous posts in this blog have sought to demonstrate that Isaiah slowly shifts from concrete-physical prophetic statements concerning return from exile in Babylon to the larger, more future context of the Servant’s sacrifice for the sins of his people. Many of the blessings the Servant brings, such as the healing from sin that his sacrifice provides, are spiritual in nature. That is, God’s forgiveness of our sin is a spiritual reality (spiritual-literal), not a physical-literal reality. As another example, when God accomplishes righteousness for his people through his Servant, that righteousness is a spiritual-literal reality, not a physical-literal reality. (See Isaiah 53:4, 5, 6, 11, and 12.)

2. Second, posts in this blog have traced the context of chapter 54 all the way back to chapter 40. We have paid attention to verbal tags (labels) to determine whom the Lord addresses as the chapters progress. These context studies demonstrate that between chapters 40 and 54, God narrows the audience whom he addresses as “Sion,” “Jerusalem,” and “my people.” By the time the reader arrives at Septuagint Isaiah 51, the conclusion seems established that these names refer to God’s faithful few who seek to please him and follow his will (see, for example, Devotional 2.66). Because the congregation of “those who seek after righteousness” is more a spiritual-literal entity than a physical-literal entity, readers might expect that prophesies concerning this group would be of like kind.

3. Third, more than a dozen of the previous posts have explored past context to discover whom God through Isaiah addresses by the names “the barren” and “the desolate” (Septuagint Isaiah 54:1). The final conclusion is that these names refer to the remnant of faithful Israel. These are the ones who “seek after righteousness,” and worship God, just as Abraham and Sarah did (Septuagint Isaiah 51:1-3). God repeatedly states throughout the chapters that he will call Gentiles to join this group. Paul quotes Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27. Paul’s use of this verse builds on Isaiah’s meaning in its context. Paul quotes Isaiah’s verse to indicate the church of the Servant (Messiah Christ) who believe as Abraham believed. These believers, teaches Paul, are not bound to obey the Mosaic law. Rather, they obey the law of the Spirit, which is the love of Christ.

4. Therefore, by the time the text and reader arrive at Septuagint Isaiah 54:1, the “barren,” “desolate” woman (whom God names as Sion and Jerusalem elsewhere) appears to be a metaphor for those in Israel who exercise the faith of Abraham. This group cannot be delineated by physical boundaries. They are not those who live in Jerusalem in a physical-literal sense. They are those who dwell in the “heart of Jerusalem” in a spiritual-literal sense. 

5. In conclusion, it appears likely that God uses the images of precious stones and jewels from which he will make the city (2) as metaphors that indicate the great love he bears for the people who choose to receive the Servant and his sacrifice for their sins. In support of this conclusion, consider that the text states that God makes the city. God, who is Spirit, does not build concrete-physical cities. People do that. God does, however, build a spiritual-literal city. And to this spiritual-literal city, God will call Gentiles to come (54:3). Verse 15 states, “Behold, strangers shall come to you by me, and shall sojourn with you, and shall run to you for refuge” (Septuagint Isaiah 54:15). This is why Paul proclaims in Galatians, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26, 25-27).

6. In confirmation of the conclusion just presented, God states in verse 16, “Behold, I have created you, not as the coppersmith blowing coals, and bringing out a vessel fit for work; but I have created you…” God in verse 16 plainly states that he created the city of Jerusalem, the “barren” woman, not in a concrete-physical way, as a coppersmith blowing coals. A coppersmith blowing coals is physical-literal. God declares that he created his people, the city, the woman, not in this concrete-physical way. Nevertheless, “I have created you,” God says.

God’s Prophecies Never Fail

This next portion is extremely sad for me to write. I shudder, and I tremble.

Chapter 54 brings joy, comfort, and great promise from God to… the church. The church are those whom God gathers from faithful Israel (our mother, says Paul, in Galatians 4:26) and believing Gentiles (3).

If the prophecies of chapter 54 are read concrete-literally, that is physically, then these prophecies have failed. But before we go there, let’s establish that chapter 54 contains no time markers. Nothing in the chapter would indicate that the time-frame is after the Servant’s second advent and even beyond that, into eternity. Isaiah nowhere up to this point establishes a second advent. Following as it does immediately after chapter 53, there is no indication that the subject or people have changed. Chapter 53 firmly describes the First Advent of God’s Servant and the missionary activity of its aftermath. Isaiah in chapter 53 offers no hints that anything having to do with a Second Advent might be in view. It does, however, describe very well what happened immediately after the Servant’s Ascension and continues to happen today. That is, the growth of the Servant’s congregation (his synagogue), the church.

Please follow. If chapter 54 refers to a physical Jerusalem, the “now” Jerusalem as the Greek of Galatians 4:25 phrases it, then the prophecy failed. God speaks boldly in chapter 54.

8… with everlasting mercy will I have compassion upon you… 9… I will no more be angry with you… 10… 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… 13 And I will cause all your sons to be taught of God, and your children to be in great peace… 14… you shall not fear; and trembling shall not come near you. 15 Behold, strangers shall come to you by me, and shall sojourn with you, and shall run to you for refuge. 16… I have created you, not for ruin, that I should destroy you. 17 I will not suffer any weapon formed against you to prosper; and every voice that shall rise up against you for judgment, you shall vanquish them all; and your adversaries shall be condemned thereby. 

70 AD

In the year 70 CE, pretty much everything that God in Isaiah 54 said would not happen to Jerusalem happened. The Romans came and sacked Jerusalem. They threw down all the stones of the temple. The temple has not been rebuilt. Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Matthew 23:37-24:2). But, the spiritual-literal Jerusalem still stands, even after 2,000 years. This is the Jerusalem above, “our mother,” says Paul in Galatians 4:26.

And, in chapter 55, God continues to speak to his redeemed people with words of spiritual-literal comfort and joy. Spiritual-literal blessings are blessings that are very, very real, yet they are spiritual in nature. With these chapters, the Gospel of Isaiah leaves the confines of the concrete physicality of Old Testament physical-literalism and steps boldly into the realm of Spirit which Christ the Servant inaugurates in the New. And, within the realm of the Spirit, there is great joy and comfort.

… stay tuned for Chapter 55… 

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1 The Septuagint of 54:3 and 15 read very differently than the Masoretic. The Septuagint is true to the context concerning Gentiles that Isaiah builds throughout several previous chapters. Consistently in the chapters building to chapter 54, God welcomes Gentiles to partake of the blessings he provides through his Servant. Septuagint chapter 54 continues this tradition.

2 “54:5 For it is the Lord that made you; the Lord of hosts is his name: and he that delivered you, he is the God of Israel… 11… behold, I will prepare carbuncle for your stones, and sapphire for your foundations; 12 and I will make your buttresses jasper, and your gates crystal, and your border precious stones” (Septuagint Isaiah 54:5, 12).

3 The church does not replace Israel; the church is Israel, all grown up and married. There is one olive tree, a “Jewish” olive tree, into which Gentiles have been grafted (Romans 11:13-18). And even though some of the branches have been grafted in, nevertheless, the synagogue (Old Testament), or the congregation (New Testament), of the Servant of the “God of Israel” (Septuagint Isaiah 49:7; 52:12; 54:5) is one olive tree.

“Barren” Woman–Isaiah and Galatians: Journal 2.68

By Christina M Wilson

This post summarizes what we have learned about the “barren” woman in Septuagint Isaiah 54:1. It connects Isaiah and Galatians.

Two Texts

Septuagint Isaiah speaks of a barren [woman] in 54:1. Paul quotes Isaiah’s verse in Galatians 4:27. How does the thought of the two texts connect? Note: Although the English of the two texts below vary somewhat, the Greek text of Galatians is identical to the Greek text of the Septuagint (Archer and Chirichigno).

Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband:

Galatians 4:27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” (ESV)

Isaiah and Paul 

When readers study the context of Paul’s Galatians 4:27, they may discover that Paul appears vastly more complex than Isaiah.

  • Paul wrote theology in his letter.
  • Isaiah prophesied.
  • Paul in Galatians draws upon several biblical strands and weaves them together.
  • Isaiah reports God’s word to him.
  • Paul looks back to a detailed history of Israel (Mt Sinai, Arabia, Hagar, Abraham’s firstborn son by Hagar, whom Paul does not mention by name, and Isaac) (Galatians 4:21-31).
  • Isaiah limits his history to brief mentions of  Abraham and Sarah (Isaiah 51:1-2).
  • Paul makes a specific argument concerning circumcision among Galatian believers.
  • Isaiah reports God’s words of comfort to the one he calls you barren that bear not.”

How Does Paul Use the Text from Isaiah?

Paul’s theology is bold and direct: The congregation of faithful Israel includes all believers in Christ without regard for ethnicity. Obedience to the law of Moses is not a requirement of either salvation or fellowship in the congregation of Christ-worshipers (1). These are basic premises Paul seeks to expound to primarily Gentile believers in the book of Galatians. Another way of stating this is that Paul recognizes but one pathway of salvation–belief in Christ the Son of God.

But Paul uses surprising metaphors in Galatians 4:21-31. He turns common assumptions upside down. Also, Paul’s writing is extremely compact. He mixes various metaphors without spelling them out in detail. Here, however, are the basics.

1. Paul distinguishes two Jerusalems. One is Jerusalem “now.” Paul means the concrete-physical Jerusalem one can locate on a map. The second Jerusalem is the “Jerusalem above.” This corresponds to a spiritual congregation born of God’s promise to Abraham. Followers of the Mosaic law live in the first. Those who place their faith in God’s promise through Christ inhabit the second.

2. The two Jerusalems correspond to two women. The first is Hagar, a slave woman. She represents the physical-concrete city of Jerusalem. The second is Sarah, a free woman. She represents the spiritual Jerusalem.

3. Paul also names two covenants. The first corresponds to Hagar. It is the Law which God gave Moses on Mt Sinai. Paul does not follow through in specifically defining the second covenant. The reader must infer that the second covenant is what gives birth to the “Jerusalem above.”

4. The first covenant, which corresponds to Hagar, the Law, and Mt Sinai, gives “birth to bondage.” But the second, corresponding to the “freewoman through promise” (Galatians 4:23), gives birth to everyone whom Paul calls “us all” (Galatians 4:26) and “we, brethren” (Galatians 4:28).

5. Paul identifies the second covenant (belonging to the Jerusalem above) with Isaac (verse 28). He states, “we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28).

Paul and Isaiah

So, where does Paul get his theology? And, how does Paul use Isaiah?

Paul quotes two Old Testament passages to support his reasoning to the Galatian believers. He first quotes Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 exactly as it appears in the Greek text of the Septuagint (see above). Now, if readers were to consider this verse completely free of its extensive context in Isaiah, they might conclude that Paul pulls a rabbit from a hat (performs magic).

Paul makes several assertions in his use of the “barren” woman quotation from Isaiah.

1. Use of the term “barren” one indicates Sarah to Isaiah, just as it does to Paul.
2. Isaiah’s prophecy in 54:1 is the promise Paul refers to.
3. Believers in Christ are the children of the barren one.
4. These children are the children of the Jerusalem above, which is free.
5. Therefore, the “barren” woman of Isaiah is the Jerusalem above. In other words, Isaiah indicates a spiritual Jerusalem in his metaphor, just as Paul does (2).

JERUSALEM ABOVE

Paul’s “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26) is real to Paul. In Paul’s letters, the Spirit and what is spiritual is every bit as real as what is concrete-physical. Concrete-physical denotes that which can be seen and touched. God’s transition of humanity from the realm of physical only, i.e., the concrete-physical, to the realm of the spiritual is one of the most difficult transitions for people of all ages to understand and accept.

Paul in Galatians seems to link the Mosaic Covenant and bondage together with the concrete-physical Jerusalem (the “Jerusalem which is now” {Galatians 4:25}). On the other hand, he links the Spirit (Galatians 5:5), God’s promise, and belief in Christ with freedom.

The question is, did Isaiah do the same?

THE BARREN WOMAN OF ISAIAH

Isaiah straddles God’s transition of humanity from concrete-physical to concrete-spiritual. Isaiah plants one foot in the physicality of the Old Testament. The other foot he plants firmly in the spirituality of the New Testament. Isaiah’s main purpose and theme in Volume 2 is to present God’s Servant. Jesus Christ fulfills Isaiah’s Servant prophecies. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Servant of God whom Isaiah presents so clearly.

What about Christ? Is he concrete-physical or concrete-spiritual? The answer is both. God is Spirit. Both biblical testaments teach this. Jesus Christ, Son of God, is therefore Spirit. As incarnated human being, he is also physical. Both his physical nature and his spiritual nature are every bit as real as the other. The New Testament teaches that when people believe in Christ, they, too, become indwelled with the Holy Spirit. They become spiritual beings, as well as physical. After the resurrection, when believers receive their new bodies, the union of body and spirit will be perfected. Now, because the body remains in slavery to sin, the union is not currently as it will be in eternity. (See Romans 6 through 8 for the struggle that exists between the flesh, which is the body, and the spirit.)

So, What About Isaiah?

The context of Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 reaches back for several chapters. Previous posts of this blog explore each one of these chapter contexts in detail. (Exploration of the “barren” woman context begins with Devotional 2.54).

As concerns the assertions that Paul makes, a brief summary of Isaiah follows.

1. First, Septuagint Isaiah 54:1-3 is indeed a prophetic promise of God (Paul’s assertion numbered two above.) Because God’s prophecies always are true, every prophecy serves as a promise.

2. Second, Isaiah’s own reference to the “barren,” “desolate” one does contain two connotations.

  • The first is to Sarah. In Isaiah 51:1, the Lord specifies that he addresses those who “follow after righteousness” and “seek the Lord”. Then in 51:2, he tells this group of listeners to “look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah that bore you.” Sarah, according to Isaiah, is the mother of those who follow after righteousness and seek the Lord. I believe it is fair to call these people “believers.” (See Septuagint Isaiah 51:1-2.) Both Isaiah and Paul indicate that believers are children of Abraham and Sarah.
  • The second connotation Isaiah includes in his terms “barren” one and “desolate” one is Jerusalem. Isaiah uses the term in much the same way that Paul does. Isaiah envisions Jerusalem as both the people and the place where those who follow after righteousness and seek the Lord live. Chapter 51 develops the context of this connotation.
    • Readers have already seen 51:1-2. In these verses, God speaks to those whose father is Abraham and mother is Sarah. He further describes those whom he addresses as those who “follow after righteousness” and “seek the Lord.” More descriptors occur in 51:7. There, God speaks to the same group as previously. He describes them as those who “know judgement” and in whose “heart is my law.” This group of people bear the brunt of reproach and contempt from men.
    • In Septuagint Isaiah 51:9 God addresses this small group of followers as “Jerusalem.” He characterizes them in verse 10 as those who by faith performed the miracles that permitted Israel to flee Egypt through the waters in the “depths of the sea.”
    • Verse 11 of the same chapter prophesies that this group which exercises faith shall return to Sion “with joy and everlasting exultation.” These are the Lord’s people (verse 16.)
    • Chapter 52 further defines this group of people whom God through Isaiah addresses. Sion and Jerusalem appear to be interchangeable terms (Septuagint Isaiah 52:1).
    • The prophet calls Jerusalem “the holy city” (52:1). He prophesies that “there shall no more pass through you, the uncircumcised and unclean” (same verse). This could hardly be true if Isaiah speaks of a concrete-physical city. Such cities tend to be bustling places with a cross-section of many types of people. And, many “sinners” did populate Jerusalem at the time of the Servant’s incarnation.
    • God characterizes Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day as a slave woman in bondage (52:2). But, God will ransom her. In the remainder of chapter 52, he describes how he will deliver Jerusalem .
    • God will bring salvation and deliverance to Jerusalem by means of the Servant’s sacrificial death (Septuagint Isaiah 52:9-53:12).

The Holy Spirit indeed inspired Paul in his theological understanding and his writing. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to understand the history of Israel and the written words of the Old Testament in the manner in which God intended.

  • Christians believe that all Scripture is inspired.
  • Paul’s letter to the Galatians is part of Scripture.
  • Scripture does not contradict Scripture.
  • Therefore, Paul’s interpretation of Isaiah 54:1 is just as God intended.
  • God does not change, nor does his intent. Scripture itself is not so much “progressive”. Rather his people’s understanding of Scripture progresses with the revelation of Jesus Christ and the interpretation of the inspired writers of the New Testament, of which Paul is one.
  • What Paul finds in Septuagint Isaiah 54:1, as he expresses it in Galatians 4:21-31, is what God intends us all to see. The content of Paul’s understanding of Isaiah 54:1, as he presents it in Galatians, lies within the text from the beginning, even in Isaiah’s day. Readers can verify this by following the context throughout the chapters of Isaiah which occur previous to 54:1.

3. Third, the group of faithful followers of God and his Servant whom God will bless definitely includes Gentiles. Isaiah provides many references to Gentile inclusion among those in Israel who follow after righteousness and seek God. Just two of these are Isaiah 52:15 Septuagint and Isaiah 54:3 Septuagint.

… This post marks the final post of the “Barren” Woman series. Future posts will move forward from this point.

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1 Of extreme importance to understand is that Paul is not a proponent of “lawlessness,” in the sense of immorality of any kind. Rather, Paul preached a law motivated by the love of Christ for others. The Holy Spirit who indwells believers governs the law of love (Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:5; 6:1-6, 15-18; 8:2-13; 12:9-10; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13; 16:14 and many others).

2 The term “spiritual” does not mean “not real.” I prefer writing “spiritual-concrete.” This term corresponds with its opposite, “physical-concrete.” In God’s system, both concrete and spiritual are every bit real. Jesus indicates that the spiritual carries greater “truth” than the concrete (John 4:20-24).

Marching Orders: Journal 2.67

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. This post describes the marching orders God gives to faithful Sion before he delivers them from captivity into the light of salvation.

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

To the current point in Septuagint Isaiah 51:9, the context has revealed that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is the faithful remnant of Israel. God will call Gentiles to join them in trusting God for the light of his salvation (Devotional 2.66).

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 51:9-52:12

Septuagint Isaiah 51:9-52:12 forms a tightly bound unit. In these verses, God addresses the faithful remnant of Israel, whom he calls Sion and Jerusalem. God’s marching orders for them mean nothing less than deliverance from captivity and oppression.

THREE CALLS FOLLOWED BY MARCHING ORDERS

Three times in the Septuagint passage God commands Jerusalem to “Awake awake”! (1) These three calls form a progression.

1. 51:9 Awake, awake, O Jerusalem, and put on the strength of your arm;
2. 51:17Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem,
3. 52:1 Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and do thou put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city:

After the third call to awaken, God gives his marching orders.

52:11  Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that brings up your rear. (LXE) [2 Corinthians 6:17 quotes verse 11]

FOURTH SERVANT SONG

Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song begins immediately after God’s promise of deliverance in the quoted verses (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The Servant theme unifies Volume 2 of Isaiah. The Fourth Servant Song describes the manner of God’s deliverance: punishment and death of the Servant. By the time the Servant arrives several centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy, most of Israel (except for a small remnant) appears to have forgotten this passage. And apparently no one understood its meaning.

WORD STUDIES AND OTHER COMMENTS

Jerusalem and Sion

The text seems to use “Jerusalem” and “Sion” interchangeably.

Jerusalem the Holy City

The third call to awaken identifies Jerusalem as “the holy city.”

Analogy of Faith Between Exodus from Egypt and Exodus from Babylon

The first call reveals the analogy of faith that accomplished the exodus from Egypt and will also accomplish the prophesied exodus from Babylon, both spiritual and physical.

First Call: Awake! Awake! Put on Strength!

The people of Jerusalem live in captivity in Babylon during the time when Isaiah prophesies. The first call to Jerusalem presents an analogy between the exodus from Babylon and the exodus from Egypt (LXE). In the same way that the faith of the people enacted the physical miracles God performed in delivering them from Egypt, so now God calls them to awaken and “put on the strength of your arm” (51:9). The “strength of [their] arm” represents the same kind of trust in God that enabled them to cross the Red Sea. The text describes the Red Sea water as “the abundance of the deep” and “the depths of the sea” (51:10).

51:11 for by the help of the Lord they shall return, and come to Sion with joy and everlasting exultation, for praise and joy shall come upon their head: pain, and grief, and groaning, have fled away. (LXE)

Notice the similarity of 51:11 with 51:6c and 51:8. There God announces that his “righteousness shall be for ever,” and his “salvation for all generations.” Readers begin to suspect that the hyperbole of the text may represent more than a physical return from Babylon.

Second Call: Awake, Awake! Arise!

The second call to Jerusalem to “Awake, awake!” is pregnant with meaning in the Greek.

51:17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, that have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury: for you have drunk out and drained the cup of calamity, the cup of wrath: (LXE)

51:17a ἐξεγείρου ἐξεγείρου ἀνάστηθι Ιερουσαλημ (Kata Biblon Greek Septuagint)

The Greek base word for “stand up” is ἀνίστημι (an-IS-tee-mee). Its intransitive middle form does mean to literally stand from a reclining position. However, the grammatical form in this verse is second person aorist imperative. In other words, God commands Jerusalem to stand up, or arise.

What makes use of the word interesting here is its use in John 6:39, where Jesus speaks of resurrecting (raising up) on the last day everything the Lord has given him. Even more to the point is Ephesians 5:13-14, where Paul quotes this very verse and alludes to its context in Septuagint Isaiah 51:5.

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV) 

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

In the first quotation from Ephesians, Paul combines with our current verse and Isaiah 26:19.

26:19 The dead shall rise, and they that are in the tombs shall be raised, and they that are in the earth shall rejoice… (LXE)

Paul’s understanding of God’s command to Jerusalem is “spiritual,” rather than concrete-physical. In Isaiah’s own day, his text would mean both the concrete-physical return from exile in Babylon and the spiritual application of resurrection from the dead. By the time the Servant-Savior came and Paul wrote about the power of his resurrection, the concrete-physical return from Babylon would have paled in importance against the resurrection from the dead the Servant commands. So it should be with us, to whom Christ gave the Key (himself) that unlocks the Old Testament.

Within the section containing the second call to awaken, God supplies the reason why the advent of the Servant became necessary. No one else in all of Israel had the power to save.

51:18 and there was none to comfort you of all the children whom you bore; and there was none to take hold of your hand, not even of all the children whom you have reared. 19 Therefore these things are against you… 20 Your sons are the perplexed ones, that sleep at the top of every street as a half-boiled beet; they that are full of the anger of the Lord, caused to faint by the Lord God. (LXE

Third Call: Awake! Awake! Put on Strength! Put on Glory! Shake Off the Dust and Arise! Sit Down! Put Off the Band of Your Neck!

52:1 Awake, awake, Sion; put on your strength, O Sion; and o you put on your glory, Jerusalem the holy city: there shall no more pass through you, the uncircumcised and unclean. 2 Shake off the dust and arise; sit down, Jerusalem: put off the band of your neck, captive daughter of Sion. (LXE

1. REPETITIONS

The third call combines and extends calls one and two.

  • The phrase “put on your strength” repeats call one (51:9) of the Septuagint (1).
  • The command to “arise” is identical to the command translated “stand up” in the second call of 51:17.

2. EXTENSIONS

  • Sion and Jerusalem appear together twice in two consecutive verses.
  • “Put off the band of your neck” and “sit down” signals a transition from slavery in captivity to freedom, well-being, and status in the realm of the Lord God.
  • The text reveals Jerusalem as “the holy city.”

3. GENTILES

Verses 5 and 10 of the third call demonstrate again in Isaiah God’s love and concern for Gentiles (the nations).  In verse 5 God expresses irritation that the poor behavior of his own people has caused Gentiles to blaspheme his name (Romans 2:24). In verse 10, Isaiah prophesies that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God.”

4. VERSE 52:9 FORESHADOWS 54:1

52:9 Let the waste places of Jerusalem break forth in joy together, because the Lord has had mercy upon her, and has delivered Jerusalem. (LXE

54:1  Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (LXE

Points to Notice

  • The context of both verses is joy.
  • “Waste places” builds from the identical Greek base word as “barren.” The base word is ἔρημος (ER-ee-moss). Of places, it means “solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited” (Thayer). Of people, it means “deserted by others; deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially of friends, acquaintances, kindred; bereft” (Thayer).
  • The phrases “break forth in joy together” in 52:9 and “break forth and cry” in 54:1 both use the identical Greek word “break forth.” This word is plural in 52:9 and singular in 54:1.
  • The final phrase of 52:9 paraphrases, or interprets, the cause of joy in 54:1.
    • Verses 52:8-9 state, “8… when the Lord shall have mercy upon Sion. 9 Let the waste places of Jerusalem break forth in joy together, because the Lord has had mercy upon her [Sion]. (LXE)
    • Verse 54:1 states, “for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband:” (LXE
  • In summary, all the phrases of 52:9 in the third call to Jerusalem to “Awake!” correspond closely to all the phrases of 54:1. Therefore, one can again safely conclude that the “barren” woman of 54:1 is faithful Sion and Jerusalem, the holy city.

GOD’S MARCHING ORDERS

Isaiah closes the long section containing the three calls to Jerusalem to “Awake, awake” with marching orders to leave captivity. Notice the symmetry: “Awake, awake” and “Depart, depart.” Both the Israelites of Isaiah’s day and Christians of all ages can find delight in the joyful promise of these two verses.

52:11  Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that  brings up your rear. (LXE)

THE FOURTH SERVANT SONG

The details presented above represent the trees of the forest. The forest, in this analogy, is God’s Servant. The longest passage concerning the Servant up to this point in all of Isaiah follows immediately after God’s call to Jerusalem and Sion to awake, arise, and sit down in his presence. He summarizes these verses with the command to “Depart, depart” (see above). And, situated most importantly above everything else of significance in Isaiah, the fourth Servant passage describes how God intends to deliver and redeem Israel.

SIGNIFICANCE AND CONCLUSION

By the time Isaiah speaks out the Fourth Servant Song, the context of the whole has moved far beyond the strictly concrete-physical, local context of return from the physical location of Babylon. The spiritual aspect of the Servant’s suffering and dying as a sacrifice for the sins of his people claims center stage.

With the entirety of Isaiah’s context as backdrop, the “barren” woman whom Paul describes in Galatians 4:21-31 becomes more readily accessible. Lord willing, we will discuss Paul’s use of these Isaian passages in the next post.

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1 The Masoretic text (Hebrew tradition) of Isaiah differs from the Septuagint (Greek tradition) in 51:9. In the Septuagint, God addresses “O Jerusalem” or Sion three times. For the first of these, the Masoretic does not use the word “Jerusalem.” Rather, the text shows the people [of Israel] attempting to awaken God, “O arm of the LORD.” This, however, contradicts the entire sense of the last several chapters. They reveal that God is very much awake. The opposite holds true for the people of Israel. They appear to be depressed, chastened, and rebellious in their captivity. God himself initiates deliverance for Israel through his Servant. The previous chapters do not reveal Israel pleading with God.

God’s Faithful: Journal 2.66

By Christina M Wilson

… chapter by chapter context clues continued. This post demonstrates how God’s Faithful in Sion are identical to the “barren” woman of 54:1. 

Recap: Descriptors of Faithful Israel

The purpose of the last several posts is to determine from previous context in Isaiah who the “barren” woman of Isaiah 54:1 might be.

1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: (Isaiah 54:1 Septuagint)

Chapter 49 reveals that the barren woman is Sion. (See Septuagint Isaiah Devotional 2.64.) Chapter 50 opens with part two of God’s reply to those of Sion who claim he has abandoned them (50:1-3). It then moves on to the Third Servant Song in 50:4-9. Then, verses 10 and 11 address two different sets of people. Verse 10 speaks to those who fear the Lord. Verse 11 speaks to those who worship idols (Septuagint Isaiah 44:13-20) (and see Septuagint Isaiah Devotional 2.65). 

Chapter Summaries

CHAPTER 51

SPEECH TAGS

The text of Isaiah chapter 51:1-3 uses several speech tags to identify whom God, the speaker, addresses.

  • you that follow after righteousness
  • and [you that] seek the Lord
  • Abraam your father
  • Sarrha that bore you
  • you, O Sion

Verse 2 implies that the group whom God now addresses is small.

2 Look to Abraam your father, and to Sarrha that bore you: for he was alone when I called him, and blessed him, and loved him, and multiplied him. 

God appears to be saying that just as Abraham was “alone” (the word “one” in Greek), the group that “follows after righteousness” is likewise small. What God did for Abraham, he will do for them.

3 And now I will comfort you, O Sion: and I have comforted all her desert places; and I will make her desert places as a garden, and her western places as the garden of the Lord; they shall find in her gladness and exultation, thanksgiving and the voice of praise.

The Lord called, blessed, loved, and multiplied Abraham (verse 2 above). And now, God will comfort Sion in her desert places. Her desert places will be as a garden of the Lord. There will be gladness, exultation, thanksgiving, and the voice of praise. The phrase “desert places” in the Greek Septuagint is a different grammatical form of the same word the text of Septuagint 54:1 uses for “the desolate.” The referents, therefore, are most likely the same group.

USE OF METAPHOR

At this point in Isaiah, God speaks entirely in metaphor.

  • Sion is not a person.
  • If Sion were a group of people, a group of people is not a place.

And yet God will bless these metaphorical images of Sion in a way similar to how he blessed Abraham. They will prosper abundantly. But there is a difference. Abraham and Sarah were indeed people. God blessed them with numerous progeny (verse 2). The phrase concrete-physical can describe Abraham and Sarah’s blessings. Their children existed in the physical world.

WHEN WILL THESE BLESSINGS TO SION OCCUR?

If readers examine the text for labels that might indicate when God’s promises of comfort to Sion will occur, they will find no simple, direct tags. Verses 4 and 5, however, clearly refer to God’s blessing upon Gentiles.

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

Recall that the Third Servant Song occurs just a few verses back in Isaiah 50:4-9. In this context, God exhorts those who fear the Lord to listen to the voice of his Servant (50:10). He also calls out and foretells sorrow upon those who follow idols (50:11). Immediately after verse 11, God again exhorts those who follow after righteousness to listen. He tells them to listen and exercise the faith of Abraham and Sarah, their founding ancestors. But once again, as so frequently in the past several chapters, God expresses his intention to call, summon, and bless Gentiles along with Israel (verses 4 and 5 above).

In terms of timing, all of the promises above find their fulfillment in the first Advent of Christ, the Servant. After his ascension, the Gentiles flocked to join the congregation of the God of Israel’s Servant. Jesus clearly taught that his kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). He indicated in plain speech to the Samaritan (Gentile) woman at the well a change from an old economy to a new.  The new manner of worshiping Israel’s God would be spiritual, rather than concrete-physical (John 4:12-14, 20-24). Jesus the Servant also revealed to one of Israel’s leading rabbis (Nicodemus) that he must be “born” again of the Spirit (John 3:1-10).

A Retrospective Look

In retrospect, then, the text of Isaiah 51 leads in the direction of spiritual blessings of well-being and multiplication of progeny upon those of Sion who “follow after righteousness and seek the Lord” (Septuagint Isaiah 51:1). Is the change from concrete-physical to spiritual difficult to find and grasp in the text of Isaiah? Yes, for me it is. But I am not alone. Jesus the Servant’s disciples experienced similarly thick ears. Jesus, however, gave them his divine permission to go back and reconsider Old Testament prophecy through the lens of his incarnation–life, death, and resurrection (Luke 24:13-27, 44-49). Isaiah and Jesus the Servant speak of the same things.

More Time Tags

Up to this point in 51:5, everything that God through Isaiah promises to those in Sion who seek after righteousness finds its fulfillment in the Advent of Christ, God’s Servant, and the period of time after his ascension. But a long time has passed since Christ spoke the words of his Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Septuagint Isaiah 51:6-8 describes this long period of time and even beyond.

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.

Verse 6 indicates that the righteousness promised the remnant of Sion and Gentiles together shall not fail. In other words, the kingdom of God’s Servant is a lasting kingdom. Verse 7 implies that God’s faithful people will experience opposition from others: reproach and contempt. But verse 8 indicates that those who oppose God’s people will grow old and die, but God’s righteousness will continue forever. He will extend his salvation continuously to all generations.

The text of Isaiah at this point contains no tags or markers that would indicate a “millennial” kingdom. Nor does it mention the Servant’s return. On the other hand, these verses describe very well the current era. This era extends all the way forward from the Great Commission to the present day.

CONCLUSION

Chapter 51:1-8 completes what chapters 49-50 and previous chapters began. By the end of verse 8, readers can conclude that the reference to the “barren” woman in 54:1 looks back to the references in God’s speech to a faithful Sion. In chapter 51, these are God’s people who follow after righteousness and seek the Lord. Consistent with many prior chapters, God again makes clear that Gentiles will be intimately woven into Israel’s future blessings of comfort and prosperity.

 to be continued

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