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Septuagint Variation: Isaiah Journal 72

By Christina M Wilson. Simultaneously published at Septuagint Variation: Isaiah Devotional Journal 72 – justonesmallvoice.com.

Isaiah 32:9-20    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Before leaving Chapter 32, there is one more Septuagint variation that sheds light on the chapter as a whole.

Recap

The prior Journal entry, Isaiah Devotional Journal 71, shows how Chapter 32 alternates between desolation for the then-existing nation of Israel and blessing for those in the future kingdom of the righteous King. These sections alternate in large chunks, rather than single verses:

  1. The blessings of Messiah: verses 1-4
  2. Contrast between the foolish wicked and the godly wise: verses 5-8
  3. Warning of the desolation to come: verses 9-14
  4. Messianic blessings: verses 15-20

Verse 19 in the Masoretic

Verse 19, in the ESV, protrudes like a thorn in the middle of a wedding bed. Then verse 20 returns to blessing.

ESV Isaiah 32:15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, … 16 Then justice … righteousness … fruitful field. 17 … righteousness … peace … righteousness, quietness and trust forever. 18 … peaceful habitation, … secure dwellings, … quiet resting places. 19 And it will hail when the forest falls down, and the city will be utterly laid low. 20 Happy are you who sow beside all waters, who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free.

A Difficult Text

Deciphering what the biblical text reads for this verse must be difficult, since other translations in the Masoretic tradition vary widely.

  • For example, the Bible of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) reads, “Isaiah 32:19 And it shall hail, in the downfall of the forest; but the city shall descend into the valley.
  • NRS “The forest will disappear completely, and the city will be utterly laid low.
  • KJV “When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.
  • Amplified Bible “But it [the wrath of the Lord] shall hail, coming down overpoweringly on the forest [the army of the Assyrians], and the capital [2] city shall be utterly humbled and laid prostrate.”
  • NASB “And it will hail when the forest comes down, And the city will be utterly laid low.

NIV and NET

The NIV, NET, and a few other dynamic translations (paraphrased) come closer to the text in the Septuagint. These translations combine verses 19 and 20. The outcome is a combination of blessing and trial.

  • NIV “19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, 20 how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
  • NET “19 Even if the forest is destroyed and the city is annihilated, 20 you will be blessed, you who plant seed by all the banks of the streams, you who let your ox and donkey graze.

The blessing in the texts above is qualified. It appears to be due to a difference in geographic location. The forest and city suffer extreme damage. However, those living by the banks of the streams will be blessed, as they continue to farm and graze their animals.

The Septuagint Text Is Plain and Simple

15 until the Spirit shall come upon you from on high, and Carmel shall be desert, and Carmel shall be counted for a forest. 16 Then judgment shall abide in the wilderness, and righteousness shall dwell in Carmel. 17 And the works of righteousness shall be peace; and righteousness shall ensure rest, and the righteous shall be confident forever. 18 And His people shall inhabit a city of peace, and dwell in it in confidence, and they shall rest with wealth. 19 And if the hail should come down, it shall not come upon you; and they that dwell in the forests shall be in confidence, as those in the plain country. 20 Blessed are they that sow by every water, where the ox and the donkey tread.

Contrasts Between the Septuagint and the Masoretic

1. Verse 19 in the Septuagint brings no contextual contradictions that must be explained. The verse smoothly follows the theme of blessing found throughout the passage.

2. All geographic areas are blessed. There is no distinction among them. The city will be blessed, the forest blessed, the plains blessed, and the waterways blessed.

3. Unlike the Masoretic, verse 18 of the Septuagint specifically states that “His people shall inhabit a city of peace.” Then, verse 19 brings no calamity upon that city. In contrast, verse 18 of the Masoretic makes no mention of a city. However, in verse 19 various calamities fall upon “the city,” depending upon the version.

    • JPS: the city shall descend into the valley
    • NRS: the city will be utterly laid low.
    • KJV: the city shall be low in a low place
    • Amplified: the capital [2] city shall be utterly humbled and laid prostrate.
    • NASB: the city will be utterly laid low.
    • NET: Even if … the city is annihilated,
    • NIV: Though … the city is leveled completely,

4. In both textual traditions, the occurrence of hail appears either certain or likely. But only in the Septuagint does the hail harm no one.

Concrete-Literal or Spiritual-Literal

The Septuagint text of Isaiah 32:19 states, “And if the hail should come down, it shall not come upon you.” When does falling hail not harm objects or people it may hit? The Masoretic translations present a catastrophic hailstorm that flattens forests and cities. But the hail that falls in the Septuagint does not harm the people who inhabit every corner of the righteous King’s kingdom.

In the prior post, Isaiah Devotional Journal 71, I presented the argument that in Chapter 32 Isaiah writes using concrete terms for spiritual realities (1). Verse 19 adds evidence to this hermeneutic. Although it speaks to us by means of concrete (physical) language, the realities this verse describes are spiritual. See, for example, John Calvin’s description of this passage.

While Isaiah thus prophesies concerning the reign of Hezekiah, all this is declared by him to relate to the kingdom of Christ as its end and accomplishment; and therefore, when we come to Christ, we must explain all this spiritually, so as to understand that we are renewed as soon as the Lord has sent down the Spirit from heaven, that we who were “wildernesses” may become cultivated and fertile fields. Ere the Spirit of God has breathed into us, we are justly compared to wildernesses or a dry soil; for we produce nothing but “thorns and briers,” and are by nature unfit for yielding fruits. Accordingly, they who were barren and unfruitful, when they have been renewed by the Spirit of God, begin to yield plentiful fruits; and they whose natural dispositions had some appearance of goodness, being renewed by the same Spirit, will afterwards be so fruitful, that they will appear as if they had formerly been a “wilderness;” for all that men possess is but a wild forest, till they have been renewed by Christ. Whenever, therefore, the Church is afflicted, and when her condition appears to be desperate, let us raise our eyes to heaven, and depend fully on these promises. (2)

In the life of the Spirit in a believer’s heart, the “hail” of real-life difficulties and circumstances shall not harm the believer’s faith or persistent peace, security, and well-being in Christ. Is this Isaiah’s intended meaning? Rather one should ask, Is this God’s intended meaning for this text? Within the context of the Septuagint Gospel of Isaiah, yes, I believe that God intends us to find the Spirit of Christ in this passage.

Right or Wrong?

When trying to answer the question, “Which text is right and which text wrong?” there is no exact answer. The truth is that two completely different textual traditions have been handed down to us. A “textual tradition” encompasses many hundreds, or even thousands, of years. The Septuagint began as a translation of Hebrew approximately three centuries before the birth of Christ. Readers should not hold this fact of birth against it (3). Later scholars and religious persons have edited both the Greek and Hebrew texts within their own tradition. The Masoretic Bible we hold today did not reach its final form until centuries after Christ.

One thing is clear, however. Jesus of Nazareth and his followers accessed the Septuagint. Greek was the “lingua franca” of Christ’s day. And, the New Testament writers often quoted from the Septuagint. I am fully satisfied to use the Septuagint translation as my devotional Bible for the book of Isaiah. I like it because there is so much of Christ in it.

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1 “Because the time markers fail to represent accurately the concrete-literal history of Israel, it is good biblical hermeneutics to interpret the language of this chapter spiritually. Using concrete-literal language, Isaiah prophesies the spiritual demise of one kingdom and the arrival of a new King. The new kingdom will be eternal.” Isaiah Devotional Journal 71

2 Calvin, John. “Commentary on Isaiah 32:15”. “Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-32.html. 1840-57. These files are public domain.

3 For readers who would like to learn more about the Septuagint translation of the Bible, the following post might be a good place to start: Psalm 28: Why the Septuagint? Part 1-Background – justonesmallvoice.com

The Holy Spirit Comes: Isaiah Journal 71

By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at The Holy Spirit Comes: Isaiah Devotional Journal 71 – justonesmallvoice.com.

Isaiah 32:9-20    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Judah Stumbles and the Holy Spirit Blesses

Romans 11:11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (ESV)

Overview of Chapter 32

Chapter 32 of Isaiah contains both an indictment of God’s Old Testament people and God’s blessing of his New Testament people (1). The blessing comes through the reign of Messiah, the righteous King. (See posts 6869, and 70). It continues by means of God’s pouring out his Holy Spirit during the King’s reign. Verses 9-20 continue the pattern previously established in the earlier portion of the chapter. This portion includes pronouncements of both desolation and further blessing.

Outline of Chapter 32

  1. The blessings of Messiah: verses 1-4
  2. Contrast between the foolish wicked and the godly wise: verses 5-8
  3. Warning of the desolation to come: verses 9-14
  4. Messianic blessings: verses 15-20

Warning of the Desolation to Come: Time Indicators and Their Difficulties

There are three time markers in this section. They occur in verses 10, 14, and 15. Yet, each of these markers presents difficulties to a concrete-literal understanding.

FIRST TIME MARKER 

10 Remember for a full year in pain, yet with hope; the vintage has been cut off; it has ceased, it shall by no means come again. (CAB, LXE)

Verse 10 provides the only numerical time marker in all of Chapter 32. The “one year” would seem to indicate the siege of Judah and Jerusalem by the Assyrian general Sennacherib in the days of king Hezekiah. However, because God intervened, the nation experienced another long period (many decades) of relative prosperity during the remainder of Hezekiah’s reign. Then began a period of decline as Babylon began to invade the land. Approximately 100 years after Isaiah made the pronouncement in verse 10, the nation fell completely and was carried into exile. So, it is difficult to find the reality of this verse (a persistent lack of vintage after one year) in Jerusalem’s actual history. 

SECOND TIME MARKER

14 As for the rich city, the houses are deserted; they shall abandon the wealth of the city, and the pleasant houses; and the villages shall be caves forever, the joy of wild donkeys, shepherds’ pastures; (CAB, LXE)

Verse 14 provides a second, non-numerical time marker. The text states, “… the villages shall be caves forever.” Here again, the word “forever” presents difficulties. The villages of Jerusalem and Judah did not remain caves forever. Commentators step around this difficulty by saying that “forever” doesn’t mean “forever,” but a very long time. But even that has problems.

First, the exile lasted 70 years. That is a shorter time than the period after this prophecy and before the exile began (about 100 years). It hardly qualifies for use of the word “forever” in its description.  And yes, it is true that after the exile, complete prosperity never returned to an independent Israel. Yet, during the Second Temple period, it would not be true to say that the villages remained caves. When Jesus of Nazareth was born, for example, Jerusalem was a bustling city with visitors from all over the world. Witness the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-6).

THIRD TIME MARKER

14 and the villages shall be caves forever, … 15 until the Spirit shall come upon you from on high, and Carmel shall be desert, and Carmel shall be counted for a forest.

Verse 15 qualifies the “forever” of verse 14. “The villages shall be caves forever … until the Spirit shall come upon you from on high.” But even this presents problems to a concrete-literal understanding.

The first problem is that Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. This was just a few years after the coming of the Holy Spirit. History reveals that destruction of the land continued until Israel completely ceased to exist as a nation. And yet, the Spirit has stayed with us continually. So in conclusion, there exists a contradiction between the material blessings described in verses 15-20 and the reality of Israel’s history.

Solution

THE GREAT DIVIDE BETWEEN THE TWO TESTAMENTS

What is the great difference between life lived in the Old Testament and life lived in the New Testament? Of course, the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the King is the correct answer. There is a second answer, however.

Galatians 3:14 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)

Not only Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, but believing Jewish people, as well. All believers in Christ receive his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s blessing to both the church, his people, and to this fallen humanity. Old Testament saints received the Holy Spirit occasionally, externally, and for specific prophetic purposes. Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, the Holy Spirit did not dwell in close communion with people. Now that Christ has come, fellowship between God and humans has been restored (Hebrews 4:16).

GOD’S LANGUAGE ALSO CHANGED

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (ESV)

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (ESV)

SOME EXAMPLES

Some examples will help. First, when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 4, Nicodemus could not understand his words. Why not? God had not yet given the Spirit. Nicodemus was a “natural person,” as Paul would say.

As a second example, when Jesus taught in parables, he used concrete metaphors to describe spiritual realities to his “natural” listeners. Is there a Christian anywhere who does not understand that when Jesus says in John 4:35, “‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” he is not speaking of concrete-literal grain that one boils and bakes? He is speaking of human souls. And, when Jesus called to his future disciples in Matthew 4:13, “‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,'” which Christian among us truly believes he was speaking of fishing hooks or nets with human beings in them?

If Jesus and the New Testament writers describe spiritual realities with concrete-literal words, why do so many academics and biblical interpreters insist that readers first and foremost understand nearly every word of Old Testament prophecy in a concrete-literal way? Do we truly believe that God would not give Isaiah concrete-literal words to describe New Testament spiritual realities?

THE GOSPEL OF ISAIAH

There is a reason why Isaiah is one of the most often quoted books in the New Testament. Isaiah was a prophet who straddled both testaments. God gave him visions and insights into his own era and also into the new era. Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, and he reported it.

John 12: 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (ESV)

In his book, Isaiah writes of two topics: 1) the coming Messiah and 2) the dismal failure of Israel as a whole to embrace God as their King. Chapter 32 encompasses both of these topics. Because the time markers fail to represent accurately the concrete-literal history of Israel, it is good biblical hermeneutics to interpret the language of this chapter spiritually. Using concrete-literal language, Isaiah prophesies the spiritual demise of one kingdom and the arrival of a new King. The new kingdom will be eternal.

To be continued…verse 19: another variation between the Septuagint and the Masoretic textual traditions

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1 Of course, Isaiah didn’t think in terms of two biblical testaments. Nor did he have an exact means to measure the times involved.

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