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By Christina M Wilson. Republished from https://justonesmallvoice.com/concrete-and-spiritual-lxx-isaiah-journal-vol-2-1/.
God Calls His People a City
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. 2 Speak, ye 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. (Isaiah 40:1-2 LXE)
In Isaiah 40:1-2, God commands the priests to speak the comfort of reconciliation to his people, Jerusalem. In verse one, he refers to his people as, “my people.” In verse two, he refers to this same group as “Jerusalem.” God commands the priests to speak to “the heart of Jerusalem.” He says to them that Jerusalem’s humiliation is over. “Her sin is put away, for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins.” Would any honest person argue that by “Jerusalem” God means the pile of rubble that the Babylonians left behind? (Do rocks and stones and wooden pillars “sin”?) In these verses, God equates in a figure of speech the city “Jerusalem” with “my people.” In verse 2, God refers to Jerusalem as a female, singular. God calls his people by a singular, female appellation. The point is that if “Jerusalem” means the people of Jerusalem here, then it may also mean so later in the book of Isaiah.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
How readers interpret Scripture is called “hermeneutics.” Hermeneutics is the study of the underlying assumptions and interpretive principles different readers bring to a text. Isaiah is an example of poetic prophecy. Characteristic of Isaiah and other books of prophecy (see Zechariah, for example), the writer uses imagery whose referents are not always clear. In other words, when readers, especially readers today, read certain prophetic passages, they often come away not knowing who or what or when specifically the passage is about. It is common for readers and biblical commentators to fill the gaps with their own presuppositions, their own hermeneutical preferences.
Scripture informs us that not knowing the specific referent was sometimes the case even for the Old Testament prophets themselves. Peter writes:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1Peter 1:10-12 ESV)
God himself was the original source, the origin, of the words the prophets spoke.
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Peter 1:20-21 ESV)
The entire passage, 2 Peter 1:16-21, is good and relevant to Isaiah 40:1-5. Peter’s point is that Jesus Christ is the main point of the prophetic witness. He tells how the booming voice from heaven revealed to himself and others on the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The “Holy Spirit sent from heaven,” further verifies to all believers Christ’s identity as Messiah, Son of God. This knowledge from the future is highly relevant to this portion of Isaiah.
What Do Readers Know About God’s People?
Both Testaments speak of God’s having chosen a “people.” In the Old Testament, God’s people are the community whose native or adopted land is Israel. God chose to “reside” in the temple constructed in Jerusalem, the religious and governmental capital of the land of Israel. But even in the Old Testament, after the dispersion to Babylon and elsewhere, people who identified with Israel and its religion considered themselves the people of God.
In the New Testament, God’s people are those who believe in and display loyalty to Christ, their King. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was Jewish. His first followers were Israelites, the people of Israel. But New Testament authors, especially Paul, expanded the Old Testament concept of “God’s people” to include all peoples everywhere who follow Christ. God’s people includes Jewish folk and Gentile folk alike. Paul teaches that Abraham’s children are those who believe in Christ (Galatians 3:22-29). He teaches that non-Jewish believers in Christ have been “grafted in” to the native “olive tree” of Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Now, by faith in Christ, God’s people are Israelites (Jewish people) and Gentiles (non-Jewish people) together as one (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Concrete or Spiritual?
The New Testament identity of Jerusalem is a touchy subject. For example, will Old Testament prophecies concerning Jerusalem be fulfilled literally, that is, with physical concreteness concerning bricks and mortar? Or, will these prophecies find fulfillment in a spiritual way that includes all believers, rather than ethnic Israel exclusively?
The framing of the question is important. Those who frame the question as though inclusion of Gentile believers in Christ excludes “ethnic” and “national” Israel are misinterpreting Scripture and their rhetorical opponents. Both Testaments are very clear that God discriminates against no one, no one, according to ethnicity or national citizenship. The following is a quotation from a study Bible.
“Interpretive challenges…on whether Isaiah’s prophecies will receive literal fulfillment or not, and on whether the Lord, in His program, has abandoned national Israel and permanently replaced the nation with the church…”
“… He [God] would not reject the people whom He has created and chosen…”
“…To contend that those yet unfulfilled [prophecies of Isaiah] will see non-literal fulfillment is biblically groundless… disqualifies the case for proposing that the church receives some of the promises made originally to Israel. The kingdom promised to David belongs to Israel, not the church.”
The quotations above are taken from “The MacArthur Study Bible,” by John MacArthur, Author and General Editor, published at Nashville, et al., by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Copyright 2006, page 935.
I think it’s important to let God interpret his own Scripture. As a Christian, I do allow the New Testament to expand, clarify, and enlighten the Old. God is so much larger than all of us combined. Our understanding of his ways is meager, and paltry, and minimal at best. I do not believe it is necessary to set up an either/or hermeneutic as the above writer and many others have done. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD,” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV).
I believe that God is infinite. Our logic and best efforts to restate God in our own words falls infinitely short of his power and grace. I believe that God will honor his promises to the fathers of Old Testament Israel and he will honor his promises to New Testament saints at one and the same time. These are not mutually exclusive. God can be faithful to the Old Testament fathers and faithful to his Gentile believers now. The two are no longer distinguishable.
One thing I do know, a particular Study Bible does not have the final word on either God or his outcomes. Saying, This is what God means and what he must be bound to, does not make it so. That is human interpretation. I will not be robbed of portions of God’s biblical promises to David because a certain interpreter says, that as a Gentile believer, I have no stake in these promises. Nor would I rob anyone else. This is for God to settle, not we his people.
However, as far as this blog is concerned, I pray that I will always take the high road of placing Christ, not physical Jerusalem, at the center. I pray that I will place Christ, not ethnic Israel, at the center of my interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Application to Isaiah?
What do the biblical books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians have to do with the book of Isaiah? Simply this. When I, as a 21st century non-Jewish Christian, read God’s words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” can I apply these words to myself? I believe that the New Testament teaches that yes, I can. God is also speaking to me. And, the Holy Spirit within me says, yes, I am God’s child, every bit as much as his Old Testament people. For I, as a believer in Christ, am one of “God’s people.” This is basic Christianity.
To say that the New Testament church is co-partaker with God’s Old Testament people, Israel, by no means implies an either/or situation. All the promises in Christ are yes (2 Corinthians 1:19-22). Because God through Christ grafted Gentiles into Israel’s native olive tree does not by any means imply that Israel will no longer receive God’s promises. However, I believe that those who wish to make an application of any of God’s promises to Israel only, excluding the church, are misreading Scripture and making assumptions that God never intended.
What does it mean when Scripture says, he who is our peace “made us both one” (Ephesians 2:11-22)? The context of these words is ethnic Jewish believers and ethnic Gentile believers. Doesn’t the plain sense of the words indicate that literally, concretely, both of these groups in their entirety are one in Christ? Paul makes no disclaimers. He does not say, “I am speaking spiritually here. I do not mean that “literally” they are one. Of course literally they are still separated. Only in the Spirit are they one.” Paul did not write that.
That is not what the biblical text states. Christ does not say yes yes and no no (2 Corinthians 1:17-19). Scripture does not say to the church, yes to the “spiritual” and no to the “concrete”. Using plain words, Isaiah did not distinguish–this is “literal,” and this is “spiritual.” Those who see such distinctions are reading their own desires into Scripture. For we are all one in Christ. In plain English, one means one.
Paul follows Isaiah. He clearly states, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise,” (Galatians 3:29 ESV). Paul does not qualify his statement by explaining that he means, “heirs of the spiritual blessing that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant.” (1) Paul states, “heirs according to promise,” not, Heirs of spiritual [only] blessing. I repeat, God is big enough to fulfill all the biblical promises he has ever made at every level, spiritual and concrete, without excluding anyone. It is a shortage of insight and love that causes some to set these prophecies up as an either/or situation.
The Very Next Verses Introduce the Church
Volume 2 of Isaiah opens with Isaiah 40:1-2 announcing comfort to God’s people and the perfect, complete putting away of Jerusalem’s sin [i.e., the people of Jerusalem’s sin]. Why does the Lord introduce the church in the very next verse? Someone might say, “But where is the church?” Verses 3-5 announce the Incarnation of the Lord God, and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” (verse 5).
This would be a very odd juxtaposition if verses 1 and 2 apply only to the ethnic people of God and a physically destroyed Jerusalem, both in the prophet’s own day. The introduction of Messiah at this point signals a much grander plan, a fuller pardon, and a far wider scope than a purely local fulfillment to be accomplished by the return of the exiles to their native land.
Nor does Isaiah specify when or by what means God’s pardon occurs. He does not state the specifics of when or how Jerusalem’s having received “double” for her sins has transpired. I believe God placed the next three verses to indicate that Messiah is for all ages and all people. “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Christ’s atonement works for all peoples of all times. His atonement worked backward to the prior centuries of Israel’s guilt and forward to our time. Why else would Scripture place this prophetically clear announcement of Christ’s birth just here? (See Matthew 3:3, 11:10; Mark 1:2,3; Luke 1:76, 3:4, 7:27; John 1:23; and Malachi 3:1.)
This post is long, I realize. Nevertheless, the first five verses of Isaiah chapter 40 are a unit. They should be read together. They deal with the same topic: God’s pardon and plan of salvation for his own people and for all humanity, at one and the same time. What is amazing is that Scripture can pack so much into so few words. Truly, God is to be praised.
Because I have dealt so fully with my biblical preferences and biases (presuppositions) here, perhaps I will not need to do so as we progress through Isaiah, Lord willing.
1 MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, page 1763.
By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at The Enemy Cast Out: Isaiah Devotional Journal 74 – justonesmallvoice.com.
Isaiah 33:14-24 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Where Is the Enemy?
The latter portion of Isaiah 33 contrasts the Zion that had been occupied by a foreign power with a Zion under the King’s rule.
The Enemy Has Been Cast Out
These Septuagint verses tell that the enemy no longer occupies Zion. (CAB, LXE)
- 14 The sinners in Zion have departed; trembling shall seize the ungodly.
- 18 Your soul shall meditate terror. Where are the scribes? Where are the counselors? Where is he that numbers them that are growing up, 19 both the small and great people? With whom he took not counsel, neither did he understand a people of deep speech, so that a despised people should not hear, and there is no understanding to him that hears.
- 23 Your cords are broken, for they had no strength; your food has given way, it shall not spread the sails, it shall not bear a signal, until it is given up for plunder; therefore shall many lame men take spoil.
Yes, the English text appears difficult to decipher. The NETS translation includes a footnote to that effect in verse 19. However, when comparing the various English translations of both the Septuagint and the Masoretic, the overall sense of the chapter unfolds.
Description of the New Kingdom
Isaiah describes the new kingdom after the enemy has departed (verse 14).
Characteristics of Its Inhabitants
- the righteous person (vs 15): walks in righteousness, speaks uprightly, hates lawlessness and wrongdoing, refuses bribes, is against capital punishment, shields his eyes from the enjoyment of evil
- he will live “in a high cave of a strong rock,” where he will be fed with bread and water (vs16), i.e., the basic food of life
- they will meditate on the past and the things and people who used to cause them fear, but are no longer present (vs 18)
- they revere the name of the Lord (v 21)
- not weary (v 24)
- their sins forgiven (v 24)
15 He that walks in righteousness, speaking rightly, hating transgression and iniquity, and shaking his hands from gifts, stopping his ears that he should not hear the judgment of blood, shutting his eyes that he should not see injustice. (CAB, LXE)
Characteristics of the Place
- foreign authorities will no longer be present (vs 19)
- a place of safety (vv 14, 16, 18-19, 20, 21, 22)
- a place of provision (vv 16, 20, 21)
- spacious, providing room for all (v 21)
- a place for the poor and injured (vv 23, 24)
- a place of permanence (v 20)
20 Behold the city of Zion, our refuge; your eyes shall behold Jerusalem, a rich city, tabernacles which shall not be shaken, neither shall the pins of her tabernacle be moved forever, neither shall her cords be at all broken; (CAB, LXE)
Characteristics of Its King
- glorious (v 17)
- he is Lord, God, judge, ruler, King (v 22)
22 For my God is great; the Lord our judge shall not pass me by; the Lord is our prince, the Lord is our king; the Lord, He shall save us. (CAB, LXE)
Concrete-Literal or Spiritual-Literal?
Why do I use hyphens in concrete-literal and spiritual-literal? Why use the words concrete in concrete-literal and literal in spiritual-literal? Why not just say literal and spiritual?
A Definition of Terms
In common, everyday language, “literal” tends to mean real, actual, concrete, and historical. And, in much theological jargon, spiritual tends to mean abstract, not historical, and not really happening in the “real” world, the concrete world. Theology tends to be divided between those who think every prophecy of the Old Testament needs to have a “literal” fulfillment and those who see spiritual fulfillment in many of the same prophecies. Some theologians might even be thinking “imaginary” when they use the term “spiritual.” When they accuse another theologian of “spiritualizing” a text, it’s as if they were accusing them of erasing the truth of that text and replacing it with abstract imagination.
Those using the term “literal” as a direct synonym of true and real usually mean that Old Testament prophecy needs to have a historical, three dimensional, physical fulfillment in the world we see, hear, and touch. In order for a biblical prophecy to be true, it must have a physical, three-dimensional fulfillment.
But, if “literal” means “true” and “real,” then spiritual realities are also real and true. They literally exist. God is Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus Christ occupies believers’ hearts. The rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and forces of evil in the heavenly places that Paul describes in Ephesians 6 are real and true. They also happen to be spiritual beings, made of spirit rather than flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
To cast the conversation about fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy with the terms literal vs spiritual is to introduce bias from the beginning. Therefore, I use the word “concrete” to mean that which can be physically seen with physical eyes, heard with physical ears, and touched with physical hands. The cities we live in, for example, are concrete. So, the term “concrete-literal” means a true reality within the physical world. And likewise, the term “spiritual-literal” means a true reality within the realm of spirit.
Repeating the Question
So, the question becomes, must every prophecy of the Old Testament have a physically concrete fulfillment? Or, did God intend that some of what appears to be physical description in Old Testament prophecy would have a spiritual-literal fulfillment rather than a concrete-literal fulfillment? Is Chapter 33 of Isaiah one of these times?
A Partial Concrete-Literal Fulfillment
I postulate that some portions of Isaiah 33 have already had a concrete-literal fulfillment. And further, when Isaiah spoke these words, God intended that these portions would be physically fulfilled relatively quickly in Isaiah’s lifetime. The context within chapter 33 and the context of its surrounding chapters speak of a concrete-literal fulfillment of the prophecies against Judah’s enemy Assyria.
For example, throughout Isaiah’s writing, a physical Israel had many physical enemies. In Isaiah’s lifetime, the greatest of these was Assyria. Isaiah repeatedly prophesies Assyria’s downfall (for example, see Isaiah 30:31). In terms of fulfillment, chapters 36 and 37 describe in detail how God miraculously defeated the Assyrians on behalf of Jerusalem and Judah. Chapter 33 contains strong indications that Isaiah refers to this time and event. It seems fair and likely that God through Isaiah intended the portions of Isaiah 33 dealing with the defeat of Assyria to have a concrete-literal fulfillment. Biblical history, as related in 2 Kings 18:17-19:37 and Isaiah 37, records such a fulfillment.
Obstacles to a Complete Concrete-Literal Fulfillment
But what about the portions of Isaiah 33:14-24 that speak of the new kingdom and the King who will rule there? Have these prophecies already found a concrete-literal fulfillment? Not really. Judah before and after its exile had some good kings (Hezekiah and Zerubbabel) who experienced some years of peaceful prosperity. But Israel’s independence ended. Not too long after the return from exile, the Old Testament ceased. God added no books to Scripture after Malachi. Throughout the entire Second Temple period various foreigners again ruled in Jerusalem, alongside the Jewish kings.
Then at the turn of the millennium, in New Testament times, Rome occupied Israel. Israel had no independent king seated on its throne. Further, within a few decades after Jesus’s ascension, Rome leveled Jerusalem (70 CE). Over the next century Rome oppressed the remainder of the Judean territory through bloody wars. Israel ceased to exist as an independent nation.
Currently, the physical Israel in today’s news does not match the description given by Isaiah in Chapter 33. It has no king, it is not entirely safe, and it is no more righteous than any other country on earth. It is not a Christian nation, nor do its citizens all necessarily believe in the God of their Scripture. It appears to be a secular country, rather than a country of faith.
Approximately 2,800 years have passed since Isaiah prophesied of a righteous Zion ruled by a glorious King. Have his prophecies not found fulfillment?
A Spiritual-Literal Fulfillment
I believe that Isaiah’s prophecies of a righteous Zion and a glorious, righteous King have received a spiritual-literal fulfillment in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36. By this he meant that his kingdom was not concrete-literal but spiritual-literal. Christians around the world have been living in and enjoying the benefits of Christ the King’s heavenly Zion for over 2,000 years.
Why does Isaiah use concrete words to describe a spiritual reality? The best answer I can give is to point the reader to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:1-16. Could Isaiah possibly have known these spiritual-literal realities? The heart of faith must surely answer, “Yes.” The Apostle John writes, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him,” (John 12:41). As we progress further in Isaiah’s book, we will find him more and more describing the spiritual-literal realities of Christ’s kingdom.
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.
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:
- The blessings of Messiah: verses 1-4
- Contrast between the foolish wicked and the godly wise: verses 5-8
- Warning of the desolation to come: verses 9-14
- 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  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  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.
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.
Simultaneously published at The Gospel Continues: Isaiah Devotional Journal 51 – justonesmallvoice.com
By Christina Wilson on
The Gospel Continues: Isaiah 25:6-9
The modern era gives us the blessing of many biblical translations. The (ICB) (1) provides a straightforward translation of Isaiah 25:6-9. I call it the Gospel of Isaiah.
6 The Lord of heaven’s armies will give us a feast. It will be on this mountain for all people. It will be a feast with the best food and wine. The meat and wine will be the finest. 7 On this mountain God will destroy the veil that covers all nations. This veil, called “death,” covers all peoples. 8 But God will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away every tear from every face. God will take away the shame of his people from the earth. The Lord has spoken. 9 At that time people will say, “Our God is doing this! We have trusted in him, and he has come to save us. We have been trusting our Lord. So we will rejoice and be happy when he saves us.”
How Is This Gospel?
I. God Is Spirit–Before Christ, People Were Not
Many of the people who followed and spoke to Jesus made the understandable mistake of living in a concrete-only world. That is, most people achieved only a physical understanding of God. They weren’t capable of more, being “dead” (spiritually) in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). They worshipped God in tangible ways only. For example, they sacrificed bleating sheep and flying birds (Luke 2:22-24). They weighed out a certain amount of cumin and other spices (Matthew 23:23). They traveled to specific locations (John 4:20) to worship. A famous teacher such as Nicodemus could only fathom being “born again” as climbing back into his mother’s womb (John 3:3-4). In the Old Testament, God intended his worshipers to express their devotion in concrete, material ways.
But Jesus inaugurated a new creation in a New Testament. He preached a spiritual gospel. We need to back up in order to understand this. God created humanity in his image. God is Spirit. But when Adam sinned, humanity suffered death and separation from God. God turned them out from his presence. Humanity lost its one link with God–living in his physical presence in the Garden. Separated from God, only material, touchable flesh remained. From that point forward, God taught his people with physical, material items. Abel’s sacrifice of an animal pleased God. Later, through Moses, God commanded that they build him a special tent (the tabernacle) and worship him with sacrificial animals. Only a few prophets heard from God directly.
II. Jesus Brings the Spirit and Life
But then, in God’s perfect timing (Galatians 4:4), Jesus upended the entire system. Jesus came to bring life, and to bring it abundantly (John 10:10). The “life” Jesus brings is his Spirit, God’s Spirit (John 6:63). Why did Paul always ask new believers whether they had received the Spirit when they believed? (Acts 19:2, 6). He asked, because the Spirit is so important. The Spirit is life. There is no other life (John 6:63).
Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (ESV)
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
The word Gospel means in Greek “good news.” Yes, it definitely is good news that in Christ God forgave our sins and cleansed us. But good news gets even better. The best good news is God cleansed us for a reason. He forgave our sins so that he could send his Holy Spirit to live in us and among us. And, because we have the Spirit of God–because his Spirit makes us alive–now we can enter his presence again and have fellowship with him. That is the truly good news the Gospel brings.
1 John 1:3b …our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (ESV)
John 17:23a I in them and you in me… (ESV)
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (ESV)
III. How Do I Get the Spirit?
Nicodemus asked the same question. He wanted to know how someone could be born again (John 3:9). Jesus answers elsewhere. His answer is simple: just ask God.
Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (ESV)
IV. Back to Isaiah
Isaiah the Old Testament prophet saw Christ and predicted all these things (Isaiah 6:1; 1 Peter 1:10-12). When we overcome our fear of “spiritualizing” this Old Testament passage, we begin to see what Isaiah saw. He saw the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing with spiritual eyes is a good thing, not a bad thing, as some might teach (John 20:29; 1 Peter 1:8).
IV. The Feast: What Food Does the Lord Provide?
What kind of feast is it (Isaiah 25:6)?
FIRST, God invites everyone. He invites people from all nations.
SECOND, he spreads his feast on a mountain that is large enough for the whole world to see (Proverbs 1:20-21; Matthew 22:9). Jesus himself “spiritualized” the mountain (John 4:20-24). Daniel saw it (Daniel 2:44-45). The mountain is the mountain of the Lord (Psalm 48:1-2; 99:9), the kingdom of Christ (Matthew 16:18).
THIRD, what food will God serve? The food upon which all Christians feast is the Lord Christ himself.
John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
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.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
48 I am the bread of life.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:32-66 ESV)
An evangelistic appeal–
Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, (ESV)
FOURTH, when will God serve this feast? He serves it right now, already, to all who believe. The message of John the Apostle is that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah (John 20:30-31) and that all who believe in him feast on joyful fellowship with God right now (1 John 1:2-4). There is also a “not yet” aspect to God’s feast, namely the marriage supper of the Lamb. That feast will be served at the moment when God destroys death and dying forever (Isaiah 25:7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55) and wipes away every tear from every face (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4).
FINALLY, what should our response be? Verse 9 tells it all.
Isaiah 25:9 At that time they will say, “Look, here is our God! We waited for him and he delivered us. Here is the LORD! We waited for him. Let’s rejoice and celebrate his deliverance!” (NET)
The Holy Spirit packed Isaiah 25:6-9 with a tremendously powerful message. My prayer is that those who read the good news God presents here will believe, investigate, and share it with others. We want the message of hope in Christ to spread throughout this fallen world. The end of the ages will come. Christ draws near. Let’s help bring as many people as possible to his wonderful wedding feast.
Isaiah 25:1 O Lord God, I will glorify You, I will sing to Your name; for You have done wonderful things, even an ancient and faithful counsel. Amen. (CAB, LXE)
So be it, Lord. Come quickly (Revelation 22:20). Amen (2)
1 “Scriptures quoted from the International Children’s Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1986, 1988 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.”
2 Those wishing to read what scholars have written concerning this passage may find the following link quite useful: Studylight.org
By Christina Wilson on
Celebratory Songs for “In That Day” (Part One)
Isaiah 26:1 In that day they shall sing this song in the land of Judea; Behold a strong city; and he shall make salvation its wall and bulwark. (Septuagint)
The celebratory songs for “in that day” begin with Isaiah 25:1, even though the prophet doesn’t use that exact phrase until chapter 26. Imagine the scene in the movie, Harry Potter, when the dark lord is finally, totally, and forever banished. Isaiah’s celebration is much greater than that. Or, think of any city when the favored troops have completely vanquished the oppressive enemy. Isaiah’s songs for “in that day” are that kind of celebration.
I think it’s fair to say that Isaiah had never heard of a period of time called the “millennium.” In Isaiah, there are three basic time zones: 1) his day, including everything up to the incarnation, 2) the day of Christ, including his incarnation and up to and including everything before his second coming, and 3) the final day when Christ comes again and the enemy is forever, finally, totally, destroyed.
Unfortunately for us, as readers, Isaiah doesn’t clearly label his time frames. Nor are they always exactly discernible. Consider for example Isaiah 22:20-25.
Isaiah 22:20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (ESV)
We know from Revelation 3:7 that this passage is about Christ.
Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (ESV)
But what is the time frame in the Revelation passage? Wasn’t it true of Christ during his incarnation? And after his ascension? And into his glorious eternity? Similarly, none of these time frames are ruled out in Isaiah 22:20-25.
Already, Not Yet
There is a phrase to describe prophecy’s fulfillment that is making its rounds in Christian circles. This phrase is “already, not yet.” The idea is that much Old Testament prophecy, including Isaiah, has already been fulfilled in Christ. He is already crucified, buried, risen, and ascended into heaven. There he sits at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). But the very end of the ages, when the eternal kingdom is ushered in, is “not yet.”
Scripture is not clear on the exact timing of the transition from “already”, that is–right now– to “not yet.”
Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (ESV)
And, in the days of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, that timing was even less clear. Peter bluntly states how much was revealed to them.
1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (ESV)
The Timing Not Clear
An honest evaluation of Peter’s words reveals that the timing revealed to the Old Testament prophets was general, not specific. For them, it was plenty exciting just to know that the Christ would come!
While I am not endorsing a particular faith tradition, I often like The Orthodox Study Bible (1). This is because its translation is based on the Septuagint (Old Greek translation). And, I like the Septuagint, because it is often easier to find Christ in its pages than in translations based on the Masoretic textual tradition (2). Here is what The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Revelation 20:2.
20:2 Though most did not, a few early Fathers and writers believed in a literal thousand year binding of Satan and reign of Christ and the saints on earth (vv. 2-7). The Church, however, authoritatively rejected this teaching (called chiliasm) at the Second Ecumenical Council. In apocalyptic literature, numbers have symbolic significance. “Thousand” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a long period time, a great quantity, completion, perfection, thoroughness (Job 9:3; 2Pt 3:8). Here, a thousand years (vv. 2-7) is interpreted as the Church age, when Jesus reigns on earth in those who believe. It is that era between the first and second comings of Christ, also called the “last times,” when Satan’s effectiveness at deceit is restricted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the saints share in Christ’s earthly reign through the Church. For these persecuted Christians threatened by martyrdom, this is a consoling hope.
Therefore, anyone who points to Isaiah chapters 25-27 and states that this is the “millennium,” is reading into Scripture. This is because the “millennium” is a word that Scripture never uses. And, if such a distinct period is not clear in Revelation, then it certainly wouldn’t be clear in Isaiah. But, good news! Chapters 25-27 in Isaiah are definitely about the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
1 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.
2 A brief introductory post concerning my use of the Septuagint is available here: Which Bible Should I Use? – justonesmallvoice.com
Songs for “In That Day” To Be Continued
Simultaneously posted at: justonesmallvoice.com
Isaiah 24 Link to LXE Modernized
Give Allegiance to the King Who Wins
It’s easy to get lost in the details of Isaiah 24. But the main point is clear. The reason God gives this word to Isaiah is to give all people everywhere warning of the final outcome of everything. The chapter is a call for all peoples to give their allegiance to the King who wins.
An Amazing Chapter
Isaiah 24 is an amazing chapter. He summarizes his entire message to this point. This chapter especially summarizes his message from chapter 13 forward. It also serves as an introduction to the more detailed messianic portions later in the book. The vista of Isaiah 24 is enormous. His vision stretches to the end of time. This is the first lengthy eschatological (end times) passage in the book. He also zooms in on the “church age.”
Isaiah has already written against: the northern tribes of Israel (Isaiah 10), Babylon (13), Assyria (14), Philistia (14), Moab (15), Damascus (17), Cush (18), Egypt (19), Arabia (21), Jerusalem (22), and Tyre (23). If those to whom Isaiah prophesies are not yet certain of their loyalties, he speaks against the whole world in Isaiah 24.
Behold, the Lord is about to lay waste the world, and will make it desolate, and will lay bare its surface, and scatter them that dwell therein. (Isaiah 24:1, CAB*, LXE)
Further, the prophet foretells of Messiah the King.
14 The people shout for joy. From the west they praise the greatness of the Lord. 15 People in the east, praise the Lord. People in the islands of the sea, praise the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 16a We hear songs from every part of the earth. These songs praise God, the Righteous One… 23 The moon will be embarrassed. The sun will be ashamed. This will happen because the Lord of heaven’s armies will rule as king on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s leaders will see his greatness. (ICB**)
The prophet makes clear that there is no place other than the Lord for anyone to hide. Isaiah intends his listeners to make a choice. Will they look to themselves or their pagan neighbors for help? Because all these get destroyed. Or, will they turn and give their allegiance to the King who wins?
An Eschatological Judgment Passage
How do we know this is an eschatological, or end times, passage?
I. The vocabulary (LXE, English Septuagint))
First, the vocabulary Isaiah chooses indicates totality of place–everywhere.
- world – 2 times in 23 verses
- earth – 17 times in 23 verses
Second, the vocabulary indicates totality of destruction–total.
- verses 1-4 – lay waste, make desolate, lay bare the surface, completely laid waste, utterly spoiled, ruined
- verse 20 – shall fall, not able to rise
Third, the vocabulary indicates totality of object–all people.
- verse 2 – neither wealth nor position can save
- verses 17-18 – fear, a pit, and a snare for everyone–no escape
Finally, the phrase “everlasting covenant” in Isaiah 24:5 most likely refers to a covenant God made with all humankind, rather than to one of those he made with Israel alone. An example of an everlasting covenant would be the one God made with Noah after the flood. Another example would be the law of God written in the hearts of all believers (Romans 2:14-16).
2. Forceful verses
1 Behold, the Lord is about to lay waste the world, and will make it desolate, and will lay bare its surface, and scatter them that dwell therein.
18b for windows have been opened in heaven, and the foundations of the earth shall be shaken, 19 the earth shall be utterly confounded, and the earth shall be completely perplexed. 20 It reels as a drunkard and one oppressed with wine, and the earth shall be shaken as a storehouse of fruits; for iniquity has prevailed upon it, and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise.
Verse 19, just quoted, sounds the death knell for all the wickedness of the world. The words, “and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise,” are definitively final. One day there will be an end. The waves of the sea will cease crashing, and God will usher in the restful salvation of eternity. The old, wicked, sinful earth will never rise again.
An Eschatological Messianic Passage
Isaiah is always about Messiah. Mention of him is never very far away. There are two sets of messianic verses.
Verses 14b to 16a
14a these shall cry aloud; 14b and they that are left on the land shall rejoice together in the glory of the Lord; the water of the sea shall be troubled. 15 Therefore shall the glory of the Lord be in the isles of the sea; the name of the Lord shall be glorious. 16a O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly; 16b but they shall say, Woe to the despisers, that abhor the law.
First, a simple question: why switch subjects in the middle of a verse? The prior section (ending with verse 13) concerned judgment of the world, but this messianic passage begins with verse 14b? Why not 14a? A simple answer: verse numbers are a later addition. And Isaiah often switches topics suddenly, abruptly.
Second, it’s not clear in verse 14 if the words, “these shall cry aloud,” refer backward, or forward. Should this phrase be interpreted as the painful cry of those who have been stripped away? Or, should it be interpreted as the joyful cry of the remnant? The lexical meaning of the word “cry aloud” could work either way.
The switch in verse 16 seems clearer. Notice, however, that the Masoretic text of Isaiah 24:16b reads first person “I” rather than “they” in the Septuagint. That’s not an important difference, however. Clearly, there are two groups referred to in this verse–the joyful godly and the desperate deniers of God’s law.
How is this passage messianic?
First, it speaks of a “remnant.” The remnant in Isaiah are the faithful few who cling to God no matter what. And eventually, Messiah is born to Israel. That is where the New Testament begins. Only a faithful few received him (John 1:11-12).
Second, the phrase in this context, “the glory of the Lord” is messianic. Old Testament Israel expected a glorious deliverer. The book of Isaiah is a main reason why this was so.
Next, the “isles of the sea” in Septuagint Isaiah is a phrase with special reference to Gentiles. This is its first occurrence. But we can look ahead and see several other times Septuagint Isaiah uses this phrase to refer to Gentiles. This mention of the Gentiles “nations” in Septuagint Isaiah is one reason I love it.
Isaiah 49:1 Hearken to Me, you islands; and attend, you Gentiles; after a long time it shall come to pass, says the Lord; from my mother’s womb He has called my name; (Septuagint)
Isaiah 51:4 Hear Me, hear Me, My people; and you kings, hearken 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. (CAB, LXE)
19 And I will leave a sign upon them, and I will send forth them that have escaped of them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Mosoch, and to Tubal, and to Greece, and to the isles afar off, to those who have not heard of My name, nor seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. (CAB, LXE) [This verse describes the actions of the apostles and their missionary journeys, especially those of Paul.]
Finally, the phrase the “ends of the earth” makes reference to all nations on earth.
Sidebar: a long shot interpretation
It’s tempting to read history back into Isaiah’s prophecies. In 70 CE, Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed by the Romans. The Christians there scattered, and took the gospel with them. The Jewish temple and its sacrifices were destroyed and haven’t been restored to this day.
It may be possible that verse 13 refers to this very special moment in Israel’s history, its moment of “final” judgment.
Isaiah 24:13 All this shall be in the land in the midst of the nations, as if one should strip an olive tree, so shall they strip them; but when the vintage is done, 14 these shall cry aloud; and they that are left on the land shall rejoice together in the glory of the Lord; the water of the sea shall be troubled. 15 Therefore shall the glory of the Lord be in the isles of the sea; the name of the Lord shall be glorious. 16 O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly;
First, Israel in Isaiah’s day certainly existed in “the midst of the nations.” Chapters 13-23 describe some of these. Second, Old Testament Scripture sometimes refers to Israel as an olive tree (Psalm 52:8; Isaiah 17:6; Jeremiah 11:16).
Second, many Christians believe and think of themselves as the “remnant.” In the Apostles’ day, the remnant was the small number of Jewish believers who received Christ as their Messiah. Paul speaks of such a remnant in Romans 9:27 and 11:5. This remnant certainly rejoiced in “the glory of the Lord.” They experienced his resurrection. And their joy did not diminish after Jerusalem was destroyed, as an olive tree that had been stripped of all its fruit. The first disciples went out as far west as Greece, Rome, and Spain spreading the name and glory of the Lord. The new Christian converts could certainly say with Isaiah in verse 16, “O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly;”
Finally, the phrase in verse 14, “the water of the sea shall be troubled,” may remind readers of the passage in which Jesus healed the paralyzed man beside the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9. Verse 7 refers to the water being “stirred up.” This is the identical word in Greek as Isaiah uses in verse 16. In John’s gospel, the first person to enter the pool after the water had been stirred would be healed. This implies a divine presence moving the water. Could this be the case in verse 14?
In verse 14, “the water of the sea shall be troubled.” The sea, as previously established, is where the “isles” are. They are the nations of the Gentiles. The first missionaries, the apostles and disciples, went out to these nations of the world after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit of God went with them, stirring the waters in preparation for the healing of spirit and new life. This would be the same Spirit that hovered over the dark waters before God created light. Such was the Spirit who hovered over the darkened souls of the Gentile nations, the isles, before the Word brought them light.
A Second Messianic Passage: Verses 21-23
To Be Continued
* Complete Apostle’s Bible, a modernized version of Brenton’s Septuagint.
** International Children’s Bible, New Century Version.
continued from Journal 29
The prophet Isaiah uncovers a portrait of a glorious Messiah in Isaiah 11:1-5 and paints a picture of a glorious, peaceful kingdom in Isaiah 11:6-9. The vision includes Gentiles and the remnant of Israel and Judah in Isaiah 11:10-16. The images point to a heaven on earth. Up to this moment in Isaiah, there has been no mention of a suffering Messiah, nor of the cross. These will come later in the book. The entirety of Isaiah 12 is a joyous peal of praise on behalf of Jewish and Gentile believers.
This passage and those similar to it demonstrate that the inclusion of Gentiles among Messiah’s kingdom people is not a historical, “great parenthesis,” as some dispensationalists teach, but that it was God’s plan from the beginning. Nor is this plan “hidden” in the Old Testament. Rather, Isaiah openly and clearly states it.
Reading the Septuagint translation of its ancient Hebrew text(s) (not necessarily in the Masoretic tradition) (1), casts much light on New Testament authors’ perception of the Old. This is because the Septuagint translation does not shy away from the prophetic revelation of Christ within its pages.
In the example below, the verse on the left is from the Septuagint. The one in the middle is based upon the Masoretic tradition. The text on the right is a translation of the Greek in which the New Testament was written. One can readily see that Paul drew heavily from the Greek Septuagint in his quotation of Isaiah 11:10.
The cumulative effect of many such verses is that a casual reader of the Old Testament might miss the full Christological intent of many Old Testament prophecies. (To learn more about the Christological revelations inherent in the Septuagint, readers may consult the following links Why the Septuagint? Part 1 and Why the Septuagint? Part 2, both of these written by JustOneSmallVoice’s author, Christina Wilson.) Christ is the rejoicing of the Christian heart (see Isaiah 12–all). Why would we want to obscure his presence in the Old Testament to the extent that it takes biblical scholars much time and effort to methodically uncover it? Fortunately, the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believing readers everywhere can point out Christ in a matter of seconds. This is why some scholars know where to look.
Further Reference to Gentiles
Isaiah 11:12 And he shall lift up a standard for the nations, and he shall gather the lost ones of Israel, and he shall gather the dispersed of Juda from the four corners of the earth. (LXE)
The Greek reads, “καὶ ἀρεῖ σημεῖον εἰς τὰ ἔθνη…” (LXT) The SAAS (St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint) (2) translates this phrase as, “He shall set up a sign for the Gentiles…”
Textual Notes for This Verse
- The word translated “standard” in the majority of texts is translated as “sign” in the SAAS (see above). “Sign” is the word that John uses repeatedly in his gospel to indicate the miracles of Christ that point to his divinity (see for example John 2:11; John 3:2; John 6:30; and John 12:37.)
3. While the word “Gentiles” often refers to the pagan aspect of non-Jewish nations and people groups, Paul uses it several times to refer to Christians recruited from these formerly pagan people groups (Acts 9:15; Acts 10:45; Acts 13:47; Romans 11:25; Romans 15:8; Ephesians 2:11-13; Colossians 1:27; and 1 Timothy 2:7).
4. Finally, there is a passage in John which can seem something of a non sequitur in its context.
John 12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. [read, “Gentiles”] 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…. 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 …32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:20-33 ESV)
INTERPRETATION: Some “Greeks,” or Gentiles, wanted to see Jesus. Addressing them primarily as Gentiles, Jesus immediately began talking to them about his being “lifted up from the earth.” He meant that he would be crucified on the cross. Jesus states that when he is crucified, he “will draw all people to myself.” “All people” is a single, straightforward Greek word meaning “everyone.” That includes Gentiles. So, when Greek Gentiles seek to speak with him, Jesus explains the one means by which Gentiles–and those of the circumcision–can be drawn to him. That one way is the cross.
Now immediately after this passage in John 12:20-33, Jesus speaks of himself as the “light,” and warns against their walking in the “darkness” (confer Isaiah 9:1-3). John the writer then breaks in and talks about the “signs” Jesus had done among all the people, including the Jewish leaders (see Isaiah 11:12–same word, “sign”.) Right after that, John quotes Isaiah two times and mentions him a third time (John 12:37-41). Clearly, John–interpreter supreme of Jesus’s life–was steeped in the prophecies of Isaiah.
Isaiah 11:14 And they shall fly in the ships of the Philistines: they shall at the same time spoil the <1> sea, and them that come from the east, and Idumea: and they shall lay their hands on Moab first; but the children of Ammon shall first obey [them]. (Brenton, LXE, 1844)
Isaiah 11:14 But they shall fly away in ships of allophyles; together they shall plunder the sea and those from the rising of the sun and Idumea. And they shall first lay their hands on Moab, but the sons of Ammon shall obey first. (Moíses Silva, NETS Isaiah, 2009)
When a reader lays aside presuppositions concerning Philistines as military enemies of Israel, it is well within the scope of reasonable possibility to read this verse as a prophecy of the missionary journeys of Paul and other early church evangelists to regions around the Mediterranean Sea. This is especially true in light of the other references to believing Gentiles in these chapters. Paul definitely accomplished some of his missionary journeys by boat on the sea.
The phrase, “… the children of Ammon shall first obey them,” need not be interpreted according to a presupposition that a military battle is being referenced.
1 First, the entire context of Isaiah 11 speaks of the peace between sets of former enemies in Messiah’s glorious kingdom.
2 Second, the passage is primarily about Messiah, not about a restored Israeli kingdom. One of the hallmarks of his kingdom is peace. An abrupt switch to Israel’s military targets would seem out of place, especially in light of verse 10. Isaiah 11:10 clearly states that “the root of Jesse,” Messiah, “shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”
3 Further, the context is missional. Verse 9 states, “… for the whole [world] is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as much water covers the seas.”
4 Finally, both Brenton’s translation and Silva’s indicate that the word “them” is not in the Greek text. The Greek simply says, “The sons of Ammon shall obey first.” Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:25-26 speak of the “obedience of faith.” The word “obedience” is a noun form of the Greek root that forms the verb “obey.” In context, “Ammon shall obey” is likely the positive response of faith to the preaching of the gospel. The context of the Romans 16 verses is in fact the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Romans, including Gentile believers.
In Isaiah 11:16, the prophet speaks of a remnant of his people in Egypt and a safe passage out, leading toward Israel, just as in the Exodus. In the following verse, Isaiah prophesies what God’s people will say to Him. In 12:4 is the prophecy that these redeemed of Israel shall exhort one another to “proclaim his glorious deeds among the Gentiles.”
Isaiah 11:16 And there shall be a passage for my people that is left in Egypt: and it shall be to Israel as the day when he came forth out of the land of Egypt. 12:1 And in that day thou shalt say, I will bless thee, O Lord; … 2 Behold, my God is my Saviour; I will trust in him, and not be afraid: for the Lord is my glory and my praise, and is become my salvation… 4 And in that day thou shalt say, sing to the Lord, call aloud upon his name, proclaim his glorious deeds among the Gentiles; make mention that his name is exalted. (LXE)
In other words, Israel will no longer exclude and reject Gentiles from their worship of God. Rather, in this prototype of the good news of God’s favor, they will gladly share His glory with the Gentiles.
to be continued
1 Books that explore the textual tradition of the Septuagint are: 1) Dines, Jennifer M. The Septuagint. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2004; 2) Jobes, Karen H. and Moises Silva. Invitation to the Septuagint. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000; 3) Law, Timothy Michael. When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013; and 4) Marcos, Natalio Fernandez Marcos. The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible. Translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson. Netherlands: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.
2 “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
See the identical post at Idolatry and Deception: Isaiah Journal 26 – justonesmallvoice.com
Overview of the Action
In Isaiah 8:1-8, the prophet finishes foretelling what the Lord began in chapter 7–the humbling and captivity of Israel/Samaria. He speaks also of assault upon Judah (Isaiah 8:8). The remainder of the chapter establishes the sovereignty of God. There, Isaiah speaks of Israel, Judah, and Gentiles, almost in the same breath. The only escape from the Lord’s judgment on each of these is to turn from idolatry and deception to the living Lord. The prophet presents the salvation of the Lord as the best option, because “God is with us,” (Isaiah 7:14).
Israel had divided into northern and southern kingdoms right after King Solomon died. By this point in their history, both kingdoms had lost the grandeur of the united kingdom under David. The northern kingdom, known as Israel, included Samaria. Israel/Samaria united with their former enemies, the Syrians. Together, they attacked Judah, but did not prevail (2 Kings 16:5).
During the portion of Isaiah recorded in chapters 7-8, King Achaz (Ahaz) ruled Judah in the south. 2 Kings 16:6-9 records how Ahaz approached Assyria to form an alliance with it to protect Judah from the attacks of the Israel/Syria alliance. Assyria, a more powerful kingdom further to the east than Syria, overwhelmed Israel and Syria. They carried Israel into captivity, from which the tribes of the northern kingdom never returned. This occurred mid-point in Isaiah’s long life of prophecy, just as he had spoken it to King Ahaz.
King Ahaz relied upon the Assyrians because he did not trust the Lord (Isaiah 7:12-13). While King Ahaz was cozying up to Assyria, he and his nation of Judah embraced the Assyrian pagan gods and customs. He imported these into Judah, destroying portions of the temple compound in exchange (2 Kings 16:10-18).
The Lord in his disciplinary displeasure allows Assyria to later invade Judah, but only as far as its “neck” (Isaiah 8:8). The Lord fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of Assyrian attack during the time of King Hezekiah, who reigned just after Ahaz.
After Assyria failed to overwhelm Judah, Babylonia, a kingdom to the southeast of Assyria, destroys the latter. Eventually, Babylonia also deals the final blow to Judah and carries them off to their 70 year captivity. After that, the even larger kingdom of Persia, yet further to the east, defeats Babylonia. The Persian king is Cyrus, who sends Ezra and his remnant back to Israel.
SUMMARY: This portion of Scripture presents a picture of a food chain: Syria eats Israel; Assyria eats Syria; Babylonia eats Assyria; and Persia eats Babylonia. But whenever God’s tiny people trust in him, he spares and delivers them from all their enemies.
Details of the Action
- ISAIAH 8:1-4. Isaiah prophesies the rapid, near-at-hand spoiling of the unholy alliance of Israel/Samaria and Syria (Damascus) by the king of Assyria. Application: The people of the northern kingdom of Israel were once God’s people. By turning to willfully persistent, unrepented idolatry, they rejected their identity as his people. When God’s people align themselves with evil, there is an even greater evil power ready to conquer them. Safety lies with God alone. (Did America learn this in its last election?)
- ISAIAH 8:5-8. This new sub-section prophesies the devastation of Judah for similar idolatry and deception (Isaiah 2). One of the comprehension difficulties for our ears is Isaiah’s frequent use of pronouns, rather than more specific identifiers. In particular, when Isaiah writes, “this people” in verse 5: a) does he refer to Israel of the previous sub-section, or b) Judah, as clearly he does in verse 8? (All things considered, I prefer the former.) But either way, Judah will also be inundated by the Assyrian army.
- Notes: Isaiah’s writing shows great sophistication (at least to one as simple as I am).
- First, in 8:6, the “water of Siloam” (LXE, Septuagint in English) bears messianic symbolism. Its name means “sent.” In the New Testament, John narrates that Jesus healed a man’s blindness by anointing his eyes with dirt and his own spittle, then sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes completely (John 9:6). Notice, in John 9:4, Jesus refers to himself as “sent” by God. That is, Jesus is God’s sent-one, the Messiah. Isaiah 9:4 supports the symbolism of the “water of Siloam” by its mention of the “waters of salvation.” The Messiah is Israel’s salvation. An eager reader can also explore the many other references to water in John’s gospel, as for example, his discussion with the woman at the well in John 4:4-15.
- Second, the closing phrase of Isaiah 6:8 is “God with us” in the Septuagint and O Immanuel in the Masoretic. This is also Messianic. In Matthew 1:23, an angel of the Lord prophesied to Joseph in a dream that the son to be born of his virgin wife (Isaiah 7:14) would be called “Immanuel (which means, God with us).” NET notes point out that God was with Judah even in their judgment by him.
- Notes: Isaiah’s writing shows great sophistication (at least to one as simple as I am).
Application: The Lord Disciplines Evangelicals
The evangelical church in America is experiencing a disciplining from the Lord at this particular moment, I believe.
- Many evangelicals opened themselves to the deception of the enemy when they embraced a man whose faulty character was clear to them from the beginning. The character of that man has not changed. Nevertheless, many in the church believed the false prophets who told them this man would be elected a second time. They consider him to be the chosen of the Lord. Many persist in this false belief, expecting a miraculous turn-around in this person’s political fortunes. Their blind adulation borders on idolatry.
This man’s electoral loss ultimately led to violence in the nation’s Capitol. I see the loss, subsequent violence, and current state of confusion as a form of discipline upon evangelicals, which the Lord has allowed. I pray that the deception will be lifted, and these will fully trust in the Lord, rather than placing their trust in a mere man, whose “breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22, NKJ). Many are also guilty of hating their perceived enemies, that is, their fellow Americans of an opposite political persuasion, rather than loving them, as the Lord commanded. A significant portion of these perceived enemies are actually sincere, believing, and faithful Christians, just as they themselves are.
- On the other side, there are those Christians of an opposite political persuasion. Many of these have become overly concerned and passionate that the man of poor character be politically defeated. Their hope of this merely earthly outcome also borders on idolatry, because they have placed their trust in temporary, carnal solutions, rather than in the eternal Lord.
- Prayer of Confession and Repentance: Lord, I confess my sin to you. Reveal to me the depth and breadth of my sinful ways. I ask that you forgive me. I pray that you free my spirit of all deception and blindness. Deliver me from the unholy weight of worry and fear that deception brings with it. Help me to love you with a pure and whole heart. Restore my vision to a single eye, one that is focused on Christ. I love you Lord, if ever so imperfectly. Bless your people on both sides of this political equation. Help us to truly love one another, even those of a different political persuasion. In your name, O Jesus, Immanuel. Thank-you, Lord. Amen