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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.

__________

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

A Very Gospel Passage: Isaiah Devotional Journal 50

Published also by Christina Wilson at JustOneSmallVoice.com on 2021-04-20

Isaiah 25    Septuagint Modernized

A Gospel Passage: Isaiah 25

Isaiah 25 is an end times passage. It is also a very gospel passage. Most people alive today likely will not experience the second coming before they die. However, the truths of this gospel passage apply to all believers now.

Recap: What Are the Signs?

There are several signs that indicate Isaiah 25, especially in the Septuagint, is an end times passage and a gospel passage. By “end times,” I mean the very end. I do not see any indications that this chapter is millennial.

  • First, we saw that Isaiah 24:1-20 describes the final shaking of the whole earth. Isaiah 24:20 is definitive, “…and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise.” (See Devotional Journal 46 for more details on this section.) A proposed, though not proven, millennium would need to occur before the final judgment.
  • Second, Isaiah 24:21-23, especially in the Septuagint, describes the church age. Isaiah 24:21-22 (LXE) corresponds to Revelation 20:1-3. (See Devotional Journal 47.) This jumping back to a prior time frame is characteristic of Isaiah.
  • Third, the vocabulary throughout Isaiah 24 indicates a “whole world” event. (See again Devotional Journal 46.)
  • Next, Isaiah 25:1 opens in celebration of the events of chapter 24, the messianic and end times chapter.
  • We saw that the “ancient and faithful counsel” goes back to the very beginning, before creation. Then, after creation, in the garden, God gave Eve the promise of a Savior for the whole world. (See prior post Devotional Journal 49.) When Isaiah speaks his “Amen!” he’s agreeing with a counsel that reaches far wider that the main characters of a proposed millennium.

Why the Celebration?

Isaiah 25 continues in a smooth connection from chapter 24. We see the prophet in Isaiah 25:1, as spokesperson for the people, celebrating God’s victory. The remainder of this short chapter expands on the causes of their celebration.

City? What City?

For You have made cities a heap, even cities made strong that their foundations should not fall; the city of ungodly men shall not be built forever. (Isaiah 25:2, Modernized Septuagint)

The Septuagint and Masoretic texts fairly match in verse two. (There is a difference in plurals and singulars.) But what cities are these? Scripture often uses symbols. Because Isaiah speaks of the judgment of the end times, the city (or cities) represent all the evil and wickedness of the fallen human heart gathered in one place. Moab, in verse 10, is a similar symbol. We are reminded of how John the Apostle uses Babylon as a symbol for evil in Revelation 18:1-24. The phrase, “shall not be built forever,” (“it will never be rebuilt” ESV) is another indicator of the end times finality of this passage. This symbol represents the final destruction of evil. It will never again gather together in one place.

Verse 3

Septuagint: 3 Therefore shall the poor people bless You, and cities of injured men shall bless You. (CAB)

Masoretic: 3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. (ESV)

The two versions just quoted appear at first glance to be nearly opposite each other. However, in their own contexts, the overall flow of each brings them into agreement in light of the whole passage. The Septuagint here does seem to better continue the thought of verses 1-2.

Verses 2-12

Isaiah 25:2-5 flows smoothly in the Septuagint. The sense of the verses holds together with no sudden jerks. Verses 3-5 describe the weakness of the poor people, as contrasted with the strength of the evil. The prophet points out in verse 4 how the Lord God will deliver the poor from wicked men. Interestingly, however, verse 5 indicates that God had given them over to the wicked in the first place. Prior chapters in Isaiah developed this theme. God uses the wicked to discipline his own people. Then he delivers them. (See, for example, Isaiah chapters 3-5. See also Habakkuk’s complete explanation in three chapters.)

The Feast and the Mountain…Already, Not Yet

6 And the Lord of hosts shall make a feast for all the nations; on this mount they shall drink gladness, they shall drink wine; 7 they shall anoint themselves with ointment in this mountain. Impart all these things to the nations; for this is God’s counsel upon all the nations.

The phrase “already…not yet” has circulated for some time. It refers to Old Testament prophecies, such as the one we are considering here in Isaiah 25. Christians in the current era since Christ’s ascension experience the fulfillment of the prophecies “already.” They experience now the spiritual truths which Isaiah describes. And yet, Christ promised that he would return and gather his flock to live with him forever. At that time, he will permanently destroy all evil. “Not yet” describes that period of time.

ALREADY

I. Christians now the world over celebrate a feast in Christ’s kingdom. They truly do “drink gladness” (vs 6) and the “wine” of joy and of Holy Communion (John 17:13, et al). The wine of communion anticipates the Lord’s return (Luke 22:18-20).

II. What is “this mount”? The mountain right now is the spiritual, symbolic seat of Christ’s kingdom. (Please take time to read the following verses: Daniel 2:35, 44; Isaiah 30:29; Micah 4:2; and Zechariah 8:3.) In the “already,” the mountain of the Lord is not a literal mountain. Scripture is not opposed to symbolism. For example, Paul used symbolism freely in Galatians 4:35-31 when speaking of mountains. Further, the mountain in Hebrews 12:22-24 is a spiritual mountain. The mountain of Christ’s kingdom is where Christians live and worship now.

III. The “ointment” of anointing is the Holy Spirit. God forgave sins through Jesus’s offering of himself upon the cross. His death and resurrection accomplished purification for humankind. But the purpose of purification stretched beyond cleanliness itself. The purification of Christ’s offering prepared the way for a return of fellowship with the great God Almighty. The BIG CHANGE recorded in the New Testament is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers is the means of fellowship with God.

VERSES

  • The Apostle John first explained the transition from dead materialism to living Spirit to Nicodemus (John 3:1-8). Next, he explained the same transition in different words to the woman at the well (John 4:13-14, 20-26). He explained it again in the parable of the wineskins in Mark 2:22. The gospel of John contains many references to the coming Spirit (John 7:39; 14:16-18, 23, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15).
  • In John 17:13 and 23 Jesus prays for the fellowship between humankind and God that the offering of his death will accomplish.
  • The book of Acts records the importance of the gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers (Acts 1:8; 2:38; 8:14-17).
  • The Apostle Paul expressed great concern that worshipers of Christ receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6; Romans 8:5-17; Galatians 3:2-3, 13-14). 
  • Finally, near the end of Scripture, John again relates the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, the “anointing” of Isaiah 25:7 (1 John 3:24; 4:13; 5:6-8).  

IV. “Impart all these things to the nations; for this is God’s counsel upon all the nations” (Isaiah 25:7b)

Verse 7b strongly indicates that Isaiah is not speaking of a special “millennial” period of time in this passage. The so-named “millennium” supposes itself to be a time period of special favor to the Jewish nation in particular, above all others. But the joy of Christ includes all believers of every nation, tribe, family, people, and tongue. The joy of Christ for all peoples began with his resurrection and will continue to his Second Coming, the end of the age. The New Testament is entirely clear on this point. 

In verse 7, Isaiah repeats what he had spoken in verse 1, concerning God’s “ancient and faithful counsel.” Here, he bluntly states that this counsel is to and upon “all the nations.” Surely that includes more than a supposed “millennial” Israel? The reader can find more on the “ancient and faithful counsel” in Isaiah Devotional Journal 48 and Journal 49.

Verses 8-12

To Be Continued

Against Tyre: Isaiah Devotional Journal 45

Simultaneously posted at: https://justonesmallvoice.com/against-tyre-isa…ional-journal-45/

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 23:1-18    Link to LXE Modernized

Tyre in Its Setting

Tyre in Isaiah’s day was a great port city. Located on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it traded as far west as Spain (Tarshish) and as far east as Babylon (Chaldea). Its ships touched Egypt and Carthage in Africa. Just offshore from this Phoenician trading city, Cyprus also became a home base. Isaiah’s prophesies “against the nations” began in Chapter 13, against Babylon. If Babylon had dominated by land, Tyre dominated by sea.

Why Does Isaiah Prophesy Against Tyre?

Isaiah 23:9 is the key verse of this chapter.

The Lord of hosts has purposed to bring down all the pride of the glorious ones, and to disgrace every glorious thing on the earth.

Likewise,

11 … the Lord of hosts has given a command concerning Canaan, to destroy the strength thereof.

But Why?

Isaiah 40:13 Who has known the mind of the Lord? And who has been His counselor, to instruct Him?

It’s easy enough to say that the Lord did such and such and for such and such a reason. But as Isaiah states later in his book, Who has know the mind of the Lord? All this writer’s small voice can

say with certainty is that the Lord wanted to destroy the strength of Canaan, where Israel and Judah were located. And he wanted to dislodge every glorious and prideful thing. He did not spare his own chosen people. Them, too, he dislocated and judged.

But why?

I can think of several examples when humans destroy. For one thing, a farmer destroys and turns under last year’s field. For another, city planners tear down buildings. Often dating couples, or even married couples, break up. An artist smashes her paintings, and a writer throws it all into the waste basket, yet again.

In each of the above examples, something is torn down in order to build something better in its place. For example, a farmer ploughs under last year’s crop in order to prepare the soil for a new crop. Old buildings get torn down, so that new ones can be built in the same space. Couples who break up often work things out and give it another go. Or, just as likely, the persons move on to better relationships.

God Has a New Way and a Better Plan

Humans are made in God’s image. Humans demonstrate their tremendous creativity by tearing down the old in order to build the new. God created, and it was good. But an enemy came in and destroyed God’s good work. So God destroyed it all in the Great Flood of Noah’s day. Then he built again.

He chose a special people to be his representatives on earth. They failed, rebelled, and disobeyed. So God used their neighbors to destroy them. But these neighbors were no better than God’s people. In fact, they often were worse. So God proposed to destroy them as well.

If readers quit reading Isaiah right after he prophesies the punishment of all the nations of the whole world in Chapter 24, they might think that God was a bad character who really disliked people. But this is not the case. God’s ways are always good. We are similar to God in some ways. Just as our destruction of something worn out, old, and dysfunctional is often the first step of our building something new and better, so in Isaiah’s prophesy, God first destroys in order to rebuild new and better. The second half of Isaiah explores details of what his new creation will be like.

The Second Portion of Chapter 23

The content of Isaiah 23 has two clear parts: first, destruction, and second, a comeback. Of the two, the first is the easier to understand. The metaphors in the second portion are more difficult.

Songs of a Harlot

First, verse 15 states that Tyre will be pushed off to the sidelines, abandoned, left behind, for seventy years, which is approximately one full generation. The prophet Daniel also discovered this number in Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2 and Jeremiah 25:11-12). Why seventy? It would seem that this number corresponds with the removal of the old and the birth of the new. Much can be lost and reformed in the span of one generation.

But the latter portion of this same verse is more difficult to understand. (This is a verse for which it profits to read as many translations as possible. Scroll down and click on “all versions”.)

15 … Tyre shall be as the song of a harlot. 16 Take a harp, go about, O city, you harlot that have been forgotten; play well on the harp, sing many songs, that you may be remembered. (Septuagint)

How can a city be like the song of a harlot?

Descriptive words come to mind applicable to both the ruined city of Tyre and an old harlot: wasted, discarded, abandoned, broken. Nevertheless, even an old harlot can be sung about and remembered for her past fame.

Isaiah 23:17 interprets verse 16.

17 And it shall come to pass after the seventy years, that God will visit Tyre, and she shall be again restored to her primitive state, and she shall be a mart for all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. (CAB, LXE)

17 At the end of seventy years, the LORD will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. (ESV, Masoretic)

A POINT TO NOTICE: Tyre itself does not repent. Its new condition appears similar to its old. Nevertheless…

Tyre to Be a Provision to God’s People

18 And her trade and her gain shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be gathered for them, but for those that dwell before the Lord, even all her trade, to eat and drink and be filled, and for a covenant and a memorial before the Lord. (CAB, LXE)

What can this verse mean? On the one hand, verses 15-18 give no indication that Tyre would repent and change its ways. New Tyre appears to be much the same as old Tyre (i.e., a prostitute). Nevertheless, God’s intention is that the sea trade of the new Tyre will somehow bless his people.

WARNING: A reader’s presuppositions can influence the conclusions she draws from a text. For example, NET notes indicate that Isaiah is making reference to Israel in verse 18. “Tyre will become a subject of Israel and her God.” However, even the NET translation does not use the word “Israel”. The text states, “Her profits and earnings will be set apart for the Lord. … her profits will be given to those who live in the Lord’s presence” (Isaiah 23 | NET Bible). In the book of Isaiah, “those who live in the Lord’s presence” does not equate with national “Israel”. Isaiah–in what we have seen so far, and especially in what we will see in later chapters–prophesies the message of hope and redemption to all the world, even to Israel’s enemies (Isaiah 2:225:6-740:5). History bears out that the Christian message bore fruit in Tyre (Matthew 11:21-22 and Acts 21:4).

I much prefer the commentary of Robert Hawker:

Who shall calculate to what extent in the present hour the Lord is accomplishing his purpose, in the commotions of the earth, among kingdoms and people, in order to gather his dispersed to himself, from all the varieties of the earth? (Hawker, Studylight.org).

But How Does This Work?

We have parallels in a specific, material sense that can help us to understand how God will bless his people with provision supplied by a sinful city and commerce. For example, this country in which I live was founded on godly principals. In its former days, it acknowledged God publicly and officially. Who would say that many people, including “those that dwell before the Lord,” have not been blessed simply by living here?

Jeremiah provides a biblical example of the teaching that the Lord’s people benefit through the prosperity of the ungodly:

Jeremiah 29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (ESV)

Looking Ahead

There is one more chapter of God’s judgment, even judgment against the whole world. After that, Isaiah breaks into peals of praise in chapter 25.

Eliakim or Shebna? Isaiah Devotional Journal 44

Simultaneously posted by Christina Wilson on  at Eliakim or Shebna? Isaiah Devotional Journal 44 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 22:15-25     Link to LXE Modernized

Does Isaiah 22:25 Refer to Eliakim or Shebna?

Eliakim or Shebna? Today’s readers have a habit of reading chronologically, in a string. We are used to statements that flow sequentially. Latter statements attach to statements made immediately prior. Read this way, Isaiah 22:25 would naturally appear to belong with the immediately prior passage concerning Eliakim, the Lord’s servant. But Isaiah, embedded in the traditions of Hebrew written literature, did not necessarily, nor even by preference, write sequentially, in a string. It is possible that verse 25 refers to Shebna, rather than Eliakim.

An Analogy with “Power Paragraphs”

Can we think back to our early school days here in America? Many school districts required graduating high school students to successfully write an essay on a given topic. The most commonly accepted format was based on a series of “power paragraphs.” The multi-paragraph essay needed to contain a clearly identifiable topic sentence. Near the end of the essay, judges of the paper looked for a conclusion. The conclusion would most often refer back to the topic sentence.

In some disciplines, college students write many papers. These, too, must have a “thesis” statement near the beginning. Near the end of the paper, teachers required a conclusion. The conclusion would often repeat the thesis, but in somewhat different words.

It is possible to outline the structure of Isaiah 22:15-25 (Septuagint) as a “power paragraph.”

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

The beginning phrase is nearly the same as the final phrase. A fancy word for this structure is inclusio.  Everything that lies between the beginning and ending statements is included in the passage. The beginning and ending statements are like bookends on a book shelf. What makes the argument convincing that such is the case here in this Isaiah passage is the fact that the phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” or, “for the Lord has spoken,” occurs nowhere in-between. So, the entire passage is a packet that opens and closes with the claim that what lies between was spoken directly by the Lord. It’s roughly analogous to an introduction and conclusion, a topic and conclusion, or a thesis and conclusion. Isaiah used a specific structure in his writing.

A Second Inclusio

The entire passage from Isaiah 22:15 to Isaiah 22:25 has two main topics. First, Isaiah prophesies concerning the wickedly prideful Shebna, who is to be deposed. Second, Isaiah prophesies concerning the Lord’s highly favored choice, the one whom he calls, “my servant,” Eliakim. Our outline now looks like this:

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

A. Prophecy concerning Shebna (15-19)

B. Prophecy concerning Eliakim (20-24)

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

But, the question still remains, does the content of verse 25 belong with Section A concerning Shebna, or Section B concerning Eliakim? Note that as Christian readers, we are most likely cheering for Eliakim. That makes us potentially biased in our analysis. For example, in verse 25, we don’t want to read that Eliakim, a type of Messiah, “shall be removed… be taken away… shall fall…” and that his “glory… shall be utterly destroyed.” On the other hand, the way we normally tend to read in English appears to make this interpretation possible. We begin to make “excuses” and find reason for this decidedly gloomy portion.

First, perhaps Isaiah is prophesying that the human Eliakim, rather than the future Messiah, is the only one to whom these events will occur? In other words, perhaps this verse alone ceases to be messianic and refers only to a time frame closer to Isaiah’s own day?

Second, perhaps Isaiah is prophesying that Messiah will be cut off during his crucifixion? That would be true. He was. But then, where is his joyful resurrection? And isn’t his glory and kingdom eternal?

So, let’s look at the linguistic structure of sections A and B. Perhaps that will shed some light.

A New Beginning and Ending Phrase

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

A. Prophecy concerning Shebna (15-19)

B. Prophecy concerning Eliakim (20-24)

1. 20 And it shall come to pass in that day,…

2. 24 …they shall depend upon him in that day.

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

The section concerning Eliakim, the type of Messiah, both opens and closes with the phrase, “in that day.”  This phrase serves as the bookends for another inclusio. Since the phrase in vs 24, “in that day,” is a bookend, it belongs with the metaphorical books on the shelf. These concern Eliakim, the Messiah. In other words, the opening and closing statements of an inclusio belong with the material included in-between.

A Grammatical Difficulty

When the reader compares several of the biblical translations available today, she will realize that most translators place the period before the phrase, “in that day.” Others place it after. So what? Simply this, if the period falls before “in that day,” then the phrase introduces and refers to verse 25. But if the period falls after the phrase “in that day,” then the phrase closes out the prior section and definitely connects with Eliakim and Messiah in verse 24. Grammatically, it could go either way. It makes sense both ways.

Translations which place, “In that day,” as the introductory words of verse 25 are the KJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, and NET. In other words, seemingly all the versions based on the Masoretic textual tradition read something like, “In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 22:25 ESV)

It is important to point out that the “peg that was fastened in a secure place” could conceivably refer to Shebna in any event, period or no period. However, the manner in which we normally read language in strings causes many readers to place the reference upon Eliakim and Messiah.

The Greek text Brenton used places the period after “in that day.” Rahlfs’s Greek text places it before. NETS, the New English Translation of the Septuagint, by Moíses Silva, places the period after “on that day.” He translates the phrase as part of the prior clause, although it falls at the beginning of verse 25.

Where Do I Stand?

Personally, I like Brenton’s translation and the great sense it makes structurally. Further, I like the Greek text upon which his translation is based. It highly favors the presence of Messiah in the books of Isaiah and the Psalms. My eye of faith prefers his edition.

Other Reasons to Find an Inclusio

1. The major reason, of course, to place “in that day” as the concluding phrase of verses 20-24 is that it forms a beautiful inclusio, as outlined above, for verses 20-24.

2. A second reason to interpret “in that day” as descriptive of Eliakim, rather than Shebna, concerns vocabulary. Isaiah says of the wicked Shebna, “Behold now, the Lord of hosts casts forth and will utterly destroy such a man, and will take away your robe and your glorious crown,” ( Isiah 22:17 LXE, CAB). Isaiah calls Shebna “a man.” On the other hand, he speaks honorably of Eliakim/Messiah, “My servant,” (vs 20), “a father,” (vs 21), and “ruler,” (v23). In verses 20-24, Isaiah never refers to Eliakim/Messiah as “man.” However, verse 25 prophesies against “the man” that is “fastened in the sure place,” (Septuagint). (The Septuagint text never uses the word “peg.” That word appears only in the Masoretic.) The use of “man” in verse 25 (LXE) seems to refer back to Shebna, rather than Eliakim.

3. A third reason to place verse 25 back with verses 15-19, rather than with the embedded inclusio of verses 20-24, are the verb tenses. When Isaiah prophesies, who at that time, strictly according to this passage, is in the “priestly chamber” (Silva, NETS)? It is Shebna. The verbs the Septuagint uses throughout verses 15-19, about Shebna, indicate that he is presently in the priestly chamber and will be removed. Contrasting with this, the verbs in the portion about Eliakim/Messiah, verses 20-24, are every one future tense: “will” or “shall.” Verse 25, however, abruptly switches back to present tense, “The man that is fastened in the sure place…” Notice the less-than-admirable subject, “man,” and the present tense, “is.” These combined give strong evidence that the text in verse 25 refers to Shebna, rather than Eliakim/Messiah.

4. Finally, the vocabulary of verse 25 best matches the vocabulary used of Shebna, rather than that used of Eliakim/Messiah. For example, Isaiah writes that this “man” shall be “removed” and “taken away,” and that his glory shall be “utterly destroyed.” Correspondingly, Isaiah writes in verses 17-19, concerning the wicked Shebna, that the Lord will “cast(s) forth and will utterly destroy,” will “take away” his robe and crown, will “cast [throw]” him into “a great and unmeasured land,” where he “shall die.” The Lord will bring his “fair chariot to shame” and the house of his prince would be “trodden down.” He would be “removed” from his stewardship and from his place. Verse 25 fairly sums up and repeats the entire passage from verses 17-19, concerning Shebna.

25 The man that is fastened in the sure place shall be removed and be taken away, and shall fall; and the glory that is upon him shall be utterly destroyed;

5. In conclusion, it appears far more likely that for the reasons of structure and language just given, verse 25 should be applied to Shebna, rather than to Eliakim/Messiah.

Summary

Isaiah 22:15-25 presents an inclusio with a second inclusio embedded within. Verses 15 and 25, introduce and conclude the passage. Both of these verses, set off by the phrases, “Thus says the Lord… ” and “for the Lord has spoken,” refer to the wickedly proud Shebna, here a type of Satan.

The second inclusio embedded within the first is Isaiah 22:20-24. The phrase, “in that day,” (beginning of verse 20 and end of verse 24) sets off the boundaries of this inclusio. The first inclusio is about the wicked Shebna. The second refers to Eliakim, a type of Messiah, Christ.

Significance

Isaiah, up until now, at least, has given predominantly bad news. The section popularly called the prophecies, judgments, or oracles “against the nations” is particularly painful to read. On many levels and for many reasons, this portion of Isaiah will relieve and gladden the hearts of tender readers. He predicts the good news of a better priest/ruler to come.

First, he is God’s special servant, the whom God approves and sets in place. His authority will be great and his majesty glorious. He will be a father to many, and everyone, from least to greatest, will trust in him.

Second, because Isaiah prophesied of him a good 600 years before his appearance, those who hear know that he was indeed chosen in advance by God. His credentials are real. That Isaiah speaks of a good, faithful, humble, and wise servant/ruler is good news for the whole world.

Messiah the Servant: Isaiah Devotional Journal 43

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 22:15-25     Link to LXE Modernized

I. A Messianic Announcement

Isaiah 22:15-25 is a key passage in Isaiah. At first glance, it may appear to be an ancient detail about the inner workings of King Hezekiah’s court, one without much relevance today. A deeper dive, however, reveals another of Isaiah’s many messianic prophecies. The technical term for Isaiah’s making a double prophecy in two entirely different time frames is “synchronicity.” This section is a “synchronous” prophesy. Isaiah really does mean the human person Eliakim. And, he also really does mean Messiah.

A Brief Side Note Concerning the Historical Time Frame

First, however, how is it that Isaiah sets the prophecy in King Hezekiah’s Day, before the Assyrian invasion? The prior section, Isaiah 22:1-14, made reference to the Babylonian invasion and resultant captivity (see in particular verses 3-4, 8-11, 13; see also Isaiah-Journal 42). That invasion occurred over a century after the Assyrian. Yes, Isaiah has mixed his time periods. He hasn’t written in chronological order. He does that frequently.

The primary indication that the prophecy in the second division of chapter 22 occurs before the Assyrian invasion is the fact of the names. Isaiah specifically mentions Shebna (Somnas in the Septuagint) in verse 15 and Eliakim in verse 20. These two names occur together in 2 Kings 18:37 and 19:2. During the account of the Assyrian invasion, Eliakim was “over the household” of Hezekiah, and Shebna was the secretary.

The story that Isaiah relates in 22:15-25 teaches many lessons concerning the pitfalls of pride and the virtues of humble service. A more exciting message Isaiah packed into the passage, however, is the messianic prophecy he makes.

How Do We Know This Passage Is Messianic?

1. The foremost evidence is verse 22:

Isaiah 22:22 And I will give him the glory of David; and he shall rule, and there shall be none to speak against him; and I will give him the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. And he shall open, and there shall be none to shut; and he shall shut, and there shall be none to open. (CAB, LXE) 

NOTE: The first portion of verse 22, “And I will give him the glory of David; and he shall rule, and there shall be none to speak against him;” is from the Septuagint. The Masoretic textual tradition does not contain these sentences.

Revelation 3:7 and its context indicate that Jesus Christ is the one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (ESV). And, the New Testament is the best Christian commentary we have concerning the Old Testament.

2. The overall tone of Isaiah 22:15-24 is highly positive. God himself speaks (verses 15 and 25). He uses first person (“I”) when he bestows his favor upon his servant. Other than Isaiah himself (Isaiah 20:3), only Messiah has received favor in this biblical book so far.

3. Isaiah 9:1-7 is a prior messianic passage accepted by all. The word choices in that passage and this one show significant similarities. For example, consider the following.

4. Isaiah uses the word “servant” (verse 20) in other messianic passages. This is the first use with reference to Christ. Just a few of the other passages are: Isaiah 42:1-749:5-6, and 52:13-15. In chapter 9 Messiah is called “son” and here “servant.” Jesus Christ was both.

5. The fate of Shebna, the evil, prideful servant, is similar to the fate of Satan.

Isaiah 22:17 Behold now, the Lord of hosts casts forth and will utterly destroy such a man, and will take away your robe and your glorious crown, 18 and will cast you into a great and unmeasured land, and there you shall die; and He will bring your fair chariot to shame, and the house of your prince to be trodden down. (CAB, LXE)

When Jesus, God’s true servant, ministered on earth, he said he saw Satan fall from his position in heaven as the chief and most glorious of God’s created angels. (See also Isaiah 14:2).

Luke 10:18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

The Glories of Messiah

Eliakim, the human servant, performed well, according to the biblical record in 2 Kings. The glories of the servant Messiah, however, far outweigh the glories of  the human. What does this passage reveal about him?

  • God is the one who calls his Messiah (Isaiah 22:20). Messiah did not appoint himself. God names him “my servant.” As servant, he represents God fully. He serves God, not himself. The servant is clothed in God’s authority.
  • He ministers first to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah, as a father–one who cares. All the characteristics and behaviors packed into the role of an ideal human father are packed into Messiah, as well.
  • Messiah is David’s heir (verse 22). God gives him David’s glory and authority. No one is higher than he. The power to “open” and “shut” is awesome in scope and majesty.
  • God appointed his servant with certainty (verse 23). His position was secure, not to be changed. God backed him fully, gave him his full support. God intended his servant to bear the glory of his own throne. God is his father. Everyone in the Father’s house, from the least to greatest, will trust in God’s servant-Messiah and be responsible to him (verse 24).

What About Verse 25?

Yes, Isaiah 22:25 appears to dash cold water on everything the prior verses proclaim. But who is verse 25 about? Is it about Messiah? Eliakim the man? Or, could it possibly refer to Shebna, the deposed steward? By way of forewarning, the discussion concerning verse 25 may be considered technical.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Fall of Jerusalem and Judea: Isaiah Devotional Journal 42

Posted simultaneously at: Fall of Jerusalem and Judea: Isaiah Devotional Journal 42 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 22     Link to LXE Modernized

Chapter Divisions

Isaiah 22 divides best into two parts: Isaiah 22:1-14 and Isaiah 22:15-25. Both parts concern Jerusalem and Judea, but the time frames are different. The first division occurs just over one hundred years after the second

I. Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and Exile

CLUES that Reveal Isaiah’s Prophecy Concerns Babylon

Isaiah 22:2 … your slain are not slain with swords, nor are your dead those who have died in battle. All your princes have fled, and your captives are tightly bound, and the mighty men in you have fled far away.  (CAB, LXE)

  • 2 Kings 25 describes the fall of Jerusalem. Verse 4 describes how the “whole army ran away at night…Zedekiah [the king] and his men ran toward the Jordan Valley.” There, abandoned by his scattered army, the hostile forces captured the king and took him bound to Babylon. He spent the remainder of his life a prisoner there. Nebuzaradan (Nebuchadnezzar’s commander) took captive nearly everyone else, as well. A few years later, 2 Kings 25:26 describes how “all the people [who were left behind after the first wave of captivity], from the least important to the most important, ran away to Egypt. The army leaders also went. This was because they were afraid of the Babylonians.” (ICB)

Isaiah 22:6 And the Elamites took their quivers, and there were men mounted on horses, and there was a gathering for battle.

By File:Near East topographic map-blank.svg: SémhurFile:Elam-map-PL.svg: Wkotwicaderivative work: Morningstar1814 – File:Elam-map-PL.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61956849
  • The World History Encyclopedia tells how Elam cooperated with the Medes and the Babylonians to dismantle the former Assyrian Empire (Elam – World History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu)). This occurred during the approximate time period when Babylon conquered Judea.

Isaiah 22:4 Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (ESV)

  • The Babylonian invasion was the first successful invasion of Jerusalem since King David established the city and Solomon built the temple. The Assyrians, a century before, turned back at the outer wall and were miraculously destroyed (2 Kings 19:35-36). This passage does not describe that event.
  • The phrase “daughter of my people” also reveals the time frame toward which Isaiah’s prophecy was aimed: that is, the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. The reasoning follows. First, this phrase occurs 13 times in all of Scripture. We see it once in Isaiah 22:4, seven times in Jeremiah, and five times in Lamentations (also written by Jeremiah). Second, each and every occurrence refers to the wounding, chastisement, or destruction of this daughter. Finally, Jeremiah 1:1-3 defines the time during which Jeremiah prophesied to be a good 80 years after Isaiah and up until the captivity of Jerusalem. This use of language supports the reckoning that Isaiah 22:1-14 refers to the Babylonian invasion, rather than the Assyrian.

DEVOTIONAL UNDERSTANDING

Isaiah’s text reveals how greatly God loved Jerusalem and Judea. While Jeremiah claims the title, “The Weeping Prophet,” Isaiah, and God through him, weeps in this portion.

First, in verse 4 above, Isaiah cries out, “Let me alone, I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me for the breach of the daughter of my people.” (Brenton, LXE). This is the only place in all of Isaiah in which the prophet refers to Jerusalem as “the daughter of my people.” The word “daughter” is used several times in the phrase “daughter of Zion,” but never, except here, the “daughter of my people.” This is very personal to Isaiah and to God. This is his child.

Second, having just spoken of Jerusalem as the daughter of his people, Isaiah twice uses the word “uncover.” In verse 8 of the Septuagint he writes, “they shall uncover the gates of Juda, and they shall look in that day on the choice houses of the city.” Again in verse 9, he says, “And they shall uncover the secret places of the houses of the citadel of David.” In good times, these things ought not to be. There is great shame here. Neither Isaiah nor God are exulting in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem the city, its people, and its temple, once the house of worship of God Almighty.

In Isaiah 22:11, God uncovers his own heart, and the ears of faith can hear the anguish in the voice that cries out–

And ye procured to yourselves water between the two walls within the ancient pool: but ye looked not to him that made it from the beginning, and regarded not him that created it. (Isaiah 22:11 LXE)

This verse needs some explaining. Approximately 100 years earlier, Assyria came very close to overwhelming Jerusalem. 2 Kings 20:20 records how King Hezekiah had altered the water conduits that fed the city. He had blocked off the spring located outside the city wall. He dug a tunnel through rock and channeled this water into the city. He did this to withstand the privation a prolonged siege would cause. The tunnel is accessible in Jerusalem to this day. Isaiah 22:9 also mentions Hezekiah’s tunnel, “… one had turned the water of the old pool into the city;” This had been an amazing feat of engineering and a wonderful thing to do.

King Hezekiah was one of Judah’s few good kings. He followed the Lord’s commands diligently and loved him. He did turn to the Lord. He himself prayed, and he also called upon Isaiah, as the Lord’s prophet, for help.

However, during the days of the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem, no one remained who called upon the Lord’s name. Verse 11 makes reference to how they gladly relied upon the water from the ancient pool (King Hezekiah’s conduit). But they failed to call upon the eternal God. God had helped Hezekiah mightily. And more than that, God is he who exists from the beginning. He created the water. God does not begrudge them their water. But, the people should not have neglected to call upon God. God made the water in the first place and helped King Hezekiah build the conduit that carried it. It’s about gladly using the blessings of God but failing even to acknowledge the giver.

This verse mostly emphasizes how God desires relationship with his people. Isaiah describes Israel as God’s beloved vineyard and his people God’s choice vines (Isaiah 5:1-4). He refers to Israel as his God’s wife (Isaiah 54:6; see also Jeremiah 3:20). It’s the heart of faith, not imagination, that hears the anguished cries of a spurned lover in Isaiah 22:11. The verses following expound the depth of disappointment in God’s heart concerning his people.

Isaiah 22:12 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!” 14 The LORD Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (NIV)

It wasn’t just anyone whom Judah had spurned. It was the Lord, the Lord of hosts (LXE), the Lord Almighty. He greatly desired that they would recognize their tragedy and call upon him in repentance and for help. But they would not. Instead, they pretended that God did not even exist.

This is the end. God’s patience has run out. “‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 22:14; See also 2 Kings 24:20a“… he finally threw them out of his presence.” NET).

This is the fall of Jerusalem. The Babylonians killed many, but spared those taken into captivity (Revelation 13:10).

Closing Thoughts

… for this sin shall not be forgiven you, until you die. (Isaiah 22:14 CAB, LXE)

  1. The first division ends with the words above. They speak of lack of forgiveness and death. Although God had exercised extreme and extended patience with his people, it was time to move on. The next division is considered by many to be a messianic passage. What Israel failed to do for itself, God will do for them.
  2. God initially called his people through Abraham, Israel’s first father. Abraham was born in Ur (Genesis 15:7). The map shows that Ur lies to the southeast of Babylon. Haran, where Abraham’s father had settled on his way to Canaan, lies to the northwest (Genesis 11:31). Babylon lies in the middle.
    https://bibleatlas.org/ur.htm

    Notice how God sent his people back to their point of origin. It’s as though he were saying, “Let’s start this all over again.”

  3. The captivity marks God’s second great judgmental destruction.  The first was the flood in Noah’s day. That flood took humanity back to its beginnings. By choosing a special people, God limited the scope of his second judgment. But he took those people back to the beginning, as well.
  4. Isaiah prophesies a third and final judgment (Isaiah 24). This last judgment will be the final judgment of the entire world.
  5. Between the record of the second and third judgments, that of Israel God’s special people (Isaiah 22:1-14) and the judgment of the whole world (Isaiah 24), God speaks of his answer to the sinfulness of all people. He shall appoint the one who holds “the key to the house of David,” (Isaiah 22:22).

II. Shebna and Eliakim during Hezekiah’s Reign–To Be Continued

Idumea and Kedar: Isaiah Devotional Journal 41

Simultaneously posted at: Idumea and Kedar: Isaiah Devotional Journal 41 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 21     Link to LXE Modernized

The Vision of Idumea and God’s Message to Arabia: Isaiah 21:11-17

Idumea was located to the south of Judea, south of the Dead Sea. It had been established by the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (Genesis 32:8). It is also known as Seir, founded by the sons of Hor before Esau (Genesis 36:20-21).

All these place names refer to the same geographical area. Mt Hor is not identical to Mt Seir; these are distinct place names in Edom, or Idumea (LXX). Masoretic translations use the name Dumah for this same area. (Confused?)

This map shows the interesting feature of Judea’s location in the center of the area of interest to the Assyrian’s invading armies. Assyria attacked Damascus and Samaria from the north and Idumea (Edom) from the south. 2 Kings 18-19 records how God spared Jerusalem from the Assyrians, while nations surrounding them fell.

The details of Isaiah 21 continue to be difficult to decipher. One question from Isaiah 21:11-12 is: Does Idumea actually fall? Isaiah warns of trouble in Idumea, but the two verses are not historically specific. God’s “Oracle Concerning Arabia” is very specific.

“For thus the Lord said to me, ‘Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.'” (Isaiah 21:16 ESV)

Kedar is located in the Arabian desert. The sons of Ishamel (Isaac’s brother from Abraham’s concubine) established it (Genesis 25:13).

Difficulties: The map of the Assyrian Empire reveals that the Assyrians did not conquer the Arabian Peninsula. Many maps I located show the same finding. However, the neo-Babylonian Empire did include Kedar, according to maps. Remember, it was the neo-Babylonians who led Judea into captivity.

However, Isaiah 21:16 states that Kedar would be overrun within a year of Isaiah’s prophesying. (Or, could it be one year from the time of fulfillment of the previous prophecies?) The difficulty with this is that neo-Babylonia became a superpower about 100 years after Isaiah.

Another possibility is that locations and maps are approximate. Perhaps Assyria did attack and overcome Kedar and Tema after all.

Main Point: The main point of Isaiah 21 is that God is not pleased. Babylon will fall, Idumea is in grave danger, and Kedar will endure great suffering and death. But God is always eager for people everywhere to repent and trust in him who is able to keep them safe.

DEVOTIONAL FOR CHAPTERS 21-23: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 39

This post also appears at: Devotional for Chapters 21-23: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 39 – justonesmallvoice.com

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 21-23     Link to LXE Modernized

Devotional

Is God a bully? Does he say, “Do it my way, or else I will beat you up?” In a sense, that is correct. If all one had of Isaiah were chapters 21-23, a casual reader might think God was a bully insisting on his own way.

Yes, indeed, God is sovereign. He will have his way. He insists that come the end, he alone will be exalted. As for being a bully, does a bully bend over backward calling people to change their allegiance from worshiping the enemy to following him? Does a bully incarnate and die on a cross to pay the cost of allegiance owed by all people? Do tyrants sacrifice themselves to bring blessing to others?

To the unsaved, God’s ways make no sense at all. In the Old Testament, God sends (or allows) calamity after calamity from mightier empires to fall upon Israel itself and the nations surrounding Israel. These devastations terrify. How can this possibly be a God of love?

Calling for Repentance

But God’s purpose has always been to call forth repentance. Even the mostly calamitous chapters from 21-24 provide this key.

Isaiah 22:11 And you procured to yourselves water between the two walls within the ancient pool; but you looked not to Him that made it from the beginning, and regarded not Him that created it. 12 And the Lord, the Lord of hosts, called in that day for weeping, and lamentation, and baldness, and for girding with sackcloth; 13 but they engaged in joy and gladness, slaying calves, and killing sheep, so as to eat flesh, and drink wine; saying, Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. 14 And these things are revealed in the ears of the Lord of hosts; for this sin shall not be forgiven you, until you die. (CAB)

More Than Isaiah

Many who lived in Isaiah’s time perhaps heard no other prophet. We today have the entire Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Fortunately, some passages explicitly explain God’s ways. One example is Psalm 107.

Psalm 107:Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction, and He delivered them out of their distresses… For He satisfies the empty soul, and fills the hungry soul with good things… 11 because they rebelled against the words of God, and provoked the counsel of the Most High. 12 So their heart was brought low with troubles; they were weak, and there was no helper. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction, and He saved them out of their distresses. 14 And He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces… 28 Then they cry to the Lord in their affliction, and He brings them out of their distresses… 43 Who is wise, and will observe these things, and understand the mercies of the Lord? (CAB)

Lessons to Learn from the Evil That God Allows

I. Yes, God allows evil.

The human suffering predicted in chapters 21 to 23 are difficult to read. Unsaved people hold this seeming harshness of God against him. A saved person–that is, one who has repented, received God’s mercy, and switched their allegiance–takes time to prayerfully pause and consider these chapters in the light of God’s larger plan of hope and salvation for the whole world.

II. Why does God allow evil?

First, the evil that will befall the nations comes from another nation. God did not create Assyria’s evil, murderous heart. He just didn’t stop them.

Second, and more importantly, God allows evil and human suffering in order to bring people to repentance to himself. He is calling people to change their allegiance and return to him.

Isaiah prophesied that these things would occur before they occurred. He did this in order to allow Israel and the nations time to repent. Another portion of Scripture enlarges upon this. That book is Jonah. In it, God explains the “Why?” behind prophesy. God sent Jonah to warn the Assyrian city of Nineveh that they were about to be punished. They listened, repented, and God spared them. (A century later, however, Nineveh did fall to the Medes.) God’s motive always is to bring people to repentance (1 Kings 8:47-51Job 42:6Psalm 78:34).

III. What’s the Big Deal About Repentance?

1. First, God is good. No matter how harsh God’s ways may seem, the ways of the wicked are far, far harsher. To understand God’s goodness, read, for example, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). If all the world practiced these, how few would our collective troubles be!

2. On the other hand, the ways of God’s enemy, Satan, are twisted and foul. He covets his own power (Luke 4:5-7), lies, deceives, and seeks to kill (John 8:44). God will destroy Satan in the end (Isaiah 27:1Revelation 20:210). Unfortunately, those who have given their allegiance to Satan will go down with him. This is why God wants people to repent. He desires that no one should perish (Ezekiel 18:23).

3. In short, God blesses those who give their allegiance to him (Psalm 1:1-62:12). God wants everyone to repent in order to receive his blessing (1 Timothy 2:42 Peter 3:9; and Matthew 23:37).

To Be Continued: Summary of Chapters 21-23

CONCERNING EGYPT “IN THAT DAY”: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 37

By Christina Wilson on  Simultaneously published at Concerning Egypt “In That Day”: Isaiah Devotional Journal 37 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 19    Link to LXE Modernized

From Obscurity to Clarity

God’s message to Cush in Isaiah 18 may seem obscure to today’s readers. But God’s message to Egypt is crystal clear. Remember that Cush dominated Egypt in the 25th dynasty at this time in history (1). Isaiah’s use of the term “Egypt” might very well include Cush.

Spiritual Analogy: Confession–I love a car ride or a train ride where I get to sit up high and get a good view of anonymous people’s backyards. And, the longer the ride, the better. Weird maybe, but that’s me. Isaiah 19:1-15 is like a tour of people’s backyards, at a reasonable speed, like in a car on a two lane rural road, or on a train traveling a large distance.

What Does Isaiah See for Egypt?

  • Egypt’s idols will be worthless – 1
  • civil disputes will multiply – 2
  • Egyptians will fear and consult their idols and spiritists – 3
  • God will assign them cruel lords and kings – 4
  • a terrible drought will dry up the sea and the Nile – 5
  • the canals will stink and water plants will rot – 6
  • plants by the river’s banks will die and dust storms will blow away their agriculture – 7
  • fishermen of the Nile will groan and cry – 8
  • weavers of flax into linen will lose hope – 9
  • weavers of cloth will be broken and employees will be sad – 10

What About Egypt’s Wise People? Can They Help?

  • Scripture uses strong language to describe the “wise men” of Zoan (Tanis) who are really “fools” – 11
  • They give the king wrong advice contrary to what the Lord has planned (i.e., peace when there is no peace) – 12
  • The leaders of Zoan and Memphis, another major city, acted on false reports that led the nation the wrong way – 13
  • The Lord did this. He confused the leaders. They wander around like sick, drunk people. They have no clue where they are – 14
  • It will be total chaos which no one can solve – 15

“In That Day” — What Day?

Spiritual Analogy: When the tour train arrives at Isaiah 20:16 forward, it comes to a full station stop. Serious explorers debark. Some rent a room for the night. Without warning, Isaiah just took a trip in his time machine and plopped everyone down into a different era. After glancing at the the landscape around them, the tourists turn to ask one another, not, “Where are we?” (they are still in Egypt), but, “When are we?”

Signs Signaling a Change
  • “In that day” – 16
  • “In that day” – 18
  • “In that day” – 19
  • “… in that day” – 21
  • “In that day” – 23
  • “In that day” – 24

And so we ask, what day is this? Let us check our bearings, look around us for the big picture, and see what we can find.

First, I have a dispensational study Bible open in front of me. The study notes wrongly assert that in verse 16 and forward, “in that day” refers to the so-called “millennial” rule of Christ. Nothing in the text speaks of a “millennium.” That is a term Isaiah does not use. To so label this passage is reading into the text.

Second, has Isaiah already used this phrase in what we’ve studied so far? If so, what light can Isaiah shed upon Isaiah?

Uses of “That Day” in Isaiah

The phrase “that day” occurs 47 times in the book of Isaiah.

1-With reference to a time previously specified in the same context.

1. Some occurrences in their contexts make reference to a time period previously specified in the text. For example, Isaiah 2:12-22 describes a time of judgment. “In that day” occurs in Isaiah 2:17 and 20. These refer back in context to that specific time period Isaiah has been describing. This time frame appears to be defined in verse 12 as the last day.

Important: Note that although the event being described is future (in this case a day of final judgment), the introduction of it as a topic occurs in context prior to the first occurrence of the phrase “in that day.” A paraphrase would be, In the day that I have just been describing… In other words, it functions in its context as a grammatical marker, rather than as a specific day.

Other examples of the phrase grammatically pointing back to a prior event already specified in the immediate context are found in Isaiah 17:47, and 9Isaiah 17:1-3 describe what will happen to the nation of Syria. Immediately after these verses, verse 4 opens with, “And in that day, the glory of Jacob will be brought low…” Isaiah is not introducing here a new topic with its own time frame. Rather, he indicates that what will happen to Jacob will happen in the same day as what he just described will happen to Syria. In other words, these events will happen at the same time. Verses 7 and 9 are similar.

2. The use of “in that day” in Isaiah 19:16 appears to fall into this category. Verses 1-15 speak of a time of chaos and calamity for Egypt. Verse 16 speaks of an Egyptian response in keeping with those events. Verses 12 and 14 assign responsibility for Egypt’s troubles to the “Lord of hosts.” Verses 16 names the “Lord of hosts” as the one whom Egypt fears. Verse 17 extends that fear to Judah, the nation who represents the “Lord of hosts.”

3. Therefore, verses 16 and 17 most likely should be grouped with verses 1-15, because they speak of the same time period of devastation in Egypt’s history.

But, Then Comes Verse 18

Isaiah 19:18 In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction. (ESV)

Does verse 18 signal the same time frame as the previous section, verses 1 to 17? Or, is this a totally different “day”? Why do we ask?

First, we ask because the subject from Isaiah 19:18 to the end of the chapter expresses a sudden and remarkable change. Egypt in biblical history served pagan gods. Isaiah 19:1 even speaks of their idols. But, Isaiah 19:18-22 describes an Egypt that has turned and now worships the Lord.

Isaiah 19:21 And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. (ESV)

Verse 22 sheds light on how we should view this latter portion of the chapter. Isaiah interprets Isaiah for us.

22 And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.

That is, the Lord is behind everything in this chapter. First he strikes Egypt, then he heals them. He strikes, Egypt turns to the Lord and pleads for mercy (like Nineveh in the book of Jonah), the Lord listens, and he heals them.

Second, this change is remarkable. The travesties of the first portion of the chapter seem historical. They could easily fit a time period not too much later than when Isaiah prophesied. But Old Testament history doesn’t record a time when the pagan nations surrounding Israel repented and turned to the Lord.

Third, from a Christian point of view, this is wonderful, happy news. It causes us to rejoice. In verses 23-25, the good news gets even better. The great bully of both Egypt and Israel, Assyria, is included in God’s blessing.

 Isaiah 19:23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (ESV)

But what is going on? When does this happen? Slowly, Isaiah has transitioned us from what seems solidly historical to something that appears to be like “pie in the sky,” i.e., impossibly good news, like heaven.

Spiritual Analogy: This is why the imaginary train has pulled into the station and come to a full stop. The travelers are still scratching their heads. They go back and reexamine that phrase, “in that day.” They ask, Is there a particular, special day in Isaiah?

2-With Reference to a Special Day of the Lord

To Be Continued…

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1 “The 25th dynasty was a line of pharaohs who originated in the Kingdom of Kush, located in present-day northern Sudan and Upper Egypt. Most of this dynasty’s kings saw Napata as their spiritual homeland. They reigned in part or all of Ancient Egypt from 747–656 BC.” Wikipedia 

JUDGMENT AGAINST DAMASCUS: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 35

By Christina Wilson, February 21, 2020.

Isaiah 17:1-14     Link to LXE Modernized     Jeremiah 49:23-27

How Did Damascus Originate?

The biblical city of Damascus was located in the north central portion of the Kingdom of Damascus.

The Kingdom of biblical Damascus was also known as Aram, and its people Arameans. Searching out the genealogy of the Arameans, we find that Noah had three sons. Shem, one of Noah’s sons, had five sons. One of these, Aram, gave rise to the people of Damascus, the Syrians. Another of Noah’s sons, Arpachshad, was the ancestor of Abraham (Genesis 10:22-24, Luke 3:34-36).

A search with a concordance reveals a long history between the Arameans and Israel. Sometimes these two nations were enemies. Other times they were “friends” (Isaiah 17:3). Readers may recall how Israel and Aram joined together to attack Judah, as recorded in Isaiah 7:1-9 (see Devotional Journal 25).

Most importantly for the context of Isaiah, the religion of the Arameans was pagan. Israel (the northern kingdom), at least at one time, followed the one true God, who had called them through their father, Abraham.

Two Vines Intertwined

Just as the history of Damascus and Israel intertwined throughout the historical books of the Old Testament, so does the prophecy against them in Isaiah 17. The chapter is not just against Damascus. Isaiah also speaks against Israel.

Perhaps as a reflection upon myself alone, I find the language of this chapter difficult to untangle, much as the relationship between Israel and the Kingdom of Damascus. Various translations treat the chapter a bit differently from each other. This chapter is one of the few times so far in this devotional that I recommend the Masoretic text above the Septuagint. Overall, its language is easier to understand, although ultimately, both textual versions say the same thing. The NKJV presents a coherent storyline.

What Does Isaiah Say?

Isaiah prophesies that Damascus will be severely reduced, just as Israel will. Beginning with words against Damascus (Isaiah 17:1-2), the prophet then compares the future of Damascus with the future of Israel in a single verse. Isaiah 17:3 states that the future of Aram will be like the future of Israel. He states, “…for you are no better than the children of Israel, even than their glory” (Isaiah 17:3, CAB). Both will be reduced to a remnant. It does not appear that Isaiah prophecies total destruction for either nation (cf. Isaiah 17:5-6).

Isaiah’s Three Metaphors

In the next section, Isaiah 17:4-6, “the Lord, the God of Israel” (LXE) speaks directly against Israel. The imagery clearly speaks of a stripping down that leaves a very small remnant. Isaiah uses three metaphors.

  1. Israel will be like a man who has lost a great deal of weight after a severe sickness (vs 4).
  2. It will be like a field of grain after a harvest (vs 5).
  3. It will be like the small number of olives that straggle on the branches after the complete harvest is done (vs 6).

Because Aram is no better and neither is its glory, it, too, will be stripped to a mere remnant.

Looking Back to God and the Utter Futility of Proceeding Without Him

Isaiah 17:5-11

Verses 5 and 6 describe how only a remnant will be left in Israel. If the reader maintains a linear continuity, then verses 7-8 describe how the remnant will turn back to God their Creator and see again the Holy one of Israel. Remember that a remnant is a very small number. This is not a widespread revival. Even today, many people seek out God their Maker during times of extreme trial. Some continue in their new found faith, while others leave God again shortly after their situation improves.

Verse 9 jumps back to describing the desolation. Verse 10a repeats the reason for the judgment–that the people forgot the God who saves them. Verses 10b-11 describe the utter futility of attempting to succeed in their efforts in their own strength. 

  • Their strong cities will be empty. (vs 9)
  • The cause of all this is that they have forgotten God their creator (vs 10, and see comment above concerning verses 7-8).
  • Their grapes will not grow, even if they use the best farming techniques (verses 10-11). For an agrarian economy, even one cropless year would be devastating.

Closing Metaphors Against the Attackers

In the Old Testament, God uses nations to punish nations. Isaiah 17 does not name who the attacker is. Isaiah 7:17-20, however, several times names the attacking nation as Assyria. Just as Assyria will also attack Judah and not prevail (see Isaiah 8:8), so Isaiah 17:12-14 introduces a ray of hope.

The KJV and NKJ adopt the interpretation that verses 12-14 are against the attacking nation. They are compared to a multitude of people, who cry loudly like the noise from the sea and the crashing roar of great waves. “…But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, And be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, Like a rolling thing before the whirlwind (Isaiah 17:13 NKJ)”

The NKJ just quoted lies within the Masoretic tradition. And, the Septuagint clearly labels the closing phrases of  the prophecy against Damascus and Israel as being against the attacker.

Isaiah 17:14 Toward evening, and there shall be grief; before the morning, and he shall not be. This is the portion of them that spoiled you, and the inheritance to them that robbed you of your inheritance. (CAB)

Closing Thoughts and Applications

God’s Faithfulness

It is said that, “Elephants never forget,” but neither does God. For the last several chapters, whenever Isaiah mentions that Israel, the northern kingdom, will not be completely destroyed but left a remnant, I am reminded of Jesus’s ministry to the woman at the well in a town of Samaria.

Many pastors amplify a certain phrase that falls near the beginning of this narrative, “But He needed to go through Samaria,”(John 4:4 NKJ). The Samaria of Jesus’s day lay in the former area of Israel, the northern kingdom. Often, pastors emphasize that Jesus’s need concerned the woman herself. This is most likely true. But as concerns Isaiah, I think that Jesus’s need sprang from God’s faithfulness to his former child. This was the child who rebelled and left him completely–except for that very small remnant that he spared.

After the Samaritan woman believed and ran back to evangelize her whole town, Jesus stayed with them two whole days (John 4:28-29, 32-42). God is faithful, even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

Application

Isaiah 17 shouts a warning to the Christian church and to individual Christians of every era. In God’s eyes, the Arameans and the Israelites of the northern kingdom were nearly inseparable. This is demonstrated by the way the judgments against them intertwine. Further, Israel’s history after the death of Solomon reveals an unbroken sequence of unfaithfulness to God himself and to his precepts. Theirs was a history of compromise and self-concern.

Even while the New Testament was being written, faithful Christians were tempted to compromise their basic tenets of faith in order to fit in with and placate their neighbors. The temptations have never ceased. What are some compromises various churches have made in our own generations?

For example, which Scriptural beliefs have churches compromised in order to blend in with those who believe life occurred and developed through evolution? What about the New Testament miracles of Christ? Or, to what extent is the virgin birth emphasized by Christians today? How many Christians continue to tithe a full ten percent? Most readers can surely compose their own list of temptations and compromise rather readily.

But what about God? As an individual Christian, I judge no one’s heart. Believe me, I have a difficult enough time judging my own heart. God is the final arbiter of faith issues, as we live our lives before him. Nevertheless, Isaiah 17 tells an Old Testament prophetic history of a nation called by God. This nation forsook God’s ways and their faith in him. Ultimately, their character and habits became indistinguishable from the pagan nations around them. This was so much so, that God judged them along with their pagan neighbors. The judgment that applied to the one also applied to the other. Are churches of today headed in that direction?

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It is even possible that verse 14b refers to Aram (Damascus), or even to the Assyrians who bring the devastation. However, the latter interpretation would involve a sudden change of subject.

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