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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.

MESSIAH AND HIS KINGDOM 3: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 31

Isaiah 11:1-12:6   Link to LXE

continued from Journal 30

The Remnant

A believing remnant whom God will spare from his devastating judgment has been a theme from the beginning of Isaiah. Eleven times Isaiah speaks of a remnant of Israel in chapters 1 through 12. Six of these references occur in chapters 10 and 11. The time frame of chapters 10 and 11 take the reader to the advent of Christ and at least as far as the present. Nowhere in the first twelve chapters does Isaiah ever say that all Israel will be saved. While I do believe that other portions of Scripture indicate this, it is not here, not now.

Isaiah 10:22 And though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved. 23 He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because the Lord will make a short work in all the world. (LXE)

Paul uses the above passage and others to explain how it is that Gentiles receive the Gospel and salvation. Simultaneously, for the most part, the bulk of Israel rejects that same gospel.

Romans 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” (ESV)

God Remembers His Remnant

God does not forget his remnant of Israel. Chapter 11 picks up the theme begun in chapter 10. Isaiah weaves together the salvation promised the remnant with the salvation promised the Gentiles. Notice how he does this in the following verses.

Isaiah 11:10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious. 11 And it shall be in that day, that the Lord shall again shew his hand, to be zealous for the remnant that is left of the people, which shall be left by the Assyrians, and that from Egypt, and from the country of Babylon, and from Ethiopia, and from the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia. 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. 13 … 16 And there shall be a passage for my people that is left [verb form of “remnant”] in Egypt: and it shall be to Israel as the day when he came forth out of the land of Egypt. (Isa 11:10 LXE)

The Remnant and the Gentiles

Jesus, Messiah, the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10), became the chief cornerstone of the Christian church. “In that day,”–the day of Messiah–the church included both the remnant of Israel and Gentiles. In addition to the verses already mentioned in Isaiah 11Isaiah 12:4 makes this abundantly clear.

Isaiah 11:16 closes with mention of “the remnant of My people” (SAAS) (1). The very next verse, Isaiah 12:1, opens with the word, “And…” Grammatically, this “and” is a strong conjunction, και (kay). This word “and” connects the two paragraphs, which speak of the same topic. Therefore, when God addresses the people as “you” in chapter 12, he speaks to the same remnant, who is now worshipping him. God states the following.

Isaiah 12:1 And in that day thou shalt say, I will bless thee, O Lord… (LXE)

The conversation continues unbroken, as God speaks further to the same group of people, his remnant.

Isaiah 12:4 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)

For proper understanding of the book of Isaiah, it is important to note that Isaiah includes both a Jewish remnant and Gentiles who turn to God in the day of Messiah. The New Testament, especially the book of Acts and the writings of Paul, bear ample witness to the fulfillment of these prophecies spoken more than 600 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah.

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

 

MESSIAH AND HIS KINGDOM 2: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 30

Isaiah 11:1-12:6   Link to LXE

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.

The Gentiles

There are four references to Gentiles coming to Messiah in chapters 11 and 12: Isaiah 11:101214 and Isaiah 12:4.

Isaiah 11:10

Paul in Romans 15:12 cites Isaiah 11:10. The Greek versions of each are identical in the portion contained in the quotation marks.

Romans 15:12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” (Rom 15:12 ESV)

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.

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
  1. 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 2:11John 3:2John 6:30; and John 12:37.)

2. “Sign” is also the word that John uses in the book of  Revelation (see for example Revelation 12:115:1; and 19:20.)

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 9:15Acts 10:45Acts 13:47Romans 11:25Romans 15:8Ephesians 2:11-13Colossians 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

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.

Isaiah 12:4

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.

The Remnant

to be continued

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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.”

TWO KINGDOMS OF ISRAEL AND ADVENT OF THE SON: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 28

By BylineChristina Wilson on 

Isaiah 9:1-10:34   Link to LXE

Flashback

The book of Isaiah opens with God’s displeasure upon the two kingdoms of Israel, the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. In Isaiah’s own lifetime, God will judge Israel and remove the people from his land, much as he judged the entire world by means of Noah’s flood. But just as God spared Noah, so he will spare a remnant who repent and trust in him (Isaiah 1:9).

But this cycle of disobedience, judgment, new beginning, followed by disobedience, judgment, and so on might continue forever. Fallen humankind is not able to consistently govern well. Israel’s history proves this. God has a plan, however. He announces the advent of a Child, an amazing Son.

6 … and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Who Is This Son?

So far, Isaiah has given glimpses.

Isaiah 2:4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into sickles: and nation shall not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn to war any more. (Excerpted from Isaiah 2:2-4 LXE)

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel. (LXE)

But the view from chapter 9 is amazing. The Son is light and joy. God favors him so much that he decrees a government ruled by him that will last forever. He will be born from David’s line and in the land of the northern kingdom.

Messiah Is Isaiah’s Main Theme

Isaiah 9:1-7 brings Messiah to the forefront. He is everything God wants, and his theme is peace.

Isaiah 9:1 and he that is in anguish shall not be distressed only for a time. Drink this first. Act quickly, O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest inhabiting the sea-coast, and the land beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you.
3 The multitude of the people which thou hast brought down in thy joy, they shall even rejoice before thee as they that rejoice in harvest, and as they that divide the spoil.
4 Because the yoke that was laid upon them has been taken away, and the rod that was on their neck: for he has broken the rod of the exactors, as in the day of Madiam.
5 For they shall compensate for every garment that has been acquired by deceit, and all raiment with restitution; and they shall be willing, even if they were burnt with fire.
6 For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.
7 His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: it shall be upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to support it with judgement and with righteousness, from henceforth and forever. The seal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
(LXE)

How blessed the northern kingdom will be in that day!

Notes:

1. The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Isaiah 9:4, “The day of Midian refers to the defeat of the Midianites by Gideon and his men without the use weapons (see Jdg 7:9-25). These men prefigure the apostles, who spread the gospel throughout the world with only ‘the weapons of peace,’ the preaching of the Cross.” (1)

2. Isaiah 9:5 in the Septuagint (see above) reads very differently than the Masoretic text. Luke 19:8, about the salvation of Zacchaeus, fulfills the Septuagint.

3. The initial view of Messiah is through the eyes of his people and the effect he has upon them, Isaiah 9:1-5.

But First, the Judgment Against Israel

But before all this can take place, Israel (the northern kingdom) must be judged and the people removed (Isaiah 9:8-10:4). This section opens with the statement–

The Lord sent death against Jacob, and it came on Israel. (SAAS) (2)

The remainder of chapter 9 and the first four verses of chapter 10 describe the manner of this death.

Verses of Note

1. Extreme hardness of heart: Isaiah 9:(12)13 “But the people did not turn until they were struck, yet they did not seek the Lord” (SAAS). Revelation 9:20-21 is reminiscent of this, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent…”

2. Deception in the guise of blessing: Isaiah 9:(15)16 “For those who bless this people lead them astray, and they lead them astray so as to destroy them.” (SAAS)

3. Brother against brother: Isaiah 9:(19b-20a)20b-21a “Manasseh shall devour Ephraim and Ephraim Manasseh. Together they shall besiege Judah…” (SAAS)

4. Laws written by design against the poor and needy: Isaiah 10:1-2 “Woe to those who write evil things, for when they write such things, they turn aside judgment from the poor, and rob judgment from the needy of the people, that the widow may be their prey and the orphan a spoil.” (SAAS)

5. God’s anger continues: Isaiah 9:(11, 16, 20 and Isaiah 10:4)12, 17, 21 and 10:4 “For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is still uplifted.” (SAAS)

Judgment Against Assyria

God used the armies of Assyria to execute his condemnation upon Israel (chapter 9). Assyria, however, did not recognize that God gave them the power to conquer Israel and take her captive. Attributing their success to their own prowess (Isaiah 10:7-14) rather than to God’s permissive will, they determined to attack the southern kingdom of Jerusalem, as well (Isaiah 10:5-14). But God had other plans.

Isaiah 10:12 But it shall come to pass, when the Lord has completed all He will do on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, He will go against the arrogant heart of the king of the Assyrians and the glory of his haughty looks. (SAAS)

The prophet Habakkuk, less than one century after the close of Isaiah, prophesied similarly concerning the nation of Chaldea, or Babylon. In the three chapters of Habakkuk, the prophet and God dialogue with each other. (This is called prayer). God explains in Habakkuk 1-3, the same as in Isaiah 10, how he uses a powerful but wicked nation to punish and cleanse his own people. Afterward, God also punishes the “punisher” for their wicked excesses in carrying out His plan. In short, God rules history and all nations. Nations are but tools in his hand.

Isaiah 10:15 Shall the ax glorify itself without him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself without him who saws with it? It is likewise if one should lift a rod or a piece of wood. (SAAS)

How Does the Remainder of Isaiah 10 Unfold?

  • Isaiah 10:16-19 compares God to a light that burns like fire. The cleansing fire will consume the fleeing Assyrians, until there are none of them left but a small enough number a child could count. 2Kings 19 records in great detail the fall of Assyria in Judah. Note: The study note for Isaiah 10:17 in The Orthodox Study Bible (1) states, “The Light of Israel (v. 17) that will sanctify God’s people speaks poetically of the Holy Spirit.” That is, if the Assyrians poetically represent sin in the land, then the Light of Israel, the Holy Spirit, is what cleanses the believing church and individual from sin.
  • Isaiah speaks of the remnant of Israel in Isaiah 10:20-22. Those who have ever been “wronged” know what a blessing of comfort these words are. So many victims of abuse are dependent upon their abusers. But a day will come when they will only trust in God, their Savior.

20 It shall come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel and those of Jacob who were saved will never again obey those who wronged them; but they will trust in God, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 The remnant of Jacob shall trust in the Mighty God. 22 For though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved… (SAAS)

  • Verses Isaiah 10:22b-23 speak of how God’s righteous judgment will be accomplished quickly, and in all the world. This is exactly how the cross of Christ played out. In the timeline of all history, the judgment upon evil and the righteousness of salvation happened in a single day, overnight, as it were. Here, of course, the literal meaning applies to how the Assyrian army left Judah extremely quickly (2Kings 19:32-36).

22b … for He shall accomplish the word and cut it short in righteousness. 23 For God will accomplish the word and cut it short in all the world. (SAAS)

  • Isaiah 10:24-31 continues to describe the details of Assyria’s downfall and the cities through which they pass.
  • In the final verses of Isaiah 1032-24, God continues to instruct Isaiah concerning how he should comfort Judah at this point in their history. Their time has not yet come. First, “the Master, the Lord of hosts” will bring down the haughty and lofty Assyrians.
  • Chapter 11 returns again to Messiah.
to be continued…

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

2 For this and all other quotations marked SAAS: “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Idolatry and Deception: Isaiah Devotional Journal 26

See the identical post at Idolatry and Deception: Isaiah Journal 26 – justonesmallvoice.com

Isaiah 8:1-8   Link to LXE

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).

Historical Perspective

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 8:1-4Isaiah 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 8:5-8This 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.

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

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–11

And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. (Isaiah 4:3 LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Does this verse ring any Christian bells?

Even though Malachi was written some 300 years after Isaiah, Isaiah 4:3 and Malachi 3:16-18 appear to have much in common.

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (ESV)

The phrase “those who feared the LORD,” means those who respected, took seriously, honored, and were cautious not to disobey the precepts of the Lord. Proverbs 3:7 uses this phrase as one of the sources for the meaning I gave, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil,” (ESV). The portion, “turn away from evil,” also captures the latter portion of Isaiah 4:3, “they shall be called holy.” A better known verse using the word “fear” is Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight,” (ESV). But listen to the Septuagint for the same verse, Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the <1> beginning {summit} of wisdom, and the counsel of saints is understanding: for to know the law is the character of a sound mind,” (LXE). I love when Scripture interlocks with Scripture: “the counsel of saints” in Proverbs dovetails so nicely with Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel,” (LXE). One is reminded that the same author (God) wrote all four of these verses.

Although it might seem like a small point (but our God is a God of detail), the Septuagint translation notes for Proverbs 9:10, detail that the phrase, “beginning of wisdom,” is written literally as the “summit” of wisdom. This corresponds with Septuagint Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.” Looking up the Greek lexicon (dictionary) definition of “exalt,” we read, “to lift up, raise high,” (Gingrich), i.e., to the summit.

Combining and paraphrasing these five verses, Isaiah 4:2 and 4:3, Malachi 3:16, Proverbs 3:7 and 9:10, we arrive at the following understanding:

In that day, God shall shine gloriously among the remnant who fears the Lord and obeys his commands. They will excel in the good counsel of God and turn away from evil. God will take notice, and having written their names in his book, they shall be called holy.

What is this book in which God writes? What is this book with names of people who have been appointed for life? And, why will these people be called “holy?”

First, what book?

Perhaps the fullest description of “written to life,” in the Bible is Revelation 20:12-15–

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12 ESV)

But this is a stretch, isn’t it, to go from Isaiah 4:3 to Revelation 20? The Septuagint phrase, “appointed to life” is literally, “written for life,” as the footnote states, “οἱ γραφέντες εἰς ζωὴν ἐν Ιερουσαλημ (Isa 4:3 LXT).” 

But then, how do we go from “in Jerusalem” to the lake of fire at the final Great White Throne judgment? By faith is the only way. Consider these verses–

Galatians 4:25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (ESV)

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (ESV)

 Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (ESV)

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… [The omitted verses describe the physical appearance of the new Jerusalem]… 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21:2-27 ESV)

Clearly, if one accepts the presupposition (by faith) that Isaiah is a messianic prophet of enormous proportions, then the texts bind together very well. Notice that verse 27 in Revelation 21 speaks of the holiness of the residents of the new Jerusalem, “nothing unclean… nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.” Compare this with the Septuagint text of Isaiah 4:3, “…the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, (LXE).

But is Isaiah a messianic prophet of enormous proportions? According to several websites, Isaiah is the second most frequently cited book by New Testament authors. Psalms is the most often cited. All the Isaianic quotations found in the New Testament are referenced in the book Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament by Archer and Chirichigno. (1) Since the New Testament is predominantly about Christ, it seems fair to suggest that Isaiah is quoted so frequently due to his messianic relevance.

Nevertheless, there are also Old Testament references to God’s Book. Perhaps the earliest reference is Exodus 32:31-32–

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin– but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written,” (ESV).

Other verses include: Psalm 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and let them not be written with the righteous,” (LXE); Daniel 12:1, and Malachi 3:16 (see above).

What can be said about the holiness of those who are “appointed to life in Jerusalem?” The answer to this question lies in the subsequent verses of this blessed passage. We will consider these in a later post, Lord willing.

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1 Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983, 92-134. One site with an easy graphic is: http://www.biblecharts.org/thebible/thetenoldtestamentbooksmostcitedinthenewtestament.pdf. A site that lists the number of direct quotations is: https://conservapedia.com/Most_quoted_books_in_the_Bible.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–10

 

NET Isaiah 4:2 At that time the crops given by the LORD will bring admiration and honor; the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight to those who remain in Israel.

Considering the NET version as a stand-alone verse, a reader might be drawn to surmise that Isaiah speaks about a time when many people had moved away from Israel, and those who remained were blessed with wonderful, prize-winning agriculture. “At that time,” is a general marker, not too specific, not particularly definite, not especially memorable. “Crops given by the Lord,” would be difficult to interpret in a metaphorical sense. As previously stated, the Lord seems to have blessed the agriculture. “Produce of the land,” is a concrete-literal term, similar to crops, not easily interpreted metaphorically.

I wonder how many biblical readers consider the NET Bible to be a paraphrase? My guess would be not too many, possibly because it provides a multitude of marginal notes: translation, historical, text critical, and subject. However, consider the NIV translation below. This is a translation of the same verse based predominantly upon the same Hebrew text.

NIV Isaiah 4:2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.

Most readers will be able to notice tremendous differences. Even though the Hebrew underlying each is identical or very similar (1), the translators chose to proceed in quite different directions. First, while the NET opens with, “At that time,” the NIV opens with, “In that day.” The phrase “in that day” was discussed in some detail in the prior journal entry, Journal 9. Briefly, there are a fairly large number of verses that use this phrase both within Isaiah, other parts of the Old Testament, and the gospels. These other verses lead a reader to draw the conclusion that texts with this phrase indicate a specific period of time after the advent of Christ. NET Bible includes a small, marginal note that states that the KJV uses this phrase.

For purposes of comparison, I’m including below the ESV, which is fairly new (2007, 2011) and tends toward a formally literal translation of the original text. Its translation is based on the RSV, in which the first word, Revised, refers to a revision of the KJV, which is itself a mostly literal translation written in beautiful English. As stated in its preface, “The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983).” So here we have three translations, all based upon the same Hebrew text. (1) The NIV claims to be “dynamically equivalent.” That is, they attempt to capture the literal, original meaning but stated in a way perhaps more palatable to the modern ear. The ESV claims to be “essentially literal.” The NET Bible’s preface states, “The philosophy of the NET Bible translators was to be interpretive when such an interpretation represents the best thinking of recent scholarship.” Here then is the ESV of the same verse.

ESV Isaiah 4:2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Readers can readily see that the NIV and the ESV are essentially the same.

 

SIDEBAR

Please, readers, understand that I am one small voice. No one, least of all myself, would claim that my voice is in any way authoritative. Each of these Bibles is a very fine Bible. I personally have a great interest in discovering Christ in the Old Testament. As a young Christian, I was extremely jealous of the two disciples whom Jesus sought out on the road to Emmaus. My fervent prayer was the the Lord would show me what he showed them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27 ESV). Over the years, as I’ve continued studying with the language and biblical tools I have available to me on my own dining room table and in my computer, I am blessed to report that to a large extent the Lord has granted my heart’s desire.

So, my “hermeneutical presupposition” is that the Bible connects with itself in a multitude of ways. Further, many texts are polyfunctional. My predisposition is to favor translations that bring out Christ. Other Christians may have other dispositions, and that is fine. However, I strongly feel that in sending each and every Christian believer the Holy Spirit to indwell her or him, the Lord has given each and every Christian the privilege of deciding for themselves what the Word of God is saying. That is, although the work of scholars is extremely valuable, useful, produced at high cost, and not to be ignored, one of the most valuable gifts of God to each and every Christian through Christ and the Holy Spirit, is to give each one a personal relationship with Himself through his Holy Word.

Second, after the opening phrase, “In that day,” which many readers will associate with Christ,  the second major difference between the NET understanding of this verse and both the NIV and ESV understanding is the next phrase, “the Branch of the LORD,” (NIV). The ESV does not capitalize the word Branch. The NET translates the same Hebrew text as, “the crops given by the LORD.” They also include a very long, detailed translator’s note explaining why they translate this way and not as the other major English versions, which they list, “KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT, and others.” Their main argument is that Isaiah 4:2 displays no “contextual indicators” that a “human ruler is in view.” But is this so?

First, Isaiah has 66 chapters. Chapter 4 is near the beginning. In later chapters, Isaiah most definitely speaks of a future ruler using similar botanical imagery, “A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock, a bud will sprout from his roots,” (Isaiah 11:1 NET). In its notes for this verse, NET readily admits that the prophecy refers to a future David-like king. Again, in 27:6, “In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit,” (ESV). I chose the ESV translation here for its use of “fruit” rather than the “produce” NET uses. “Fruit,” of course, is a New Testament metaphor used frequently throughout its pages with reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in believers. Why does the New Testament choose to translate the same Greek word that the Septuagint uses, similar to its Hebrew equivalent, as “fruit” rather than “produce?” Could it be that the writers of the New Testament are picking up this metaphor from the Old Testament? (Hint: yes). Examples of agricultural metaphors in Isaiah are abundant. A well-known verse is 53:2, “He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him,” (NET). The translation note for this verse states, “… it probably refers to the Lord.” For other agricultural references see Isaiah 27:12; 37:31,32; 53:2; 45:8, 49:6; and 61:3. Isaiah is largely about the Messiah and the restoration he brings to Israel. Surely, this topic must be introduced somewhere, and chapter 4 is still very near the beginning of the book, meaning that Isaiah still has plenty of space and time to begin being more fully developed.

Second, 2 Samuel 23:5, an early book of history, states the following, “My dynasty is approved by God, for he has made a perpetual covenant with me, arranged in all its particulars and secured. He always delivers me, and brings all I desire to fruition,” (NET). The last word, “fruition,” is a slightly different form of the identical Hebrew word that is found in Isaiah 4:2. So, in fact, a book earlier in Scripture than Isaiah uses this same word base in a metaphorical sense, as spoken by a ruler.

Third, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says this about Isaiah 4:2:

The first writer to take up the thought of 2 Sam 23:5 and use the root smh as a noun to designate the Messiah is Isaiah (Isa 4:2). Many deny that Isaiah is referring to the Messiah when he speaks of “the Branch or Shoot of Yahweh” because it is paralleled by the expression “the fruit of the earth.” Therefore, Isa 4:2 is simply a reference to the agricultural prosperity of the land. But this view fails to notice that both of these expressions are elsewhere messianic. It also neglects to account for the unusual limitation of this fruitfulness “in that day”; the fruitfulness is for the survivors of Israel. Furthermore, they overlook the progressive nature of revelation, for certainly 2Sam 23:5 and perhaps Psa 132:17 are controlling ideas when we come to the eighth century B.C. Thus the “Sprout of Yahweh” (or as clarified by the cognate studies, “the son of Yahweh”) is an obvious reference to the divine nature of the semah [note: this is a transliteration of the Hebrew word under discussion, Strong’s 6780 and TWOT 1928a]. Yet his human nature is also in view, for he is “the Offspring or Fruit of the Earth.”

Fourth and finally, NET notes defend their choice of “crops” and “produce” with the following, “A reference to the Lord restoring crops would make excellent sense in Isa 4… ” But does it? So far in Isaiah we have seen the Lord’s great anger that continues to rage in chapter upon chapter. These pages describe a nearly total bringing down, stripping away, and deathly destruction. Remember Isaiah 1:9? “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah,” (ESV). While lovely, honorable crops and produce are desirable, does that match the heavy weight of the destruction in the immediately prior context? Further, we determined that God is not angry with physical hills, mountains, cedars, and oaks, but rather with his people. When God states, “”It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses,”” (Isaiah 3:14 ESV) his main concern is not with grapes, but with people. When serving as a counter weight to the extensive punishment of the people whom God chastises, crops and produce, no matter how wonderful they might be, do NOT suit the context.

As regards agricultural metaphor and context, the verses immediately following the section containing 4:2, verses 5:1-7, use an extended agricultural metaphor of a vineyard to represent the entire nation of Israel. Verse 7 explains what the entire passage means, “Indeed Israel is the vineyard of the LORD who commands armies, the people of Judah are the cultivated place in which he took delight. He waited for justice, but look what he got– disobedience! He waited for fairness, but look what he got– cries for help!” (NET).

Now, in view of all of the above, which fits the context of Isaiah best and makes more sense?

This?

NET Isaiah 4:2 At that time the crops given by the LORD will bring admiration and honor; the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight to those who remain in Israel.

OR… This?

ESV In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.

Where do we go from here?

Because it consumes so much time, energy, and perhaps is a distraction, my intention is not to compare the Septuagint with the NET and ESV at every step of the way. It happened here because Isaiah 4:2 is such a rich and important verse. It is also the first instance in which the Masoretic text and the Greek text diverge significantly. And even beyond that , it is the first passage in which the editors of NET took a major turn away from traditional English versions, which also follow a more or less identical Hebrew text. As seen, these other versions interpret the verse messianically, which NET goes to great lengths to avoid doing. In most instances, my chosen text for this walk-through journal is and will be the Septuagint, with comparisons here and there to the Masoretic, mostly through the ESV.

As a postscript, it turns out that the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word “sprout,” or “springs forth,” (Stong’s 6780, TWOT 1928a) is common for that particular word. The Septuagint writes, “shall shine.” This is found in Luke 1:78, which, according to TWOT, has strong overtones of Isaiah 4:2.

Lord willing, we will continue to verse 3 next time.

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1 By reading the prefaces of each (I have a printed copy of the 1973, 78, 83 edition), I discovered that the Biblia Hebraica is the primary document from which each of the translators worked.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–6

[continuing from previous post]

The prophecy continues in its judgmental strain. Using the Septuagint as the main text, Isaiah 3:1 identifies that Judea and Jerusalem are still the subject. Whereas the bulk of chapter two describes God’s judgment with images of lowering, bringing down, humbling, Chapter 3 describes the same judgment with images of taking away, stripping, impoverishing.

Verses 1-3 in the Septuagint, and even in the ESV, read like poetry with well-balanced rhythmical lines:

Behold now, the Lord

the Lord of hosts

will take away from Jerusalem

and from Judea

the mighty man

and the mighty woman,

the strength of bread,

and the strength of water,

the great and mighty man,

the warrior and the judge,

and the prophet, and the cousellor,

and the elder, the captan of fifty also,

and the honourable counsellor,

and the wise artificer,

and the intelligent hearer (LXE, Brenton).

Verses 4-7 describe a topsy-turvy, backwards, upside-down, chaotic condition, one that breaks all the norms and rules. Youths will be the princes, rather than the elders; mockers shall have dominion, not the wise, helpful, and steadfast. In verse 5, the people shall fall: man upon man, every man upon his neighbour. The child shall insult the elder man, and the base [shall do likewise] to the honourable. [Reflection: Does this sound anything at all like our country today?] Verses 6 and 7 describe the lack of leadership, when men desperately grab at anyone and beg to be in subjection, but the situation is so bad that no one wants to take on that role.

In verses 8-12 God comments upon and interprets the situation. Verse 8 reads, “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judea has fallen…” A footnote in the LXE for “ruined” refines the meaning as “forsaken, or, let go.” This is the same Greek (LXX) word we saw in Isaiah 2:6, where Brenton translates it as, “forsaken.” Thayer’s lexicon includes the definitions, “to leave, not to uphold, to let sink.” He cites Deuteronomy 31:6 and its quotation in Hebrews 13:5, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” This had been Moses’s words to Joshua before he died. While Moses’s words to Joshua were fulfilled, here we have the opposite. The conditions God describes are what happens when he forsakes his people, abandons them, loosens the cords that bind, allowing them to perish when left on their own. It is as though they have lost their moorings, as a boat that loses its anchor in a safe harbor is carried by wind and wave out to sea, where it is overwhelmed, capsizes, and sinks. How tragic for anyone, let alone for the “people of God.”

Why has God done this? What could his people possibly have done that was so bad that he treated them this way? Verses 8-12 begin to answer these questions.

Interestingly, the very first item that God mentions in his explanation of why he has “ruined” (forsaken) Jerusalem and allowed Judea to fall is, “Their tongues have spoken with iniquity, disobedient as they are towards the Lord.” Comment: God does not consider “their tongues” to be a personality quirk that he should tolerate because their actions are good. Rather, their “words” (NET) and “speech” (ESV) are the very first item God considers. Their actions follow their tongues; those too display disobedience. No surprises here. Actions proceed from what is in the heart (Matthew 15:19, Luke 6:45), and the tongue reveals what the heart contains (Matthew 12:34, 15:18).

Verse 9 in modern language would read, I know you’re guilty by the look on your face. The depth of their depravity in God’s eyes is revealed by the phrase, “… like the people of Sodom they openly boast of their sin,” (NET).

The Septuagint text reads differently in verse 10 than the Masoretic. While the Masoretic (ESV and NET, for example) bring in “the righteous” in verse 10, the Septuagint more consistently sticks with the faults of God’s wayward people. It reads, “Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruits of their works.” When a people condemn and imprison or otherwise hinder or gag a just person, this stands against them in God’s court of law. For example, the fact that the Israelite people in their latter days crucified the just Lord of glory, this fact stands against them in God’s eyes. Jesus also condemns their actions, “… the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation,” (Luke 11:47-51 ESV). Verse 11 declares that the current evil is happening to them as a turnaround of their own deeds. Basically, the verse states, What goes around comes around.

Verse 12 describes in greater detail the nature of the evil Jerusalem and Judea are reaping as a result of their silencing the just person among them, “Oppressors treat my people cruelly; creditors rule over them, (NET). The Septuagint contains an interesting statement, also in verse 12, “O my people, they that pronounce you blessed lead you astray, and pervert the path of your feet.” Comment: This is a very sad situation, when the leaders of the people are those who take financial advantage of them, while at the same time calling them, “blessed.” Clearly, God’s people have been deceived; they are being led astray and the paths they walk are crooked (verse 12). The fact that they don’t realize this is happening to them does not prevent God from punishing them. God’s allowing this to happen to them is itself the punishment, the result of their having rejected and silenced the true voice of God’s just person among them (verse 10). Today’s evangelical church in America needs to become aware and pray against deception, because, personally, I strongly feel that this is happening to them, as well.

Verses 13 and 14a declare that the Lord is about to bring his specific charges against them (“enter into judgment,” verses 13, 14, LXX). What are the specific charges God brings? NET clearly spells out their crime, “…”It is you who have ruined the vineyard! You have stashed in your houses what you have stolen from the poor,” (3:14). The Septuagint calls it, “my vineyard,”–God’s own vineyard–rather than “the vineyard.” This is better, because it allows the reader to interpret the phrase more metaphorically and indicates whose vineyard, which particular vineyard they have “set…on fire,” (LXX). “But why have ye set my vineyard on fire,” (verse 14, LXX). By using the phrase, “my vineyard,” God’s word makes clear that he means people, people he cares about. God is not talking about grapes they have destroyed with flames, but people, his people. Verses 14b and 15 make this clear, “… why is the spoil of the poor in your houses? 15 Why do ye wrong my people, and shame the face of the poor?” This is the most specific sin Isaiah has mentioned in this entire section, which began in verse 8. And what is it? It is the crime of robbing the poor. Comment: God is definitely angry. His anger is revealed by his having abandoned Jerusalem and Judea to reap the harvest of what they have sowed. And what have they sowed? They have robbed the poor and made their own homes comfortable with what they have taken. Forgive me, please, but I can’t help but ask, Why does the Scripture here make no mention of Marxism or socialism or even worse, communism? When certain of our own political candidates wish to shift the burden of taxation away from poor and the by-no-means-rich middle class to the wealthiest few percent, why is there such protest? I don’t find that kind of protest representing God or his word. God-is-concerned-about-the-poor. Isaiah 3:14-15 declares this.

Because verse 16 opens a new section of God’s complaint against Jerusalem and Judea, and because there is still quite a bit of text between this point and the next reprieve, which begins in Isaiah 4:2, we will stop here. And, Lord willing, we will continue.

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–5

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NOTE: My presupposition in all my reading of Scripture is that the main point is always Jesus the King. The King first, then the kingdom. There is no kingdom of God apart from the King. The King preexists before the kingdom. The kingdom exists to honor the King. Israel is not the focus of prophecy–Christ is the focus. Prophecy is not about Israel; prophecy is about Jesus Christ. Christ the King himself is infinitely larger and grander than all his kingdom. The kingdom is glorified in its current form as the body of Christ in its union with Christ, as the branches to the vine. Apart from Christ, there would be no kingdom. Words cannot describe the great love with which Christ loves his body, his people, his kingdom, for whom he died.

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This material will require two posts–this one and at least one other.

Isaiah 2:5-4:1 describes the judgment of God against his people in Jerusalem and Judea. Verse 5 is transitional from the prior, much shorter section, describing God’s glory in Zion in the last days. Looking back, verse 5 indicates a call to repentance, so that the house of Jacob will be able to participate in the glory just shown. Looking forward, the same verse indicates an invitation to walk with the prophet and see what the Lord’s light will reveal. It’s interesting to think that all the judgment on display in chapters 2:6-4:1 is what God’s light reveals. That is, we usually think of God’s light revealing the good things of the Lord, including his Law, but here we see the Lord’s light revealing the sin and God’s punishment upon the sinners.

Verse 6 was covered in some detail in two prior posts: Journal 3 and Journal 4. Whereas God’s purpose was to have a holy people set aside to worship him in holiness and shine his light to the world, “his people” had disobeyed. They intermarried with nonbelievers, practiced their divinations, and bore children to these unconsecrated marital alliances. The result was that their nation, after 500 years, was indistinguishable from what it had been before their arrival. Therefore, the Lord “has forsaken his people the house of Israel,” (LXX, Brenton’s translation).

Chapters two and three continue with extensive descriptions of the people and behaviors God, through Isaiah, condemns, alongside descriptions of what he intends to do. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is reminiscent of the type of poetry these chapters of Isaiah use. Specifically, Isaiah writes lists of items, as though in a catalogue.

The first portion (vss. 7-8) calls out the silver, gold, horses, chariots, and man-made idols filling their land. In verse 9, it’s not clear if the first clause is a description of people worshiping the idols or a description of what will happen to them as God punishes. One arrives at the conclusion of non-clarity by examining the text itself and also how various translations handle it. The NET follows the first possibility and the NIV the second. Interestingly, NETS and Brenton, which both follow the Septuagint, leave the uncertainty in place. This allows the reader the opportunity to think through both possibilities and arrive at her own conclusion. What is agreed upon is that Isaiah includes all people, regardless of their wealth and social standing.

Revelation 6:15-17 reproduces Isaiah 2:10 and its immediate context, vss. 8-11. I believe that in both locations the imagery is poetically symbolic of the spiritual truth being conveyed.

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Isaiah 2:8-11 (LXX, Brenton) And the land is filled with abominations, even the works of their hands; and they have worshipped the works which their fingers made. 9 And the mean man bowed down, and the great man was humbled: and I will not pardon them. 10 Now therefore enter ye into the rocks and hide yourselves in the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. 11 For the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

Placing this portion of Isaiah within the context of Revelation 6 causes one to marvel again at the fact that the Lord is speaking to “his people the house of Israel” in Isaiah.

Verses 12-21 repeat and expand, using different imagery, the concepts of verses 7-11. This section very much sounds like pages out of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (I searched Google and found that indeed Whitman did use Isaiah as a model.) One theme word difficult to miss is “high.” The word “high” occurs 7 times in verses 11 through 15. Verse 11 states the real truth that, “the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Following are phrases with the word “high.”

  • 11 For the eyes of the Lord are high
  • 12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one… that is high and towering
  • 13 upon every cedar of Libanus, of them that are high and towering,
  • 14 and upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill,
  • 15 and upon every high tower, and upon every high wall,

Verse 12 opens with a literal statement that closes with the abstract descriptor “high and towering.” Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and haughty, and upon every one that is high and towering, and they shall be brought down; (LXX, Brenton). The literal, easily understood “proud and haughty” describes what is intended by “high and towering.” Common sense tells us that the remainder of the list is poetically symbolic. We must ask ourselves, is the Lord really resentful of the cedars that grow in Lebanon and the mighty oaks (an extremely useful and strong hardwood) that grow in Bashan? Do the heights of the mountains and hills really bother him that much? How could he in fairness to his people hold them responsible and accountable for the physical attributes of the geography surrounding them? Although one can debate concerning God’s minding the height of the towers and walls used in warfare against their enemies, common sense I believe weighs upon the reader to realize that God is poetically describing in a variety of ways the pride and haughtiness of the people who call themselves by his name. He also condemns their placing their trust in these items rather than in himself.

Other imagery that needs to be noted before moving on is that found in verse 16, “and upon every ship of the sea, and upon every display of fine ships.” Chapter 18 of Revelation, in describing the fall of Babylon, uses this same imagery in an expanded way in verses 11-19. Revelation 18:17-18 reads, “For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” (ESV). The entire chapter of Revelation 18 is written in a style very similar to that of chapters 2 and 3 of Isaiah.

Verse 17 sums up this section with a literal statement that gives the interpretation of what precedes it, “And every man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall fall: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Verse 17 is repetitious of verse 11, both stating in literal terms the poetic meaning of the images sandwiched between (an inclusio.)

Then, verses 18-21 repeat verse 10 in expanded fashion. This is also an inclusio. This term means a section that is bracketed on both sides by similar material, like a sandwich made with two slices of bread.

18 And they shall hide all idols made with hands, 19 having carried them into the caves, and into the clefts of the rocks, and into the caverns of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth.
20 For in that day a man shall cast forth his silver and gold abominations, which they made in order to worship vanities and bats; 21 to enter into the caverns of the solid rock, and into the clefts of the rocks, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. (Isaiah 2:18-21 LXE)

This section is, of course, reminiscent again of Revelation 6:15-17 (See these verses quoted above). Realizing this, the reader cannot help but wonder what time frame these “last days” (Isaiah: 2:10) refers to. Clearly, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587-86 BC, which was future to Isaiah’s writing. It was also destroyed in 70 AD. Pinning an exact time frame for “the last days” here and in Revelation 6 is exceedingly complex and beyond the scope of my understanding.

There is still quite a bit of text between this point and the next reprieve, which begins in Isaiah 4:2. Lord willing, we will continue.

 

 

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–4

Devotional: Isaiah 2:6 LXX (LXE, Brenton) (1) For he has forsaken his people the house of Israel, because their land is filled as at the beginning with divinations, as the land of the Philistines, and many strange children were born to them. (2, 3)

What is startling about this verse is the phrase, “as at the beginning.” The land of Israel, formerly known as Canaan, was in God’s eyes, according to Scripture, formerly a land of unholiness, just as the Israelites themselves were unholy while they were in Egypt. God’s command to Joshua had been to engage the Canaanites in war and to utterly defeat them. He was giving the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham. It was to be a land of holiness for a holy people, whom God had chosen for this purpose (see Deuteronomy 12f., and Joshua 24). He wanted them to live their lives in reflection of his own holy nature, so that the world around them could see and know the difference.

Isaiah tells the people in 2:6 that God has forsaken them, because just as “at the beginning,” the land was filled with false religion and children of careless intermarriage with those who did not worship God (Philistines). What is strikingly sad is that after nearly 500 years, God found no difference between the character of the nation inhabiting the land then, which was Israel, and the way it was before their arrival.

Such a statement has tremendous application today. How would I feel if the summation of the legacy of my life was that I made no difference? Everything at the end of my life was just as it was at the beginning, before I was born? What about our churches? Some churches have been in particular neighborhoods for fifty years or more. Have they made a difference? Or, are things just as they were “at the beginning,” before the church ever arrived?

God will have his way. Christ introduced a holiness among men that cannot be polluted, diluted, or destroyed. Only as I adhere to Christ, as a branch to its vine, will I ever make a difference. I pray we all do.

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1 For those who may be interested, my personal preference for an English translation of the Septuagint in most cases is Lancelot Brenton. Other translations are available. One is the translation by Moisés Silva in the NETS Bible (New English Translation of the Septuagint), available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/. He writes in the introduction, “To the Reader,” about Brenton’s translation, which he thinks highly of, and his own. Having compared verse 6 with the original Greek text of Rahlf’s, the NETS translation, the English translation in The Orthodox Study Bible (Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), and Brenton’s translation (Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970, available in an online version at https://ebible.org/eng-Brenton/ISA02.htm), I find that I prefer Brenton’s translation: 1) it is accurate to Rahlf’s text, which Silva states is adequate for the vast majority of verses, and 2) it is the most pleasing of the three to my English ear. 

2 English translations based upon the Masoretic (Hebrew) text differ for this verse. For example, the ESV has, “For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.” The difference is that where the ESV has the phrase, “full of things from the east,” the Septuagint has, “filled as at the beginning.” The BDB Hebrew lexicon available to me (Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew-Aramaic and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Abridged BDB-Gesenius Lexicon) (Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997), BibleWorks, v.9) gives three meanings for the Hebrew of this word: 1) front, 2) east, and 3) aforetime, or formerly. My speculation is that the translators of the Hebrew text into the Greek Septuagint, some three centuries BC, or BCE, chose meaning three.

3 I really prefer to do my devotions, where possible, from the English Septuagint. It’s often provides much more “spiritual meat” than the Masoretic, which in comparison tends toward “dry neutrality.” The phrases in quotations are both my own.

 

 

 

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