Home » Posts tagged 'Septuagint'

Tag Archives: Septuagint

Septuagint 43: Isaiah Journal 2.17

By Christina M Wilson. Previously posted at https://justonesmallvoice.com/septuagint-43-isaiah-devotional-2-17/.

This article will be semi-technical.

Thank God for Greek!

Whichever people may have translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek (the Septuagint), they did so with great sensitivity to God’s Holy Spirit. This manifests in the specific Greek words used. These translators did not shy away from using words that point to Messiah. Many of the Greek words and word stems of the Septuagint also occur in the Greek of the New Testament. Readers have many tools to access both the Greek of the Septuagint and the Greek in which the New Testament was written. Comparing the two testaments Greek to Greek yields rich rewards.

These are some of the readily available language tools:

  • interlinear or side by side editions of the Septuagint showing both the Greek and the English (or other language) translation
  • interlinear New Testaments with one’s native language displayed word by word under the Greek
  • biblical editions that show Strong’s numbers for each word in one’s native language, or for each Greek word
  • a multitude of highly detailed lexicons and concordances
  • on-line lessons, printed textbooks, and in-person classes to learn Greek
  • some links are included in the footnotes (1)

Christian Correspondences with Isaiah 43

Redeemer

1 And now thus saith the Lord God that made thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (Brenton)

  1. God through Isaiah speaks to Israel in first person. The text states that God specifically created and formed Jacob, also known as Israel. Using an entirely different word, Christ says in Matthew16:18, “On this rock I will build my church.” Paul in Ephesians 2:20 speaks of the church as having been “built.”
  2. Although one study Bible uses the words “will protect” for “have redeemed,” most English translations stick to “redeemed.” This word occurs multiple times in both testaments. Christ in the New Testament is known as “redeemer.” (See also Isaiah 43:14. The “Lord God” does far more than “protect” Israel. He redeems her.)

Luke 1:68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. (ESV)

Luke 24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. (ESV)

Calling By Name

In the Septuagint, God speaks to Israel, “I have called you by name.” In the New Testament, Jesus calls by name.

John 10:3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (ESV)

Paul also speaks of members of the church (Israelites and Gentiles) as those whom God calls.

Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)

Witnesses

God appoints Israel as his witness.

10 Be ye my witnesses, and I too am a witness, saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am he: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none. 11 I am God; and beside me there is no Saviour. 12 I have declared, and have saved; I have reproached, and there was no strange god among you: ye are my witnesses, and I am the Lord God, 13 even from the beginning; and there is none that can deliver out of my hands: I will work, and who shall turn it back? (Brenton)

MESSIAH AS WITNESS

First, notice the construction of the sentence in verse 10. The Greek itself is very similar in construction (Isaiah 43:10 LXX). The plain meaning, out of context, would be that there are three witnesses: Israel (“Be ye my witnesses“), the Lord God, and “my servant whom I have chosen.” When including the context, an argument could be made that this is a very awkward construction indicating two witnesses: the Lord God and Israel, who is also the Lord’s servant. Against this interpretation lies the fact that the first phrase  is second personal plural (be ye, witnesses). The third phrase, “my servant whom I have chosen,” is singular. If the reader extends the context back to chapter 41, to which this chapter is closely linked, the servant could well be the singular Servant of Isaiah 41:8 forward.

Within the four Gospels, Jesus claims that God himself is his witness.

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

John 8:18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world– to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

And, Messiah (Jesus) witnesses to the Father.

John 8:26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

John 8:40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.

John 3:11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.

John 8:29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (Joh 8:29 ESV)

ISRAEL AS WITNESSES

Isaiah 43:10 Be ye my witnesses… 12… ye are my witnesses

As the Lord God commanded Israel to be his witnesses, so Messiah commands his disciples to be his witnesses.

THE DISCIPLES AS WITNESSES

Luke 24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Acts1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Protection

Notice the similarity in the following two statements, one from the Septuagint, spoken by the “Lord God,” and the other from the New Testament, spoken by Christ. The actual Greek words “deliver” (ἐξαιρέω) and “snatch out” (ἁρπάζω) are different. In the context of these sentences, however, they are synonymous.

12… I am the Lord God, 13… and there is none that can deliver out of my hands: (Brenton

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (ESV)

“I Am” Statements

The Gospel of John is famous for Jesus’s many “I am,” statements. There are a few, however, which follow the Old Testament formulation in Isaiah 43 exactly.

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he (ἐγώ εἰμι), you will die in your sins.” 

John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he (ἐγώ εἰμι), and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

Isaiah 43:10 Be ye my witnesses, and I too am a witness, saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am he (ἐγώ εἰμι): before me  there was no other God, and after me there shall be none.

Isaiah 43:25 <1> I, even I, am he that blots out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and thy sins; and I will not remember them. {1) Gr. I am, I am} (LXE, Brenton)

Isaiah 43:25 ἐγώ εἰμι ἐγώ εἰμι… (I am, I am) (Isaiah 43:25, LXT)

And John is not the only gospel in which Jesus claims the divine Being. Mark also includes this testimony.

 Mark 14:61… Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am (ἐγώ εἰμι), and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 

A Chosen Race

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do new things, which shall presently spring forth, and ye shall know them: and I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the dry land. 20 the beasts of the field shall bless me, the owls and young ostriches; for I have given water in the wilderness, and rivers in the dry land, to give drink to my chosen race, 21 my people whom I have preserved to tell forth my praises. (Brenton

The phrase “chosen race” in the Septuagint, or “chosen people” in the Hebrew, is all but unique in the Old Testament. A digital search engine shows “chosen people” and “chosen race” nowhere else in the Old Testament, other than Septuagint Esther 8:13.  Various Greek lexicons define the word γένος (gen-os) as: 1) race, offspring, descendants, family; 2) nation, people; and 3) class, kind (Thayer, and Gingrich).

The New Testament likewise uses the phrase “chosen race, γένος (gen-os)” just once. Peter’s statement closely resembles Isaiah’s use of the phrase “chosen race” in verse 20. Peter combines verses 20 and 21.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race (γένος), a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The shortened form, “chosen” as in “my chosen” occurs more frequently in both testaments.

Water

Isaiah 43 speaks often of water. The occurrences of water fall into two categories. The first category is dangerous water. The second category is the water necessary for life. This section will consider the second category, the water of life. The Gospels also relate Jesus/Messiah’s ministry in connection with two categories of water: dangerous water and the water that gives life.

DANGEROUS WATER

Isaiah 43:2 And if thou pass through water, I am with thee; and the rivers shall not overflow thee… (Brenton

Isaiah 43:16 Thus saith the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty water; (Brenton

And from the New Testament–

Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 

John 6:16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

WATER OF LIFE

From Isaiah 43–

43:19… I will make… rivers in the dry land. 20 The beasts of the field shall bless me, the owls and young ostriches; for I have given water in the wilderness, and rivers in the dry land, to give drink to my chosen race, (Brenton) [Note: The ESV writes, “rivers in the desert.”]

And from the mouth of Messiah–

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

John 4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Blindness

God through Isaiah seems to never grow weary of calling out Israel’s blindness.

Isaiah 43:8 and I have brought forth the blind people; for their eyes are alike blind, and they that have ears are deaf. 

Messiah in his ministry did the same with the religious leaders of his day.

Matthew 23:24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Jesus in his day healed many who were physically blind. Which is more difficult? To heal a physically blind person or to give spiritual life and sight to a spiritually blind person? Jesus did both.

Matthew 20:30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Summary: The Christian Message

Septuagint Isaiah 43 speaks the Christian message.

First, verses 1 through 7 cry out the Lord’s love for his people (Isaiah 43:1-7). For Christians, this includes all people everywhere. God seeks out his own and calls them by name from the far corners of the earth. No one is too far away to be saved. He cares for his people, provides for them, and protects them.

Second, just as Israel was a witness among the nations (Isaiah 43:8-21) to the existence, sovereignty, might, and eternity of the Lord God, Christians are witnesses of the same. Most importantly, Christians witness that Christ came in the flesh, died and was buried, arose from the grave, and ascended into heaven. The first Christians saw all these things. Christians further witness that Jesus Messiah sent his Holy Spirit to take his place in the hearts of believers everywhere. This is how Christians know that Jesus lives.

Third, the Christian message is inclusive. The Lord’s people are one. Isaiah 43:5-7 indicates this truth, which will be developed further as Isaiah progresses. There are no ethnic nor language barriers in the body of Christ. The body of Christ includes all people who believe, both those of Israeli descent and Gentiles. There is no separation. God and Messiah are one. Their people are one.

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

Fourth, God judges his people as being blind, distant from him, and sinful (Isaiah 43:22-28). Yet, he is willing to forgive them. He will do this for himself (Isaiah 43:25). The Christian message is that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Yet God in Christ will forgive them.

Fifth, confession and repentance are necessary.

Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blots out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and thy sins; and I will not remember them. 26 But do thou remember, and let us plead together: do thou first confess thy transgressions, that thou mayest be justified [made righteous (SAAS)].

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

When one reads through Isaiah 43, God appears to be as though he were a lover spurned. I see a God who is bending over backward, pleading with his people to return to him. Yet, verses 27-28 indicates that they have turned against him, to their shame and destruction. Why did God’s people not love him

But the story has not ended. It continues. And, God’s message today is the same as yesterday.

 Hebrews 3:15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 

Amen.

__________

1 Brenton’s English Septuagint; New English Translation of the Septuagint, translated by Moisés Silva NETSAbarim Interlinear New TestamentBlue Letter Bible Septuagint in Greek with links to Strong’s concordance for each word. All links accessed October 28, 2021.

Songs for “In That Day”: Isaiah Devotional Journal 48

See also Songs for “In That Day”: Isaiah Devotional Journal 48 – justonesmallvoice.com

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 25    Septuagint Modernized

Celebratory Songs for “In That Day” (Part One)

Isaiah 26:1 In that day they shall sing this song in the land of Judea; Behold a strong city; and he shall make salvation its wall and bulwark. (Septuagint)

The celebratory songs for “in that day” begin with Isaiah 25:1, even though the prophet doesn’t use that exact phrase until chapter 26. Imagine the scene in the movie, Harry Potter, when the dark lord is finally, totally, and forever banished. Isaiah’s celebration is much greater than that. Or, think of any city when the favored troops have completely vanquished the oppressive enemy. Isaiah’s songs for “in that day” are that kind of celebration.

When?

I think it’s fair to say that Isaiah had never heard of a period of time called the “millennium.” In Isaiah, there are three basic time zones: 1) his day, including everything up to the incarnation, 2) the day of Christ, including his incarnation and up to and including everything before his second coming, and 3) the final day when Christ comes again and the enemy is forever, finally, totally, destroyed.

Unfortunately for us, as readers, Isaiah doesn’t clearly label his time frames. Nor are they always exactly discernible. Consider for example Isaiah 22:20-25.

Isaiah 22:20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (ESV) 

We know from Revelation 3:7 that this passage is about Christ.

Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (ESV)

But what is the time frame in the Revelation passage? Wasn’t it true of Christ during his incarnation? And after his ascension? And into his glorious eternity? Similarly, none of these time frames are ruled out in Isaiah 22:20-25.

Already, Not Yet

There is a phrase to describe prophecy’s fulfillment that is making its rounds in Christian circles. This phrase is “already, not yet.” The idea is that much Old Testament prophecy, including Isaiah, has already been fulfilled in Christ. He is already crucified, buried, risen, and ascended into heaven. There he sits at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). But the very end of the ages, when the eternal kingdom is ushered in, is “not yet.”

Scripture is not clear on the exact timing of the transition from “already”, that is–right now– to “not yet.”

 Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (ESV)

And, in the days of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, that timing was even less clear. Peter bluntly states how much was revealed to them.

 1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (ESV)

The Timing Not Clear

An honest evaluation of Peter’s words reveals that the timing revealed to the Old Testament prophets was general, not specific. For them, it was plenty exciting just to know that the Christ would come!

While I am not endorsing a particular faith tradition, I often like The Orthodox Study Bible (1). This is because its translation is based on the Septuagint (Old Greek translation). And, I like the Septuagint, because it is often easier to find Christ in its pages than in translations based on the Masoretic textual tradition (2). Here is what The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Revelation 20:2.

20:2 Though most did not, a few early Fathers and writers believed in a literal thousand year binding of Satan and reign of Christ and the saints on earth (vv. 2-7). The Church, however, authoritatively rejected this teaching (called chiliasm) at the Second Ecumenical Council. In apocalyptic literature, numbers have symbolic significance. “Thousand” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a long period time, a great quantity, completion, perfection, thoroughness (Job 9:32Pt 3:8). Here, a thousand years (vv. 2-7) is interpreted as the Church age, when Jesus reigns on earth in those who believe. It is that era between the first and second comings of Christ, also called the “last times,” when Satan’s effectiveness at deceit is restricted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the saints share in Christ’s earthly reign through the Church. For these persecuted Christians threatened by martyrdom, this is a consoling hope.

Therefore, anyone who points to Isaiah chapters 25-27 and states that this is the “millennium,” is reading into Scripture. This is because the “millennium” is a word that Scripture never uses. And, if such a distinct period is not clear in Revelation, then it certainly wouldn’t be clear in Isaiah. But, good news! Chapters 25-27 in Isaiah are definitely about the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

__________

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

2 A brief introductory post concerning my use of the Septuagint is available here: Which Bible Should I Use? – justonesmallvoice.com   

Songs for “In That Day” To Be Continued 

Psalms 56-60: A Packet–Psalm 59

“While this psalm carries deep philosophical import, answering the question of evil in the presence of a good God, it very simply shares with us the benefits of placing one’s complete trust in the God of Love. Those who do evil will be punished and brought low; the righteous will be rewarded with the mercy of God.”

Psalm 59 contains two major applications: one general and one specific. The premise of the general application was stated in the last verse of the prior psalm.

Psalm 58:11 LXE And a man shall say, Verily then there is a reward for the righteous: verily there is a God that judges them in the earth. 

ESV  Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

The specific application applies to the speaker himself, identified previously as the Son of God on earth during the days of his tribulation and Passion. The following verses further identify him as the Spotless Lamb:

2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.
3 For, behold, they have hunted after my soul; violent men have set upon me: neither is it my iniquity, nor my sin, O Lord.
4 Without iniquity I ran and directed my course aright: awake to help me, and behold. (Psalm 59:2-4 LXE)

1Peter 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (ESV)

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

If there is a God in heaven–so the argument goes–and if he is a good God, how can he permit such evil on earth? The answer given in Psalm 59 is that he does not. There will be a judgment: the righteous will be rewarded, and the wicked will be punished. The blood of the innocent by the hands of the wicked will be avenged.

Psalm 59 is divided neatly into sections.

1) In the first section, verses 1-5, the speaker (who is Messiah) lays out his condition and his petition. Bloody and violent men pursue the speaker with intent to kill. After his proclamation of innocence, the speaker petitions God in prayer to visit all the heathen and to pity no one who does iniquity. Then there is a “pause.”

An interesting petition

2) In the second section, verses 6-13, the speaker details God’s future actions against his enemies and contrasts these with his own trust in God and God’s mercy on him. Before a second “pause” which closes verse 13, the speaker makes an interesting petition in verses 11-13.

11 Slay them not, lest they forget thy <1> law; scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord, my defender.
12 For the sin of their mouth, and the word of their lips, let them be even taken in their pride.
13 And for their cursing and falsehood shall utter destruction be denounced: they shall fall by the wrath of utter destruction, and shall not be; so shall they know that the God of Jacob is Lord of the ends of the earth. Pause. (LXE)

He asks in verse 11 that God not “kill” his enemies but “scatter” them and bring them “down,” in the sense of higher to lower. This seems rather an apt request, considering that Jesus’s enemies were religious leaders who thought themselves to be above the people.

 Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers– or even like this tax collector. (NET)

Some textual variations

Throughout the entire psalm the speaker in the Greek Septuagint of Brenton’s translation always refers to himself in singular. There are no plurals, such as “we,” “us,” or “our,” not even in verse 11. The supplicant represents himself throughout the psalm; he is not praying on behalf of a “people.” Therefore, God is always referred to with the descriptor, “my,” rather than “our.” Although the Septuagint does reference God as the “God of Israel” (verse 5) and “God of Jacob” (verse 13), the speaker gives no indication that he is praying on behalf of a “people.” This is important in helping to determine the subject of verse 11. Verse 11 differs in Brenton’s Septuagint from translations based upon the Masoretic.

First, however, all versions agree that the request is for a scattering rather than an annihilation. The example below is one of the more graphic:

11 Use your power to make them homeless vagabonds and then bring them down, O Lord who shields us! (NET)

All versions further agree that the reason for the request is to prevent someone forgetting something. Who the someone is and what is not to be forgotten is hard to decipher. The Masoretic translations ask God to scatter rather than kill “lest my people forget,” (ESV) leaving the “what” unmentioned. The Greek Septuagint, which follows a different textual tradition, doesn’t specify who “they” is and places a text note at the object of the verb “forget.” According to Rahlfs, there are three Septuagint families of readings for the genitive object of “forget” (1). The Greek text that accompanies Brenton’s translation uses “thy law,” (τοῦ νόμου σου) “Slay them not, lest they forget thy law; scatter them by thy power.” A second reading is “people,” as in the Masoretic; however, people is objective rather than subjective, “lest they forget thy people,” not, “lest my people forget,” as in the ESV. The third reading is “your name,” “Slay them not lest they forget your name.” (2)

Finally, all versions agree that the powerful enemies, as an effect of their scattering, will be brought completely down, or low.

So, which one? 

The biblical plot line, the plot line of the Psalter, the plot line of the Gospels, and the plot line of the New Testament letters require that the “enemies” are among God’s own people and among the Gentiles. (That pretty much includes everyone.) God’s own people were distinctively given the commandment to guard God’s Law, the Ten Commandments delivered through the hand of Moses the great prophet. Based upon the entire sense of the psalm, I conclude that the speaker’s request in verse 11 of the Septuagint is lest “they,” the enemies, “forget thy law.” The enemies are the prideful religious leaders, caretakers of God’s Law, and the speaker is God’s Son. The speaker wants these enemies brought low, but not destroyed, because he wants them to remember God’s Law. Clearly, the speaker’s enemies broke the first commandment in its entirety, “Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The predicament of modern unbelievers as they stumble upon Psalm 59 is this. While the mind agrees that righteousness needs to be vindicated and that the travesty of disrespect and murder against God’s own Son is unfathomable in its magnitude, our culture teaches prejudice against the biblical God. If the speaker were anyone other than God’s own Son, our own natural sense of justice would demand that the death of a completely innocent person by the hands of a ruthless enemy be avenged.  And yet, because God is so authoritatively powerful, we deny the justice given to every common creature to his Son, who in his flesh was every bit as common as each one of us. And, on the other hand, for believers there is no cause for rejoicing in this psalm. How can any tender-hearted person rejoice in destruction?

The Good News, however, is that the enemies were not killed, but scattered. The outcome of A.D. 70 was that the temple and its sacrifices ceased, the power of the religious leaders was completely broken, and the people were indeed scattered. However, God’s Law continued to be guarded and protected.

Paul best explains this plot twist:

Romans 11:11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (ESV)

More cannot be said now without entering into Psalm 60, the last psalm of this packet.

Prophecy

As concerns Psalm 59, it helps this author to bear in mind constantly that the Psalter is prophetic and that a large purpose of Psalm 59 is to prophesy in order to verify the credentials of Messiah. Prophecy is a testimony that leads to faith.

Consider Psalm 59 in the context of these biblical statements.

Psalm 17:8 Keep me as the apple of your eye. (See also all of Psalms 16 and 17, which match closely Psalm 59.)

 Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
 5 “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
 6 “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart;
 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
 8 “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
 9 “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NAS)

(See also all of Psalm 119.)

Ezekiel 19:10 ‘Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard, Planted by the waters; It was fruitful and full of branches Because of abundant waters.
11 ‘And it had strong branches fit for scepters of rulers, And its height was raised above the clouds So that it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches.
12 ‘But it was plucked up in fury; It was cast down to the ground; And the east wind dried up its fruit. Its strong branch was torn off So that it withered; The fire consumed it.
13 ‘And now it is planted in the wilderness, In a dry and thirsty land.
14 ‘And fire has gone out from its branch; It has consumed its shoots and fruit, So that there is not in it a strong branch, A scepter to rule.'” This is a lamentation, and has become a lamentation. (NAS)

Matthew 21:33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey.
34 “And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.
35 “And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third.
36 “Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.
37 “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
38 “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.’
39 “And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40 “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”
41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? (NAS)

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
38 See, your house is left to you desolate.
39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (ESV)

Luke 23:28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. (ESV)

 Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,
42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, (ESV)

Luke 21: 5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said,
6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (ESV)

And finally, the Scripture all but quoted in Psalm 59:8:

Psalm 2:4 He that dwells in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall mock them.  (LXE)

Compare the previous verse with Psalm 59:8.

But thou, Lord, wilt laugh them to scorn; thou wilt utterly set at nought all the heathen. (LXE)

The prophecies of Psalm 59 were indeed fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem with its temple and its religious hierarchy in 70 A.D.

3) The third and final section of Psalm 59 consists of the last two verses, 16-17.

16 But I will sing to thy strength, and in the morning will I exult in thy mercy; for thou hast been my supporter, and my refuge in the day of mine affliction.
17 Thou art my helper; to thee, my God, will I sing; thou art my supporter, O my God, and my mercy. (LXE)

The sorely pressed-upon speaker of this prayer displays a beautiful faith. The phrase, “But I will sing to they strength, and in the morning will I exult in they mercy,” looks forward to resurrection morning, bright and early, as the stone that entombs the undefeated Son of God is rolled away. The incarnated Jesus was a human, just as you and I, and he shares our frame and makeup in every aspect. He sweat as it were blood in his awful contemplation of being crucified and enduring the wrath of God as a sacrifice, a piece of meat, on behalf of sinners. God includes Psalm 59 in the Bible to show us that God has “prevented” us (to use the old King James way of saying it). That means, God has gone before us (Psalm 21:3) to prepare a way and to lead us in it. The Son of God is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Conclusion

While this psalm carries deep philosophical import, answering the question of evil in the presence of a good God, it very simply shares with us the benefits of placing one’s complete trust in the God of Love. Those who do evil will be punished and brought low; the righteous will be rewarded with the mercy of God.

__________

1 Rahlfs-Hanhart. Septuaginta: Editio altera. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006.

2 NETS uses the “people” textual tradition, “or they may forget my people.” The Orthodox Study Bible  also uses “my people.” Brenton stands alone in the textual tradition he chose to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: