Isaiah 49:14-26 LXX (Septuagint)–God Defeats Zion’s Enemies
The Septuagint text of Isaiah 49:1-13 reveals God’s great mission plan for the Gentile peoples of the world. And verse 13 clearly includes Israel. Readers may reasonably conclude that the Apostle Paul studied these verses and the entire section that begins in Chapter 40. His theology concerning Gentiles and Israel sounds remarkably like Isaiah. Even more, the entire New Testament presentation of Gentiles having been united to God’s people Israel through and in Christ strongly resembles the prophecies of Isaiah (See Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; Acts 15:14; Romans 9:25; and 1 Peter 2:10; Ephesians 2:1-22; Romans 9-11; and Galatians 3:26-29).
But Sion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. LXE
In the verse above, Sion most likely indicates a poetic name for Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where God designated Israel to worship him. In the Old Testament, Sion represents the place where God spiritually dwells. In the context of verses 1 through 14, Sion is distinct from Israel, its people. And of course, Sion is distinct from the land of the Gentiles. It is also distinct from God’s Servant Israel. The introduction of Sion here indicates that God himself is speaking on behalf of his own interests.
After the marvelous promises, praises, and joy that precede this verse in all of chapter 49 to this point, the question becomes, Why would the people of Sion feel forsaken and forgotten? Surely God includes Sion in the plan and purpose he presents for his Servant in the previous verses (Cf. Isaiah 49:5-6)? Certainly, by no means does the prophet give the slightest indication that God excludes his own dwelling place in this glorious vision. Why then, does Sion feel forsaken and forgotten?
WHY WOULD SION FEEL FORSAKEN AND FORGOTTEN?
One reason might be that at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, return from exile had not yet occurred. That is, when Isaiah spoke these words, Cyrus had not yet given the decree for the Israelites to leave Persia and return to their homeland (Ezra 1:1-3; 5:12-13). At that point in time, the physical Jerusalem and its temple did indeed stand in mostly uninhabited ruins. God does reply in Isaiah 49:17-21 that he will resettle the place with a multitude of incomers. There will be so many inhabitants that Sion will be surprised and even confused, “And you shall say in your heart, Who has begotten me these? whereas I was childless, and a widow; but who has brought up these for me? and I was left alone; but whence came these to me?” (verse 21).
But does the entire context speak of more than a concrete-physical return to Jerusalem? Yes, it does. The salvation announced in the prior verses extends from God’s special Servant to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6, 8, 9-13). Additionally, God later repeats in Isaiah 49:22-23 that he will call and bring Sion’s new inhabitants from among the Gentiles. Thus, the verse concerning Jerusalem (verse 14) is surrounded by verses that speak of God’s call to the whole world.
Therefore, it appears that the entire chapter speaks of events far greater than a rather small number of refugees returning from exile in Babylon to a physical location in Israel. The entire chapter speaks of God’s mission to Gentiles of the whole world. “… and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers you, and that upholds the strength of Jacob” Isaiah 49:26 LXE. The designation “Jacob” refers here to God’s people, not to a physical location.
Is the Above a “Spiritual” Interpretation?
Is the statement that God will call Gentiles from around the world to inhabit Sion a “spiritual” interpretation of Isaiah? Yes. Absolutely. The entire New Testament is spiritual. Jesus told Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well that it would be so (John 3:1-4:42). Between the two testaments a seismic shift from the physical-concrete (physically literal) to the spiritual occurs. This is what the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’s day failed to grasp (1 Corinthians 2:1-16).
Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit
Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross, his physical resurrection from death, and his ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of God ushered in an entirely new era–a New Testament era. In addition to forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life, the New Testament ushered in the presence of the Holy Spirit among believers worldwide. The very name of Jesus, Immanuel, means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). When Jesus ascended into heaven, he did not leave us orphans (John 14:18). He sent the Holy Spirit to take his place and be with us still. The Spirit of God replaced the physical incarnation of God.
The Holy Spirit abides where two or more gather in the Lord’s name (Matthew 18:20). The Holy Spirit also indwells every believer whom the Lord receives (John 1:12-13; 3:5-6; Romans 8:6-11). Jesus Christ reversed the spiritual death brought on by Adam’s sin (John 14:16-17, 26). The coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell human hearts is tremendously good news. This good news of “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:24-27) is far bigger and better news than any physical-concrete-literal return to a physical city called Sion could ever possibly be. The advent of the Holy Spirit means that humankind is reunited with their Creator. His very presence walks among us once again.
Granted, chapter 49 of Isaiah does not produce this level of revelation concerning God’s Spirit reuniting with human kind. It does, however, prophesy the joining of Gentiles with God’s elder chosen son, the people Israel.
But Sion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and, The Lord has forgotten me. LXE
With all the good news about God’s call to Gentiles, both preceding and following Isaiah 49:14, why would Sion respond in such a dejected way? I cannot help but think of Jesus’s parable concerning the prodigal son in this regard (Luke 15:11-32). Although most elements of the parable do not match the details of Isaiah 49, the older brother’s reaction in each text is similar. Sion in Isaiah became dejected in the context of God’s blessing upon his singular Servant and the worldwide call to Gentiles. Likewise, the older son in the parable resented his father’s blessing upon his profligate younger brother. And in both accounts, neither Sion nor the elder brother suffered loss of their own due to God’s beneficence upon others not previously under his protection.
Paul tackles the issue of sibling rivalry in Romans 9.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (ESV)
And again, Paul approaches the question of blessing in Romans 3:1-2.
1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (ESV)
Because God entrusted his people Israel with all these treasures, the kings (Isaiah 49:23), queens (ibid.), and ordinary Gentiles will flock to Sion from faraway places carrying adoptive children for Sion in their arms and on their shoulders (Isaiah 49:12, 22). Having been invited by God, they, too, want to partake in these treasures. What are these treasures God also wants Gentiles to have? They are the “adoption, the glory, the covenants, the… law, the worship, and the promises… the patriarchs… and from their race, according to the flesh… the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Gentiles will regard these treasures as so valuable that they will poetically “bow down to you [Sion] on the face of the earth, and shall lick the dust of your feet” (Isaiah 49:23 LXE). Every last speck of the gifts (poetically, even the dust itself) God gave Israel shall be eagerly valued by the Gentile newcomers.
As happens so frequently in Isaiah, God in these last verses defends himself and states his power to accomplish all his promises for his people. Because God is loyal to himself, he professes his loyalty to them. This is God’s assertive reply to Sion’s complaint in verse 14, “No, you are neither forsaken nor forgotten. I myself will reclaim what you in your weakness allowed the enemy to capture.”
24 Will any one take spoils from a giant? and if one should take a man captive unjustly, shall he be delivered? 25 For thus says the Lord, If one should take a giant captive, he shall take spoils, and he who takes them from a mighty man shall be delivered: for I will plead your cause, and I will deliver your children. 26 And they that afflicted you shall eat their own flesh; and they shall drink their own blood as new wine, and shall be drunken: and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers you, and that upholds the strength of Jacob. LXE
Israel’s physical captivity in Babylon resulted from their having abandoned and forgotten the ways of their God. The entire book bears witness to this. They merited God’s just discipline of them. Nevertheless, God remains faithful to their fathers. Their first father, Abraham, unlike his progeny, had remained faithful to God. In vivid, metaphorical language, God declares in verses 24-26 that he will turn the viciousness of Israel’s captors upon themselves. Rather than destroying others, these strong enemies will turn inward and destroy themselves.
Human kind’s greatest enemy is sin. God’s greatest spiritual foe is Satan. Of course, Satan’s power as a created being is finite and limited. Christ conquered sin, death, and Satan by means of the cross. God’s stated purpose in restoring Israel to their own land, as well as his purpose in conquering sin and in defeating the strong man enemy Satan is to manifest his identity as Lord of all, “… and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers you, and that upholds the strength of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26).
Psalm 65:1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. 2 O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. (ESV)
Psalm 145:21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever. (LXE)
Isaiah 66:23 And it shall come to pass from month to month, and from sabbath to sabbath, that all flesh shall come to worship before me in Jerusalem, saith the Lord. (LXE)
Luke 3:6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (ESV)
Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)
Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (ESV)