Isaiah 49:9-13 LXX: Isaiah Devotional 2.30

Isaiah 49:9-13 Septuagint
Spiritual Benefits the Servant Brings

RECAP

Isaiah 49:9-12 Septuagint presents an amazing dialogue between God and his Servant. As the dialogue unfolds, the text clearly presents a Savior of both Israel and Gentiles.  The Servant/Savior can only be God himself. Verse 8 closes with God’s address to his Servant.

I give You as a covenant to the Gentiles, to establish the earth and to inherit the inheritance of the desert; SAAS (1)

We learned in the previous post (Isaiah Devotional Journal 2.29) that God gave his faithful Servant authority over the earth (Matthew 28:18). Now, in verses 9-12, the text explains what the formulaic phrase “inherit the inheritance of the desert” means.

SHOULD WE READ 9-12 CONCRETE/LITERALLY?

For verses 9-12, “concrete/literally”  would mean what exists in three dimensional space, that is, the physical reality of the world. Even a glance through these verses reveals that on a concrete/literal level this prophecy remains to be fulfilled (Isaiah 49:9-12 ESV). Yet, the previous prophecies have been fulfilled. The Servant did come. He did “despise his life” by submitting to the cross (verse 7). He has become a “covenant of a race and… the light of the Gentiles” (vs 6). He indeed has brought “salvation to the ends of the earth” (vs 6) (2).

But why then, would verses 9-12 remain unfulfilled for the past 2,000 years? They belong to the same set of prophecies as those in the passage surrounding them. These have all been fulfilled in God’s Servant Jesus Christ. I propose that just as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well, these words find their fulfillment in the Spirit of God who indwells all believers.

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (ESV)

PROMISE OF SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS

8… I have… given you for a covenant of the nations… to cause to inherit the desert heritages: saying to them that are in bonds, Go forth; and bidding them that are in darkness show themselves. They shall be fed in all the ways, and in all the paths shall be their pasture. 10 They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun strike them; but he that has mercy on them shall comfort them, and by fountains of waters shall he lead them. 11 And I will make every mountain a way, and every path a pasture to them. 12 Behold, these shall come from far: and these from the north and the west, and others from the land of the Persians. 13 Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (Isaiah 49:9-12 LXE)

WHO ARE “THEY”?

God speaks concerning his promises to a group of people he identifies in third person plural: they, them, their. Does the reader know who these people are? Yes, because the passage flows smoothly from one verse to another without breaks or transitions. In Isaiah 49:1, God specifically addresses “Gentiles” (Septuagint) or “peoples from afar” (Masoretic, ESV). In Isaiah 49:6, God informs his Servant, “I give you as the light of the Gentiles, that You should be the salvation to the ends of the earth” (SAAS) (1). Verse 8 repeats mention of the Gentiles, “I give you as a covenant to the Gentiles” (SAAS, Isaiah 49:8). Brenton’s Septuagint translation says “nations,” rather than Gentiles (3).

Even more compelling, Revelation 7:16 quotes part of verse 10. And Revelation 7:17 alludes to “springs” or “fountains” of waters, as in Isaiah 49:10.

Revelation 7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat… 17… and he will guide them to springs of living water (ESV)

Isaiah 49:10 They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun strike them; but he that has mercy on them shall comfort them, and by fountains of waters shall he lead them. (LXE, Brenton)

Revelation 7:9 identifies these people (“they” and “them”) as “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” In other words, they are the Gentile nations. Both Isaiah and Revelation describe the spiritual benefits of those who worship the Lamb, the Servant, of God. He is their shepherd. Whether or not these blessings will also one day be physical is beyond the scope of this post. Nor does it matter to many. Spiritually, these blessings belong to the nations now, and millions worldwide enjoy the spiritual benefits of believing in their Savior, God’s Servant.

Isaiah Bursts into Praise

Isaiah himself realizes the magnitude of the words the Lord has given him to write. In verse 13, Isaiah bursts into a praise song in response to the wonderful blessings God has revealed. These blessings belong to the worldwide mission God assigns his Servant.

Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (Isaiah 49:13 LXE)

Verses 12 and 13 form an interesting unit. In the entire passage from verse 1, God and his Servant speak mostly concerning the nations, the Gentiles. Verse 12 also indicates that God speaks of Gentiles.

Behold, these shall come from far: and these from the north and the west, and others from the land of the Persians. (Isaiah 49:12 LXE)

Yet verse 13 speaks twice of “his people,” that is, the Lord’s people. Readers have known all along that Israel comprises the “Lord’s people.” And here in verse 13, the word people is no longer the plural of “ethnos,” as in verses 1, 6, 7, and 8. The word for people in verse 13 is “laos.” This word is fluid in the same way that “ethnos” is fluid. It can refer specifically to the people of Israel. And, on other occasions, it can refer to “a church of Christians gathered from among the Gentiles” (4). For verses which use the word this way, see Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; Acts 15:14; Romans 9:25; and 1 Peter 2:10.

Reading Isaiah’s text straight through from verse 1 through 13, the conclusion that makes most sense is that “people” refers both to God’s people of Israel and God’s people of the Gentile nations. Verse 13 seamlessly unites both groups without distinction. To claim that this verse refers exclusively to Israel does not make contextual sense. Indeed, the Apostle Paul’s message throughout the New Testament, and especially in Romans 9-11, is that Gentiles have been grafted in to God’s family.

CONCLUSION

So, I join my voice with that of Isaiah in praising God this wonderful Advent season.

Rejoice, you heavens; and let the earth be glad: let the mountains break forth with joy; for the Lord has had mercy on his people, and has comforted the lowly ones of his people. (Isaiah 49:13 LXE)

May God pour his richest blessings upon us all, through Jesus Christ, his singular Servant, and may the Lord make us truly one.

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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.”

2 All quotations in this paragraph are from the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint (SAAS).

3 “The third clause of verse 8 states that God gave Messiah (“you”) “for a covenant of the nations.” The word “nations” in Greek is “ethnos.” In verse 8, ethnos is plural. Generally, the plural of ethnos in Scripture refers to Gentiles (Cf. Nehemiah 5:17Psalm 2:1102:15Isaiah 42:661:11Daniel 7:14).” The previous quote taken from JustOneSmallVoice, Isaiah 49:8 LXX: Isaiah Devotional 2.29 – justonesmallvoice.com. See also Mark 10:42; Acts 14:5; and Romans 9:24, among many examples.

Thayer, Joseph. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Abridged and Revised Thayer Lexicon). Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997. BibleWorks, v.9. 

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