… Continued from Isaiah 52:1-12 LXX: Isaiah Devotional 2.40 – justonesmallvoice.com
Recap: Evidence of the Incarnation in Verse Six
- “In that day”
- Use of the Particular Phrase “I AM (ego eimi) he”
- The Statement “Therefore, my people shall know my name.”
- The Statement, “I am present”
- The Context Following Verse 6
Verse 10, Gentiles, and the Servant’s Incarnation
Septuagint Isaiah 52:10 further supports the theme of the Servant’s incarnation introduced in verse 6.
10 And the Lord shall reveal his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God. (LXE)
Brenton’s translation above writes “all the nations” for the Greek phrase πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν (pantone-tone-ethnone) in Isaiah 52:10 LXX. Often, however, the word for “nations” is translated “Gentiles.” The translation in today’s Orthodox Study Bible (1) is “The Lord will reveal His holy arm before all the Gentiles, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.” The phrase “all the nations” means those nations who are not Israel. (See Isaiah 41:2; 42:4, 6; 49:6; 51:5; and 52:5, also in Brenton.) The phrase “all the ends of the earth” also signifies Gentiles, since Israel never extended that far.
What does inclusion of Gentile nations at this point signify? The text explicitly states that “all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation that comes from our God.” Will all these Gentile people simply “see” God saving those belonging to Jerusalem and Sion? Or, will they also experience that salvation first hand? The answer is both, as Paul writes in Romans 10:14-15 ESV.
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 ESV)
The Servant (Christ) gave his final commandment before ascending into heaven.
Matthew 28:19 ESV Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
The Greek word translated “nations” in verse 19 above is identical (excluding grammatical form) to the word Isaiah uses. Biblically and historically, the only time-frame in which God offers the identical salvation to Gentiles en masse that he offers to his people Sion occurs after the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God’s chosen Servant.
Finally, in other widely accepted messianic passages in Isaiah, the prophet mentions salvation for Gentiles.
And he said to me, It is a great thing for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given you for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. (Isaiah 51:5)
Verses 11 and 12: Change of Topic
In a brusque manner without transition, verses 11 and 12 leave the specific topic of the incarnation. The words appear to be spoken by Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah 52:11 LXX forms a call, a command to separate and depart from what is unclean, or unholy. Verse 12 describes the manner of departure.
The text of verse 11 follows just below.
Depart you, depart, go out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing; go you out from the midst of her; separate yourselves, you that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Septuagint Isaiah 52:11 LXE)
LINGUISTIC POINTS OF INTEREST
- The phrase “depart… depart” in Greek translates the same root as that of the New Testament’s word “apostate.” So here in Isaiah, God is commanding his people to apostatize from the pagan religion of the peoples surrounding them in Babylonia.
- The text does not specify the location from which God orders his people to leave. “Go out from the midst of her.” According to the local circumstance of the people who first heard Isaiah, the “her” could apply to Babylonia, the nation of their exile. But in the larger context of the advent of God’s Servant, “her” would have no concrete-physical application. The Lord Christ never gave order for anyone to physically leave Jerusalem or anywhere else.
- The Greek text uses the phrase “separate yourselves,” while the Hebrew text (ESV) specifies “purify.” Many a sermon and Bible study lesson has been taught concerning the relationship between separation and purity.
- God through Isaiah commands “You who bear the vessels of the Lord” to depart from the midst of her. This phrase would indicate that the command specifically concerns Levites and priests (1 Kings 8:4). However, as the book of Ezra records, King Cyrus of Persia invited families of several tribes, not just the tribe of Levi, to leave Babylon (Ezra 1:3-5). While this perhaps may be a minor point, the New Testament does describe all believers as priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).
- The Greek New Testament uses various grammatical forms of the word “ἐκκλησία” (ek-lee-see-a), meaning “church”, more than 100 times. This word literally means “called out” or “called forth” (Thayer). So already in Septuagint Isaiah we see that God is calling out his church.
VERSE 11 IN NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXT
How does the call to depart, separate, and go out relate to New Testament teaching? The following New Testament verses draw excellent analogies with Isaiah 52:11. Verse 17 of the first example quotes Isaiah directly.
17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ESV)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, (Colossians 1:13 ESV)
But you are a chosen race, 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. (1Peter 2:9 ESV)
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. (1John 3:14 ESV)
Someone might say that an application such as the above “spiritualizes” the text of Isaiah. But if that is so, then it is God through his Word who spiritualizes.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 ESV)
The text of verse 12 follows just below.
For you shall not go forth with tumult, neither go by flight: for the Lord shall go first in advance of you; and the God of Israel shall be he that brings up your rear. (LXE)
Verse 12 describes the manner in which the people shall go “out from the midst of her” (verse 11). It shall be an orderly, calm, and measured exit. The Lord (Yahweh in Hebrew and κύριος-kurios-in Greek) shall lead. The “God of Israel” will bring up the rear. The actual Greek text reads, “Lord the God of Israel.” “Lord” is mentioned twice in verse 12.
POINTS OF INTEREST
1. Septuagint verse 12 clearly establishes that the Lord (Yahweh in Hebrew and κύριος-kurios-in Greek) is identical to the God of Israel. Verse 12 writes “God” as θεὸς (theos) in Greek. As many students of the New Testament know, Jesus Christ was well known by the title “Lord,” which is κύριος-kurios.
2. The image this verse provides for the exodus is similar to the way hiking groups organize themselves for a trek. The hike leader walks in front, choosing the way. The other team member, who is very nearly as important, is the person who follows behind. Hikers call this person the “sweep.” The image is of a broom sweeping up everyone and keeping the group together. Without a sweep, stragglers or the slightly rebellious (those who are prone to wander) might get separated from the group and lost, injured, or even attacked by a wild animal, such as a mountain lion. The sweep also animates the dawdlers to keep up, so that the entire group makes good progress. Isaiah presents the image of God in front and God in the rear. Truly, the group is well-protected with God all around.
3. The New English Translation Septuagint writes “the Lord God of Israel is the one who gathers you together” in verse 12. Brenton appears to base his translation (“he that brings up your rear”) upon the Masoretic text (see Isaiah 52:12 ESV), although he does include a footnote explaining that the Greek word means “gathers you.” The Greek word itself is “ἐπισυνάγων” (epi-syn-ά-goan). Some may recognize the word “synagogue” within it. The meaning of the verb is “to gather together besides, to bring together to others already assembled” or “to gather together in one place” (both definitions from Thayer). The Greek New Testament uses forms of this word some 56 times to mean “synagogue.”
4. The description of the orderly, calm, and protected manner in which God calls out of his people in Septuagint Isaiah 52:12 contrasts sharply with the exodus from Jerusalem which Jesus describes in Matthew 24:15-22 ESV. It would seem that he (Messiah) knew that concrete-physical Jerusalem would not always remain the capital city of his chosen people. Confer Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 ESV.
A New Section
The final two verses of chapter 52 comprise a new section. Many Bibles mark out a new paragraph here. Verse 6 introduced the topic of the Servant’s incarnation and his work on earth. Verses 11 and 12 describe the outcome: formation of the Lord’s church. Then in verse 13 God speaks again. He directly names “My Servant,” and speaks of his glory and exaltation. We will consider these verses more fully in the next post, Lord willing.
1 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.