Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21: Devotional Journal 66

Isaiah 30    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21 Differs from the Masoretic

Not uncommonly a reader encounters a Septuagint verse or word that casts a different color of meaning than the Masoretic text. Rarely, one finds an entire statement exactly opposite from what the Masoretic contains. Such is the case with Septuagint Isaiah 30:20-21. Its meaning is quite different from the often quoted verse found in the Masoretic text of most popular English versions.

The first quotation below is from the Masoretic. The second shows the same verses from the Septuagint.

Masoretic:

20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!” (ESV)

Septuagint:

20 And though the Lord shall give you the bread of affliction and scant water, yet they that cause you to err shall no more at all draw near to you; for your eyes shall see those that cause you to err, 21 and your ears shall hear the words of them that went after you to lead you astray, who say, This is the way, let us walk in it, whether to the right or to the left. 22 And you shall pollute the plated idols, and you shall grind to powder the gilt ones, and shall scatter them as the water of a removed woman, and you shall thrust them forth as dung. (LXE, CAB) (1)

What Are the Differences?

I The Well-Known Masoretic

As many will recognize, these verses from Masoretic (Hebrew) Isaiah are well known, often quoted, and the subject of devotionals. (I attended a Bible study on 1 John in which the leader quoted these verses just last evening.) They used to be among my personal favorites when I was a young Christian.

In this version, the Lord is the Teacher whom the subject sees (verse 20). And, presumably it is the Lord’s voice the subject hears behind her. The voice confirms that the believer is walking on the right path whenever they turn to the right or to the left.

Notice that the first part of verse 20 states that the Teacher had been hidden from the subject’s eyes. Some versions state that the Teacher had hidden himself (for example, ESV and NRS). Other versions use a passive voice, which removes the intent (for example, NET and NIV).

The end result of the action is that the subject will no longer be walking blind, as it were. She will have the Lord as both her visible and audible guide. This, of course, is very good and encouraging to someone who has just been eating the bread of adversity and drinking the water of affliction. Every believer desires guidance from the Lord during tough times. She is extremely grateful to see and hear the Lord.

II The Virtually Unknown Septuagint

The Septuagint verses (Greek) tell a completely different story. The end result of encouragement and blessing is the same, however. This link presents both a translation from the Greek (Septuagint) and a standard translation from the Hebrew (Masoretic) side by side: LINK TO TEXT.

A bit of context will help understand the Greek version. Israel as a whole had been unfaithful to the Lord, especially the northern kingdom. Verse 19 introduces a new section by stating that a “holy” people shall live in Zion. The Masoretic does not contain the word “holy.” Jerusalem repents in both versions, asking for mercy, which the Lord grants.

In the first portion of verse 20, both versions similarly state that the Lord will give the people the bread of affliction and the water of adversity. But immediately after this, the Septuagint diverges to tell a different story, “They that cause you to err shall no more at all draw near to you; for your eyes shall see those that cause you to err.” What is the difference here?

THE FIRST DIFFERENCE

One difference is that in the Masoretic, the Teacher, or teachers (Lord is not named but implied) either hid himself from their sight or was hidden from them. But in the Septuagint, the “holy people” and repentant Jerusalem will not be seeing the Lord. Rather, they will see those who had been leading them astray and stay far from them. In other words, the Septuagint tells the story that the decision makers had been listening to false counsel from deceptive sources. These deceivers had been leading them astray. They didn’t know that before, but now they do. And, it wasn’t that the Lord had been hiding from them. In Isaiah, the Lord bends over backward to get their attention.

A SECOND DIFFERENCE

A second difference occurs in verse 21. The Masoretic seems to assume that the voice behind the subject is the voice of the Lord. This voice verifies that the person is walking on the correct path whenever that person has turned either to the right or to the left. Again, the Septuagint tells a different story.

First, the blind eyes of the people had been opened, so that they could see their deceivers and their deception (verse 20.) Now, in verse 21, their ears hear and recognize as false the words that had been purposefully leading them astray. The idea is that the correct path proceeds straight. The deceptive voices had been attempting to turn the people off the correct path onto false paths that went either to the right or to the left. “Your ears shall hear words behind you leading you astray, saying, ‘This is the way; let us walk in it,’ either to the right hand or to the left.” (2)

A SUMMARY OF THE SEPTUGINT PLOT LINE

Deceptive counselors had led Israel astray. For one thing, they had given them advice to appeal to Egypt for help (Isaiah 30:2). The Lord complained that they had not consulted him at all (Isaiah 30:1). After the Lord sent them trials (verse 20), they woke up. Their eyes saw and recognized their deceivers as such (verse 20). Their ears discerned the counsel as purposefully deceptive (verse 21). Now able to distinguish truth from lies, they destroyed their idols (verse 22). The Lord blessed them (verses 23-26).

The plot of Septuagint Isaiah 30:19-26 relates the spiritual journey of new believers. Following lies from birth, a person reaches the end of their rope or the bottom of their pit. Crying out to the Lord for help, he responds. He opens their blind eyes and deaf ears. New believers see their deceivers as such and discern the voice of truth and error. They understand the deceptions of their former way of life. The young sheep recognize the lies of voices telling them to turn off the path, either to the right or to the left. As they continue to follow the Lord’s straight path (his teaching), they progress in the Lord’s way. And he blesses them with spiritual growth and prosperity.

Septuagint Isaiah 30:19-26 tells a good story, one filled with truth.

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1 The Complete Apostles’ Bible Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito, and, The English Majority Text Version (EMTV) of the Holy Bible, New Testament. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito.

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

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