Septuagint Isaiah 46
Relative to Septuagint Isaiah 45, Septuagint Isaiah 46 is much shorter and easier to understand.
The themes of Septuagint Isaiah 46 are:
- The remnant receive comfort but the rebellious warning.
- A call to repentance from worshiping idols.
- God is superior to idols.
- God will bring “a bird of prey” from the east.
- God will bring salvation and glory to Sion (Zion).
As frequently occurs in Isaiah, God through the prophet speaks great comfort and promises of good to his people. At other times, and often in the very next breath, he speaks displeasure and condemnation. In doing this, does God express indecision, a waffling character, or possibly multiple personalities? Or, could he possibly be addressing different audiences? Septuagint Isaiah 46 answers the question by clearly presenting two different groups of people.
GROUP ONE: THE REMNANT
3 Hear me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of Israel, who are borne by me from the womb, and taught by me from infancy, even to old age: 4 I am he; and until you shall have grown old, I am he: I bear you, I have made, and I will relieve, I will take up and save you. (LXE)
God is faithful to the remnant of Israel, in spite of themselves (See Isaiah 4:2, 6:11, 10:22; Romans 9:27.)
GROUP TWO: THOSE WHO REBELLIOUSLY STRAY
In spite of all God’s patient love, forgiveness, and enduring promises, there are those who continuously and purposely go astray. Three times in this short chapter, God calls out these people. The first occurrence is in the very next verse after God’s promise to the remnant (see above).
5 To whom have you compared me? see, consider, you that go astray. 6 They that furnish gold out of a purse, and silver by weight, will weigh it in a scale, and they hire a goldsmith and make idols, and bow down, and worship them. (LXE)
Notice that verse 5 in the Septuagint differs from verse 5 in the Masoretic.
5 To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? 6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! (ESV)
The Septuagint includes the phrase, “see, consider, you that go astray,” which the Masoretic does not. Without this explanation, God’s diatribe against those of Israel who make idols would be a jolting juxtaposition to the comfort and promise he just spoke to the house of Jacob. In the one breath he blesses, and in the very next breath he exposes and criticizes. This makes sense when the reader notices and considers that God addresses two different groups of people. God blesses the remnant. They eventually turn and cooperate with God. God does not bless those who “go astray”. How can he? They turn away from all his remonstrances.
Leave the Dead Idols and Turn to God!
THE ABSURDITY OF IDOLS
Chapters in Scripture are not like modern chapters in fiction and non-fiction. Authors today create chapters as an organizational tool. They are a means of inserting a break in thought or a shift in content. The original writings of Scripture did not have chapter breaks. Modern editors have inserted these as reference points. Therefore, readers can place Isaiah 46:1-2 side by side with Isaiah 45:25. The text flows without stopping.
God in Isaiah 45:25 speaks a prophetic blessing upon the seed of the children of Israel (see the final section of Isaiah Devotional 2.21). The text returns to this blessing in Isaiah 46:3-4. Between these two blessings upon those who receive God’s instruction is a description of the misery that will come upon those who do not. Those who embrace idols will become prisoners of despair.
After the blessing of verses 3-4, the text returns to a description of the absurdity of those who worship idols in Isaiah 45:5-7. Throughout Volume 2 from chapter 40 to the current chapter, the text alternates between God’s description of himself as sovereign Creator and Lord and his description of the false gods. Human hands fashion these dead gods from non-living material substances. In chapter 44 God ridiculed idols made of wood. Here in chapter 46:1-2, he ridicules idols made of stone. In 46:6-7, he ridicules idols made of precious metal. Humans carry the dead weight of these idols to their own destruction. God, in Isaiah 46:3-4, bears the weight of the house of Jacob and all the remnant of Israel upon himself.
What is God’s purpose in ridiculing the idols and pointing out the absurdity of mind of those who worship them? Verses 8-9 declare God’s purpose. He tells these people to “Repent”.
8 Remember you these things, and groan: repent, you that have gone astray, return in your heart; 9 and remember the former things that were of old: for I am God, and there is none other beside me, (LXE).
- Repentance involves waking up to one’s condition. The prodigal son repented after he awakened to the reality of his poverty and shame. He actually saw his own condition as he longed to eat the garbage the pigs were eating (Luke 15:16-17). God urges those who go astray to realize that idols are dead. They never move, they never speak, and they never deliver. Those who cling to them will remained mired in their troubles until they themselves die. Wake up! says God. “Remember these things and groan… Remember the former things of old” (Isaiah 46:8, SAAS).
- A second aspect of repentance is turning. It’s not enough to wake up to one’s own condition. Lost people must think of God and turn to him. For some, this will mean a re-turning, or turning back to him. “Repent, you who go astray; return in your heart” (verse 8 SAAS).
- Finally, repentance means remembering God and turning to him. Appealing to God is the point of repentance. God in Isaiah 46:8-13 stands ready to receive all who turn to him. He pleads with his stubborn children to turn and come back.
12 Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted who are far from righteousness… 13 My salvation shall not delay. (Isaiah 46:12-13 SAAS)
God Is Superior to Idols
God’s superiority over idols is a major theme of this portion of Volume 2 of Isaiah. The text returns to it again and again. Verses of God’s unique abilities occur in Isaiah 46:4-5, 9-12.
HOW IS GOD SUPERIOR TO IDOLS?
- He speaks through his prophets
- He is the great “I Am”
- He interacts with people and has power to save (verse 4)
- He declares ahead of time what will later come to pass
- What he declares in advance does later come to pass
- He is sovereignly omnipotent, “All My counsel shall stand and I will do whatever I will to do” (verse 10 SAAS)
- He is righteous (verse 13)
God Brings A “Bird of Prey”
One of the themes of this portion of Isaiah is the coming of the Persian Cyrus. He ultimately deposes the Babylonian rulers. Soon after, he sends the captive Israelites back home with provision and blessing.
Both the Septuagint and the Masoretic use a metaphor for Cyrus in Isaiah 46:11.
10 all my counsel shall stand, and I will do all things that I have planned: 11 calling a bird from the east, and from a land afar off, for the things which I have planned: I have spoken, and brought him; I have created and made him; I have brought him, and prospered his way. (Septuagint) (See also Isaiah 46:11 ESV.)
Although Cyrus the Persian is not named in verse 11, he has previously been named in Isaiah 44:28 and Isaiah 45:1. Those are the only two verses in the entire book where Cyrus is mentioned by name. The metaphor Isaiah uses here is, “a bird from the east, and from a land afar off.”
God Brings Salvation and Glory to Sion
But the same as in chapters 44 and 45, God intends his meaning to include more than a local fulfillment. That is, God’s words extend beyond Cyrus to the greater Savior, God’s anointed, Christ. Pundits can argue the text intellectually, but the eye of faith receives God’s intended meanings.
12 Hear me, you who have ruined your heart, you wo are far from righteousness: 13 I brought near my righteousness, and I will not delay the salvation that comes from me; I have provided salvation in Sion to Israel for glorying. (NETS) (cf. Joel 2:32)
While verse 13 is certainly applicable to Cyrus, the bird of prey from the east (verse 11), it indicates so much more. This prophecy finds its ultimate fulfillment in the saving work of God’s greatest anointed one, Jesus Christ. He brings salvation in Zion to Israel for glorying.
A Question: Postscript
Some may ask, Why would God write ambiguously? Why not just say what he means flat out? That is a very good question. My answer would be that God knows the human heart. As always, we can turn to the New Testament for light. These verses come to mind.
First, God prefers faith. That is the pathway God has chosen to bring people to himself.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Faith is a sieve that tests the heart. Intellect alone may indeed arrive at correct conclusions concerning Scripture. But unless the heart–the will and soul of a human–is involved, there will be no salvation.
Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (ESV)
Second, God knows the human heart with all its depravity. His word is holy. There is a matter of protection and respect.
John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (ESV)
When necessary to his purpose, God does indeed hide himself.
John 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (ESV)
Again, for his own purpose, he also sometimes hides the meaning of his Scripture until the time of its fulfillment.
Daniel 12:4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (ESV)
Lastly, as parents, don’t we occasionally speak in “code” in order that the children in the room won’t discern our true meaning? An excellent example of coded language is provided in 1 Samuel 20.
Nevertheless, at the right time, under the right circumstances, God’s will is for people to understand. If your heart longs to understand, keep asking, dear friend. God will open the door.
Luke 8:8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (ESV)