Isaiah 62 thru 66 – Some Thoughts

Strangely, the JSB renders as “Deliverer” (capitalized) the same word that HarCol and ESV translate “salvation” (lower-case) in 62:11:

See, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Your Deliverer is coming! See, his reward is with Him, His recompense before Him.

Comparing this verse with its counterpart in Is. 40:10, it seems clear that the Deliverer is the Lord Himself, which to Christians means obviously the Christ.

Strangely, none of the commentaries I have in front of me (JSB, HarCol, RSB) mention this at all.

Quite the violent scene in Is. 63:1-6! Is this God Himself who treads the winepress of His wrath through the nation of Edom? This passage has numerous translator’s footnotes of clarification and alternate readings in the JSB, not so many in HarCol and ESV.

So even the verse numbering is not guaranteed to be consistent between the various translations! The ESV and RSV have 64:1 start with “Oh that you would rend (“tear open” in RSV) the heavens and come down…”, while the NJPS has a slightly modified version of that line as the end of 63:19. Ch. 64 then has 11 verses in the NJPS and 12 in both the ESV and RSV.

And so 63:17 through 64:4 in the JSB hearkens back to God’s commission to Isaiah way back in ch. 6: “Go, say to that people, ‘Hear, indeed, but do not understand; see, indeed, but do not grasp.’ Dull that people’s mind, stop its ears, and seel its eyes — Lest, seeing with its eyes and hearing with its ears, it also grasp with its mind, and repent and save itself.” Here in chs. 63 & 64 the consequences of that commission, and the similar pronouncements in 2 Kings 22 & 23, are coming to bear on the nation. The prophet at this point even accuses the Lord of being at least partially responsible for the sin of the nation in that He has hardened their hearts:

Why, Lord, do You make us stray from Your ways, and turn our hearts away from revering You? (Is. 63:17)

Yet you have struck him who would gladly do justice, and remember You in Your ways. It is because You are angry that we have sinned; We have been steeped in them from of old, and can we be saved? (Is. 64:4 JSB – note verse offset from the ESV & RSV)

The ESV and RSV render the translation considerably differently in their 64:5, the line corresponding to 64:4 in the JSB. All three agree on the meaning of 63:17 though.

And I wonder about Isaiah’s logic here, particularly if the rendering of the JSB in 64:4 is correct. Does God truly harden the heart of someone who in fact wants to do justice? I submit that Israel at that time would no more do right on their own than we would in our time but for the intervention of God’s Holy Spirit.

Chs. 65 & 66 describe the contrasting fates of the faithful and the apostate, both within and beyond the biological descendants of Jacob. Indeed, the earthly nation of Israel seems to have no more ultimate advantage than that they had initial access to the Law of God, just as the Apostle explained to the Romans. For those who refuse to repent, insisting upon continual rebellion against God, their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched. (Is. 66:24; also Jesus Himself in Mark 9:48) All flesh which remains, though, shall continually and forever come to worship the Lord.

Isaiah does make clear in these chapters that God’s message and plan involved not just Israel, but all of humanity. My reading of the NT leaves me with the impression that the first century Jews did not necessarily buy into that notion; I’m not sure how deeply the idea permeates Judaism today. Jesus and His followers certainly did get that message though!

Interestingly, while much of chs. 65 & 66 are echoed in Christianity, 65:20 – 23 predict exceptional longevity but not eternal life or resurrection of the dead. In fact, v. 20 strongly implies that people will continue to die, some even prior to their hundredth birthday.

63:25 reiterates the concepts of 11:6-9, but stops short of 11:10 which predicts the messianic return of a king from David’s line. To my knowledge the author of the latter portions of Isaiah never alludes to a messiah, contrary to the clear expectation of a new Davidic king prophesied by Isaiah son of Amoz in the earlier chapters.