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Isaiah Chapter 27 Notes

Posted by lehunt on August 19, 2014

Isaiah Ch 27 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Some thoughts on Isaiah 27…

V.1: According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word translated here as “serpent” (“fleeing serpent” and “twisting serpent”) is nachash, the same word used in Genesis 3:1 to designate the serpent that tempted Eve to sin.  I realize that that does not prove that Isaiah intended this serpent to reference the one in Genesis; nevertheless, I do think it is appropriate, ultimately, to interpret all such creatures (serpents, dragons, Leviathan) as images of Satan, from Genesis through Revelation.  The New Testament certainly makes this connection, but I believe that the book of Job also suggests it by providing detailed information about both Satan and the Leviathan: no other book in the Old Testament provides such detail on those two subjects, and while no direct connection between the two is made, the fact that they bookend the work so noticeably suggests a parallel to me.

Of course, I also believe that the dragon, or serpent, or Leviathan, may sometimes be used in a more immediate sense to refer to other evil beings or institutions (especially in Isaiah) just as Immanuel has ultimate and immediate references.  In this particular chapter, I agree with Barnes that the dragon and serpent both immediately refer to the kingdom of Babylon.  The reason I believe this is because verses 12-13 perfectly describe the Jewish return from Babylonian captivity, and they do it directly after they describe “the fortified city” that God destroys because its people lack understanding.  Without verses 12-13, the identity of this fortified city would be more difficult to determine, but as it is, I think it must be Babylon.

v. 4: The symbolism of these thorns is a little difficult.  The vineyard must represent the people of God, but the thorns could be either the evil behavior of the Jewish nation or the wicked aggression of other nations against the Jews.  I do not know which is correct.  The NRSV reads, “I will march to battle against it [the vineyard],” but Luther translates the passage to say that God will march against them (the briars and thorns)[1]

v. 5: This is sad; the repetition makes it seem like God longs for reconciliation.

Vs. 7-8: These are very difficult verses.  Barnes, writing about verse 8 states, “This expression does not convey an intelligible idea,” and one has only to look at the various translations to see how true that statement is.

Verse 7 is made up of two rhetorical questions[2], and these both claim that one party has not been destroyed as completely as another party.  I take the fact that the first party has not been destroyed as completely as the second to mean that the first party is closer to God.  This agrees with Luther’s translation, which says overtly that the first party is Israel and the second seine Feinde, “his [Israel’s] enemies.” The NKJ version translates the first rhetorical question like Luther, naming Israel as the first party, but in the second rhetorical question, it changes the identity of the first party, implying that it is God himself.[3] I do not know how this could be justified, but if it is a correct translation, it could be a reference to the crucifixion.  The NRSV translation is less specific in identifying the two parties.  It simply says “they” and “them.”

Although the NRSV says that the meaning of the Hebrew word it translates as “expulsion” in v. 8 is uncertain, all of the translations I am looking at translate the word similarly.  Thus, Luther translates it as wegschicktest“[you] sent away,” and OKJ says “thou sendest it forth,” and the NKJ says “by sending it away.”  Given the fact that vs. 12 –13 seem to reference Babylon, I think the “expulsion” mentioned here in v. 8 probably refers to the Babylonian Captivity.  If it does, then the “east wind” by which God accomplishes this expulsion could be an allegory for Babylon, the empire from the east that took the Jews into captivity.  As for what “it” should refer to in the phrases “by sending it away,” and “du es wegschicktest,” I am assuming that the writer meant Israel.  This is a little difficult, however, since what the NKJ translates as “it,” the NRSV translates as “them.”  I can see how both “it” and “them” could reference Israel, but I do not understand how one version could translate the word as a singular pronoun while the other could translate it as a plural.  Luther translates the word as es “it” but I cannot see what it refers back to.  If it refers back to Israel (a masculine noun), the pronoun should beden.  Nevertheless, despite these difficulties I still believe these verses refer to the captivity of Israel by Babylon.


[1] “…so wollte ich über sie [them] herfallen.”  If he had marched against the vineyard (der Weinberg), the pronoun would have been ihn.

[2] They are simply statements in Luther’s translation.

[3] “Has He been slain according to the slaughter of those who were slain by Him?”

 

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