"THE BOOK OF ISAIAH" The Future Glory For God's People (54-66) OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS SECTION 1) To conclude our study of Isaiah with a look at the future glory promised for God's people 2) To note the inclusion of Gentiles in the fulfillment of this promise 3) To consider how this promise relates to the first coming of Christ, with the inauguration of the Messianic age, but also how it may look forward to when the Lord's reign is culminated at the end of time (following His second coming, the resurrection of the dead, and the Day of Judgment) SUMMARY We come to the last section of the book of Isaiah (chapters 54-66). It contains more words of comfort designed especially for the Babylonian captives who would experience God's judgment foretold in the first half of the book. The focus is mostly on The Future Glory For God's People, yet also with a reminder that their present shame (captivity) was due to their own wickedness. The future splendor of Zion is the theme of 54:1-56:8. Though barren in her present condition of captivity, the Lord promises to show mercy and a covenant of peace to the faithful remnant. An invitation is given to all who thirst, and people are encouraged to seek the Lord while He may be found if they desire joy and peace. Participation in the future glory of Zion is offered also to righteous Gentiles, who will be given a place in the house of God and in His holy mountain. This future glory of Zion pertains to the age of Messiah, inaugurated with the first coming of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel beginning in Jerusalem (cf. Lk 24:44-47; He 12:22-24). The captives in Babylon are then reminded of the conditions that led to her downfall, and the contrition that will led to her restoration (56:9-59:21). Her watchmen (i.e., religious leaders) had failed in their duties, and the death of the righteous became a blessing because it removed them from such evil. Their idolatry had profited them nothing, and cost them everything. Yet those who were humble and contrite would experience God's mercy if they would cast away hypocritical formalism and return to true religion. Rebuking them for their sins, Isaiah then joins with them in confessing their sins. In response, the Lord promises salvation through a Redeemer who will come to Zion and to those who turn from their transgression. Again, this is looking forward not just to their restoration from Babylonian captivity, but also to the coming of Jesus Christ who would bring full redemption through His blood (cf. Ro 11:26-27). The final seven chapters (60-66) concentrate on the glory to come for restored Zion. Her light will come and even Gentiles will come, contributing their wealth to the glory provided by the Lord. The mission of the Servant (Christ) is reviewed, who will come to rebuild and restore, prompting Isaiah to express great joy for His salvation. The Lord promises not to rest until that times comes, and thus appoints watchmen who are charged not to give Him rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Following a brief look back at the judgment on Edom and the Lord's mercy on Israel in the past, Isaiah offers a prayer for the present condition of Israel, and the Lord responds with a promise of a glorious new creation for the remnant who heed His call. The promise involves new heavens and a new earth, with Jerusalem as a rejoicing, depicted in terms that would be especially comforting to the people in Babylonian captivity. The prophecy of Isaiah ends with a chapter containing a reminder that the Lord looks favorably upon the poor and contrite in spirit who tremble at His word, repeating the promises to come for Jerusalem and the end of the wicked (again framed in terms to comfort the captives in Babylon). I believe much of this section was fulfilled with the inauguration of the Messianic age in the first coming of Christ. Yet in view of the words of Peter (cf. 2Pe 3:13-14) and the vision of John (cf. Re 21-22), Isaiah may have also looked forward to the future glory of Zion (spiritual Israel, i.e., the church) to be experienced at the culmination of the Messiah's reign at the end of time, following the resurrection and final judgment. The difference is that Isaiah couched his description of the new heavens and new earth in terms to which the Babylonian captives could easily relate, while John was shown the eternal destiny of God's people in pictures especially comforting to the persecuted Christians of the first century A.D. OUTLINE I. THE FUTURE SPLENDOR OF BARREN ZION (54:1-56:8) A. PROMISED TO THE REMNANT OF ZION... 1. The Lord will be merciful to her who was barren and desolate - 54:1-8 2. His covenant of peace ensures glory and permanence - 54:9-17 3. The invitation to all who thirst - 55:1-13 a. An everlasting covenant of mercy to those who accept - 55: 1-5 b. Seek the Lord while He may be found to have joy and peace - 55:6-13 B. OFFERED TO RIGHTEOUS GENTILES... 1. They will be given a place in His House and an everlasting name - 56:1-5 2. They will brought to His Holy mountain along with the outcasts of Israel - 56:6-8 II. THE PRESENT SHAME OF WICKED ZION (56:9-59:21) A. CONDITIONS THAT LED TO HER DOWNFALL... 1. Her irresponsible watchmen - 56:9-12 2. Evil that made the death of the righteous a blessing - 57:1-2 3. Idolatry that profited nothing and cost everything - 57:3-14 B. CONTRITION THAT WILL LEAD TO RESTORATION... 1. The humble and contrite will receive blessings, not the wicked - 57:15-21 2. True religion, not hypocritical formalism, will be blessed by God - 58:1-14 a. Why their fasting had not pleased God - 58:1-5 b. The kind of fasting that pleases God - 58:6-14 3. Confession and repentance will lead to redemption - 59:1-21 a. The people are rebuked for their sins - 59:1-8 b. Their sins are acknowledged and confessed - 59:9-15a c. The Lord responds with vengeance for His enemies and blessings for those who repent - 59:15b-21 III. THE FUTURE GLORY OF RESTORED ZION (60:1-66:24) A. THE GLORY TO COME FOR ZION... 1. The glory of the Lord on Zion - 60:1-22 a. Her light has come - 60:1-2 b. The Gentiles (nations) will contribute their wealth - 60: 4-16 c. Her glorious condition provided by the Lord at that time - 60:17-22 2. The mission of the Servant - 61:1-11 a. The purpose of His mission: to proclaim and console - 61: 1-3 b. The effect of His mission: to rebuild and restore - 61:4-9 c. The response to His mission: great joy for His salvation! - 61:10-11 3. The Lord prepares for Zion's salvation - 62:1-12 a. He will not rest until that time comes - 62:1-5 b. He appoints watchmen who are charged not to give the Lord rest - 62:6-7 c. The people are assured, and told to look for their salvation that is coming - 62:8-12 B. THE HOPE OF THE FUTURE PROMPTS PRAYER FOR THE PRESENT... 1. The Lord's judgment on Edom reviewed - 63:1-6 2. The Lord's mercy on Israel remembered - 63:7-14 a. His great goodness on Israel - 63:7-9 b. Notwithstanding their rebellion in the wilderness - 63:10-14 3. An earnest prayer of supplication - 63:15-64:12 a. For mercy and return of His sanctuary, which they do not deserve - 63:15-19 b. To come to those who need to be saved, indeed, His own people - 64:1-9 c. For Zion has become a wilderness, the temple destroyed by fire - 64:10-12 4. The Lord's response to their prayer - 65:1-25 a. Their rejection and suffering due to their rebelliousness - 65:1-7 b. A remnant shall be saved, but not those who failed to heed His call - 65:8-16 c. The promise of a glorious new creation - 65:17-25 1) New heavens and a new earth, Jerusalem as a rejoicing - 65:17-19 2) The blessings of the inhabitants - 65:20-25 C. FINAL ADMONITIONS AND PROMISES... 1. Those upon whom the Lord will look with favor - 66:1-4 a. The poor and contrite in spirit who tremble at His word - 66:1-2 b. Not the hypocrites who spurn His voice - 66:3-4 2. The word of the Lord to those who tremble at His word - 66:5-18 a. Rejoice in the blessings to come for Jerusalem - 66:5-14 b. The Lord will come in judgment on the wicked - 66:15-17 c. All nations will come with their scattered brethren to worship in Jerusalem - 66:18-23 d. They shall see the terrible end of the wicked - 66:24 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THIS SECTION 1) What is suggested in this study as the theme of Isaiah chapters 54-66? - The Future Glory For God's People 2) What are the three main divisions of this section as outlined above? - The Future Splendor Of Barren Zion (54:1-56:8) - The Present Shame Of Wicked Zion (56:9-59:21) - The Future Glory Of Restored Zion (60-66) 3) How is Israel depicted in her condition of Babylonian captivity? (54:1-8) - As a barren and desolate woman 4) Why is she told to break forth into singing? (54:1-3) - She will have more children and her desolate cities will be inhabited 5) Who is her husband? (54:5) - The Lord of hosts, the Holy One of Israel 6) What does He promise her? (54:8) - With everlasting kindness to have mercy on her 7) How does He depict her future splendor? (54:11-17) - Her stones, foundations, pinnacles, and walls to be made of precious gems - Her children shall be taught by the Lord and enjoy great peace - Any effort to oppress her or assemble against her will fail 8) What is offered to those who thirst and have no money? (55:1-3) - An everlasting covenant with the Lord, the sure mercies of David 9) What is necessary for them to have joy and peace? (55:7-13) - To seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near - For the wicked to forsake his ways and thoughts, and return to the Lord 10) To whom does the Lord promise His salvation? (56:1-2) - To those who keep justice and do righteousness - To those who keep from defiling the Sabbath, and their hands from doing any evil 11) Who else will be given a place in the house of the Lord? (56:3-8) - The sons of the foreigners (i.e., Gentiles) who hold fast His covenant 12) What was one condition that led to Zion's downfall? (56:9-12) - The irresponsible watchmen 13) How bad was the evil that existed at that time? (57:1-2) - It made the death of the righteous a blessing 14) How are the wicked described? (57:3-4) - Sons of the sorceress, offspring of the adulterer and harlot, children of transgression, offspring of falsehood 15) Of what sins were they guilty? (57:5-10) - Idolatry, slaying children, sacrificing to false gods, making alliances with other kings 16) Who would be the one to possess the land and inherit His holy mountain? (57:13) - He who puts his trust in the Lord 17) Who will receive the promise of dwelling with the Lord? (57:15) - Those with a contrite and humble spirit 18) What of those who remain in their wickedness? (57:21) - There is no peace for the wicked 19) Why had their fasting not pleased God? (58:1-5) - They had exploited their workers; they fasted for strife and debate 20) What kind of fasting would please the Lord? (58:6-14) - That accompanied with mercy and kindness to the oppressed, helping the needy, observing the Sabbath as a holy day to the Lord 21) Why had the Lord not heard their prayers? (59:1-2) - Their iniquities had separated them from God 22) Of what kind of sins had they been guilty? (59:3-8) - Murder, lies, injustice, violence 23) What does Isaiah do for Israel at this point in his prophecy? (59: 9-15a) - He acknowledges their sins and confesses their transgressions 24) How does the Lord respond to such penitence? (59:15b-21) - With salvation for those who repent, and vengeance for His adversaries 25) Who therefore will come to Zion, to those who turn from transgression? (59:20) - The Redeemer 26) When the future glory of Zion arrives, what will the Gentile nations do? (60:1-16) - Contribute their wealth - Proclaim the praises of the Lord - Ascend with acceptance on the altar of the Lord - Build up her walls - Beautify her sanctuary - Prostate themselves at her feet - Call her The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel 27) What will God do for Zion? (60:17-22) - Bring precious materials instead of common ones - Make her officers peace and her magistrates righteousness - Call her walls Salvation and her gates Praise - Be an everlasting light for her, instead of the sun and moon - End the days of her mourning, make righteous her people - Cause her to inherit the land and grow in population and strength 28) When will the Lord do this? (60:22) - He will hasten it in its time 29) What is to be the purpose of the One anointed by the Lord? (61:1-3) - To proclaim and console 30) What will be the effect of His mission? (61:4-9) - To rebuild and restore 31) What will be response to His mission? (61:10-11) - Great joy for His salvation 32) The Lord shall not rest until when, for Zion's sake? (62:1) - Her righteousness goes forth as brightness, her salvation as a lamp that burns 33) Who shall see her righteousness and glory? (62:2) - The Gentiles and all kings 34) What will she be called? (62:2) - By a new name which the mouth of the Lord will name 35) What had she been called? What shall she be called? (62:4) - Forsaken and Desolate - Hephzibah (My Delight Is In Her) and Beulah (Married) 36) What are the duties of the watchmen that the Lord has set over Jerusalem? (62:6-7) - Not to give the Lord rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth 37) What has the Lord proclaimed regarding the daughter of Zion? (62:11) - Surely your salvation is coming 38) What shall they be called? (62:12) - The Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken 39) From where is the Lord pictured as coming, having trodden down in anger? (63:1-6) - Edom 40) What does the prophet remember about the Lord's dealings with Israel? (63:7-14) - His lovingkindness and great goodness toward His people, even after they rebelled against Him 41) For what does Isaiah pray? (63:15-19) - For mercy and return of His sanctuary, which they do not deserve 42) Whom does Isaiah see is in need of salvation? (64:1-9) - His own people, whose righteousness is as filthy rags 43) What was the present condition of Zion, Jerusalem, and the temple? (64:10-11) - A wilderness, a desolation, and burned up with fire 44) In the Lord's response, was the cause of their rejection and suffering? (65:1-7) - Their rebelliousness and iniquities, as expressed through their idolatry 45) Who does the Lord promise to save? (65:8-16) - Descendants from Jacob and Judah, but not those who forsake the Lord 46) To encourage them, what does the Lord promise? (65:17-19) - To create new heavens and a new earth; to create Jerusalem as a rejoicing 47) List some of the blessings described in this promise (65:20-25) - An old man shall fulfill his days - A child shall die one hundred years old - The houses they build they shall occupy, they shall enjoy the fruit of their labors - They and their children will be blessed of the Lord - He will answer before they call, hear while they are speaking - The wolf and lamb shall feed together - The lion and serpent shall not hurt nor destroy in all His holy mountain 48) Upon whom will the Lord look with favor? Upon whom will He not? (66:1-4) - Those poor and contrite in spirit, who tremble at His word - Those who refuse to heed His voice, choosing to do that in which God does not delight 49) What are those who tremble at the word of Lord told to do? (66:5-14) - To rejoice in the blessings to come for Jerusalem 50) What will happen to the wicked? (66:15-17) - The Lord will come in judgment with fire and sword 51) What final picture is given as comfort to the captives in Babylon? (66:18-24) - All nations will come with their scattered brethren to worship the Lord in Jerusalem - The corpses of those who transgressed, where the worm does not die nor is the fire quenched
"THE BOOK OF ISAIAH" Salvation Through The Suffering Servant (49-53) OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS SECTION 1) To consider the role of the Servant in providing comfort and salvation for Israel 2) To observe that light and salvation would also be extended to the Gentiles 3) To note the remarkable prophecy concerning the Suffering Servant, who would bear the sin of many and make intercession for the transgressors SUMMARY In this section God continues to extend words of comfort for those who would experience exile in Babylon. While there is some reference to their deliverance from captivity (52:1-12), the focus is on the Suffering Servant to come, who would bring ultimate redemption. In chapter 49, the Servant Himself speaks of His commission to bring salvation to Israel and to be a light to the Gentiles. The Lord will offer the Servant as a covenant to the people, providing restoration and comfort to the afflicted. Zion, who fears that the Lord has forsaken her, is reassured that she is remembered. She will overflow with new children, and those who would oppress her will have to contend with the Lord. In chapters 50-52, the Servant is offered as Israel's true hope. Rebuked for thinking that their sufferings were due to the Lord's inability, the exiles are admonished to trust in the Lord to save them in response to their plea. Zion (Jerusalem, the holy city) is called to awake, for those who have experienced His righteous judgment will find that He offers redemption and comfort. The last of chapter 52 and all of chapter 53 contain a description of the Suffering Servant. Despised and rejected by men, smitten and afflicted by God, the Servant would bear the sin of many and make intercession for the transgressors. Of course, this prophecy was fulfilled when God sent His Son Jesus Christ to be crucified for our sins. Thus God would provide salvation for Israel, and for all mankind. OUTLINE I. THE SERVANT IS COMMISSIONED (49:1-26) A. HE WILL BRING SALVATION... 1. He has been called to be the Lord's Servant - 49:1-3 2. His work has been difficult - 49:4 3. He will bring salvation to both Israel and Gentiles - 49:5-6 4. Kings and princes will arise and worship Him - 49:7 B. HE WILL COMFORT GOD'S PEOPLE... 1. He will become a covenant to the people - 49:8a 2. He will provide restoration and comfort for the afflicted - 49:8b-13 C. GOD WILL REMEMBER ZION... 1. He has not forgotten her, her destroyers will go away - 49:14-17 2. She will overflow with new children who come to her - 49:18-21 3. The nations shall bring her children, kings and queens will foster them - 49:22-23 4. The Lord will contend those who oppress Zion and her children - 49:24-26 II. THE SERVANT WILL BE ISRAEL'S HOPE (50:1-52:12) A. ISRAEL ADMONISHED TO TRUST IN THE LORD... 1. The exiles rebuked for thinking their sufferings were due to the Lord's inability - 50:1-3 2. The Lord will help His Servant - 50:4-9 3. Therefore those who fear the Lord should rely on God, not themselves - 50:10-11 B. THE RIGHTEOUS ENCOURAGED TO LOOK TO THE LORD... 1. God's righteous people called to listen to the Lord who will save them - 51:1-8 2. A plea to the Lord, and His response promising comfort - 51:9-16 C. JERUSALEM CALLED TO AWAKE... 1. God will deliver her who has suffered from His righteous judgment - 51:17-23 2. God will redeem and comfort the holy city - 52:1-12 III. THE SERVANT WILL SAVE THROUGH SUFFERING (52:13-53:12) A. HIS DESTINY... 1. To be exalted and extolled - 52:13 2. Though subjected to great humiliation - 52:14 3. He will startle and amaze even kings by what they will see - 52:15 B. HIS LIFE... 1. Some would not believe - 53:1 2. His humble beginnings and ignoble appearance - 53:2 3. Despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows not highly esteemed - 53:3 C. HIS SUFFERING... 1. Bearing our grief and sorrow, He is esteemed smitten and afflicted by God - 53:4 2. His wounds and stripes were for our sins and healing - 53:5 3. The Lord laid on Him our sins because we like sheep have gone astray - 53:6 D. HIS SUBMISSION... 1. Though oppressed and afflicted, like a lamb He did not open His mouth - 53:7 2. With an unjust death He was stricken for our transgressions - 53:8 3. His grave was with the wicked and the rich, though innocent of violence and deceit - 53:9 E. HIS REWARD... 1. The Lord would be pleased by His offering for sin - 53:10 2. The Lord would be satisfied by the Righteous Servant justifying many - 53:11 3. The Lord would reward Him for bearing the sin of many, making intercession - 53:12 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THIS SECTION 1) What is suggested in this study as the theme of Isaiah chapters 49-53? - Salvation Through The Suffering Servant 2) What are the three main divisions of this section as outlined above? - The Servant Is Commissioned (49) - The Servant Will Be Israel's Hope (50:1-52:12) - The Servant Will Save Through Suffering (52:13-53:12) 3) Who is the Servant in this section? (49:1-3) - Some believe it has reference to the people of Israel because of verse 3; yet the overall context clearly points to the Messiah (Jesus) 4) To whom will the Servant bring salvation? Who will worship Him? (49: 5-7) - Both Israel and Gentiles - Kings and princes 5) How will the Servant comfort God's people? (49:8-13) - By providing restoration and deliverance for the afflicted 6) Who has God not forgotten? (49:14-17) - Zion 7) What is promised to Zion? Where will they come from? (49:18-23) - She will overflow with new children who come to her - The nations shall bring her children 8) How will all flesh know that the Lord is Zion's Savior and Redeemer? (49:24-26) - By saving her children from those who would contend with her 9) Why were the exiles rebuked? (50:1-3) - For thinking that their sufferings were due to the Lord's inability, when it because of their sins 10) When the Servant suffers abuse, who helps Him? (50:4-9) - The Lord God 11) Upon whom should one rely in times of darkness? What of those who do not? (50:10-11) - The name of the Lord and the voice of His Servant - They shall lie down in torment 12) Where are the righteous encouraged to look? (51:1-2) - To the example of Abraham and Sarah 13) What does God promise for Zion? (51:3) - Comfort, joy, gladness, thanksgiving and the voice of melody 14) What does God promise to do with His salvation and righteousness? (51:4-8) - To extend it to the Gentiles and make it last forever 15) What does Isaiah offer at this point in his prophecy? (51:9-11) - A plea to the Lord to show His strength to those He will ransom 16) How does the Lord respond? (51:12-16) - With a promise of comfort in the middle of a mild rebuke for being afraid 17) Why is Jerusalem called to awake? (51:17-23) - Though she has suffered from His righteous judgment, God will plead the cause for His people 18) Why is Zion (Jerusalem, the holy city) called to awake? (52:1-3) - To put on her strength and beautiful garments, for God will redeem her 19) Though Israel has suffered both in Egypt and Assyria, what is she promised? (52:4-6) - Clear evidence that is the Lord God who speaks to them 20) What does Isaiah see happening one day in Israel? (52:7-9) - A messenger with glad tidings, watchmen rejoicing over the redemption of Jerusalem 21) What will all the ends of the earth see? (52:10) - The salvation of God 22) In view of such things, what are the people of Israel told? (52: 11-12) - To depart (from Babylon captivity), with the Lord going before and after them 23) What will be the destiny of the Servant? (52:13-14) - To be exalted, though subjected to great humiliation 24) What impact will He have among the nations? (52:15) - He will startle and amaze even kings by what they see 25) What is first revealed about the Suffering Servant? (53:1-3) - Some would not believe - He would have humble beginnings and an ignoble appearance - He would be despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows not highly esteemed 26) Why would He suffer, and who afflicted Him? (53:4-6) - Because of our sins and for our healing - Smitten by God, who has laid on Him the iniquity of us all 27) How would the Suffering Servant submit to such oppression and affliction? (53:7) - He would not open His mouth, but be led as a lamb to the slaughter 28) Why would He be taken from prison and cut off from the land of the living? (53:8) - For the transgressions of God's people 29) With whom would He make His grave? (53:9) - With the wicked; but also with the rich, because He done no violence nor spoken deceit 30) What would the Suffering Servant receive from all this? (53:10-12) - The Lord would be pleased by His offering for sin - The Lord would be satisfied by the Righteous Servant justifying many, bearing their iniquities - The Lord would reward Him for bearing the sin of many, and interceding for the transgressors
"THE BOOK OF ISAIAH" The One True God Versus Idols (40-48) OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS SECTION 1) To see how God used Isaiah to comfort to a generation of Israel long after his own death 2) To consider the challenge made to the nations of men and their idols proves the existence and identity of the One True God 3) To note the prophetic references that were fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ SUMMARY We now begin a new section that continues through the rest of the book of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66 contain prophecies and proclamations that were designed to comfort God's people when they found themselves in Babylonian captivity. Though Isaiah himself did not live during the period of Babylonian captivity, as a prophet he was able to speak words of comfort to those who would experience that difficult time of Israel's history. In chapters 40-48, a recurring theme is the challenge that the God of Israel makes to idols and those who worship them: to prove their existence by proclaiming what shall happen and then bring it to pass. Chapter 40 serves as a prologue offering comfort and assurance, not only in view of the coming deliverance (ultimately fulfilled with the coming of Christ, 40:3-5), but in light of the incomparable greatness of God, who supports and strengthens all who place their trust in Him. In chapter 41, God's greatness is illustrated by His challenge to the nations. He challenges those who trust in idols to do as He did in announcing His plans and bringing them to pass. He also challenges Israel to not fear, for He will not forsake them. Chapters 42-43 describe God's care for Israel, especially through His coming Servant (Christ, 42:1-4), and His superiority over the nations including Babylon. Chapters 44-45 reassure the people of Israel as God's chosen, as the Lord promises to deliver them through Cyrus of Persia. Such deliverance will cause many others to turn to God. Chapters 46-48 reveal God's coming judgment on Babylon and His plans for Israel. The idols of Babylon are nothing, and certainly unable to do as God has done in announcing His plans beforehand and then bringing them to pass. God's judgment will humiliate Babylon, and then He will redeem Israel, having refined her for His glory. These chapters (40-48) contain one of most powerful arguments for the existence of God. Through prophecies uttered by His servants hundreds of years before they are fulfilled, we find evidence that God exists, and that He is the God of Israel! OUTLINE I. PROLOGUE OFFERING COMFORT AND ASSURANCE (40:1-31) A. TAKE COMFORT IN THE COMING OF THE LORD... 1. A charge to comfort God's people - 40:1-2 2. The voice of one preparing people for the coming of the Lord - 40:3-8 3. Zion (Jerusalem) to announce the coming of the Lord God - 40:9-11 B. THE INCOMPARABLE GREATNESS OF GOD... 1. He is beyond human measure and counsel - 40:12-14 2. Before Him the nations are nothing - 40:15-17 3. Men try to make images in His likeness - 40:18-20 4. God is too great, for no likeness can be equal to Him - 40:21-26 5. Lack of trust in God rebuked, for He provides strength to the weary - 40:27-31 II. THE LORD'S CHALLENGE (41:1-29) A. CHALLENGING THE NATIONS... 1. It is He Who raised up one from the east (Cyrus of Persia?) - 41:1-4 2. While the nations seek comfort in their idols - 41:5-7 B. CHALLENGING ISRAEL... 1. To fear not, for as God's servant He will help them - 41:8-13 2. To fear not, for He will not forsake them - 41:14-20 C. CHALLENGING THOSE WHO SERVE IDOLS... 1. To prove their case by declaring what will come and bringing it to pass - 41:21-24 2. Even as He has raised up one from the north (Cyrus of Persia?) - 41:25 3. Who among idolatrous men has declared things from the beginning? - 41:26-29 III. THE LORD'S CARE FOR ISRAEL (42:1-43:28) A. THROUGH HIS SERVANT... 1. His Elect One (the Messiah?), through Whom He will bring justice to the Gentiles - 42:1-9 2. Let all praise the Lord and give Him glory - 42:10-12 B. THROUGH HIS REDEMPTION... 1. While those who trust in idols will be turned back - 42:13-17 2. Though Israel has been slow to learn - 42:18-25 3. For He has ransomed Israel - 43:1-7 C. THROUGH HIS SUPERIORITY... 1. Over the nations, challenged to declare and deliver as He has done - 43:8-13 2. Over Babylon, which He has purposed to destroy - 43:14-17 3. Doing a new thing, making a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert - 43:18-21 D. THROUGH HIS PLEADING... 1. To Israel, for her unfaithfulness to Him - 43:22-24 2. Whom He will forgive, though her sins had led to her reproach - 43:25-28 IV. THE LORD'S DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL (44:1-45:25) A. ISRAEL SHOULD NOT FEAR... 1. For Israel is God's Chosen, and He will pour His Spirit on their descendants - 44:1-5 2. The Lord, their King and Redeemer, is the only true God - 44:6-28 a. Only He can declare events that are to come - 44:6-8 b. Idols are made by men who are blind and foolish - 44:9-20 c. The Lord has redeemed and will restore Israel through Cyrus - 44:21-28 B. THE LORD PROMISES TO DELIVER ISRAEL... 1. He, the only True God, has anointed Cyrus to be their deliverer - 45:1-13 2. Israel's deliverance will cause many to turn to God - 45:14-25 a. The effect of Israel's redemption upon the Gentiles - 45: 14-17 b. The Creator calls upon all, especially Israel, to come to Him - 45:18-25 V. THE LORD'S JUDGMENT ON BABYLON (46:1-47:15) A. THE LORD OF ISRAEL VERSUS THE GODS OF BABYLON... 1. Babylon must carry their gods - 46:1-2 2. Israel is upheld by the Lord - 46:3-4 3. The idols made by men cannot answer nor do they save - 46:5-7 4. The Lord declares the end from the beginning, and brings His salvation to pass - 46:8-13 B. THE LORD'S JUDGMENT PRONOUNCED ON BABYLON... 1. The Lord will humiliate Babylon - 47:1-7 a. Upon her He will take vengeance - 47:1-3 b. For she showed no mercy when He used her to judge His people - 47:4-7 2. Babylon will not escape her judgment - 47:8-15 a. Because of the arrogance of her sorceries, wickedness, and knowledge - 47:8-11 b. Her sorceries and counselors will be unable to save her - 47:12-15 VI. THE LORD'S REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL (48:1-22) A. ISRAEL WILL BE REFINED FOR GOD'S GLORY... 1. Israel has not leaned on the Lord in truth and righteousness - 48:1-2 2. To cure their hardness and idolatry, God told them in advance what He would do - 48:3-8 3. For His Name's sake He will not cut Israel off, but refine her - 48:9-11 B. ISRAEL WILL BE REDEEMED AS GOD FORETOLD... 1. Israel called to heed, as God will do His pleasure on Babylon - 48:12-15 2. God had not spoken in secret; if only Israel had heeded! - 48:16-19 3. Even so, Israel will go forth from Babylon, redeemed by the Lord! - 48:20-22 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THIS SECTION 1) What is suggested in the Introduction as the theme of Isaiah chapters 40-66? - Hope For Troubled Times 2) According to the Introduction, what period of Israel's history do chapters 40-66 relate to? - The Babylonian captivity (ca. 690-620 B.C.) 3) How was Isaiah able to speak such words of comfort to people who lived after he died? - Through inspiration by the Holy Spirit 4) What is suggested in this study as the theme of Isaiah chapters 40-48? - The One True God Versus Idols 5) What are the six main divisions of this section as outlined above? - Prologue Offering Comfort And Assurance (40) - The Lord's Challenge (41) - The Lord's Care For Israel (42-43) - The Lord's Deliverance Of Israel (44-45) - The Lord's Judgment On Babylon (46-47) - The Lord's Redemption Of Israel (48) 6) In what would Israel be able to take comfort? (40:1-9) - Her sins will be forgiven and warfare ended - The Lord is coming and His glory will be revealed 7) What two qualities are noted regarding the Lord when He comes? (40: 10-11) - He will rule with judgment - He will care for His flock 8) How does Isaiah describe the incomparable greatness of God? (40: 12-17) - He is beyond human measure and counsel - Before Him the nations are as nothing 9) Why was it folly to make images in His likeness? (40:18-26) - God is too great in His judgment and creative power 10) Why is lack of trust in God rebuked? (40:27-31) - Because He who neither faints nor is weary provides strength to the weary 11) What claim did God make in challenging the nations? Who was He talking about? (41:1-4) - He raised one from the east to rule the nations - Cyrus of Persia 12) How would the nations try to find comfort? (41:5-7) - By encouraging one another with their idols 13) Why should Israel not fear? (41:8-20) - As their Redeemer, He will help them - As their God, He will not forsake them 14) What challenge does God make to those who serve idols? (41:21-24) - To declare what will come, and bring it to pass 15) Who was able to declare from the beginning what would happen? (41: 25-29) - Other than God, no one 16) How does the Lord show His care for Israel? (42:1) - By foretelling the coming of His Servant (Jesus) 17) Who else would the Servant bless? (42:1,6) - The Gentiles 18) How did Jesus fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah 42:2-3? - Through the nature of His earthly ministry (cf. Mt 12:15-21) 19) What does God say about His glory? What does this say about Jesus? (42:8; cf. Jn 17:5) - My glory I will not give to another - Jesus must have been Deity to pray as He did 20) What response is called for by those among the nations? (42:10-13) - Let them sing to Lord, give Him glory and declare His praise 21) What does the Lord promise to do for those who were spiritually blind and deaf? (42:14-16 - After judgment, restoration 22) For those who trust in idols, what will happen? (42:17) - They shall be turned back and greatly ashamed 23) Why had Israel as God's servant been robbed and plundered? (42: 18-25) - Their spiritual deafness and blindness necessitated God's judgment 24) What did God promise to do for Israel following her judgment? (43: 1-7) - To redeem and gather her from the nations where she had been scattered 25) What challenge to the nations is once against extended? (43:8-9) - To declare what is to come, to present witnesses of such ability 26) Who were God's witnesses of His ability to deliver what He has declared? (43:10-13) - The Israelites 27) What did God promise regarding Babylon? (43:14-17) - To make her people fugitives and destroy her army 28) While Israel had been unfaithful, what did God promise? (43:22-28) - To blot out her transgressions, though her sins will bring reproach upon her 29) Why is Israel, God's Chosen, told not to fear? (44:1-3) - For God will pour His Spirit and His blessing on their descendants 30) What evidence proves that the Lord, the King of Israel, is the only true God? (44:6-8) - Only He can appoint and proclaim things to come 31) What is said of those who make idols? (44:18-20) - They are foolish, their eyes and hearts shut by God 32) Through whom does God promise to restore Jerusalem and the temple? (44:28) - Cyrus (cf. 2Ch 36:22-23) 33) Through whom does God promise to deliver Israel from exile? (45: 1,13) - Cyrus (cf. Ezr 1:1-11) 34) What effect will Israel's deliverance have among the Gentiles? (45: 14-17) - It will cause many to turn to the God of Israel 35) Whom does God call to come to Him and be saved? (45:22-23) - All the ends of the earth 36) In whom shall the descendants of Israel be justified? (45:25) - In the Lord 37) What two things illustrated the weakness of the gods of Babylon? (46:1-2) - They had to be carried on beasts; they could not prevent their own captivity 38) Who had upheld Israel from birth to old age? (46:3-4) - The Lord 39) What were idols made out of gold or silver unable to do? (46:5-7) - Answer man's cries, nor save him out of his trouble 40) What distinguished the Lord God from all other gods? (46:8-11) - Declaring the end from the beginning, and fulfilling what He purposed 41) What did the Lord promise to Israel? (46:12-13) - To place His salvation and glory in Zion 42) What did the Lord promise to do to Babylon? (47:1-3) - To take vengeance on her, humiliating her 43) Why was God angry with Babylon? (47:4-7) - For showing no mercy when He used her to judge His people 44) Why would Babylon not escape her judgment? (47:8-11) - Because of the arrogance of her sorceries, wickedness, and knowledge 45) What would be unable to save Babylon? (47:12-15) - Her sorceries and counselors 46) How had Israel failed in their leaning on the Lord? (48:1-2) - By not doing so in truth and righteousness 47) How would God cure their hardness and idolatry? (48:3-8) - By telling them in advance would He would do 48) Why would God not totally cut Israel off, but instead refine her? (48:9-11) - For His own Name's sake 49) As Israel is called to pay heed, what did God promise to do? (48: 12-15) - To do His pleasure on Babylon, with His arm against the Chaldeans 50) What passage strongly implies three distinct personalities in the Godhead? - Isa 48:16 ("the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me") 51) What plaintive cry by God is made? (48:17-19) - If only Israel had heeded, for God had not spoken in secret 52) Despite His judgment on Israel, what wonderful assurance was given by God? (48:20-21) - Israel would go forth from Babylon, redeemed by the Lord! 53) What ominous warning is given? (48:22) - There is no peace for the wicked
"THE BOOK OF ISAIAH" Historical Interlude (36-39) OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS SECTION 1) To note the pivotal role played by the historical interlude contained in chapters 36-39 2) To see the fulfillment of prophecies found previously in the book regarding the defeat of Assyria 3) To consider Hezekiah's fervent prayers, both for deliverance from Assyria and from his illness 4) To note how the visit from Babylonian emissaries provided Isaiah the opportunity to foretell the Babylonian captivity SUMMARY We now come to a historical interlude in which two events are described. They both involve Isaiah the prophet and Hezekiah, king of Judah. The first event reveals a climax to the first section of the entire book (The Assyrian Period), while the second event includes a prophecy pertaining to the setting of the second section (The Babylonian Period). In chapters 36-37, the prophecies foretold in the first section regarding the Lord's deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian menace are fulfilled (cf. 10:12,24-26; 14:24-27; 30:30-31; 31:4-5,8-9). In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah (ca. 701 B.C.), Sennacherib king of Assyria was capturing the fortified cities of Judah. He sends the Rabshakeh to Jerusalem to persuade Hezekiah to surrender and in doing so blasphemes against the Lord. Hezekiah is encouraged by Isaiah to trust in the Lord. When word of war with Ethiopia comes to the ears of Sennacherib, he sends more emissaries to threaten the king of Judah. Hezekiah looks to the Lord for deliverance, and the Lord responds with a message via Isaiah concerning the fall of Sennacherib. Then in one night, the angel of the Lord kills 185,000 Assyrians in their own camp, forcing the king of Assyria to return home where he is later killed by his sons while worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god. In chapter 38-39, we read of Hezekiah's illness and the subsequent extension of his life. Told by Isaiah to set his house in order for his death was imminent, Hezekiah prayed and wept fervently to the Lord. The Lord then had Isaiah tell Hezekiah he would live fifteen more years, and offered the turning back of the shadow ten degrees on the sundial of Ahaz as a sign he would be healed. When he recovered, Hezekiah then wrote a psalm describing his illness and deliverance by the Lord. Unfortunately, when the king of Babylon heard Hezekiah had recovered from his sickness and sent him letters and gifts, Hezekiah showed the emissaries from Babylon all the treasures of his house. Isaiah then told the king the time would come when all his treasures and his sons would be carried away to Babylon. This ends the first section of the prophecy of Isaiah. The second section contains prophecies designed to comfort the people of God when they found themselves in Babylonian captivity as foretold by Isaiah. OUTLINE I. TOTAL VICTORY OVER ASSYRIA (36:1-37:38) A. THE THREAT TO JERUSALEM... 1. The arrival of the Assyrian army and the Rabshakeh - 36:1-3 a. Sent by Sennacherib in the 14th year of Hezekiah (701 B.C.) - 36:1-2 b. Received by Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah at the aqueduct - 36: 2-3; cf. 7:3 2. The demand of the Rabshakeh to pledge allegiance to Assyria - 36:4-10 a. Not to place confidence in Egypt or in the Lord - 36:4-7 b. An offer of 2000 horses if allegiance is sworn to Sennacherib - 36:8 c. Resistance is futile; claims to have been sent by the Lord - 36:9-10 3. Response by Hezekiah's officials, rebuttal by the Rabshakeh - 36:11-20 a. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah plead for transactions to be in Aramaic - 36:11-12 b. The Rabshakeh refuses, and speaks to the people in Hebrew - 36:13-20 1) Ignore Hezekiah - 36:13-15 2) Make peace with the king of Assyria and be led away - 36:16-17 3) Do not put their trust in the Lord, who cannot deliver them - 36:18-20 4. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah return to Hezekiah - 36:21-22 a. With orders not to answer the Rabshakeh - 36:21 b. With clothes torn, reporting the words of the Rabshakeh to the king - 36:22 B. THE VICTORY BY THE LORD... 1. Isaiah assures deliverance - 37:1-7 a. Hezekiah's grief, and plea sent to Isaiah - 37:1-5 b. Assurance from the Lord that Sennacherib will depart and perish - 37:6-7 2. Sennacherib's threat repeated - 37:8-13 a. Sennacherib informed of war with Tirhakah of Ethiopia - 37:8-9a b. Blasphemous letter sent warning Hezekiah not to trust in the Lord - 37:9b-13 3. Hezekiah's prayer for deliverance - 37:14-20 a. Hezekiah receives the letter, spreads it out before the Lord in the temple - 37:14 b. He prays for God to note Sennacherib's words and save them - 37:15-20 4. Isaiah's answer: The Word of the Lord - 37:21-35 a. Because of Hezekiah's prayer, the Lord will turn Sennacherib back - 37:21-29 b. A sign to Hezekiah: by the third year they will be planting vineyards and a remnant will go forth from Jerusalem - 37: 30-32 c. Jerusalem will not be attacked; the Lord Himself will defend the city - 37:33-35 5. The disastrous defeat of the Assyrians and Sennacherib - 37: 36-38 a. The angel of the Lord kills 186,000 Assyrians in one night - 37:36 b. Sennacherib returns to Nineveh where he is assassinated - 37:37-38 II. FUTURE CAPTIVITY IN BABYLON (38:1-39:8) A. THE EXTENSION OF HEZEKIAH'S LIFE... 1. Hezekiah's sickness, promise of recovery, and confirming sign - 38:1-8 a. Informed by Isaiah of impending death, Hezekiah prays to the Lord - 38:1-3 b. The Lord promises Hezekiah 15 more years, and deliverance from the king of Assyria - 38:4-6 c. The shadow returns ten degrees on the sundial as a sign to Hezekiah - 38:7-8 2. Hezekiah's psalm - 38:9-20 a. His feelings and fears while ill - 38:9-14 b. His praise for God's goodness to him - 38:15-20 3. Isaiah's cure - 38:21-22 B. THE ENVOYS FROM BABYLON... 1. Envoys from Babylon and the treasures of Hezekiah's house - 39:1-2 a. The king of Babylon sends letters and a gift to Hezekiah, having heard he had been sick and recovered - 39:1 b. Hezekiah shows the envoys the treasures of his house - 39:2 2. The prophecy of Isaiah regarding future exile to Babylon - 39:3-8 a. Isaiah cross-examines Hezekiah concerning envoys' visit - 39:3-4 b. Isaiah foretells the Babylonian captivity and exile - 39:5-7 c. Hezekiah grateful that at least there will be peace in his days - 39:8 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THIS SECTION 1) What is suggested as the theme of Isaiah chapters 36-39? - Historical Interlude 2) What are the two main divisions of this section? - Total Victory Over Assyria (36-37) - Future Captivity In Babylon (38-39) 3) What king came to the fortified cities of Judah and took them? (36:1) - Sennacherib king of Assyria 4) Who did this king send to Jerusalem with a great army? (36:2) - The Rabshakeh 5) What two entities did this emissary of Assyria warn Jerusalem not to trust? (36:6-7) - Egypt or the Lord 6) What did he call upon Jerusalem to do? (36:8) - Pledge allegiance to the king of Assyria 7) Who did he claim had sent him to destroy the land? (36:10) - The Lord 8) What did he warn them not to heed? (36:14-15) - Hezekiah's call for them to trust in the Lord 9) What did the king of Assyria promise if they made peace? (36:16-17) - Provisions until he took them away to another land 10) What blasphemy did the emissary utter as he concluded his message? (36:20) - That the Lord was just like the other gods who were unable to deliver their countries 11) To whom did Hezekiah send his representatives to ask for his prayers? (37:1-4) - The prophet Isaiah 12) What were the representatives told about the threats of the king of Assyria? (37:6-7) - Not to be afraid, for the Lord would cause him to return and fall in his own land 13) What prompted the king of Assyria to resend his messengers to threaten Hezekiah? (37:9) - The report that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia was coming to make war with him 14) How did the king of Assyria try to convince Hezekiah not to trust in the Lord? (37:10-13) - By noting the failure of kings he had already defeated, and the gods who could not deliver them 15) When Hezekiah heard this, what did he do? (37:14-20) - He went to the house of the Lord, and prayed to the Lord for deliverance 16) What did the Lord tell Hezekiah regarding the king of Assyria? (37: 21-35) - The Lord would turn him back, he would not enter the city - The Lord Himself would defend the city 17) What then happened? (37:36-37) - An angel of the Lord killed 185,000 men of the Assyrian army in one night, prompting the king of Assyria to return home to Nineveh 18) What later happened to the king of Assyria? (37:38) - His sons killed him as he worshipped in the house of Nisroch his god 18) What also happened about that time? (38:1) - Hezekiah became sick and was told to prepare for his death 19) What did the king do, and what was the result? (38:2-6) - He prayed fervently, and the Lord sent Isaiah to tell him he was given 15 more years to live 20) What sign was given to the king that he would be healed? (38:7-8) - The shadow on the sundial of Ahaz went backward ten degrees 21) What did Hezekiah do when he recovered from his sickness? (38:9-20) - Wrote a psalm praising God for healing him 22) What medicinal remedy did Isaiah prescribe for the king in his sickness? (38:21) - A lump of figs as a poultice on the boil 23) Who came to visit Hezekiah after he recovered from his sickness? (39:1) - Envoys with a letter and gifts from Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon 24) What did Hezekiah show them? (39:2) - The house of his treasures and the items in it 25) What did Isaiah tell Hezekiah would happen as a result? (39:5-7) - The days would come when all his treasures and his sons would be carried away to Babylon 26) What good did Hezekiah see in Isaiah's prophecy? (39:8) - At least there would be peace and truth in his days
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015
"THE BOOK OF ISAIAH" The Source Of True Deliverance (28-35) OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS SECTION 1) To review the messages Isaiah delivered when Israel and Judah were being threatened by Assyria 2) To note the condemnation for seeking help from Egypt when the people should have looked to the Lord for deliverance SUMMARY The messages in this section (chs. 28-35) seem to relate mostly to the approaching calamities involving the Assyrian invasion. During the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came against Israel to the north and took them away captive (cf. 2 Kin 17:1-18:12). In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria sought to do the same thing with Judah (cf. 2Ki 18:13-17). What was Judah to do? Surrender to the Assyrians? Put their trust in an alliance with Egypt to the south? Isaiah's message was simple: The source of true deliverance was in the Lord! Chapters 28-29 reveals the Lord's design for Ephraim (Israel) and Ariel (Jerusalem). Ephraim's crown of pride would fade, while the Lord would be a crown of glory for the remnant. Led to error by intoxicating drink, Israel's leaders had not been able to benefit from God's instructions. As for Ariel, her leaders (like Ahaz) had trusted in a false confidence for deliverance. God would instead lay in Zion a sure foundation based on justice and righteousness (a shadow of Christ, cf. 1 Pe 2:4-8). Removing their false and inadequate confidences, God would have Ariel besieged but then her enemy mysteriously defeated. The house of Jacob would again fear the God of Israel, and those who erred and complained would come to understand and learn the ways of God. In chapters 30-31 we find the desire to create alliances with Egypt denounced. Confidence in Egypt was futile and those who trusted in her would be judged. On the other hand, God would be gracious and merciful to those who trusted in Him. As God would judge the nations, including Assyria, it was folly to trust in Egypt with her chariots and horsemen. God would deliver Jerusalem Himself, having Assyria fall by a sword not of man, fleeing with fear (cf. 37:36-39). Chapter 32 describes the coming of a new regime in which a king will reign in righteousness and his princes in justice. It will be preceded by difficult times, but the work of righteousness will produce peace, quietness and assurance. Some think there may have been an initial reference to Hezekiah, but virtually all believe its ultimate reference is to the coming of the Messiah. Chapter 33 depicts how the plunderer (Assyria) will be defeated while the plundered (Judah) looks to the Lord for deliverance and salvation. The Lord will indeed intervene with His might, and Zion (Jerusalem) will be made a quiet and secure home. Assyria's plunder will be divided, while God's people will be healed and forgiven. Chapters 34-35 contain a fitting conclusion to the prophecies delivered by Isaiah during the Assyrian period. It is a beautiful poem consisting of two parts, both of which proclaim the sovereignty of God. God's sovereignty would be manifested in His judgment on the nations of the world, with a focus on His judgment on Edom in particular. His sovereignty would then be manifested in His salvation for Zion, in which the land will be transformed and the redeemed traveling to Zion with singing and everlasting joy. While some might see an initial fulfillment with the deliverance from Assyrian or Babylonian oppression, its ultimate fulfillment is likely Messianic: "The prophecy before us I regard as a kind of summing up, or recapitulation of all that he had delivered; and the general idea is, that the people of God would be delivered from all their foes, and that happier times under the Messiah would succeed all their calamities. This he had expressed often in the particular prophecies; he here expresses it in a summary and condensed manner." (Barnes) OUTLINE I. TRUE DELIVERANCE FOUND NOT IN EGYPT (28:1-31:9) A. THE LORD'S DESIGN FOR EPHRAIM AND ARIEL... 1. Regarding Ephraim (Israel) - 28:1-13 a. Her crown of pride will fade - 28:1-4 b. The Lord will be a crown of glory for the remnant - 28:5-6 c. Intoxicating drink has led them to error - 28:7-8 d. They are unable to benefit from God's instructions - 28:9-13 2. Regarding Ariel (Jerusalem) - 28:14-29:27 a. Her leaders have trusted in false confidences for deliverance - 28:14-15 b. God will lay in Zion a sure foundation - 28:16; cf. 1Pe 2: 4-8 c. God will remove their false and inadequate confidences - 28:17-22 d. Learn from the farmer; so God varies His judgments accordingly - 28:23-29 e. Ariel will be besieged, but her enemy mysteriously defeated - 29:1-8; cf. 37:36 f. Her blindness the result of disobedience and impiety - 29:9-13 g. Judgment to come on those who try to hide their counsel from the Lord - 29:14-16 3. The future restoration of the house of Jacob - 29:17-24 a. Lebanon shall be a fruitful field, esteemed as a forest - 29:17 b. The deaf shall hear, the blind shall see - 29:18 c. The humble and poor shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel - 29:19 d. The wicked and scornful are brought to nothing, sinners are cut off - 29:20-21 e. Jacob will not be ashamed, but fear the God of Israel - 29:22-23 f. Those who erred and complained will come to understand and learn - 29:24 B. ALLIANCE WITH EGYPT DENOUNCED... 1. Woe to those seeking aid from Egypt - 30:1-17 a. Trusting in Egypt is to be deceived, for her help is in vain - 30:1-7 b. God will break those who reject Him for their rebellious attitudes - 30:8-14 c. Their trust in God should be their strength; but no, they would not - 30:15-17 2. God would yet be gracious and merciful to those who trust Him - 30:15-33 a. People will dwell at Jerusalem after adversity and reformation - 30:15-22 b. God would bless the land as He heals the bruise of His people - 30:23-26 3. God will judge the nations, especially Assyria - 30:27-33 a. With indignation toward the nations, while His people worship Him - 30:27-30 b. Assyria will be beaten down, followed by rejoicing - 30:31-33 C. FOLLY OF TRUSTING EGYPT AND NOT GOD... 1. Woe to those who trust in Egypt - 31:1-3 a. Trusting in her horses and chariots rather than in God - 31:1 b. God will bring disaster on Egypt and those helped by her - 31:2-3 2. The Lord will defend Jerusalem from the Assyrians - 31:4-9 a. As a lion He will fight for Mount Zion - 31:4-5 b. Return to Him against Whom they revolted with their idolatry - 31:6-7 c. Assyria will fall by a sword not of man, fleeing with fear - 31:8-9; cf. 37:36-38 II. TRUE DELIVERANCE FOUND IN THE LORD (32:1-35:10) A. THE NEW REGIME TO COME... 1. With a righteous King and spiritual illumination - 32:1-8 a. The King and His princes will rule with righteousness and justice - 32:1 b. A man (Messiah? Hezekiah?) will offer protection and provision - 32:2 c. Spiritual blindness and deafness removed, knowledge understood - 32:3-4 d. Moral distinctions made clearer - 32:5-8 2. Preceded by painful judgment - 32:9-14 a. Upon women at ease and complacent - 32:9-11 b. People will mourn the devastation of the land - 32:12-14 3. Inaugurated by the outpouring of God's Spirit - 32:15-20 a. Producing a fruitful field and forest from the wilderness - 32:15 b. In which justice and righteousness will produce peace - 32:16-17 c. Peace and security, even in hard times - 32:18-20 B. ASSYRIA'S DEFEAT AND JERUSALEM'S VICTORY... 1. The plunderer (Assyria) will be defeated - 33:1-16 a. The plunderer will himself be plundered - 33:1 b. The plundered looks to the Lord for deliverance and salvation - 33:2-6 c. The pitiful condition of the land before deliverance - 33:7-9 d. The Lord to intervene with His might - 33:10-13 e. The sinners in Zion will be fearful, the righteous secure - 33:14-16 2. Jerusalem to be a quiet home, made secure by the Lord - 33:17-24 a. They shall see the King (Messiah? Hezekiah?) in His beauty - 33:17 b. The people will later wonder: why all the worry? - 33:18-19 c. Zion (Jerusalem) will be peaceful, secured by the Lord - 33:20-22 d. Assyria's plunder will be divided; God's people healed and forgiven - 33:23-24 C. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD... 1. Manifested in His judgment on the nations - 34:1-17 a. Judgment on the nations as a whole - 34:1-4 b. Judgment on Edom in particular - 34:5-17 1) A great slaughter in the land - 34:5-7 2) The day of the Lord's vengeance, with total devastation - 34:8-15 3) It's judgment inevitable - 34:16-17 2. Manifested in His salvation for Zion - 35:1-10 a. The transformation of the land - 35:1-2 b. The weak and fearful reassured - 35:3-4 c. The blind, deaf, and lame healed; the dry land filled with pools and springs - 35:5-7 d. The Highway of Holiness, upon which the redeemed will travel to Zion with singing and everlasting joy - 35:8-10 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THIS SECTION 1) What is suggested as the theme of Isaiah chapters 28-35? - The Source Of True Deliverance 2) What are the two main divisions of this section? - True Deliverance Found Not In Egypt (28-31) - True Deliverance Found In The Lord (32-35) 3) Upon what and whom does Isaiah pronounce woe in chapter 28? (28:1) - Upon the crown of pride and the drunkards of Ephraim 4) For whom will the Lord be "a crown of glory" and "a diadem of beauty"? (28:5) - The remnant of His people 5) What had caused the people, including their religious leaders, to err? (28:7) - Wine and intoxicating drink 6) To whom does Isaiah begin to address his comments in verse 14? - Those who rule in Jerusalem 7) With whom had they made a covenant? What were they hoping to escape? (28:15) - Sheol (death) - The overflowing scourge that would pass through 8) What would the Lord lay in Zion? Who would therefore not act hastily? (28:16) - A stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone - Whoever believes 9) To whom is this applied in the New Testament? (cf. 1Pe 2:4-6) - Jesus Christ 10) What would God do to those who made their covenant with Sheol? (28:18) - Annul their covenant with death; trample them with the overflowing scourge 11) Whom does Isaiah use to illustrate how God varies His ways of judgment? (28:23-29) - The farmer 12) What will happen to Ariel (Jerusalem)? (29:1-3) - God will lay a siege around it 13) Yet what would happen to those nations who fight against it? (29: 7-8; cf. 37:36) - They will be mysteriously defeated 14) What caused the blindness of so many at that time? (29:9-13) - God brought it upon them because of their disobedience and impiety 15) What would come upon those who try to hide their counsel from the Lord? (29:14-16) - A marvelous work and a wonder as judgment from the Lord 16) Yet what did the future hold for the house of Jacob? (29:17-24) - Restoration, in which they will hallow the Holy One of Jacob and fear the God of Israel 17) Upon whom were the rebellious children of Israel placing their trust? (30:1-7) - Egypt, whose help would be in vain 18) What would God yet do for those who trusted Him? (30:15-26) - He would be gracious and merciful, and allow them to dwell at Jerusalem after adversity and reformation 19) As God sifted the nations with "the sieve of futility", what nation in particular would be beaten down? (30:27-33) - Assyria 20) Why was it foolish for the people to trust in Egypt and her chariots? (31:1-3) - Because God would bring disaster on Egypt and those helped by her 21) Who would defend Jerusalem from the Assyrians? (31:4) - The Lord, fighting for Mount Zion as a lion 22) How would Assyria fall? (31:8) - By a sword not of man, fleeing with fear (cf. 37:36-38) 23) What is foretold that would give hope? (32:1) - A reign involving a righteous King and princes ruling with justice 24) What would precede this hopeful future? (32:9-14) - A painful judgment involving devastation upon the land 25) What would inaugurate the time of justice and righteousness? (32: 15-16) - The pouring out of God's Spirit 26) What would be the result of this justice and righteousness? (32: 17-19) - God's people would enjoy peace, quietness, and assurance, even in stormy times 27) What will happen to the one (Assyria) who has been plundering? (33:1) - He will be plundered 28) To Whom does the faithful look for deliverance and salvation? (33: 2-5) - The Lord 29) What will provide stability and the strength of salvation? (33:6) - Wisdom and knowledge 30) When the Lord brings His judgment on Zion, who will be afraid, and who will be secure? (33:10-16) - The sinners will be fearful, the righteous secure 31) What will Jerusalem become? (33:20-22) - A quiet home, made secure by the Lord 32) What will happen to the prey of the plunderer? To those in the city? (33:23-24) - The lame will take the prey, those in the city will be forgiven 33) How is the sovereignty of God depicted in chapter 34? (34:1-4) - By His judgment on the nations 34) What nation in particular is marked for judgment? (34:5-17) - Edom 35) How is the sovereignty of God depicted in chapter 35? (35:1-10) - By His salvation for Zion 36) How shall the ransomed of the Lord return to Zion? (35:10) - Singing with everlasting joy and gladness
Controversial Orthodox Jews Call for Renewal of Sacrifices
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Judaism, as a modern religion, exists in four general forms: Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, and Messianic (Ridenour, 2001, p. 67). An Orthodox Jew is one who claims the Mosaic code of the Old Testament, along with certain non-biblical Jewish documents, as his religious authority. At February’s end, CNN reported that certain “extremist rabbis” (Orthodox Jewish leaders) in Jerusalem wanted to “resume the biblical practice of animal sacrifice” despite the absence of the Levitical priesthood (“Extremist...,” 2007). Since the Romans destroyed Herod’s temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the ritual of animal sacrifice has ceased there (see Ridenour, p. 67). Now, a new group that calls itself the “Re-established Sanhedrin” is trying to reinstitute the practice at the Temple Mount (“Extremist...”).
Some Jews are against restoring animal sacrifices. Doniel Hartman, of the Shalom Institute in Jerusalem, said of the A.D. 70 destruction: “Around that time, animal sacrifice, as a mode of religious worship, stopped.... Moving back in that direction is not progress” (quoted in “Extremist...”). Muslims also are protesting the move to renew animal sacrifices. Jerusalem’s senior Islamic cleric, Mohommed Hussein, said: “Regrettably, there are many extremist Israeli groups who want to carry out their plans.... Let them say what they want, Al Aqsa [formerly the site of Herod’s temple—CC] is a Muslim mosque” (quoted in “Extremist...”). Jewish leaders have conceded that the sacrifices will not be renewed anytime soon.
The Sanhedrin was “[t]he Jewish court in Jerusalem from the Persian through the Roman period; it had both religious and political powers and comprised the elite (both priestly and lay) of society” (Moulder, 1988, p. 331, parenthetical in orig.). Though the Sanhedrin was a manmade institution, absent any divine mandate, these modern Jews are reviving it to add perceived authority and significance to their movement.
Of course, the Bible plainly teaches that the Old Covenant between God and Israel was removed and replaced when Christ provided the single, perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Consider these biblical passages:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt...” (Hebrews 8:7-9; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).
But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6).
[H]aving wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:2-11).
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace... (Ephesians 2:14-15; cf. Galatians 4:21-31).
The prophets foretold the coming of a new covenant, and the Lord established it in the New Testament age; the theme of the entire Bible centers around God’s plan to redeem mankind through His Son and the church that Christ would establish. So, persisting in the Jewish faith in the Christian age is out of harmony with both Old and New Testaments.
However, consistency demands that modern Jews keep Old Testament sacrificial policy. As it stands now, the only religious rite on which all Jews seem to agree is the observation of the Sabbath (Korobkin, 2004; Ridenour, 2001, p. 68). While the Bible makes it plain that Christians must not observe the Sabbath as a holy day (Colossians 2:16; see Wright, 1977), it seems unthinkable that any religionists would adhere to one portion of Mosaic legislation and dismiss hundreds of other regulations as being non-binding for those alive today. The Seventh-Day Adventists are eager to develop this dichotomy, but the Bible makes no such distinction (“Fundamental Beliefs,” 2007; seeLyons, 2001).
Non-orthodox Jews have attempted to justify their piecemeal application of the Old Covenant by arguing that that God “has no delight in sacrifices, and that the sacrifice He has chosen is a contrite spirit” (e.g., Morris, 1984, 7:170; see Psalms 34:18; 51:17; etc.). While the Bible certainly teaches that the follower of God must be contrite, he also must keep God’s commandments. To teach otherwise is to ignore multiple Old Testament passages that reflect how God insisted that Israel keep every statute of the Covenant.
But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise my statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break my covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.... I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies.... And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins (Leviticus 26:14-18, emp. added; cf. 19:37; Deuteronomy 5:29; etc.).
And you shall have a tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God (Numbers 15:39-40, emp. added).
We could list many similar passages from the Mosaic law. We may never understand fully why some Jews are trying to revive sacrificial practices, or for that matter, any portion of the Old Testament. Perhaps is it largely because of what Ahlstrom noted: “In addition to these domestic confrontations, secularization, increased social mobility, and the decline of anti-Semitism tended to erode the Jewish sense of particularity” (1973, p. 984). It could be that modern Jews feel a need to authenticate, bolster, and/or justify their religion by restoring ancient practices, starting with animal sacrifices and ultimately, logically culminating in a rebuilt temple (see “Extremist...”).
Because modern Jewish faith is based squarely on a rejection of the best-attested historical fact in antiquity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, one might expect the Jewish religion to exhibit striking confusion and contradiction (see Butt and Lyons, 2006, pp. 135-168). Those of us at Apologetics Press will continue to stress that the evidence proves that “we have found the Messiah,” the only Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:41; see Butt, 2002). Man gains access to the Father only through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6-7).
Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (1973), A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Butt, Kyle (2002), “What Did You Expect?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1780.
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“Extremist Rabbis Call for Return of Animal Sacrifice” (2007), The Associated Press, [On-line], URL:http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/28/israel.animal.ap/index.html.
“Fundamental Beliefs” (2007), Seventh-Day Adventist Church, [On-line], URL: http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html.
Korobkin, Daniel N. (2004), “Lost in Translation: Parshat Beher-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34),” [On-line], URL: http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/searchview.php?id=12238.
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Which Law Was Abolished?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1659.
Morris, Joseph (1894), “Note by the Author of ‘The Ideal in Judaism’,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, 7:169-172, October.
Moulder, W. J. (1988), “Sanhedrin,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ridenour, Fritz (2001), So What’s the Difference? (Ventura, CA: Regal).
Wright, Gerald N. (1977), Sabbatarian: Concordance and Commentary (Fort Worth, TX: Star Bible Publications).
Archaeology and the New Testament
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Any time a book alleges to report historical events accurately, that book potentially opens itself up to an immense amount of criticism. If such a book claims to be free from all errors in its historical documentation, the criticism frequently becomes even more intense. But such should be the case, for it is the responsibility of present and future generations to know and understand the past, and to insist that history, including certain monumental moments, is recorded and related as accurately as possible.
The New Testament does not necessarily claim to be a systematic representation of first-century history. It is not, per se, merely a history book. It does claim, however, that the historical facts related in the text are accurate, with no margin of error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 1:1-3). It is safe to say that, due to this extraordinary claim, the New Testament has been scrutinized more intensely than any other text in existence (with the possible exception of its companion volume, the Old Testament). What has been the end result of such scrutiny?
The overwhelming result of this close examination is an enormous cache of amazing archaeological evidence that testifies to the exactitude of the various historical references in the New Testament. As can be said of virtually every article on archaeology and the Bible, the following few pages that document this archaeological evidence only scratch the surface of the available evidence. Nevertheless, an examination of this particular subject makes for a fascinating study in biblical accuracy.
THE PILATE INSCRIPTION
Few who have read the New Testament accounts of the trial of Jesus can forget the name Pontius Pilate. All four gospel accounts make reference to Pilate. His inquisition of Jesus, at the insistence of the Jewish mob, stands as one of the most memorable scenes in the life of Jesus. No less than three times, this Roman official explained to the howling mob that he found no fault with Jesus (John 18:38; 19:4,6). Wanting to placate the Jews, however, Pilate washed his hands in a ceremonial attestation to his own innocence of the blood of Christ, and then delivered the Son of God to be scourged and crucified.
|Discovered in 1961, “The Pilate Inscription” offers remarkable archaeological testimony that a man named Pontius Pilate once governed Judea. Credit: Zev Radovan, Jerusalem.|
What can be gleaned from secular history concerning Pilate? For approximately two thousand years, the only references to Pilate were found in such writings as Josephus and Tacitus. The written record of his life placed him as the Roman ruler over Judea from A.D. 26-36. The records indicate that Pilate was a very rash, often violent man. The biblical record even mentioned that Pilate had killed certain Galileans while they were presenting sacrifices (Luke 13:1). Besides an occasional reference to Pilate in certain written records, however, there were no inscriptions or stone monuments that documented his life.
Such remained the case until 1961. In that year, Pilate moved from a figure who was known solely from ancient literature, to a figure who was attested to by archaeology. The Roman officials who controlled Judea during Jesus’ time, most likely made their headquarters in the ancient town of Caesarea, as evinced from two references by Josephus to Pilate’s military and political activity in that city (Finegan, 1992, p. 128). Located in Caesarea was a large Roman theater that a group of Italian-sponsored archaeologists began to excavate in 1959. Two years later, in 1961, researchers found a two-foot by three-foot slab of rock that had been used “in the construction of a landing between flights of steps in a tier of seats reserved for guests of honor” (see McRay, 1991, p. 204). The Latin inscription on the stone, however, proved that originally, it was not meant to be used as a building block in the theater. On the stone, the researchers found what was left of an inscription bearing the name of Pontius Pilate. The entire inscription is not legible, but concerning the name of Pilate, Finegan remarked: “The name Pontius Pilate is quite unmistakable, and is of much importance as the first epigraphical documentation concerning Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea A.D. 26-36 according to commonly accepted dates” (p. 139). What the complete inscription once said is not definitely known, but there is general agreement that originally the stone may have come from a temple or shrine dedicated to the Roman emperor Tiberius (Blaiklock, 1984, p. 57). A stronger piece of evidence for the New Testament’s accuracy would be difficult to find. Now known appropriately as “The Pilate Inscription,” this stone slab documents that Pilate was the Roman official governing Judea, and even uses his more complete name of Pontius Pilate, as found in Luke 3:1.
POLITARCHS IN THESSALONICA
When writing about the Christians in Thessalonica who were accused of turning “the world upside down,” Luke noted that some of the brethren had been brought before the “rulers of the city” (Acts 17:5-6). The phrase “rulers of the city” (NKJV, ASV; “city authorities”—NASV) is translated from the Greek word politarchas, and occurs only in Acts 17 verses 6 and 8. For many years, critics of the Bible’s claim of divine inspiration accused Luke of a historical inaccuracy because he used the titlepolitarchas to refer to the city officials of Thessalonica, rather than employing the more common terms, strateegoi (magistrates) or exousiais (authorities). To support their accusations, they pointed out that the term politarch is found nowhere else in Greek literature as an official title. Thus, they reasoned that Luke made a mistake. How could someone refer to such an office if it did not exist? Whoever heard or read of politarchas in the Greek language? No one in modern times. That is, no one in modern times had heard of it until it was found recorded in the various cities of Macedonia—the province in which Thessalonica was located.
In 1960, Carl Schuler published a list of 32 inscriptions bearing the term politarchas. Approximately 19 out of the 32 came from Thessalonica, and at least three of them dated back to the first century (see McRay, 1991, p. 295). On the Via Egnatia (a main thoroughfare through ancient Thessalonica), there once stood a Roman Arch called the Vardar Gate. In 1867, the arch was torn down and used to repair the city walls (p. 295). An inscription on this arch, which is now housed in the British Museum, ranks as one of the most important when dealing with the term politarchas. This particular inscription, dated somewhere between 30 B.C. and A.D. 143, begins with the phrase, “In the time of Politarchas...” (Finegan, 1959, p. 352). Thus, the arch most likely was standing when Luke wrote his historical narrative known as Acts of the Apostles. And the fact that politarchs ruled Thessalonica during the travels of Paul, now stands as indisputable.
SERGIUS PAULUS THE PROCONSUL OF CYPRUS
Throughout the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, he and his fellow travelers came in contact with numerous prestigious people—including Roman rulers of the area in which the missionaries were preaching. If Luke had been fabricating these travels, he could have made vague references to Roman rulers without giving specific names and titles. But that is not what one finds in the book of Acts. On the contrary, it seems that Luke went out of his way to document specific cities, places, names, and titles. Because of this copious documentation, we have ample instances in which to check his reliability as a historian.
One such instance is found in Acts 13. In that chapter, Luke documented Paul’s journey into Seleucia, then Cyprus, and Salamis, then Paphos. In Paphos, Paul and his companions encountered two individuals—a Jew named Bar-Jesus, and his companion Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man who summoned Paul and Barnabas in order to hear the Word of God (Acts 13:4-7). This particular reference to Sergius Paulus provides the student of archaeology with a two-fold test of Luke’s accuracy. First, was the area of Cyprus and Paphos ruled by a proconsul during the time of Paul’s work there? Second, was there ever a Sergius Paulus?
For many years, skeptics of Luke’s accuracy claimed that the area around Cyprus would not have been ruled by a proconsul. Since Cyprus was an imperial province, it would have been put under a “propraetor” not a proconsul (Unger, 1962, pp. 185-186). While it is true that Cyprus at one time had been an imperial province, it is not true that it was such during Paul’s travels there. In fact, “in 22 B.C.Augustus transferred it to the Roman Senate, and it was therefore placed under the administration of proconsuls” (Free and Vos, 1992, p. 269). Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce expanded on this information when he explained that Cyprus was made an imperial province in 27 B.C., but that Augustus gave it to the Senate five years later in exchange for Dalmatia. Once given to the Senate, proconsuls would have ruled Cyprus, just as in the other senatorial provinces (Bruce, 1990, p. 295). As Thomas Eaves remarked:
As we turn to the writers of history for that period, Dia Cassius (Roman History) and Strabo (The Geography of Strabo), we learn that there were two periods of Cyprus’ history: first, it was an imperial province governed by a propraetor, and later in 22 B.C., it was made a senatorial province governed by a proconsul. Therefore, the historians support Luke in his statement that Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul, for it was between 40-50 A.D. when Paul made his first missionary journey. If we accept secular history as being true we must also accept Biblical history, for they are in agreement (1980, p. 234).
In addition to the known fact that Cyprus became a senatorial province, archaeologists have found copper coins from the region that refer to other proconsuls who were not much removed from the time of Paul. One such coin, called appropriately a “copper proconsular coin of Cyprus,” pictures the head of Claudius Caesar, and contains the title of “Arminius Proclus, Proconsul…of the Cyprians” (McClintock and Strong, 1968, 2:627).
Even more impressive than the fact that Luke had the specific title recorded accurately, is the fact that evidence has come to light that the record of Sergius Paulus is equally accurate. It is interesting, in this regard, that there are several inscriptions that possibly could match the proconsul recorded by Luke. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) records three ancient inscriptions that could be possible matches (see Hughes, 1986, 2:728). First, at Soli on the north coast of Cyprus, an inscription was uncovered that mentioned Paulus, who was a proconsul. The authors and editors of the ISBE contend that the earliest this inscription can be dated is A.D. 50, and that it therefore cannot fit the Paulus of Acts 13. Others, however, are convinced that this is the Paulus of Acts’ fame (Unger, 1962, pp. 185-186; see also McGarvey, n.d., 2:7). In addition to this find, another Latin inscription has been discovered that refers to a Lucius Sergius Paulus who was “one of the curators of the Banks of the Tiber during the reign of Claudius.” Eminent archaeologist Sir William Ramsay argued that this man later became the proconsul of Cyprus, and should be connected with Acts 13 (Hughes, 2:728). Finally, a fragmentary Greek inscription hailing from Kythraia in northern Cyprus has been discovered that refers to a Quintus Sergius Paulus as a proconsul during the reign of Claudius (Hughes, 2:728). Regardless of which of these inscriptions actually connects to Acts 13, the evidence provides a plausible match. At least two men named Paulus were proconsuls in Cyprus, and at least two men named Sergius Paulus were officials during Claudius’ reign. Luke’s accuracy is confirmed once again.
CONCERNING DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION
Throughout centuries of history, crucifixion has been one of the most painful and shameful ways to die. Because of the ignominy attached to this means of death, many rulers crucified those who rebelled against them. Historically, multiplied thousands have been killed by this form of corporal punishment. In a brief summary of several of the most notable examples of mass crucifixion, John McRay commented that Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Jews in Jerusalem, the Romans crucified 6,000 slaves during the revolt led by Spartacus, and Josephus saw “many” Jews crucified in Tekoe at the end of the first revolt (1991, p. 389). Yet, in spite of all the literary documentation concerning crucifixion, little, if any, physical archaeological evidence had been produced from the Bible Lands concerning the practice. As with many of the people, places, and events recorded in the Bible, the lack of this physical evidence was not due to a fabrication by the biblical author, but was due, instead, to a lack of archaeological information.
In 1968, Vassilios Tzaferis found the first indisputable remains of a crucifixion victim. The victim’s skeleton had been placed in an ossuary that “was typical of those used by Jews in the Holy Land between the end of the second century B.C. and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70” (McRay, 1991, p. 204). From an analysis of the skeletal remains of the victim, osteologists and other medical professionals from the Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem were able to determine that the victim was a male between the approximate ages of 24 and 28 who was about 5 feet 6 inches tall. Based on the inscription of the ossuary, his name seems to have been “Yehohanan, the son of Hagakol,” although the last word of the description is still disputed (p. 204). The most significant piece of the victim’s skeleton is his right heel bone. A large spike- like nail had been hammered through the right heel. Between the head of the nail and the heel bone, several fragments of olive wood were found lodged. Randall Price, in his book, The Stones Cry Out, suggested that the nail apparently hit a knot in the olive stake upon which this man was crucified, causing the nail and heel to be removed together, due to the difficulty of removing the nail by itself (1997, p. 309). [A full-color photograph of the feet portion of the skeleton (showing the nail) can be seen in an article, “Search for the Sacred” by Jerry Adler and Anne Underwood in the August 30, 2004 issue of Newsweek magazine (144:38).]
|This rare find of a spiked nail through a human heelbone is the first archaeological evidence that the heels of crucified victims were nailed to a wooden cross, as described in the Bible. Credit: Zev Radovan, Jerusalem.|
As to the significance of this find, Price has provided an excellent summary. In years gone by, certain scholars believed that the story of Jesus’ crucifixion had several flaws, to say the least. First, it was believed that nails were not used to secure victims to the actual cross, but that ropes were used instead for this purpose. Finding a heel bone with a several-inch-long spike intact, along with the fragments of olive wood, is indicative of the fact that the feet of crucifixion victims were attached to the cross using nails. Second, it had been suggested that victims of crucifixion were not given a decent burial. Certain scholars even believed that the account of Jesus’ burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was contrived, since crucifixion victims like Jesus were thrown into common graves alongside other condemned prisoners. The burial of the crucified victim found by Tzaferis proves that, at least on certain occasions, crucifixion victims were given a proper Jewish burial (1997, pp. 308-311; cf. Adler and Underwood, 2004, 144:39).
The precision with which Luke reported historical details has been documented over and over again throughout the centuries by archaeologists and biblical scholars. In every instance, wherever sufficient archaeological evidence has surfaced, Luke has been vindicated as an accurate and meticulously precise writer. Skeptics and critics have been unable to verify even one anachronism or discrepancy with which to try to discredit the biblical writers’ claims of being governed by an overriding divine influence.
However, observe the above-stated criterion that serves as the key to a fair and proper assessment of Luke’s accuracy: wherever sufficient archaeological evidence has surfaced. Skeptics often level charges against Luke and the other biblical writers on the basis of arguments from silence. They fail to distinguish between a genuine contradiction on the one hand, and insufficient evidence from which to draw a firm conclusion on the other. A charge of contradiction or inaccuracy within the Bible is illegitimate, and therefore unsustained, in those areas where evidence of historical corroboration is either absent or scant.
In light of these principles, consider the following words of Luke:
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria (Luke 2:1-2).
Some scholars have charged Luke with committing an error, on the basis of the fact that history records that Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was Governor of Syria beginning in A.D. 6—several yearsafter the birth of Christ. It is true that thus far no historical record has surfaced to verify either the governorship or the census of Quirinius as represented by Luke at the time of Jesus’ birth prior to the death of Herod in 4 B.C. As distinguished biblical archaeologist G. Ernest Wright of Harvard Divinity School conceded: “This chronological problem has not been solved” (1960, p. 158).
This void in extant information (which would permit definitive archaeological confirmation) notwithstanding, sufficient evidence does exist to postulate a plausible explanation for Luke’s allusions, thereby rendering the charge of discrepancy ineffectual. Being the meticulous historian that he was, Luke demonstrated his awareness of a separate provincial census during Quirinius’ governorship beginning in A.D. 6 (Acts 5:37). In view of this familiarity, he surely would not have confused this census with one taken ten or more years earlier. Hence Luke observed that a priorcensus was, indeed, taken at the command of Caesar Augustus sometime prior to 4 B.C. He flagged this earlier census by using the expression prote egeneto (“first took place”)—which assumes a later one (cf. Nicoll, n. d., 1:471). To question the authenticity of this claim, simply because no explicit reference has yet been found, is unwarranted and prejudicial. No one questions the historicity of the second census taken by Quirinius around A.D. 6/7, despite the fact that the sole authority for it is a single inscription found in Venice. Sir William Ramsay, world-renowned and widely acclaimed authority on such matters, stated over one hundred years ago:
[W]hen we consider how purely accidental is the evidence for the second census, the want of evidence for the first seems to constitute no argument against the trustworthiness of Luke’s statement (1897, p. 386).
In addition, historical sources indicate that Quirinius was favored by Augustus, and was in active service of the emperor in the vicinity of Syria previous to, and during, the time period that Jesus was born. It is reasonable to conclude that Quirinius could have been appointed by Caesar to instigate a census/enrollment during that time frame, and that his competent execution of such could have earned for him a repeat appointment for the A.D. 6/7 census (see Archer, 1982, p. 366). Notice also that Luke did not use the term legatus—the normal title for a Roman governor. Rather, he used the participial form of hegemon that was used for a propraetor (senatorial governor), procurator (like Pontius Pilate), or quaestor (imperial commissioner) [see McGarvey and Pendleton, n.d., p. 28]. After providing a thorough summary of the historical and archaeological data pertaining to this question, Finegan concluded: “Thus the situation presupposed in Luke 2:3 seems entirely plausible” (1959, 2:261). Indeed it does.
GALLIO, PROCONSUL OF ACHAIA
Acts chapter 18 opens with a description of Paul’s ministry in the city of Corinth. It was there that he came into contact with Aquila and his faithful wife Priscilla, both of whom had been expelled from Rome at the command of Claudius, and who, as a result, had come to live in Corinth. Because they were tentmakers, like Paul, the apostle stayed with them and worked as a “vocational minister,” making tents and preaching the Gospel. As was usually the case with Paul’s preaching, many of the Jews were offended, and opposed his work. Because of this opposition, Paul told the Jews that from then on he would go to the Gentiles. That said, Paul went to the house of a man named Justus who lived next door to the synagogue. Soon after his proclamation to go to the Gentiles, Paul had a vision in which the Lord instructed him to speak boldly, because no one in the city would attack him. Encouraged by the vision, Paul continued in Corinth for a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among the people.
After Paul’s eighteen-month-long stay in Corinth, the opposition to his preaching finally erupted into violent, political action. Acts 18:12-17 explains.
When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.
From this brief pericope of scripture, we learn several things about Gallio and his personality. Of paramount importance to our discussion is the fact that Luke recorded that Gallio was the “proconsul of Achaia.” Here again Luke, in recording specific information about the political rulers of his day, provided his readers with a checkable point of reference. Was Gallio ever really the proconsul of Achaia?
Marianne Bonz, the former managing editor of the Harvard Theological Review, shed some light on a now-famous inscription concerning Gallio. She recounted how, in 1905, a doctoral student in Paris was sifting through a collection of inscriptions that had been collected from the Greek city of Delphi. In these various inscriptions, he found four different fragments that, when put together, formed a large portion of a letter from the Emperor Claudius. The letter from the emperor was written to none other than Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (Bonz, 1998, p. 8).
McRay, in giving the Greek portions of this now-famous inscription, and supplying missing letters in the gaps of the text to make it legible, translated it as follows:
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Pontifex Maximus, of tribunician authority for the twelfth time, imperator twenty-sixth time.… Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend, and the proconsul of Achaia (1991, pp. 226- 227).
And while certain portions of the above inscription are not entirely clear, the name of Gallio and his office in Achaia are clearly legible. Not only did Luke accurately record the name of Gallio, but he likewise recorded his political office with equal precision.
The importance of the Gallio inscription goes even deeper than verification of Luke’s accuracy. This particular find shows how archaeology can give us a better understanding of the biblical text, especially in areas of chronology. Most scholars familiar with the travels and epistles of the apostle Paul will readily admit that attaching specific dates to his activities remains an exceedingly difficult task. The Gallio inscription, however, has added a piece to this chronological puzzle. Jack Finegan, in his detailed work on biblical chronology, dated the inscription to the year A.D. 52, Gallio’s proconsulship in early A.D. 51, and Paul’s arrival in Corinth in the winter of A.D. 49/50. Finegan stated concerning his conclusion: “This determination of the time when Paul arrived in Corinth thus provides an important anchor point for the entire chronology of Paul” (1998, pp. 391- 393).
A WORD ABOUT OSSUARIES
The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land provides an excellent brief description of ossuaries in general. The writers explain that an ossuary is a box about 2.5 feet long, usually made out of clay or cut out of chalk or limestone, used primarily to bury human bones after the soft tissue and flesh have decomposed. Ossuaries, in fact,
are typical of the burial practices in Jerusalem and its vicinity during the Early Roman period, i.e., between c. 40 B.C. and A.D. 135. Ossuaries found in the Herodian cemetery in Jericho are dated by Hachlili to a more restricted time period of between A.D. 10-68 (“Ossuary,” 2001, p. 377).
Ossuary panels often had decorations on them, and many had inscriptions or painted markings and letters, indicating whose bones were inside.
Of interest is the fact that many of the ossuaries discovered to date contain the same names that we find in various biblical accounts. And, while we cannot be sure that the bones contained in the ossuaries are the bones of the exact personalities mentioned in the Bible, the matching nomenclature does show that the biblical writers at least employed names that coincided accurately with the names used in general during the time that the New Testament books were written.
Coming down the direct descent on the Mount of Olives is the site known as Dominus flevit, “the name embodying the tradition that this is the place where ‘the Lord wept’ over Jerusalem” (Finegan, 1992, p. 171). In 1953, excavations began in this area, and a large cemetery was discovered, consisting of at least five hundred known burial places. Among these many burial sites, over 120 ossuaries were discovered, more than 40 of which contained inscriptions and writing. Among the labeled ossuaries, the names of Martha and Miriam appear on a single ossuary. Other names that appear on the ossuaries are Joseph, Judas, Solome, Sapphira, Simeon, Yeshua (Jesus), Zechariah, Eleazar, Jairus, and John (Finegan, 1992, pp. 366-371). Free and Vos, in their brief critique of Rudolph Bultmann’s “form criticism,” used ossuary evidence to expose a few of the flaws in Bultmann’s ideas. They wrote:
[S]ome scholars formerly held that personal names used in the gospels, particularly in John, were fictitious and had been selected because of their meaning and not because they referred to historical persons. Such speculations are not supported by the ossuary inscriptions, which preserve many of the biblical names (1992, p. 256).
|The ornate nature of this ancient Jewish ossuary with the name “Caiphas” inscribed on it leads many biblical archaeologists to connect this burial box to the Caiaphas of the Bible. Credit: Zev Radovan, Jerusalem.|
Along these same lines, Price discussed several ossuaries that were found accidentally in 1990, when workers were building a water park in Jerusalem’s Peace Forest. Among the twelve limestone ossuaries discovered, one
was exquisitely ornate and decorated with incised rosette. Obviously it had belonged to a wealthy or high-ranking patron who could afford such a box. On this box was an inscription. It read in two places Qafa and Yehosef bar Qayafa (“Caiphas,” “Joseph, son of Caiphas”) [1997, p. 305].
Price connected this Caiphas to the one recorded in the Bible, using two lines of reasoning. First, the Caiaphas in the biblical record was an influential, prominent high priest who would have possessed the means to obtain such an ornate burial box. Second, while the New Testament text gives only the name Caiaphas, Josephus “gives his full name as ‘Joseph who was called Caiaphas of the high priesthood’ ” (1987, p. 305). Of further interest is the fact that the ossuary contained the bones of six different people, one of whom was a man around the age of 60. Are these the bones of the Caiaphas recorded in the New Testament? No one can be sure. It is the case, however, that many ossuary finds, at the very least, verify that the New Testament writers used names that were extant during the period in which they wrote.
A note of caution is needed regarding attempts to prove a direct connection between ossuary finds and biblical characters. The most famous such attempt thus far comes from the “James” ossuary that captured the world’s attention in late 2002. The inscription on that particular bone box reads: “James, the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Was this the ossuary that contained the bones of Jesus Christ’s physical brother? In 2002, the answer remained to be seen. In a brief article I authored on this matter in December 2002, I wrote: “At present, we cannot be dogmatic about the ossuarial evidence” (Butt, 2002). Currently, the inscription still finds itself embroiled in debate. After analyzing the inscription, a committee appointed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority declared it to be unauthentic. According to Eric Myers, a Judaic-studies scholar at Duke University, “the overwhelming scholarly consensus is that it’s a fake” (as quoted in Adler and Underwood, 2004, 144:38). However, Hershel Shanks, the distinguished editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, insists that the inscription remains antiquated and may possibly be linked to the Jesus and James of the Bible (Shanks, 2004; cf. Adler and Underwood, p. 38).
Whether or not the inscription is actually authentic remains to be seen. Yet, even if the inscription does prove to date to approximately the first century, that still would not prove that the ossuary contained the bones of Jesus’ physical brother. It would prove that names like Joseph, James, and Jesus were used during that time in that region of the world, which would, at the very least, verify that the biblical writers related information that fit with the events occurring at the time they produced their writings. As Andrew Overman, head of classics at Macalester College, stated: “Even if the [James] Ossuary is genuine, it provides no new information” (as quoted in Adler and Underwood, p. 39). When looking to archaeology, we must remember not to ask it to prove too much. The discipline does have limitations. Yet, in spite of those limitations, it remains a valuable tool that can be used to shed light on the biblical text. As Adler and Underwood remarked, the value of archaeology is “in providing a historical and intellectual context, and the occasional flash of illumination on crucial details” (p. 39).
GENTILES AND THE TEMPLE
Near the end of the book of Acts, the apostle Paul was making every effort to arrive in the city of Jerusalem in time to celebrate an upcoming Jewish feast. Upon reaching Jerusalem, he met with James and several of the Jewish leaders, and reported “those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry” (Acts 21:19). Upon hearing Paul’s report, the Jewish leaders of the church advised Paul to take certain men into the temple in order to purify himself along with the men. While in the temple, certain Jews from Asia saw Paul, and stirred up the crowd against him, saying,
Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place (Acts 21:28).
In the next verse, the text relates the fact that the men had seen Trophimus the Ephesian with Paul in the city, and they “supposed” that Paul had brought him into the temple (although the record does not indicate that anyone actually saw this happen).
In response to the accusation that Paul had defiled the temple by bringing in a Gentile, the text states that “all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut” (Acts 21:30). The next verse of Acts states explicitly what this violent mob planned to do with Paul: “Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.” Under what law or pretense was the Jewish mob working when it intended to kill Paul?
|The stone inscription forbidding Gentiles from entering the sanctified area of the temple in Jerusalem. Credit: Zev Radovan, Jerusalem.|
A plausible answer to this query comes to us from archaeology. In his description of the temple in Jerusalem, Josephus explained that a certain inscription separated the part of the temple that Gentiles could enter, from the portions of the temple that theycould not enter. This inscription, says Josephus, “forbade any foreigner to go in, under pain of death” (Antiquities, 15:11:5). A find published in 1871 by C.S. Clermont- Ganneau brings the picture into clearer focus. About 50 meters from the actual temple site, a fragment of stone with seven lines of Greek capitals was discovered (see Thompson, 1962, p. 314). Finegan gives the entire Greek text, and translates the inscription as follows:
No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and enclosure around the temple area. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow (1992, p. 197).
In addition to this single inscription, another stone fragment was found and described in 1938. Discovered near the north gate of Jerusalem (also known as St. Stephen’s Gate), this additional stone fragment was er than the first, and had six lines instead of seven. The partially preserved words clearly coincided with those on the previous inscription. Finegan noted concerning the preserved words: “From them it would appear that the wording of the entire inscription was identical (except for aut instead ofeautoo)….” As an interesting side note, Finegan mentioned that the letters of this second inscription had been painted red, and that the letters still retained much of their original coloration (1992, p. 197).
In light of these finds, and the comments by Josephus, one can see why the mob in Acts 21 so boldly sought to kill Paul. These inscriptions shed light on the biblical text, and in doing so, offer further confirmation of its accuracy.
On several occasions, Jesus was accosted by the Pharisees and other religious leaders, because He and His disciples were not doing exactly what the Pharisees thought they should be doing. Many times, the religious leaders had instituted laws or traditions that were not in God’s Word, but nonetheless were treated with equal or greater reverence than the laws given by God. In Mark 7:1-16, the Bible records that the Pharisees and other leaders were finding fault with the disciples of Jesus because Jesus’ followers did not wash their hands in the traditional manner before they ate. The Pharisees said to Jesus: “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” (Mark 7:5).
Upon hearing this accusatory interrogation, Jesus launched into a powerful condemnation of the accusers. Jesus explained that His inquisitors often kept their beloved traditions, while ignoring the commandments of God. Jesus said: “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9). As a case in point of their rejection of God’s Law, Christ went on to say:
For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift to God),” then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do (Mark 7:11-13, emp. added).
In this passage, Jesus repudiated the Pharisees’ ungodly insistence upon their own traditions, and at the same time included a reference that can be (and has been) authenticated by archaeological discovery. Jesus mentioned the word corban, a word that the writer of the gospel account felt needed a little explanation. Mark defined the word as “a gift to God.” In a discussion of this term in an article by Kathleen and Leen Ritmeyer, the word comes into sharper focus. They documented a fragment of a stone vessel found near the southern wall of the temple. On the fragment, the Hebrew word krbn(korban—the same word used by Jesus in Mark 7) is inscribed (1992, p. 41). Of further interest is the fact that the inscription also included “two crudely drawn birds, identified as pigeons or doves.” The authors mentioned that the vessel might have been “used in connection with a sacrifice to celebrate the birth of a child” (Ritmeyer, 1992, p. 41). In Luke 2:24, we read about Joseph and Mary offering two pigeons when they took baby Jesus to present Him to God. Since these animals were the prescribed sacrifice for certain temple sacrifices, those who sold them set up shop in the temple. Due to the immoral practices of many such merchants, they fell under Jesus’ attack when He cleansed the temple and “overturned the tables of the moneychangers and seats of those who sold doves” (Mark 11:15).
Over and over, biblical references that can be checked, prove to be historically accurate in every detail. After hundreds of years of critical scrutiny, both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible have proven their authenticity and accuracy at every turn. Sir William Ramsay, in his assessment of Luke’s writings in the New Testament, wrote:
You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (1915, p. 89).
Today, almost a hundred years after that statement originally was written, the exact same thing can be said with even more certainty of the writings of Luke—and every other Bible writer. Almost 3,000 years ago, the sweet singer of Israel, in his description of God’s Word, put it perfectly when he said: “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160).
Adler, Jerry and Anne Underwood (2004), “Search for the Sacred,” Newsweek, 144:37-41, August 30.
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Bonz, Marianne (1998), “Recovering the Material World of the Early Christians,” [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/arch/re covering.html.
Bruce, F.F. (1990), The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), third revised edition.
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Eaves, Thomas F. (1980), “The Inspired Word,” Great Doctrines of the Bible, ed. M.H. Tucker (Knoxville, TN: East Tennessee School of Preaching).
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Shanks, Hershel (2004), “The Seventh Sample,” [On-line], URL: http://www.bib-arch.org/bswbbreakingseventh.html.
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