Something New, Something Great, Something Expanded

Isaiah 56:3 reads in the KJV: “Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree [can’t beget children].”

Deuteronomy 23 places restrictions on strangers and eunuchs joining Israel—either for a limited time like the Moabites or indefinitely like the eunuchs. The good news is that under a new covenant with God, everyone will be welcome!

How expansive or granular must we define the words “stranger” and “eunuch” to correctly interpret the prophet? In other words: what is the context of Isaiah 56? Is it Israel? Is it the Church? Is it both!

Isaiah 53:8 speaks in a more general tone of those who had been banished [excommunicated] from the congregation of Israel. The KJV interprets the last part of this verse: “Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.”

Does “gathered” speak of those added to Israel by covenant? Is this the Church [John 10:16 “other sheep”]?

Widen Your Horizon: Look Up!

What’s interesting here is Isaiah’s use of language that hints at a wider scope in use:

  • The term “eunuch” is never used in the law code. It can refer to Egyptian officers [being castrated]. It encompasses intentional body mutilation as well as by accident. It appears more general than what Moses was talking about.
  • The phrase, “the outcast of Israel” is found only once outside Isaiah [Psalm 147:2]. Jeremiah 30:17 defines an outcast as “…whom no man seeks.” Perhaps, Isaiah has expanded his theological horizon to include more than eunuchs and foreigners.
  • The “stranger” Isaiah speaks of is more than just an immigrant [which is another term]. It is a word meaning “unrecognized” because no one paid them attention. This includes aliens but it may encompass a few excommunicates for other reasons. The point is, we haven’t really been introduced yet! I think cliques are seen here as taboo. We are forever meeting someone new and welcoming them into our group!
  • The double name of the Lord: “The Lord GOD” is used here which “indicates something great,” says scholarship. This phrase “saith my master Jehovah” is written 95 times, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. [in other words, it is prophetic!]
    In verse 8 the KJV translated “saith” from a Hebrew term mostly found at the end of a sentence, but found here at the beginning. [Here and Zechariah 12:1 are the exceptions.] Why? I like scholarship’s explanation (which supports everything I read about this word): “the expression … is … solemn, … and … stands here at the head [of this verse as] “… a proof that it contains not only something great, but something which needs a solemn confirmation because of its strangeness.”
  • And then there are a couple problems I had in addition trying to understand these verses:
    • The word “joined” was written with 2 “n’s.” [in the Hebrew, you nut!] Okay in Spanish they can trill 2 “r’s” in a different word than 1: perro [dog] and pero [but]. Pero, there is generally no double ‘n’ sound in Hebrew unless the first one ends a syllable and the second begins the next. It’s a question of pronouncing the thing! Hebrew also had contractions, like our “gimme” for “give me.” I just didn’t expect to see the double ‘n’ here.
    • The word “that hath joined” in verse 3 uses a verb beginning with the word “the” which stopped me in my interpretative tracks. One well respected grammarian thinks maybe Isaiah meant to use a different spelling but kind-of got caught in his brain between. [The “but” was my part.] And all this put the word’s accent [according to the Masoretes] on the last syllable, which isn’t usual, either.

A Great Gathering Prophesied!

And then, Isaiah did it again in verse 8 with the word “gather.” According to Isaiah [and this seems clearer] God is going to bring us all together, Israel and stranger and mutilated and everyone [to His gathering].

I love this word “gather” because it is God doing it not you and I, or Israel, or anyone else, making it happen. He did not ask us here to assembly. He assembled us! [It’s passive, for all you students of language. It’s grace for all you theologians!]

On The Sabbath

Read the context. It is a New Covenant, a new day! It’s Sabbath in God’s week. It is time to join the greatest prayer meeting to celebrate “our master” Jehovah! Brueggemann said that it is time to punch out of what he called the “producer-consumer rat race.” It is time to say sayonara to all anxiety and fear and go find a fig tree to sit under [Micah 4:4] —after the prayer meeting [Matthew 11:28].

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One Response to Something New, Something Great, Something Expanded

  1. John Higgins says:

    Your scholarship is showing! Too often we want to exclude while God wants to include.

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