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Israel: Hope of the Gentiles

Isaiah 49:6f

The salvation of the Gentiles is one of the central doctrines in the NT. When Paul, standing in the temple, told that audience that Christ had called him and was sending him to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21) the audience erupted in violence and attempted to kill Paul. Only by the intervention of the Roman centurion Lysias was Paul rescued.

Why did the announcement of the calling of the Gentiles cause such a violent reaction? Did not the prophets of Israel predict the salvation of the goyim (The Gentiles) and all nations (ethnoi)? Yes, they did. Some have, however, sadly denied that God ever intended to save pagans, anyone not of the twelve tribes of Israel. They claim that “Gentiles” in the OT scriptures refers to the ten northern tribes that were swallowed up by the nations (Hosea 8:8), and thus, somehow, someway, the ten tribes became, from that point forward, the exclusive referent in the word Gentiles (nations, ethnoi). This is patently wrong, and an abuse of scripture. Let me make a few quick points based on Isaiah 49:6f:

“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,

That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Now, on any reading of the text, it certainly seems to indicate that in addition to the restoration of Israel, that God would then extend salvation to the nations. However, there are some who claim that this is false, and that in fact, the text only predicted the salvation of the all twelve tribes, i.e. restored Israel.

The argument rests on the claim that the text is simply a Hebrew parallelism, which means that the same thing is repeated in different form. Thus, “the redemption of the tribes of Jacob,” in this argument, is just another way of saying that God would send His light (salvation / life) to the Gentiles. This claim exhibits an unfortunate ignorance of Hebrew parallelism.

Hebrew parallelism is expressed in “doublets.” That is, one statement affirms something, and then, a second statement expresses that same thought in different words. However, the claim that Isaiah 49:6 is a Hebrew parallelism violates this, and claims that we have a triplet expression. In other words, the raising up of the tribes of Jacob, and the restoring of the preserved ones of Israel, is also the calling of the Gentiles. That is not Hebrew parallelism.

Notice that the claim violates what the text specifically says. God said it would not be enough to restore Israel, the tribes of Jacob. Now, the “tribes of Jacob” here is undeniably referent to all twelve tribes. It is the restoration of Israel. Tribes of Jacob is not a limited referent to either the ten or the two tribes. It is all twelve. With that in mind then, notice that God said , ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob.” Did you catch it? God said the work of saving the twelve tribes was too small a thing for the work of Messiah! He said that was not enough for Him to do! In addition to restoring Israel– which would be too small a work for him, he would also offer life to the Gentiles! Do you catch the power of that?

Those who say that the Gentiles were the ten northern tribes run head on into a collision with this statement. They are affirming the very thing that Isaiah (YHVH) denied!

The “Gentiles = Israel” argument says that Messiah’s work would be confined to the very thing that YHVH said was “too small a thing” for him! God said the salvation of Israel was too small a work for Messiah. In addition to that work, “I will also make you a light to the Gentiles.”

The “also” here means that in addition to the work that would be “too small,” God would give Messiah a larger work, a work beyond and larger than the, ‘too small a thing” of saving the twelve tribes!  So, once again, those who deny that Christ and the gospel message would include those that were not of the twelve tribes, are affirming that the work of Messiah would be “too small a thing!” This denies scripture, and is patently false.

The hope of the nations– beyond the twelve tribes– depended on the salvation of Israel. Salvation is of the Jews, said Jesus. Praise God Messiah’s work did and does extend beyond such a limited “too small a thing” scope, and now offers “light to the Gentiles.”