Isaiah 49:6– Salvation for Whom?
In a recent YouTube Video, I commented on Isaiah 49:6, where the prophet said: ‘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.’”
In that video, I took note of the fact that some “God loved Israel only” folks, in order to avoid and evade the meaning of the text, have made the claim that the verse is nothing but a Hebrew parallelism. In other words, the salvation of the tribes of Jacob is the calling of the Gentiles. This truly “God – less” doctrine is abhorrent, and totally unscriptural.
A few days ago, a viewer posted to me asking about my comments on Hebrew parallelism (which is a widely recognized– and beautiful– practice in Hebrew literature to be sure!). I am sharing that correspondence here, since it is important to see.
On 7/5/2014 5:56 PM, David wrote:
You mentioned in your video that Isaiah 49:6 is not a Hebrew parallelism. Could you please go a little more in depth as to exactly why Isaiah 49:6 is not a Hebrew parallelism, and also explain what the implications would be if it were a Hebrew parallelism. I would like to have a better understanding of all this.
On Jul 6, 2014 7:35 AM, “Don K. Preston” wrote:
David, in the video, I did not deny that there is a Hebrew parallelism in the text. What I affirmed was that the claim is made that all four lines of the text are a parallelism concerned only with Israel– as some claim.
Hebrew parallelism is a well established form of literature, most common in the Psalms. The preponderant form is two lines of nearly the same length (called colas or Stiches), expressing the same thought but in different words.
Triple lines are known, but are unusual. This not the standard form of Hebrew parallelism.
In Isaiah 49:6, the parallelism is this:
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;
Context forbids that the additional two lines following are part of that parallelism: (If it were, this would be a four line parallelism, which is just incredibly rare).
“I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,”
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Here is why these lines are not simply an expression of the same thoughts of the previous two lines.
If the calling of the Gentiles here is the equivalent to the raising up of the tribes of Jacob, then you have the affirmation that Messiah’s work would the very thing that the text denies.
Note the “also” in light of the “too small a thing” statement. This is a contrast between the work of the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles. The salvation of one (Israel) is too limited, too small. The work of Messiah could not be confined to that.
In other words, it would be “too small a thing” for Messiah to save Israel– only Israel. But of course, there are those– as you know– who affirm that this is all that Messiah was to do!
No, that is a denial of the text. Let me express the problem logically and succinctly:
Christ would save only the tribes of Jacob– so say some.
But, it is too small a thing for Messiah to save the tribes of Jacob. (i.e. Israel only).
Therefore, Messiah would not save only Israel, for that would be too small a thing for him to do.
To limit the work of Messiah to the tribes of Jacob is the very thing the text denies.
Now, clearly, the tribes of Jacob is referent to all twelve tribes. That term is not– to my knowledge– ever a limited expression of only a few or select number of the tribes. “Tribes of Jacob” is the comprehensive term for Israel.
But, to save those tribes would be too small a thing for Messiah. In addition to that salvation, the Gentiles would be called to Messiah.
Thus, the Hebrew parallelism is limited to the first two lines, the second two lines could be construed as another parallelism, but, once again, it is separate and apart from the initial parallelism.
The initial parallelism is strictly about Israel and the remnant. The second is contrasted to that, since that salvation is too small a thing.
Thus, the second two lines form and provide a distinct and additional thought.
Hope this helps,
On 7/6/2014 6:57 AM, David wrote:
I appreciate you taking the time to explain all this. I now have a much better understanding of what you were saying concerning the Hebrew parallelism in Isaiah 49:6, and how Hebrew parallelisms work. I also want to apologize for my initial misunderstanding, thinking you meant there was no parallelism at all in the text.
Thank you for your time,
3 Replies to “The Salvation of the Gentiles| An Email Exchange on Isaiah 49:6”
Thank you for passing that along. I am very familiar with the poster and his godless doctrine that God only loved Israel, only saved Israel, and that no one outside of Israel has an eternal future with the Lord. It is a horrendous, false and unscholarly doctrine. Let me take note of just a few of the exegetical,logical and theological errors found in this “response.”
First of all, it should be noted that the author at one time placed his confidence in his false and un-scholarly claim that Isaiah 49:6 is in fact a Hebrew paraellelism. However, that claim has been debunked, so now, he wants to make it appear as if my comments are directed at a straw man. No, the fact is that once exposed as making a totally false claim, he has now changed the argument, but, his “new” arguments are equally specious.
A second fallacy and falsehood in the response is another change in argument. It needs to be remembered that this claimant is on record that “Israel is the Gentiles / Gentiles are Israel. But now, all of a sudden, as his habit is, when confronted with a text that falsifies that, he comes up with different nuances and definitions in his desperation.
It is very important to take note of his false translation of Hosea 8:8, when he says that it says “become as Gentiles.” That is a biased and unsupported translation. I have searched no less than 10 of the major committee translations of the text and could not find even one that even hinted at such a translation! Invariably, the proper translation is “they are among the gentiles.” Needless to say, there is a huge difference between saying that they are among the gentiles and saying that “they are the gentiles” , or even “they are as the gentiles.” This is a deceitful translation with no translational support that I could find. And this alone essentially destroys the responder’s claims.
The respondent offered no scholarly, linguistic evidence or support for his claim of three different groups of Israelites. All he gave is the bad, false translation and his claim that it is so. That is simply not good enough.
The respondent gives us what he claims would be a more accurate reading of Isaiah 49: <“He [God] says, it is too small a thing that you should be My servant [Jesus] to raise up the tribes of Jacob [Judah] and to restore the preserved ones of Israel [dispersed of Judah], I will also make you a light to the nations [Ephraim], so that My salvation may reach the end of the earth [to all Israelites]” (Isaiah 49:6).>>
But again, he has literally tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader. He claims, without any proof offered, that “the tribes of Jacob” refers only to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Did you notice that there was not a syllable of proof for this claim? Among the Jewish writers, “tribes of Jacob” is a comprehensive term to refer to all twelve tribes. To negate this, the respondent would have to take the position that the Jews did not even know what that term truly meant!
Notice that he has the “preserved ones of Israel” as a reference to Judah! But wait, he is constantly trying to tell everyone that Israel refers to the gentiles!
The respondent has a redundancy in the text. He has Judah being saved, then Judah being saved, then all Israel being saved!
He then makes the unsubstantiated claim that <
> But this overlooks the fact that Isaiah 11 does not refer to just the scattered of Judah– this is just another false claim. Isaiah 11 most assuredly deals with the restoration of all twelve tribes under Messiah, not just Judah. Read verses 10-13, where Ephraim– which our respondent agrees refers to the northern tribes, would be gathered together with Judah. So, once again, just more false claims from the respondent.
The reader needs to realize that the respondent is guilty, not only here, but in a variety of venues, of totally rejecting the Lexical authorities whose definitions destroy this “Israel only” view.
The respondent totally rejects the idea that the Jews know who the gentiles weee– non-Israelites!
He makes claims that are in overt denial of historical and archaeological facts.
The respondent, as demonstrated in his short “response” has demonstrated a willingness to totally reject the right translation of the Bible, and offer his own translation without having any academic credentials to justify what he has done.
His “response” is false from the beginning to the end.
Someone posted this about your video of Isa 49:6 saying that you are wrong in your interpreting this verse. I cut and pasted it below. If you can reply, it would be helpful,
Blessings, Lisa Hawkins
[QUOTE] … what Preston is completely missing in Isaiah 49:6 is that there are (3) groups of Israelites that Isaiah spoke about in his prophecies. Preston is assuming there were only (2) groups and thus he gives the wrong interpretation of “light to the gentiles” in this text.
At the time when Isaiah was a prophet, the Israelites of “Ephraim” (Northern Kingdom) had already been “separated from Judah” (Isaiah 7:17) and “become as gentiles” (Hosea 8:8). That is one group.
There were also the Israelites who were already “inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem” (Isaiah 5:3). This is another group.
In addition, there were still the “dispersed of Judah” who were going to be “gathered” (Isaiah 11:12). The is another group.
In the context of Isaiah’s prophecies, here would be a more accurate reading of Isaiah 49:6 which takes into account all the different people (which isn’t dependent upon the “parallelism” issue that Preston is addressing at all). I’ve added the [amplifications] for clarification of the meaning:
“He [God] says, it is too small a thing that you should be My servant [Jesus] to raise up the tribes of Jacob [Judah] and to restore the preserved ones of Israel [dispersed of Judah], I will also make you a light to the nations [Ephraim], so that My salvation may reach the end of the earth [to all Israelites]” (Isaiah 49:6).
Thus the meaning of “it is too small a thing” was referring to the restoration of only the “dispersed of Judah” (Isaiah 11:12) back together with those “already gathered” in Judah and Jerusalem at that time (Isaiah 56:8). Thus, God would eventually do a “bigger thing” by also restoring “Ephraim” back together with “Judah” (Isaiah 11:11-13) so that all of the Isrealites would be united again into one people. [/QUOTE]
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