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,