Isaiah 51 – The Lord Will Deliver His People & Textual Criticism

I see how people can be confused or unsure of what is being said, but if we study the entire Bible and spend time with You, than we can understand it, like Jesus’ brother James said:

“Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hears, ye double-minded” (Jas 4:8).

The Merneptah Stele: Proof for Israel’s presence in Canaan
The most important mention of Israel outside of the Bible is found in the Merneptah Stela.

Discovered in 1896 in Merneptah’s mortuary temple in Thebes by Flinders Petrie, the stela is a eulogy to pharaoh Merneptah, who ruled Egypt after Rameses the Great, c. 1236-1223 B.C.

Skeptics of the Bible sometimes doubt that Israel was present in the land of Canaan during the time period specified by the Bible. They allege that the Biblical record was made up many centuries later. The Merneptah Stele is powerful validation of the accuracy of the Biblical narrative’s account of early Israel’s presence in Canaan.

The stele was placed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (who ruled c. 1224-1214 B. C.). He claimed to have defeated a variety of foreign nations to his north, specifying, in his list, “Israel” in a series of comments about victories over groups in “Canaan.”

The Stele thus constitutes “an official recognition of a people called Israel in extra-biblical documents.” Furthermore, the word “Israel” is preceded by the Egyptian determinative for “people” or “ethnic group,” while Israel’s presence on the stele indicates that the Israelites were a significant nation at the time, one important enough even at this early date for Egypt’s Pharaoh to boast about a victory over them.

Thus, even at this early period “Israel was well enough established by that time among the other peoples of Canaan to have been perceived by Egyptian intelligence as a possible challenge to Egyptian hegemony.”

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas 1:5).

I wonder how many people sit and waste time trying to figure that question out?  The question isn’t important, only the answer is and the conclusion to it, as well as to all similar questions is obvious:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:33).

I’m going to stick with the King James Version because I think it’s the closest to the original Bible and I know that when I don’t understand something and I need to, You, as always, will tell me.

1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.

“Rock” – Abraham (v. 2).  Elsewhere God is called “the rock.”

2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.

“Alone” – when Abraham was on individual and had no heir (Gen 12:1; Eze 33:24).  If God was able to raise up a great nation from one individual in the past, then He will surely be able to make Israel a great nation in spite of their condition in exile.

3 For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.

5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

“Righteousness is near” – in the deliverance from exile.  Ultimately, salvation through Christ will come to all nations.

6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

“Be forever” – the word of God will also endure forever (Matt 24:35; Lk 21:33).

7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling’s.

Two Philistine Temples.
Archaeologists have uncovered two Philistine temples. One at Tel Qasile, in northern Tel Aviv, and one in Tel Miqne, ancient Ekron, 21 miles south of Tel Aviv. – Both temples share a unique design; two central pillars supported the roof.

The pillars were made of wood and rested on stone support bases. With the pillars being about six feet apart, a strong man could dislodge them from their stone bases and bring the entire structure down. The archaeological findings match the Biblical story perfectly and attest to the plausibility of the account.

8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever and my salvation from generation to generation.

9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.  Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?

“Put on strength, O arm of the LORD” – symbol of God’s power (Eph 6:11-17).

10 Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?

11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;

13 And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy?  And where is the fury of the oppressor?

“Hast feared continually” – Israel has learned to fear God in a new way through the punishment he has meted out.

14 The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail.

Neolithic
The Neolithic site (dating back about 7,000-8,000 years) was excavated by a team from the Cultural Relics Research Institute of Hebei Province, led by Duan Hongzhen.

15 But I am the LORD thy God that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The LORD of hosts is his name.

16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.

“My words” – primarily the Law of Moses mentioned in v. 7.  Like the servant of 49:2, the people are responding to God’s word (cf. 59:21; Josh 1:8).

17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.

“Cup of his fury” – experiencing God’s judgment is often compared to becoming drunk on strong wine.  It is the fate of wicked nations in particular.

18 There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up.

Children were expected to take care of parents who were sick or unsteady.

A Medieval Gold Ring
Britain is bursting at the seams with ancient buried artefacts – with 250 pieces being found every single day. A medieval gold ring, a Bronze Age gold bracelet and a set of gold dentures were just three of the 90,146 amateur archaeological discoveries made in 2010.

19 These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee?  Desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?

20 Thy sons have fainted; they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God.

21 Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine:

22 Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again:

23 But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.

I assume it’s the devil causing all this chaos about the Bible, Jesus and everything.  I don’t think people are necessarily evil, at least not on their own.  But I know that people are pretty stupid, they’ll believe anything if it sounds good enough.

 

Textual Criticism

Any book copied by hand is likely to contain errors.  Not surprisingly, there are copyists’ errors (called textural or scribal errors) in ancient Biblical manuscripts.  The original copies of books were lost long ago.

A Medieval Gold Ring
Britain is bursting at the seams with ancient buried artefacts – with 250 pieces being found every single day. A medieval gold ring, a Bronze Age gold bracelet and a set of gold dentures were just three of the 90,146 amateur archaeological discoveries made in 2010.

In short, it can be said that textual criticism works with number 2 to produce a number 3 that reflects number 1 so that we can read number 4. Are there errors in the manuscripts? This question is somewhat misleading.

What some may call an error, text critics will call a “variant.” A variant is where one text differs from another. There are, in the New Testament alone, somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 variants. Ouch! This means that among the 6000 extant New Testament Greek manuscripts, there are nearly half a million differences. This amounts to about three variants per word.

Thus our sources for the Biblical materials are limited to handwritten copies (of copies) of the originals.  We do also have access to copies of ancient translations of the Bible into other languages, as well as citations of the Bible by early rabbis and church fathers.

Thus Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible, together with early translations and citations of Scripture, witness to the correct reading of a particular text.

How did scribal errors arise?  Poor memory, impaired judgment, mishearing and errors of sight or misunderstanding often caused the best-intentioned scribes to omit, substitute or repeat letters or entire words.

Sometimes scribes made matters worse when they deliberately altered the text in an attempt to rectify something they perceived as a problem (deliberate alterations are probably very rare).

In time, the result was a series of accidental corruptions or intended improvements that departed from the original text? 

A textual critic is the attempt to restore the Biblical authors’ original words by comparing and contrasting the various copies and translations of the Bible.  Here “criticism” does not mean “finding fault with” but “evaluating” the existing copies of the text.

Significantly, while textual errors do exist among the Biblical witnesses, they do not destroy the Bible’s credibility or message.  Just as an alert reader can understand a book or newspaper article that has typographical errors in it, so too God’s Word is able to speak for itself in spite of the minor corruptions that have arisen through scribal transmission.

Most of the Biblical text is certain, and where variations do occur among existing copies, the original wording can usually be determined with a good degree of certainty by a thorough acquaintance with the available manuscripts.

Misquoting Jesus, Stanford Lecture, How Bible Got Tainted.
This is why I read the King James Bible only. People and the devil will both change words to take you away from God. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillthis. Listen to what he has to say it’s quite interesting – go Here.

Aside from that, you don’t need the Bible to accept Jesus, He will talk to you. You need to read the Bible to understand Him.

Most modern translations use footnotes to let readers know where the text is difficult or where scribal errors may exist.  An example of a textual probably is found in the last sentence of Isaiah 51:19.

For example, the following question not translated the same in all Bibles:

“How shall I comfort you?” (NAS).

“Who can console you?” (NIV).

These different renderings reflect a difference of opinion over which manuscripts preserve the best reading.  The NIV follows a reading that is found in a Hebrew manuscript from the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This translation is also supported by the Greek (Septuagint), Latin (Vulgate), and Syriac (Peshitta) translations of the Old Testament.

“How can I comfort you?” (Standard Edition of the Hebrew Old/the Masoretic Text) Testament), and was followed by the NASB translators. 

“By whom shall I comfort thee?” (KJV).

This example also makes the point that most scribal questions involve minor points in the text.

We have good reason to be confident that the translations now available faithfully, albeit never perfectly, reflect what the prophets and other Biblical authors originally wrote.  The presence of scribal errors is not a reason to consider the Bible untrustworthy.

So where is the devil right now?