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Are You Thirsty? Then, Come: God’s Gracious Covenant of Life in Isaiah 55

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Introduction

Does God still love us when we sin? Every christian knows—or at least ought to know—that when calamity strikes, God still loves us and promises in his word that he will work all things together for good to those who love him. And so we take refuge, and well we should, in that truth. But what about when calamity strikes and its our fault, because of our own sin? Does God abandon us? Does he wait for us to get out of it and “cleaned up” before he will help? I’m sure that there are times when God allows us to experience the consequences of our own sin, but this does not mean that he doesn’t love us. He is simply disciplining us as his own sons and daughters (Heb 12). So, what about God? Does he help us when we are stricken because of our own sin? Obviously he does! After all, how many of us were righteous before we were saved? He helps us in a variety of ways, including chastisement, but the foundation of his offer in every case, is life. It is his desire that we experience life and fellowship with him.

The Israelites had sinned against God and had experienced exile into Babylon for their sin. It was painful, but God came to them through the prophet Isaiah, and offered the exiles life and a relationship with him. God moves toward us in our greatest pain and darkness—even when its legitimately our fault—and begins to redeem us from our sin and draw us to himself. We need only be willing and repent! Isaiah 55 is just such a picture of God as he repeatedly calls out to his people to return to him and enjoy life and relationship!

Isaiah 55 (NET Bible)

55:1 Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come!
Buy and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk without money
and without cost!
55:2 Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?
Why spend your hard earned money on something that will not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing!
Enjoy fine food!
55:3 Pay attention and come to me!
Listen, so you can live!
Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you,
just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.
55:4 Look, I made him a witness to nations,
a ruler and commander of nations.”
55:5 Look, you will summon nations you did not previously know,
nations that did not previously know you will run to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the sovereign king of Israel,
for he bestows honor upon you.

55:6 Seek the LORD while he makes himself available,
call to him while he is nearby!
55:7 The wicked need to abandon their life style,
and sinful people their plans.
They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them,
and to their God, for he will freely forgive them.
55:8 “Indeed my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
55:9 for, just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds,
and my plans superior to your plans.
55:10 The rain and snow fall from the sky,
and do not return,
but instead water the earth,
and make it produce and yield crops,
and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat.
55:11 In the same way, the promise that I make
does not return to me, having accomplished nothing.
No, it is realized as I desire,
and is fulfilled as I intend.”
55:12 Indeed you will go out with joy,
you will be led along in peace;
the mountains and hills will give a joyful shout before you,
and all the trees in the field will clap their hands.
55:13 Evergreens will grow in place of thorn bushes,
firs will grow in place of nettles;
they will be a monument to the LORD,
a permanent reminder that will remain.

The Davidic Covenant in Isaiah 55:1-13:
The Offer of Life to a Needy People

Isaiah 55 is one long unified poem in the Hebrew Bible1 centered on the theology found in v. 3 where God promises covenant life to the exiles of Israel. There is no little discussion on the precise genre (i.e., kind of literature) and background of the passage. Some argue that it represents the offer of “lady wisdom” calling people to her banquet (cf. Prov 9:25; Sir 1:17; 15:3; 24:19, 21). Others argue that it has behind it the water vendors of the ancient Near East calling out to make their sales, though both of these may not sufficiently account for the imperatival nature of the passage and the issue of the life and death situation of the exiles.2 Sanders’ suggestion that the invitation to the banquet is an invitation to the enthronement of a king is probably also unlikely insofar as it draws too heavily on v. 3 and not enough on the general “wisdom” form of the passage.3 In the end, the background, while important, is not absolutely essential for understanding the deeply exhortatory nature of the passage and the use of the Davidic promise.

Isaiah 55 can be broken down into four distinct units: (1) the gracious action of God which gives covenant and life (1-5); (2) the command for Israel to seek the Lord (6-9); (3) the purposeful and powerful word of God (10-11); (4) permanent joy and the transformation of life (12-13).4 This structure of the passage will aid us in the organization and presentation of our exposition.

The Gracious Action of God Which Gives Covenant and Life
(55:1-5)

The first five verses in the poem are given to the use of the imperative, suggesting a summons with an overt sense of urgency. The summons is a call to life itself by means of a covenant YHWH is willing to make. The prophet writes to the exiles commanding them to “come” (5x), “buy” (2x), “eat” (2x), and “listen” (2x).5 The interjection הֵן (“hey” or “pay attention” ) further confirms the sense of urgency in the passage (55:4, 5). The imperatives “seek,” “call” and the jussives “let him forsake,” “let him turn” in vv. 6-7 carry on this sense of urgency.

The passage begins with the interjection הֹוי (“hoy”) which in its 20 other occurrences in Isaiah always introduces a warning concerning the judgment of God against his people and the nations,6 and in its 30 other occurences in the Hebrew Bible almost without fail introduces the idea of judgment and lament in the face of the wrath of God.7 In Isaiah 55:1, its last use in the book, it may just function as an interjection, but it may also indicate more than that. What had become a familiar refrain in its consistent use (20x) earlier in Isaiah in connection with judgment is now being overturned so that even even the language of judgment is turned into blessing in this summons to life. The fact that one can “come,” “buy,” and “eat” without money suggests this complete overturning of the natural order of things and suggests that even the language used to express judgment has been overturned.

The phrase “all who thirst” in v. 1 occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, though Isaiah elswhere uses the image of thirsting as a metaphor for spiritual neediness; what had been for Isaiah an image of physical pain and need (21:14; 29:8; 32:6; cf. also Deut 29:188) has been taken up to illustrate the human problem of spiritual thirst as a result of the sin of idolatry. In 44:3 the thirst of the people, compared to a dry and parched land, is satisfied by God sending the Holy Spirit.9 Connected to this idea in 44:3 is God’s election of Jacob (44:1-2, 21), his personal possession of, and intimacy with, each of his people (44:5), and the fact that ultimately in Israel, God is the king and redeemer (44:6, מֶלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלֹו).10 The Targum renders “seed” as “sons” implying an active, personal relationship with YHWH.11 Further, it should be noted that the coming of God’s Spirit is linked to redeeming his people from their sin (44:21). The people, for their part, are to return to the Lord their redeemer since he had already forgiven them.12

Insofar as “thirsting” is a picture of the problem of the sinful person and nation, it is not surprising, then, that the מַיִם (“water”) imagery is employed as the remedy, illustrating salvation and blessing (55:1). The lack of “water” in Isaiah is regarded as the judgment of God and the withholding of blessing (1:30; 3:1; 50:2; 54:9), while the supply of water is regarded as divine blessing (32:2, 20; 41:17; 58:11). In 12:3 the prophet says that “in that day” (12:1), referring to a future eschatological period of blessing, YHWH’s people will praise him because he has become their salvation. Indeed, the text says that “with joy” the nation “will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The water/salvation imagery here in v. 2-3 also involves a universalism in vv. 4-5 as Israel is to “make known among the nations what YHWH has done” and let it be known “to the ends of the earth” (cf. 61:11; also 45:22).13 The abundance of water is seen as great blessing (58:11) and in the day when the shoot of Jesse comes to reign, the way in which the water covers the sea is said to picture the universal, worldwide knowledge of the Lord (11:9). So it is here in 55:1 that “water” represents the blessing of salvation which God is offering and implies that the problem of sin will be dealt with.

The imperative “buy” (v. 1) may allude to God’s faithfulness during Israel’s wilderness wanderings where the nation was commanded to “buy” food using money and not to take anything for free. The Lord even supplied the water (cf. Deut 2:6).14 The difference here, is that while Israel is again in a desparate situation, there is no need for currency, for the people can enjoy wine and milk without money and “without cost.” God is once again demonstrating his faithfulness which is in keeping with the covenant made with David (cf. v.3). “Wine” (יַיִן) is associated with divine blessing in Isaiah such that the lack of it is understood as YHWH’s judgment (16:10; 24:11; cf. 1:22; Ps 60:5; Hos 14:7; Amos 9:14 and the restoration of the Davidic dynasty). An abundance of “milk” (חָלָב) is also regarded as an eshatological blessing in 7:2215 and represents the riches Israel will acquire from other converted nations in the eschaton (60:16; cf. vv. 3, 5, 11).16 Milk is closely related to dwelling in the land of promise (Deut 6:3; 11:9; 26:9, 15’ 27:3; 31:20) and is used, in the Song of Moses, in connection with wine to express God’s good gift of the land (Deut 32:14). Thus both the image of “wine” and “milk” speak to God’s great eschatological blessings and are linked to the Davidic covenant and blessing on the nations as well.

The Israelites can “eat what is good” (Isa 55:2), a statement that goes back to 1:18-19 where the prophet says “if you are willing and obedient, you will eat good things (=best) from the land.” As in 1:18, so here, the listening involves forgivness and turning to the Lord (cf. 55:6-9). Further, she can delight herself (עָנֹג) in “abundance” (דֶשֶׁן17) which in 58:14 means delighting herself in the Lord.

The point, then, of the imagery of vv. 1-3a is to describe the great blessing awaiting the exiles if they return to YHWH. If Israel is to enjoy abundant salvation benefits and life, she must be forgiven, and turn and listen to the Lord (v. 2). What, then, does the Lord want to tell her? This is the subject of verses 3b-5.

In Isaiah 55:3b-5 the prophet says that YHWH will make a covenant with the nation of Israel along the lines of the covenant he made with David, and that as David was a “witness” and “leader” of the peoples (v. 4) so also will Israel (v. 5).

In 55:3b the text says that the Lord will cut a covenant with the nation of Israel. The covenant is referred to as “eternal” (עֹולָם),18 and as the “lovingkindness of David” with its background to be found most explicitly in 2 Sam 7:12-16, 23:5, and Ps 89:20-38MT (see 1 Kings 8:26; 1 Chron 17:23; 2 Chron 1:9). The most natural way of understanding “lovingkindness of David is as “YHWH’s lovingkindness expressed to David.” The following verse (v. 4) clearly refers to what YHWH had done for David, viz., he gave19 him as a witness (עֵד) to the peoples and as a leader (נָגִיד) and commander (וּמְצַוֵּה) for the peoples. The mention of “leader” (נָגִיד) recalls the specific words concerning YHWH’s will in 2 Sam 7:8 when he chose David to be a “leader” over Israel and was with him wherever he went.20 Thus, though certain scholars from Caquot on, have argued for a subjective meaning here,21 the liklihood is not great that such is indeed the case.22

Isaiah makes an astonishing move in v. 3. He offers the covenant directly to the nation as a whole and not just the Davidic line within the nation.23 The covenant blessing are being given directly to the people. There is no necessary need, as Eissfeldt and others have argued, in light of the fallen Davidic house, to put this later vision of the book of Isaiah in chapter 55 over against the earlier ones in chapters 9 and 11 where a specific Davidic king is in view.24 As Sweeney points out, recent research on the book of Isaiah suggests that the book be taken as a literary whole which in and of itself would tend to mitigate against such a position.25 Further, it is obvious that the Davidic king is part of the nation and, therefore, a legitimate recipient of the promise even in a context that democratizes it. The democratization or expansion26 of the promise speaks to the intimate relationship between king and nation from the perspective of the nation (cf. 2 Sam 7:10). The language of covenant is developed further in 59:21 in connection with the Spirit and the restoration of a sinning Israel which is, in turn, for the purpose that all men might fear the Lord (59:19; cf. 32:15). A similar concept is mentioned again in 61:8 where the people of Israel are given an “eternal covenant” and the nations will acknowledge her special place of blessing in the world.27

The specific content of the promise which is given to the people and here emphasized concerns the Davidide’s (i.e., Davidic king’s) relationship to the world (אֻמִּים in v. 4 and גֹּוי in v. 5). Verse 4 begins with הֵן as does verse 5. The two are in parallel to indicate that what was done for David will be done for the nation. Just as David functioned as a “witness” (עֵד) to the peoples, as well as a “ruler” (נָגִיד) and “commander” (מְצַוֵּה; cf. Ps 18:43), so also will the people of Israel (cf. 43:10; 44:8).28 But the rule will not necessarily be militaristic for Israel will call other nations and they will come, for the Lord has endowed her with splendor (כִּי פֵאֲרָךְ).29 The sense is not one of strict hegemony, but of the nations being drawn to Israel and Zion, as we have in 2:3.30

The Command to Israel to Seek the Lord
(55:6-9)

Since YHWH has summoned Israel to covenant and life (vv. 1-5) she ought to seek the Lord and call on him while he may be found, that is, while he has so graciously availed himself in covenant offer (vv. 6-7).31 Indeed, each person must abandon his evil way and his evil thoughts, and turn to the Lord. The earlier language, then, of “coming,” “buying” and “eating” and “enjoying the richest of fare,” can only be realized through the avenue of repentance. To the man who will turn to the Lord and forsake his own evil way is YHWH’s promise of his abundant pardon. This is one of the clearest expressions of the gospel in all of the Old Testament. What sin is there in our lives that keeps us from turning to God and enjoying his presence and dining at his table? Let us forsake it now, and turn to him!

Oswalt argues that the force of the metaphor between God’s “thoughts” and “ways” and those of a man is primarily ethical.32 That is, God’s ways are righteous and man’s are not, and thus man is to turn from his thoughts and ways to God’s thoughts and ways. He bases this primarily on the ethical sense of “thoughts” and “ways” in v. 7. The verb “to lift up” or “exalt” (גָבְה) does have an ethical use in Isaiah. In 3:16 it refers negatively to “arrogance,” but it is also used ethically and positively to refer to the exaltation of God in terms of his righteousness and holiness in 5:16. It is also used positively of the exaltation of the servant in 52:13. But the point of vv. 8-9 is not that man should turn per se to God’s thoughts and ways—that has already been established in v. 7—but that there is good reason for turning and believing. The reason is that contrary to the belief of the people, God can bring to fruition his word of covenant (=“thoughts” and “ways”) just offered the people in v. 3. Even if they are in exile, He can give them life because his plans (thoughts=plans) are able to be accomplished. Therefore, they ought to turn to him from their wicked ways.33

The Purposeful and Powerful Word of God
(55:10-11)

The idea expressed in vv. 8-9, that God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts and that he can, despite their inclinations to the contrary, accomplish redemption for them, is developed even further in vv. 10-11 with reference to the utter dependability of his word.34 YHWH’s promise of life is referred to as “my [YHWH’s] word” and just as surely as the rain and snow come down from heaven35—both of which are a gift from God and given according to and for the fulfillment of covenant promise (Deut 28:4, 12)—to water the earth and so give life to a fresh new crop of seed and flowers, so shall YHWH’s word give life to the exiles as he promised (vv. 1-5; 40:8).36 While the rain given by YHWH satisfies the physical need, the democratization of the Davidic covenant, included in which is the opportunity for forgiveness, will satisfy the spiritual needs of the people.37 The image of rain and snow is also appropriate to describe the extent of the democratization of the Davidic blessings since the rain falls directly from heaven without any mediation on the entire land and every plant receives nourishment directly.

Permanent Joy and the Transformation of Life
(55:12-13)

The exalted language and imagery of vv. 12-13 is the language of salvation and relationship with God and cannot simply be collapsed into the physical return of the exiles. The prophet could hardly have imagined only the physical reality of the return without having in mind the cure for sin which caused the exile in the first place.38 Associated with the fulfillment of the Davidic promise to the nation is her return and experience of great joy. This is vividly pictured with the trees clapping their hands and the mountains and hills singing (v. 12). The connection of blessing in nature concomitant with God’s salvation is common in the psalms (e.g., 96:12-13; 98:8) and is used earlier in Isaiah as well (41:19).39 Further, there is an element of reversal in the description here. The curse of Gen 3:18 is reversed yielding the inference that Israel’s return home is to be equated with “Paradise Regained.”40 This further confirms the idea that what we have here is not just physical blessing, but deep spiritual blessing as well.41 The targum regards the physical blessing described in 55:13a as spiritual. It reads: “instead of the wicked the righteous shall be established (יתקיימון צדּיקיּא), and instead of transgressors they that fear sin shall be established: and it shall be before the Lord (יהוה) for a name (לשום), for an everlasting sign (לאת עלם) that shall not fail.”42 Finally, God will testify eternally to his greatness and renown through this salvation as it will be an everlasting sign which will not be cut off. The verb “cut” in v. 13 recalls its use in v. 3 with the Davidic covenant. The point of its reuse is to reinforce the fact that the covenant is eternal, and guarantees the eternal, spiritual salvation of those who benefit in it.

As is common in contexts regarding the Davidic covenant there is a focus on the blessing God will give to those who enjoy its provisions. They will enjoy the “richest of fare” as it were (v. 2 NIV). Again the blessings are similarly described using changes in nature involving a reversal of the curse of Gen 3:18 (cf. v. 13). There is also a going beyond the previous use of nature to the ascription of human characteristics to certain elements in nature (v. 12). All of creation will benefit when the promises are fulfilled and it will be a time of great joy and peace (v. 12). There are other similar elements as well, including deliverance, both political and spiritual for Israel, and a universalism in the scope of the promise because it is for “all who thirst” (cf. כָּל־צָמֵא in v. 1) and involves the nations coming to faith in YHWH as well (v. 5). There will be forgiveness of sins connected to the fulfillment of the promise and the giving of the Holy Spirit to those who are thirsty and respond to the offer (44:3). The covenant is regarded as eternal and the salvation it secures will be an everlasting testimony to the greatness of the name of YHWH (55:3, 13; 61:8).

The provision for the Davidic covenant, here offered to the nation as a whole, was ultimately fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 1:31-33, 69, 77; 2:32; 3:6 with Acts 2:25-36; 13:34). It is on the basis of his resurrection to incorruptibility and his exaltation to a universal reign over all men that salvation benefits can be offered to all people regardless of their condition: religious, economical, or otherwise. All they need to do is come to him. May God help you today to accept his offer of living water to quench your thirsty soul (cf. John 4:10; 7:37-38).


1 Cf. Richard J. Clifford, “Isaiah 55: Invitation to a Feast,” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David N. Freedman in Celebration of His Sixtieth Birthday, ed. C. L. Meyers and M. O’Connor (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 33, who rightly considers Isa 55 as a unified poem.

2 On the particular background to the summons see Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 312, who points out that “Many commentators hear the voice of the Near Eastern water vendor in v. 2 while others discern the accents of personified wisdom (Prov 9:1-6). Either would be appropriate, for Isaiah was a master of illustrations from nature and contemporary culture. Moreover, as Whedbee has shown, at least for the chapters acknowledged to be by Isaiah of Jerusalem, he had definite contact with the Israelite wisdom tradition. We may in fact discern overtones of both. The water carrier is also a wise counselor.” See also Walter Brueggemann, “A Poem of Summons (Is.55:1-13)/ A Narrative of Resistance (Dan. 1:1-21),” in Schöpfung und Befreihung: Für Claus Westermann zum 80. Geburtstag, ed. Rainer Albertz, Friedemann W. Golka and Jürgen Kegler (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1989), 127-28. Brueggemann regards interpretations such as the cry of lady wisdom and the vendor to both miss the urgency involved in this life and death situation. The entire summons, in his mind, is a call to resist Babylonian options, both religious and political; Clifford, “Isaiah 55: Invitation to a Feast,” 27-35 regards the summons as a call to life interpreted as proximity to YHWH’s presence.

3 Cf. Roy F. Melugin, The Formation of Isaiah 40-55, Beiheft zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 141, ed. Georg Fohrer (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1976), 25-26.

4 For a four part breakdown which recognizes an overall unity in the poem as well as the development of a single idea, see Walter Brueggemann, “Isaiah 55 and Deuteronomic Theology,” ZAW 80 (1968): 191-203, esp. 194 for his outline. See also Walter Kaiser, “The Unfailing Kindnesses Promised to David: Isaiah 55:3,” JSOT 45 (1989): 92, who follows Brueggemann in conviction that the poem has a single point and is outlined around a four-fold division.

5 The use of the infinitive absolute (שָׁמֹועַ) strengthens the force of the previous imperative even further.

6 The one possible exception is 18:1 where the may be a sense of pity involved, but even in this case warning of judgment is still involved. See BDB, 222, s.v. הוי; Clements, Isaiah 1-39, 164.

7 See e.g., Isa 1:4, 24, 5:8, 11; 10:1; 17:12; 18:1; 28:1; 28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1. It is used three time in Isa 40-66: 45:9, 10; 55:1. See also 1 Kings 13:30; Jer 22:18; 34:5, etc. Cf. BDB, 222, s.v. הוי. In Zech 2:10, 11MT the interjection may simply indicate an exclamation and may be similar to its use in Isaiah 55:1 since both passages have in mind the return of the exiles from Babylon.

8 The phrase הָרָוָה אֶת־הַצְּמֵאָה in Deuteronomy 29:18 is difficult to interpret, but it is probable that “dry” refers to the man in covenant with YHWH, while the one who “thirsts” refers to the man who lives in breach of the covenant with YHWH and has turned to the gods of the nations. See A. D. H. Mayes, Deuteronomy, The New Century Bible Commentary, ed. Ronald E. Clements (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 365. The verb צָמֵא occurs nine times in the MT; cf. also 2 Sam 17:29; Ps 107:5; Prov 25:21.

9 Isa 44:3 says: אֶצֹּק רוּחִי עַל־זַרְעֶךָ וּבִרְכָתִי עַל־צֶאֱצָאֶיךָ “I will pour out my Spirit on your seed and I will bless your descendants.” See John Scullion, Isaiah 40-66, Old Testament Message, ed. Carroll Stuhlmueller and Martin McNamara, vol. 12 (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1982), 58-59.

10 Cf. Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament Theology, Old Testament Library, trans. Leo G. Perdue, ed. James L. Mays, Carol A. Newsom and David L. Petersen (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 32.

11 For the Aramaic text of the targum see, J. F. Stenning, ed., The Targum of Isaiah (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949), 149. See also Bruce D. Chilton, The Glory of Israel: The Theology and Provenance of the Isaiah Targum, JSOTSS 23 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983), 49; Max Wilcox, “The Promise of ‘Seed’ in the New Testament and the Targumim,” JSNT 5 (1979): 2-20.

12 See Keil, C. F. and F. Delitzsch. Isaiah, trans. James Martin, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1859), 213-14, who say that “Forgiveness and redemption are not offered on condition of conversion, but the mercy of God comes to Israel in direct contrast to what its works deserve, and Israel is merely called upon to reciprocate this by conversion and renewed obedience. The perfects denote that which has essentially taken place.” The reference to “blotting out a cloud” though difficult and may draw to some degree on Exod 32:32-33 (though here the reference is to an entry in a book; אֶמְחֶנּוּ מִסִּפְרִי) seems to rely more on “cloud” and indicate the ease quickness with which God can forgive sin and the beautiful blue sky that follows. See Alexander, Isaiah, 172.

13 See Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39, 1:294.

14 The thought of buying grain in order to stave off death is seen in Genesis 42:2 as well.

15 Cf. Stacy, Isaiah 1-39, 60; Gray, Isaiah, 139-40.

16 Cf. Young, Isaiah 40-66, 3:452.

17 On the use of דֶשֶׁן to refer to abundance see Deut 31:20. IT is also used with the sense of “anointing” in Ps 23:5.

18 See also 24:5 where the “eternal covenant” (בְּרִית עֹולָם) is probably a reference to the Noahic covenant of Genesis 9:6. See also 61:8 where בְּרִית עֹולָם is a reference to the Davidic covenant democratized (cf. v. 9).

19 The use of נתן in this section of Isaiah refers to the gracious acts of God and not something that David did or was required to do (cf. 42:6; 49:6, 8). See Kaiser, “The Unfailing Kindnesses Promised to David,” 94.

20 See H. G. M. Williamson, “‘The Sure Mercies of David’: Subjective or Objective Genitive?” JSS 23 (1978): 48-49.

21 By “subjective” we mean that “mercies of David” refers to David’s own piety, not what God had done for him.

22 See Andre Caquot, “‘Les Grâces de David,’ a propos d’Isaïe 55/3b,” Semitica 14 (1965): 45-59, who argues that the genitive is subjective, followed also by W. A. M. Beuken, “Isa 55, 3-5: The Reinterpretation of David,” Bijdragen 35 (1974): 49-64; and, Pierre Bordreuil, “Les ‘grâces de David’ et 1 Maccabees ii 57,” VT 31 (1981): 73-76. But see Williamson, “Subjective or Objective Genitive?,” 31-49, who argues against Caquot and Beuken claiming that the context in Isaiah and 2 Samuel 7 is more determinative for the genitive as objective.

23 See M. A. Sweeney, “The Reconceptualization of the Davidic Covenant in Isaiah,” in Studies in the Book of Isaiah: Feschrift Willem A. M. Beuken, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 132, ed. J. Van Ruiten and M. Vervenne (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1997), 42, who while commenting on Trito-Isaiah says, “Within the structure of the book of Isaiah as a whole, Trito-Isaiah is introduced by Isaiah 55, which redefines the Davidic covenant as an eternal covenant applied to the people of Israel at large, not simply to the house of David “ (italics mine). Later in the article, however, he tends to move in the direction of the view that the Davidic dynasty has been replaced and the promises now given to the people instead (p. 47).

24 Otto Eissfeldt, “The Promises of Grace to David in Isaiah 55:1-5,” in Israel’s Prophetic Heritage: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg, ed. Bernhard W. Anderson and Walter Harrelson (London: SCM Press, 1962), 203. Eissfeldt was not certain, however, whether second Isaiah’s renunciation of the Davidic dynasty is permanent or not: “In Isa 55:1-5, as elsewhere in Second Isaiah, there is no reference whatever to that which, for the author of Ps. 89, is the particular content of the promise of God to David: that a Davidic representative should always sit upon the Jerusalem throne and rule over other nations. This is hardly accidental, for our Exilic prophet does not count the Davidic kingdom among the blessings hoped for in the coming Day of Salvation—though it remains uncertain whether he wanted this to be understood as a complete renunciation or whether he believed it necessary to discard this expectation merely for the time being. In this regard Second Isaiah differs from his predecessors Jeremiah (23:5-6; 33:14-26) and Ezekiel 34; 37:15-28), who expect that on the future Day of Salvation the people will be ruled by David or a Davidic descendant…Thus the honorific title ‘Yahweh’s Anointed,’ which as we saw was of the greatest importance to the author of Ps. 89, is found nowhere in Isa. 40-55 as the designation for an Israelites figure; it is rather conferred upon a non-Israelite, Cyrus (45:1), and thus withdrawn from the Davidic dynasty.” Cf. Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, The Old Testament Library, ed. G. Ernest Wright, John Bright, James Barr, and Peter Ackroyd (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), 283-84; R. N. Whybray, Isaiah 40-66, The New Century Bible Commentary, ed. Ronald E. Clements (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 191-92; Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology: The Theology of Israel’s Prophetic Traditions, trans. D.M.G. Stalker (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 2:46.

25 Sweeney, “The Reconceptualization of the Davidic Covenant in Isaiah,” 41, who says, “Indeed, the complexities of the interrelationships between the various parts of the book of Isaiah and the variegated history of its composition have led scholars to conclude that it is no longer desirable or even possible to treat First, Second, and Third Isaiah as completely separate works; rather any treatment of Isaiah must examine its various texts not only in relation to their immediate literary contexts within the book, but in relation to the book as a whole.”

26 Hanson, Isaiah 40-66, 179, refers to Isa 55:3 as an expansion so as to move “beyond the privileged elite to embrace the entire community of those obedient to God’s word.” There is an expansion of referent, but the text also functions to bring directly to the people, as individuals as well as nationally, the blessings of David.

27 Cf. Scullion, Isaiah 40-66, 130.

28 For the idea of the king as a witness to God, see J. H. Eaton, “The King as God’s Witness,” ASTI 7 (1970): 25-40. See esp. 36-37. In Isaiah’s conception the people, as direct recipients of the Davidic covenant, would now take on that function.

29 Cf. Scullion, Isaiah 40-66, 130, who says that, “the destiny of Israel “my servant” is not to conquer and subdue nations, but to witness to Yahweh; she will increase not by conquest, but by witness which will draw people to her.” See also Webb, Isaiah, 217, who argues that “David conquered surrounding nations and brought them under his rule, and therefore the rule of the Lord. Now Israel, restored to the land, will do the same. They will conquer other people not physically, as David did, but spiritually. Because of what God does in its midst, Israel will be like a magnet attracting people of all nations into the kingdom of God.”

30 See John L McKenzie, Isaiah 40-66, The Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968), 2:144, who says: “The character of Israel’s reign over the nations we have already seen: it consists in Israel’s position as mediator of faith in Yahweh.”

31 The summons brings to mind earlier summons in the life of Israel though here the call is not to the temple, but simply a turning to God in light of his gracious offer of life. See Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, 287.

32 Oswalt, Isaiah 40-66, 445; see also Alexander, Isaiah, 330-331; Grogan, “Isaiah,” 313. Cf. Watts, Isaiah 34-66, 247, who states that the gulf between the thoughts and ways of God and those of man is a way of expressing the fact that God will not compromise when it comes to Israel’s obedience in relation to the Sinai covenant. This again is based on the moral element in the contrast which is not the primary point, and out of keeping with the idea that the Lord is fulfilling his “thoughts,” which is the same as saying he is about to carry out his “plans.”

33 A. S. Herbert, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah 40-66 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 125; cf. Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, 288; and Whybray, Isaiah 40-66, 194.

34 P.-E. Bonnard, Le Second Isaïe: Son Disciple et Leurs Éditeurs Isaïe 40-66, Études Bibliques (Paris: Libraire LeCoffre, 1972), 308.

35 E. Lipinski, “On the Comparison in Isaiah LV 10,” VT 23 (1973): 246-47 suggests that while the rain imagery is common, the particular comparison using rain imagery in Isa 55:10 has an exact parallel in Mesopotamian literature including Sumerian and Akkadian texts. Thus Lepinski argues that “it is not inconceivable” that the text was “originally composed in Babylonia.”

36 On the meaning and force of the expression לֹא יָשׁוּב אֵלַי רֵיקָם (Isa 55:11; 2 Sam 1:22) see B. Couroyer, “Note sur II Sam I, 22 et Is., LV, 10-11,” RB 88 (1981): 505-14. See also E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968), 730, for an extended discussion of the simile with rain and snow, and the word of God.

37 See D. Bernh. Duhm, Das Buch Jesaia, Handkommentar zum Alten Testament, ed. D. W. Nowack (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892), 388, who states “Wie der Winterregen oder der Schnee von Jahve zu dem Zweck vom Himmel herabgesandt wird, der Erde Fruchtbarkeit und Wachsthum zu geben, so ist auch das Wort Jahves vom Himmel gesandt als eine δύναμις θεοῦ εἰς σωτητίαν, als eine reale Wunderkraft, die selbständig wirkt und darauf, gleich dem λόγος der späteren Religionsentwicklung, zu Gott zuruckkehrt.”

38 Oswalt, Isaiah 40-66, 447-48.

39 Cf. Bonnard, Le Second Isaïe, 310-11.

40 So Whybray, Isaiah 40-66, 194-95.

41 Oswalt, Isaiah 40-66, 447-48. See also Webb, Isaiah, 217, who argues that the “sign” attending this covenant, just as the Noahic, Abrahamic, and Mosaic all had an accompanying sign, is a permanently renewed universe.

42 See Stenning, The Targum of Isaiah, 187.

Related Topics: Dispensational / Covenantal Theology, Spiritual Life