james.goetz wrote:I'm an evangelical universalist while I do not believe that any single verse in the Bible is a prooftext for strong universalism. For example, Paul (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10-11) refers to Isaiah 45:22-25 when he declares that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the Lord. And Isaiah prophesies "Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear" within the context that “All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame".
Isaiah 45:22-25 (NIV)
 "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.  They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.' " All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.  But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.
Any ideas about this?
In Ancient Hebrew the literal meaning of “blessing” someone is to kneel
down before him/her. This is connected to another Hebrew word whose meaning gets obscured by its English translation “worship.” The Latin equivalent of the latter has made its way into the English language as “prostrate,” to lie flat on the ground. In the context of bowing down to someone this would generally be done by falling on one’s [own] face
, as the expression goes, such as Abraham (Genesis 17.3), Moses (Numbers 16.4), Jesus (Matthew 26.39) and even the prophet Bala’am (Numbers 22.31) are said to have done towards God, and as David (2 Samuel 9.6) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2.46) are described as doing towards fellow men. This is an intensified form of “blessing” (kneeling down before) someone.
Kneeling down is what David has in mind when he urges his whole self (“soul”) to “bless” YHWH and His Special Name in Psalm 103. Incidentally the first of the benefits that he mentions here as a reason for thanking YHWH by doing this is that YHWH forgives all
your twistednesses (perversities or “iniquities”) [v. 3]. Among other things he adds that YHWH’s anger will not last indefinitely (“forever” as many translations have it) and also that YHWH has not rewarded our twistednesses with their deserved comeuppances (vv. 9-10). V. 12 contains perhaps the most literal imagery of the chapter, saying, in effect, that although we have crossed the line, “transgressed,” YHWH has removed our crossing-the-line from us to as great a distance as there is between east and west. (In a spherical world this has poetic implications about God’s ability to circumnavigate our wrongdoing even if we should go so far in the wrong direction to escape right relationship with him: everything will come full circle, as it were, to the Truth.) At the end of the hymn (vv. 20-22), the entire universe is in view, being serenaded in song with the invitation to kneel down before YHWH. Those invited are his Messengers, his armies and even his waiters as well as everything that he has made throughout his domain.
Beyond David’s serenade, the prophet Isaiah sees this actually happening, Paul reiterates it and John of Patmos confirms it in visions of his own. This is my understanding of every knee bowing/bending and every tongue confessing Yehoshua [Jesus] as ʾAdonai, “Lord,” in order to glorify God the Father.
RanRan wrote:It's irrevocable - it's going to happen. There's not a whole lot of Gospel in it.
Based on YHWH swearing by the highest authority by which anyone can swear, i.e. himself, that this will happen, I would agree that it is indeed irrevocable.
RanRan wrote:Let's take Christ's advice here and realize that the old testament cannot contain, frame or restrict the new without making a mess of things. New wine in new wine skins.
Perhaps a new wineskin would be for Bible-readers to read entire chapters to acquire their context lest we miss the Gospel that the New Testament writers actually claim that the Old Testament prophets were preaching. Isaiah 45 has got to be the most Messianic Gospel passage in his whole book. I say so because the word Messiah [Christ
in the Ancient Greek translation of this text] actually appears in its 1st verse, and it’s referring to the Achaemenid Emperor Cyrus, a man who v. 4 explicitly says does not even know YHWH.
Historical context may also be instructive here, as Isaiah has spent the previous several chapters admonishing both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah against idolatry, but he knows that they won’t listen to him and ultimately shall be dismantled and reduced to rubble as their people are sent off into exile in virtually every direction of the compass. Isaiah is prophesying all this stuff over a hundred years before the birth of Cyrus and the rise of his empire. The advent of Cyrus (one of whose titles is King of Kings), however, will be a positive change in the rise and fall of kingdoms as far as Israel is concerned, because he is the one who will bring the Israelites back home from the places to which they will be exiled by the preceding superpowers Assyria and Babylon.
And so the 1st half of Isaiah 45 is concerned with the declaration that this man, who was apparently an eclectic polytheist, has been raised up by a specific deity, the only one there is (as is reiterated 6 times throughout the chapter), in order to save oppressed people and bring them home unconditionally and without charging any ransom or exacting tribute (v. 13). During Cyrus's reign YHWH will command fairness or justice (“righteousness”) to rain from the sky above and salvation to burst forth from the land beneath, and no one will be able to stand against this decree, not even the creation itself (vv. 8-9).
RanRan wrote:Isaiah probably wrote that with his enemies in mind and before the Jews sawed him in half and THEIR descendants murdered Christ.
In the 2nd half of the chapter Isaiah continues with his theme of salvation and of YHWH as the only God and only saviour. Isaiah mentions Egypt, Kush (now East African Sudan) and the tall Sebaîm [“Sabeans,” probably from what is now Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen on the Red Sea coast] in vv. 14-17 but he doesn’t seem to be referring to the actual people of these nations. The meaning might not be particularly obvious from most translations but it seems to me that he’s saying that idol-makers in these countries will permanently be put to shame because even their idols themselves, which cannot save anyone (see v. 20), will parade themselves in chains behind the returning Israelite exiles and bow down before them acknowledging that El, the God of Israel, is the only God and saviour. It is then that every corner of the land—even as far as South Sudan, which many in those days thought to be the ends of the earth—are invited to look to the only place where they will find salvation and receive it. And it is promised, moreover, and irrevocably as you’ve already noted, that they will receive the invitation and bless the only El.
Based on everything that comes before v. 24, I would say that the humiliation or confounding of those who have raged against YHWH is a result of their realisation that they have been praying to an El that does not save while their elohîm have even chained themselves up and prostrated themselves before mere men. This is perhaps a metaphor for falling over helplessly as inanimate objects tend to do. Cf. the 1st 2 verses of the next chapter, which mention the bowing down of Bêl [the Babylonian Ba’al] and the stooping of Nabu (another Babylonian deity) in a description of Babylon falling before Cyrus, YHWH’s Messiah, at the time of his conquest of that kingdom. Incidentally Cyrus left behind a cylinder inscription in which he says that he prayed daily to precisely these two Babylonian gods.
The words about raging in Isaiah 45.24 may even be part of the oath that every tongue is swearing to YHWH (who himself has by himself sworn that they will swear), so that on that Day (whenever it is and however it fits into the scheme of things) we might all find ourselves next to Cyrus the Great saying:
Surely through YHWH I have become righteous and powerful.
To him shall come, confounded, all those who were incensed at him.
In YHWH all the seed of Israel shall be rectified [“justified,” made righteous]
And shall celebrate [“shall glory”].
In Paul’s rendition of this, it is at the Name of “YHWH-is-Salvation” [Yehoshua/ Jesus] that this oath is then sworn.
As for Isaiah’s thoughts on his enemies, in his time Judah was on really good terms with Babylon. Meanwhile Egypt was being ruled by the Kushîm (Nubians, or Sudanese) and they tried to cut a deal with King Hezekiah so that they could together defend the Near East against the growing onslaught of the Assyrian Empire, but Isaiah advised against it because he foresaw those who revolted against Assyria being paraded through the streets of the Assyrian capital Nineveh. Other than this diplomatic disagreement Isaiah doesn’t seem to have had any beef whatsoever with this African empire or with the Babylonian one. As for the Sebaîm, apart from this passage and their appearance in the Genesis 10 family tree (reiterated in 1 Chronicles) where their father is Kush's eldest son, there’s no interaction mentioned between them and the Israelites. Consequently this passage can’t be about Isaiah’s enemies. And if it is
at all about that, they could only be his enemies by extension in that they (these otherwise unidentified individuals) would be the empires that, after Isaiah is dead and gone, God himself will empower to scatter his people all over the world, and which empires will suffer for their cruelty by being dismantled just like God’s people are dismantled, so that they might all become his people, whether Israeli, Assyrian, Babylonian or Iranian.
The last verse (#25) of the chapter is actually one which Paul references in his famous “predestination” passage from Romans 8-11. See parallels especially between Isaiah 45.25 & Romans 8.29-30 together with 11.26.