Verse of the Day 10.19.17 — Isaiah 49:8
8 This is what the LORD says:
“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to reassign its desolate inheritances,1
כֹּ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה בְּעֵ֤ת רָצוֹן֙ עֲנִיתִ֔יךָ וּבְי֥וֹם יְשׁוּעָ֖ה עֲזַרְתִּ֑יךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ֗ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ֙ לִבְרִ֣ית עָ֔ם לְהָקִ֣ים אֶ֔רֶץ לְהַנְחִ֖יל נְחָל֥וֹת שֹׁמֵמֽוֹת׃2
Thus says the LORD: In a time of favor, I will answer you, and on a day of salvation, I will help you,
and I will keep you, and I will give you for a covenant of the people, in order to cause the land to be established, and to give as a possession inheritances that were desolate.
In Hebrew, verbs do not have tenses (e.g., past, present, future), but aspects (perfect — completed, imperfect — incompleted, etc.). The verbs translated “answer,” “help,” “keep,” and “give,” are all in written in the Qal verb stem, denoting a perfect (completed action). In English, completed actions are virtually always in some form of past tense. In Hebrew, however, verbs in the Qal stem can be understood as completed actions in the past, present, or future.3
That being said, because of the context of this prophetic, fore-telling passage, I chose, like the NIV and the NLT, to translate these verbs in the future tense as opposed to the past tense (cf. NRSV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, KJV). Apparently the LORD tells the Holy One of Israel that kings will see him and stand up; princes will see him and bow down (Isa 49:7) — in the future.4
Context & Commentary
A future tense translation also seems to harmonize well given the canonical context. For Paul quotes this verse in 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 6:1-2), writing in the first century that “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”5 According to Paul, the past promise of messianic redemption (Isa 49:8-26) has been fulfilled in Christ.6
In the more immediate context, Isaiah (or “Second Isaiah” as many scholars believe; I have yet to be convinced) foretells of a new covenant (Jer 31:31-34). Following the defeat and exile of the LORD’s people — and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple — at the hand of the Babylonians in 587(6) B.C., this new covenant “forms the centerpiece of a larger eschatological [entailing the end times] hope which includes a new act of salvation, a new Zion, and a new Davidic king.”7 The Suffering Servant in Isaiah embodies this new, everlasting covenant — a covenant through which all nations, one day, will be able to enjoy a new, blessed relationship with the LORD8 (cf. Gen 12:2-3; Gal 3:6-9).
The Servant, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel (Isa 49:7), is the one whom the LORD will answer, help and keep9— to bring about “restoration, possession, liberation, and transformation.”10 And, it is through the Servant that these new covenantal blessings are realized.11
The messianic hope of a new covenant precedes the Christian Church (e.g., the Essenes).12 In the New Testament, however, the Messiah/Suffering Servant/Chosen One, etc. is specifically identified as Jesus — who, at the Last Supper, says “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk 2:20; cf. 1 Cor 11:25).13 Christians are ministers of a new covenant (2 Cor 3:6 cf. Heb 8:8, 13) of which Christ is the Mediator (Heb 9:15, 12:24).14
As foretold in the Old Testament, Christ the Redeemer is the embodiment, mediator, and guarantor of a new covenant. All peoples have access to a blessed covenant relationship with God through Jesus.
Memorize Isaiah 49:8 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How To Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Is 49:8.
- Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 49:8.
- “It must be emphasized that the Hebrew Perfect does not have tense (time of action) apart from context and issues of syntax. Rather, it primarily signifies aspect (type of action). The Perfect aspect designates a verbal action with its conclusion envisioned in the mind of the speaker or writer. To state it differently, the Perfect aspect denotes completed action, whether in the past, present, or future.” Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Grammar, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 140.
- After a bit more digging: “The prefect [sic] verb עֲנִיתִ֜י should be translated in the future tense as a prophetic perfect (GKC §106n).” Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009). One of the uses of the perfect (Qal) stem is “To express facts which are undoubtedly imminent, and, therefore, in the imagination of the speaker, already accomplished.” Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley, 2d English ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 312.
- Ironically, the verbs in the quotation of Isaiah are in the Greek aorist (past) tense. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 2 Co 6:2.
- Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 2 Co 6:1–2.
- Jack R. Lundbom, “New Covenant,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1088.
- Ibid, 1089
- Though some may contend that all of Israel and not just the servant is in view here, “this is God’s salvation for his people through the life of the Servant. At that appointed time God “will answer” and “will help” the Servant, making it possible for him to function successfully (not “for nothing” as in 49:4) in the roles God assigned him. God will guard the Servant through the dark days and then in the time of salvation God will make him to be a “covenant of the people” (bĕrît ʿam), as in 42:6.” Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 353.
- J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 352.
- “A strict group of pietists, some of whom withdrew into the wilderness as monastics. The Dead Sea Scrolls are probably from one group of Essenes.” Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993). “A Jewish sect which is known to have flourished from the mid-2d century B.C.E. to the time of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 C.E.).” John J. Collins, “Essenes,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 619.
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Lk 22:20.
- Freedman, 1088