Reading the morning prayer lessons for the First Sunday after Easter, Isaiah 43:5-6 stood out where it says ‘I will bring thy seed from the East and gather from the West; I will say to the North, give up; and to the south, bring back: bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth” (v. 5-6). These sort of verses raise flags for Identity students, so I proceeded to my usual 18th-century sources, in this case, mostly the Reverend Thomas Scott for any clues regarding the Restoration of lineal Israel. Scott mostly gives an argument for why the verses are best taken in a futurist or ‘prophetic’ rather than an immediate historical way, namely, due to the absence of regathering from the North and South.
But before delving into such, I noticed Scott had some interesting observations about the beginning of the chapter, verses 1-2, suggesting a degree of resilience and continuity of ethnic Israel. Here’s the beginning of chapter XLIII from the Authorized:
Such terrific privileges! What promises! We might compare to Romans 11:26, “thereby all Israel be saved”. Surely, this is ALL the Elect of God, but according to our authors includes also (emphatically) the twelve-tribes of Israel and Judah. “Shalt not be burned” though walking through fire, testifies that even a remnant will be preserved regardless of calamity. This statement is a bit unusual as the burning of Jerusalem is typically understood as the end of the Jewish polity. Obviously, Scott refers to continuity of ethnicity rather than their form of Government or sovereignty in the land. Yet, in this day and age, even this promise (or example) is sweet succor. For the first two verses, after indicating the definite address to Jacob (who was named by Jehovah-God), Scott says,
“he here assures them, that, having created them, formed them into a people, redeemed them from their enemies, called them by the name of Israel to be his own inheritance; he would still shew them special favors:… Accordingly, the nation being preserved, through all the ravages of the Chaldean invasion and through the captivity, was again restored to prosperity: even the desolations which attended and followed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, did not consume it; but the Jews have been kept distinct from other nations to this very day, and not withstanding their dispersions, and the massacres, and oppressions to which they have been continuously exposed.”
The preservation of Judah makes sense given the expectation of a latter-day regathering of princely tribes mentioned. How far such applies to divorced or Gentilized Israel, we might guess. But, in usual fashion belonging to 18th-century scholars, Scott (quoting William Lowth) explains these passages by a double-sense. Scott asserts,
“there seems to have a prophetic meaning [meaning something futuristic]…. It is possible that many of the promises, mentioned here, and in the following chapters, relate to the general restoration of the Jews. ”
Later, Scott gives his reasoning for preferring the futuristic sense after Babylonian release. Meanwhile, Joseph Benson also unsurprisingly endorses the ‘double-sense’ of prophetic scripture, suggesting the invoking of either the return from Chaldees or the rise of the Maccabees are tropes for a greater latter-day Regathering:
“We must observe, however, that while Isaiah ‘appears to speak of one thing only, two are understood: the less includes the greater. Speaking literally and properly of the collection of the dispersed church from Babylon, [yet there is] a more noble collection, the spiritual one, of the converted Jews and gentiles to the church of Christ, was in his view; and this is described in expressions taken from the external collection of the church from Babylon, and the restoration of the republic under the Maccabees”
Importantly, Benson believes the greater, or more noble, fulfillment belongs to the end of days when both Jew and Gentile (all the elect) are finally coincident in the church. Of course, it’s a main precept with this blog that within the number of Gentiles are indeed many lineal Israelites.
Now, here is the second part of our study, verses 5-7 in Chapter 43:
So, Scott continues his commentary moving onto verses 5-7 defending his reason for relegating the prophecy to a future-state, rather than the time of Cyrus’ liberation. Namely, he explains, there was no return from every point of the compass. Scott says:
“The Jews were scattered by the Chaldeans into different regions, and the Israelites were carried by the Assyrians into divers lands: but these were professedly the sons and daughters of the Lord, and called by his Name; and the Jews were gradually gathered from their captivity to Jerusalem and Judah. Yet it does not appear that many of them were brought from the west, or the south, on that occasion; or that they were generally new created to holiness, and prepared to glorify God, as it is here implied. But the conversion of sinners in every quarter of the globe, to be through Christ the children of God; and the future conversion of the dispersed Israelites and Jews to Christianity, and restoration to their own land, seem to be predicted.”
Hence, we have a clear admission, from a rather prominent evangelical source, the end of the Babylonian did not include ‘all Israel’ (nor the entire 10-tribes). Due to the insufficiency of a restoration from westerly and southerly parts, Scott leans to a future time. He ought also be credited for keeping account for the diasporas between Judah and Israel as separate and distinct migrations. Lastly, Scott seems to suggest any genuine return to Jerusalem would include a revival of true Religion [i.e., ‘new created to holiness’] in contrast to the historical event of Judah’s steady decline in godliness prior to the time of Christ.
Since Scott’s short-hand employs much from William Lowth (an accepted 18th-century authority for the Book of Isaiah), I thought Lowth relevant to look-up. Again, this blog posits the restoration of 10-tribe Israel as concurrent (part of) the calling of Gentiles– the most probable explanation being the mixture of Lost Israel among westward and southerly nations. Lowth is pretty good about suggesting such:
“Everyone that is called by the Name of God’s Servant. The expressions denote the bringing of the Gentiles into the Church, and making them fellow-heirs, and of the same Body with the Jews, for he hath created them too for his Glory, and to shew forth the Praises of him that hath called them out of Darkness into the marvelous light, 1 Pe. 2.9; and compare cha. 49.6. Amos 9.12. Job 11.52. The conversion of the Jews, and the bringing the fullness of the Gentiles into the church, will be coincident in Time, and each of these Events will help to advance and carry on the other: see the notes on ch. 66.12,19.
The inspiration which Lowth describes from notes on Is. 66 is where Jehovah declares he will set up a Ensign for the nations. Lowth seems to believe Christian Gentiles will move the Jews to emulation whereupon the conversion of Judah to Christianity will become a a powerful persuasion for remaining Gentilism. We’ve discussed some of the evangelical reciprocity elsewhere. I have to wonder if Lowth was postmil in his regard? But having nothing to say about the nature of westerly or southerly Israelite dispersions, we’ll save this subject for upcoming posts. But here is an argument for why ‘sons afar’ belongs to a latter-day rather than a limited, say, preterist interpretation.