By August 19, 2018 Read More →

Isaiah 8:14 – Stone of stumbling

The New Testament writers Peter and Paul, draw on the words of Isaiah the prophet

Paul, like Peter, links the two passages in Isaiah (Romans 9:30-33). It is interesting, incidentally, to note how Paul edits the passages. As we would say today, he does a “cut-and-paste”, omitting the words in Isaiah 28:16, “a choice stone, a precious corner stone”, and inserting in their place the words of Isaiah 8:14, “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”.

An important image in Isaiah is that of a tree cut off at the trunk and the root and stump left in the ground to grow again. There are many kinds of trees that can recover from this, and will send out new shoots which will grow into a new tree.

In the Hebrew Bible, we find Isaiah sees Jerusalem as represented by a barren woman who will be made fertile and will therefore rejoice. After the destruction of Jerusalem it was a forlorn and desolate place, a woman not only barren but widowed. Isaiah uses this emotional image to represent the sorrow of Jerusalem, yet he tells Jerusalem to rejoice for her children will be many, even more than if she were a woman happily married and fertile (Isaiah 54:1-3).

In contrast in the New Testament, Paul takes this passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 54:1-3) and links it to the story of Hagar and Sarah (Galatians 4:21-31, Genesis 21):

The fertile woman mentioned by Isaiah is represented by Hagar, Sarah’s slave girl who was fertile and who bore Abraham a son Ishmael. The barren woman whom Isaiah tells to rejoice is represented by Sarah who, although barren and old, gave birth to Isaac according to God’s promise. Isaac was the ancestor of Jesus, and a type or symbol of Jesus. The Jerusalem that was once so rich and fertile is represented by Hagar, but like her it was cast away. Jerusalem was destroyed and became desolate and barren like Sarah. However just as Sarah gave birth after many years, so the Jesus would arise. He would create a new Jerusalem (the church or heavenly Jerusalem) and its children will be a great multitude.

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