Personifications in Metaphor


Isaiah characterizes Jehovah as a personification of “salvation”—as the epitome of a Savior of his people. His servant’s “work” of preparing a people to meet their God (Isaiah 40:10–11; 42:3) precedes Jehovah’s coming: “Tell the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Salvation comes, his reward with him, his work preceding him’” (Isaiah 62:11; emphasis added). As determined by synonymous parallels lines—in which one keyword appears as the equivalent of another—additional such metaphorical pseudonyms designate Jehovah: “You have forgotten your God, your salvation, and not remembered the Rock, your fortress” (Isaiah 17:10; emphasis added); “Ever trust in Jehovah, for Jehovah, Yah, is an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:4; emphasis added); “Be our arm from morning to morning, our salvation in troubled times” (Isaiah 33:2; emphasis added).

God has two “arms,” however—“salvation” and “righteousness”—Jehovah and his servant. These intervene in the earth on behalf of his people. As we see in the following complementary parallel lines, “righteousness” prepares the way for “salvation” to come: “My righteousness shall be at hand and my salvation proceed; my arms shall judge the peoples” (Isaiah 51:5; emphasis added); “My salvation will soon come when my righteousness is revealed” (Isaiah 56:1; emphasis added). Further complementary parallel lines establish the interactive relationship between “salvation” and “righteousness”—Jehovah and his servant: “Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of Jehovah will be your rearguard” (Isaiah 58:8; emphasis added); “My righteousness shall endure forever, my salvation through endless generations” (Isaiah 51:8; emphasis added).

Just as Jehovah personifies “salvation,” so his servant personifies “righteousness”—that is, he exemplifies keeping God’s law and word in a world and among a people who have become corrupt: “Who has raised up Righteousness from the east, calling him to [the place of] his foot?” (Isaiah 41:2; emphasis added); “Hear me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I have brought near my righteousness; it is not now far off—my salvation shall no longer be delayed” (Isaiah 46:12–13). God’s “arm” of “righteousness” intervenes in the earth to prepare the way for “salvation” to come: “His arm brought about salvation for him; his righteousness rallied to his cause” (Isaiah 59:16; emphasis added); “Rain down from above, O heavens; let the skies overflow with righteousness. Let the earth receive it and salvation blossom” (Isaiah 45:8; emphasis added).

Additional pseudonyms designate Jehovah’s servant, as in the following parallel lines: “I will strengthen you; I will also succor you and uphold you with righteousness, my right hand” (Isaiah 41:10; emphasis added); “Jehovah has sworn by his right hand, his mighty arm” (Isaiah 62:8; emphasis added); “Jehovah will cause his voice to resound, and make visible his arm descending in furious rage” (Isaiah 30:30; emphasis added); “Who among you fears Jehovah and heeds the voice of his servant” (Isaiah 50:10; emphasis added); “I will put my words in your mouth and shelter you in the shadow of my hand” (Isaiah 51:16; emphasis added); “I will lift up my hand to the nations, raise my ensign to the peoples” (Isaiah 49:22; emphasis added); “In that day the sprig of Jesse, who stands for an ensign to the peoples, shall be sought by the nations: (Isaiah 11:10; emphasis added).

The servant’s function as a “light” to the nations contrasts the king of Assyria/Babylon’s function as a personification of “darkness” in the following synonymous, complementary, and antithetical parallel lines: “I will also appoint you to be a light to the nations, that my salvation may be to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6; emphasis added); “I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant for the people, a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6; emphasis added); “The people walking in darkness have seen a bright light; on the inhabitants of the land of the shadow of Death has the light dawned” (Isaiah 9:2; emphasis added); “They put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20; emphasis added); “We look for light, but there prevails darkness” (Isaiah 59:9; emphasis added); “The darkness confronting them I will turn into light” (Isaiah 42:16; emphasis added). And so forth.

(Taken from Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah, pp 150–152)

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