No Jesus in Isaiah 4:2

I’m preached on Isaiah 4:2-6 yesterday evening. In my prep, the biggest exegetical question has been whether צֶמַח (“branch”) refers to Jesus or not. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it does not! Here’s why:

The basic issue goes like this:

1) the same word is used by Jeremiah and Zechariah to refer to the Messiah, but

2) there is no indication in this context in Isaiah that an individual is being referred to. (Note this is not the same words as Isaiah uses in 11:1). The parallel line in Isa 4:2 is “fruit of the land” which nowhere has any Messianic connection, so it is difficult to explain the parallelism if there is no connection between the two parts.

The final nail in the coffin for this argument, for me, comes in v6. Here Isa promises (as he does in vv2-3 and 5) blessing for a select portion of God’s people (those who escape Israel and who remain/are left in Jerusalem). The specific blessing in verse 6 is that there will be a “shelter” (NIV) or “booth” (ESV). Most commentators take this as a sign of God’s protection. This must be part of the interpretation, given what comes after about shade from heat etc.

But significantly, the word for shelter (סֻכָּה) is the same word used to talk about the “booths” using during the Feast of Booths (cf. Lev 23 and Deut 16). This feast was the Jews’ equivalent to a Harvest festival. That is, it is thanking God for his provision of crops/food etc. This idea fits well with the interpretation of v2 being agricultural rather than messianic.

This adds weight to my other theory about these verses – that there is a chiastic structure. I do try and restrain myself from chiasmania, but they do exist in some passages. Look at the verbs in these verses:

v2 has an imperfect form of היה

v3 has a perfect/weqatal form (also of היה)

the central verse – the one which tells how all the blessings come about begins with אִם (see BDB section b 4 for translating this as “when”)

on the other side: v5 begins with a perfect form (ברא)

finally, v6 has another imperfect form of היה.

This (maybe) suggests chiastic structure. The two outer parts (vv2 and 6) being parallel – which makes sense if both focus on the agricultural abundance that will come when God fulfils his covenant.

Any thoughts?

2 thoughts on “No Jesus in Isaiah 4:2

  1. Interesting! I was having a furkle round when I read this, and I agree the context doesn’t demand Branch, and I was looking at the LXX. Where there are clear cut cases for Branch as a messianic title, LXX translates צמח as anatellh

    Jer 23:5 LXX καὶ ἀναστήσω τῷ Δαυιδ ἀνατολὴν δικαίαν
    and I shall raise up of David a righteous branch.

    Zec 6:12 LXX τάδε λέγει κύριος παντοκράτωρ ἰδοὺ ἀνήρ Ἀνατολὴ ὄνομα αὐτῷ
    thus says the Lord Almighty, behold! a man whose name is Branch

    But not in Isaiah 4:2

    Isa 4:2 LXX ῇ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἐπιλάμψει ὁ θεὸς ἐν βουλῇ μετὰ δόξης ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τοῦ ὑψῶσαι
    In that day God shall shine with glory in His plan/purpose for the earth….

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