A.E. Gardner, «Isaiah 65, 20: Centenarians or Millenarians?», Vol. 86 (2005) 88-96
Isa 65,20 which forms part of the future blessings of God’s
servants, subsequent to the inauguration of the new heavens and new earth, is
contentious theologically and linguistically. The present paper investigates why
sinners persist in the future glorious age, concluding that human nature does
not change with the appearance of the new heavens and new earth. Rather the
latter indicate that no longer will the righteous suffer, nor will the land be
devastated, because of the deeds of the unrighteous. Further it is noted that
the usual translation of Isa 65,20 appears not to accord with Isa 65,22. It is
argued that the LXX version is to be rejected as a later rationalisation.
should be taken as the dividing point of the verse and
llq recognised as an
allusion to Job 24,18.
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Isaiah 65, 20: Centenarians or Millenarians? 95
similarity, there is a linguistic one: yk appears in both verses as Steck (29)
It is appropriate to look again at the difficult text of Isa 65,20 and see
whether a new translation can be made. The LXX reads,
â€œFor the youth will be a (mere) hundred years,
but the sinner dies being a hundred and is cursed to bootâ€
The LXX applies â€œdeathâ€ to the sinner not to the youth, a reading which
is adopted, without comment, by a number of scholars (30). Such a reading
makes the life-span of the righteous individual closer to that of a tree â€” at a
hundred years old one is but a youth â€” and, from that point of view, is more
satisfactory. The MT precludes understanding the text in this way: the w before
afwjh would need to be moved and prefixed to twmy to make it possible.
There is, however, no textual support for the LXX reading. Instead, both
1Q Isaa and 1Q Isab agree with the MT (31). This suggests that the LXX is
attempting to overcome a difficult reading and that the MT is to be preferred.
How then should it be understood? The yk should be taken as the dividing
point in the sentence: what is said of the infant of days and old person refers
to the fulfillment of life and what is said of the youth and sinner refers to lives
which are cut short. A possible translation is
From then on there will never again be an infant of days or an old
person who does not fill his days while the youth, a hundred years old,
dies and the sinner, a hundred years old, is cursed.
The youth and the sinner then contrast with the infant of days and the old
person. Driver attempted to harmonise what is said about each of them when
he suggested that llq (cursed) should be read as the Aramaic qallÃªl which
means â€œspeedily vanishâ€ (32). However this has no support in the versions. It
is more likely that llqy is an allusion to Job 24,18,where the only other
occurrence of the incomplete pual of llq appears. It belongs to a passage that
asserts that there is no future for the wicked even if they appear to prosper for
a time. Indeed â€œTheir portion is cursed (llqt) in the earthâ€ (Job 24,18) and the
ultimate end for â€œthose who have sinned (wafj) is Sheolâ€ (Job 24,19). It is
noticeable that the verbal form of the Isaianic word for â€œsinnersâ€ (afwjh)
appears also in the Job passage. Recognition of this allusion then provides a
parallel between the fate of the hundred year old youth and the hundred year
old sinner of Isa 65,20, without the need for textual emendation. It also allows
the conclusion that one who is a hundred years old is but a youth. Thus the
normal life-span would be similar to that of the patriarchs of the pre-deluvian
period and to the life-span of a tree.
(29 ) STECK, Studien, 225.
(30) E.g. BRUEGGEMANN, Isaiah 40â€“66, 247; KISSANE, The Book of Isaiah, II, 312;
MOTYER, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 530.
(31) Except for minor variations: 1Q Isa (a) has lyw[ instead of lw[; hlmy instead of almy.
(32) DRIVER, â€œLinguistic and Textual Problemsâ€, 405-406.