Isaiah 6:1-8 – Isaiah Encounters God’s Heavenly Throne

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POSTED 03 NOVEMBER, 2017

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I

The death of King Uzziah (Azariah) indicated a significant shift in the prosperity and stability of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:1-15). This is the backdrop for the Divine commissioning of the Prophet Isaiah, who experiences a significant theophany involving God proper in Heaven (Isaiah 6:1), and various angels (Isaiah 6:2-3) specified to be serafim. All readers of Isaiah 6:1-8 confront the grand holiness, majesty, power, and awesomeness of the Creator. The response of Isaiah to what he encountered—as a mere mortal in view of such supernatural wonders—is hardly surprising: “Woe is me; I am lost! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5a, NJPS).

The narrative of Isaiah 6:5b states, ki et-ha’melelkh YHWH tzeva’ot ra’u einay, “and *** the-King Yahweh-of Hosts they-saw eyes-of-me” (Kohlenberger).[1] The level to which Isaiah saw the (full) glory of God is not the focus of what is recorded; it is instead how one of the seraphim takes a coal from the altar of God’s Heavenly Temple, and touches Isaiah’s lips with it (Isaiah 6:6), an indication that he has been forgiven of his sins (Isaiah 6:7). The question is then posed from the Throne, “Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a, ATS). Isaiah then responds to the call (Isaiah 6:8b).

Questions about whether Elohim or God can be a unity in plurality, are necessarily posed by readers of Isaiah 6:8a: et-mi eshlach u’mi yeilekh-lanu, “Who should I send? Who will go for Us?” (HCSB). The Greek Septuagint sidestepped the issue of the nature of God being present in Isaiah 6:8, via the rendering, “Whom should I send, and who will go to this people?” (NETS).[2] Jewish examiners of the statement of Isaiah 6:8 take the plural “us” to include both God proper and His Heavenly court of angels (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1-2),[3] and there are Christian examiners who follow suit.[4] Unlike Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22-23; 11:7-8 preceding, where it can be legitimately questioned whether the plural “us” is to include God and His Heavenly court of angels—or God/Elohim as a unified plurality—it is to be recognized in Isaiah 6:1-8 that the “us” present could be God and His Heavenly court of angels. The scene of Isaiah 6:1-8 unambiguously includes the presence of serafim; the previous records of Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22-23; 11:7-8 do not.

It is at all to be ruled out that “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8, RSV), involves God speaking as a unified plurality? J.A. Motyer interjects his opinion, which incorporates the witness of later Scripture:

“The us in who will go for us? is a plural of consultation (cf. 1 Ki. 22:19-23). The New Testament, however, relates this passage both to the Lord Jesus (Jn. 12:41) and to the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25), finding here that which will accommodate the full revelation of the triune God.”[5]


NOTES

[1] Kohlenberger, 4:12.

[2] Grk. tina aposteilō kai tis poreusetai pros ton laon touton.

[3] I.W. Slotki, Soncino Books of the Bible: Isaiah (London: Soncino Press, 1983), 30; Benjamin D. Sommer, “Isaiah,” in Jewish Study Bible, 796.

[4] John D.W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary: Isaiah 1-33, Vol 24 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1985), pp 72-73; John N. Oswalt, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 185; John Goldingay, New International Biblical Commentary: Isaiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 62.

[5] J.A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 78.


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