Came across this passage in Deuteronomy (29:2-4) the other day:

    2 Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that
 the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all
 his servants and to all his land— 3 the great trials which your eyes have
 seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 Yet the Lord has not given you
 a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.

I've never heard a discussion on this. Verse 4 struck me and put me in mind of the much discussed passage from Isaiah (6:8-10):

8 Also 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.”

9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 “Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.”

Despite all the commentary I've heard on this passage, I've never really understood it. But anyway, my question: Do we see in vv. 9 and 10 an echo of Deut. 29:4? Would the Deuteronomy verse be recalled in the mind of a Biblically literate person of Isaiah's time who heard or read Isaiah here? Or is the heart/ears/eyes language just sort of common speech for that day? Or is this just pure coincidence? Thanks.

  • Since Deuteronomy was actually written after Isaiah the flow would be in the other direction. May 11 '16 at 21:18
  • OK. Then I could ask the question in the other direction. For my part, I will entertain the possibility of some later editing etc., but I continue to believe that the substance of Deuteronomy came first. May 11 '16 at 21:31
  • 4
    Good question. BTW It is the belief of modern scholars that Deuteronomy was written after Isaiah. Scripture itself testifies that it was written through Moses and therefore before Isaiah. May 12 '16 at 2:13
  • 4
    Yeah, the jury's still out on an essentially early or late authoring of the majority of Deuteronomy's content, final form aside - I'd argue that the text generally conforms its structure to the covenant or treaty form of the mid-second millennium B.C. (the approximate time of Moses). I'm surprised @DickHarfield would just throw in his own personal conclusion like that without any padding.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 12 '16 at 9:05

Whether or not the two passages are directly referring to one another or not is unknown, but their style is almost identical. The pattern here is to first see, and then hear, then understand (or not) and then be healed (or destroyed). The verses 8-10 need not necessarily be a direct parallel of Deuteronomy, since they're already a direct parallel of Isaiah's own experience just several verses earlier (though not in the exact same order):

5 ...for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord...

7 ...and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Isaiah is then anxious to extend a similar expiatory experience to his people (with whom he had very closely identified in verse 5 - almost personally assuming guilt for their sins) with an enthusiastic "Here am I; send me!"

But right off we can tell the Lord is displeased, and that the experience of the people will contrast rather than compare to Isaiah's experience. The Lord uses the alienating pronoun "this" or "these" people in verse 9 rather than the possessive "my", repudiating His covenant relationship.

Then comes the strange wording in verses 9 & 10. Although these verses may seem an imperative to intentionally impair the people's understanding, they are instead a prediction of the inevitable rejection of Isaiah's ministry and God's word, as if to say "Go preach, and watch e.g. the heart of this people become dull." In this way Isaiah (and his death at the hand of King Manasseh) becomes the vehicle by which the Lord justifies his condemnation of Israel. Compare the calling of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2 - especially vs 5).

This exemplifies the duality of God's covenant relationship with Israel in which His word (as manifest through the testimony of His holy prophets), like a two-edge sword (Heb 4:12, Rev 1:16) serves as either a testament in defense of Israel if they are righteous, or else to their condemnation if they are wicked and reject the prophets.

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