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Isaiah 28:16 KJV

16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Who or what is being referred to as the cornerstone in the above text?

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The Messianic corner stone prophecies appear in various places and became a recognised metaphor in the OT. Further, if we accept that the book of Job is quite early, we can also see them, nascent, even in Job but more fully developed later in Psalms and Isaiah.

  • Job 38:16 asks who laid the corner stone?
  • Psalm 118:22 - The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
  • Isa 28:16 (almost) answers Job's question above, "So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic."
  • Zech 10:4 predicts that the Corner Stone will arise from the tribe of Judah, "From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.

This metaphor, and the fulfilment of all these prophecies is answered in numerous places in the NT and always related to Jesus. See Matt 21:42, Mark 2:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Eph 2:20, 1 Peter 2:6, 7.

In almost all cases the corner stone concept is a Messianic reference to Jesus as the foundation of God's people. (Jer 51:26 is the obvious exception.) It is part of a broader metaphor which equates God's people to a building or sacred temple of which were are all part (ie, stones in the building) and Messiah/Jesus is the foundation of corner stone - see 1 Cor 3:10-17, Isa 28:16, 17, etc. (A closely related idea is Jesus as the Rock; Isa 44:8; Deut 32:3,4,15; Ps 92:15 and 1 Cor 10:4.)

I also note that Isa 28:16 is listed as the source of the allusion used in many of the NT verses in the appendix of UBS5 and in the footnote of the NT text itself.

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NWT Matthew 21:42-46 "Jesus said to them: “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone that the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone. This has come from Jehovah, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 This is why I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits. 44 Also, the person falling on this stone will be shattered. As for anyone on whom it falls, it will crush him.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his illustrations, they knew that he was speaking about them. 46 Although they wanted to seize him, they feared the crowds, because these regarded him as a prophet.

NWT Ephesians 2:19, 20 "So you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God, 20 and you have been built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. . ."

It talking of Jesus.

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