Has the meaning of Isaiah 59:20-21 been changed?

Roman 11:26: And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will remove godlessness from Jacob.

Isaiah 59:20-21: “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD.

  • The Deliverer came of Judah, according to the flesh. He came out of that which was Zion. And he came, in the flesh, to Zion, to redeem Zion. I don't see any 'contradiction' (re: your tag) at all.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 12, 2020 at 13:16
  • @NigelJ I do not read it like that, it seems more of a copy of Isaiah that has been changed rather than a prophecy being fulfilled. Also Isaiah does not say Jacob will have his godlessness removed, quite the opposite to those who repent. Mar 12, 2020 at 13:33
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    Paul is interpreting Isaiah with the hindsight of further revelation after the coming of Christ. The same thing is seen with Mark and Malachi ('my face/thy face')
    – Nigel J
    Mar 13, 2020 at 7:15
  • Yes, for sure the meaning was changed. Even the Delitzsch in hebrew could not bring the exact verse in hebrew.
    – Kapandaria
    Oct 1, 2022 at 20:39

5 Answers 5


The answer, I think, is no.

Paul quotes almost exclusively from the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament. In the Septuagint, Isaiah 59:20 reads

ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ῥυόμενος καὶ ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβ

The Greek text of Romans 11:26 (NA28) is identical:

ἥξει ἐκ Σιων ὁ ῥυόμενος καὶ ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ιακωβ

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    Whether he was quoting the LXX or not, if he was translating from the Hebrew into the lingua franca of his day, namely Greek, he is afforded some freedom of interpretation to help those who did not speak Hebrew understand what Isaiah meant in the Hebrew as would have been the translators of the LXX. +1 excellent answer Mar 12, 2020 at 21:03
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    This just pushes the question to why the LXX translators changed "from" to "to". That still needs an explanation.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 13, 2020 at 4:38
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    Your and S. Broberg's LXX texts are different, can you clarify which exact text you are using?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 13, 2020 at 4:41
  • Paul is interpreting Isaiah in hindsight of further revelation with the coming of Christ ( a similar thing is seen with Mark and Malachi in Mark 1:2 - 'my face/thy face'.) But why would LXX agree with Paul's interpretation (as @curiousdannii notes) ? Is there a copyist correction later in LXX ?
    – Nigel J
    Mar 13, 2020 at 7:13
  • @user33515 which LXX version are you using? LXX Swete reads differently than your resource.
    – S. Broberg
    Mar 13, 2020 at 13:37

Regrettably, it happens too often that a Bible passage turns out hard to understand on account of the fact that many Hebrew prepositions – originally univocal terms – were reduced, over the centuries, to single letter. Isa 59:20 is just a typical case of this kind.

All the trouble is focused on the term לציון, that is made up of two parts: ‘Zion’ [ציון], preceded by the hyper-synthetic preposition L- [ל].

Now, if you search for the meaning of - ל in the Hebrew lexicons more probably you will be astonished. Why? Well, the Davidson lexicon lists twelve different meanings linked with L- [ל]. Gesenius assigned fourteen meanings to it, at least. John Parkhurst has a list with 22 different meanings of it. Koehler&Baumgartner: 26 meanings. And – sincerely - I have had enough to count all the different meanings listed by Schöckel

In these cases, how we can unravel the dilemma? Since this is not a linguistic site, I will answer simply, through textual criticism. In this specific case, we have to consider the witnessing of the context (in particular, the mention Paul made in Romans of this passage), and of the ancient translations.

In the Septuagint (LXX) the verse is: “καὶ ἥξει ἕνεκεν Σιων ὁ ῥυόμενος καὶ ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ιακωβ.”, that translated by Brenton is: “And the deliverer shall come for Sion's sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”.

As you note, here ἕνεκεν is a pivotal term. It means ‘on account of’, ‘for’ (I don’t know where ‘User 33515’ has found his reading of ‘Septuagint…). So, for the Jewish translators of the Septuagint (if they translated by a similar Hebrew text that we have to disposition), the L- [ל] had the meaning of ‘on account of (Zion)’, and not – merely – ‘to (Zion)”.

Someone may think that the Paul’s paraphrase of this Isaiah passage – using the preposition εκ – contradicts this conclusion. But, also in this case, wait a moment. One of the various meanings of the Greek preposition εκ is – again – ‘on account of, ‘for’ (you may examine, for some examples, this usage of εκ by Sophokles, Plato, and Plutarch. If you have need a more detailed references from this works I am able to list them).

So, the sense of Isa 59:20 is the one and the same of Rom 11:26. There’s no change of meaning.

Also, a number of Bible translation reached the same conclusion (bold is mine).

Und ein Erlöser wird kommen für [‘for the sake of’] Zion und für die, welche in Jakob von der Übertretung umkehren, spricht Jahwe”. (Elberfelder Bibel)

E un redentore verrà per [‘for’] Sion e per quelli di Giacobbe che si convertiranno dalla loro rivolta, dice l'Eterno.” (Riveduta-Luzzi)

E verrà per [‘for’] Sion un redentore […]” (Bonaventura Mariani)

“[…] for Zion will come a redeemer” (NJB)

“[…] come redentore verrà per [‘for’] Sion” (La Civiltà Cattolica-Piemme; in a similar manner also the TOB)

Ma per [‘for’] Sion viene quale redentore […]” (Concordata).

Very interestingly, this manner to translate - both in Hebrew and Greek - enhances the loyalty and the care of the Creator towards men, since He is ready to deliver peoples from their errors.

I hope these information will be useful to you.

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    thank you all for your fantastic responses more complicated then I expected. there is also the important issue of all Israel or only those who repent. Could it be Paul being educated as a Pharisee in Jerusalem under the hand of Rabbi Gamaliel (well respected Dr of Law), he actually wrote his letters in Aramic/Hebrew and when they were translated for his Greek audience this caused the conflict. Also should we consider 'Isa' as the more reliable source. Mar 13, 2020 at 11:12
  • @JohnMartin - bible hub for both quotes. Berean Romans 11:26-32 to implies the same - comes out of Zion & mercy on all. Latin Vulgate Isa - 20 And there shall come a redeemer to Sion, and to them that return from iniquity in Jacob, saith the Lord. Aslo 'ISA' dosent mention anything about God making everyone disobedient to have mercy. Mar 18, 2020 at 13:05

It's not a contradiction - although it may appear in English to be quite different. There are a couple of issues happening here which can throw off the English translations.

  1. The Isaiah passage you cited above in English is most likely translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text although sometimes the translation committees will choose the Septuagint variant (for whatever reason).

  2. In the Romans passage - as mentioned by user33535 above - Paul is quoting the Septuagint. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures from the 200's BCE.

  3. Taking the Old Testament Hebrew into Greek - or any language for that matter - is not always as straight forward as we would like. Sometimes the Greek Septuagint has minor variations from the Hebrew due to translation issues.

Here, Paul quotes almost word for word from the Greek Septuagint so there would be no contradiction. The Septuagint was the accepted Old Testament to the Greek-speaking Jews living in the Diaspora.

The Hebrew word פֶּשַׁע is translated "transgression" or "sins."

When translated to the Greek Septuagint they chose ἀσέβεια (asebeia) which is shown here as:

want of reverence towards God, impiety, ungodliness

The Hebrew uses the normal word for "repent" וּלְשָׁבֵ֥י - the Greek Septuagint and Paul both use the word ἀποστρέφω - which is translated as either

to turn away; to remove anything from anyone

Which is where your translation gets "remove."

The contradiction may appear when you have to pull each of these passages into English. How you determine the translation of a passage will cause it to appear contradictory or not. Also, it may appear as if the author had been changing the text if you compare directly a passage from the OT quoted in the NT.

As far as "come to" or "come from" - The Hebrew is "come to" לְצִיּוֹן֙. On Studylight.org the Septuagint uses the word (heko) instead of (ek) - "out of" that Paul uses. See the screenshot below:

enter image description here

  • This just pushes the question to why the LXX translators changed "from" to "to". That still needs an explanation.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 13, 2020 at 4:40
  • Your and user33515's LXX texts are different, can you clarify which exact text you are using?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 13, 2020 at 4:41
  • @curiousdannii it is stated that studylight.org is used. i just reproduced it myself. you have to click LXX to have the greek shown. Mar 13, 2020 at 5:10
  • But which LXX text is it? Is it a transcript of a single manuscript? Is it an edited text?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 13, 2020 at 5:11
  • @curiousdannii I couldn't find which LXX. That is why I placed the image and referenced Studylight.
    – S. Broberg
    Mar 13, 2020 at 13:01

This refers to the daughter of Zion who is the incarnate soul of Jesus Christ and she is the return of the female christ aka Pistis Sophia. She is the only begotten daughter of God and she will save the world for she is the holy grail.

The ark of the covenant will come to her and she will sit on the mercy seat and she will usher in Jesus Christ as she is the gatekeeper in between heaven and earth and she will bring the New Jerusalem and fulfill all the prophecies of the Holy Bible. She is the hidden or secret mystery of the Bible. She has been prophesied about for just as long as Jesus was thousands of years ahead of time and she is the daughter of Abraham.

Luke 13 is her story and she would like to say that everyone focuses on the Old Testament when they really should be focusing on the New Testament. But in time you will see the end of time and the final close of the Holy Bible to be written a book of remembrance according to Malachi and a new book with the new song that has a beginning with no end for time will be no more. Matt 21:5 John 12:15 Romans 9:33 Romans 11:26 Revelations 14:1

She has more faith in this entire world combined and she was there with God before he created the earth. She was there when the deeps of the oceans were being created. Get ready for the kingdom is at hand. She is the bride not the church, only one Jesus, only one Zion.

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    – agarza
    Jul 24, 2021 at 16:43

Yes, the meaning in Romans has been greatly changed to be a prophecy about Jesus being the redemption for sin. However the meaning in Isaiah is that it’s a prophecy about Cyrus the Great and the redemption is the Temple treasures taken by Nebuchadnezzar that were returned by Cyrus as described in Ezra 1. I should specify that Ezra 1 declares that the prophecy of Jeremiah has been fulfilled. Because Jeremiah is a continuation of Isaiah, the prophecy of Isaiah is also fulfilled. And that’s it, case closed. Once you eat an apple it has been eaten, and you can’t eat it again.

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