Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 19

Psalm 19

This Psalm is a hymn to YHWH, and, like the previous Ps 18, may represent a combination of two distinct compositions. It can be divided into three sections:

    • vv. 2-7 [1-6], which may be characterized as a nature-hymn, in praise of YHWH as Creator
    • vv. 8-12 [7-11], which extols the Instruction (Torah) of YHWH
    • vv. 13-15 [12-14]: a prayer by the Psalmist, that he would live according to the word and will of God

Many commentators would recognize a 2-part division, with two poems—A and B—joined together. Poem A (vv. 2-7 [1-6]) is thought to be considerably older than Poem B, but both make use of a common set of motifs, reflected in the Genesis Creation account, of creation through the word of God. This “word” is manifest in nature no less than in the written documents of the Torah. The binding image between the two parts of the Psalm is that of the sun (vv. 6-7), to which the Torah may be compared as a source of light for humankind.

The superscription to the Psalm simply indicates that is a musical composition (romz+m!) “belonging to” David.

Psalm 19:2-7 [1-6]

Verses 2-3 [1-2]

“The heavens are giving account of (the) weight of (the) Mighty (One),
and the work of His hands the stamped-out (surface) is putting (up) front;
(from) day to day (there) pours forth (what is) said,
and (from) night to night (there is) declared (what is) known.”

These first two couplets are 4-beat (4+4) bicola. I have preserved much of the word order, as a way of illustrating how the parallelism of Hebrew poetry can be expressed in different ways. The first couplet is a chiasm, establishing the sphere of the universe (or at least, the upper hemisphere) as constituting the expanse (and boundary) of the created world:

    • the heavens (<y]m^V*h^)
      • are giving account (<yr!P=s^m=)
        • (the) weight of the Mighty One (la@ dobK=)
        • (the) work of His hands (wyd*y` hc@u&m^)
      • is putting up front (dyG]m^)
    • the stamped-out [surface] (u^yq!r*h*)

The “heavens” (dual <y]m^v*) represent the entire expanse of the upper hemisphere (of the universe), while the “stamped-out (surface)” is the firm ‘shell’ of the hemisphere that separates the heavens from the waters above. Cf. Gen 1:2, 6-8 for the simple Old Testament expression of this ancient Near Eastern view of the universe (cosmology). The term u^yq!r* literally refers to a surface that has been stamped (or hammered) out. Also parallel are the verbs rp^s* (“count, record”) and dg~n` (Hiphil “put before, set in front, set above”), which refer to something that is continually made known (the regular/continuous aspect indicated here by the use of participles). The central pair in the chiasmus explains what is made known—namely, the weight or worth (dobK*) of YHWH himself, which is made evident through “the work of his hands” (i.e. creation).

The second couplet has a simpler structure, with a precise synonymous parallelism. The main parallel is between “speech” (rm#a), i.e. what is said) and “knowledge” (tu^D^, what is known). The creation, which itself was made through the spoken word of God (Gen 1, etc), speaks in turn of its Creator. This takes place all the time, every moment, from “day to day” and “night to night”.

Verses 4-5ab [3-4]

“There is no(thing) said, and there are no words—
their voice cannot be heard;
(yet) in all the earth their gathering-call goes forth,
and, at the end of what (the earth) contains, their (word)s in response.”

This pair of 4+3 couplets expounds the point made in vv. 2-3—that is, how the universe can “speak” and declare (make known) the truth of its Creator, El-Yahweh. The world cannot actually speak (as a person would), yet it still has a wordless “voice” (loq) that can declare this truth everywhere and at all times. The negative point is stated in the first couplet, using the particle of absence (/ya@, “there is no…”) twice in line 1, and then a separate particle indicating failure/inability (yl!B=) in line 2. The corresponding positive statement is in the second couplet (v. 5ab). The parallel between “the earth” and lb@t@ is similar to that between “the heavens” and u^yq!r* in verse 2 (cf. above). Both indicate the boundary, and the extent/expanse, of the hemisphere of the universe. The noun lb@t@ is actually quite difficult to translate in English. The root lby has the basic meaning of “bring, carry, transport”, but the derived noun lb@t@, insofar as it relates to the inhabited earth/world, seems to refer to what the earth contains—i.e., all that lives and moves on/in it. I have attempted to convey this in the translation above, though not without some awkwardness. The “voice” of creation is manifest by the very life that exists dynamically in nature—it calls things to gather together, and they come, answering in response.

Verses 5c-7 [4c-6]

“For (the) sun He set a tent in them,
and he (is) as a bridegroom going forth from his covering,
he rejoices as a strong youth to run (along) his path;
from the end of the heavens (is) his going forth,
and his coming round (again) unto their ends—
there is no turning (away) from his pavilion.”

The structure and rhythm of these closing lines is curious. The two couplets of vv. 6-7ab (4+4 and 3+3, respectively) are flanked by single lines at the beginning and end. This would indicate an inclusio, suggesting that the first and last lines (5c, 7c) are parallel. For this reason, I tentatively follow Dahood (p. 123) in reading the final word wtmjm as “from his pavilion [tm^j@]”, rather than MT (“from his heat [hM*j^]”). The word —mt (“tent, pavilion”) is known in Ugaritic (cf. Kirta I. col. iii. line 55), as well as in Arabic and other cognate languages. Less certain is the parsing of rT*s=n] as a reflexive t-infixed conjugation of the root rWs (“turn [away/aside]”), though that would seem to fit the context. The MT reads the verb as a simple Niphal form of rts (“hide, conceal”). Unfortunately, there is little help to be had from a comparative study of the Qumran texts, as Ps 19 is preserved in just one small fragmentary MS (11QPsc).

The focus on the sun (vm#v#) is quite natural, as the most visible (and sensible) manifestation of the creative power. The life-giving power of the sun is readily apparent, as is the extent to which human beings (and all living creatures) are dependent on it. Within the ancient Near Eastern milieu, it was in Egypt that we see the greatest emphasis on the creative power of the sun (Re), and as the manifestation of the deity as Creator (Re-Atum). However, such solar-imagery was equally applicable to El-Yahweh as the Creator; commentators have repeated noted the similarities, for example, between Psalm 104 and the hymn to the Aten (the creative power manifest in the disc/orb of the sun) from the Amarna period in Egypt.

Next week’s study will explore the remainder of the Psalm (vv. 8-15 [7-14]), the putative second poem praising the Instruction (Torah) of YHWH.

References above marked “Dahood” are to Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965).

May 7: Psalm 104:29-30; 139:7; 143:10

Psalm 104:29-30; 139:7; 143:10

Before continuing in these notes on the subject of the association between the Spirit of God and prophecy (cf. the previous note), and how it was developed in the Prophetic writings, let us pause to consider briefly today the few references to the Spirit (j^Wr) in the Psalms. We already looked at Ps 51:12-14 [10-12] in an earlier note, where the three-fold use of j^Wr occurred in the context of the ancient tradition and (royal) theology, whereby the legitimacy of rule was based on a (charismatic) gifting by the presence of the spirit of God (discussed in prior notes). However, within the Psalm, this idea has been generalized somewhat, to the point where it could easily be applied the average person or the people of God as a whole. What is most important to note is the way that sin and impurity breaks the covenant bond with YHWH and stands as a barrier to experiencing the presence of His Spirit. This is the significance of the qualitative term “holy” —i.e. “your holy spirit” (lit. “spirit of your holiness”).

There are three other references to the “spirit” of God in the Psalms, and in each of these, the term j^Wr essentially stands for the presence of God, drawing upon the language and imagery of the Creation account (Gen 1:2, etc, cf. the earlier note)—that is, as a breath or wind that extends over the entire universe and gives life to all things.

Psalm 104:29-30

Psalm 104 is among the grandest of the Psalter, a hymn extolling the creative power of YHWH—that is, YHWH as the Creator God (identified with the Semitic ‘El). As many commentators have noted, the Psalm resembles the Egyptian hymn to the Aten (the creative power manifest in the disc/orb of the sun), composed during the Amarna period, in the way that it describes the deity’s life-giving and sustaining power as it touches the different parts of creation. Ultimately, however, this Psalm is a uniquely Israelite composition, adapting and applying the cosmological tenets of ancient Near Eastern thought entirely to El-Yahweh.

In verses 27-30, the focus is on the sustenance YHWH provides, for all living beings on earth, by way of His own life-sustaining power. This extends from the manifestation of His power within the natural order, through the food that is available to creatures (vv. 27-28), to a consideration of His immanent presence in a more general sense (vv. 29-30). This latter aspect is defined in terms of the contrast between life and death—i.e. His presence brings life, while the absence of His presence causes death.

The rhythm and meter of vv. 29-30 is irregular, and may reflect an adaptation of the 3-beat (3+3) couplet format to produce a chiastic structure:

    • The face of God (His presence)
      • Death from the absence of His spirit
        • The dust from which humans were created
      • Life from the presence of His spirit
    • (His presence over) the face of the earth

Within this parallelism, there is a clear correspondence between the “face” of God and His “spirit/breath” (j^Wr). As far as the corresponding idea of the “face” of the earth is concerned, we may recall the imagery from Gen 1:2, where the spirit/breath of God hovers over the “face” of the deep (i.e. the dark mass of the primeval waters). With this structure in mind, here is a translation of the extended pair of couplets, with the additional/central line in italics:

“You hide your face and they are disturbed,
you gather (up your) breath [j^Wr] and they perish
and return to dust;
you send (out) your breath [j^Wr] and they are created,
you make new the face of the ground [hm*d*a&].”

In light of this parallelism, I am inclined to follow Dahood (pp. 46-47) in reading the <-suffixes in v. 29b as enclitics, rather than the 3rd person plural suffix. The Qumran manuscript 11QPsa, which specifically reads “your breath” (as a correction?), confirms that this is the intended meaning. There may well be a bit of dual-meaning wordplay, since, clearly, the removal of God’s breath (spirit) leads to the removal of the human breath/spirit (i.e. their death). The reference to the “ground” (hm*d*a&, i.e. the surface of the earth) also involves some traditional (and longstanding) word-play with <d*a* (“man, humankind”).

Psalm 139:7

In this Psalm, of a type found rather frequently in the collection, the Psalmist affirms his faithfulness and loyalty to YHWH. The first half (vv. 1-13) is a meditative hymn on the all-encompassing presence and power of God, the heart of which, we may say is the couplet in verse 7, where we find the same parallelism of face / spirit as in 104:29-30 (cf. above). Both the terms “face” (pl. <yn]P*) and “breath/spirit” (j^Wr) fundamentally signify the presence of YHWH. The parallelism of the 3+3 couplet is simple and precise:

“(To) where shall I walk (away) from your spirit,
and (to) where shall I run away from your face?”

In later theological terminology, we would refer to this as part of an overall statement in the Psalm on the omnipresence of God—YHWH is everywhere, His presence extending over the entire “face” of the earth.

Psalm 143:10

Ps 143 may be regarded as a penitential Psalm, similar in tone to Ps 51 (discussed in a prior note), but more properly functioning as prayer to YHWH that justice be done. It consists of two parallel parts (vv. 1-6, 7-12). The word j^Wr (“spirit, breath”) occurs three times, each of which involves parallels or associations already encountered in these notes:

    • Verse 4— “spirit” (j^Wr) is parallel with “heart” (bl@), referring to the inner life-force or essence of a person; in his suffering and distress, the Psalmist feels his life-force emptying.
    • Verse 7—again the idea is of the Psalmist’s life-breath departing (ending, vb hl*K*), only now the association is with God’s own life-sustaining presence (i.e. His “face”) being removed (cp. Ps 51:13 [11]) from him.
    • Verse 10—as in Ps 51:14 [12], the emphasis here is on the Psalmist being renewed/restored by the stimulating and guiding spirit of God. The verse is comprised of a pair of 3+2 couplets, exhibiting synthetic parallelism:
      “Teach me to do your pleasure,
      for you (are) my Mightiest (One);
      may your good spirit [j^Wr] guide me
      into the straight [i.e. level] land.”
      The expression “good spirit” (hb*of j^Wr) is similar in certain respects to “holy spirit” (lit. “spirit of holiness”) and “stimulating spirit” in Ps 51:13-14 [11-12]. The “straight” land has a dual-meaning: (a) its smooth/level surface characterizes the heavenly afterlife for the righteous, and (b) it alludes to the straight (i.e. upright) character of the righteous.

References marked “Dahood” above are to Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms III: 101-150, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 17A (1970).

 

 

 

February 17: Revelation 22:7a, 12-13

Revelation 22:7a, 12-13

This is the second component from the two parallel sets that make up verses 6-17 (cf. the previous note on vv. 6, 10-11). It is a declaration, by Jesus, of his imminent end-time appearance:

“And, see! I come quickly [taxu/]!” (v. 7a)
“See! I come quickly [taxu/]…” (v. 12)

This repeats the message of the exalted Jesus in 2:16; 3:11; the corresponding expression e)n ta/xei (“in [all] haste”) occurs in 1:1 and 22:6 (cf. the previous note). This is a clear indication, again, that, from the standpoint of the author and readers of the book, the end-time return of Jesus was imminent. On the specific use of taxu[$] / taxo$ with this eschatological meaning among early Christians, cf. my study on the imminent eschatology in the New Testament.

The message in vv. 6ff and 10ff is spoken by the heavenly Messenger (Angel); that it shifts here to the first person voice of Jesus is simply a reflection of the book’s understanding that the exalted Jesus is the true source of the message (cf. the discussion on 1:1 in the opening note, and the one previous).

Verses 12-13

The declaration by Jesus in vv. 12-13 is expanded beyond the simple announcement of his imminent return:

“See! I come quickly [taxu/]! and my wage is with me to give forth to each (person), as his work is (deserving). I (am) the Alpha and the O(mega), the first and the last, the beginning and the completion [te/lo$].”

In many ways, this statement provides a concise summary of early Christian eschatology, as may be illustrated by an exegesis of each phrase.

 )Idou\ e&rxomai taxu/ (“See! I come quickly”)—This reflects the early Christian belief that Jesus’ return is imminent (cf. above); it was something that believers at the time would have expected themselves to see.

kai\ o( misqo/$ mou met’ e)mou= (“and my wage is with me”)—This alludes to the coming end-time Judgment, which will be ushered in at Jesus’ return; as God’s appointed (and Anointed) representative, he will also oversee the Judgment—thus the payment (misqo/$) is “with him”, and is his to give (“my wage”).

a)podou=nai e(ka/stw| w($ to\ e&rgon e)sti/n au)tou= (“to give forth to each [person] as his work is [deserving]”)—The noun misqo/$ is often translated “reward”, but “wage” is the proper rendering, referring to service done for payment or hire. Thus, here it specifically denotes payment that is due to a person, appropriate to the work (e&rgon) they have performed. Again, as God’s divine representative, Jesus as the authority to give out (vb a)podi/dwmi, “give from, give forth”) the payment at the time of Judgment. Jesus’ parables involving workers/laborers generally carry this eschatological aspect.

e)gw\ to\ a&lfa kai\ to\ w@ (“I [am] the Alpha and the O[mega]”)—The exalted Jesus identifies himself by this conjunction of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which, elsewhere in the book of Revelation, functions as a Divine title applied to God (1:8; 21:6, cf. the earlier note). Since the exalted Jesus rules alongside God the Father, he shares the same divine position and authority; beyond this, we should be cautious about reading into the wording and symbolism of the book of Revelation a more precisely-developed Christology (regarding divine pre-existence, etc).

o( prw=to$ kai\ o( e&sxato$, h( a)rxh\ kai\ to\ te/lo$ (“the first and the last, the beginning and the completion”)—These two expressions both relate to the motif of “alpha and omega”, expounding it in similar ways. The expression “the first and the last” was used specifically of the exalted Jesus in earlier scenes (1:17; 2:8), while “the beginning and the completion” was applied to God in 21:6. The expressions are eschatological, but also cosmological, in that they refer to the beginning and end of the current Age (and, indeed, of all Ages, all Creation). Jesus is the a)rxh/ (“beginning”) in the sense, certainly, that he serves as the “chief ruler” over Creation (3:14), alongside God the Father; whether this also indicates his role in the original act of Creation itself is harder to say, but I think it likely, given the contours of early Christology as it developed in the latter half of the first century (cp. 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2; John 1:1-4, cf. Koester, p. 841). The term te/lo$ (“completion”) is unquestionably eschatological, and the exalted Jesus plays a central role in the completion of the current Age, and the formation (beginning, a)rxh/) of the New.

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February 1: Revelation 21:5-6a

Revelation 21:5-8

The initial vision of the “new heavens and new earth” and of the “new Jerusalem” were given in summary form in vv. 1-4 (cf. the previous notes); the same continues in vv. 5-8, before a more detailed description of the New Age in the remainder of chapters 21-22. If the focus was on the Creation in vv. 1-4, in verses 5-8 it is the Creator who is in view.

Revelation 21:5-6a

According to the best reading of v. 3, the voice making the declaration comes out of the throne (qro/no$, ruling-seat) of God in heaven (cf. also 16:17; 19:5); this suggests that it is God who speaks, though he is not identified as such. Now, however, in verse 5, the voice is localized as coming from “the one sitting on the throne”, that is, from God Himself. This is proper to the context of the vision, in which the heavenly city descends to earth and God is said now to dwell with His people. It is important to the character of this vision that God should manifest Himself (to His people) as He speaks:

“And the (One) sitting upon the ruling-seat said: ‘See! I make all (thing)s new!’ And (then) He says, ‘You must write, (in) that [i.e. because] these accounts are trust(worthy) and true’. And (then) He said, ‘They have come to be. I [Am] the Alpha and the O(mega), the beginning and the completion.'”

The statement “I make all (thing)s new”, taken together with “the first (thing)s went away” at the end of the prior verse, echoes God’s prophetic declaration in Isaiah 43:18-19, and serves as a fulfillment of that prophecy (as also of Isa 65:16-17). There is a clear contrast between the first/former things (prw=ta) and the new things (kaina/)—that is, between the old and new creation, emphasizing again the theme of newness (adj. kaino/$), of the New Age that is to come.

The command for the seer to write all this down is significant in that there is an emphasis, not only on the prophecies of what is to come, but on their fulfillment. The second person imperative (gra/yon, “you must write”, “write!”) has been used repeatedly throughout the book (1:11, 19; 2:1ff; 3:1ff [7 times in chaps. 2-3]; 14:13; 19:9). The plural lo/goi (“accounts”, i.e. words, sayings, things said) can be taken as a comprehensive reference to the entire visionary narrative (i.e. all the visions and descriptions in the book), but especially to the climactic vision of chaps. 21-22, as the fulfillment of what God has promised throughout. In other words, for the believers to whom the book was written, they can be sure that God will indeed act (and soon!) in Judgment, bringing a definite end to the current Age of wickedness and corruption. The suffering and persecution one may face in the present, and in the period of distress, will soon be over, replaced by the heavenly/eternal life that awaits for those who remain faithful. This promise is “trustworthy” (pisto/$) and “true” (a)lhqino/$), meaning that it is real and will be fulfilled.

The second declaration made by God (v. 6) begins with the simple exclamation “They have come to be!” (ge/gonan). This verbal form (3rd person plural perfect) is a bit unusual, occurring elsewhere only in Rom 16:7; some manuscripts read instead the first person singular (ge/gona, “I have come to be”), but this is certainly not correct. The emphasis is simply on the fact that the things spoken by God have come to be, which includes this new Creation; the idea echoes the first Creation (Genesis 1), in which the things God spoke came into existence (i.e. came to be)—cf. the use of the verb gi/nomai, together with the motif of creation through God’s Word, in John 1:3, 6, 10ff. It is also reminiscent of the dying word of Jesus on the cross in John 19:30 (“It has been completed”, tete/lestai), referring to the completion of Jesus’ earthly mission; now the same sort of single-word perfect declaration marks the completion (te/lo$) of the current Age.

God’s self-identification as “the Alpha and the O(mega)”, utilizing the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (a&lfa [A] and w)me/ga [W], the latter given here as pronounced, w@). This repeats the divine declaration from 1:8 (cf. my earlier note), though without the added phrase “the beginning [a)rxh/] and the completion [te/lo$]” (according to the best manuscripts). Here the emphasis is specifically on the beginning and end of Creation, with God’s role as Creator. He brings the old Creation, the old Age, to completion, and creates an entirely new Age, a new order of things. This divine self-identification applies to God the Father (YHWH) here (and in 1:8); however, in 22:13 it is used of the exalted Christ, showing again how, according to the fundamental early Christian belief, the exalted Jesus has a role and position alongside God the Father, sharing the same Divine power and authority. Like much of the language here in the vision, this wording reflects passages in deutero-Isaiah (chaps. 40-66, cf. 41:4, 26; 44:6; 48:12).

The next daily note will continue this discussion on vv. 6b-8.

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Prophecy & Eschatology in the New Testament: Romans (Part 2)

Romans 8:18-25

Verses 18-25 are part of the wider section spanning chapter 8, the fourth, and final, major section of the probatio of Romans (Rom 1:18-8:39). The first three sections were:

    • Rom 1:18-3:20: Announcement of God’s (impending) judgment, according to the Law (of God)
    • Rom 3:21-5:21: Announcement of God’s justice/righteousness (in Christ), apart from the Law (Torah)
    • Rom 6:1-7:25: Announcement of Freedom from the Law and Sin

This last section (chapter 8) I would divide as follows (for more on this outline, cf. the article in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”):

    • Rom 8:1-30: Announcement of Life in the Spirit (Exhortation)
      8:1-11: The conflict (for believers) between the Spirit and the Flesh
      8:12-17: Believers are sons (of God) and heirs (with Christ) through the Spirit
      8:18-25: Believers have the hope of future glory (new creation) through the Spirit
      8:26-30: Believers experience the work of salvation through the Spirit
    • Rom 8:31-39: Doxology: The Love of God (in Christ)

As indicated above, the primary theme of chapter 8 is the new life in the Spirit that believers experience, representing the culmination of the “salvation history” or “order of salvation” that Paul lays out in the probatio of Romans.

In verses 12-17, believers are identified as the children (“sons”) of God, an identity that is realized through the Spirit (cp. Gal 4:6). In verse 18, this discussion shifts to the future aspect of our Christian identity, comparing the situation for believers currently (whether understood as Paul’s time or our own) in the world, with what awaits the faithful in the Age to Come. Thus, Rom 8:18-25 is fundamentally eschatological, marking the climax of this last division of the salvation history, at the point in time where believers are positioned—i.e., living at the end of the current Age.

Verse 18

“For I count [i.e. consider] that the sufferings of th(is) moment now (are) not brought up (as equal) toward the honor [do/ca] (be)ing about to be uncovered unto us.”

The noun pa/qhma has the basic meaning “suffering, misfortune”, something negative which happens to a person. Paul uses it (always in the plural, 9 times) in two primary contexts: (1) the sufferings in the flesh, i.e. the impulse toward sin which resides in the flesh (even for believers), along with the suffering this causes (Rom 7:25; Gal 5:24), and (2) the sufferings which believers endure (from non-believers, especially) for the sake of Christ and the Gospel (2 Cor 1:5-7, etc). Both aspects are rightly considered as part of the suffering faced by believers in the present Age, which Paul (and his readers) saw as swiftly coming to a close. Here, the contrast is between the present suffering of believers, and the future honor/glory that waits for them. The present suffering, no matter how severe, does not measure up to the greatness of this future glory. The adjective a&cio$ draws upon the idiom of weighing—i.e. the weight of something which brings up the beam of the scales into balance. The implication is that the future glory far outweighs the present suffering (cp. 2 Cor 4:17).

The use of the auxiliary verb me/llw, indicating that something is about to occur, is another sign that for Paul this eschatological expectation was imminent. He fully expected that those believers to whom he was writing would soon be experiencing this do/ca— “about to be uncovered unto us”.

Verse 19

“For the (stretch)ing of the head of the (thing) formed (by God) looks out to receive th(is) uncovering of the sons of God.”

The statement is almost impossible to translate literally in English, with its wordplay involving the compound noun a)pokaradoki/a and verb a)pekde/xomai. Both compounds are based on the verbal root de/xomai, which denotes a person receiving something. The noun connotes an eager expectation, literally signifying the stretching of the head out (or up), i.e. in anticipation of something coming. The word kti/si$ means something (or someone) that has been formed, i.e. by God; it is used by Paul 5 times in chapter 8, emphasizing the nature of human beings as part of the current order of creation. In other words, believers are living in this (current) created order—that is, in the present Age—all the while waiting for, and expecting, the uncovering of the future glory. Note again the identification of believers as “sons (i.e. children) of God”. Moreover, Paul speaks as though creation itself, taken as a whole, shares in this expectation (cf. below on vv. 20ff); thus there is an inherent ambiguity in the word kti/si$—does it refer comprehensively to all that God has created, or simply to the created nature of human beings?

Verses 20-21

“For the (thing) formed was set under an (arranged) order, in futility, (and) not willingly (so), but through the (one) setting (it) under the (arranged) order—upon hope—(in) that even the (thing) formed it(self) will be set free from the slavery of th(is) decay into the freedom of the honor of the offspring of God.”

Paul’s syntax here is notoriously difficult to interpret with precision, though the basic idea is clear enough. Several strands of theological language and religious tradition are brought together:

    • A continuation of the slavery/freedom motif that has been developed throughout Romans. Human beings have been enslaved under the power of sin since the time of the first human (Adam), when sin (and the idea of sin) was introduced into the world (see chapters 5 and 7). Through trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, believers are freed from this bondage.
    • Metaphysical dualism—Related to the slavery/bondage theme is the idea that the current created order has ‘fallen’ into a condition dominated by death and decay (fqora/); as a result, human beings are trapped within this fallen order, needing rescue/deliverance by God (through Christ). In this regard, Paul shares much in common with many “Gnostics”, but differs from them fundamentally by his emphasis that the goal is not simply escape from the material condition, but that the material world itself would be transformed.
    • The Adam/Christ parallel—This was the main organizing principle for Paul’s line of argument in chapter 5, and it is likely that he is alluding to it again here. It is the mythic-narrative corollary to the slavery vs. bondage contrast, defining it according to the narratives surrounding two contrasting persons—one introducing sin into the world, the other delivering the world from sin.

The difficult syntax of vv. 20-21, can, I think, be clarified by considering the thematic structure of the phrases as a chiasm:

    • Creation set under an arranged order of things—in futility
      • It is set under this arranged order through Adam’s sin (implied)
        • Yet this arrangement is based upon an underlying hope
      • It will be set free from this order, through Christ’s saving work (implied)
    • Creation will be freed into a new order of things—out of slavery/decay

According to this line of interpretation, the subject of the participle u(pota/canta is Adam (representing all of humankind). By refusing to put himself under God’s order (cp. use of the vb u(pota/ssw in 8:7; 10:3), he effectively placed the world under a ‘fallen’ order (with the introduction of the enslaving power of sin). Many commentators would see God as the implied subject of u(pota/canta, influenced perhaps by the language in 1 Cor 15:27-28 and the tradition of God (YHWH) cursing the ground, etc, in Genesis 3. While theologically correct, this is unlikely in the rhetorical context here, given the emphasis on the nature of the bondage that Paul describes throughout Romans, and the specific Adam/Christ parallel in chapter 5. Closer to the thought in Romans (and Galatians) would be the idea that the Law subjected creation to the bondage under sin (Rom 7:7-13; Gal 3:22ff). Chapters 5 and 7 present two ways of viewing and explaining the same dynamic—of how humankind came to be enslaved to the power of sin.

The honor (do/ca) that awaits for believers is to be understood primarily in terms of the coming resurrection, as Paul makes clear in the following verses. It is established here by the formal parallel between do/ca and fqora/ (“decay”), the latter indicating the mortality of the created order, in bondage under the power of death.

Verses 22-23

“For we have seen that all th(at has been) formed groans together and is in pain together, until th(is moment) now; and not only (this), but also (our)selves, holding the beginning (fruit) from (the harvest) of the Spirit, even we (our)selves groan in ourselves, looking out to receive (our) [placement as sons], (and) the loosing of our body from (bondage).”

Two different images are employed here, both of which were traditionally used in an eschatological context: (1) the pain of giving birth, and (2) harvest imagery. Both images refer to the climax of a period (of growth and labor, etc), thus serving as suitable figure-types for the end of the current Age. The birth-pain imagery was used especially in reference to the end-time period of distress (cf. Mark 13:9, 17 par; Luke 23:28-29ff, etc), while the harvest tended to prefigure the end-time Judgment (Matt 3:12 par; 13:39-43; Mark 4:29; Rev 14:15ff; cf. also Luke 10:2; Jn 4:35). This judgment-motif involved the separation of the righteous from the wicked (i.e. the grain from the chaff), which was understood in terms of the gathering of believers to Jesus at the moment of his end-time return (Mk 13:26-27 par; Rev 14:15-16). Paul, at least, specifically included the resurrection of dead believers in this gathering (1 Thess 4:14-17), and clearly made use of harvest-imagery in his discussion on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 (vv. 20-23, 36ff). Jesus himself was the “beginning (fruit) from (the harvest)” (a)parxh/), and believers share this same status, through the Spirit, possessing the same life-giving power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is what Paul means when he says that as believers we hold “the beginning (fruit) from (the harvest) of the Spirit“; elsewhere the Spirit is described as a kind of deposit (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5), guaranteeing for us the promise of resurrection.

Because believers continue to live in the world, in the current created order, as human beings, we groan suffering along with all of creation, since our bodies (our “flesh”) remain under the old bondage to sin and death. We must still confront the impulse to sin in our flesh, and we all face the reality of physical death. Our deliverance from this bondage will not be complete until the transformation of our bodies, as stated here by Paul— “the loosing of our body from (bondage)”, using the noun a)polu/trwsi$. His temporal expression a&xri tou= nu=n is a shorthand for the tou= nu=n kairou= (“of the moment now”) in verse 18, another indication of the imminence of Paul’s eschatology—that is, it was about to happen now.

There is some textual uncertainty regarding the noun ui(oqesi/a (“placement as son[s]”) in verse 23, as it is omitted in a number of key manuscripts (Ë46 D F G 614). If secondary, then the text originally would have read: “…looking out to receive the loosing of our body from (bondage)” —i.e., the reference would be entirely to the resurrection, without any mention of the ‘adoption’ motif. However, as the sonship-theme was central to vv. 12-17, as also the expression “sons of God” in v. 19, the use of ui(oqesi/a would be entirely fitting here in v. 23. The resurrection serves to complete the realization of believers as the sons (children) of God.

Verses 24-25

“For in hope we are saved; but hope being looked at is not hope, for who hopes (after) that which he (can) look at? But if we hope (for) that which we do not look at, (then) we look to receive (it) through (our) remaining under.”

This “hope” (e)lpi/$, and related verb e)lpi/zw) is the same as that mentioned by Paul at the center of vv. 20-21, where the fallen created order, currently in bondage to sin and death, is said to be based upon an underlying hope (“upon hope”, e)f’ e)lpi/di). Now this hope is defined as the salvation of humankind—believers—with their/our identity as sons/children of God. This ultimate deliverance is not something that can be looked at or seen clearly in the material world, for two reasons: (1) salvation is primarily eschatological, realized only at the end of the current Age, and (2) it is currently experienced only through the presence of the Spirit, which is not objectively visible to people at large. With trust and patience, believers endure suffering in the present Age—the temptation of the flesh and persecution by the world—captured by the word u(pomonh/, which literally means “remaining under”, i.e. under obedience to God and Christ. This is the attitude we are to have while waiting for the final salvation—the resurrection and transformation of our bodies.

Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth

Overview

In recent notes on the Book of Revelation (the visions of chapters 13-17), we have had occasion to explore the “Sea” as a symbol. In my view, within the visionary language of Revelation, it rather clearly represents the dark and chaotic forces of evil that are at work in the world. This symbolism derives largely, and primarily, from ancient Near Eastern cosmological myth. The ancient cosmology, widespread throughout the Near East, extending to Greece in the West and India in the East, can be summarized as follows:

In the beginning there was only a great (and dark) mass of water. The universe came to take shape within the midst of these primeval waters, like a bubble surrounded by water. This space effectively separated the water ‘above’ from the water ‘below’, even as the heaven/sky above would be separated from the earth (and underworld) below in the developing universe. The universe itself was geocentric (very different from our modern understanding of the universe) and spherical (or hemispherical) in shape; only the spherical shape of the upper half is definite, since it was much harder to be sure of the shape of things below the earth. The “earth” in its narrow sense was generally viewed as a flat disc or cylinder, with a hemispheric ‘dome’ above, and a similar (or roughly comparable) space below. The waters above manifested themselves primarily through rain and snow, etc, while the waters below by way of underground springs, and so forth. There were also waters (rivers, lakes, etc) on the surface of the earth. In some cosmologies, the earth/universe was also surrounded by a ring of water, related to primitive conceptions of the great oceans. Only a few brave souls would have ventured out into the oceans far enough to realize the lands and peoples beyond; for most the oceans represented the boundary of the known world.

Thus the “Sea”, as the primeval waters, was central to the ancient cosmology. An important related concept had to do with the creation of the universe in terms of establishing an order within the natural world. This order is reflected and expressed several ways, one of the most fundamental being that of separation—dividing and arranging the universe into distinct shapes, regions, livable domains, etc. By contrast, the primeval waters represent the opposite of order—the condition of things before the natural order of creation was established. The waters are now generally outside of the created order, manifest and breaking through only at its boundaries (above, below, and the oceans beyond). When it does ‘break through’ often chaos and destruction is the result (i.e. through rain-storms, flooding, tidal waves, etc), endangering life on earth. To make human life, in particular, sustainable requires that these primeval forces be controlled and regulated—i.e. rain and flooding in its proper season, and limited in scope.

To the ancient mind, there were many powers and forces in the universe, easily observable and manifest to human beings. Simply put, this is the basis for the widespread polytheism in the ancient world (and still characteristic of many traditional societies even today). Creator deities established the initial order of the universe, controlling and regulating its processes, which are also governed by many local “gods” or intelligent powers. Stories were told in an attempt to describe all of this, and we may refer to these as cosmological myths—tales meant to explain how the universe came to be, and how/why it operates as it does.

The religion of ancient Israel represented a distinctive break from this common polytheistic worldview. The earliest forms of Israelite monotheism were not as stark or absolute as its later, more developed forms, but still required a very different way of expressing the ancient cosmology. Vestiges of ancient cosmological myth are preserved in the Old Testament, but sublimated under the idea of the Creator El-Yahweh as sovereign over all things.

This brings us back to the primeval waters, the “Sea”, in ancient Near Eastern myth. In establishing the natural order of the universe, the Creator deity was seen as having to gain control over the waters. This was often expressed in stories of conflict, military action or battle by a great hero-figure—i.e. conflict with the Sea. This was a mythic story-pattern that was truly widespread, with variations and versions of it as far afield as Greece and India. Some scholars theorize that these specific conflict-myths—especially those which involve a heroic deity doing battle with a sea-creature—derive from the Semitic world.

Marduk and the Babylonian Creation Epic

Perhaps the best known of the surviving texts is the Babylonian “Epic of Creation” (also known by a transliteration of its opening words En¥ma eliš). The tablets date from the time of the great Babylonian and Assyrian empires in the 1st millennium B.C., but they doubtless contain traditions and poetic elements that are centuries earlier, into the 2nd millennium, perhaps as far back as the kingdom of Hammurabi (mid/late-19th century). At some point, the epic poem was recited at the New Year’s festival in Babylon, ritually signifying the ‘renewal’ of creation (and the created order).

Following the basic ancient Near Eastern cosmology (cf. above), in the beginning there was a great mass of water, depicted as a pair of beings joined together—Apsu (male, fresh water) and Tiamat (female, salt water). The creation of the universe within this water is narrated in terms of a great family conflict that turns into a military battle, pitting children against their parents. It begins with a disturbance in the belly of the ‘mother’ Tiamat; eventually the ‘father’ Apsu is slain by one of ‘sons’ (Ea)—this is a common feature in ancient theogonic myths, in which a new generation must take the place of the old as the universe develops and comes into being. With the ‘death’ of Apsu, the gods come into prominence. Tiamat then rages against them, producing monstrous beings (including a horned serpent and fierce dragons) to fight for her. Ultimately the gods choose Marduk as their champion, who will lead the battle against Tiamat on their behalf. The great battle ends with the ‘death’ and dismemberment of Tiamat, and the establishment of Marduk’s rule as supreme deity; out of Tiamat’s ‘body’ (i.e. the primeval waters), the universe as we know it is formed, along with the natural order of the world. This is all narrated in the first four tablets (I-IV) of the standard imperial version of the Epic.

Marduk was the patron deity of the city of Babylon, who gained in prominence when the city-state became a larger regional empire. He was primarily associated with farming and the establishment of agriculture; this, of course, meant the need to control and regulate the waters—rain in its season (and in the right amounts), flooding of the rivers, etc. Marduk appears to have been more or less identified (and assimilated) with the Sumerian deity Ninurta, who played a similar role in governing agriculture, including control of storms, etc. Ninurta was considered the “son” of En-lil, one of the supreme deities in Sumerian religious thought. The name En-lil is usually translated as “Lord Wind” or “Lord Air”, indicating a domain that governs the ‘world’, the atmosphere, etc, that comes in contact with the earth below (governed by a different deity En-ki). The precise etymology is disputed (in terms of the meaning of the word lil); however, Ninurta as the “son” of “Lord Wind/Air” would certainly fit his association with the storm and the fertility of the land that results from rainstorms, etc. Marduk’s battle against Tiamat is similar in many respects to that narrated of Ninurta in the Anzu epic. Ninurta battles Anzu, a hybrid bird-figure (also known as Imdugud), associated with the winds and storms and a guardian for En-lil. By conquering the Anzu, Ninurta establishes control over the storms; he is also said to have slain a seven-headed Serpent (cf. below) and the “bull-man” of the Sea.

Other Ancient Versions of the Conflict-Myth

There are other Near Eastern myths in which a heroic deity, associated with the storms (wind and rain, etc), battles a hybrid monster who represents, in some fashion, the Sea and its primeval waters. There are, for example, relatively simple myths from Hittite (or Hattian) sources in Anatolia (Asia Minor), in which the “Storm God” battles (and kills) the Serpent-being Illuyanka, usually connected with the Sea, though this is not always clearly indicated in the tale. The episode played a role in the Purulli festival (about which little is known), even as the Epic of Creation featured in the Babylonian New Year festival.

These stories contain clear ritual elements in them, much more so than we find in the developed Epics. In particular, the Storm deity (Hittite Tar—una, Hurran Teshub) requires the assistance of a human being to defeat the Serpent. Similarly, in tales of the “disappearance of the Storm God”, ritual formulae are included within the narrative, performed by a human priest-figure, to appease the deity and bring him back, thus restoring/ensuring the fertility of the land. In all likelihood these Serpent-conflict myths spread westward into Anatolia, where they were inherited (and adapted) by the Indo-European Hittites.

The mythic-pattern spread even further west, among the Greeks, where there are several notable examples, such as Apollo’s slaying of the Python-figure at Delphi; however, in that tradition the Serpent is more of a chthonic Earth-being, rather than connected to the Sea. Closer to the Near Eastern cosmological myth is the episode made famous in the Theogony of Hesiod. Dating from c. 700 B.C., Hesiod’s work is a compendium of ancient Greek cosmological tradition, some of which, almost certainly, was inherited from the Near East (via the Greek colonies on the Anatolian coast, etc). The poem begins with the initial creation—which does not follow the Near Eastern cosmology (cf. above)—and climaxes with the establishment of Zeus’ rule over the universe as king of the gods. His battle with the Typhoeus (Tufweu/$, also called Typhon, Typhos), a multi-headed Serpent-creature, is narrated in lines 820-885, after which Zeus is declared “king” of the gods (886). Zeus (Zeu/$) is the Greek reflex of the Indo-European high deity associated with the Sky (dyeus), especially in its bright and shining aspect; the ancient derivation is preserved in the form Dio/$ (in Latin as Deus). Zeus took on traditional characteristics of the storm theophany—i.e. the deity manifest in storms—making use of thunder and lightning, winds and rain, etc, especially when exercising his authority or engaged in battle.

Even further afield, from the Indo-Aryan regions of India, are mythic traditions associated with the figure of Indra, a deity similarly connected with the storm (he had the title “wielder of the thunderbolt”). In one set of ancient tales, Indra slew the serpent being Vr¤tra (“restrainer”), who holds back (“restrains”) the waters need for the fertility of the earth. In slaying Vr¤tra, Indra releases the waters (locked up on the mountains, presumably in the form of snow). In other tales it is the demon Vala who had held back the waters (“seven rivers”, also depicted as cows). These traditions are clearly quite ancient, as they go back to the Rg¤ Veda (c. 1200-900 B.C.)—cf. 1.32; 2.12; 10.124.6ff.

The Canaanite Epic of Baal

Perhaps the clearest ancient version of this conflict-myth, and the one most relevant to the Old Testament and Israelite tradition, is the so-called Baal Epic. This work is preserved on six tablets (and other fragments) uncovered at the site of Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit). They date from the mid-14th century B.C.; however, as an extended epic poem, the Baal Epic is almost certainly the product of centuries of development, during which time various traditions, poetic elements, and even shorter individual tales, were brought together to give shape to the text as we have it. There is still some question whether all six tablets belong to a single composition; in particular, the place of the first tablet (CAT 1.1) is quite uncertain. Due to the fragmentary nature of the tablets, requiring reconstruction based on parallel passages, it is not possible to discern all the details of the narrative, but the basic outline is clear enough.

The central character is Baal-Haddu—the deity Haddu (Hadad/Adad) who controlled the weather and personified the storms needed to give life and fertility to the land. He was thus the prominent deity among farming societies in Palestine and Syria, in many ways supplanting the Creator god °El in importance. The title “Baal” (Heb lu^B^) means “lord, master” (cf. my earlier article), and is thus an honorific that could be applied to any deity. There is some indication that this title had once been used for YHWH in Israel; however, in the face of the danger of syncretic assimilation of Canaanite religious elements (esp. worship of Haddu), such use soon disappeared, the title being reserved for the pagan/false deity Baal-Haddu. In Israel, YHWH was more or less identified with the Creator °El (“Mighty One”), though very different in character than the °El portrayed in many of the Canaanite myths. With Baal-Haddu, the situation was different; a sharp conflict arose between adherents of exclusive worship of the Creator El-Yahweh (i.e. Yahwists), and those willing to adopt (and assimilate) Canaanite religious beliefs and practices (e.g. “Baal-worship”). The agricultural fertility rites practiced among Canaanites (and devoted to Baal-Haddu) were especially problematic for devout Yahwists. This conflict is well-attested in the earlier Old Testament Prophets and the Deuteronomic History (Samuel–Kings), as also in the book of Judges.

The Baal Epic itself is clearly cosmological—that is to say, it deals with the universe and the natural order established in creation. As with the other myths cited above, the Epic centers around a conflict; actually there are two great conflicts which serve to structure the poem: (1) between Baal and the Sea (Yamm = Heb <y`), and (2) between Baal and Death (Mot = Heb tom). The first conflict relates to the establishment of the created order; the second relates to the cyclical nature of the current order (i.e. life-death-rebirth). As in the Babylonian Creation Epic (cf. above), the storm-bringing deity (Marduk / Baal-Haddu), following his conquest of the Sea (the primeval Waters), becomes king and ruler over the created order. The “Sea” is conquered and dismembered (or cut up), which allows for the waters to enter into the natural world safely, on a limited basis (i.e. scattered as rain), and in different locations (rivers, with local flooding, etc). Baal’s rule (over these waters) is marked by the construction of a great palace—the palace symbolizing his domain over the natural world.

The conflict between Baal and the Sea is narrated in the second tablet (II, CAT 1.2), the construction of his palace extends over the third and fourth tablets (III-IV, CAT 1.3-4). At the end of tablet IV (column 8) Baal’s kingship is announced to Mot (i.e. Death personified), which sets the stage for the conflict in tablets V and VI. Interestingly, in III.3.38-40, the deity Anat (= Heb tn`u&) speaks as though she were the one who defeated the Sea (Yamm), contrary to what is narrated in II.4.11-31. This can perhaps be explained by the complex relationship between Baal and Anat, who are said to be brother and sister. As a deity-figure Anat is difficult to define; she is depicted as an adolescent (virginal) maiden, but also as a fierce warrior. It is probably best to view her as a kind of personification of battle. This makes her similar in many respects to the Greek Athena, the Hindu Kali/Durga, and the savage hilds of Germanic myth. The episode in III.2, where Anat ‘hosts’ a bloody battle between two (human) armies, does not appear to be integral to the narrative; rather, it is a symbolic scene that establishes the setting for her character (conflict/battle), along with the peace that must follow warfare (III.3.4-31). Thus, in Baal’s doing battle with Yamm, his ‘sister’ Anat is also present; after the battle, he comes to her directly to set forth peace in the world (cf. the beautiful lines III.3.14-31, repeated as a refrain throughout the poem).

Along with the defeat of the Sea by Baal/Anat, mention is made of the defeat of other monstrous creatures which apparently were allies of the Sea (like the creatures of Tiamat, cf. above). In III.3.38ff, these include a great serpentine Sea-monster (tnn), a similar being called “Twisting Serpent” (b¾n ±qltn), and another referred to as “the Ruler with seven heads” (šly‰ d šb±t rašm). The last two are also mentioned in V.1.1-3, along with Litan (ltn) also called “Fleeing Serpent” (b¾n brµ). All four of these mythic beings are mentioned in the Old Testament, but in conflict with YHWH, rather than Baal-Haddu (cf. below).

The Old Testament and Israelite Tradition

Only vestiges of the conflict-myth are preserved in the Old Testament, the Canaanite-style myths being generally incompatible with Israelite monotheism. The ancient cosmology (cf. above) is quite clearly present in the Genesis 1 creation narrative, but shorn of nearly all mythological features. The primeval waters are divided and the created order established simply by the command of God, without the slightest sense of conflict. The situation is different in Old Testament poetry, where the mythic language and imagery is better preserved. However, even in those passages, they have been detached from their earlier (mythological) context, floating as vivid and colorful references to El-Yahweh’s sovereign power and control over the created order.

First, it must be noted that YHWH is often described in storm-theophany imagery that would similarly be associated with Baal-Haddu in Canaanite tradition. This includes all aspects of control over meteorological phenomena—wind, rain, thunder, lightning. The “voice” (loq) of YHWH is thunder (cf. above). YHWH’s control over the ancient, primeval waters is clearly expressed in poetic declarations such as Psalm 29:3 and 93:3-4; He is seated above the flood-waters, signifying His dominion over them (Ps 29:10), and exercises control over them at will (Job 26:5ff; 28:25; Psalm 33:7; 104:3; 136:6; Prov 8:29; 30:4, etc). This cosmological imagery was applied to the episode at the Reed Sea in the Exodus narrative (cf. especially the poetic references in Psalm 77:16ff; 78:13).

As far as depicting YHWH’s control in terms of the conflict-myth pattern, there are two main passages where this is preserved: Psalm 74:13-14 and Isaiah 27:1. Consider each of these:

Psalm 74:13-14:
“You broke apart the Sea [<y`] with your strength,
you broke in pieces the monsters [<yn]yN]t^] upon the waters;
you crushed (completely) the heads of Liwyatan [/t*y`w+l!],
you gave him as (something) eaten by the people (dwell)ing in (the) desert!”

Isaiah 27:1:
“In that day YHWH will oversee (the judgment) with His sword, great and hard, upon Liwyatan [/t*y`w+l!] (the) fleeing [j^r!B*] serpent, even upon Liwyatan [/t*y`w+l!] (the) twisting [/otL*q^u&] serpent, and He shall slay the monster [/yN]T^h^] that (is) in/on the sea [<y`].”

To this may be added Job 26:12-13:

“With His power He stilled the (raging) Sea,
with His skillfulness He shattered Rahab;
with His breath He made the Sea clear,
with His hand He pierced the fleeing Serpent.”

The italicized words all refer to mythic beings, associated with the Sea, that also were mentioned in the Baal Epic (cf. above). Clearly we are dealing with very ancient cosmological traditions, which survived even in the context of Israelite monotheism. Isaiah 27:1 brings together four of the names and expressions; though, in all likelihood, they are meant to refer to a single mythological creature, the Liwy¹t¹n (/t*y`w+l!, “Leviathan”), Caananite L£t¹n¥, a serpentine Sea-monster also called by the more general term tannîn (/yN]T^). This creature has the parallel labels “fleeing serpent” (j^r!B* vj*n`) and “twisting serpent” (/otL*q^u& vj*n`), just as in the Baal Epic. The reference to the “heads” (plural) of Liwy¹t¹n in Psalm 74:14 suggests that a seven-headed creature may be in view, corresponding to the “the Ruler with seven heads” (šly‰ d šb±t rašm) in the Baal Epic, and similar ancient traditions (cf. above). It is probably best to see all of these expressions as relating to a single multi-headed serpentine Sea-creature—the very image that is utilized in the book of Revelation for the Dragon and its Creature from the Sea.

Isaiah 27:1 is also significant for the way it utilizes these elements of ancient cosmological myth—the conflict with the Sea—in an eschatological setting. Apocalyptic literature, with its colorful imagery, tended to recycle older/archaic elements, setting them within a new context. The immediate precursors of Jewish apocalyptic lie in the Old Testament Prophets, with passages such as Isa 27:1. In a way, the use of cosmological myth was appropriate for eschatological narrative, to express the end of things in terms of their beginning. Just as a battle with the Sea marked the beginning of creation, the start of the current Age, so another kind of conflict with the “Sea” would characterize the end of the Age. This is very much the dynamic we see at work in the book of Revelation.