Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Islands in Isaiah

During my vacation I took some summertime reading along with me, I chose Isaiah. Or maybe I should say Isaiah chose me. Every time I read Isaiah something new strikes me. This time it was the mention of islands, over and over. I didn't remember seeing a plethora of islands like that anywhere else in the bible. Isaiah is a veritable archipelago right there on the pages of the bible. 

I found this to be quite odd for a desert people to be writing about islands, so I filed that away for further inquiry. When I got a break I opened up my study bible and was surprised to find that almost all of the islands had disappeared. I was sure I saw them but now they're gone. That evening when I went out to read in the cool of the evening (yeah, like there's a cool anything in a Florida August) the islands were back.

The fact that islands are mentioned at all was a mystery to me - the ancient Jews were a desert people, they didn't like the ocean. To them sailing was something that happened to other people and and I'm sure after the exploits of Noah and Jonah the ancient Jews never considered a yacht club. In fact when they got to the Red Sea they ended up walking. Even though they lived just a few miles from the Mediterranean Sea the ancient Jews were landlocked.

I took a wild guess that the islands mentioned were far off lands that were considered a myth, and I was close. According to the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery they are far more than a myth:
The islands are an image of the far-flung and little-known nations across the Mediterranean world. God will reach out his hand to the dispersed remnant of his people... For Isaiah the islands are images of the ends of the earth, borders of the known world that nevertheless fall under the sovereignty of Yahweh (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery,  Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, pg 429)
Now that I found the reason why the islands exist, the mystery of the disappearing islands wasn't all that deep of a mystery. When I study the bible I use the NASB, when I read the bible for enjoyment I use the NIV. It took me a lot longer than it should have to realize that the islands were appearing and disappearing were due to which ever version I was reading. An example is found in Isaiah 51:6. In the NIV the second half of the verse reads:
The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.
In the NASB it reads
The coastlands will wait for Me, And for My arm they will wait expectantly
This turns out to be differences in translation. In both cases the word used for island and for coastland is אִי (pronounced ee like in keep) which is Strong's H339 and is described as a habitable spot (as desirable); dry land, a coast, an island: - country, isle, island.

The Hebrew word אִי can go either way - island or coastland. The translators of the NIV chose to use the English word island while the translators of the NASB chose to use coastland, and this is why the islands disappeared on me. My relaxation reading is done on a tablet using the Youversion bible app, and I was reading the NIV. Meanwhile my study bible is the NASB.

This is a good reason why I keep the Blue Letter Bible webpage handy, it makes access to Strong's Concordance quite handy and you can look up the words in context quite easily. Looking up the original language of the bible is one thing I love to do, especially when I run into a passage that doesn't seem to make sense or when an island seems to disappear.


  1. I too have been struck with the often mentioned islands in Isaiah. (Reading through the Bible in a year.) Thanks for your insights.

  2. Isaiah might have prophesied the sailing and flying of Gospel messengers out of Europe and other places in later centuries, especially, regarding the modern development of financial accounting practices on how to measure wealth consistently from reformed Scotland, now globally adopted