I received the following excellent question from “Robert” and wanted to share my thoughts in response with our visitors. Isaiah 26 is a critical and foundational resurrection text, so it is important that we understand a bit of what the prophet foretold.
I would like to get your opinion on Isaiah 26:19 – “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.”
I was really fine with a spiritual resurrection until I came acrossed this verse. The Hebrew used here for “bodies” is Nebelah which means “corpse” or “carcass” This certainly sounds like a physical resurrection.
Here is my response to Robert:
Robert, thanks for posting to me. You ask a very good question, so let me offer a few thoughts.
As always, only context can determine the definition of a given word in that context. So, while the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 26 might be used of corpses in some contexts, that does not necessitate that Isaiah 26 is predicting the raising of literal corpses out of the ground, and the context of Isaiah 24-26 definitely precludes such an idea.
Note that in the context, of chapters 24-27, we find the discussion of those “in the dust.” This is a critical motif. BTW, go to AD70.net, and listen to the program “Two Guys and the Bible,” from April 3, 2012. William Bell and I discussed Isaiah 24-27 in depth. I think that discussion will help a lot.
In chapter 25:8 we find the promise of the resurrection.
That resurrection would be the time of Israel’s salvation (v. 9).
That time would also be when Israel’s enemies, symbolized by the use of “Moab,” one of her inveterate enemies, would be brought low “down to the dust.” This imagery is one of humiliation and defeat.
The enemies of Israel had brought her down the dust, and she had found no deliverance (26:16-18) but, the Lord promised that the time was coming when He would lift them out of the dust. This is the contrast between her enemies and her coming deliverance. Notice that coupled directly with the promise of the resurrection is the lament over her inability to deliver herself, and that “the inhabitants of the world” have not fallen.
Israel’s enemies were exalted—She was in the dust.
But, the time was coming when she would rise from the dust, and her enemies would be brought down, to the dust.
This motif and theme of humiliation and defeat, of death, and being in the dust of the earth is not speaking of biological death in the context. Note that Isaiah is speaking of corporate realities—“nations” being in the dust.
It is not unusual at all—in fact, it is pretty much the standard manner of expression in Hebraic thought—that alienation from God, removal from the land—was equal to death.
Note that in Ezekiel 37 the prophet saw the vision of the valley of dry bones. Now, with a literalistic perspective, one might, as some have, conjecture that Ezekiel was foreseeing a literal resurrection. But, the text undeniably says that the vision is a vision of “the whole house of Israel” which was in captivity!
And, even though the words “i.e. graves” bodies, etc. can be used in some contexts to speak of literal graves, obviously, it is very clear that Ezekiel was seeing a vision of Israel, dead and in the graves. He saw a vision of “corpses” but, all those “corpses” represented the body of Israel in the dust of the earth.
Note that in Isaiah 52:1-2, the raising of the body of Israel is posited as the time of her remarriage to YHVH—“put on your beautiful garments O Jerusalem!” These beautiful garments are the wedding garments for the remarriage mentioned in Isaiah 62. The thing to notice, once again, is that Israel, the body of Israel, was in the dust and called on to “Awake” – this is the call to come out of the “grave.” See Ephesians 5:14. This call to Awake is a common OT theme for the resurrection call. Cf. Romans 13:11f also.
Note that Isaiah foretold the raising of those in the dust of the earth. No matter our concept of this, Daniel 12:2 says that at the end of the age: ‘those in the dust of the earth shall arise, some to life….”
I could go on and on. This is a wonderful study all in itself. But, my time is extremely pressing. Let me recommend that you get my book We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings, for a fuller discussion of Isaiah 24-27. I think it will shed a lot of light on your question.
Hope this helps just a bit!
Make your plans to be with us this July 19-21, 2012, for our Preterist Pilgrim Weekend!
Instead of a conference, (although we will have three speakers) there will be a formal public debate between Don K. Preston and Joel McDurmon of American Vision (Gary DeMar’s organization) This promises to be a landmark debate, so make your plans to be with us!
Don K. Preston