“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” (Isaiah 9:1)
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “Scripture does not tell us about people and events that are divorced from history. It explains that God has worked out His salvation in space and in time. One of the clearest examples of this is the Bible’s use of prophecy that is set firmly in one historical setting while predicting events in another. Prophecies of the coming Messiah fill the Old Testament, with the book of Isaiah featuring some of the most well-known predictions of the future.”
Zebulun and Naphtali were two geographic regions in the northern kingdom of Israel. Both regions were located to the west, northwest of the Sea of Galilee. They were both located west of the Jordan River and contained fertile land suitable for raising crops and for grazing livestock. This remains so today.
These two regions were the first to suffer from the invading forces of Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). This marked the beginning of the dark days for the northern kingdom of Israel.
However, the LORD provided a glimmer of hope and confidence for the people of the land. While in the former days of judgment there would be doom and gloom, in the latter days the LORD would transform the land into glory. He would make it the “glorious way of the sea.”
The New Testament amplifies and applies this prophecy of the returning honor of Galilee to the period of Jesus Christ’s first advent. Matthew 4:12-16 says, “12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Matthew 4:15-16 quotes directly from Isaiah 9:1-2. While the initial fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-7 would occur during the incarnation of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, the ultimate fulfillment will take place at His second advent. It will be then that the LORD will expel all foreign invaders from the land.
Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “Galil in Hebrew is a “circle,” or “circuit,” and from it came the name Galilee. North of Naphtali, inhabited by a mixed race of Jews and Gentiles of the bordering Phoenician race (Judges 1:30; 1 Ki 9:11). Besides the recent deportation by Tiglath-pileser, it had been sorely smitten by Ben-hadad of Syria, two hundred years before (1 Kings 15:20). It was after the Assyrian deportation colonized with heathens, by Esar-haddon (2 Kings 17:24). Hence arose the contempt for it on the part of the southern Jews of purer blood (John 1:46; 7:52).”
“The same region which was so darkened once, shall be among the first to receive Messiah’s light (Matthew 4:13, 15, 16). It was in despised Galilee that He first and most publicly exercised His ministry; from it were most of His apostles. Foretold in Deuteronomy 33:18, 19; Acts 2:7; Psalm 68:27, 28, Jerusalem, the theocratic capital, might readily have known Messiah; to compensate less favored Galilee, He ministered mostly there; Galilee’s very debasement made it feel its need of a Saviour, a feeling not known to the self-righteous Jews (Mt 9:13). It was appropriate, too, that He who was both “the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel,” should minister chiefly on the border land of Israel, near the Gentiles.”
More to come.
Soli deo Gloria!