(1 Pet. 2:6) Why does Peter add “on him” to Isaiah 28:16?

CLAIM: Critics argue that Peter is twisting this OT passage to make it appear to be prophetic of Christ. In the Masoretic Text (MT), the Hebrew lacks the expression “in him.” Therefore, when Peter writes, “And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed” (1 Pet. 2:6), he is adding onto the original Hebrew text. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: Not every citation of the OT is a verbatim quotation. Sometimes, the NT authors are merely intending to cite the OT loosely. For instance, in John 19:37, John writes, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” Of course, here John is citing Zechariah 12:10, which states, “They will look on Me whom they have pierced.” Did John misquote this passage? Of course not. John was simply altering this passage to refer to Jesus, as a third person observer. If Jesus had written the passage, he would have cited it from the first-person perspective (“They will look on Me…”).

In this passage, Peter is connecting Isaiah 28 with an implicit messianic fulfillment. In the context of Isaiah 28, God tells the Jewish people that he will bring judgment on Israel for their various sins of drunkenness (v.7). Consequently, God will bring in a foreign nation to judge the nation, and these invaders will babble in a foreign language that will sound like a drunkard (v.11). The leaders of Jerusalem boast that this judgment will not come upon them, because they have made a deal to “cheat death” (v.15 NLT). In this context, God says, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed” (Isa. 28:16).

Who or what is this “costly cornerstone”? Because this “cornerstone” will bring justice on the land (v.17), Isaiah seems to be describing a person—not an inert hunk of rock. This is why ancient Jewish interpreters understood this passage to refer to the Messiah. For instance, the Targum of Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22ff both interpret the “cornerstone” to be king messiah. The Isaiah Targum states, “Behold, I will appoint in Zion a king, a strong king, powerful and terrible.” That is, these interpreters were making explicit what was formerly implicit in the text.

In the same way, Peter cites this passage to show that the ultimate protection from God’s judgment is found by believing in Christ (i.e. the ultimate object of their belief). Likewise, Paul follows this reading of Isaiah 28 as well (Rom. 9:33; 10:11).