The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for January 23rd, 2007

ISAIAH 1:2-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 23, 2007

Isa 1:2 Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have brought up children, and exalted them: but they have despised me.

This verse and the whole of chapter one reflects the Deuteronomistic covenant theology.   In the book of Deuteronomy, as the people stood on the Plains of Moab prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses delivered a series of five speeches which focused on God’s love for his people and what was expected of them in return.

Moses begins by summarizing important events from the Exodus wanderings (chapters 1-3). He then moves into a moral exhortation on fidelity to God and his commands, and also gives warnings about what will happen if the people are unfaithful (ch 4).
Within this chapter he warns the people not to make idols for themselves: “And so, guard your souls carefully. You saw no likeness on the day that the Lord God spoke to you on Horeb from the midst of fire. Otherwise, perhaps being deceived, you might have made a graven image, or an image of male or female, a likeness of any of the beasts, which are upon the earth, or of birds, which fly under heaven, or of reptiles, which move across the earth, or of fish, which abide in the waters under the earth. Otherwise, perhaps lifting up your eyes to heaven, you might look upon the sun and the moon and all the stars of heaven, and being deceived by error, you might adore and worship these things, which the Lord your God created for the service of all the nations, which are under heaven.” (Dt. 4:15-19).

After giving these warnings Moses says: “When you will have conceived sons and grandsons while abiding in the land, and if, having been deceived, you make for yourselves any likeness, accomplishing evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to wrath, I call heaven and earth as witnesses this day, that you shall quickly perish from the land, which, when you have crossed over the Jordan, you will possess. You will not live in it for a long time; instead, the Lord will destroy you.” (Dt 4:25-26)

Here we see that heaven and earth are called upon as witnesses to the future covenant infidelity of the people and their punishment. A similar statement is found in Dt 30:15-20.

Scholars believe that Isaiah, or, rather, God thru him, is alluding to such passages and is engaging in what was known as a Ri’b (Reeb = covenant lawsuit). Some scholars object to this since it would mean that God is acting as both prosecutor and judge. I am of the opinion that this objection is lame. What would be a conflict of interests among men need not be a conflict of interest with God.

“I have nurtured and raised children, but they have spurned me.”  Recalls one of the founding traditions of Israel: “And you shall say to him: Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is my firstborn son. I have said to you: Release my son, so that he may serve me. And you were not willing to release him. Behold, I will put to death your firstborn son.'” (Ex 4:22-23)

“I RAISED CHILDREN.” The word “raised” provides an important link to some other prophecies early in this book. In Isa 2:2 we will see that God’s mountain shall be RAISED ABOVE the hills. In Isa 2:6-22 we read that man will be BROUGHT LOW, the opposite of being raised up. All that is EXALTED without reference to God will come down. And God alone will be RAISED UP (exalted) on that day.

Isa 1:3. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood.

One of several allusions to the important song of Moses found in Deuteronomy 32 (see the context and the song 31:16-32:44)

Comparing people who rebel against God to senseless animals is very common in the bible. One of my favorite passages is 2 Peter 2, especially 2 Pt 2:12, 15, 22. It is important to note that Israel’s sin is rebellion in verse 2. The words of verse 3 (Israel does not know…does not understand) imply, in the Hebrew text, that this is willful agnosticism, a part of the rebellion.

Isa 1:4. Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children: they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. 

Described as Israel in verse 3 (a name that relates them to God) they are here simply called a sinful nation. In verse 2 they were described as sons (of God), and in verse 3 as My (God’s) people. But here in verse 4 the relation ship is shown as broken. Now they are referred to as offspring and sons of evil and corruption. Notice that the possesive “my” has become the distant “them”. What they wanted in verse 3– not to know God–they have gotten. God no longer knows them in a personal way.

Verse 4 also contains a word play in Hebrew. The word iniquity in Heb means literally to be bent backward. It denotes perversity. The people laden with iniquity (bent backwardness, a state of perversity), have gone away backward from God. Their sins have led to apostasy. Their rebellion is complete (vs 2).

Isa 1:5 For what shall I strike you any more, you that increase transgression? the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad.
Isa 1:6  From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores: they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil. 

We’ve seen that the people have separated themselves from God as their father (vss 2-3); and that God has separated himself from them as his children (vs 4). Now, in verses 5-6, we see God thru the prophet describe the people in terms of a rebellious slave. This of course relates to the family separation theme and the theme of rebellion mentioned in vs 2. Yet it also continues the theme of senselessness alluded to in vs 3 (the senseless beasts). A slave who has been beaten so frequently that his wounds not only do not heal, but also cover every inch of his body, has no sense at all.

Isa 1:7  Your land is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire: your country strangers devour before your face, and it shall be desolate as when wasted by enemies. 
Isa 1:8  And the daughter of Sion shall be left as a covert in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a city that is laid waste.
Isa 1:9  Except the Lord of hosts had left us seed, we had been as Sodom, and we should have been like to Gomorrha.

These verses give meaning to the image used in the previous verses (Isa 1:5-6). The southern kingdom of Judah is like the slave that has been beaten over and over again. The beating has been military invasion and the desolation it brings. What event is being refered to here is slightly debated by scholars.

There were three invasions of the kingdom in the prophets day. The first is called the Syro-Ephraimite war of 735-732 BC. This event saw Syria (also called Damascus or Aram) and the northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) invade Judah. They wanted that kingdom to enter into an alliance with them against the growing might of Assyria. Ahaz, king of Judah, refused and was attacked. The plan was to install a puppet king to replace him. Ahaz appealed to Assyria for help. That kingdom invaded and destroyed Syria and reduced both Israel (north) and Judah (south) to vassalage, forcing them to pay heavy tribute (see Is. 7:1-8:22; 2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chron 28:16-27). Some think this is the event being refered to here.

The second invasion took place when Assyria, under Sargon, invaded in 712 BC.

The third invasion was in 701 BC, near the end of the prophets career. This too was by the Assyrians under Sennacherib. When Sqargon II died in 705, several of its vassal kingdoms, including Judah under Hezekiah, rebelled. The new king Sennacherib advanced and reduced most of the rebel kingdoms. In 701 BC he invaded Judah and laid much of the land and cities to waste. He laid siege to the Jerusalem but, as the prophet had predicted, the holy city was saved. See 2 Kings 18:1-19:37; Is 36:1-38:22; 2 Chron 321-33. Most scholars think it is this event being spoken of in Is 1.

The land being laid waste and invasion by foreign armies are two of the curses threatened against the people for breaking the covenant. See Deut 28:16-69.

The symbol of the hut in a vineyard or vegetable patch is quaint, like a picture you might see on a calender. That is, if you forget the fact that the land is wasted. It was common for Jewish farmers at harvest and vintage time to construct huts in their fields. This was probably to protect the harvested fruit. As the harvest proceeded the once quaint scene would turn ugly as the land began to look more and more desolate because of the disappearing fruit and greenery. It is this bleak image that the prophet is playing with.


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Posted by Dim Bulb on January 23, 2007

I wont be going into introductions to the book but, because these are important and aid in understanding the text, I have provided some links.

Catholic Encyclopedia.

Jewish Encyclopedia.

Father William Most.

Father Mitch Pacwa. This is an audio program. Show 30 contains an intro to the prophet. Shows 30-51 give commentary on Isaiah chapters 1-39. Real Player is required to listen to these programs and can be downloaded and used for free here.

A good protestant introduction.

Another Protestant intro (brief, 3 pages)

Isaiah: His Life and Times. Protestant. Rather dated. Part of the Internet Arhive.

Biblical Dictionary. Non-Catholic. Dated.

Like all the books of the writing prophets (except Daniel) this book opens with a superscription (vs 1). The purpose of the superscription is to introduce us to the prophet and to the time period in which his ministry took place. This latter aspect of the verse is done by namoing the monarchs whor occupied the throne of the Southern Kingdom.

(Note: Fro a proper understanding of the historical situation of the pre-exilic prophets it is important to keep in mind that the Davidic Kingdom split in two after the death of Solomon. If you are unfamiliar with the history and theology of this event please read the following:

The law of the king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

The rise and fall of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-43. 1 Kings 12:1-33).

The division of the kingdom and the “original sin” of the new Northern kingdom (1 KIngs 12:1-33. 1 Kings 13:1-34).

Also, read this historical summary (protestant).

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