Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Isaiah 1:1-4:6


The oracle in Isaiah 1 says, roughly, that Judah has rebelled against YHWH (1:2) and has been punished (1:5) but not utterly destroyed (1:9). What YHWH wants is justice:

Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
   plead the case of the widow. (1:17)

If Judah complies, YHWH will forgive them (1:18). Otherwise YHWH will take further punitive action (1:24-31).

Chapter 2 begins with an oracle about the "last days" when Jerusalem's temple mount will be exalted and even Gentile nations will come to worship YHWH. There will be peace among the nations. I find it interesting that this peace is not a complete absence of disagreement, but that disputes will be settled by arbitration:

[YHWH] will judge between the nations
   and will settle disputes for many peoples. (2:4)

Isaiah 2:6-22  says that YHWH has abandoned the descedants of Jacob because they have gone native, lapsing into idolatry. This oracle promises (or is it threatens?) a coming day when the proud will be brought down, the idols will be removed, and people will hide in caves.

Isaiah 3:1-4:1 describe a "breakdown of society" (per the Harper Collins Study Bible) which comes as a judgment for Judah's injustice and the oppression of the poor. The "daughters of Jerusalem" come in for particular criticism. They are accused of ostentation and haughtiness. Some commentators seem to think that these "daughters" stand for Jerusalem as a whole. Their finery will be replaced, forcibly, with signs of mourning.

Isaiah 4:2-6  is a prose passage describing the "Branch of the Lord" (a remnant? Jerusalem?) which will be glorious once YHWH cleanses it of the "filth of women" which sounds pretty misogynistic. I suspect that image is based on menstrual uncleanness and is symbolic of injustice. Still, it sounds pretty misogynistic. Once the purification takes place YHWH will be present to Jerusalem as he was present to the Exodus generation in a pillar of cloud and fire.

The concern for justice in these opening chapters is striking. So, too, is the possibility of repentance and restoration which will be harder to find after chapter 5.

I cribbed Raphael's painting of Isaiah from wiki. I'm still quoting Scripture from the New International Version.
Next: Isaiah 5-8

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