RESOURCES FOR THIS STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ISAIAH:
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 1-39: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Volume 19 of the Anchor bible Commentary series edited by W. F Albright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, New York, 2000). *Blenkinsopp A
______________ Isaiah 40-55: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Volume 19A of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W.F. Albright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, New York, 2002). *Blenkinsopp B
______________ Isaiah 56-66: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Volume 19B of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W.F. Albright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, New York, 2003). * Blenkinsopp C
Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. Part of the Old Testament Library series edited by James Mays, Carol Newsom, and David Petersen. (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2001).
Cook, Stephen L. Conversations with Scripture: 2 Isaiah. Part of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars Study Series edited by Frederick Schmidt. (Morehouse Press, Harrisburg, 2008).
Elliott, Mark W. Old Testament XI: Isaiah 40-66. Part of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Thomas C. Oden General Editor. (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2007).
Goldingay, John and David Payne. Isaiah 40-55: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, Volume I. Part of the International Critical Commentary series edited by G. I. Davies and C. M. Tuckett. (Bloomsbury, London, 2014). * Goldingay A
—————————————–. Isaiah 40-55: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, Volume II. Part of the International Critical Commentary series edited by G. I. Davies and C. M. Tuckett. (Bloomsbury, London, 2014). *Goldingay B
Hanson, Paul D. Isaiah 40-66. Part of the Interpretation series edited by James L Mays and Patrick Miller. (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1995).
Hoppe, Leslie J. Isaiah. Volume 13 of the Old Testament Series within the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series edited by Daniel Durken O.S.B. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2012).
McKinion, Steven A. Old Testament X: Isaiah 1-39. Part of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Thomas C. Oden General Editor. (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2004).
Niskanen, Paul V.. Isaiah 56-66. Part of Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry edited by Chris Franke. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2014).
Seitz, Christopher. Isaiah 1-39. Part of the Interpretation series edited by James L Mays and Patrick Miller. (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1993). *Seitz A
_______________ Book of Isaiah 40-66. Volume VI of the New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes whose Editorial Board was convened by Leander Keck. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2001). * Seitz B
TANACH. Artscroll series, Mesorah publications, The Stone Edition. The Torah / Prophets / Writings: The Twenty-Four Books of the Bible Newly Translated and Annotated. Contributing Editors: Rabbi Yaakov Bliner, Rabbi Avie Gold, and Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz. (Mesorah Publications, New York, 1996).
Tucker, Gene M. Book of Isaiah 1-39. Volume VI of the New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes whose Editorial Board was convened by Leander Keck. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2001).
Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 1-12. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1991). *Wildberger A
______________. Isaiah 13-27. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1997). *Wildberger B
_______________. Isaiah 28-39. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002). *Wildberger C
Williamson, H. G. M. Isaiah 1-5: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary. Part of the International Critical Commentary series edited by G. I. Davies & C. M. Tuckett. (Bloomsbury, London, 2014).
- Welcome Jesus into our midst.
- What are we grateful for today?
- Where do I need help?
- Where do others need help?
Read the text aloud. Each person takes a ‘unit’, those who want to pass say “Pass”.
What strong images, symbols, and beautiful verses did you read / hear?
What insights have you come to in preparation, in hearing and reading?
We watch the video together.
We review additional notes if there is time
VIDEO NOTES FOR LESSON EIGHT: ISAIAH CHAPTERS 43:9 THROUGH 46
This unit of Isaiah begins after the LORD has proclaimed to the people that they will be redeemed and returned to their homeland. They are God’s chosen people.
This exile was different, though, than when they had been in Egypt. Not treated so badly, they grew comfortable in the areas of Babylon where they were settled – so much so that many chose NOT to return once they were allowed to do so. They blended in – even adopting Babylonian gods. (It is important to note that a vibrant Jewish community DID remain as well, producing many great Jewish works and scholars in the millennia afterwards – including the Babylonian Talmud in the 500’s C.E.)
Isaiah 43:8: “Lead out the people, blind though they have eyes, deaf though they have ears.”
For us today: what are we attached to, that we might be reluctant to give up if God asked us to give it up? What keeps me from hearing God or accepting the call?
You are my witnesses—oracle of the LORD—
my servant whom I have chosen
To know and believe in me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
and after me there shall be none.
I, I am the LORD;
there is no savior but me.
When he crushes Babylon – then they will know.
See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the wilderness I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
God calls them, they did not call Him.
Isaiah 43:22: “Yet you did not call upon me, Jacob, for you grew weary of me, Israel.”
Do we turn to God, even as we are disappointed?
They are being prepared to be God’s witnesses: Testify to others concerning the real nature of events, from the standpoint of personal experience. God’s mercy and fidelity, the nations will be invited to worship and believe in this God.
The futility of worshipping false gods: Isaiah 44:18: “They do not know, do not understand; their eyes are too clouded to see, their minds, to perceive.” The wooden idols were carried around at feasts.
Israel not a wooden thing but a living people shaped by God. To be His witnesses, of HIS glory. Isaiah 43:7: “All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them.” Having been chosen – a natural evolution in faith?
I confirm the words of my servant,
carry out the plan my messengers announce.
I say to Jerusalem, Be inhabited!
To the cities of Judah, Be rebuilt!
I will raise up their ruins.
Go back, raise up the ruins. I will remove obstacles. But – the pagan Cyrus is the shepherd!
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
Subduing nations before him,
stripping kings of their strength,
Opening doors before him,
leaving the gates unbarred:
Cyrus does not eventually come to worship the LORD – he sent all sorts of peoples home to their lands to worship their own gods. Isaiah is the witness to Cyrus and the world – it was the LORD, and the LORD alone, who was responsible for Cyrus’ successes and for the freedom of Israel.
I am the LORD, there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you do not know me,
so that all may know, from the rising of the sun
to its setting, that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.
Isaiah 45:15: “Truly with you God is hidden, the God of Israel, the savior!”
We are challenged to be looking for God and God’s way in the right places, in the right way. Not easy. Respond in faith.
Fall of Babylon reveals the LORD alone is the one in control of history
Bel bows down, Nebo stoops,
their idols set upon beasts and cattle;
They must be borne upon shoulders,
a load for weary animals.
They stoop and bow down together;
unable to deliver those who bear them,
they too go into captivity.
I am God – there is no other. He will accomplish what He sets out to do.
Babylon and their gods are dethroned. Revelations 14:8 “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.”
Listen to me, you fainthearted,
far from the victory of justice:
I am bringing on that victory, it is not far off,
my salvation shall not tarry;
I will put salvation within Zion,
give to Israel my glory.
ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR LESSON EIGHT
Hoppe p. 117: “Judah’s witnessing does not consist of providing rational proofs for God’s existence. What Judah will show is God’s power to save. … The restoration of Jerusalem will be an irrefutable proof of the LORD’s power to save. The fact of the exile appears to have undercut the credibility of Israel’s witness. How could Israel’s God claim any status given the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of its people?”
CHAPTER 43:22 – 44:23
Could the same arguments used against the making of idols be turned against Catholics with our statues, stained glass windows, and more?
Hoppe p.121 – ancient peoples were not so naïve as to believe that the idols they had were their actual gods. “The purpose of the image was to help the god and its worshipers to focus their attention on each other.”
Childs p. 340-341: “Israel’s return on the way is not just a physical journey, but involves also a return to Yahweh.”
Blenkinsopp notes their (prior to destruction of the Temple?) inauthentic worship and sacrifices is what is being condemned here.
Childs notes that there is a strong prophetic tradition (before and after the exile) in opposition to the abuses in the cult / temple – something also true of the time of Jesus. Sacrifices offered too easily and without genuine repentance – Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace”. Sacrifices offered to the LORD one day and to idols / other gods the next by the people.
So, is the servant Israel or not? Perhaps not the current Israel in exile, but the repentant and faithful Israel of the future. Is there one servant throughout these chapters or multiple ones?
Hanson p. 83: “The inspired visionary in a community of faith is a gift of God’s spirit. Out of the ashes of judgment Second Isaiah is able to discern the creative activity of God, sweeping over the face of a desolate human landscape like the spirit of God sweeping over the face of the primordial waters.”
CHAPTER 44:24 – 45:25
We have the call of Cyrus (a Persian) and the overthrow of the Babylonians in the context of God’s plan to restore Israel. Previous agents for God: Abraham; Moses, Joshua, David …
Tanach footnote p. 1032: “Cyrus was the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, who generously allowed his Jewish subjects to rebuild the Temple. Although these events occurred two centuries after Isaiah’s time, such is the gift of prophecy that he was able to foretell future events and even to mention the names of those who would be involved in them.”
to gird the loins = prepare for war (strength); loosening the loins = negotiate or move toward peace (weakness)
Childs p. 350: themes woven into this unit are
- The creative power of the LORD
- God’s will is to call and use Cyrus to liberate God’s people and rebuild Jerusalem
- the LORD alone is God
Blenkinsopp p. 246 notes that consulting ‘omens’ was common in Babylon, throughout the region, and even in Israel before the exile. Consisted of many methods: dreams, studying the livers and other organs of sacrificed animals, and the patterns made by oil on top of water. That these methods failed in Babylon to predict the fall of the empire is the point that the author wants to make.
Childs p. 353: “…the redemptive events of creation, exodus, and deliverance from Babylonian captivity are fused as moments within the one divine purpose, all sharing the selfsame content of overcoming chaos.” This is part of the greatness and genius of Isaiah, something the Christians continued – by seeing the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus in this same sort of way. We sometimes call this approach “Salvation History”. It is not the only way to look at this and in some ways this is falling out of favor due to a so-called post-modern rejection of “meta-narrative”.
Blenkinsopp p. 257: “Since Second Isaiah is often read as the prophet of universalism, it is important to clarify what the term universalism implies. Neither Judaism nor Christianity has ever held out the offer of unconditional universal salvation, without some form of confession of faith and adherence in some way to norms defined and accepted by the faith in question. Some of the relevant statements often quoted from prophetic books suggest that foreigners are, so to speak, being made an offer they cannot refuse. The foreigners referred to in 45:14 come in chains, and even if the chains are borne willingly, as some suggest, those who wear them become the property of Israelites.”
Childs p. 359: “The once powerful gods of Babylon, Marduk-bel and Nebo, have become a pitiful sight, certainly not to be feared or even despised. Their humiliating journey of being carted away in defeat on the back of dumb beasts of burden, bowed down by the weight, provides the background for the real focus of the chapter, namely, the radical contrast between the gods of Babylon and the only trued God of Israel.”
Interesting part of the image – the Babylonians are trying to save their gods, the God of Israel is saving God’s people.
Hoppe p. 127: “In drawing this contrast (LORD, Marduk) the prophet expected that the Persians would follow usual practice by carrying off the images of the gods of the conquered cities, but Cyrus had a different policy. He was as tolerant toward the Babylonians and their religion as he was toward the people of Judah. He tried to show himself to the Babylonians as Marduk’s chosen instrument to insure the proper service of that god.”
An alternative view from Hanson p. 113: “The chapter opens with a snapshot of a cult procession, that central part of the annual New Year’s festival in which the cult objects were carried forth from the temple to circumambulate the walls of the city.” similar to the pageantry of Mardi Gras … and this is satire by Isaiah.
FOR NEXT WEEK
- Read Isaiah chapters 47 – 50 at one sitting if possible.
- Read the commentary on pages 126 – 137.
- Work through the questions in the workbook pages 44 to 49. Which questions are most productive for you personally?