ISAIAH 2016 09 Ch. 47 – 50


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 SIsaiah.   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).



Opening prayer:

  • 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

Closing Prayer




These chapters are the middle of Second Isaiah (40 to 55).

Context is: 597-538BC in Babylon.  Second Isaiah aka “Prophet of the Exile” or “Prophet of Consolation”.

Babylonian gods included Bel / Marduk and Nebo.  Both part of the new year’s festivals.  These were exposed as false in chapter 46.

“Virgin daughter

  • The entire Babylonian nation
  • Sitting in dust means mourning and shame


Three themes that were introduced in chapter 46 are worked out here:

  • Discrediting of the Babylonian gods
  • The commissioning of Cyrus by the God of the Israelites
  • God’s promise to deliver Israel from their clutches


Chapter 47

reopens the above themes, Both the victory and their downfall are rooted in the LORD’s plan.  What happens to nations is all part of the LORD’s plan.


Isaiah 47:3-4

Your nakedness shall be uncovered,

and your shame be seen;

I will take vengeance,

I will yield to no entreaty,

says our redeemer,

Whose name is the LORD of hosts,

the Holy One of Israel.


Downplays the value of astrologers etc.  Babylon was famous for astronomy, calculations of the movements of the planets and stars, calendar accuracy.

Message again is clear: The God of Israel alone can save; alone controls the future; He is the Lord of history.

Both JPII and Benedict XVI have referenced “Lord of History”:




Benedict XVI at General Audience, May 11, 2005:

“History, in fact, is not in the hands of the powers of darkness, chance or human decisions alone.  When evil energy that we see is unleashed, when Satan vehemently bursts in, when a multitude of scourges and ills surface, the LORD, the supreme arbiter of historical events, arises.  He leads history wisely towards the dawn of the new heavens and the new earth.” …  “It is possible to discern the divine action that is concealed in history.  The second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, also invites believers to examine the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel, in order to find in them a manifestation of God’s action.  This attitude of faith leads men and women to recognize the power of God who works in history.”


For further reference see CCC section on Divine Providence #302 to 314


Concluding paragraph of #314 says:

“We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history.  But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us.  Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face,” will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.”


Chapter 48

brings an end to the first part of second Isaiah.  Back and forth between positive and negative.

Is clearly addressed to the House of Israel.  Warns and promises etc.  In 48:20:  “Go forth from Babylon, flee from Chaldea!  With shouts of joy declare this, announce it; Make it known to the ends of the earth, Say: “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.”

The above is future, a call.  A challenge.  Their God will free them once again.


Chapters 49 and 50:

Servant of the Lord returns.

Servant Songs found in chapters 42, 49, 50, and 52-53








49:1-7 Second song

Hear me, coastlands, listen, distant peoples.

Before birth the LORD called me,

from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.


He made my mouth like a sharp-edged sword,

concealed me, shielded by his hand.

He made me a sharpened arrow, in his quiver he hid me.


He said to me, You are my servant,

in you, Israel, I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,

for nothing and for naught spent my strength,

Yet my right is with the LORD,

my recompense is with my God.


For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb,

That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him;

I am honored in the sight of the LORD,

and my God is now my strength!


It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,

to raise up the tribes of Jacob,

and restore the survivors of Israel;

I will make you a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.


Thus says the LORD,

the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

To the one despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers:

When kings see you, they shall stand up,

and princes shall bow down because of the LORD who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.




50:4-11 Third song

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue,

That I might know how to answer the weary

a word that will waken them.

Morning after morning he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do;

The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away.


I gave my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who tore out my beard;

My face I did not hide from insults and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced;

Therefore I have set my face like flint,

knowing that I shall not be put to shame.


He who declares my innocence is near.

Who will oppose me?

Let us appear together.

Who will dispute my right?

Let them confront me.

See, the Lord GOD is my help;

who will declare me guilty?


See, they will all wear out like a garment, consumed by moths.

Who among you fears the LORD, heeds his servant’s voice?

Whoever walk in darkness, without any light,

Yet trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon their God!


All you who kindle flames and set flares alight,

Walk by the light of your own fire and by the flares you have burnt!

This is your fate from my hand:

you shall lie down in a place of torment.




Servant Songs part of the readings in both Ordinary time and in Holy Week.

Mission of the servant not limited to Israel.  (42 and 49:1) – coastlands  = all peoples.

Verse 2: weapon of the servant is the Word.

Hebrews 4:12: “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

Chapter 50 / Third Song will be explored in Lesson 10.  Suffering Servant introduced.  Legal / trial format.

Who is the Servant?: 

  • (for Christians)  Jesus
  • The prophet himself
  • The community of Israel
  • Ambiguous
  • They are poetry.



Blenkinsopp p. 278: “Isaiah 47 falls into the category of the taunting of the conquered by the victors, the stylization and dramatization of which do not succeed in making such poems pleasant reading.  Ritualized verbal humiliation of a defeated enemy is one of several forms adopted in oracles against a political enemy, a genre well represented in the prophetic books.”  He later makes the point that cities were often personified as female, upon destruction the use of images of violence / akin to rape etc. a disturbing practice – ancient and modern?  Which leads to which?

Hoppe p. 128: “The LORD empowered Babylon to conquer Judah because of the latter’s infidelity – not because of Babylon’s virtue or because of its military power.  Babylon mistook this temporary mission as conferring permanent, privileged status.  It thought itself exempt from military defeat and political impotence.  It will experience both.”





Childs p. 372,373: “The prior chapters focused on the promised deliverance of Israel, announced in prophecy and about to be fulfilled in God’s new things associated with Cyrus.  But now chapter 48 addresses the issue of Israel’s unfaithful response to the promises, and challenges Israel to obedience in order to share in the promised salvation.”

Hanson p. 123: a weaving together of hope and judgment, a recognition of the complexity of humanity and our response to God, a reflection of the ambiguity of the human condition

Childs p. 375: “Babylon has fallen, Israel freed, but God’s people still do not grasp their true deliverance.”

A new messenger appears – is probably not Second Isaiah the prophetIs the servant of Chapter 49, otherwise unidentified.  Christians later read this verse / section as referring to the Trinity: God the Father sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Hoppe p. 131 says: “The speaker of verse 16 is Cyrus, who acknowledges that he will conquer Babylon by the power of God’s spirit.”



Blenkinsopp p. 298: This is a real turning point in Isaiah – no more mention of Cyrus or the fall of Babylon, no more denunciation of the idols of Babylon.

The restoration of Israel will be a cosmic event – all of nature will rejoice, all the nations respond, etc.

The first six verses, through “light to the nations..” is generally designated the second of the four “servant” songs.

Childs, p. 384: “In place of the corporate nation Israel, which up to this point has always borne the title “my servant” (41:9, 42:1, 42:19, 44:1, 45:4), a single figure now caries the title and even office.”  (obedient prophet?)

Blenkinsopp p. 306: “The implication seems to be that the prophetic individual whom we heard speaking in 49:1-6 is convinced that the mission originally confided to Cyrus has now passed by default to him.  This is not as strange as it may sound.  Throughout the history of the kingdoms and on into the time of Babylonian and Persian hegemony, prophets were involved in political life, often playing a decisive role and infrequently losing their lives in the process.”  Cyrus perceived as failing his ultimate possibility – didn’t convert, didn’t rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (though he sent the Israelites home).

the failure of the servant / prophet?  having called the nation to rejoice and depart for the homeland, the people are not responding.  Hence, in his person and with the remnant who do return embody a new Israel.

Images of Zion, mothers, the city of Jerusalem (very slightly – the reference to walls) are mingled together in this section.

Tanach footnotes p. 1042: God raises his hands and signals to the nations of the world that oppression of God’s people must stop.

Hoppe p. 135: “The prophet promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and repopulated.  He then returns to a familiar motif: the reversal of the fortunes of Judah and Babylon leading all peoples to recognize that the LORD’s power saved Judah.”

Hanson p. 135: “In this passage we find a God struggling for the human heart at the center of life.  It is not a god unacquainted with human emotion but a God moved with maternal feelings and committed more to the deliverance of those in bondage than to the maintenance of a heroic image.  The God encountered here is one passionately opposed to injustice, deeply committed to righting wrongs, captured by love for his creation and drawn into the agony of involvement.”



Overview: Israel (represented by Zion) has refused God’s offer of a real relationship.  The Servant suffers but trusts in God – an example to the people.  Here the mission is clearly to a beaten-down Israel.  Israel / Zion / the wife is exiled by God – but not given a bill of divorce which would have represented a complete and final break.

Hoppe p. 136: “What happened to the people of Judah happened because they did not recognize the power of their God, who alone overcame the might waters to bring order out of chaos.  God’s power will now liberate Jerusalem from its exile.”

50:4-9  Third Servant song

Childs p. 393: “When 50:1-3 is read in the narrative context of chapters 48 and 49, the accusation is highly existential.  At issue is not some technical legal debate.  Zion refused the call of 48:20 to depart from Babylon and to participate in the divine deliverance offered.  She continued to complain that she had been forgotten (49:4), and doubted whether God had the power to deliver (49:24, 50:2).”  Israel refuses a ‘new Exodus’.

Historically – most Israelites had been absorbed while in Babylon.  They had it good enough to want to stay there rather than go to some place they themselves had never seen where their long dead grandparents had come from.  The task of rebuilding was daunting as well.

The faithful servant embodies and represents a new and faithful Israel – a faithful remnant.

The sufferings undergone – all that happened through the exile?  happened to a particular person trying to encourage all to leave and be faithful?  More the latter than the former.

Blenkinsopp p. 321: “Like Jeremiah he is beaten, hair is pulled out of his beard, and he is spat on.  As suggested earlier, this looks more like a roughing up than officially administered punishment.  Jeremiah survived several beatings; pulling out hair is painful but unlikely as a form of state-sponsored torture…”  It is within the community of exiles, not from the outside.



  • Read the text of Isaiah chapters 51-55 in one sitting if possible.
  • Read the commentary pages 137-148.
  • Ponder the questions pages 50 – 53 in the workbook.  Which speak to you the most?




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