ISAIAH 2016 10 Ch. 51 – 55

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 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).

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OUR PROCESS:

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

 

VIDEO NOTES FOR LESSON TEN: ISAIAH CHAPTS. 51 THROUGH 55

“Comfort, comfort my people” began Second Isaiah.  Second Isaiah closes with comfort, joy, call to return.  Embrace this new opportunity, do not dwell on the past.

Chapter 51: “Listen to me … be attentive to me” & “Awake, awake… Wake up wake up!  Arise” Chapter 52: “Arise, shake off the dust …  Listen! …  Depart, depart.”

Chapter 55: “come to the water…  Pay attention  …  listen … seek the LORD … call upon him.”

URGENCY  &  CALL TO ACTION

A new generation that never knew Jerusalem / Judah first hand.  Now comes the decision:  They CAN “return” to this place they have never been, but do they WANT to?  Start over again?

Chapter 51:  A testimony that God is worthy of their trust.

  • After decades of feeling abandoned they stood on the verge of a renewed covenant and relationship with God.
  • The prophet offers examples from the past.
    • Abraham and Sarah
    • Creation.
      • Wouldn’t the powerful God of creation new re-create Israel?
  • Exodus from Egypt.
    • Would God not once again lead his people to the land promised to them?

Isaiah 51:3

Yes, the LORD shall comfort Zion,

shall comfort all her ruins;

Her wilderness he shall make like Eden,

her wasteland like the garden of the LORD;

Joy and gladness shall be found in her,

thanksgiving and the sound of song.

 

Archetypal images strike deeply into the human heart and psyche.  Exodus and Sinai, Garden of Eden.

Chapters 51 and 52 – Retelling portions of the history of the people to illustrate God keeps promises, will act.  Same for our church, for our families.  Not names and dates alone, history has teachable moments – context.  Patriarchs and matriarchs, events.  Shed light on the present situation and future.  GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY, POWERFUL, AND CAPABLE.

 

Isaiah 55:8-11

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,

my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Yet just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

So shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me empty,

but shall do what pleases me,

achieving the end for which I sent it.

 

  • The LORD is transcendent and totally other, yet intimately concerned with them.
  • God’s word is less about “content” but more of an event, of bringing what God intends into reality (as with speaking creation into existence).
  • God’s word is not information; it is formation.
  • The thirsty will have water, the poor will eat and drink  (Isaiah 55:1)

 

End of chapter 52 through 53: Servant Song

  • Second Isaiah himself?
    • Autobiographical confession.  They were often treated harshly
    • Israel as a whole
      • HAS suffered, but the suffering can be seen as redemptive
      • NOW, with return and redemption, they are being made whole
      • An anointed figure
        • Whose death could accomplish what his life / message alone could not – a true inner conversion of God’s people

 

This servant song in particular emphasizes the power of redemptive suffering, sees it as an instrument of healing

 

At beginning and end of the song – it appears to be God speaking, in between the voice of the community?  (our, we)

 

Isaiah 53: 3, 4, 5

Like one from whom you turn your face,

spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our pain that he bore,

our sufferings he endured.

We thought of him as stricken,

struck down by God and afflicted,

But he was pierced for our sins,

crushed for our iniquity.

He bore the punishment that makes us whole,

by his wounds we were healed.

 

Did God intend the pain and suffering of Jesus then?  Profound tension over this, undeserved pain.

 

The servant is in full union with a suffering and sinful people and in full union with a holy and powerful God.

 

Chapter 54:  moves directly from suffering of 53 to joy.  OT image of barren woman (Sarah …) become pregnant – from despair to rejoicing.

Isaiah 54:5:

“For your husband is your Maker; the LORD of hosts is his name,

Your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth.”

 

Isaiah 54:7,8

For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with great tenderness I will take you back.

In an outburst of wrath, for a moment

I hid my face from you;

But with enduring love I take pity on you,

says the LORD, your redeemer.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR LESSON TEN

CHAPTER 51:1 TO 52:12

The faithful ones are those who are following the new leader and are willing to go back to the land of their forefathers.

Hanson p. 143: Through this unit: listen, hear, be attentive etc. alert us to particular lessons and tie this section together.  Some translations translate all with the same (listen) to make this more obvious.

Hanson:  Chapter 50 introduced “The Servant Teacher”, this unit is his teaching.    (The Essenes looked for the return of the Teacher of Righteousness.)

Blenkinsopp notes that Jerusalem as a symbol evolves through the book of Isaiah.  In the early chapters it is merely the city they were pulled from and that is to be rebuilt.  In the middle chapters (what we are reading) it begins to represent, in feminine form, the people themselves.  In the final chapters of Isaiah the city and temple become the central focus.  After Roman destruction and through the last two millennia – has been heavily overlaid with feelings and meanings.

Blenkinsopp p. 336: the cup is a cup of blessing and consolation, but also a cup of wrath.  a multivalent symbol.  as is our Eucharistic cup.  “Can you drink from the cup which I will drink from?”

Rabbis note (Tanach, p. 1046) that Egypt is not condemned as much as Babylon.  Israelites went to Egypt on their own and stayed there with permission.  Assyria carried off people unwillingly (reference to Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom of 10 tribes in 726 BC)..

The issue of the purity of the priests and of the vessels for the temple emerges here – was a preoccupation of the post-exilic prophets.  Who were legitimate heirs of the priesthood and of the duties of the Levites?  How exactly were things to be done, what was to be used, when etc. – not all was written down, it was two full generations ago!

CHAPTER 52:13 TO 53:12

Childs p. 410: “…this passage is probably the most contested chapter in the Old Testament.  The problems of interpretation are many and complex.”  Contentious because our Christian reading of Jesus / the messiah within it.  This whole unit is considered the Fourth Suffering Servant song.

The fourth and final servant song begins with exultation – not suffering.  Early in chapter 52 the suffering undergone is reviewed – but has already occurred.  Childs p. 415: “What occurred was not some unfortunate tragedy of human history but actually formed the center of the divine plan for the redemption of his people and indeed of the world.”

The text does not put forward an atonement theology – that is the way the Christian churches have read it, however.  Childs (summarizing another author) p. 415: “… the concept of vicariousness conflicts fundamentally with the idea of covenant.  This legal contract assured both the guiltless and the wicked their proper due, and was grounded completely in the basic concept of quid pro quo.”  However, Childs disagrees with this position.

Not a cultic style guilt offering (no blood sprinkled on an altar).  Not a scapegoat model.  Not something initiated by the servant or by the people themselves.  Childs p. 418: “Yet the point of the Isaianic text is that God himself took the initiative in accepting the servant’s life as the means of Israel’s forgiveness.”

Childs p. 418: “When seen in the light of the unfolding drama of God’s plan to redeem Israel in chapters 40-55, the vicarious role of the servant lies at the very heart of the prophetic message and its removal can only result in losing the exegetical key that unlocks the awesome mystery of these chapters.”

Childs reflects on the Christian use of this material.  Scholars agree that Jesus himself did not understand his ministry as that of Suffering Servant.  Shortly thereafter the church appropriated this interpretation.

Hanson p. 160: “It stresses an essential point that runs against the grain of human reason: in the life of a lowly and despised human being, one appearing to be the antithesis of the glamorous ones admired by the world, God has been present atoning for the sin of the people.”   The Servant cooperates fully in this work, is not an unwitting animal led to the sacrifice.  (Gospel of John picks up on this with a Jesus who is always in control.)

Childs p. 422:  The servant in this unit is neither a simple “future prophecy” (of a messiah figure) nor a representation of historical Israel coming out of Babylon.   It’s way more complicated than that.   Hanson and others note – a redefining of power, a diminishment of kingship and its authority.  A both / and situation.   Poetry – not history or biography or even theology.

Blenkinsopp p. 356: “…a consensus emerged.  It was that, while the author of Isaiah 40-55 could be speaking of himself and his prophetic mission in 49:1-6 and 50:4-9, if the fourth of the servant passages is understood to refer to him it must have been composed by a disciple.  On the whole, this still seems to be the most attractive solution to the problem of the Servant’s identity.”

CHAPTER 54

The tent image is interesting – for the returnees no doubt lived in tents as they began the slow process of rebuilding the city.

Rabbis (Tanach, p. 1048): “You are not like a widow, but like an unfaithful woman whose husband has left her, but eventually returns to her.”

CHAPTER 55

This chapter opens with a series of imperatives (come, buy, eat …) that heighten the intensity of the text.  Some point out the “market” or bazaar nature of the images.  Rabbinic tradition – water, wine and milk are metaphors for the teaching of God (Torah) that are available to all who will seek and accept them.

Hanson p. 177: “In antiquity, banqueting was arranged to celebrate the completion of a new temple, and properly so, for upon the temple rested the hopes for prosperity of the whole land.  This custom developed in Scripture into the notion of a final (eschatological) banquet celebrating the New Jerusalem, the dawn of God’s universal reign of righteous compassion that would be a blessing to all lands.”  Jesus and wedding feasts …

The Davidic covenant is transformed in these verses.  not a restoration of Davidic rule.  Not an “end times” vision either.  Childs p. 437: “In a word, Second Isaiah has incorporated the messianic promise to David in First Isaiah into a new version of God’s future rule.”    a vision of God’s future  rule in justice and love

There is a strong relationship between Psalm 89 and this passage.

FOR NEXT WEEK

  • Read Isaiah 56-61 in one sitting if possible.

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