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 ELEVEN: ISAIAH CHAP. 56 THROUGH 61
Here begins Third Isaiah – written after the Babylonian Exile has ended, the Israelites have been encouraged to go back to their homeland and rebuild it.
At this point everyone is asking, trying to figure out: “What does it mean to be a Jew?” “Were all punished by God?”
Some anxious to rebuild the Temple, others not.
Conflict emerged between those who had been left in the land and those returning – as would happen if Cuba was suddenly opened up to those exiled or who had left 50 years ago. Their houses occupied by others, factories and shops run by others perhaps doing different kinds of work. (If there was anything there at all.) Who owns what??? Do the returnees have rights?
Jerusalem itself only occupied by about 500 people – makes sense, it had been destroyed, people lived in the countryside where they could eke out a living with farming, herding. AFTER the exile grew only to about 1300.
In the first four chapters (56, 57, 58, 59) Isaiah appears to oscillate between praising the returning exiles and condemning the Jews who were already there.
All you beasts of the field, come to devour,
all you beasts in the forest!
All the sentinels of Israel are blind, they are without knowledge;
They are all mute dogs, unable to bark;
Dreaming, reclining, loving their sleep.
Yes, the dogs have a ravenous appetite; they never know satiety,
Shepherds who have no understanding; all have turned their own way,
each one covetous for gain:
“Come, let me bring wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink,
And tomorrow will be like today, or even greater.”
But you, draw near, you children of a sorceress,
offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute!
Against whom do you make sport,
against whom do you open wide your mouth,
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not rebellious children, deceitful offspring—
You who burn with lust among the oaks, under every green tree;
You who immolate children in the wadies, among the clefts of the rocks?
Among the smooth stones of the wadi is your portion,
they, they are your allotment;
Indeed, you poured out a drink offering to them,
and brought up grain offerings.
With these things, should I be appeased?
Nugget of truth? – the Saving Power of the Law. For Isaiah – the litmus test for being a Jew is keeping the Sabbath (not birthright).
Message for returnees: Yes you have sinned, you have paid a terrible price, but God will / has forgiven you, will heal you.
After this brief respite Isaiah then returns to resume the attack those who aren’t welcoming them back.
To follow God: justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, observing the Sabbath. The purpose of the law is to guide God’s people to live justly – it is the loving response of faithful people to God’s gracious gift in choosing them.
Isaiah 58:8 (if you do this): “The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.”
From 56 to 59:8 Isaiah uses the “law” in two ways:
- For the returning exiles: he encourages them by recognizing g their faithful observance of the law.
- For the inhabitants of Jerusalem (he considers bad Jews): he uses the law as a weapon of condemnation.
In 59:9 it all changes – no longer using the 3rd person, Isaiah includes himself as a sinner
That is why judgment is far from us
and justice does not reach us.
We look for light, but there is darkness;
for brightness, and we walk in gloom!
Like those who are blind we grope along the wall,
like people without eyes we feel our way.
We stumble at midday as if at twilight,
among the vigorous, we are like the dead.
Like bears we all growl,
like doves we moan without ceasing.
We cry out for justice, but it is not there;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
Isaiah continues 59:12-15
For our transgressions before you are many,
our sins bear witness against us.
Our transgressions are present to us,
and our crimes we acknowledge:
Transgressing, and denying the LORD,
turning back from following our God,
Planning fraud and treachery,
uttering lying words conceived in the heart.
Judgment is turned away,
and justice stands far off;
For truth stumbles in the public square,
and uprightness cannot enter.
Fidelity is lacking,
and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.
If none are obeying the Law? What is to be done?
The LORD saw this, and was aggrieved that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one, was appalled that there was none to intervene;
Then his own arm brought about the victory, and his justice sustained him.
God is the only one who can save Jerusalem and His people.
God is upset that his beloved, his chosen people, are not able to live justly. He is upset that his people do not love each other.
Chapter 60 is full of hope. Jerusalem will once again be glorious – when God’s people love, when all are welcomed back.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;
To comfort all who mourn;
to place on those who mourn in Zion
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.
Lessons for Paul and us today:
- Paul zealous for the Law, but leads him to persecute some
- How he twisted the Law and ended up having it separate him from God
- The purpose of the Law is to bring people to God.
- He grows / changes, is lifted up
- Today – don’t use Scripture or doctrine against others
The purpose of Scripture, the sacraments, church teaching – all the gifts of God – are to bring God’s people closer to God, never to be used to separate the good from the bad, the worthy from the unworthy.
ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR LESSON ELEVEN
Niskanen p. xii: “It is more prudent to proceed along the lines of arguing that chapters 56-66 constitute an identifiable unit within the book of Isaiah, while recognizing that other dividing lines are in fact possible.” It’s not a hard and fast, clear-cut sort of thing. (Our commentary by Hoppe and the program suggest that the dividing line is chapter 55.)
Chapter 55 The Return to Zion
Hoppe p. 148: “The prophet calls the exiles to take the first steps back to Jerusalem where the LORD can be found. The desert that stands between Babylon and Judah has been stripped of its power to interfere with the glorious procession that will bring the exiles back to Zion.”
Hoppe – the remaining chapters 56 through 66 have the subheading of “The New Jerusalem”.
Chapter 56: 1-8 The Sabbath
Hoppe p. 149: “The pre-exilic markers of Judahite identity such as the national state and native dynasty were gone. Traditional practices such as Sabbath observance, circumcision, and the dietary laws began to take on new significance. … What is important for inclusion among this people, then, is not physical descent from a common ancestor but careful observance of God’s will.”
“Yad Vashem” = “a monument and a name” for eunuchs in Isaiah who have no descendants, for Holocaust victims.
Niskanen: p. 5: “Two classes of people typically excluded from the life of worship in the temple in Israel – eunuchs and foreigners – are now explicitly welcomed to join the LORD’s people in his house of prayer.”
Chapter 56: 9-12 Corrupt Leaders
Dogs were not kept as household pets at this time – were like crows and pigeons today – scavengers.
Chapter 57:1-13 Against Idolatry
Hoppe p. 151: “The prophet’s words likely reflect a genuine social and religious conflict between those elements of early Jewish society who wished to remain true to their ancestral religious traditions and those who were ready to accommodate themselves to the political, social, and economic realities of the day.”
Niskanen p. 10: “The lively and deliberately insulting language of these latter verses takes a number of swipes at the targeted audience through unflattering statements regarding their parentage.” Children of a sorcerer, seed of an adulterer, seed of a harlot
Chapter 57:14-21 The two ways
God is with the poor and oppressed, God will judge the oppressors
Niskanen p. 14: “The context of verses 16 and 17 especially make it very clear that the divine call and divine activity expect a human response.”
Chapter 58:1-12 Fasting
Hoppe p. 153,154: “The purpose of the fasts that came into vogue during the restoration was to move God to pity Jerusalem and hasten the day of its complete renewal. What the prophet decries here is not the practice of fasting but the ignorance of those who engaged in this practice.” (sign of mourning, it was not an ascetic practice)
As long as it was not accompanied by changes to the way they were living, true repentance, it would do no good.
Chapter 58:13,14 The Sabbath
It took more than 20 years to rebuild the Temple, in the meantime keeping the Sabbath took on greater significance than ever
Niskanen p. 17: “The pairing of Sabbath observance with the exercise of social justice, with both characterized as true fasting, clearly demonstrates that these concerns are neither in direct opposition nor in any way incompatible.”
Chapter 59 God will establish justice
Hoppe p. 155: “Though god has ended the power of Judah’s enemies and brought back its people from exile, the restoration was a profound disappointment. What was disappointing was not the lack of god’s action but the people’s response to it. Instead of creating a new society, the people were at war with each other.”
Chapter 60: The glory of the new Jerusalem
Niskanen p. 35: chapters 60-62 are the core and highpoint of third Isaiah.
Image of light bursting forth – dawn of a new day / era, transition
Hoppe p. 158: not a real “universalism” here – other nations are either destroyed or come to Jerusalem as subordinates to it – a religious nationalism.
Chapter 61:1-3 The Prophet’s mission
Hoppe p. 159: “Judah is condemned to exile because of the injustice of its economic and social system. God will recreate Judahite society according to justice, and the prophet has a central role in the working out of God’s plan.”
Chapter 61:4-11 The Priesthood of the Poor
Hoppe p. 161: “The rebuilding of the temple and the renewal of priestly service do not appear to be priorities for the prophet. What is more significant is the renewal of Judahite society on the basis of justice. A just society brings with it God’s blessing and is the embodiment of the covenant between God and Jerusalem.”
FOR NEXT WEEK
- Re-read this week’s chapters as a unit. What language and images speak to you?
- Read next week’s chapters (62-66). What jumps out? Strong images and phrases?
- Go through the questions in the workbook pages 60 to 65. Which questions create the most interest in you?