O.T. Handout #39: Isaiah, Ch 50-53 made clear, Failure to Thrive, slavery, Esaias, Captivity, pierced October 2014
Isaiah (Hebrew: יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah: seems to have been a man of relatively high social station who spoke with kings (37:1-73, 38:1). Josephus proposed Isaiah was King Hezekiah’s son-in-law (he was killed by his grandson, Manassah). Died in 7th century. May have prophesied for 64 years.
Complexity, beauty of his writings: metaphor, parallelism, elevated language – well-educated. Served under 4 kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah (1:1). Acted as a spiritual physician for people (see ch 1-5). People became “wise in their own eyes” (5:21), seeking counsel from those outside the covenant (2;6).
Lamented over Jerusalem (1:21-23). How the great city, once a seat of righteousness=now abode of harlots, murderers. Blamed leaders. Is this the situation today?
Likens people to a “failure to thrive” syndrome. Uses a botanical metaphor to warn House of Israel they have spiritual version of it (5:1-7). Lord is the husbandman but in spite of his efforts, only wild grapes grew.
Prophecies – prognosis for continued rebellion: Abandonment (5:5-6). Eventually trampled, ravaged.
Captivity (3:8). Fulfilled in 587 b.c. when Babylonian empire conquered, Judah into captivity. Same with Northern Kingdom (5:26-30). Fulfilled in 721.b.c. when Assyrians conquered and deported many of 10 tribes.
Humiliation: (2:11-12, 13-16).Proud, worldly, uncharitable will be brought low and “Lord alone shall be exalted on that day”. Prognosis for Righteous: Lovely, beautiful, glorious. Shall be holy. Dwell with Lord (4:2-4, 25-27)
Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–395), believed that the Prophet Esaias (Isaiah) “knew more perfectly than all others the mystery of the religion of the Gospel”. Jerome (c. 342–420) also lauds the Prophet, “He was more of an Evangelist than a Prophet, because he described all of the Mysteries of the Church of Christ so vividly that you would assume he was not prophesying about the future, but rather was composing a history of past events.”
Chapter 50: Jehovah’s servant meets hostility from ones who sell themselves, who light their way with mere sparks.
This chapter continues the theme of chapter 49, indeed, the last verses of chapter 49 (verses 24-26) are certainly part of the thought of the first verses of chapter 50. They are part of the Lord’s rhetorical question directed at Jerusalem in Isaiah 49:24: “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty or the lawful captive delivered”? In our terms, “Can anyone take away the booty of the victor, or can the slave who has been taken lawfully be saved”? The division into chapters and verses, a modern innovation, has created an artificial division in the text.
In these verses we see the answer to the Lord’s rhetorical question: the coming captivity of Babylon, that Jerusalem (Zion) will complain that it has been forgotten (49:14-16), and that, nevertheless, the Lord will not have forgotten it.
Verse 1: The children of Israel appear to have complained that the Lord has abandoned his people for no reason and that they didn’t know what was happening. (See Isaiah 40:27 and 49:14.) He responds to that complaint. Though Zion has been exiled, no divorce decree was given and no bill of sale was made to the Lord’s creditors (after all, he owes nothing to anyone): the exile will be only temporary. Divorce at the time Isaiah was writing appears to have required that the husband write a writ of divorcement. One solution to poverty at the time was to sell one’s children into temporary slavery to pay off creditors. Isaiah uses those images to explain the Lord’s relation to Zion.
The metaphor of slavery and being redeemed from slavery is important in the Old Testament and even more important in the New, especially in the writings of Paul. Since slavery was part of ancient Near Eastern culture, the metaphor of redemption—being bought out of slavery—was obvious to those hearing these prophecies. But it may not be as obvious to us today (for which we should be deeply grateful). How might we translate that metaphor into a metaphor that makes sense in our culture today?
There are two women: the woman, Zion, the virgin daughter of Zion, are those who renew their covenant relationship with the Lord. And then there is the harlot woman. The harlot woman is not just Babylon. She is the Lord’s people who are alienated from God, or who become alienated. At the same time there are those coming into the covenant, there are others cutting themselves off from the covenant. These are some of those who are being addressed. In the end of days, there are two entities of Israel: There is ethnic Israel, that comes back in, like the Jews and the Ten Tribes, and those who are mingled Israel who have been the covenant people of the Lord, in the last days, who reject the covenant and become cut off.
Summary: “ But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then, by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled. This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony.” In other words, they’re just trouble-makers who are lighting fires all over the place, that people need to keep putting out. The light of truth that they have is like a mere spark, in comparison to the light that the Lord has sent in the personhood of his Servant, or to the greater light that the Lord himself is. The Servant, although he’s a light, which is a power of creation, is only a forerunner to the Lord himself who is the greater light. He’s like the sun, peeking up over the horizon, and the Servant leads into God’s presence. But they won’t even have anything to do with the Servant, so they’re going to end up in agony. “This shall you have from my hand,” that is from his left hand, the king of Assyria. They will experience all of the covenant curses that come upon the wicked, through the instrumentality of the Lord’s left hand, the king of Assyria.
Chapter 51: Jehovah empowers his servant as an arm of righteousness to deliver his people in an exodus to Zion. There are three poems in this chapter, verses 1-8, verses 9-16, and verses 17-23. In theme, the speaker uses the stories of the creation and the first patriarchs to make his point: the creation, the Patriarch’s, Israel’s history and destiny, all come together in the promise of salvation. Nevertheless, Israel remains sleepy and must be roused to attention.
Verses 1-2: Consolation is once again the theme: those who follow the Lord should remember their ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, as the Lord remembers his covenant with those ancestors. Is the reference to the rock and the well (“hole of the pit” in the King James translation), both of which gave Israel water, a reference to Moses? (Also see Deuteronomy 31:10.) If so, what point is the speaker making? How might a reference to Moses fit with the obvious reference to the covenant with Abraham?.
Isaiah talks about Abraham. He repented of all the idolatry, or he disassociated himself from it, and sought the blessings of the fathers, and inherited the Promised Land, was persecuted in Ur of the Chaldees when the Lord called him out to the Promised Land. “I blessed him by making him many.” He was only one individual, to begin with, but then he had a son called Isaac. Isaac had a son called Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons. They had many sons. Pretty soon there was a whole nation, a multiple entity. The Lord multiplied him. That is a covenant blessing, to have offspring. And that blessing is also assured anybody who does the works of Abraham and responds to the Servant (Christ) and comes out of Babylon, prior to the destruction.
Other themes are land and the paring of righteousness and salvation. (51:8) To ascend to a Zion level from an Israel level requires certain law, covenant keeping. To ascend from a Zion level to becoming a servant and son of God required a higher law; requires good and faithful to God under all conditions. To ascend from being a son and servant of God to being a seraph requires a greater law, a greater degree of righteousness. So there are different levels of righteousness and they endure forever because, progression to a spiritual ascent upward, endures forever. It goes on and on and on and on. Isaiah himself establishes that pattern in his book.
Chapter 52: To ascend to a Zion level from an Israel level requires certain law, covenant keeping. To ascend from a Zion level to becoming a servant and son of God required a higher law; requires good and faithful to God under all conditions. To ascend from being a son and servant of God to being a seraph requires a greater law, a greater degree of righteousness. So there are different levels of righteousness and they endure forever because, progression to a spiritual ascent upward, endures forever. Jehovah’s servant and Zion’s watchmen accomplish Zion’s restoration, beginning with a new exodus.
See 51, verses 9 and 17. Explicitly parallel with what happens to the servant, clothed and endowed with power. Not the same power that the Lord’s servant is endowed with; power of Moses, power over elements, power to dry the deep, etc. to bring about the redemption of the people. But Zion is empowered with power to minister to Jacob or Israel. That parallelism: what happens to him happens to them. The one who puts on the robes of glory, is the Lord’s servant. ch61: Proclaim liberty to the captives, comfort the mourning, to endow those who morn in Zion, bestowing on them a priestly head piece in place of ashes, a festal anointing in place of morning, a resplendent robe in place of a downcast spirit. They shall be called the oaks of righteousness.
Vs 10: There is a chiasm between verse 7, 8 and 10. Nine and 10 are out of place. One way we know that is from that parallelism of 21 consecutive verses. The one who heralds salvation is the one whom the Lord bares. The Lord has bared His holy arm, that is, the Lord commissions His servant, who is one of the arms of God; the arm of righteousness. The Lord reveals him, or bares him, in the eyes of all nations because his mission is to all nations.
Ch 53: Jehovah’s descent phase as a sacrificial lamb
(before his ascent as King of Zion) atones for sinners.
the first ten verses, someone is speaking about the Lord Himself, or a spokesman of the people is speaking about what I call the suffering figure, scholars call him the suffering servant, that when you look at it there is really no indication here that this person, who’s referred to in verses one thru 10 of chapter 53 is that same servant. There is a different speaker this time. In fact, it could be the servant speaking as a spokesman for the people about the Lord Himself.
vs. 5: Pierced–Shows the manner that he suffered. The suffering of Christ on the cross, when the nails pierced His hands and His feet, and the spear pierced his side. He was crushed also, under the weight of the cross. Not for any transgression or iniquity of His own. There is a difference between transgression and iniquity. Transgression is when you transgress the laws of God or you commit a sin and you’re guilty of that. Iniquity is handed down from generation to generation. Negative behavioral patterns, or dysfunctional behavioral patterns passed on, results of sin; they’re cumulative. Covenant curses that happen when people sin and transgress. Cause people to labor in adverse situations, to react to them, perhaps, negatively, where they are not able to cope with the consequences of their transgressions. He took all of that upon himself, not just our personal transgressions, but also those of our forefathers, those things we inherited from them. …the price of our peace, he incurred; and with his wounds we are healed. Here we have a word link, peace, to other parts of Isaiah. It is the Lord Himself who brings about peace in the book of Isaiah.
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