Caravans from the east (Isa 60:6-60:7)

“A multitude of camels

Shall cover you.

The young camels of Midian

With the camels of Ephah

Shall cover you.

All those from Sheba

Shall come.

They shall bring gold.

They shall bring frankincense.

They shall proclaim the praise of Yahweh.

All the flocks of Kedar

Shall be gathered to you.

The rams of Nebaioth

Shall minister to you.

They shall be acceptable on my altar.

I will glorify my glorious house.”

The caravan trade had been very lucrative. Thus the camels with all their goodies would travel to Jerusalem from eastern Midian and Ephah that were in Arabia. Sheba was in southern Arabia, prominent in the stories of King Solomon. They were bringing the traditional gifts of gold and frankincense, which was an expensive spice. They were going to proclaim the praises of Yahweh. So too, the flocks from the eastern desert area from the Arab tribes of Kedar, as well as the rams of the Nebaioth tribe, would be gifts for Jerusalem. These would be acceptable at the altar of Yahweh in his house.

The motivation for fasting (Isa 58:3-58:5)

“Why do we fast?

You do not see it.

Why humble ourselves?

You do not notice it.

Look!

You serve your own interest

On your fast day.

You oppress all your workers.

Look!

You fast only to quarrel!

You fast only to fight!

You fast to strike with a wicked fist.

Such is the fasting

That you do today.

It will not make your voice

Heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose?

Is this a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head

Like a bulrush?

Is it to lie in sackcloth?

Is it to lie in ashes?

Will you call this a fast?

Will you call this

A day acceptable to Yahweh?”

Third Isaiah points out the hypocrisy of those who are fasting. Why are they fasting? God does not seem to notice them since they serve their own interests when they are fasting. While fasting, they oppress their workers, quarrel with others, and fight with strong fists. What kind of fast is that? This kind of fasting will get them nowhere. How will they be able to make their voice heard on high with these actions? They are not humble with this kind of fasting. Are they like a bulrush marsh plant? What about sackcloth and ashes? How can they call this acceptable to the Lord? This is a strong condemnation of useless unmotivated fasting.

Yahweh accepts the proselyte foreigners (Isa 56:6-56:8)

“Foreigners join themselves to Yahweh.

They minister to him.

They love the name of Yahweh.

They want to be his servants.

They keep the Sabbath.

They do not profane it.

They hold fast to my covenant.

‘I will bring these to my holy mountain.

I will make them joyful

In my house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings,

With their sacrifices

Will be accepted on my altar.

My house shall be called

A house of prayer

For all people.’

Thus says Yahweh God!

He gathers the outcasts of Israel.

‘I will gather others to them,

Besides those already gathered.’”

Third Isaiah keeps the universal theme alive. He has Yahweh extend a hand to the proselytes, those people who were not originally Israelites but joined their religious community. In pre-exilic times, they would have been excluded from the community. These foreigners are the ones who have joined themselves to Yahweh, the Lord. They have ministered to him and want to be his servants. They love the name of Yahweh and hold fast to his covenant. Yahweh will bring them to his holy mountain where they will be joyful in his house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on his altars. No longer is the Temple a place for clean Israelites, but all the people are invited to Yahweh’s house of prayer. Yahweh, the Lord God, has gathered all the outcasts of Israel, but he has also gathered other believers who were not Israelites.

Religious hypocrites (Isa 1:13-1:16)

“I cannot endure

Solemn assemblies

With iniquity.

I cannot endure

New moon convocations.

I cannot endure

Sabbath convocations.

My soul hates

Your new moon celebrations.

My soul hates

Your appointed festivals.

They have become a burden to me.

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread forth your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you.

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves!

Make yourselves clean!

Remove the evil

Of your doings

From before my eyes.

Cease to do evil!”

Yahweh via Isaiah continues to reject all convocations and assemblies for the new moon and the various festivals, even for the Sabbath because of their iniquity. What a striking turn of events! The kings and priests loved these assemblies for fulfilling the law in the Torah. Isaiah and Yahweh seem to be calling out the hypocrisy of these worship assemblies where evil iniquitous people gathered for these festivals. Yahweh could not endure them any longer. His soul hated them. He was weary of their burden on him.   He was going to hide his eyes and not listen to their prayers. Then in surprisingly priestly language he talks about the unclean bloody hands that need to be washed. Somehow the idea of clean and unclean was acceptable. However, these worshippers had to change their evil habits. They had to cease to do evil. Maybe, this rebuke against offerings and festivals was not absolute.

Unacceptable sacrifices (Sir 34:21-34:27)

“If one sacrifices ill-gotten goods,

The offering is blemished.

The gifts of the lawless

Are not acceptable.

The Most High is not pleased

With the offerings of the ungodly.

He does not forgive sins

For a multitude of sacrifices.

Like one who kills a son,

Before his father’s eyes,

Is the person

Who offers a sacrifice

From the property of the poor.

The bread of the needy

Is the life of the poor.

Whoever deprives them of it

Is a murderer.

To take away a neighbor’s living

Is to commit murder.

To deprive an employee of his wages

Is to shed blood.”

There are some sacrifices that are not acceptable to the Lord. Sirach points out that stolen or ill-gotten goods sacrificed are blemished and thus unacceptable. Even good gifts from the lawless and the ungodly will not be acceptable. A lot of sacrifices do not forgive sins. If you sacrifice the property of the poor, you are like a person killing a son before his own father. The bread of the poor is needed for their life. You are a murderer when you take bread from the poor. If you take away the living of your neighbor, you are a murderer. To deprive anyone of their wages is like shedding their blood. In other words, to steal from the poor or take away their livelihood is like murdering them.

Yahweh controls things (Prov 21:1-21:4)

“The king’s heart is a stream of water

In the hand of Yahweh.

He turns it wherever he will.

All deeds are right

In the sight of the doer.

But Yahweh weighs the heart.

To do righteousness

Is more acceptable to Yahweh than sacrifice.

To do justice

Is more acceptable to Yahweh than sacrifice.

Haughty eyes,

The lamp of the wicked,

Are sins.

A proud heart,

The lamp of the wicked,

Are sins.”

Yahweh has control of humans. Even the heart of a king is like a stream of water in the hand of Yahweh. He controls the heart of the king and turns it into whatever he wants. Most people think that they are doing the right thing, but Yahweh checks out the heart to see if they are truly righteous. To actually be righteous and do justice is more acceptable to Yahweh than sacrifice to Yahweh. Haughty eyes and a proud heart both indicate wickedness. Thus they are both sins.

The lips of the righteous (Prov 10:30-10:32)

“The righteous will never be removed.

But the wicked will not remain in the land.

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom.

But the perverse tongue will be cut off.

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable.

But the mouths of the wicked know what is perverse.”

The righteous will never be removed from the land, while the wicked will not stay on the land. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom. The tongue of the wicked, on the other hand, will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. while the wicked only know perversity.