Breaking the covenant agreement (Jer 34:17-34:18)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh!

‘You have not obeyed me

By granting a release

To your neighbors,

As well as to your friends.

I am going to

Grant a release to you,

A release to the sword,

A release to pestilence,

A release to famine.’

Says Yahweh.

‘I will make you a horror

To all the kingdoms

Of the earth.

Those who transgressed

My covenant,

Those who did not

Keep the terms

Of the covenant

That they made before me,

I will make them

Like the calf

When they cut it in two.

As they passed

Between its parts.’”

The people of Jerusalem had not obeyed Yahweh about freeing up their Hebrew slaves. Now Yahweh was going to free them to the sword, pestilence, and famine, the common formula of Jeremiah for destruction. They would become a horror for all the countries in the world. They had broken their covenant with Yahweh. They had not kept the terms of the covenant agreement, since they had re-enslaved the freed Hebrew slaves in Jerusalem. The ancient practice of cutting or sacrificing an animal into two pieces was a way of ratifying an agreement, as can be seen in Genesis, chapter 15. Then the two people would walk between the two pieces of the calf to indicate that if they broke the agreement, they too would be killed. Thus these disobedient ones who broke the covenant were subject to death, just as the calf had been killed and cut up.

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The powerful intervention of God (Isa 51:9-51:11)

“Awake!

Awake!

Put on strength!

O arm of Yahweh!

Awake!

As in days of old!

The generations of long ago!

Did you not cut Rahab in pieces?

Did you not pierce the dragon?

Did you not dry up the sea?

Did you not dry up the waters of the great deep?

Did you not make the depths of the sea

In a way for the redeemed to cross over?

The ransomed of Yahweh shall return.

They will come to Zion with singing.

Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

They shall obtain joy.

They shall obtain gladness.

Sorrow shall flee away.

Sighing shall flee away.”

Second Isaiah has a plea for the arm of Yahweh to act again as he had done in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. He had cut up Rahab, the sea monster name for Egypt. He had pierced the dragon in mythological terms. He dried up the waters, so that the redeemed of Israel could cross over. These same ransomed people will now come to Zion singing with joy. They will be joyful and glad and not sorrowful or sighing. Yahweh will intervene again on their behalf.

The role of the king of Assyria (Isa 10:5-10:7)

“O Assyria!

The rod of my anger!

The club in their hands

Is my fury!

Against a godless nation,

I send him.

Against the people of my wrath,

I command him

To take spoil.

I command him

To seize plunder.

I command him

To tread them down

Like the mire of the streets.

This is not what he intends.

He did not have this in mind.

But in his heart,

He wanted to destroy.

He wanted to cut off

Not a few nations.”

It seems like Yahweh is sending the king of Assyria as his rod and club to work out God’s plans. Thus, King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE) of Assyria wanted to deport people, so that they would not lead a revolt against him. This Assyrian king was to be the stick of Yahweh’s anger to make the northern Israelites like sludge in the streets. He would take the plunder and the spoils of the people of Yahweh, the northern Israelites. The Assyrian king controlled a great part of the Middle East from the Tigris River, including Babylon, during this time of Isaiah. However, the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III did not intend to do the will of Yahweh. He really wanted to destroy and cut up many nations with his deportation and plunder policies.