Like the days of Noah to me.
Just as I swore
That the waters of Noah
Should never again
Go over the earth,
I have sworn
That I will not be angry with you.
I will not rebuke you.
The mountains may depart.
The hills me be removed.
But my steadfast love
Shall not depart from you.
My covenant of peace
Shall not be removed.
So says Yahweh,
Who has compassion on you.”
Second Isaiah explains that there would be no more destruction for Israel. Citing the days of Noah, Yahweh has sworn that he would not destroy the earth with water again. Thus he said that he would not be angry or rebuke the people of Israel again. Yahweh says that the mountains and hills could fall, but his steadfast love would remain. His covenant of peace would not be removed, because he had compassion on Israel.
“‘Do not fear!
You worm Jacob!
You insects of Israel!
I will help you!’
The Holy One of Israel!
‘Now I will make of you
A threshing sledge,
You shall thresh the mountains.
You shall crush them.
You shall make the hills
You shall winnow them.
The wind shall carry them away.
The tempest shall scatter them.
You shall rejoice in Yahweh!
You shall glory in the Holy One of Israel!’”
Once again, Yahweh assumes the first person singular in Second Isaiah. He seems a little derogatory at first calling the Israelites the worm Jacob and the insect Israel. However, it is clear that he is here to help. He was going to be the Redeemer and the Holy One of Israel, no questions asked. He was going to make the Israelites strong, new, and sharp. They would be a teeth threshing sledge to beat up the crop. Instead of crops, they would go out and crush the mountains and the hills until they become like useless chaff. In other words they were to winnow or separate the grain from the chaff. Then they were to let the wind and the storms carry this chaff away and scatter it. They were to rejoice and glory in Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel.
“Who has measured the waters
In the hollow of his hand?
Who has marked off the heavens
With a span?
Who has enclosed the dust of the earth
In a measure?
Who has weighed the mountains
Who has weighed
The hills in a balance?
Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh?
What counselor has instructed him?
Whom did he consult for his enlightenment?
Who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge?
Who showed him the way of understanding?”
In a series of questions, Second Isaiah shows the power of God, his greatness. Yahweh is like a great superman. Who is able to measure the great waters in his hand? Who can span the heavens? Who can measure the earth or weigh the mountains and hills? Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh? Who are his counselors? Who taught him enlightenment, justice, knowledge, and understanding? The obvious answer is no one because he could do and know all this by himself, without the help of anyone, since he is the great God.
“A voice cries out.
‘In the wilderness,
Prepare the way of Yahweh!
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up.
Every mountain shall be made low.
Every hill shall be made low.
The uneven ground shall become level.
The rough places shall become a plain.
The glory of Yahweh shall be revealed.
All the people shall see it together.
The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.’”
Here we have the famous phrase that was used by the Christian writers of the New Testament to speak about John the Baptist. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke both use these phrases from the Greek Septuagint when citing them from Isaiah. Apparently this new path is a way out of the Exile, just as there was the path of the Exodus. In this wilderness or desert, they were to make a straight path, like a highway for God or the Holy Way that was mentioned earlier in chapter 35, to prepare a path for Yahweh. This would also be a time of upheaval. The valleys would rise as the mountains and hills would fall. Also the uneven and rough places would become level and plain. All the people would then see the glory of God revealed. In case there was any doubt, Second Isaiah said that this was spoken by the mouth of Yahweh.
“The voice of my beloved!
Leaping upon the mountains,
Bounding over the hills.
My beloved is
Like a gazelle,
Like a young stag.
There he stands
Behind our wall,
Gazing in at the windows,
Looking through the lattice.”
This female lover cries out that her beloved has come leaping over the mountains and bounding over hills, like a super hero. Her beloved is like a gazelle or antelope. He is like a young deer, a young stag. Suddenly he is behind the wall, gazing in at her window through the lattice, like our venetian blinds. This young stud has come to pay a visit, but stands outside peeking in, like a peeping Tom.
Then there is a list of all the other things that praise Yahweh. The mountains and hills praise Yahweh. The fruit trees and the all the big cedar trees praise Yahweh. The wild animals and the cultivated cattle praise Yahweh. The creeping things and the flying birds praise Yahweh. Both animate and inanimate things praise Yahweh in this cosmic hymn to God.
“Why is it?
Why do you flee?
Why do you turn back?
Why do you skip like rams?
Why do skip like lambs?
Tremble at the presence of Yahweh!
Tremble at the presence of the God of Jacob!
He turns the rock into a pool of water.
He turns the flint into a spring of water.”
This short psalm concludes with wondering why nature was so submissive to Yahweh. Why did the Red Sea flee and spread apart? Why did the Jordan River turn back? Why were the mountains and hills skipping like rams and lambs? The answer was, of course, they trembled at the presence of Yahweh, the God of Jacob. Yahweh was able to turn rock and flint into water.
“The sea looked.
The sea fled.
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams.
The hills skipped like lambs.”
The Red Sea got out of the way of the Israelites. The Jordan River turned back. The mountains and the hills were so happy that they skipped like rams and lambs. The sea and the land accepted the Israelites.
O my people!
I will speak!
I will testify against you!
I am God!
I am your God!
Not for your sacrifices,
Do I rebuke you.
Your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house.
I will not accept goats from your folds.
Every wild animal of the forest is mine.
The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.
I know all the birds of the air.
I know that all that moves in the field is mine.”
This time the plea is for God asking the people of Israel to hear him, not the other way around. God was going to speak to Israel as he wanted to testify against them. He was rebuking them, but not for their sacrifices, which they had continually brought forth as burnt offerings. He was no longer going to accept bulls and goats as sacrifices. God claimed that all the wild animals were his anyhow. The cattle in the hills, the birds in the air, and all that moved in the fields belonged to God.