The rhetorical questions (Isa 10:15-10:15)

“Shall the axe vaunt itself

Over the one who wields it?

Can the saw magnify itself

Against the one who handles it?

Can the rod

Raise the one who lifts it up?

Can the staff

Lift the one who is not wood?”

Isaiah asks a series of rhetorical questions about the proud King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE) of Assyria. The axe cannot wield itself. Someone, like Yahweh, has to wield the axe, who is the king. A saw, like the king, will not work unless someone is making it work, like Yahweh. The rod by itself, the king, is useless unless Yahweh lifts it up for punishment. Can a staff of wood do anything without someone controlling it like Yahweh. Yahweh is controlling this proud king, but he thinks that he is in charge.

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The weak (Sir 11:12-11:13)

“There are others

Who are slow.

They need help.

They lack strength.

They abound in poverty.

However,

The eyes of the Lord

Look kindly upon them.

He lifts them out of

Their lowly condition.

He raises up their heads.

Thus many are amazed.”

On the other hand, there are those who are weak and slow. They need help since they lack strength and live in poverty. The Lord sees this so he looks kindly on them. He lifts them up out of their lowly conditions. He makes them raise their heads, so that many people are amazed.

The judgment of God (Ps 75:5-75:8)

“Not from the east or from the west,

Not from the wilderness comes lifting up.

It is God who executes judgment.

He puts down one.

He lifts up another.

In the hand of Yahweh,

There is a cup,

With foaming wine,

Well mixed.

He will pour a draught from it.

All the wicked of the earth

Shall drain it down to the dregs.”

Judgment does not come from the east, the west, the wilderness in the south, or the mountains in the north. Only God can execute judgment. He puts one down and lifts the other up. The cup of anger was important in the prophetic tradition. The wicked would drink from the wine cup with the specially mixed foaming wine. They would drink it all down until nothing was left, their judgment.