The call of the prophet (Isa 49:1-49:2)

“Listen to me!

O coastlands!

Pay attention!

You people from far away!

Yahweh called me

Before I was born.

While I was in my mother’s womb,

He named me.

He made my mouth

Like a sharp sword.

In the shadow of his hand,

He hid me.

He made me a polished arrow.

In his quiver,

He hid me away.”

In this second chant of the servant of Yahweh, Second Isaiah has this servant speak about how he was called to be a prophet while still in the womb. Once again, the main theme was to listen up and pay attention, but this time the intended listeners are the coastline towns of the Mediterranean Sea, and those far away. Perhaps this alludes to the calling of the prophet Isaiah, but he is not explicitly named here. Nevertheless, this servant was named while still in the womb. He had been given a sharp tongue for his mouth, while he was hidden in the shadow of Yahweh’s hand. He was like a polished arrow hidden in the quiver of the other arrows.

 

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Praise for the triumph of Yahweh (Isa 24:14-24:16)

“They lift up their voices.

They sing for joy.

They shout from the west.

Over the majesty of Yahweh.

Therefore in the east,

Give glory to Yahweh!

In the coastlands of the sea,

Glorify the name of Yahweh,

The God of Israel.

From the ends of the earth,

We hear songs of praise.

We hear songs of glory

To the Righteous One.”

Suddenly, Isaiah has everyone praising Yahweh. They would all lift up their voices singing for joy from the west, the east, and along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. They would proclaim the majesty of Yahweh. They would glorify and praise his name, Yahweh, from the ends of the earth. You could hear songs of praise and glory to the Righteous God of Israel, Yahweh.

Oracle against Sidon (Isa 23:2-23:4)

“Be still!

O inhabitants of the coast!

O merchants of Sidon!

Your messengers crossed

Over the sea.

They replenished you.

They were on many waters.

Your revenue

Was the grain of Shihor,

The harvest of the Nile.

You were

The merchant of the nations.

Be ashamed!

O Sidon!

The sea has spoken.

The fortress of the sea says.

‘I have neither labored

Nor given birth.

I have neither reared young men

Nor brought up young women.’”

Sidon was another Phoenician city about 25 miles north of Tyre. This maritime city is also on the southern Lebanon coastline today, mostly known for its fishing and trade. Sidon was also the name of the grandson of Noah, and thus older than Tyre. This oracle of Isaiah wants the people of Sidon to be still. Their sailors had traveled the great seas. In fact, they would bring the harvest of grain from the Nile via Shihor, a port town near Zoan in Egypt. They were the sea merchants to all the countries along the Mediterranean Sea. However, they should be ashamed. Sidon was going to be barren, no longer would young men and women be raised in Sidon, but without any explanation on why this was going to happen here.

Oracle against Tyre (Isa 23:1-23:1)

“The oracle concerning Tyre.

Wail!

O ships of Tarshish!

Your fortress is destroyed.

When they came in

From Cyprus

They learned of it.”

Tyre was a Phoenician costal island city that still exists in southern Lebanon. Known for its maritime trade and purple dye, it was actually in the Israelite territory of Asher. The ships of Tarshish are mentioned 24 times in the biblical books, most notably when speaking about the wealth of King Solomon, in 1 Kings, chapter 10. Tarnish must have been someplace where there was a lot of metal, such as silver, probably some distance away, since speculation continues as to its exact location. The fortress or the houses of Tyre would be destroyed. Apparently these Phoenician sailors from Tyre were coming back from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, when they learned about this destruction.

Abraham (Sir 44:19-44:21)

“Abraham was the great father

Of a multitude of nations.

No one has been found

Like him in glory.

He kept the law

Of the Most High.

He entered into

A covenant with him.

He certified the covenant

In his flesh.

When he was tested,

He was found faithful.

Therefore the Lord assured him

With an oath.

The nations would be blessed

Through his offspring.

He would make them

As numerous as

The dust of the earth.

He would exalt his posterity

Like the stars.

He would give them

An inheritance

From sea to sea,

From the Euphrates River

To the ends of the earth.”

It is obvious why Abraham should show up as one of the famous holy men as indicated in the stories of Genesis, chapters 12-25. Abraham was considered to be the father of many nations, not just Israel. His glory was beyond anyone else. He kept the law of the Most High God, although it was not written anywhere. There is no mention of Yahweh. However Abraham entered into a covenant with the Most High God that was sealed with his flesh, the circumcision of the foreskin of his penis. Then there was his test about obeying God, when he was asked to kill his son. Abraham proved faithful to God. Thus the Lord, or Yahweh, assured him with an oath that he would have many blessed descendants as numerous as the dust on the earth. He also promised them an inheritance of the land from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea to the ends of the earth. Wow! This was a big chunk of land.

The seas (Sir 43:23-43:26)

“By the Lord’s plan,

He stilled the great deep sea.

He planted islands in it.

Those who sail the sea

Tell of its dangers.

We marvel at

What we hear.

In the sea

Are strange creatures.

In the sea

Are marvelous works.

There are

All kinds of living things.

There are

Huge sea-monsters.

Because of him,

Each of his messengers succeeds.

By his word

All things hold together.”

Next Sirach explains how the Lord controls and stills the seas. The Lord planted the islands in these seas. Many sailors tell of their dangerous adventures on the high seas, mostly on the Mediterranean Sea. Within these waters, there are many strange and marvelous creatures. Among the many living things in the sea are the sea monsters, in particular Leviathan that played a major role in biblical stories, particularly in the book of Job, chapter 41. All these things stay together because of the power of the Lord.

Thanksgiving for past victories (Ps 108:7-108:9)

“God has promised in his sanctuary.

‘With exultation

I will divide up Shechem.

I will portion out the Vale of Succoth.

Gilead is mine.

Manasseh is mine.

Ephraim is my helmet.

Judah is my scepter.

Moab is my washbasin.

On Edom

I hurl my shoe.

Over Philistia

I shout in triumph.’”

This section is a repeat almost word for word of the same victories mentioned in Psalm 60. God directly promised or spoke in his sanctuary to David. This is one of the few times that this phraseology is used, assuming that the sanctuary of the Temple was completed. This probably was a prophet speaking in the name of God, but there is no specific indication here. He rattled off a series of Israelite victories. Shechem was a former Canaanite city that was now divided up and part of the territory of Manasseh. Succoth was conquered during the time of the Judges. Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan River where the tribes of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh lived. Only 3 Israelite tribes are mentioned here, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah. Judah would become the favorite when the split between the north and the south took place as the north became known as Israel. Moab was a mere washbasin on the east side of the Dead Sea. Edom was in the north. The phrase “hurl a shoe” seemed obsolete until some Iraqi journalist hurled his shoe at President George W. Bush to show his contempt. Philistines were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Thus this is a list of the various victorious Israelite battles.