We are sinners (Isa 64:5-64:7)

“But you were angry.

We sinned!

Because you hid yourself,

We transgressed.

We have all become

Like one who is unclean.

All our righteous deeds are

Like a filthy cloth.

We all fade

Like a leaf.

Our iniquities are

Like the wind.

They take us away.

There is no one

Who calls on your name.

No one attempts

To take hold of you.

You have hidden your face

From us.

You have delivered us

Into the hand of our iniquities.”

Then the prophet proclaimed that he and his people were sinners. Once again, he tried to mitigate this sinfulness by saying that God was angry at them and hid his face. This made it easier to be a transgressor. They all became unclean, so that even their good deeds were like filthy cloths. They faded like a leaf into their iniquities. They were like the wind, blown away. No one called the name of Yahweh or tried to contact him, because Yahweh had hidden his face from them. Once again, in an attempt to avoid responsibility, the prophet said that he was delivered into the hands of iniquity, as if he could not refrain from it.

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The Sabbath (Isa 58:13-58:14)

“‘If you refrain

From trampling the Sabbath,

Then you shall take delight in Yahweh.

If you refrain

From pursing your own interests

On my holy day,

Then you shall take delight in Yahweh.

If you call the Sabbath a delight

Then you shall take delight in Yahweh.

If you call the holy day of Yahweh honorable

Then you shall take delight in Yahweh.

If you honor it,

Not going your own ways,

Nor seeking your own interests,

Nor pursuing your own affairs,

Then you shall take delight in Yahweh.

I will make you ride

Upon the heights of the earth.

I will feed you

With the heritage of your ancestor Jacob.’

The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”

This chapter of Third Isaiah ends with an oracle from Yahweh about the Sabbath. They had to refrain from trampling the Sabbath and pursuing their own interests on this holy day. If they delighted and honored the Sabbath, they would surely delight in Yahweh. As long as they were not pursuing their own affairs and interests on the Sabbath, Yahweh would make them ride to the heights of the earth. They would be part of the heritage of their ancestor Jacob.

Yahweh blesses the happy ones (Isa 56:1-56:2)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Maintain justice!

Do what is right!

Soon my salvation will come!

My deliverance will be revealed.

Happy is the mortal

Who does this!

He holds this fast.

He keeps the Sabbath.

He does not profane it.

He refrains from doing any evil.’”

This is the beginning of what is often called Third Isaiah, after the Israelites had returned from the Exile and settled in Israel. Here we have a brief description of the happy blessed ones. Yahweh set out the rules they were to follow. They had to maintain justice and do what is right. Salvation and deliverance were soon to come. These happy ones would have to keep the Sabbath, by not profaning it. They also had to refrain from doing any evil. This seems simple enough.

False justice (Isa 10:1-10:4)

“Woe to you

Who make iniquitous decrees!

Woe to you

Who write oppressive statutes!

You turn aside

The needy from justice!

You rob the poor of my people

Of their right!

Widows may be your spoil!

You make the orphans your prey!

What will you do

On the day of punishment?

What will you do

In the calamity

That will come from afar?

To whom will you flee for help?

Where will you leave your wealth?

Will you crouch among the prisoners?

Will you fall among the slain?

For all this

His anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah then curses those who practice injustice, those who make evil decrees and oppressive statutes. He was against those who took away justice and robbed the poor people of their rights. These unjust people took stuff from the widows and the orphans as if they were taking spoil after a war or prey for an animal. What were they going to do on the punishment day? In troubles, who would help them? Where were they going to leave their wealth? They might end up as a prisoner or get killed. Once again, this little section ends with the refrain that the angry hand of Yahweh has not turned away, since it is still stretched out today.

The wickedness destroyed (Isa 9:18-9:21)

“Wickedness burned like a fire.

It consumed briers.

It consumed thorns.

It kindled the thickets of the forest.

They swirled upward

In a column of smoke.

Through the wrath of Yahweh of hosts

The land was burned.

The people became

Like fuel for the fire.

No one spared another.

They gorged on the right.

But they were still hungry.

They devoured on the left.

But they were not satisfied.

They devoured

The flesh of their own kindred.

Manasseh devoured Ephraim.

Ephraim devoured Manasseh.

Together they were against Judah.

Thus his anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah says that wickedness burned like a fire consuming all briers and thorns, like a forest fire. The northern Israelites would be like swirling smoke because the wrath of God would come upon them. He would burn their land with the people on it as fuel for the fire. No one would be spared because they would become like cannibals, eating their own relatives, but never satisfied. They would turn on each other. Even the 2 northern brother tribes of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, would turn on each other. They would also attack Judah. Once again, this statement ends with the refrain that the angry hand of Yahweh was still outstretched against northern Israel.

The vengeance of Yahweh against Israel (Isa 9:8-9:12)

“Yahweh has sent a word

Against Jacob.

It fell on Israel.

All the people knew it.

Ephraim with the inhabitants of Samaria

In pride with arrogance of heart,

They said.

‘The bricks have fallen.

But we will build

With dressed stones.

The sycamores have been cut down.

But we will put cedars in their place.’

Thus Yahweh raised adversaries

Against them.

He stirred up their enemies.

The Syrians were on the east.

The Philistines were on the west.

They devoured Israel

With an open mouth.

For all this,

His anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

This poem shows how Israel in the north is being devastated by the Philistines on the west coast and Syrians to the northeast. Yahweh sent his word of vengeance on them via these invaders. The people of Samaria and the whole territory of Ephraim knew it was coming. Nevertheless their pride and their arrogance told them not to worry. Although bricks of ordinary houses were falling and sycamores were chopped down, they contended that they would rebuild with fine stones and fine cedar wood in place of them, so that the new houses would be more like palaces. Yahweh, the Lord, stirred up their enemies so that they devoured the northern territory of Israel. Yahweh had stretched out his hand against them and he continued to do so up to the present time. This refrain will be repeated twice more in the next few sections. The various 8th century BCE disputes between Judah and Israel, as well as between Israel with the Syrians can be found in 2 Kings, chapters 14-17, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 25-28.

Yahweh’s final judgment against idolatry (Isa 2:18-2:22)

“The idols shall utterly pass away.

Enter the caves of the rocks!

Enter the holes of the ground!

Flee from the terror of Yahweh!

Flee from the glory of his majesty!

He rises to terrify the earth.

On that day,

People will throw away

Their idols of silver

To the moles.

They will throw away

Their idols of gold

To the bats.

These were the idols

Made for themselves

To worship.

Enter the caves of the rocks!

Enter the holes of the ground!

Flee from the terror of Yahweh!

Flee from the glory of his majesty!

He rises to terrify the earth.

Turn away from mortals!

They only have breath

In their nostrils.

Of what account are they?”

Isaiah points out that the idols would without doubt pass away. Then he repeats what he said earlier about hiding behind rocks and in the ground. In fact, this same refrain is repeated 2 verses later. People will be throwing away their silver and gold idols that they themselves had made to the moles and the bats.  As they hide in the caves and underground, Yahweh will come to terrify the earth and proclaim his glory. People will run away from mortals, since they only have breath in their noses. They will be useless in this day of the Lord.