The faces of the four living creatures (Ezek 1:10-1:11)

“As for the appearance

Of their faces,

Each had

The face

Of a human being

In front.

Each had

The face

Of a lion

On the right side.

Each had

The face

Of an ox

On the left side.

Each had

The face

Of an eagle

At the back.

Such were their faces.

Their wings

Were spread out above.

Each creature

Had two wings.

Each wing

Touched the wing

Of another.

The two wings

Covered their bodies.”

Each creature had the face of a human being in front. Then there was a face of a lion on the right side with a face of an ox on the left side. In the back was the face of an eagle. Interesting enough this is similar to the idea of cherubim in Assyrian and Babylonian times. They had a statue of a god who had the head of a human, the body of a lion, the paws of an ox, with wings. This same symbolism was later taken up as the symbols of the four Christian evangelists, as well as the 4 creatures of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. There is also the interpretation that these animal heads symbolize mobility, intelligence, and strength. Their wings were spread out above each of these creatures, so that they touched each other. Thus these wings covered the bodies of these creatures.

Introduction to this wisdom poem (Bar 3:9-3:14)

“Hear the commandments of life!

O Israel!

Give ear!

Learn wisdom!

Why is it?

O Israel!

Why is it

That you are

In the land

Of your enemies?

Why are you growing old

In a foreign country?

Why are you defiled

With the dead?

Why are you counted

Among those in Hades?

You have forsaken

The fountain of wisdom.

If you had walked

In the way of God,

You would be living

In peace forever.

Learn

Where there is wisdom!

Learn

Where there is strength!

Learn

Where there is understanding!

Thus you may

At the same time

Discern!

Where is there length of days?

Where is there life?

Where is there light for the eyes?

Where is there peace?”

Now we have an introduction to a poem about wisdom. Israel was to hear about the commandments of life. They were to listen to learn about wisdom. Why were they growing old in the land of their enemies? Why were they defiled like dead people in Hades. Why were they forgotten, when they could have had wisdom if they had walked in the ways of God. They could be living in everlasting peace. They had to learn where wisdom, strength, and understanding were. Thus they could have a peaceful long life, with light for their eyes.

The princes have fled (Lam 1:6-1:6)

Vav

“All her majesty

Has departed

From daughter Zion!

Her princes

Have become

Like stags

That find no pasture.

They fled

Without strength

Before the pursuer.”

All the great majesty that was part of Zion has now departed. Her princes have become like wandering stag deer with no place to pasture. They even fled without any strength before the pursuing Babylonians. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Vav. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

The soldiers of Babylon stop fighting (Jer 51:30-51:33)

“The warriors of Babylon

Have given up fighting.

They remain

In their strongholds.

Their strength has failed.

They have become women.

Her buildings are on fire.

Her bars are broken.

One runner runs

To meet another.

One messenger runs

To meet another.

They tell

The king of Babylon

That his city is taken

From end to end.

The fords have been seized.

The marshes have been burned

With fire.

The soldiers are in panic.

Thus says Yahweh of hosts,

The God of Israel.

‘Daughter Babylon is

Like a threshing floor

At the time

When it is trodden.

Yet a little while

The time of her harvest

Will come.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, notes that the Babylonian warriors have stopped fighting. They stay in their fortresses. Their strength has left them so that they are like women. Their buildings are on fire. The bars to their gates are broken. Messengers are running to meet other messengers on their way to tell the king that the city is lost from end to end. The fords or the shallow parts of the river areas have been seized, while the wet marshes have been set on fire. All the soldiers are in a state of panic. Thus the God of Israel compares Babylon to a barren threshing floor that is waiting for a harvest that will never come.

Wake up Zion (Isa 52:1-52:2)

“Awake!

Awake!

Put on your strength!

O Zion!

Put on your beautiful garments!

O Jerusalem!

The holy city!

The uncircumcised

Shall enter you no more!

The unclean

Shall enter you no more!

Shake yourself from the dust!

Rise up!

O captive Jerusalem!

Loose the bonds from your neck!

O captive daughter of Zion!”

Second Isaiah has a stirring call from Yahweh for Mount Zion, Jerusalem, to wake up. They had to put their strength on. They had to put on their beautiful garments. No longer would those foreign unclean and the uncircumcised people enter into Jerusalem. They had to shake off their dust and remove the chains around their necks. They were to rise up because they were no longer captives.

King Hezekiah sends people to Isaiah (Isa 37:2-37:4)

“The king sent Eliakim,

Who was in charge of the palace,

Shebna the secretary,

With the senior priests,

Covered with sackcloth,

To the prophet Isaiah,

Son of Amoz.

They said to him.

‘Thus says King Hezekiah.

This day is a day of distress.

This day is a day of rebuke.

This day is a day of disgrace.

Children have come to birth.

But there is no strength to bring them forth.

It may be that Yahweh your God

Heard the words of Rabshakeh,

Whom his master,

The king of Assyria,

Has sent to mock the living God.

Will you rebuke the words

That Yahweh your God has heard?

Therefore,

Lift up your prayer

For the remnant that is left.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. King Hezekiah decided to send his consultants, Eliakim, Shebnah, and the senior priests to the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz. Notice that Joah the recorder did not go, but instead senior priests went. They would all be wearing sackcloth because things were in distress and disgrace. In an interesting metaphor, they say that women are coming to the moment of childbirth, but have no strength to bring their children into the world. They mentioned that perhaps Yahweh had heard the mocking words of Rabshakeh, as the king of Assyria’s representative mocked the living God. How would you rebuke him? They wanted prayers for the “remnant.” This theme of the faithful few left behind occurs quite often in Isaiah.

 

The justice of Yahweh (Isa 28:5-28:6)

“In that day,

Yahweh of hosts

Will be a garland of glory.

He will be a diadem of beauty,

To the remnant of his people.

Yahweh will be a spirit of justice

To the one who sits in judgment.

He will be strength

To those who turn back

The battle at the gate.”

Isaiah says that Yahweh of hosts will be the crown of glory and a beautiful diadem for those who are the remnant of his people. In other words, the chosen few will take on Yahweh’s spiritual leadership. Yahweh will be the spirit of justice for them. He will give them strength to hold back the enemy at the gate.

A thanksgiving salvation hymn (Isa 12:1-12:3)

“You will say on that day.

I will give thanks to you!

O Yahweh!

Though you were angry with me,

Your anger turned away.

You comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation.

I will trust.

I will not be afraid.

Yahweh God is my strength.

He is my might.

He has become my salvation.

With joy

You will draw water

From the wells of salvation.”

Isaiah says that on the day when the great reunion takes place, there should be a hymn of thanksgiving. They all should give thanks because Yahweh had been angry with them, but now was comforting them. God was their deliverer so that they should trust him and not be afraid. Yahweh was their strength, their might, and their salvation. Thus they should draw water from the wells of salvation.

The Spirit of Yahweh (Isa 11:1-11:3)

“A shoot shall come out

From the stump of Jesse.

A branch shall grow out

Of his roots.

The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him,

The spirit of wisdom,

The spirit of understanding,

The spirit of counsel.

The spirit of might,

The spirit of knowledge,

The spirit of piety,

The fear of Yahweh.

His delight shall be

In the fear of Yahweh.”

In this oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, the Spirit of Yahweh, the Lord, will rest upon a future king. This king will have his roots in Jesse, the father of David. Thus the Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon someone in the royal line of David. Thus there was great concern to have Jesus be in the line of David, via Joseph. What is the Spirit of Yahweh? For many Christians, it is what they call the “Holy Spirit.” Thus the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of the Lord are one and the same. Since the early CE centuries, Christians have associated this Spirit of Yahweh with anointing, the laying on of hands, or as the western Christians, since the Middle Ages, like to call it confirmation. Thus this sevenfold gift prayer of the Holy Spirit has been part of the Roman Catholic confirmation ritual. The 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit are then wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In fact, this almost sounds like the later sapiential literature with its emphasis on wisdom and the fear of God. Thus the Christians, with their anointing or confirmation, see the special gift of the Holy Spirit, as described here in Isaiah, present in their ritual worship service of chrismation or confirmation.

The words of the king of Assyria (Isa 10:13-10:14)

“The king says.

‘By the strength of my hand

I have done it.

By my wisdom,

I have understanding.

I have removed

The boundaries of peoples.

I have plundered

Their treasures.

Like a bull,

I have brought down

Those who sat on thrones.

My hand has found,

Like a nest,

The wealth of the peoples.

As one gather eggs

That have been forsaken,

So I have gathered all the earth.

There was none

That moved a wing,

Or opened its mouth,

Or chirped.’”

Isaiah says that King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE) then proclaimed that he had removed the boundaries between the various countries. They were all subservient to him. He had plundered their treasures like a bull and removed their leaders from their thrones. He did this with the strength of his arm and his understanding of wisdom. He found a wealthy nest wherever he went. Thus he picked up the lost eggs, as he gathered people from all over the earth. Nobody objected. No one moved a wing or opened their mouths. There was no chirping about what he was doing.