The menace from the north (Jer 8:16-8:17)

“The snorting of their horses

Is heard from Dan.

At the sound of

The neighing of their stallions

The whole land quakes.

They come.

They devour the land.

They devour all that fills it.

They devour the city.

They devour all those who dwell in it.

See!

I am letting snakes loose among you.

These are adders

That cannot be charmed.

They shall bite you.’

Says Yahweh.”

Here Yahweh, via Jeremiah, warns them that the destroyer is coming from the north, much like in chapter 4 of this work. The horses and the stallions are snorting and neighing in the territory of Dan, the most northern part of Israel, near Syria. The land was beginning to quake as they are getting closer. They would come and devour the land with everything in it. They would devour their cities and everyone living there. Yahweh was going to let the snakes and the adders loose in Judah so that they would bite them.

The reaction to this report (Jer 6:24-6:26)

“We have heard news of them.

Our hands fall helpless.

Anguish has taken hold of us.

We have pain

Like a woman in labor.

Do not go into the field!

Do not walk on the road!

The enemy has a sword.

Terror is on every side.

O daughter of my people!

Put on sackcloth!

Roll in ashes!

Make mourning

Like for an only child!

Make mourning

Like most bitter lamentations.

Suddenly the destroyer

Will come upon us.”

When the Israelites heard the news of this invasion, they felt helpless and anguished. They were pained like a woman in labor. They were told not to go into the fields or on the roads because terror or fear was everywhere. The sword was raised against them. Against all this, Jeremiah wanted these Israelites to put on sackcloth, roll in ashes, and go into mourning, as if they had lost their only child. They should lament because the destroyer would suddenly come upon them.

The accusation response of Jeremiah (Jer 4:10-4:10)

“Then I said.

‘O Yahweh God!

How utterly you have deceived

This people!

How utterly you have deceived

Jerusalem!

Saying.

‘It shall be well with you.’

Even while the sword

Is at their throat!”

Jeremiah seems to rebuke Yahweh, his God. He claims that Yahweh has deceived him, as well as the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God had told them that all would be well with them, even as the sword of the destroyer was at their throat.

The power of Yahweh (Isa 44:24-44:28)

“Thus says Yahweh,

Your Redeemer!

He formed you in the womb.

‘I am Yahweh!

I made all things!

I alone stretched out the heavens!

I by myself spread out the earth!

Who was with me?

Who frustrates the omens of liars?

Who makes fools of diviners?

Who turns back the wise?

Who makes their knowledge foolish?

Who confirms the word of his servant?

Who fulfills the predictions of his messengers?

Who says of Jerusalem?

‘It shall be inhabited.’

Who says of the cities of Judah?

‘They shall be rebuilt.

I will raise up their ruins.’

Who says to the deep?

‘Be dry!

I will dry up your rivers.’

Who says of Cyrus?

‘He is my shepherd.

He shall carry out my purpose.’

Who says of Jerusalem?

‘It shall be rebuilt.’

Who says of the temple?

‘Your foundations shall be laid.’”

Second Isaiah ends this chapter the way it began, stressing the redeeming power of Yahweh among the Israelites who had been formed by Yahweh in their mother’s womb. Yahweh has stretched out the heavens and spread out the earth by himself. He has frustrated liars. He has made fools of false prophets. He has made the wise people look foolish with all their knowledge. However, he has fulfilled his word to his servants and the predictions of his messengers. He said that Jerusalem would be inhabited and the cities of Judah would be rebuilt from their ruins. He dried up the rivers. He also made Cyrus his shepherd, a very strong term for this Persian leader from 559-530 BCE. Cyrus was to carry out Yahweh’s purposes as the destroyer mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Jerusalem would be rebuilt with the foundations of the temple laid out.

The destroyer (Isa 33:1-33:1)

“Woe to you!

Destroyer!

You yourself have not been destroyed!

You treacherous one!

With whom no one has dealt treacherously!

When you have ceased to destroy,

You will be destroyed.

When you have stopped dealing treacherously,

You will be dealt with treacherously.”

This section seems to be a later addition of prayers led by a prophet in the various religious services. The prophetic term destroyer here refers to Babylon. Although it has not yet been destroyed, it will be. No has dealt treacherously with them, but they have dealt treacherously with others. The destroying days of Babylon are numbered. They will be dealt with treacherously.

The vision of the attack against Babylon (Isa 21:2-21:5)

“A stern vision

Is told to me.

The betrayer betrays.

The destroyer destroys.

Go up!

O Elam!

Lay siege!

O Media!

All the sighing

She has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are

Filled with anguish.

Pangs have seized me,

Like the pangs of a woman in labor.

I am bowed down,

So that I cannot hear.

I am dismayed

So that I cannot see.

My mind reels.

Horror has appalled me.

The twilight I longed for

Has been turned for me

Into trembling.

They prepare the table.

They spread the rugs.

They eat.

They drink.

Rise up!

Commanders!

Oil the shield!”

Isaiah has this stern vision from Yahweh. The betrayer and the destroyer act out together. Elam and Medes, the Persians and the Medes were about to attack Babylon. Since the Israelites were in Babylon, they were afraid but hopeful, like a woman experiencing labor before the birth of a child. Isaiah, in the first person singular, was not quite able to hear or see what was going on. He knew that horror was about to happen. Instead of a happy twilight there was trembling. However, they continued as normal, eating and drinking at tables with rugs. Nevertheless, the cry came to the commanders to rise up and get ready. They had to oil the straps on their shields as they prepared to do battle.