The challenge to other gods (Isa 41:21-41:24)

“‘Set forth your case!’

Says Yahweh.

‘Bring your proofs!’

Says the King of Jacob.

Let them bring them!

Tell us!

What is to happen?

Tell us the former things!

What are they?

Thus we may consider them.

Thus we may know their outcome.

Declare to us the things to come!

Tell us what is to come hereafter!

Thus we may know that you are gods!

Do good!

Do harm!

Thus we may be afraid.

Thus we may be terrified.

You are indeed nothing!

Your work is nothing at all!

Whoever chooses you

Is an abomination.”

Yahweh challenges the people with other gods to respond. He wanted them to present their case or proof for their gods. Could their gods tell people about past things or future things? Can they do some good or harm? Can they make people afraid or terrified? Instead, Yahweh maintains that these gods are nothing and their work is nothing at all. Thus anyone who chooses these gods is an abomination, pure and simple.

The second message to King Hezekiah (Isa 37:9-37:13)

“When King Sennacherib heard it,

He sent messengers

To King Hezekiah.

‘Thus shall you speak

To King Hezekiah of Judah.

Do not let your God,

On whom you rely,

Deceive you

By promising

That Jerusalem will not be given

Into the hand of the king of Assyria.

See!

You have heard

What the kings of Assyria

Have done to all lands,

Destroying them utterly.

Shall you be delivered?

Have the gods of the other nations delivered them?

My predecessors destroyed these nations,

Gozan,

Haran,

Rezeph,

Also the people of Eden

Who were in Telassar.

Where is the king of Hamath?

Where is the king of Arpad?

Where is the king of the city of Sepharvaim?

Where is the king of Hena?

Where is the king of Ivvah?’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19, almost repeating the speech of Rabshakeh in the preceding chapter. These messengers of King Sennacherib of Assyria were to present almost the same message. Do not rely on your God. See what has happened to those places that relied on their gods, since the various kings of Assyria have destroyed them. How have their gods defended them? He repeated what had happened to the kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah. Most of these towns were in Babylon or Syria. He also added the cities of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and Eden.   Gozan was where the northern Israelites were sent in their captivity. Haran was in Mesopotamia, a town where Abraham had stopped. Rezeph was near Hamath. Eden in Telassar probably refers to some place in Mesopotamia, thus giving further credence to Mesopotamia as the original place of the Garden of Eden. At least at this time, nearly 2700 years ago, this place was called Eden, which might have also influenced the biblical writers.

The darkness (Isa 8:21-8:22)

“They will pass through the land.

They will be greatly distressed.

They will be hungry.

When they are hungry,

They will be enraged.

They will curse their king.

They will curse their gods.

They will turn their faces upward.

Or they will look to the earth.

But they will see only distress.

They will see only darkness.

They will see only the gloom of anguish.

They will be thrust into thick darkness.”

Isaiah has some kind of dark night march. These soldiers were greatly distressed, as they passed through some unnamed land. They were hungry. Thus they were mad at their king and their gods. Whether they looked up or just around them on earth, they could only see distress, darkness, gloom, and anguish. They seemed to be in some kind of thick darkness.

The penitential assembly at Mizpah (1 Macc 3:46-49)

“Then they gathered together. They went to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, because Israel formerly had a place of prayer in Mizpah. They fasted that day. They put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on their heads. They tore their clothes. They opened the book of the law to inquire into those matters about which the gentiles were consulting the images of their gods. They also brought the vestments of the priesthood, the first fruits, and the tithes. They stirred up the Nazirites who had completed their days.”

The troops of Judas Maccabeus assembled at Mizpah, where Samuel had gathered the Israelites for repentance in 1 Samuel, chapter 7. Mizpah was close to Jerusalem. Like at the time of Samuel, they fasted, put on sackcloth, and tore their clothes in repentance. The Jewish people consulted their book of the law rather than the images of the divine oracles of the Greek gentiles. They had a cultic experience by bringing the vestments of the priests, even though there was no mention of any Levite priests here. They also brought first fruits and tithes. It is difficult to see what they did with these things since the Temple at Jerusalem had been destroyed. They also stirred up the Nazirites who had finished their obligations. Obviously this revolutionary group was inspired by the Nazirite movement as outlined in Numbers, chapter 6.