sexta-feira, 12 de agosto de 2011

The Prophet Isaiah

I. Introduction

Please look to your right under Assuntos to find more Major Prophets:

The Book of Isaiah is one of the most important books of the Old Testament. While little is known of the personal life of the prophet, he is considered to be one of the greatest of them all.

The book is a collection of oracles, prophecies, and reports; but the common theme is the message of salvation. There was, according to these writings, no hope in anything that was made by people. The northern kingdom of Israel had been carried into captivity (722 B.C.), and the kingdom of Judah was in the middle of idolatry and evil. The kingdom of Assyria had dominated the Fertile Crescent and posed a major threat to both kingdoms; and the kingdom of Babylon was gaining power and would replace Assyria as the dominant threat. In view of the fast-changing international scene, the people of Israel would be concerned about their lot in life—what would become of the promises of God? How could the chosen people survive, let alone be a theocracy again? And must the remnant of the righteous also suffer with the nation that for all purposes was pagan?

To these and many other questions the book addresses itself.

There would be a purging of the nation because God is holy. Before the nation could inherit the promises made to the fathers, it would have to be made holy. So God would use the pagan nations to chasten Israel for its sins and cleanse it from iniquity. And even though the judgment of the captivity would punish sin and destroy the wicked unbelievers, the removal of iniquity would ultimately be the work of the Servant of the LORD, the promised Messiah. On the basis of such cleansing and purification, God would then establish the golden age, a time of peace and prosperity that the world has never known. When the holy God would make the remnant holy, then He would use them to rule over the nations rather than allow the nations again to discipline them.

The messenger of the message of salvation is the prophet Isaiah, whose name means “salvation of Yahweh,” or “Yah saves.” He was the son of Amoz; he may also have been related to the royal family, perhaps King Manasseh, by whom he was believed to have been sawn asunder (see the Apocryphal literature; Heb. 11:37). He prophesied in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, and also may have lived past Hezekiah into the reign of Manasseh. Assuming that he was a young man at the death of Uzziah in 742 B.C.when his official ministry began, he might have been 70 or 80 at the time of his death (ca. 680 B.C.). Therefore, the prophet would have ministered for at least 60 years in an effort to bring the nation back to God.

The collection of Isaianic oracles fits the progression of Israel’s history over this time. The prophet began preaching during the Assyrian crisis, about the time Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom and was threatening the southern kingdom. Although Hezekiah was able to survive that invasion through the help of the prophet, he foolishly allowed the ambassadors from Babylon to see all the treasures of the kingdom, a sin that brought Isaiah’s announcement of the Babylonian captivity in the future. The book includes this historical interlude before the second half which focuses on that captivity in Babylon.

The prophet has no idea when that captivity would come; for him it could have come right after the death of Hezekiah, and that would mean his audience might be the people to go into the exile. And so he began to prepare them—but it would not be that generation, for the exile began about 100 years after the death of Isaiah. But the second portion of the book looks in a general way to that future time and writes his message of comfort and hope for the exiles of Judah, as well as descriptions of the restoration to Jerusalem. The hope of such a salvation issues into the glorious vision of the new heavens and the new earth in the age to come.

So the setting of the first half of the book is Judah in the days of the Assyrians, and the setting of the second half of the book is Babylon, then Jerusalem again, and then beyond in the age to come. The “target audience” in the first half of the book is pre-exilic Israel; the “target audience” in the second half of the book is Israel during the exile and at the return (we know they are different; Isaiah did not). In both parts the oracles often look to the distant future for their main meaning and application. The fact that each section includes vivid descriptions as well as general and poetic descriptions has fueled controversy about the unity of the book and the prophet himself.

I I. The Assyrian Period

On the one hand we have the historical background of the book during the Assyrian crisis. Here are some of the most crucial events in this period:

A. “The Young Lion Roars.” 

In 743 B.C. there was a coalition under Azariah against Tiglathpileser III (743, 738, 735). The important comparative material can be read in ANET, p. 282, lines 103ff.1 The record in 2 Kings 15:19-20 (compare ANET, p. 283, lines 150ff.) tells how Rezin, Menahem, and Hiram were put under tribute to Assyria. This may have taken place in 738 (although Young in his commentary says 735).

B. “The Smoking Firebrand and the Trembling Heart.” 

The Syro-Ephraimite war took place in 735-733 B.C. According to 2 Kings 15, 16, there was an attempt to set up Ben Tabil on the throne when Ahaz of the Davidic dynasty did not go along with the treaty. Ahaz appealed to Tiglathpileser of Assyria for help, but this was a mistake (see ANET, pp. 283,4). Pekah was removed and Hoshea put in power in Israel; Ahaz became a “son of Pul,” a political vassal of Tiglathpileser.

C. “Silly Dove without Understanding.” 

Hoshea’s revolt and call to Egypt took place in 722 B.C. The accounts can be read in 2 Chronicles 28:21 and ANET, p. 284, lines 23ff. It was in 722 that Samaria finally fell to Sargon II, the general under and successor to Shalmaneser (the first king started the siege of Samaria and died during the time; his successor finished off the kingdom of Israel). 

D. “The Bird in the Cage.”

There were rebellions during the reign of Hezekiah in Judah in 713, 705, and 701. In 713 Ashdod rebelled against Sargon (Isa. 20). In 705 Hezekiah rebelled against Sennacherib (Isa. 30, 31). And in 701 Assyria invaded the land in what has become one of the most frequently described invasions of Israel’s history—Sennacherib’s own account says, “I shut up Hezekiah the Jew (or Judean) like a bird in a cage.” Isaiah 10 describes the invasion of the army from the north; Micah, a contemporary, describes the invasion of another part of the army from the lowlands (Micah 1), and the Book of Kings describes the historical event, as do sections of Isaiah. Since Tirhaqah of Ethiopia was involved, the literature also includes the Ethiopian records. Of course, only the Bible tells of the destruction of the Assyrian army by the Angel of Yahweh.

So there is a major section of the book written against the backdrop of the Assyrian crisis.

I I I. The Babylonian Period

On the other hand we have the apparent setting of the circumstances of the Babylonian captivity, 586-536 B.C. Actually, the passages do not include very specific details and descriptions of Babylon or the exile in the oracles—not anything like the Assyrian background—there are not the firsthand, eye-witness accounts of life and circumstances in Babylon one would expect if the author had lived thee.

The most specific reference comes with the mentioning of the name of the king of Persia, Cyrus, who would conquer Babylon (Isa. 44, 45). The presence of this name in the book has prompted many to see the second part of the collection as the work of another prophet, one who lived closer to the events and could reasonably be expected to use a name like Cyrus since he would be more of an eye-witness. In other words, this other prophet saw Cyrus coming against Babylon, and so “predicted” that he would destroy Babylon and free Israel.

I V. The Persian Deliverance

What can we make of the use of the name of Cyrus in the oracles? Critical scholarship finds it too difficult to accept that a prophet could predict the name of a king some 175 years before he came on the scene. But was the Persian empire or such a name that obscure? It is helpful to have the history clear in our minds before discussing the critical issues.

The royal line of which Cyrus was a part was founded by Achaemenes, who ruled from 700-675 (contemporary with Isaiah). It was he whose name was taken for the empire, the Achaemenid Empire. His son was Teispes (675-640); he expanded the boundaries of Parsa (Persia) as far south as Pasargadae. Because his empire was so great, he divided it between his two sons, Ariaramnes in the south and Cyrus I in the north. This division meant that there was a ruler known as Cyrus around 70 years before Israel went into captivity. Teispes also regained independence from the Medes, who had made Parsa a vassal in 670.

The line of Cyrus I produced Cambyses I (600-559) and Cyrus II (559-530). Cambyses was placed over the empire when Persia became a Median province again; he married the daughter of Astyages. Cyrus II, being the offspring of that marriage, thereby uniting in himself the royal houses of the Medes and the Persians. Cyrus’ grandfather on his mother’s side was the great Cyaxares who overthrew the Scythians and the Assyrians, establishing control over all northern Mesopotamia and Iran. Cyrus was in fact a vassal of his grandfather in the State of Persia. He organized the Persian states and made a pact with Nabonidus of Babylon—against the law of Astyages. When he was summoned to Ecbatana to answer for this, he refused to go. Astyges then attacked his willful grandson, but was defeated and taken prisoner.

Cyrus took Ecbatana and made Media a province of Persia. Thus began his great empire. When it came time to take Babylon, the people were eager for Cyrus the Great to do it, for they were bitter against their king Nabonidus who rejected their worship of Marduk and kept them exploited as slaves. Cyrus’ general Gubaru (“Darius” in the account of Daniel) took the city without a battle; a few days later Cyrus could march in triumphantly.

We shall return to this issue later. But it is important to realize that the movements of these world powers were well-known in the various courts, including Jerusalem. And the Book of Isaiah gives sufficient evidence that the prophet knew international affairs. The growth and influence of the Persian empire was not hidden from the rest of the world; this state and its kings were not non-existent until 536 B.C. And a name “Cyrus” was associated with this rising power as early as 670, 660 B.C. or thereabouts.

For the prophet, Persia seems to be the next major power after Assyria. Babylon has a brief interlude when she destroys Nineveh, but the rising power is beyond Babylon. The prophet Isaiah was certainly inspired by God; but he probably knew a great deal too. God revealed to him that Babylon would take Judea into captivity, and that a Persian king would allow them to come back.

V. The woes of Isaiah

A. The seven woes 

1. Woe to the greedy and the selfish  verses 8-1

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room, and ye be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land! In mine ears [saith] Jehovah of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. For ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield [but] an ephah.

The insatiable desire of men to own more and more is the direct and certain result of a gross materialism in the heart. God here promises a judgment upon such ambitious concentrations of wealth and power.

In mine ears…

This is a reference to Isaiah's hearing the voice of God conveying to him the words God would have him deliver to the people.


The literal Hebrew word here is yokes, being a reference to the amount of ground that two strong oxen could plow in a day.

God's judgment upon the natural environment of greedy and selfish societies is shown in the prophecy here of a terrible drought in which a homer of seed shall yield only an ephah of grain. The severity of this is indicated by the fact that an ephah is only the tenth part of a homer. Thus the harvest would be cut to a disastrously low percentage of the seed sown.
2. Woe to pleasure-seeking verses 11, 12

Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that tarry late into the night, till wine inflame them! And the harp and the lute, the tabret and the pipe, and wine, are [in] their feasts; but they regard not the work of Jehovah, neither have they considered the operation of his hands.

This is a perfect picture of the reveling, drunken, irresponsibility of countless persons in our own society today; and the ultimate consequences of it shall not be any less serious than those which overtook ancient Israel. The international news services carried a story over the airwaves the very day this is being written stating that, "At least 100,000 deaths every year are caused by the consumption of alcohol in the United States." America seems intent upon drowning themselves in alcohol.

Note also the part played by instruments of music in the reveling and dissipation of the people. It has always been this way; and from the earliest times, instruments of music have been associated with pagan worship, as when, for example, Nebuchadrezzar associated them with the worship of his golden image. The reason for this is visible in the current influence of "rock music" upon teenagers.

Humiliation, captivity and death shall result like we see on verses 13-17

Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude are parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol hath enlarged its desire, and opened its mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth among them, descend [into it]. And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is humbled, and the eyes of the lofty are humbled: but Jehovah of hosts is exalted in justice, and God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness. 

Then shall the lambs feed as in their pasture, and the waste places of the fat ones shall wanderers eat.

"The present tense in Isa. 5:13 is the perfect of prophetic certitude." Note also that there is the strong affirmation here that Israel deserves the death, destitution, and deportation that awaited them. Here is a terrible metaphor of death. The grave, or Sheol, is compared to a great monster opening its mouth to swallow the evil people. The last verse of this paragraph is ambiguous. Rawlinson wrote that the reference to the feeding lambs means that, "Sheep shall feed on the desolated estates of the covetous; and the last clause is a reference to the occupation of Israel's lands by wandering tribes of Arabs and others."
3. Woe to cynical materialists verses 18, 19

Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, and sin as it were with a cart rope; that say, Let him make speed, let him hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

These verses are the language of scoffing materialists who use one of Isaiah's favorite names for God, but in mockery. These fearless sinners even dare to challenge the eternal God to "Do his thing in their presence!"

Strangely, the words suggest the mockery of the leaders of Israel who challenged Jesus Christ to come down from the Cross. The mention of cords of falsehood and cart ropes, as Hailey stated, suggests that the "people are slaves to their idols and their sins ... They are harnessed with their falsehoods and their idolatry. Archer compared the picture given here to that of a group of pagan worshippers "drawing the cart of a great idol in festal procession. Those backslidden people dragged along their idol of iniquity, challenging the Holy One of Israel."

4.   Woe  to those who reverse moral standards verse 20

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Dummelow called this the "perversion of all moral distinctions." Calling sins by names that appear to approve of them is an old satanic trick. Thus the infidel is called a free thinker; the drunkard is called sociable; the alcoholic suffers from alcoholism; the stingy is called thrifty, etc.
5. Woe to proud, egotistical intellectuals Verse

Woe 21unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

The apostle Paul described perfectly the people of any generation who fall into this category, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22
6. Woe to hard drinkers and debauchees Verse 22

Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink;

Peake described these characters as "Drunkards, heroes, not for the fray, but for the debauch, having the hard head of the hard drinker. Not content with ordinary wine, they mix spices with it to enhance its flavor and increase its strength." 

7 . Woe to crooked judges verse 23

That justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

The first three words of this verse are not in the text but are most certainly understood. Thus there are seven of these woes pronounced upon apostate Israel. Even the judiciary of wicked Israel had become corrupt; their judges had become evening wolves (Zephaniah 3:3).

There could be but one answer to the problem of such a wicked society; and that answer was at once announced by the prophet; but it must not be supposed that Israel alone would suffer the terrible judgment announced here for the sinful kingdom (Amos 9:8).

The judgment of Israel, as is also the case of many judgments of God upon wicked peoples throughout history, was a type of the eternal judgment itself. Thus, as we shall see in the final paragraph of this chapter, there will appear elements of both the judgment of Israel and that of the eternal judgment also.

B. The result is the Judgment of God verses 24-30

1. The reason for God’s judgment 24, 25
Therefore as the tongue of fire devoured the stubble, and as the dry grass sinketh down in the flame, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust; because they have rejected the law of Jehovah of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore is the anger of Jehovah kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them; and the mountains tremble, and their dead bodies are as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

The big thing in this paragraph is the clear statement of the reason why God's judgment and destruction of Israel were proclaimed here as already predetermined and certain to occur, the past perfect tenses used here being the Biblical tenses of prophetic certainty.

Sinful men who have rebelled against God's government and who stubbornly continue their wickedness are on a collision course with disaster, determined and foretold from the foundation of the world and absolutely impossible of avoidance.

The mention of "God's law" is a reference to the Pentateuch without any doubt whatever, thus categorically giving the lie to all theories about the Pentateuch having been derived from the post-exilic works of Jewish priests.
B. Metaphor of the judgment verses 26-30

And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss for them from the end of the earth; and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly. None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent; their horses' hoofs shall be accounted as flint, and their wheels as a whirlwind: their roaring shall be like a lioness, they shall roar like young lions; yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and carry it away safe, and there shall be none to deliver.

And they shall roar against them in that day like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold, darkness [and] distress; and the light is darkened in the clouds thereof.

The extended metaphor of the lion, the lioness, and the young lions points squarely at the king of Assyria and his merciless armies as instruments through which the impending judgment of God's rebellious and wicked people would be executed. A reading of Nah. 2:11-13 will quickly reveal how this lion metaphor constituted the universally known logo of Assyria, an identification that clung to that evil kingdom until their own final destruction.

God's providential help of the enemies who would destroy Israel is indicated in the promise that not even the hoofs of the horses would be lame, and that at centuries of time before the shoeing of horses, as known to us, was ever heard of.

Here we also have another glimpse of the pattern in God's punishment of nations. The first chapter of Zechariah has the remarkable story of the horns that changed into smiths; and there it was revealed that the same nation, at first a horn to execute God's judgment upon the wicked; but when any "horn," that is, a persecuting power against God's purpose on earth, went beyond God's purpose, God at once changes another horn into a smith that destroys the offending horn.

Thus Assyria was the "horn" that mined Egypt; but Babylon became the "smith" that mined Assyria. (See more on this in Vol. 4 of our series of commentaries on the minor prophets, pp. 35, 36.)

In this mention of Assyria as the horn that destroyed Egypt, it should be recognized that Assyria was also the horn that destroyed the Northern Israel. Long prior to that, Israel had been the smith that wrecked the Canaanites under the leadership of Joshua. From the whole Biblical record, it seems reasonable to assume that when any nation reaches a certain degree of wickedness, God will destroy and remove them.

V I. The outline of the contents

The following outline of the contents of the book will enable us to gain a quick overview and see how the different parts fit together.

A. The Book Of Judgment 1:1-35:10

The Message of Rebuke and Promise 1:1-6:13

Israel’s ungrateful rebellion and the LORD’s gracious invitation 1:1-31

Israel’s prospect of glory through Messiah after the chastening for sin that will make them holy 2:1-4:6

Israel’s swift and complete judgment in exile 5:1-30

Isaiah’s cleansing of unholiness and calling to the ministry to the unholy nation that faces desolation 6:1-13

B. The Message of Immanuel 7:1-12:6

The sign of the birth of Immanuel and the judgment to come by Assyria 7:1-25)

The judgment on the nation and the deliverance by the birth and reign of the Son 8:1—9:7

The doom of Samaria for its perversion of justice 9:8-10:4

The destruction of the pride of Assyria to Israel’s satisfaction and the ushering in of Messiah’s great kingdom of peace through the Branch of the root of Jesse 10:5—12:6

C. The Burden upon the Nations 13:l—23:18

Babylon will be made desolate 13:l—14:27

Philistia will howl over its calamity 14:28-32

Moab is lamented for her doom 15:l—16:14

Damascus and Samaria will be plagued 17:1-14

Ethiopia will be destroyed but left an access to God 18:1-7

Egypt will be confounded but in the future will be part of the covenant with access 19:1—20:6

Babylon’s fall is reiterated 21:1-10

Edom is threatened 21:11,12

Arabia has a set time for calamity 21:13-17

Jerusalem will be invaded 22:1-25

Tyre will be overthrown 23:1-18

D. Message of Judgment and Promise “Little Apocalypse” 24:1—27:13

Judgment for sin will fall on the land, but a remnant shall rejoice at the advancement of the kingdom 24:1-23

Praise is offered to the LORD for His judgments and His deliverance of the believing remnant 25:1-12

A song of rejoicing in the consolation of Judah in the time of trouble, and an exhortation to faith 26:1-21

As with a vineyard, the LORD cares for His own and so His discipline on them differs from His judgment on the pagans: they will be preserved to worship in Jerusalem 27:1-13

E. Woes upon Unbelievers in Israel 28:1—33:24

The self-indulgent and scoffing Israel will be judged, but the remnant will advance the kingdom as it will be securely founded in the laying in Zion of the stone 28:1-29

The blind souls of Jerusalem who deceive will be turned over to the insatiable enemies so that the nation may be sanctified for a blessing 29:1-24

The rebuke is given for trusting in allies rather than in the LORD in the time of chastening, which is designed to bring about faith 30:1-22).

The people should turn from allies and trust in God who alone can bring down Assyria 31:1—32:20

Judgment will fall on the enemies of Israel but there will be great privileges for the believers in Israel 33:1-24

F. Further Messages of Judgment and Promise 34:1—35:10

The destruction of Gentile power will certainly come to pass 34:1-17

The blessing of the redeemed is to see the kingdom of peace and prosperity, physically and spiritually 35:1-10

G. The Book Of Hezekiah 36:l—39:8

The Deliverance of Judah 36:1—37:38

The invasion of Assyria and the blasphemy of Rabshekah challenges their faith 36:1-22

The encouragement of Isaiah in the time of mourning at the reception of the letter from Sennacherib prompts a prayer that leads to victory 37:1-38

The Deliverance of Judah’s King 38:1-22

The king’s life is extended through prayer.

The king offers a song of praise for his deliverance.

The Deliverance of Judah into Babylon’s Hands 39:1-8

The pride of Hezekiah displays the treasures to the king of Babylon.

The prophet announces the Babylonian captivity.

H. The Book Of Comfort 40:1—66:24

The Promise and Purpose of Peace 40:1—48:22

The prologue of the Book of Comfort announces the coming of God to Zion and the encouragement that that brings to the people 40:1-31

The exhortation of God over the raising of the Persian deliverer, over His promises, and over the folly of idols 41:1-29

The Servant of the LORD is raised up by the incomparable God, causing praise to Him 42:1-25

The Servant of the LORD will be regathered because they are His people and all will see His sovereign acts 43:1-44:5

The ability of God over idols to control history because He is the living God: the establishment of Cyrus as His shepherd and anointed servant, bringing the Gentiles into submission 44:6-45:25

Because of the weakness of the gods of Babylon, that power will be destroyed 46:1-47:15

Based on these prophecies, the LORD exhorts Israel to note the oracles, remember His love, and prepare to flee from the captivity 48:1-21).

I. The Prince of Peace 49:1-57:21

Messiah brings light and restoration: light to the Gentiles when Israel rejects; restoration to Israel at the appointed time 49:1-26

Israel is put away over her sins, but the Servant of the LORD is obedient and by His suffering can comfort the weary 50:1-11

Chosen Israel, the promised nation, should look in faith to the LORD for another return to the land 51:1-16

Israel should awake because dominion will replace slavery since God has come to rule in Zion 51:17—52:12

The Suffering Servant: blessings of redemption come to the nation and grace for the Gentiles (the next two sections) because (in this section) the Servant will be exalted from the lowly place by His death on behalf of the sins of the people as a reparation offering 52:13—53:12

The people of God, therefore, will be blessed with redemption and dominion 54:1-17

Grace will be extended to all (Gentile) sinners who trust in the LORD 55:1—56:8

Among the redeemed in the kingdom, wicked leaders and corrupt idolaters will not be found 56:9—57:21

J. The Program of Peace 58:1—66:24

In view of the false and ritualistic worship in his day, the prophet looks to the coming of Messiah in light and the turning of people to Him 58:1-14

Israel, condemned for her depravity and sinfulness, will be converted by the Redeemer in Zion with the covenant through the Spirit 59:1-21

There will be blessings of glory for Israel and access for the Gentiles—following a short period of affliction 60:1-22

Messiah will be filled with the Spirit of the LORD to fulfill the work of redemption and deliverance in the Messianic age 61:1-11

The prophet, wishing to see the promises of glory fulfilled, prepares and calls the people to God, who will defeat all enemies 62-63

In response to the mercies of God for His people Israel, the nation will confess its sin, calling for a demonstration of God’s power 64

In response to the prayer of Israel, judgments will purge the rebels from Israel and prepare the remnant for the consummation of the ages with a new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem, in all its peace and prosperity 65:1-25

The LORD God will be worshiped in sincerity and shall comfort the remnant in the great day of redemption 66:1-24

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