Saturday, July 24, 2010

Isaiah 35-41: Biblical Reruns

Chapter 35: This Chapter seems to carry on from Isaiah 34, which was largely about the destruction of Moab in a “day of vengeance” (8). But Isaiah is back on his Utopian theme here, describing an abundant landscape, a healing of the sick, lame, and blind, and the building of a holy highway, a safe and convenient road that only righteous people will be able to travel on.


Chapter 36: Up to this point, the Book of Isaiah has been rather loosely structured, one prophecy following another with very little context. Suddenly, in Chapter 36, a narrative breaks out! It’s the story of how the Assyrian king Sennacherib attacks Jerusalem and… hey, waitaminute! We’ve read this story before! Back in 2 Kings, when we were reading about King Hezekiah! In fact, Isaiah 36 is essentially identical to 2 Kings 18:17-37, with only a couple of words changed.

Chapter 37: Isaiah 37 is the same as 2 Kings 19. What we're talking about, incidentally, is the story of how an Assyrian commander offers the population of Jerusalem a choice between assimilation and extinction, but God intervenes by slaying 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in their sleep.

Chapter 38: The first three verses of Isaiah 38, about King Hezekiah’s illness and Isaiah’s prophecy first of his death, then of his recovery – which is typical Isaiah, prophesying both ways – are identical to the first three verses of 2 Kings 20. Then, Isaiah 38:4-8 is essentially a paraphrase (or vice versa, I suppose) or 2 Kings 20:3-11. Then we’re back into original material, with a long passage of thanks and humility said to have been written by Hezekiah after his illness.

Chapter 39: Isaiah 39 is the same as 2 Kings 20:12-19. It is a darkly funny story, really, in which the King of Babylon sends an envoy to Hezekiah, having heard he hadn’t been feeling well. Hezekiah, pleased by the attention, gives the envoys a tour of all the riches and treasures of his kingdom. Afterwards, Isaiah asks Hezekiah what he showed the representatives of the powerful, expansive neighboring empire, and Hezekiah, perhaps not the sharpest tool in the shed, says “There is nothing among my treasures I did not show them” (4). Then Isaiah makes a prophecy to the effect that – I paraphrase here – “We’re screwed. Babylon is going to conquer us and haul us and all our loot back to their capital.” This is a prophecy that turns out to be correct, but it would probably not have been a difficult prophecy for a savvy thinker of the time to have come up with, having heard or Hezekiah’s indiscretion.

New material!

Chapter 40: A Psalm-like meditation on the greatness of God and the insignificance of humans, nations, and the material world in comparison with Him.

Chapter 41: A sort of pep talk, delivered first-person in the voice of God, indicating that He will protect Israel and reduce all of its enemies to ashes. Also, a challenge to other gods and their priests and idols to try to show their worth and power by predicting the future.


Rose City Reader said...

I'm on Isaiah 43 myself. What a strange coincidence.

I confess that I drift through Isaiah. I want to pay attention, so I can see what Jesus and Paul use for arguments later on, but it all turns into one smiting blur.

Michael5000 said...

"what Jesus and Paul use for arguments..." Aaaah!! Spoiler alert!! Spoiler alert!!!!

Just kidding. : )

That is an interesting coincidence, though. I'll read through I43 later today...