Sunday, June 16, 2024

Which go a whoring after their idols (Isaiah 57)

Isaiah chapter 57 has a lot of notes on it, one of which I know I addressed before, but I'm having a hard time finding. No matter, I can address the question of Has there ever been a righteous person? by referring to my post on 2Samuel 22 where I explained that the word "righteous" is used a bit loosely in the Bible overall and can mean different things. However, the question of Will the righteous flourish? is really not a contradiction, as even those who do flourish will eventually die; that's just life. I think the verse here is just saying there's something sad about the perishing of the righteous in particular.

Verse three addresses the "sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore." Yeah, it's harsh, although I'm not really clear on why this is a verse to be marked with the "women" icon; I suppose sorceresses and whores are women (checking the Hebrew, "adulterer" is also feminine, so I don't know why it isn't "adulteress"), but the issue with them is not their femininity. I mean, since we're apparently addressing the "sons" of these women, it's not like you get to choose your parentage, but perhaps these are metaphorical "sons" who are engaged in similar behaviors? It does go on to talk about idolatry in verses five through eight, where the sexual imagery may be metaphorical or literal, as some idols were of sex goddesses, but sexuality and spirituality are often closely linked in scripture. Verse nine is probably closely related to these verses, with the idea of seducing the king into idolatry as well. I addressed the subject of Is it OK to use perfume? in John chapter 12, where I suggested it's a stretch to call it a contradiction.

The rest of the chapter is perhaps a bit opaque, as it's not fully clear who it's being addressed to, but I'm guessing Israel, with respect to the idol worship. God calls them to remember how he is faithful, and how idols are not. Verse 15 is interesting because it talks about how God lives "in the high and holy place" with those who are humble; could this be an Old Testament reference to Heaven as an afterlife? I don't know; it could be talking about the Temple, possibly. The chapter ends with a warning that there is no peace for the wicked.

Friday, June 07, 2024

For there are some eunuchs (Isaiah 56)

Isaiah chapter 56 is apparently the beginning of "Trito-Isaiah", which I still don't completely understand. Having just finished Deutero-Isaiah, I certainly saw that the tone of many of the chapters was different, but it doesn't quite seem disconnected from the first part. We'll see how the last part plays out.

Is it necessary to keep the sabbath? I certainly touched on this back in Exodus 16, although I don't know if I had a better answer elsewhere; I think it's a good enough one. May a eunuch enter the congregation of the Lord? I think I addressed this best in Acts chapter eight, where I pointed out that the New Testament verses are definitely talking about a separate issue. It's really only this verse here in Isaiah that really presents the possibility of contradiction, but is it one? Well, the Leviticus passage is really saying that a eunuch (among others) cannot serve as a priest. The Deuteronomy passage is really the definitive verse about the "congregation", but is Isaiah really contradicting that? I think it's saying God accepts them, just not into the formal "congregation", whatever that may be.

The rest of the chapter is pretty much talking about the blessings of God, although there's a little sidetrack in verses ten and eleven, talking about someone's watchmen and guard dogs, but it's not clear at all whose. It's pretty clear it's not Israel's, but beyond that, who knows?

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

And ye shall be redeemed without money (Isaiah 55)

Okay, I am getting back to Isaiah chapter 55! I have been doing a terrible job of making these posts regularly, and while I'm pretty sure there's almost nobody reading these as I post them (maybe not even Steve Wells, who I send links to every time I publish), there's also the principle that I fully intended these to be a form of spiritual discipline for myself, and I wanted them to be close to daily. Run-on sentences aside, I've been having a lot of health problems lately, and I've been letting it distract me from regular Bible studies, which isn't good. I need to be in the Bible more often, and a nice fluffy, positive chapter like this one is a good refresher, so let's get into it.

Verse one, as the SAB notes, seems to be talking about a cashless society, perhaps. People without money are urged to buy food, milk, and wine without price. While this is a prophecy of some time in the future, it's not clear whether we're talking about the afterlife, or the end times, or perhaps just a time in Israel's history when food and drink will be plentiful enough it is given away. However, the very next verse talks about money again, and seems to warn against spending one's money and/or labor on things that don't satisfy, which doesn't sound much like advice for a person in a cashless society. So the larger context is a bit confusing, perhaps. It may be that verse one is describing the future, and in light of that future, verse two admonishes the listeners in the present to be wise. Verses three and four talk about the covenant of David, and how "he" will be a witness to the people of the world. It's not clear whether this unnamed witness is the Messiah or perhaps the nation of Israel itself, but nations that Israel have never heard of will call on Israel because of "him". The reader is urged to seek God, and God will pardon unrighteousness. In verses eight and nine, God says that his thoughts and ways are different from those of humans, and that they are much higher. The SAB takes issue with this, supplying a few choice passages from the Bible that it feels counter such a claim. The thing about it though, is that (as far as I can see) this simply indicates that the SAB doesn't understand these passages, which is sort of the point. If you don't understand something, that doesn't automatically make that thing stupid or wrong. While I certainly get why the passage about the bear mauling is troublesome, why would a story about a donkey that was made able to talk be an indication of the supposed poor morals of God? I think that actually there is a common thread running through the three passages anyway, and that is that proper spirituality is important. I'm sure I've talked about it before, but I really feel that when God touches on this topic, it's not for selfish reasons, like he needs people to follow him, but that actually, people need God in a funny way, because he is truth. Anyway, pretty much the rest of the chapter is an odd metaphor for the value of God's word. It contains the funny verse about trees clapping their hands, which I was sure the SAB would mark as absurd, but for some reason it's left without note.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not (Isaiah 54)

Isaiah chapter 54 doesn't have a lot of notes, but it's still quite interesting. A large portion of this chapter is addressed to barren women. The SAB has a page about What the Bible says about barren women which is not quite complete, as it doesn't include the passages about specific barren women (oh, it's on a separate page where it notes it's always women and never men, but Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah's husbands all had children with other women), all of whom I happen to have covered already. It's not a big deal, though, because all of those women were temporarily barren, as God eventually gives each of them a son (never a daughter). I might as well talk about the cultural significance of barrenness, because it's important to understand. In ancient Israel, women were primarily valued as a vessel for giving men sons so they can have an inheritance to pass on. That's unfortunately rather misogynistic, but it's also worth noting that none of the husbands of barren women divorce them; I don't know if it simply wasn't grounds for divorce (although my understanding is that divorce was pretty easy for men in that culture) or if those men just loved their wives for who they were and not just the children they could bring. Anyway, many of these verses tell barren women that they are better off than women who bare children, which is certainly a cultural reversal. Some, like the one here in Isaiah, say that even though they are barren, they will somehow be mothers. It's not clear to me what the significance of this claim is; perhaps somehow they will raise the offspring of other women. In the Luke passage, Jesus is simply prophesying that a time is coming when women with children will have a difficult time.

I already answered What is God's name? in Isaiah 42.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

By whose stripes ye were healed (Isaiah 53)

So, as I said in my last post, Isaiah chapter 53 is considered by most Christians to be a prophecy of Jesus's death. (It is considered by many Jews to be a prophecy of the Holocaust, and I don't want to diminish that, because it's a very reasonable interpretation; the Holocaust was unimaginably horrible and the Jews of Europe paid a tremendous price for fascist antisemitism. I can definitely see that interpretation, and even the possibility--as I have said elsewhere--that this is a prophecy about two completely separate things. However, I'm going to focus on how this fits Jesus's death.)

Verse three says:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
This is fulfilled in how Jesus was eventually rejected by his own people and sent to be crucified:
Mark 15:12 And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? 13 And they cried out again, Crucify him. 14 Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.
Verses four through six talk about how Jesus died for the sin of the world, as summed up in 1 Peter 2:24 "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." Perhaps Peter is actually quoting Isaiah 53:5 here.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Verses seven and eight:
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
This is quoted in Acts chapter eight:
Acts 8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Verse nine:
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
This is prophetic of Jesus's burial, as he died between two thieves but was laid in the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea:
Matthew 27:57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
The last three verses are reemphasizing that all that Jesus suffered was so he could be a sin offering:
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
As Paul says:
Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
So all of that (and probably more) is why Christians believe this passage is about Jesus.