Thursday, April 11, 2024

Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up (Isaiah 50)

Isaiah chapter 50 is a very short one with very few notes. I don't really know what to make of the talk of "your mother's divorcement"; perhaps the idea here is that God divorced Israel when he sent them into exile? The next bit is definitely about the exile, where God talks about the people of Israel selling themselves into slavery to pay for their sins. Perhaps the part in verse two about him coming to call and finding nobody home is about the people turning away from God, so nobody was looking for him to save them; he emphasizes that he was always able to save them, so it's strange they didn't call. The bit about drying up waters until there are nothing but stinking fish may be a judgment that happened to the land of Israel. God also talks about naking the sky black, but I don't know what this would refer to (maybe an eclipse?). Isaiah talks about his own righteousness, and how God has blessed him with wisdom and bravery in the face of adversity. I believe there are some who take verse six as a prophecy of what happened to Jesus right before his crucifixion, but it's not clear, and I don't remember it being quoted in the New Testament.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

All the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him (Isaiah 49)

Isaiah chapter 49 doesn't have a lot of notes, but let's see what's there. Mostly, there's a lot of verses marked absurd, and as is often the case, it's not really clear to me what's supposed to be absurd about them. The first two verses are marked, and it may be because Isaiah speaks to "islands", but as I said previously when this happened, this just means Isaiah is addressing the inhabitants of island nations. Verse two talks about Isaiah's mouth being like a sword; this sort of imagery is used throughout the Bible as a way of saying that in their own way, words can cut. In verse 16, God says he has engraved Israel on the palm of his hand, and I suppose this sounds absurd, but seeing as God doesn't have physical hands, I believe it's a figure of speech to say that God is always looking out for Israel, and keeps them in his mind constantly. Verse 23 talks about kings being "nursing fathers" which is definitely odd imagery, but I think the point is that Israel is going to be provided for. This verse also talks about kings and queens licking dust off of Israel's feet, which I assume is just saying that even the leaders of foreign nations will be humbled before Israel.

Going back to verse six, God says that even the Gentiles will be blessed through Israel because God will give them a "light" for salvation to all the earth. Of course, a Christian is going to assume that the "light" is Jesus, but whatever it is, this is a recurring theme going back to Abraham, that the descendants of Abraham will bring a blessing to the world. Verse seven talks about "the Holy One of Israel", who is going to be rejected by the nation, but people will worship him, once again very Jesus-like imagery. The name "Sinim" in verse twelve appears nowhere else, so nobody knows what it refers to. In verse 14, Israel says that God has forsaken them, but the next few verses assure that this could never happen (including the verse about Israel being engraved on God's palm).

The final verse is marked for harsh language, injustice, and intolerance. It is pretty harsh, but this is talking about nations that oppress Israel, so there's an understanding that they are evil.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

I am the first and the last (Isaiah 48)

Isaiah chapter 48 once again has a lot to say about idolatry and false gods. The chapter opens addressing the nation of Israel as the people "which swear by the name of the LORD," provoking the SAB to ask, Is it OK to swear? which I answered in Genesis chapter 21, where I said the real issue isn't whether oaths are okay, but rather whether you are being sincere. God emphasizes here that unlike false gods, he is able to tell people what will come to pass in the future, and he does so specifically so that people can't say, "My idol told me." Closing off this section, God refers to himself as, "I am he; I am the first, I also am the last." This provokes the SAB to ask Who is the first and the last?, which is not really a contradiction, because Jesus is God; once again, it's a Trinity issue, and you could say this of the Holy Ghost as well, even though the Bible doesn't.

The SAB has a couple issues with verse 13, "Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together." Apparently it's unscientific and absurd. I think you have to understand what is being said here. Saying "laid the foundation of the earth" is saying God is the creator. Saying "my right hand hath spanned the heavens" is just saying God is bigger than you can imagine. The last little bit is just implying that God is also in complete control of the universe. Verse 14 is marked as cruel and unjust, but I don't think "his arm shall be on the Chaldeans" implies violence; I think it's about control (which I suppose could still be considered unjust, but God's in control of everything and that's just the way it is). Verse 19 is marked absurd, and there's definitely something to be said about this. This really sounds like God is saying the promise he made to Abraham has already been fulfilled in the time frame of this chapter, but whether it's pre- or post-exile, the idea of the Jews being "like sand" (i.e., virtually uncountable) is something I don't think has ever been fulfilled. Some have suggested that this promise is fulfilled in the sum total of all adherents to Abrahamic religions, but that can't be the case for this time frame, so maybe absurd, but I don't know the reason it's marked that way, as is so often the case. Verse 21 is also marked absurd, but that's just a call back to the miracle in Exodus 17, as the SAB itself notes.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

His arm shall be on the Chaldeans (Isaiah 47)

Isaiah chapter 47 has a lot of symbolic language, but it's not clear (to me at least) what the level of symbolism is. There's a lot of talk in the beginning addressed to the "virgin daughter of Babylon," which could mean Babylon as a whole, or perhaps the women of the conquered empire of Babylon, or maybe even the queen or a princess of Babylon. The SAB marks verses two and three for "Sex" because it talks about her nakedness, but once again (especially if it's referring to the nation) this could be simply symbolic of the shame of being conquered, although if it's referring to actual women, it could be literal.

Verse one mentions Chaldeans, which is worth a moment of reflection. (This name hasn't come up prominently in anything I've covered except tangentially in the fact that Abraham may have been a Chaldean, as he came from Ur, see Genesis chapter eleven.) The thing is, "Chaldeans" can refer to four different groups of people, which all have some overlap. 1) People who live in the lower Tigris and Euphrates region, 2) various subjects of the Babylonian Empire, 3) people trained in the art of divination (this comes up mostly in Daniel), and 4) a specific ethnic group from the region in (1). These are used pretty interchangeably. Anyway, it's not clear which sense of the word is being used here, as there's stuff in the chapter alluding to all of them, but I thought it was worth discussing.

Verses 13 and 14 are marked for injustice, intolerance, and cruelty, and they come at the end of a larger discussion of Babylon's arrogance and reliance on sorcerers of various sorts. I suppose you could say the SAB has a point here, but the point Isaiah is trying to make is that the Babylonians themselves were cruel, and didn't rely on God, and at least the former is something skeptics should understand. I think the language here about "the fire shall burn them" is likely not meant to be literal, but simply is using fire as a metaphor for the level of destruction that would come upon Babylon. See this post for general reflection on the topic of people being burned to death in the Bible.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Turn ye not unto idols (Isaiah 46)

Isaiah chapter 46 is a short one, pretty much all about idolatry. God points out that when you make an idol, it becomes a literal burden, because you or your pack animals have to carry around this hunk of metal, but a hunk of metal can't answer prayers. On the other hand not only can the God of Israel answer prayers, but in times of weakness, he carries you. Speaking briefly about "the man that executeth my counsel from a far country" he's probably referring to Cyrus again. The SAB asks How many gods are there? which I answered in Exodus chapter twelve.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth (Isaiah 45)

Isaiah chapter 45 is mainly a message to King Cyrus, and opens by calling him "anointed one". Yes, as the SAB notes, this is "messiah", but this isn't a challenge to Jesus's status as Messiah; there simply happen to be many in the Bible who have such a title, as many had been anointed to serve God in a special way. (Really, if you look back, the priests were anointed, and so were all kings, including Saul, and it's sort of implied that even Abimelech was anointed in Judges nine.) Anyway, God talks about all the things he's doing for Cyrus, including naming him in this prophetic book that was supposedly written a long time before Cyrus was even born.

God says that he is the only God, prompting the SAB to ask How many gods are there?, which I answered in Exodus chapter twelve. God says he creates everything, including evil, prompting the question Is God the creator of evil? which I pretty much addressed in Isaiah chapter 31, but that was technically a different page, so I should expand here. Actually, it's surprisingly simple "yes", as I don't think either of the verses in the "no" section are saying that. I mean, just because evil doesn't dwell with God doesn't mean he can't create it on earth. It presents a big theological issue, however, because those who follow the God of the Bible believe he is thoroughly good, so how can a good God create evil, right? I've said before that such questions are really out of the scope of this blog's purpose, but when I came to this before, I felt it should be addressed nonetheless, so I examined it elsewhere.

In verse twelve, God says, "I made the earth with my hands, and stretched out the heavens." The SAB marks this with absurdity and science, but I'm not sure why. All it's really saying is that God is the creator of the universe, which is pretty basic theology, and there's nothing really unscientific here. If it's the stretching that's the issue, science says that the universe is expanding, so there is a very real sense in which the heavens are "stretched out".

Does God help in times of need? the SAB asks, which I answered in 1Samuel chapter eight. In verse 22, God says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved," which prompts the SAB to bring up the topic of salvation. This is a big subject to delve into, and some day I hope to make a post about that page, but for here, let it suffice to say this is about being saved from enemies, not eternal salvation. The SAB asks Is it okay to swear?, which I answered in Genesis chapter 21, where my answer was that yes, you can swear, but you need to be sincere.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus (Isaiah 44)

Isaiah chapter 44 has some interesting things to say about idolatry and generally a very pleasant chapter. God talks about the restoration of Israel, calling it "Jeshurun" which is sort of a nickname (I don't know why it's spelled without the h here in the KJV, because it's always spelled the same in Hebrew); it means something like "upright". The Lord talks about how he is the only God, which prompts the SAB to ask "How many gods are there?" which I addressed in Exodus chapter twelve.

There's a big section in the middle making fun of idolatry. It talks about a metalsmith working so hard he gets tired from making an idol. It also tells a story about a man who cuts down a tree, burns part of it for heat, burns part of it for cooking, and then he takes the leftover wood and fashions an idol and worships it. I'm pretty sure this is intended to be ironic, in case you missed it.

The SAB asks who created heaven and earth, which I answered in John chapter one (it was both Jesus and the Father). There's also a lot of stuff marked absurd, but I don't know what to say about it. Cyrus was God's "shepherd" because he helped the Israelites return to their land.

Monday, March 04, 2024

All things are become new (Isaiah 43)

Isaiah chapter 43 seemed pretty simple when I gave it a read through, but the SAB has a lot of notes, so let's see what's up.

First of all, in verse two, God says that the Israelites will walk through fire without getting burned, which the SAB calls absurd. Of course it's absurd, because it's describing a miracle, and perhaps it's referring to the event in Daniel chapter three where three Jewish men are thrown into a furnace but remain unharmed. It could be a more general statement about protection from fire, but I also think it could be a metaphor for protection from trouble during difficult times, which Israel definitely goes through before, during, and after the exile period.

In verses three and four, God talks about how Egypt, Ethiopia (a.k.a. Cush), and Seba were given as a "ransom" for Israel, which the SAB assumes means that these nations were sacrificed on Israel's behalf. I don't know if there's some historical context suggesting this that I'm missing, but it seems to me this could be referring back to the Exodus, when Israel was freed from slavery in Egypt (at which time Cush and Seba may have been united with Egypt, as they're all in the same general area), and Egypt suffered as a result.

The SAB asks "How many gods are there?" which I addressed at length in Exodus chapter twelve, where the answer was complicated. Verse eleven says, "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour." This provokes the SAB to ask about Jesus, but once again, I say it's a Trinity thing, and Jesus is the Lord, for all intents and purposes.

Verse 19 provokes the SAB to ask, What's new? because Ecclesiastes says nothing is new. I think there are two ways to look at the claim in Ecclesiastes, and both are correct. First of all, there was nothing "new" at the time Ecclesiastes was written, but all of these other verses were about times afterwards. Secondly, I think it's fair to say that there's a lot of hyperbolic language in Ecclesiastes, and this is some of it; there are always new things. New people being born, new words being said, new buildings being built, but there's also a sense in which these are not new because they are similar to things that have come before, and that's the point. So the answer to "What's new?" depends on the sense in which you are asking.

I talked about mythological beasts in Isaiah chapter eleven, and talked about whether God gets tired in Isaiah chapter 40.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

This is my name for ever (Isaiah 42)

Isaiah chapter 42 doesn't have a lot of notes in the SAB, and I don't think I have much to say about it. There's some odd imagery here, so let me see if I can sum it up. There is a lot more talk about God's servant here, and it's said he will judge the Gentiles, restore sight to the blind, and release captives from prison. It talks about God going to war and destroying...something? Perhaps the unrighteous? It talks about the shame of those that trust in idols, and seems to be calling them blind and deaf. It also however says the servant is blind and deaf, and that the people who receive his message will not see or hear it. It talks about how Israel has been plundered and has fallen in a hole, amd how this is because they were disobedient to God.

The SAB asks What is God's name? I'm going to give pretty much the same answer I gave in the case of Jesus: they all are! It just happens that all three persons of the Trinity are known by several names throughout scripture for whatever reason. Maybe it's a bit strange, but that's the way it is. In actuality, this list could be a heck of a lot longer, if you really seek the names out, although most of them are variations on "YHVH".

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood (Isaiah 41)

Isaiah chapter 41 is mostly nice stuff, but there are a few notes here. First of all, there are a couple verses marked as absurd, both having to do with "islands"; I think it's intended to be understood that these are referring to the inhabitants of said islands, which hopefully makes them less absurd. Whether or not there was ever a righteous person was addressed in Genesis chapter 15 where I explained that there are different types of righteousness. Verse four has God referring to himself as "the first and the last", which the SAB compares with Jesus calling himself that in Revelation; Jesus is God, so really, there's no problem with this.

In verse eight, God refers to Israel as his "servant", which the SAB notes as significant because there are prophecies about a servant in Isaiah that Christians view as being about Jesus. Now, I'll readily admit that the SAB is right about Israel being God's servant in Isaiah, however it's also true that there are passages in the Bible that have more than one layer of meaning to them. Probably the most well-known is Daniel 8:13, often referred to as "the abomination of desolation"; it was understood to have happened in the 2nd century BCE when King Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the second Temple by offering a sacrifice of a pig to Zeus during the time of the Maccabees. However, Jesus talked about "the abomination of desolation" as though it was yet to be fulfilled in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 (and possibly Luke 21:20), and Christians believe he was talking about the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans. All that being said, Israel could still be the servant of God in Isaiah, and at the same time, one or more of those prophecies could be also referring to Jesus.

So God says that he will protect Israel, and that all who try to attack Israel will be destroyed. The SAB marks this as unjust, but I think there are a couple things to consider; this is about protection from attack, and I think it's clear from the larger context of the book (and history) that this is conditional based on Israel being good. God also promises to help the poor and needy, making streams and planting trees. I just wanted to take a side note here about the "shittah tree"; this word appears nowhere else in the Bible, although the plural "shittim" shows up several times. This is not a translation, but the KJV editors having no idea what this tree is and just transliterating the Hebrew word; modern translations have decided that this is the acacia. (See also "gopher wood" in Genesis six.) God challenges the gods of other nations to predict the future the way he does to prove they are gods, and scoffs at their lack of power. He talks about bringing someone powerful from the north, but I don't know what this prophecy is about; it may be Cyrus.

Friday, February 23, 2024

And he rested on the seventh day (Isaiah 40)

Isaiah chapter 40 is supposedly (as the SAB notes) the beginning of "Deutero-Isaiah", under the scholarly assumption that the book of Isaiah was written by three authors. It's interesting to me to hear about this, as I had heard the theory of two Isaiah authors, but not three. The links given in the note outline this theory, but don't really get into the nitty-gritty of the details, however it's clear that the latter chapters of Isaiah talk about the exile and post-exile periods in a way that people take to suggest they are not predictive prophecy, but contemporary writing. I don't really have much of an opinion on this subject, although certainly there are people who feel strongly about it. Some Christians have noted that Jesus quotes from both the early and latter part of this book, and attributes both parts to Isaiah, but I don't think that's conclusive, as it makes sense that Jesus would refer to it as it is known, otherwise people would be confused. Maybe I'll revisit this topic later.

The SAB takes issue with verse three for the reason that in various places in the New Testament, it's taken as a Messianic prophecy, yet there's no real indication that it was considered so before John the Baptist. This is actually an interesting thing about the way the New Testament deals with Messianic prophecy that I think Christians need to be aware of: there's a lot of claims of fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus, but many of these prophecies are passages from the Old Testament that nobody considered to be about the Messiah. A lot of prophecy in the New Testament is along the lines of, "Remember this verse from the Scriptures? Yeah, that was about Jesus." This doesn't necessarily mean it's not real fulfillment of prophecy, but there's not a lot in the New Testament that's particularly impressive to an educated Jew. There are a lot of prophecies that are clearly Messianic that Jesus did not fulfill, and while the standard explanation is that Jesus will fulfill those at his second coming, most Jews aren't going to believe it until they see it. I don't know why this didn't come up when I was covering the gospels, but maybe it did and I don't remember? Anyway, the Christian view of prophecy is quite different the Jewish view.

I answered the question of whether everyone will see the glory of God in Isaiah chapter 26 where I pointed out that there's technically a difference in the wording between these two chapters that I think is significant. I'm not really clear on why the SAB marks verse six and seven as good, other than the fact that they're truthful. The next several verses wax poetic about how amazing God is, with verse 16 shifting to talk about how foolish idols are in comparison. The SAB makes a joke about Christmas trees, but I feel like Jeremiah 10:3-4 is a better passage for this joke. Verse 22 has the semi-famous bit about how God "is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth" that people like to quote as proof that the Bible knows the earth is round. I don't think it's particularly convincing, although it's possible that this is the meaning (the same Hebrew word is used in Job to refer to the sky, which is more obviously spherical). I once again rely on the fact that the spherical nature of the earth is fairly obvious if you watch a ship disappear over the horizon or see the shadow of earth pass over the moon during an eclipse. Verse 26 talks about stars, and while the SAB is right that new stars are created and old stars die out all the time, nonetheless none of them fall, although really, given the nature of stars, it's not really that profound.

Does God ever get tired? I'm actually a little surprised I haven't covered this one. I'm going to say the answer is no, so I need to address the "yes" section, I guess. I think I can say that except for the Exodus verse, these aren't really about getting tired. Saying you're weary of something that someone does repeatedly is really a figure of speech; you're not literally tired, you're just done with it and wish it would stop. So what about Exodus 31? I think the SAB gets that it isn't about resting, or they would have included Genesis 2:2; it's that Exodus says he was "refreshed", which would seem to imply he needed refreshing. And there's nothing ambiguous in the Hebrew, I think, because not only does the KJV always translate this word as "refreshed", but most other translations do as well. Still the word has the connotation of having air blown upon someone, and one of the translation notes I read unrelated to this passage suggested it means to take a breath. I think, although I admit it's probably not going to be convincing to the SAB, that it's more of a figure of speech, still meaning in essence to take a break.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon (Isaiah 39)

Isaiah chapter 39 is a short one, and the SAB just calls the whole thing boring. It's certainly not very exciting, but the implications of this story are important in the long term. The son of the king of Babylon comes to visit Hezekiah, he shows off all the treasures he has. Isaiah says that he's just ensured that Babylon will eventually invade and conquer Judah to take away all these treasures, and to boot, Hezekiah's sons will be slaves of Babylon. Oddly, Hezekiah doesn't pray for God to change this outcome as he did when it was his own life.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs (Isaiah 38)

Isaiah chapter 38 is a pretty simple one, I think, but it has a few notes that need to be addressed. King Hezekiah's sick, and Isaiah tells him that he is going to die, so Hezekiah prays to God to let him live. God speaks to Isaiah and tells him that Hezekiah is so good that he's going to get another 15 years and defend Jerusalem from Assyria. This brings up the issue of whether or not God repents, which I largely addressed back in Genesis chapter six, but here it deserves another look. Although the word "repent" is not here, the SAB is quite right to question this passage, because it seems appropriate; did God say Hezekiah was going to die right away and the change his mind? I think what's going on here is something that mught actually be considered more problematic: God had Isaiah tell Hezekiah what was either a lie or at best a misleading prophecy. I mean, Hezekiah is still going to die, it's just going to happen in 15 years! I think for whatever reason, God wanted to goad Hezekiah into praying what he prayed, and write what he wrote later in the chapter, and always intended to let Hezekiah live because he knew this was in Hezekiah's character.

God gives a sign that this will happen: the shadow on the sundial will move backwards ten degrees; and it happens. The SAB marks this with absurdity and science, and while I get the science one (generally sundials don't move backwards) I think it's far from absurd, specifically because it's so outlandish; this is a clear and obvious miracle, because it just goes against the laws of physics! It's an interesting thing to me personally that I see miracles happen in two classes: miracles that are something incredibly unlikely happening, and miracles that are something that shouldn't even happen at all. I think both kinds can be effective as signs, but the former type are easier for a skeptic to deny in a way (although skeptics will likely deny both, of course) because one can say it was just a coincidence. I once walked away unscratched from an auto accident in which my car flipped over twice, and a lot of people told me it was a miracle, but I don't think any atheist would change their beliefs based on that story. If an atheist saw someone walking on water, it would probably make them question, if only for a moment.

The rest of the chapter is mostly a little poem written by Hezekiah about his feelings in facing death. Verse 18 raises a couple questions, such as "Is death final?" which I answered in Joshua chapter 23, and "Does Hell exist?" which I answered in John chapter five. The SAB lastly makes an observation that the last two verses would fit better between verses six and seven, which is true. There probably was some bad editing of this book at some point in time, admittedly.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come (Isaiah 37)

I was considering taking a break for a few days before Isaiah chapter 37, but then I figured I should do it while the previous chapter was still pretty fresh in my mind, since this is just more of the same story. I was talking with Steve Wells about Rabshakeh's claim that God told the Assyrians that they could defeat Judah, and we both agreed that it was strange, however it seems from this chapter that he was bluffing.

So king Hezekiah rends his clothes, puts on sackcloth, and goes to the Temple, where he sends for Isaiah. Isaiah sends word back that Rabshakeh was blaspheming, and God is still with Judah. God promises that the king of Assyria will die by the sword in his own land. Rabshakeh returns to Assyria to find that the nation is at war, and he hears that the Ethiopian army is coming. He sends a message to Jerusalem saying, don't think we won't be back to defeat you; we've defeated a lot of other nations and your time is coming!

Hezekiah gets the letter and puts it before God and prays. The wording of the prayer prompts the SAB to ask Who is the Lord of this world? which I actually addressed in Ruth chapter four, where the answer is complicated. Hezekiah points out in his prayer that all the nations that were conquered by Assyria were idolatrous nations, whose gods were only pieces of wood to be cast in the fire, but the God of the Jews is different, and can deliver them from Assyria. Isaiah sends word that his prayer will be answered and God says to the king of Assyria that all his conquests were really no big deal compared to the power of God. God predicts that the Assyrians won't even come back.

So, God kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers while they sleep, and when the remaining soldiers wake up, obviously they are rather alarmed. This is a lot of killing on God's part, but remember this is an army that was threatening Judah, and had already killed who knows how many in destroying all the kingdoms mentioned previously in this chapter. At least they died in their sleep. So Sennacherib the king, who sounds like he was present at this event, goes back home to Nineveh, where his children assassinate him as he's praying. Yes, that's pretty cold, but does the wording of verse seven imply that God made Sennacherib's sons do this? I think it's likely that they intended to do this all along, and God just sent Sennacherib home so it happened sooner rather than later, but you can interpret it as you want.

Friday, February 09, 2024

But Rab-shakeh said unto them (Isaiah 36)

Isaiah chapter 36 doesn't sound like a prophecy, but rather a straightforward telling of an event in Judah's history. King Sennacherib of Assyria sends an army with a message, which boils down to, "Don't ally with Egypt; ally with us, because your own God has told us that we can destroy you." King Hezekiah's representatives ask Rabshakeh, the messenger, to speak in Assyrian so the inhabitants of Jerusalem won't overhear him, but he repeats his message louder and in Hebrew so everyone can hear it.

Rabshakeh prefaces his repetition with what is perhaps some coarse language about eating dung and drinking piss, hinting at the likelihood of a siege against Jerusalem. This prompts the SAB to ask Is every word of God pure? First of all, I suspect the word "piss" was not considered so crass in the 15th century as it is today; the word "piss" or "pisseth" appears eight times in the KJV, but never "urine" or "urinate" which we in modern times would consider more neutral language. Thus, in addition to this verse being something a foreigner said, I don't think "piss" or "dung" are particularly vulgar. However, there are other verses to deal with here. More generally, I have to ask what is meant by "pure"; I mean, this claim is being made particularly by Proverbs 30:5, but does it really mean there's nothing ugly in the Bible? I mean, really, if you wanted to, the list in the second section could be made much longer, and I assume the author of Proverbs 30 (Agur the son of Jakeh, apparently) was familiar with the scriptures. The Hebrew word behind "pure" in Proverbs 30 and Psalm 119 has the essential meaning of being refined by fire, like a metal such as gold. The Hebrew word for "pure" in Psalm 12, however, has the connotation of being ceremonially clean. While I think the latter comes closer to the kind of purity I think the SAB is trying to imply, I believe in general the idea is that the Bible is unadulterated by falsehoods, and that still not to say that there's no instance of lying in the Bible, but that there's no lying by God. I don't know if this is right or even if it totally makes sense, but I don't think there's any clear contradiction here nonetheless.

I don't know if there is any real need to comment on the existence of a nearly identical passage in 2Kings 18; I don't think there is anyone who would claim the Bible is free from repetition.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk (Isaiah 35)

Isaiah chapter 35 looks a lot easier and much more light hearted than the last chapter. The SAB marks this chapter as boring, but I sort of wonder why verses three through six aren't marked "Good Stuff", because it seems like very positive things from any perspective (maybe verses one and two as well!).

Verse seven talks about dragons again, which I talked about in Isaiah chapter eleven. Verse eight talks about the "way of holiness", which is a road that only holy people will walk on, which is admittedly an odd idea, but what can I say about it? On this road, God's people will return to Israel, apparently.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns (Isaiah 34)

Okay, back to Isaiah chapter 34 for another end times prophecy, and it's a pretty violent one by the look of it, or at least the SAB marks it as such. I answered whether God gets furious in Isaiah chapter 27, and the answer was yes.

So, God here has fury on the armies of all nations, and slaughters them all. It's surely hyperbolic language, but the blood of this slaughter melts away mountains. Clearly this is a massive killing unlike any other with the probable exception of Noah's flood, so yeah, it's violent, but these are armies we're talking about, so it's arguably violence begetting violence. This is likely God protecting Israel from some sort of massive invasion.

Verse four has some interesting language that the SAB marks with the "Science" icon; and indeed, what is being described here sounds very scientifically unsound. It's pretty reasonable to assume "the host of heaven" refers to the stars, so is the imagery of them falling suggestive of a meteor shower? Possibly, but there is the matter of the sky being "rolled together as a scroll" and the fact that it says "all their host", suggesting the sky is essentially obliterated. While it's entirely possible that God miraculously causes the universe to collapse (because he certainly could), and that would sort of fit this description, we're talking about stars that are tens of thousands of light years away (if we're just talking about our galaxy--unfathomably more if the whole universe) collapsing on a time scale that would supposedly be visible from earth. I don't think I have any idea what this verse could reasonably mean! (I mean, it's been suggested by astrophysics that the universe could possibly collapse in on itself in a reverse of the Big Bang, but not only does current evidence suggest that won't happen, we're talking about trillions if not quadrillions of years.)

So the chapter goes on to talk about more violence, this time specifically mentioning Idumea (also known as Edom), but while God is definitely spilling the blood of people, it's apparently also animal sacrifices, as a number of animals are mentioned in verse six. (I don't know why the mention of the fat of sacrifices leads the SAB to talk about fat people, but it does.) Verse seven mentions "unicorns", verse 13 has "dragons", and verse 14 has a "satyr" calling to others of its kind. I talked about mythological beasts in the KJV in chapter eleven, where I said that most of them are questionable translations, a "unicorn" most likely being some sort of wild horned animal, a "dragon" being some sort of large, scary beast, and "satyrs" are probably wild goats. Yes, verse 14's "screech owl" is "lilith" in the Hebrew, which is sometimes considered something mythological, but the word only appears here in the entire Bible, so who knows what is meant?

Verses nine and ten talk about the land becoming burning pitch, supposedly forever (at least it's supposed to be free of people forever), although it goes on to say that various birds will come to live there, which I assume couldn't happen if it's on fire, so this is admittedly a bit unclear.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

They shall be burnt with fire (various, burning)

So, because Steve Wells was not quite satisfied with my last post because he felt I didn't fully address the issue of What the Bible says about burning people to death (and I didn't, because I felt the burning in Isaiah chapter 33 was figurative language), I'm going to take a sidebar here and talk about that subject. I have already talked about capital punishment in Exodus and the nature of Hell in John, but I'm sure I'll need to revisit those topics.

Let's start with Genesis 38, and Judah's intent to burn his daughter-in-law to death. This is indeed cruel, and it is in fact unwarranted; this is not God's will, but Judah reacting in anger to a situation that he came to realize he was implicated in the matter. In Joshua 7, where we read about the killing of Achan, yes, he and his family were burned up, but note they were stoned to death first; this is not burning someone to death. 2Samuel 23 is David talking about certain "sons of belial" who are not explicitly identified; it seems reasonable that David is simply saying that evil people will see judgment, perhaps he's even talking about the fires of Hell, although the idea seems iffy.

With all that aside, the two verses from Leviticus are definitely capital offenses that are to be dealt with by burning the offenders. I don't think there's any getting around it, but it's possibly worth noting that both of these offenses are easy to avoid (and a woman who is a prostitute who isn't the daughter of a priest has committed adultery, and would also be put to death, I assume). For some reason, these particular acts--both of a sexual nature--are considered serious enough by God to warrant this punishment, and I don't know why. So what can be said about it? Well, some commentaries point out that the passage in Joshua about Achan suggests that these offenses are trated by first killing the offenders (probably by stoning) and then burning the bodies afterwards. Of course being stoned to death isn't painless either, but it's likely much less painful than being burned.

Okay, so God burned some people to death himself? Let's see those verses. In Leviticus 10, while it says God sent fire to burn Nadab and Abihu to death, if you look at the immediate context, their bodies had to be carried away afterwards, showing that there bodies were not consumed by the fire. This very likely was some sort of supernatural fire, and tradition has it that their bodies were actually unharmed; their death may have not been painful. While I of course can't say that with complete certainty, it is a possibility, and so it may also be the case in these other verses. (Remember Moses and the burning bush that wasn't consumed? It seems there is something that is a manifestation of God that looks like fire, but technically isn't fire.) The Numbers 16 and 1Kings 1 passages do say the men were consumed, so perhaps that's definitely real fire. The Deuteronomy 32 passage definitely sounds like figurative language, especially since it says "burned with hunger". Psalm 21, like much of the Psalms, is being poetic, not necessarily prophetic. Isaiah chapters 24, 33, and 47 are likely symbolic of destruction rather than literal fire, and also the Ezekiel 15 and Jeremiah 49 passages.

Now as I said above, I already addressed the subject of hell, and in that post, I believe I did find that Hell is a place full of fire. However, I also discussed two possibilities with respect to Hell: (1) it is possible that Jesus's death on the cross meant that Hell is no longer a place where people go, because Jesus paid the price for the sin of the world; and (2) it is possible that the burning in Hell is only temporary, and souls are consumed by the fires of Hell. However, I don't think it can be denied that there is an experience of burning on the part of (at least some of) the souls that are in Hell.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller (Isaiah 33)

Isaiah chapter 33, like the last chapter, doesn't really specify a time frame, but seems to be end times prophecy, chiefly because verse 21 talks about Zion being "a place of broad rivers and streams" which it certainly isn't today, or ever has been in the past. This suggests a miraculous change in geography, which is end times stuff. The SAB has very few notes, but there were a few things that I found interesting in my reading. Verse four's "And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller" intrigued me, and I looked into it. The Hebrew word here for "caterpiller" appears six times, and the KJV always translates it the same, but looking at other translations, it seems it's not 100% clear what this word means. The thing that is clear is that it always refers to an insect that is very destructive, and many versions of the Bible often translate it "young locust". Whatever is going on here is either similar to or literally a plague of locusts.

Anyway, this chapter largely about God ruling on Mount Zion while his enemies are destroyed and his followers are exalted. Verses 12 and 14 in particular talk about God's enemies being burned up, and the SAB marks them for cruelty; this is a punishment for wrongdoing, however, and since the sin is not specified, it's hard for anyone to say if the punishment fits the crime or not. Verses 21 and 23 talk about how even though there will be "broad rivers and streams", no ships of war will approach Zion, and anyone who tries to attack in that manner will fail and be spoiled.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The liberal soul shall be made fat (Isaiah 32)

Isaiah chapter 32 sounds almost like, rather than a prophecy about the future, an observation about what things are like in good times in Israel, although there is some lamenting in there, too. It opens talking about a righteous king, and people listening to good teaching, and "the vile person shall no more be called liberal." (The word "liberal" is used several times in this chapter, and it's used to mean something like "generous".) The SAB seems to mostly see good in this chapter, and it's definitely there to be found, but it's not all sunshine.

Starting in verse nine, Isaiah seems to be talking about a coming famine, and for some reason he particularly addresses this warning to the women. Perhaps this is because women are more likely to survive a famine, generally having more body fat? I don't know if the women in particular have sinned, although Isaiah calls them "careless" in verse 10 and "at ease" in verses nine and eleven, perhaps suggesting laziness. Verses eleven and twelve are talking about mourning, and perhaps repentance, as when one is doing these things, one puts on sackcloth and beats one's chest (the meaning of the first clause of verse twelve, and not harsh language). This time of famine and mourning will eventually end, however, and when righteousness returns, so will a bountiful harvest.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Behold, this evil is of the LORD (Isaiah 31)

Isaiah chapter 31 seems like it's really part of the prophecy in chapter 30, because we're still talking about it being a bad thing to go to Egypt for help. Also, the SAB doesn't have much to say about this chapter, with one real important exception.

What the Bible says about evil is actually, I'm sure, far from an exhaustive lost of verses of the Bible that deal with evil; it's really a rather large collection of verses that say evil comes from God. Now, I could make an argument here about how the word translated "evil" in verse two has nuance (most other translations seem to render it "disaster"), because there's definitely something to be said there, but really, I'm sure there are many Hebrew words translated "evil" by the KJV, and it would take days to unpack them all, and I have little desire to go down that road. I think it suffices to say that according to the plain English of the KJV, God is definitely a source of evil. Does that present a theological problem? Certainly for most people. Really, there's the classic theological "Problem of Evil", which I think I have discussed in my other blog, that struggles with the question of "How can there be evil if God is good?" but what if God is the source of some of the evil in the world? That's a tough one! Furthermore, while it is tempting to say that whatever "evil" God inflicts is only upon evil people to correct them towards greater good, even the Bible itself once again shows us that sometimes God inflicts "evil" on good people, notably in the book of Job. While you can say technically it was Satan who attacked Job, he did so with God's seal of approval. So yeah, if you take the KJV at face value in this matter, it's something deep to grapple with. It's deeper than I want to go in a blog post here, but perhaps I'll explore it more in the comments or in my other blog?

Monday, January 22, 2024

Bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt (Isaiah 30)

So we come to Isaiah chapter 30, which compared to many of the recent chapters is rather long and has a lot going on. It's not real clear who this prophecy is about, but I'm guessing Judah, and whoever it is, they're going to get into trouble for forming an alliance with Egypt. Isaiah declares that bad things are coming because the people won't rely on God, but on someone not godly, who I'm guessing is the person or persons who suggest the alliance with Egypt. Isaiah says that "the strength of Pharaoh be your shame", which possibly implies a lot of things, but probably the most important thing is later in the chapter way down in verse 22 we see that for a time they turn to idols.

Now let's talk about the "fiery flying serpent," shall we? Once again, the Hebrew word for "fiery serpent" is "seraph" and this time we get the adjective "uph" which generally is translated "flying" but does have other shades of meaning, but none that make any more sense when applied to serpents. In fact, even though the concept of flying serpents is rather preposterous, pretty much every translation I looked at uses the same exact phrase as the KJV except for the NIV, which gives us "darting snakes" which sounds more reasonable, and may be correct; while there are no known snakes that fly, I do believe there exist ones that launch themselves into the air when striking. One commentary I looked at suggested there is a species of snake that launches itself from a tree when striking; I don't know about what sort of snakes live in the Middle East. However, taking the plain words of the KJV, we'll have to chalk this one up to yet another mythological creature in Isaiah.

In verse eight, Isaiah is instructed to write this prophecy on a board or something, apparently to post it publicly in addition to writing it on a scroll, but as usual, most people will ignore it. Isaiah says that they ask prophets to not prophesy the truth, but rather pleasant things, and tell God "to cease from before us." God says that just being patient and waiting on him was the right solution to their problems, but instead they ran away. Starting in verse 18, the prophecy talks about how eventually people will start to turn back to God and be restored to sound teaching, and in verse 22, they throw away their idols, "as a menstruous cloth" which the SAB notes as both an issue of language and women. Now certainly it's pretty strong language, but I doubt even women are keen on holding on to used menstrual products, so it's subjective at least.

Now the SAB takes issue with verse 26 for scientific reasons, as it reads, "the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold;" the charge is, as usual, that the moon doesn't give off its own light (which as usual, I'm going to point out that that is not what is claimed here anyway), and the sun couldn't possibly be seven times as bright as it is. I think this is clearly end times prophecy, and there's something supernatural going on here; I'm sure astrophysics tells us that the sun couldn't--under normal circumstances--shine seven times as bright (unless it went supernova, in which case it would be temporary and the earth would be destroyed), but this almost certainly isn't normal circumstances. Also, if the sun happened to be seven times as bright, then it follows that moonlight, being reflected light from the sun, would also be brighter. The prophecy doesn't say how this brightness is accomplished, and as it may have been a vision, Isaiah may be only estimating the brightness as he saw it. (I expect a seven times brighter sun would be blinding!)

The rest of the prophecy talks in a lot of symbolic language about what God is like--which the SAB marks as absurd--talking about God's "lips...full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire: And his breath, as an overflowing stream..." Of course God, being a spirit, doesn't have lips, tongue, or even breath or an arm (as mentioned in verse 30), so this is all symbolic of something else, apparently according to verse 27, God's anger against evil. There is also symbolic language talking about "a bridle in the jaws of the people" which causes them to make bad decisions; it's unfortunately not very clear what people we're talking about, what the real nature of this metaphorical bridle is, nor what or who caused it, although with the SAB marking it unjust, there must be an assumption there that it's God's bridle, although I don't know if it's a warranted assumption. In the midst of all this talk of God's anger, verse 29 is oddly pleasant, with people happily following a flutist playing a song up to Mount Zion. And in verse 31, it talks about the Assyrians being defeated, which perhaps was the reason for the alliance with Egypt.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Seal up the vision and prophecy (Isaiah 29)

Isaiah chapter 29 is a prophecy about Jerusalem, which for unknown reasons, Isaiah calls "Ariel" in this chapter. (Ariel means "lion of God" in Hebrew.) Isaiah says that Jerusalem will be besieged, and eventually destroyed, but also that those who destroy it will soon pass away.

There's talk in verses 11 and 12 of a mysterious book (probably a scroll, actually) that is sealed and has a vision written within it. The true nature of this book is not clear, but the SAB says that Joseph Smith used this prophecy as a proof text for the book of Mormon. It does sound a bit like Smith's story about the book of Mormon, which to my understanding is that he was given gold plates etched with Egyptian writing by the angel Moroni who also gave him the supernatural ability to translate them, despite not knowing Egyptian. Actually, although I haven't heard of such a thing, it wouldn't surprise me if some Muslims use this prophecy as a proof text for the Qur'an, as supposedly the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) wrote the Qur'an with the help of an angel despite being completely illiterate! It's also likely that some Christians use this as proof text for the New Testament. Anyway, whatever book this prophesies, I believe it's the basis for what is talked about in verse 14, which the SAB calls absurd. It's not about destroying wisdom and understanding per se, but I think is really of the same nature as when a major scientific breakthrough happens, and large portions of scientific understanding have to be revised. Whatever is in this sealed vision is going to turn religious understanding upside down! All of the candidates for fulfillment of this prophecy that I mentioned above certainly did for a portion of the population. I think this is taken further in verse 16, where Isaiah is asking whether created beings have a right to question the creator. (Although of course, we should question, because the New Testament, the Qur'an, and the book of Mormon can't all be true; and I didn't even mention the writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh!) The rest of the chapter talks about how this book will bring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, as well as blessings to the meek and the poor, while bringing down evil people.

Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently (Isaiah 28)

Isaiah chapter 28 is a prophecy about Ephraim (a.k.a. Israel, the northern kingdom) that seems chiefly concerned with drunkenness. I discussed whether it's okay to drink alcohol in John chapter two, where I said it's okay in moderation; here in Isaiah, people are getting so drunk, they're apparently vomiting on everything (v. 8)! Also, priests and prophets are making poor decisions, which is very bad.

Anyway, after talking about all these drunks, Isaiah talks about how God is going to teach his law, mainly to children (v. 9). Much of this chapter talks about how important the law is, and there's a lot of repetition. The SAB notes that verse 16 is quoted in Romans 9:33, but incorrectly. A lot of the time when this sort of thing happens, it has to do with a variation in the Septuagint, which is the Bible New Testament authors would be quoting from, but looking at the Septuagint, I don't see where Paul got his quote. None of the commentaries I can access online has a full explanation for this, although some note that this is a quote of both Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14; this doesn't explain where "ashamed" comes from, however.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? (Isaiah 27)

Isaiah chapter 27 seems to be more end times prophecy, and may be a continuation of the last chapter. It opens with mention of Leviathan and "the dragon that is in the sea" (probably the same) just to make sure we've mentioned all mythological beasts in this one book, I guess. I don't think that anyone really knows what "Leviathan" refers to, whether it's a mythological creature or a forgotten word for a sea creature that we do know today by a different name. (Actually, studying the Hebrew, I just found something interesting; while my study guide says that the KJV always translates לִוְיָתָן as simply "Leviathan" it turns out that's not accurate, as the Hebrew word appears a seventh time in Job 3:8, where it's translated "their mourning"! Go figure. I can't find another translation that does this.) Anyway, the SAB marks this verse with absurdity and science, I suppose because Leviathan and dragons are not known to exist, but despite the description in Job 41 that includes fire breathing, it's entirely possible that Leviathan is simply something like a whale that the author of Job got hyperbolic about. Also, the Hebrew word translated "dragon" in the KJV is generally translated "monster" in modern translations, because once again, it's not really clear what it means, other than it's some kind of scary animal.

Does God ever get furious? This is an easy one; the answer is yes. I think the SAB is reading too much into verse four here; although God says, "Fury is not in me," that's him speaking "In that day" (v. 2) i.e. in the time that this prophecy is fulfilled, God will not be furious, but before that day, sure.

Verse eleven is a bit of a strange one in the midst of all the general talk of peace here. It's not real clear who is being talked about here, nor what form the lack of mercy and favor are supposed to take. The SAB paraphrases this verse as, "God created people who don't understand. Therefore he won't have mercy on them or show them favor." which is not wrong, but it makes it sound like God caused their lack of understanding, when it may be that they were intentionally ignorant (at least, that sounds likely to me). It was probably a lack of understanding of God and/or morality, I would assume. Anyway, in the end, the Jews of the world will be gathered to Jerusalem.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake (Isaiah 26)

Isaiah chapter 26 gives us what appears to be end times prophecy, but it's mostly in the form of praise. There's not a lot of notes here, but the few there are are worth discussing. I answered whether there was ever a just person in Matthew chapter 13, where I said the answer is yes, and Solomon is essentially being hyperbolic in Ecclesiastes.

Will everyone see the majesty of God? As usual, I will point out a couple things that often come up in supposed contradictions. If this is a contradiction, it's Isaiah contradicting himself, which seems unlikely. Also I note that the verse in Isaiah chapter 40 doesn't actually say "majesty", but rather "glory"; whole these concepts are similar, I don't think they are the same. I believe there is a sense in the term "majesty" of lordship (kings and queens are referred to as "your majesty"), and while everyone will eventually see the glory of God, only some people will witness him reign over the earth in the end times.

I discussed the question of whether death is final in Joshua chapter 23, but worth noting here that if there's a contradiction here, it's not just Isaiah contradicting himself, but doing so within a few short verses. Note that in verse 19, Isaiah says, "Thy dead men," indicating that he's referring to a specific group of dead people who belong to God, while it's likely that the dead in verse 14 are "the wicked" from verse 10. While I believe the Bible teaches an afterlife for all people, it also teaches that the nature of the afterlife varies from person to person.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city (Isaiah 25)

In Isaiah chapter 25, the prophet gives praise to God, although the nature of the praise seems off to the SAB. First of all, Isaiah praises God for destroying a city. This can seem cruel, but I think from the context of the next verse, we're talking about destroying a powerful city in an evil nation (no specific nation is named, this may not be about any specific city). Isaiah talks about God helping the poor and the needy after that, which is a bit more relatable. In verse six, Isaiah talks about God making a feast on a mountain; I assume this is Mount Zion, and it may be an end times prophecy. Then God will destroy--not the mountain, as the SAB misreads--some sort of veil that is covering the nations of the world. This may be a reference to the veil in the Temple which hides the room where the ark is kept, and God sometimes presents himself to the high priest, the idea being that the separation between God and mankind will be removed (this definitely sounds like end times stuff). God will "swallow up death in victory", meaning that people won't die anymore. This mention of wiping away the tears of everyone is echoed twice in the book of Revelation (7:17 and 21:4) which is considered largely end times prophecy. I don't know why Moab is singled out in the middle of all of this, but apparently it gets pretty severely trashed, and the last three verses seem to bookend this prophecy with more destruction of evil cities.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Isaiah 24)

Isaiah chapter 24 is apparently a prophecy for the whole world, as no specific nation is named. The SAB comments on the first verse that, "The earth is like a flat plate. When God turns it over, the people fall off." Once again, I don't think you can say that this is what this verse means, and this phrase is metaphorical. Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated "upside down" in the KJV appears nearly two thousand times in the Bible and is translated into all sorts of different English words and phrases depending on context (most often "before" or "face"); apparently its meaning is quite nuanced. Actually, the word translated "turn" is also nuanced and translated into a variety of English words, but seems to particularly mean something like turning in a wrong way, as it's often related to sin. Anyway, I doubt even the KJV translators thought this verse was meant literally.

Will God curse the earth? I actually touched on this in Genesis chapter eight but I either missed the Isaiah verses or they have been added since I was there. Once again, I think there's a need to point out that in all three of these contexts, there are three different Hebrew words translated "curse", and so there is probably some nuanced meaning in the original language that the KJV translators didn't convey. I suppose however that taking the KJV on its face yields a contradiction here, although I should also point out that in this passage, it doesn't say God was responsible for the curse. It may be that the sinfulness of the people of the world caused them to be cursed of their own choices; the Bible teaches in various places that sin leads to death. Also, if you look closely at Malachi 4:6, God is saying that he's not going to curse the earth, as Elijah is going to make things right.

The next section of the prophecy talks a lot about there not being wine or "strong drink". The SAB asks if this is a prophecy about prohibition, which is a strange question, I think; I'm pretty sure it's just saying there won't be an abundance of grapes. I'm not sure what all the talk of the pit and the snare is about in the next section; I suppose it's possibly literal, but it doesn't say who is responsible for these problems. Anyway, there's a lot of fire and earthquakes, which sounds a lot like the present. The end of the prophecy talks about the Lord reigning on Mount Zion, which makes me think that all of this is an end times prophecy.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon (Isaiah 23)

Isaiah chapter 23 is another prophecy, this one against Tyre and perhaps Sidon/Zidon (these two cities are about 20 miles from each other, and are often grouped together in the Bible), two ancient cities located in modern-day Lebanon. There were a lot of places named here, so I looked them up and Tarshish is probably in Spain, Chittim is Cyprus, Shihor/Sihor is a branch of the Nile River, and Chaldeans are people from lower Mesopotamia who were known for being astronomers/astrologers, so sometimes the name is used synonymously.

So, there's a lot of howling going on here, from "the ships of Tarshish" (probably just symbolic of western trading partners) and from "ye inhabitants of the isle" (part of the city Tyre was on a small island). I assume by howling, Isaiah means crying over Tyre's destruction, as that seems to be the topic of this prophecy, however, it's not clear why nor by what Tyre is destroyed. (It's possible that all the talk of "to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth" is implying that there's a serious sin of pride at work here, with "glory" and "honourable" being sarcasm?) Furthermore, the end of the prophecy seems like a bit of a mixed message, as there's restoration, but Tyre is referred to as a "harlot" who "shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world", but "her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD." It's pretty strong language to talk about things supposedly being better after a comeback from 70 years of desolation, so I'm not sure what it all means. It does seem clear that "her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing" indicates that Tyre eventually becomes a blessing to that part of the world, but still it's a little hazy as to how it happens.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household (Isaiah 22)

Isaiah chapter 22 is a larger one, but it still doesn't have a lot of notes. I don't know where "the valley of vision" is, but it sounds like Isaiah is talking about Judah again. I'm not really clear on what's going on here, as a lot of it sounds like military conquest, but "thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle" sounds like it isn't. Much of this sounds particularly like a siege against Jerusalem, so perhaps that's what happened without much killing in actual battle. Verse eleven sounds like someone in mortal danger who for a moment has peace, which would fit with a siege, I suppose. Definitely, in the end they go to exile, I assume to Babylon. I don't know who Eliakim is, but apparently after the siege (or whatever) he takes care of the people who remain. I answered whether it's okay to call someone "father" in Matthew 23, but I think this verse is inconsequential because it doesn't say Eliakim is actually called "father" by anyone. Verse 23 says, "I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place," which makes it sound like his leadership is secure, but then verse 25 says, "In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed," so who knows what it all means?

Thursday, January 04, 2024

I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation (Isaiah 21)

Isaiah chapter 21 is a medium-sized chapter that has few notes. The one note that it has other than "Boring" is a note that it's absurd that Isaiah is in pain; I'm not sure why this should be absurd whether it's actual physical pain or some metaphor of emotional anguish, either way, it happens. Anyway, the first part of the chapter is a prophecy about Babylon, and the second part is about Edom and Arabia. In both cases, the prophecy seems to be about coming military conquest, with no time frame for the former but a year for the latter.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied (Isaiah 20)

It's time for Isaiah chapter 20 and the crazy antics of God's appointed prophets! This time, God has Isaiah walk around barefoot and naked for three years as a sign and a wonder (as in people "wonder" why he's naked, I assume?) to show how Assyria will lead away Egypt and Ethiopia (probably Cush) naked and barefoot in the future. The SAB marks most of this chapter with "Absurd" and "Sex" (mere nudity seems like a stretch to me, but I guess it's fair), which, yeah, it's pretty wacky, but I bet it delivers a message effectively.

What does the Bible say about nudism? There's actually a lot more nudity in the Bible than this, but I realized the title was "nudism", which implies being naked on purpose which I suppose all these examples are with the exception of Adam and Eve, although it feels like it belongs here because they're not getting dressed any time soon. I think it needs to be said that not necessarily all of these are talking about someone being completely naked; I think it's likely that Jonathan, David, "a certain young man" (probably John Mark), Jesus, and Peter, were probably in their underwear, and there's really nothing in Exodus 33:23 that suggests God is naked, if that's even meaningful for what's going on there. Adam and Eve really are a special case nonetheless, because the idea is that clothing doesn't even exist yet in Genesis chapter two, and they don't care because they don't know the difference. I have actually heard at least one sermon in which it was suggested that this is saying something about the intimacy of marriage, actually, which may be a stretch, but I know for myself when there's nobody around except my wife, I have no problem with nudity. I think Saul, although naked, was not voluntarily naked, but it's a strange passage indeed. Micah indeed talks about being naked, but I don't see anything in context that really explains why; verse 11 talks about "having thy shame naked" but what this phrase is supposed to mean is beyond me. So in the end, it's really just a couple of prophets that are practicing nudism, one (Isaiah) giving a reason why that's clear, and one (Micah) giving a more opaque explanation.