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.

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