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.

Friday, April 19, 2024

How beautiful are thy feet (Isaiah 52)

Isaiah chapter 52 is a short chapter, but it has a few verses that really belong with the next chapter, which is a controversial prophecy. The SAB calls this chapter boring, and indeed, there's not a lot going on here. Verse one says "henceforth" no uncircumcised people will come to Jerusalem, which the SAB notes is not true if you take henceforth to mean from the time of the writing of the prophecy; however, that may not be what it means. It may be referring to a time in the future, or perhaps even "uncircumcised" is poetic, meaning something more akin to the other term here, "unclean". Verse seven talks about "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings," which the SAB calls absurd, but clearly this is poetic, implying that the good tidings are what make the feet beautiful, not any actual physical characteristics of the feet. Verse ten is also marked as absurd, but I'm not at all sure why; I'm not sure what this verse really means, but it's clearly poetic as well, as really most of this chapter is. (I don't think watchmen will really be singing, which seems like a funnier picture to me than God's arm.)

Verses 13-15 really belong with the next chapter's narrative, which I'll deal with in my next post, but suffice it to say that Christians take this passage to be prophetic of the day of Jesus's death. Verse 14 talks about a person more beaten up than just about anybody, and Jesus was scourged and beaten in the face by soldiers. Jews believe this prophecy is about the Jewish people, many particularly the Holocaust. I'll perhaps discuss both of these views next time.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed (Isaiah 51)

Isaiah chapter 51 has a few notes of interest and there may be some things that I noticed myself when I read it. The majority of the SAB notes are absurdity. Verse one has some interesting imagery of Israel being hewn from a rock and "digged" from a pit that I guess does sound strange, and I'm not at all sure what the meaning may be. There is also the supposed absurdity in berse nine of God defeating "Rahab" (some sort of sea monster) and "the dragon" (almost certainly not the meaning of the Hebrew word as I discussed in Isaiah chapter 27); I don't know whether we're intended to take this literally, or if it's just a poetic way of talking about God's power.

The SAB marks verse six with violence, injustice, and science, which I find a little strange. I mean, science tells us that the earth won't last forever, and that has nothing to do with God being cruel, but rather the sun will either go supernova or burn out, and either way, the earth will either be destroyed or not fit for supporting life. I suppose we're meant to take this as an act of God sometime before the death of our sun, but even so, it's inevitable. The SAB asks What is God's name? which I answered in Isaiah chapter 42.

The thing I found interesting in this chapter was the comparison of verses eight and 17. God says in the former, "but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation." In the latter, we hear, "Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out." Do you see it? God's fury is limited, because Jerusalem finished it all, but God's salvation is limitless. I think that's the real point of this chapter, and a recurring theme throughout the Bible.

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 making 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.