Bible blog 2115

This blog continues a commentary on Isaiah 1-39 in the Complete Jewish Bible version.

Iaiaah 2: 6

6 For you have abandoned your people
the house of Ya‘akov.
Now they are filled from the east,
full of sorcerers, like the P’lishtim;
even the children of foreigners
are enough for them!
7 Their land is full of silver and gold;
They have no end of treasures.
Their land is full of horses;
They have no end of chariots.
8 Their land is full of idols;
everyone worships the work of his hands,
what his own fingers have made.
9 A person bows down, a man lowers himself —
don’t lift them up!
10 Come into the rock, hide in the dust
to escape the terror of the Lord
and the glory of his majesty.
11 The proud looks of man will be humiliated;
the arrogance of men will be bowed down;
and when that day comes, the Lord alone will be exalted.
12 Yes, The Lord of armies has a day in store
for all who are proud and lofty,
for all who are lifted high to be humiliated;
13 for all cedars of the L’vanon that are high and lifted up,
for all the oaks of the Bashan;
14 for all the high mountains,
for all the hills that are lifted up;
15 for every high tower,
for every fortified wall;
16 for every “Tarshish” ship,
for every luxurious vessel.
17 The pride of man will be bowed down,
the arrogance of men will be humiliated,
and when that day comes,
The Lord alone will be exalted.
18 The idols will be completely abolished.
19 People will enter cracks in the rocks
and holes in the ground
to escape the terror of the Lord
and his glorious majesty,
when he sets out to shake the earth.
20 On that day a man will take hold
of his idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
and fling them away to the moles and bats!
21 Then they will enter the cracks in the rocks
and the crevices in the cliffs
to escape the terror of The Lord
and his glorious majesty,
when he sets out to shake the earth.
22 Stop relying on man,
in whose nostrils is a mere breath —
he doesn’t count for much,
does he?

CJB altered


Ford to put car on Empire State building. Chariots and high walls

One of the discoveries you make when you deal with the Hebrew text as I am doing, is that the text as we have it is muddled here and there. This section is an instance, where verse 9 is muddled and may be a repetition of verses 19 and 21, which are themselves almost identical.  Verse 22 doesn’t seem much to do with what goes before, and may be an addition by a not very bright scribe. There are other minor problems. The CJB like most translations does not acknowledge these or any other uncertainties but gives a finished version to be read put in church or synagogue.

The prophecy sets out the Lord’s reasons for abandoning his people: foreign influences, foreign affluence, foreign idols. These are all instances of human arrogance, of which tall trees, high hills, big city walls, lofty ships are symbols. In anger the Lord will flatten everything that dares to stand in his way. Again, as always the prophet gives some vivid details. The affluent land is awash with treasures, horses and chariots. The Lord is characterised by the terror of his presence, the blind panic of a human being facing the divine one who comes to “shake the earth” a jingling phrase in Hebrew ‘Aratz eretz’ which sticks in the mind, and comes from the an ancient tradition of Yahweh God as a source of storm and earthquake. The terrified people will throw their idols to the bats and moles, the small creatures of the dark.

There is a strong connection between Isaiah and the wisdom tradition of Israel for which human arrogance is always sinful folly. Modern readers may look at Isaiah’s criticisms and ask what’s wrong with prosperity, modern armaments, horses and chariots, or for that matter, tall towers or trees? There is a deliberate element of exaggeration here by which the prophet wants his audience to think about all forms of self-assertion. Are they typical forms of human rebellion against God? It is not the sort of question that anyone would ask in a modern society because we are so admiring of what we would call self-confidence. Allowing Isaiah to puncture that certainty is probably salutary for both individuals and society. “Worshipping the works of our own hands” is something we’re quite good at.













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