Bible blog 2118

This blog continues my commentary on Isaiah using the Complete Jewish Bible version

ISAIAH 4

On that day, The Lord’s plant will be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the land will be the pride and splendor of Isra’el’s survivors. 3 Those left in Tziyon and remaining in Yerushalayim will be called holy, and everyone in Yerushalayim who are written down for life.

4 When the Lord washes away the filth of the women of Tziyon and cleanses Yerushalayim from the blood shed in it with a blast of searing judgment, 5 The Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Tziyon and over those who assemble there a smoking cloud by day and a shining, flaming fire by night; for the Glory will be over everything like a canopy. 6 Like a booth it will give shade by day from the heat; it will also provide refuge and cover from storm and rain.

When the editors of this prophet who lived after Israel had returned from exile, realised its overwhelmingly negative message, they took the chance to add passages that pointed to restoration, to give balance. This could be one of them, but see below.

The Lord’s plant is maybe the Messiah or the restored people. The idea that it is people “left” in Jerusalem who will be the “holy remnant” is foreign to the later idea that it is the returning exiles who consitute the “remnant.” For the returnees those who had stayed in Jerusalem were definitely not holy, but suspect as heretics and racially impure. This vision is of the transformation of a downtrodden remnant left in a ruined city.

“Everyone written down for life” may just mean all those who have escaped death in the fall of the city, but more likely it means those whom the Lord calls to a new life. In any case it inspired the author of the Revelation in his vision of those “whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

The cleansing of the city from the filth of injustice and idolatry is accomplished by the Lord with wind/spirit of justice and burning. The Spanish translation, soplo abrasador = scorching/ scouring breath, gives a flavour of the Hebrew. The present inhabitants of the soiled city need to hear of God’s cleansing power. It’s interesting that the ancient Greek translation, the Septuagint, speqks of the filth of the sons and daughters of Zion, whereas the present Hebrew has just the daughters. It’s quite possible that the Greek represents an earlier text of Isaiah than the official text edited by the Jewish scholars called Masoretes, who wanted to assign the “filth” solely to women.

The Lord’s protection of the city will be with the accompanying signs of the exodus from Egypt, the cloud and the pillar of fire, but the prophet adds that God’s “glory” – the technical term for his presence on earth, will be like a canopy (probably a wedding canopy – the Lord as bridegroom of Israel) or  a booth (used in the joyful harvest festival) to shelter the people from sun and rain. This language especially is seen by scholars as signs that the passage a later addition to Isaiah, but I think it’s possible he invented it to describe the protectiveness of Yahweh God.

 

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