Old Testament Prophets - Isaiah

Author: Fr. William Most

The Final Judgment of the whole World. Summary and Comments. Chapter 24

After foretelling the doom of so many nations, not strangely Isaiah as it were sums it up, and speaks of the great Day of the Lord. The words "day of the Lord" could be used for lesser occasions, but especially meant the final reckoning. He says it will be the same for all classes of people, for it is time to reckon. Of course, the good will fare well in the long run: the reckoning for them is favorable; not so for the wicked.

He says the earth will be totally laid waste. This is Semitic hyperbole and apocalyptic language. - Apocalyptic is a genre in which bizarre images are used, it foretells cataclysmic events and often secret things. The original readers knew well they needed to reduce the wording-- though it was not always clear how far. --Some think apocalyptic was not known as early as Isaiah. We agree that full blown long passages are far in the future from Isaiah. But we did see touches of it in Isaiah 13:9- 10 for the fall of Babylon. There the prophet said that the stars will not give their light, the sun will be dark at its rising. Similar language appears again in Isaiah 34:4 on the fall of Edom, and in Ezek 32:7-8 for the punishment of Egypt. There will be more of it in Matthew 24. And 2 Peter 3:12-13 says the heavens will be destroyed in fire and the elements will melt. But the fire is a purifying and refining one. Hence 2 Peter continues, saying that there will be a new heavens and a new earth.

He says that the reason is that people have defiled the earth and disobeyed the laws. So a curse will strike, and very few will be left.

What is the city that will be left in ruins? Probably he has in mind Babylon, which stands for the world power opposed to God.

At first it may seem strange, but often in 24:14 Isaiah begins to speak of praise from the east and from the west for the Lord. They sing: "Glory to the righteous One." This is the same sense as a favorite title used by Isaiah for God: the Holy One. Holy means that He loves and observes all that is right. Perhaps in the background of his thought is the event of 2 Chronicles 32:23, when after the Lord's victory over Sennacherib in 701, many brought gifts to Jerusalem to the good king Hezekiah.

Then gloom comes again to the prophet's mind so that he says:I waste away. The floodgates of the heavens are opened - does he think of the language used for the deluge? -- and the earth reels like a drunkard.

The prophet next says in 24:24 that the Lord will punish even the powers in the heavens and the kings on the earth below. So it seems the powers are not the same as the kings - powers above, kings below. He must be thinking of the powers of evil spirits - we think of the words of St. Paul (Eph 2:2) about "the prince of the air". Then again comes more apocalyptic language: the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, before the Lord of Hosts.

The Kingdom of God and Salvation. Summary and Comments. Chapter 25

The whole of chapters 24-27 speak of the end times. They include an intermixture of dire prophecies and of praise of God.

Now Isaiah exalts God as doing marvelous things which He had planned long ago. For in His eyes, time is as nothing: a thousand years are as one day.

The city is reduced to rubble. It obviously stands for the forces opposed to God. Babylon as we have seen is often spoken of in that way.

Some people will honor God when they see His great works in destroying the proud city and protecting His own.

But later all people, including those a first punished are invited to a rich feast which the Lord prepares on Mount Zion. We naturally recall the words of the prophet about all people streaming to Jerusalem, in chapter 2. He will swallow up death forever - we think naturally of the imagery of the Apocalypse (21:4-5) at the end of the New Testament where death will be no more, and God will wipe away all tears.

Commentators are not in agreement as to the meaning of the covering, which some versions translate as shroud, that covers all nations. Some suggest it means spiritual blindness, which will be removed finally: cf. 2 Cor 3:15-18. Then there will be a song of praise for the victory of God, whose hand will rest on Mount Zion, while His feet will trample Moab - a symbol of the forces opposed to Him. (The plains of Moab could be clearly seen from Jerusalem).

Thanksgiving of Judah. Summary and Comments. Chapter 26

The redeemed, typified by the land of Judah, will sing then: we have a strong city. It does not mean Jerusalem, but God Himself is their Rock - a frequent name for Him in the OT -- and their strength. So they can open the gates without fear to let the righteous enter.

The righteous are those who keep . That means: who keep the covenant. It does not mean the unfortunate mistake of Luther who thought confidence that the merits of Christ applied to him was the needed faith. In the OT, fidelity always means fidelity to the covenant. We think of Hosea 6:6, so often mistranslated: "For I desire , that is, fidelity to the covenant, not [the mere externals of] sacrifice, and love of God, rather than burnt offerings." Hebrew is often mistranslated as , since the Septuagint used , not having any real word for , fidelity to the covenant bond. And we rendered Hebrew as love. For it is the same root as which means not only intellectual acknowledgement, but complete adherence in mind and will. Those who do this, God will keep in "perfect peace" --which is really , which means general well-bring, not only peace.

So Isaiah tells them to trust in the Lord, for He is the Rock-- which we noted above. He levels the proud city to the dust, so that the feet of the poor can trample upon it.

Therefore the way on which the righteous walk is level, they walk in the way of God's laws - again, fidelity to the covenant.

He adds that even if favor or grace is shown to the wicked, they learn nothing - for they are hardened. The word we rendered by - is Hebrew which has both meanings. But if we render it as favor, we must keep in mind that it does not mean only that God sits there and smiles on people, but gives them nothing, so that they would do good by their own power. That would be Pelagian heresy. So it is really better to say grace, which expresses what He gives. Isaiah adds that even when they live among the righteous, they still are evil - even though the kind of company one keeps tends to pull him in to the same level. These wicked people do not see that the hand of the Lord is raised on high, ready to strike them.

Then he prays that fire may consume them. We must not take this as a desire for revenge, which is immoral. No, he is asking that the objective order be observed, which calls for punishment of the wicked.

He even says: "All that we have done, you have done for us." This expresses our total dependence upon God. A meditation on Philippians 2:13 would help here.

He adds that those who once ruled them - probably thinking of Assyria-- are dead, and they will not return, their very memory will be forgotten.

In enlarging the nation, the Lord has gained glory for Himself. We must not misunderstand this. The First Vatican Council defined that God created for His own glory. But the head of the theological committee there, Bishop Gasser, explained that those words did not mean God was seeking to gain something - He cannot gain anything, and glory does Him no good - but merely that the fact that He does good to His creatures, is a glory to him. We think of the saying of St. Irenaeus (4. 14. 1): "In the beginning God formed Adam, not because He stood in need of man, but that He might have someone to receive His benefits. "

The prophet says that we were in labor, like a woman about to give birth, but brought forth only wind, nothing worth while.

However he tells God: "Your dead [the righteous] will live, their bodies will rise." He tells the dead to wake up and shot for joy, for the morning dew is upon them, and the earth will give birth to its dead."

Some commentators here try to deny that Isaiah speaks of a resurrection of the dead, saying such a belief was not found that early in history of the Jews. But the argument is a vicious circle: it means we cannot find any early text, because this is not one. It is undeniable that Daniel 12:2 (much later, in all probability) also speaks of a resurrection. Much earlier, Psalm 17:15 seems to speak of being with God after death. Psalm 49:16 probably has the same sense, and perhaps Psalm 73:23. Isaiah 53:20 seems to speak of a resurrection of the suffering servant. And the debated text of Job 19:25-27 seems to mean survival too.

Finally in verses 20-21 he tells the people to hide in their rooms until God's wrath has passed by. This is remarkable: no one could really hide from God. That is only a poetic fancy. But it is like the poetic fancy found in Job 14:13 where Job wishes he could hide in Sheol until God's anger had passed - a passage which one unperceptive commentator thinks must mean a denial of survival.

Destruction of the wicked, salvation for God's people. Summary and Comments. Chapter 27.

God will punish three monsters, two of them called Leviathan, symbolically representing world powers. In Caananite mythology Leviathan was a sea monster, whom God conquered. The fact Isaiah uses the word need not mean he believes such mythology - we can use lines from without believing the tale itself. The gliding serpent may stand for the Euphrates river, which is swift, the coiling serpent could stand for the Tigris, with all its windings. And together of course they stand for Assyria and Babylon. The monster of the sea could stand for another great power, Egypt.

God will punish them, and will protect Israel -- both north and south included -- which He calls a fruitful vineyard - that same imagery was used in Isaiah 5:5.

He says He is not angry with His vineyard -- so this stands for the future Israel, not that of Isaiah's day.

Finally Israel will bear much fruit. We think of the words of Jesus saying that he who abides in Him bears much fruit. Only in this sense is 27:6 true that Israel will fill all the world with fruit.

Before that time, however, He needs to strike His people. He will send the East wind - a hot desert wind, standing easily for the powers to the East, Assyria and Babylon. He destroyed them completely. He will leave a remnant in Israel, after their sin is atoned for, their debt paid (cf. on this concept our comments on chapter 1 above, as to sin as a debt, which the Holiness of God wants paid).

The destruction of the city, overcome by the enemies from Mesopotamia, is so great that cattle graze in what used to be a populous city. Israel has been a people without understanding of the will of the Creator.

But the prophet looks far into the future when the Lord will thresh and purify His people, from the lands towards Assyria, and the lands toward Egypt. Then all will come to worship on God's holy mountain. On this cf. our explanations in the commentary on chapter 2 above.

This is the completion of the chapters 14-27 that look far into the future, even into the last period.

Egypt, Assyria and Zion. Summary and Comments. Chapters 28-33

A)Judah and Samaria: one in sin, one in judgment. Chapter 28

Except for the first 6 verses, on Samaria, the prophecies of chapters 28-33 are likely to date from the period 705-701, just before the invasion of Sennacherib, in which, because of the piety of Hezekiah, God saved Jerusalem from being taken.

The first six verses foretell the destruction of Samaria, so they must belong to a period before the siege of 722-21. These lines may belong before 730 BC, and if so are the earliest prophecies of Isaiah we possess.

The imagery in this section is among the finest given us by Isaiah.

Samaria is called a wreath, and a flower with splendid color, which will soon fade. For it was a beautiful city crowning a hill that rose high above the valley beneath. But corruption was eating at its roots, the moral looseness and debauchery of its nobles. We are reminded of chapter 4 of Amos.

The Lord has prepared Assyria against them, which will come like a destructive wind and hailstorm. And just as any passerby is apt to pick an early fig (one that ripens early, in June) and eat it on the spot, so Assyria will gobble up Samaria.

Even then, the Lord will be a glorious crown and wreath for the remnant of Samaria, those that are faithful to Him.

B) Against Judah:28:7-13:

It seems that here the scene shifts form Samaria and its fall to Judah. Its leaders also stagger from wine, priests and prophets and others. It sounds like a drinking bout, according to some commentators held in the forecourt of the temple.

It is a foul scene: the tables are covered with vomit. Yet the drunks think they are seeing visions.

These same drunks object to the objection of Isaiah: "Who does he think he is trying to teach? Is it to children just weaned? He says: Do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there, ". The sense seems to be that Isaiah is berating them as one would children. So they imitate what his words sound like. In Hebrew the words have a strange sound: .

The reply Isaiah makes picks up on their sad words. He tells them that God is saying: "I will speak to this people with foreign lips and a strange tongue". He means they will hear Assyrian spoken, which they will not understand. God had offered them rest and refuge. But they would not listen. Interestingly, St. Paul uses these words to object to the foolish attachment the Corinthians had to the gift of tongues (1 Cor 14:21:) "I will speak to this people by men of strange tongues. . . and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." St Paul seemed to mean: "You Corinthians think tongues are a sign of God's favor - it may be quite the opposite, the way Isaiah used these words to warn that the Assyrians were coming.

So the prophet continues: You scoffers who rule the people are boasting that you have made a covenant with death. The words are strange indeed. They seem to mean that the leaders have made a secret agreement with the Assyrians, so that even if an invasion comes, they themselves will be secure.

Isaiah replies in the name of God: Your pact with death will not stand up when the terrible scourge of Assyria comes.

Instead what they should notice is this: God says he has placed a tested corner stone in Zion as a secure foundation. God says: "I will make justice () his measuring line, and righteousness () his plumb line."

There is a double meaning here, a kind of multiple fulfillment: 1) They really ought to trust in having the kingship that descends from David, instead of foreign alliances (a pact with death); 2) the real cornerstone, the righteous king is to come, the Messiah, which is Christ: Cf. Romans 9; 33 and 1 Peter 21:6ff. Jesus will be the cornerstone, on which some will rise, by placing their faith in Him, ; others, who should have been the builders, the leaders of the people, will reject this cornerstone, and so they themselves will stumble and fall: Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14, and Luke 2:34.

So, returning to the imagery of the pact with death from above: Hail (the Assyrian storm) will sweep away the refuge you thought you had made for yourself. Your pact with death will be annulled. It will sweep you away.

For the sake of something somewhat parallel: in 490 B. C. in the Peloponnesian War, Themistocles the Greek engaged in duplicity or double dealing with the Persian invaders. First, he told them to attack the Athenian fleet, which they gladly did- but it helped the Greeks, who otherwise might have fled and lost the best opportunity to defeat the Persian fleet. In 479 after Xerxes, King of Persia was beaten and on the way home, Themistocles wanted the Greeks to pursue. They refused. So he wrote to the king and said he stopped them from pursuing. Eventually it paid off for him when Athens later rejected him. A new Persian king, Artaxerxes, made him governor of Magnesia and gave him a fine pension.

They then will be like those who seek rest on a proverbial bed that is too short for them or warmth with only half a blanket. It seems Isaiah is here using a proverb known to his hearers.

God Himself will turn out to be not their protector, for they rejected Him, but their enemy. At Mount Perazim (the word means "breaking forth" and in the Valley of Gibeon (2 Sam 5:18-25 and 1 Chron 14:10-16) David defeated the Philistines when the Lord roused Himself. Now the Lord will rouse Himself against His own people, for they have deserted Him.

The multiple fulfillment of this prophecy came when Babylon, successor of Assyria, destroyed Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, and again when the Romans in 70 AD destroyed Jerusalem again, for the leaders' rejection of the true Messiah, the true cornerstone.

Now Isaiah turns to speaking like a Wisdom teacher. Just as the farmer does not plow continually, nor thresh constantly, nor does he use a sledge on small things like Caraway or Cummin, so God will act - even though it will take time. The threatened fall of Samaria came in 722-21; the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar came more than a century later in two waves in 596 and 586 B. C. To God a century is as a day.

Also, the image showing that the farmer does not plant or thresh indefinitely long - all would be destroyed - so too God will leave a remnant after the destruction. We think of St. Paul in Romans 9:29: "If the Lord of Hosts had not left us a seed [a remnant] we would be like Sodom and like Gomorrah."

Jerusalem Afflicted and Redeemed. Summary and Comments. Chapter 29

The Ariel to which Isaiah announces woe is clearly, from context, Jerusalem. The word itself is puzzling. It means altar hearth. We find it also in Ezek 43:15. The point is this: even the place where so many offerings are brought to God will not escape punishment. For there will be a siege. We are not sure if this is the one by Sennacherib in 701, when God prevented the Assyrians from actually taking the city, or the later one, 596- 586 by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, who really did wreck the city.

The prophet says:Add year to year- he seems to mean their constant celebration of religious feasts will not stop the punishment that is coming, which he describes with fine poetic figures: thunder, earthquake, noise, windstorm, tempest, flames, hordes.

And yet, if it refers to the unsuccessful siege by Sennacherib -- in divine prophecies, we may, as we have seen, have more than one fulfillment - the enemy who has dreamed of rich spoils from conquest will find it was all only a dream. For as we read more fully in Isaiah 37, God Himself rescued the city from Sennacherib, dramatically slaying so many of his army.

Isaiah not turns to the spiritual blindness of his people. We recall how in chapter 6, where the prophet described his inaugural vision, God told him to blind the people. Of course, as we explained there, it really meant they would blind themselves. But now the people including their leader, even especially they, are so blind and in such a stupor they remind one of the staggering of someone drunk with alcohol.

If we recall what we said about the two spirals, in chapter 6, here we have more on the descent into the evil spiral.

then in 29:13 we meet a famous line, which we fear applies to many today:This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. ---Yes the Jews of that day were good at what we today call "participation". They loved to sing, to join in processions, all the externals. But a sacrifice needs the outward things only as a sign of the interior disposition, which is always that of obedience to God. The people of Isaiah's day were offering many sacrifices, but not obeying. Part of that disobedience, though not nearly the whole of it, was their pact with Egypt, when the prophet had warned them they must trust in God, not in foreign powers.

Then inverse 14 we meet a frightening thought: because they have not worshiped Him rightly, that is, using only the externals, not the interior obedience, therefore wisdom will perish from the wise. We are tempted to ask today: Has wisdom departed from many today who should know better, but who dissent from the teaching of the Church, and break God's laws, with the result that they fall into errors that really are foolish?

The blind men of that time said: Who sees us? Who will know? As if they could hide things from the Lord! God uses through Isaiah a comparison of a potter, who has made something that did not turn out well. Before firing the clay, he reshapes it. So God will reshape His people, even though only a remnant are open to follow Him.

What of free will? We explained in commenting on Isaiah 10:15 that there are two orders, the external and the internal. It is in the internal that God has committed Himself to freedom for us. But in the external order, which includes the way His providence governs even kingdoms, He may use nations as He wills, just as 10:15 said the axe should not boast against the hand that swung it. We cited too Proverbs, 21:16 saying the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: wheresoever He wills, He will turn it.

This chapter ends with a prediction of a better future. He first uses images from nature: Lebanon will become a fertile field, and the humble will rejoice in the Lord. It is evident he speaks of the remnant who are and will be devoted to the will of the Lord who will enjoy this. Then the Lord who redeemed Abraham will redeem His people, so they need no longer be ashamed. They will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Israel- Isaiah's favorite title for God- the one who supremely observes all that is objectively right.

those who do so will grow in understanding - we think again of the two spirals we described in commenting on chapter 6 above, but now of the good spiral.

Foolish Reliance on Egypt, Summary and Comments. Chapter 30 Judah has sent envoys to Egypt for help. This was probably part of the moves that led Sennacherib to invade in 701. But Isaiah says they should not do that, should instead trust in the Lord:Woe to the obstinate children, who heap sin upon sin. Egypt will not really help them, it will bring disgrace instead. Isaiah imagines the envoys have gone as far as Zoan, the first city in the NE part of the Delta, and then to Hanes, later Heracleopolis, in Middle Egypt, on an island in the Nile.

We are not sure which Pharaoh is in mind:it could be Tirhakah of the Ethiopian dynasty, or it could be a lesser Egyptian king in the Delta who by this time had regained some power. The envoys have rich presents for the Pharaoh, on donkeys and camels. But Isaiah calls Egypt "Rahab-do-nothing". As a proof to be seen later that he was right, he wants his word written on a scroll or tablet. In some other places also Egypt is called Rahab, cf 51:9.

So again, the prophet calls his people rebellious, who are unwilling to listen to the Lord. They tell the seers to stop having visions, just tell them pleasant things, like false prophets: cf. 1 Kings 22:12; Mic 112:11. And they want Isaiah to stop telling them of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the prophet tells them this sin will be for them like a high wall that is cracked and will collapse suddenly, into so many pieces that one cannot even scoop up water with the larger fragments of the wall.

This seems like a total collapse. Yet he does not mean to deny what he has so often said: a faithful remnant will remain.

Their salvation will be in staying quiet and trusting. They wanted to say: We will flee upon horses. Isaiah tells them that then their pursuers will be swift, and a thousand will run away from just one. They probably had a fair number of horses at the time(cf. 2:7), b ut not enough to confront the Assyrians.

So, only a remnant will remain, like a flag planted on a mountain in the midst of ruin.

Even in this dire prediction, Isaiah says: "The Lord is so good that He actually longs to be gracious to them, if only they will let Him, by not breaking His covenant. He is a God of justice. That is, He will keep His promise to reward those who keep His covenant. Therefore blessed are those who wait for Him. If you turn right or left, His voice will be there assuring you. Then you will put aside your idols, with gold or silver inlay like a filthy cloth.

He will make your crops rich and plentiful, on the day when the towers of the strength of the enemy fall. Then the moon will be as bright as the sun, and the sun will be seven times brighter, when the Lord heals the wounds He had to inflict on them to bring them to their senses.

See the Name of the Lord - for in Hebrew thought the name as almost identical with the person will come with burning anger and clouds to shake the nations. He will lead them like animals, with a bit He puts into their mouths.

Then they will sing for joy as at a holy festival, praising the Rock, the mighty support of Israel. With a thunderous voice the Lord will shatter Assyria. He will strike them to the music of tambourines -- the instruments used at a sacrifice, for He is making the enemy like victims for sacrifice.

The burning place of Topheth - where the Hebrews sacrificed their infants by fire to Moloch - is prepared for Assyria. The pit is deep and wide to take in all the Assyrians.

Moloch means king, a name for a false god. Topheth was in the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, where they worshipped Moloch. From the name , valley of hinnom, we get the word gehenna. Later it came to mean the final punishment by fire for the wicked, and so it came to be a NT name for hell.

Follow not Egypt but the Lord. Chapter 31, summary and comments.

The diplomats of Judah have been dealing with the Egyptians, and probably. it seems, in secret, and are proud of their cleverness. Isaiah says the Lord too is wise: He can bring His plans to realization. The others do not. It is vain to trust in Egypt. Judah especially wanted the help of horses from Egypt, which had many. Judah too had many, but far to few for the Assyrian threat.

He makes a comparison: A lion that is holding and eating his prey will not be deterred by shouts. He will continue to eat. But the Almighty Lord will hover over Jerusalem and shield it, if only they trust in Him. So they should return to Him, and give up their idols. Assyria is doomed to fall by a sword that is no mere human sword. God will devour the Assyrians like a fire.

The Messianic State:true and false security. Chapter 32. Summary and Comments.

The prophet looks forward to an ideal king- who must be the Messiah. The king will rule in righteousness, like the king foretold in Isaiah 9:5-6 and 11. and his subordinate authorities will do the same - in contrast, to the corrupt government of Judah. God will be like the shade of a great rock in a thirsty land. In the sun-scorched places, such shade was very welcome.

At that time the eyes which were once failing to see will then really see; and the once deaf ears will hear. He thinks of the terrible prediction in his own chapter 6 which said that seeing they will not see, and hearing they will not understand.

In Isaiah's day, and in many other periods too, those who were base and foolish were called noble. Under the ideal king it will be otherwise.

But then Isaiah remembers the sad fact that the ideal King is not yet at hand, and God will punish those who are disobedient.

He singles out here one calls of sinners, the complacent and ostentatious women- he had spoken of them earlier in 3:16-4:1. These women are vain, and severely tempt men by their displays. He tells them that "in little more than a year" the harvests will fail. Of course, on God's time scale, one day is like 1000 years, and 1000 years like one day:cf. 2 Peter 3:8 and Isaiah 29:17-21.

He urges the women to do penance in sackcloth and to beat their breasts ford the fertile fields are going to turn into thorns and briers, and Jerusalem, the city of revelry will be a wasteland, where donkeys enjoy wandering.

Since the prophet sees all time on God's scale, this fulfillment came more than once. It began with Sennacherib in 701, who did not take the city, but afflicted it. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II did sack the city in two waves, 596 and 486 BC. And the Romans did much worse in 70 A. D.

Peace through Justice. Chapter 32. Summary and Comments

As so often before, after predicting terrible woes, the prophet consoles himself - and the faithful remnant - with a promise of better things in the future. In place of the false security of the vain women, there will be real security when God's Spirit is poured out on the land. Then the desert - namely, the steppe land, which was not sand dunes, but a land that provided only scant grazing -- will be turned into a fertile field. And what was already a fertile field will be as rich as a forest.

Then "the fruit of righteousness will be peace." For as St. Augustine observed (City of God 19. 13), "Peace is the tranquillity of order," which gives to each its proper place, and each readily and harmoniously accepts that place.

Then, even if hail would flatten the forest and level the city - not that he predicts that, it is only a hypothetical picture -- the faithful remnant will still be blessed. Isaiah uses earthly things to picture the blessedness. But as Augustine also noted in the same work (4. 33) material things promised by God were often the images of spiritual things to come in the future.

Traitorous Assyria. Chapter 33. Summary and Comments

Isaiah says woe to the destroyer, to the traitor. When he has finished destroying, he will be destroyed; when he has finished betraying, he will be betrayed. This seems to refer to the immoral action of Sennacherib of Assyria, who tried to take Jerusalem in 701. He had promised King Hezekiah he would not attack the city if Hezekiah gave tribute. He did, Sennacherib beseiged it anyway. As we will see in chapter 37, he was not able to take the city, only to get tribute. It is true Isaiah had complained against the embassies of Judah to Egypt for help, when they should have trusted in God anyway. But that does not excuse the acts of Sennacherib.

So Isaiah predicts that plunder from Assyria will be harvested as if by locusts. This came true when the Assyrians left the siege after so many of their army had been wiped out b God, and left spoils behind. Assyria actually fell in 612, with the fall of Nineveh, long after Isaiah. And Sennacherib was killed by his own sons as he worshipped in temple of a false god: 37:38.

So, the prophet said: The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high, far above human affairs, the course of which He yet controls (cf. our comments on 10:5-15 above). He says the fear of the Lord will bring them a rich store of salvations - the plural means acts leading to salvation. The words save and salvation in Scripture could have three meanings: Rescue form temporal evils is usual in the OT. In the NT that is also possible. The only other meanings are: to enter the Church, to enter heaven. The silly infallible salvation about with fundamentalists brag is devoid of all scholarly foundation. The standard reference, , ed. G. Kittel, in its article on these words does not even mention that foolish notion, since intellectually it is worthless.

After this, Isaiah's thoughts return to the current situation: the envoys who thought they would bring peace are weeping bitterly at their failure. The whole land - poetical spoken -- mourns along with them:Lebanon's fine forests wither; the rich plain of Sharon turns into a steppe land.

Then the prophet uses a most remarkable bit of imagery, speaking of the Assyrian endeavor: You are pregnant with chaff, and will give birth to stubble. They will all be consumed by God's fire. Hence sinners in Zion will be terrified: Who can stand before a raging fire? Who can live with everlasting burning? Isaiah had spoken similarly in 10:17. Psalm 25 similarly asks who can dwell on God's holy mountain: only the righteous can do that. And Malachi 3:2, in the future was to write: "He is like a refiner's fire. Who can stand when he appears?" In passing we note this has an implication for purgatory, useful for those who reject 2 Mac 12: 39-46. Protestants claim that 2 Mac is not part of Scripture - though really they have no way of proving which books really are part. But all accept Malachi. If someone who is still totally corrupt, or who has committed fornication and murder a thousand times a day (Luther in Epistle of August 1, 1521 said even that would not separate us from Christ!": 48. 182) tries to join himself to God i heaven, that fire will b urn out all the filth or even send him to everlasting fires if he is beyond repair.

B ut those who really do keep the covenant, the remnant, can stand before God, and their bread will be supplied, nor will water fail them.

Then Isaiah advances to add: Your eyes will see the king in his splendor. A bit earlier 32:1-8) we saw his vision of the ideal king, who is the Messiah. Surely this is that King, who is really God Himself. Hezekiah might be seen as a prefiguration of the Messiah -- for Isaiah 7:14 is apt to be a prophecy with multiple fulfillment, referring weakly to Hezekiah (as Hillel saw, according to B. Talmud (cited b y Jacob Neusner , op. 173) the son promised to Achaz to continue the line of David, or to the divine Messiah Himself, foretold as divine in Isaiah 9:5-6.

The prophet said the land of the king would stretch afar. This is also spoken of in 9:7 and In Mic 5:3 and Zech 9:10.

Then in their joy the people of Judah will say: Where is that chief officer, who collected tribute? Where is the officer in charge of checking the towers? These arrogant people will be seen no more, nor will we again hear the obscure language of the Assyrians-- it was related to Hebrew, but too distant for the Hebrews to understand.

Jerusalem will be a peaceful place to dwell under that messianic king, it will be a "tent" not to be moved-- we notice the use of the imagery of nomads. No galley with oars will come against Judah on the broad rivers of that day.

Instead the riggings - apparently of the ships of the enemy- will hang loose, the mast will not be secure. But the devout remnant will see even the lame carrying of plunder. Sins will have been forgiven and so there will be no sickness (cf. Exodus 23:25).

The future of Edom, and of the Remnant. Chapters 34-35, Summary and Comments

The first four verses refer to God's anger with the whole world: The Lord Is angry with all nations. Then a wonderful piece of apocalyptic language in 4: "The stars of the heavens will be dissolved, and the sky will roll up as if a scroll, and the starry host will fall." This is much like the language of Matthew 24:29-35. Much the same language is found also in Isaiah 13:9-10 on the fall of Babylon. We gather that although God could make these things happen at what seems to be face value, yet, considering that the genre is apocalyptic, it is more likely that the imagery is greatly exaggerated.

Then in the next verse, v. 6, the prophet turns to Edom, which often stands, like Babylon, for a power opposed to God's people, even though Edom descended from Esau, brother of Jacob, and even though God in Dt 2:1-7 had told Israel to treat Edom like a brother. Yet Edom was noted for much hostility against Judah. Edom had refused the Israelites permission to pass through the territory on their way to the Promised Land, so they had to go around. (cf. Obadiah-- all 21 verses of the book!) More trouble from Edom when Judah was returning from exile)

God's sword is ready in the heavens it has drunk its fill of wrath there, for he has made his judgment against Edom. His sword has as it were made Edom a victim for sacrifice. Edom's streams will become pitch and its dust like burning sulphur -- poetic hyperbole of course.

It will lie desolate for generations and the desert owl and screech owl will possess it. Of course, the animals could not live in pitch and burning sulphur - so again we see clearly this is apocalyptic with exaggeration.

He continues saying the nobles will have no kingdom left, princes will vanish, thorns will overrun the citadels. Wild animals will make their home there. V, 14 says the Lilith will be there. In later Jewish literature that was the name of a female demon who was supposed to abduct children - superstition of course. Without accepting the myth, Isaiah can use the imagery.

Isaiah tells later generations to look at the scroll in which he has written this, and see that it has been fulfilled. Of course, we still must consider the literary genre and the hyperbole. After the fall of Jerusalem in 596, 586, some Edomites moved into the southern part of Judah. Still more came during the Persian period. In the reign of John Hyrcanus (135-05) Edom was incorporated into the Jewish nation, and even accepted circumcision.

Next Isaiah speaks to Judah, which seems at the time to be in exile. He promises it will blossom again and have the glory of Lebanon. They will see the glory of the Lord. So strengthen feeble knees, do not fear, your God will come with vengeance to save you. He predicts that the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the dumb will be healed (cf. Mt 11:5), and streams will gush in the desert.

There will be a holy highway, called holy since the holy people will return from exile on it. No lion or other beast will threaten those who return. They will enter Zion singing, with everlasting joy on their heads.

Of course there is multiple fulfillment here. It was fulfilled in the return from exile, but not in so grand a fashion. The fullness awaits the redemption of all nature by the Messiah, of which St. Paul speaks in Romans 8:19-25.

Isaiah and Hezekiah. Chapters 36-39. Summary and Comments

Now the prophet turns to prose, and tells mere history. Remarkably, starting at 38:9 the text itself calls it a writing of King Hezekiah, which Isaiah must have incorporated.

36:Assyria demands surrender

Note; The story here is in parallel with 2 Kings 18:13-37. Each account has details the other has not, and vice versa.

When Sargon died in 705 a movement to shake off the yoke of Assyria broke out strongly. Sennacherib showed himself as strong as his father. He first defeated Chaldean King Merodach-Baladan, systematically devastated the territory of Chaldea in 703, and also struck nearby nations. Then he turned to the west against Eluli king of Tyre and Sidon. the king fled, his territory surrendered except for Tyre. Sennacherib left troops behind to press Tyre, and then he turned south. Fear and panic fell upon the people there. Many small city states came out and offered him gifts. Then Sennacherib invaded the Philistine land and struck Ashkalon and Ekron. South of Ekron, at Eltekeh he met an allied army of Philistines, Egyptians and Ethiopians. He won a victory although not a brilliant one there.

So the only rebel state that still defied him as Judah under Hezekiah. In the 14th year or Hezekiah, Sennacherib captured all the fortified cities of Judah.

Sennacherib then sent his field commander from Lachish to Hezekiah. The commander stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool. Eliakim son of Hilkiah, palace administrator, Shebnah the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to meet him.

The field commander () said: Tell Hezekiah he is helpless. Egypt is only a splintered reed (lean on it and you get no support, but it may pierce you). He says that Hezekiah had stopped worship at the high places -- illegal shrines to Yahweh, and commanded worship only at the Jerusalem temple. The field commander did not understand that Hezekiah had done as God ordered.

The commander proposed a test of strength: Sennacherib would provide 2000 horses if Hezekiah could furnish their riders -- Hezekiah could not do that. He had that many men, but not all could fight on horseback. He had been depending on the chariots and horsemen from Egypt.

Then the commander said:Do not trust in your God --He has sent me to conquer you. He, since he spoke Hebrew, may have known the thought of Isaiah 10:5-6 were Isaiah spoke of Assyria as a the rod of God's anger. That was true in that God had sent Assyria to punish Judah. (Later Cyrus of Persia would also be in a similar position). Eliakim, Shebna and Joan who went to meet the commander spoke Aramaic as well as Hebrew. The two languages are related, but the differences such that a speaker of one would not understand the other language. Aramaic at that time was a sort of language of international diplomacy, so the chancery of both nations would know it. Assyrian was also a semitic language, but again, too different for Hebrews to understand it.

The commander spoke Hebrew so he could frighten the people of Judah who were nearby. But they had been instructed not to answer him at all, and they did not reply.

The commander told them their god could not help them - look at the gods of other cities the Assyrians had taken:those gods could not help them. Most cities at that time had their own special god. If the city prospered, especially in war, the god was considered powerful; otherwise if the city was defeated.

He also told them that if they did not surrender they would have to eat their own filth and drink their own urine. But the Assyrian army would have had a greater shortage of water in a siege than Jerusalem, which had a good supply (cf. 2 Chron 32:2- 30 and 2 Kings 20:30. BAR of July-Aug. 1994, pp. 20-38 has a fine article on Hezekiah's tunnel which brought water into the city from the Gihon spring).

Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah went to Hezekiah and reported all that had happened.

37. Isaiah's Predictions and their fulfillment

The first prediction is also found in 2 Kings 19:1-7.

Hezekiah rent his garments and put on sackcloth when he heard the message from the commander of Sennacherib. He went to the temple, and sent Eliakim, Shebna and the leading priests, in sackcloth, who reported what had happened to Isaiah.

When they came to Isaiah, he at once answered, and it seems he did not first pray: Tell Hezekiah not to be afraid of Assyria. God would put a spirit into Sennacherib such that when he hears a certain report, he will leave, go back to his own country, and there will be cut down with the sword.

Sennacherib had heard a report (2 Kings 19: 8-13) that Tirhakah, of Ethiopia was coming against him. So he decided to send messengers to King Hezekiah - he calls him king this time - to say: Do not let your god deceive you when he says: Jerusalem will not be handed over. You have heard what the Kings of Assyria did to other countries and their gods.

Hezekiah (cf. 2 Kings 19:14-19) took the message, and went again to the Temple, and spread out the letter before God there. He prayed earnestly for help, saying: Hear, Lord, the insult Sennacherib has sent against the Living God. Yes, Sennacherib has destroyed other cities, and their gods did not help. But they were not living Gods, as you are. Help us.

Then Isaiah (2 Kings 19:20-32) answered Hezekiah: God has spoken against Sennacherib thus: The Virgin Daughter of Zion - it means the virgin daughter that Zion - despises and mocks Sennacherib, who has blasphemed against the Holy One of Israel. God asks Sennacherib: Have you not heard it? I ordained it long ago and now I bring it to pass. I know where you stand and when you come or go, and how you rage against me. Because of this insolence I will put a hook into your nose and a bit into your mouth, and I will cause you to go back the way you came. You will be liked the grass that withers on the roof of houses (since not much soil was there, the growth could not stand long. Roofs of simple houses then were of logs and branches with some earth tamped on).

On the words "I have ordained it before it happened" cf. our comments on 10:7 above.

The divine message added: This will be a sign for Hezekiah: This year you will eat the crops that sprout by themselves, for you have not been able to plant. Similarly in the second year. But in the third year you should sow and reap and plant vineyards. A of the house of Judah will take root and bear fruit, a remnant that will come out of Jerusalem. The zeal of the Almighty Lord will accomplish this.

It seems Sennacherib invaded shortly before the sowing season and stayed about a year, preventing sowing in the second year also. But he would be gone before the third year.

Therefore God said: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow into it. He will return the way he came. God will defend the city and save it for His sake, and for the sake of David.

In 2 Kings 19:35-37 we learn that that night, apparently right after the prophecy of Isaiah, the angel of the Lord went out and slew 185, 000 of the men in the Assyrian camp. In the morning the survivors saw all the dead bodies.

Most likely a plague broke out in the camp of the Assyrians. Since it seems from 2 Kings 29:8 that Sennacherib himself was at Libnah, the plague may have hit chiefly there, or both there and in the army before Jerusalem. (Libnah is probably between Makkedah and Lachish near the Philistine border).

We gather from an inscription found at Nineveh that Sennacherib did not take Jerusalem. He boasted that he received tribute there, but does not say he took the city. Considering the boastfulness of such inscriptions, it is clear that he did not take Jerusalem.

So Sennacherib broke camp and left. He returned to Nineveh. Assyrian inscriptions say he reigned about another 20 years after this. For sacred history that point is not of importance. But after that when he was praying in the temple of an Assyrian god, Nisroch (we do not know that name from other sources) two of his sons killed him. Another son, Esarhaddon (691-68) ascended the throne.

Hezekiah's Illness and the Embassy from Babylon. Chapters 38-39. Summary and Comments

"In those days" Hezeziah became seriously ill, near to death. The time expression is vague. Since God promised him through Isaiah at this time that He would defend Jerusalem from Sennacherib, it is clear that these events belong before or during the invasion. More likely they are before the invasion.

Isaiah came to the king and told him to put his house in order, for he was going to die. Hezekiah then turned his face to the wall and prayed earnestly. He appealed to the fact that he had carried out the commands of the Lord. And he wept bitterly.

In what sense could he appeal to his own good conduct? It would be a mistake to say that eternal salvation is by faith not merits. That is true. But Hezekiah is not thinking of eternal salvation, but he seems to think of the covenant, in which God had said in Exodus 19:5: "If you really hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my special people."

"That is, you will get special favor. It was reasonable then to appeal to this covenant. Some protestants say the covenant consisted primarily in the exercise of faith. They are preoccupied with Luther's misinterpretation of faith, and have not noted that the covenant originally referred to temporal blessings. Did Hezekiah know the later (cf. Galatians 3:15-22) reinterpretation of covenant that it would refer to eternal salvation? Not too likely. He probably took it to refer to temporal things.

Then the word of God came again to Isaiah: Go tell Hezekiah. God has heard his prayer. He will add 15 years to his life, and deliver him from the king of Assyria and defend the city.

What was the illness? We read in 2 Kings 20:7, that after God's promise, Isaiah ordered a poultice of figs to be put on the boil that Hezekiah had. Such a poultice is used even today in the Near East.

Then Hezekiah asked for a sign that these things would come true. We do not approve of such a lack of confidence when God has already spoken. Yet in Isaiah 7:10-16 God offered Achaz a sign to make him believe.

The sign was this: God made the sun go back the ten steps it had already gone down on the stairway.

It may have been some sort of a sundial - sundials had been known for some time among the Babylonians. In what way was this done? Did God actually change the course of the heavenly bodies? or just change the light on the dial? We do not know. He surely could act either way.

Next we find inserted in the text a sort of Psalm said to have been composed by Hezekiah. It is poetic in form, tells of his illness and recovery and praises God. In 38:17 Hezekiah says God put all his sins behind His back. This seems to reflect the common belief then that sickness came as a result of sin.

The psalm adds that those who go down into the pit, the grave, cannot hope for God's faithfulness, meaning that He would observe the covenant. That covenant applied only to the present life. It said that only the living praise God. He has in mind the grand liturgical praise in the Temple, which of course was absent from the realm of the dead. We must add that up to the time of the death of Christ, the just who had died, and had had all their bills paid, were still not admitted to the vision of God, they were in the Limbo of the Patriarchs. There they would not know what went on on earth, unless God decided to reveal something to them. And of course there would be no grand liturgical praise there, though they might praise God in a lesser way. Some of the Psalms show expectation that even in death they would not be totally cut off from association with God: cf. Ps 16:9-11; 17:15; 49:15 and Job 19:25-27. When Merodach-Baladan king of Babylon heard of the illness and recovery of Hezekiah, he sent an embassy to him with gifts. 2 Chronicles 3:21 says that the ambassadors came from Babylon to investigate the sign. If this means the change on the sundial, it seems to imply that the change in the sun was visible in Babylon. Hezekiah received the envoys gladly, and showed them everything in his storehouses (cf. 2 Kings 20:12-19).

Isaiah came to Hezekiah and asked where the men came from and what did he show them. Hezekiah said he showed them everything in his palace. This looks a bit boastful. Isaiah then said: A time will come when everything in the palace will be carried to Babylon, and some of the descendants of Hezekiah will be carried there too to become members of the court of the King of Babylon (cf. Daniel 1).

Hezekiah seems to have picked up the implication that it would not happen in his own time. So he said: "There will be peace and security in my lifetime."

Introduction to the Second Part of Isaiah

At the end of Chapter 39 we have come to what many consider a break point in Isaiah. They call the rest of the work Second Isaiah, and many even speak of a Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66). This tendency to split Isaiah first appeared in the 18th century, in the work of commentators like Koppe and Döderlein.

The fact that the whole book is inspired does not tell us anything about authorship. In ancient times it was not unusual to use a pen name, and to pick the name of a famous person. Also, rights of authorship were not respected as they are today: a later author might change or add to an existing work, leaving it under the name of the original author.

are chiefly these: chapters 40-66 deal with a period later than the lifetime of Isaiah, including the time after the return from the great exile, in 539 B. C. There is even a mention by name of Cyrus of Persia who allowed them to return.

It is said too that First Isaiah is a prophet of judgment and punishment, while the rest of the book offers comfort to the exiles, and then advice for living in their land after the return. We do not know the date of the death of Isaiah himself. One old tradition says he was sawed apart by order of the wicked King Manasseh (687-42), but this is uncertain.

There is a difference in style after the end of chapter 39. The first chapters were strongly illustrative, now the style becomes lofty with a lot of rhetorical questions and even passages in which God argues His own case with His people.

: a) . The fact that the later chapters deal with a time after the death of Isaiah are a problem only for those who deny on principle the possibility of supernatural prophecy. The only really specific point is the mention of the name of Cyrus.

Really the whole picture is the same as the so called Deuteronomic pattern: threats of punishment, arrival of punishment, repentance and deliverance. Any author following that could have confidently written the whole, except for the one point, the name of Cyrus. That would require revelation.

As for style: No one who has read the works of Tacitus, the great Roman historian, in the original Latin would think much of any argument from differences in style. The style of Tacitus in his 4 historical works is highly distinctive and pungent -- one needs to read the original language to get most of the flavor. But there is still another work by Tacitus, the . There the style is day and night different, and really much like that of Quintilian, who also wrote on the same topic, but his work is lost. There is of course a temptation to say the manuscripts confused two works, and we really have that of Quintilian, that of Tacitus on orators is lost. Yet there are enough arguments of a different nature to convince almost everyone that the Dialogue we have is really by Tacitus. The differences of style found in Isaiah, or between early and later Epistles of St. Paul, are much smaller. B) : The ancient Jews accepted the whole as the work of Isaiah, well before the coming of Christ. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) in 48:24 says that "By the spirit of power, Isaiah saw the last things and comforted those who mourned in Zion". The last clause points easily to Isaiah 61:3. But Sirach was probably written in the second century B. C.

The Isaiah scroll from Qumran has the complete text of Isaiah. A few lines of chapter 40 actually begin at the foot of a column in that scroll. Also, Josephus ( 11. 1. 1-2) says Cyrus read the prophecies about himself in Isaiah, and intended to fulfill them.

The arguments on both sides are really inconclusive, but we must say that those against unity are much too weak to make us certain that there were several Isaiahs.

Zion's King and God is coming. Chapter 40. Summary and Comments

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Isaiah speaks of a period about a century after his death, thanks to prophetic light. He says: Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Her hard service, that is, her distress, brought on by sins, but atoned for by suffering, is at an end. For her sin has been paid for. She has received double for her sins.

Only the sufferings of Jesus paid the debt of sin fully. Yet it is the will of God that human should be like Him in this, and in that sense, pay. To speak of double payment is of course just poetic exaggeration: if taken at face value God would be unjust.

Now the prophet hears a voice in the desert calling for making the way of the Lord ready. Roads at that time were not so good, and when a King was to pass over them, his servants would go ahead to make the roads ready. The imagery seems to be that God Himself will lead them back from their exile. The desert could mean the Syrian desert which is between the promised land and Babylon. But those who traveled did not ordinarily go over that desert. So the desert here probably stands for the distress of Israel in exile.

The notion of atonement by suffering is common in the OT, Intertestamental literature, NT and Rabbis and Fathers in that sin is pictured as a debt which the Holiness of God wants to have paid. Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar in 1. 14 wrote (thinking of a two pan scales): "He [anyone] has has committed a transgression. Woe to him. He has tipped the scale to the side of debt for himself and for the world." Cf. Wm. Most, (Christendom Press, 1994, appendix, pp. 289-301.

Of course the Gospel applies these words to John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus. Interestingly, in Malachi 3:1 God says He is sending His messenger before Him, that is before God, who is to come to His temple. To apply this passage to John coming before Jesus could suggest the divinity of Jesus. In Mt 11:10 Jesus does use these words about John. But he uses the words of Malachi in the adaptation common in His day, which happened by telescoping as it were the words of Malachi with those of Exodus 23:20 where God said He would send His messenger before Israel on their journey to prepare the way for them.

As part of the work of preparing the way for the Lord, valleys will be filled, mountains leveled - poetic exaggeration of course.

Then the glory () of the Lord will be revealed. That phrase most commonly stood for the visible presence of God -as in the pillar of cloud at the Exodus -- to reveal the presence of God to help His people. Ezekiel in chapter 10 saw the glory of God leaving Jerusalem. (In chapter 43 Ezekiel saw it returning).

But then a remarkable addition; All mankind shall see it (His glory) together. This probably means that God plans to extend the privilege of being His special people to all. St. Paul in Eph 3:3-6 says that plan of God was not known to previous times. It is only dimly hinted at here in Isaiah, and it seems the Jews did not grasp it. Even when Jesus told the Apostles to teach all nations, they still did not understand, as we notice in Acts 10.

Then a voice, seemingly the voice of God, says to Isaiah: Cry out. He asks: What shall I cry out? The answer: All men are like grass, their glory is like that of the flowers of the field (Cf. Psalm 103:15-17). When the breath of the Lord blows on them -- thinking of the desert wind in May - they wither. Similarly the exile should not be afraid of the power of their oppressors, who seem so strong now. The breath of the Lord can make them collapse. Only the word of the Lord, what He decrees, shall stand forever.

The prophet is also to go up to a high mountain and say: Here is your God. He comes with power. His arm rules for him. His arm stands for his power - really, a poor image for the power of the mere word of the Almighty! He brings reward, and He tends His flock like a shepherd. There is an even more remarkable line in Ezek 34:11 in which God says: "Thus says the Lord God: Behold I, I will search out my sheep and seek them out." We notice the repeated . It seems to mean God will come in person. And in verse 23 of the same chapter He continues: "I will set one shepherd over them, my servant David." So it seems to say God will come in person, but will come in the person of the Messiah, my servant David. There is apt to be a similar implication in Jeremiah 23:3: "And I myself shall gather the remnant of my sheep from all the lands to which I have driven them. But in verse 5: "I will raise up for David a righteous branch." Here the Targum understands the word branch as the Messiah. (The Targums commonly take that word branch to stand for the Messiah). Cf. also Jeremiah 30:11: "I am with you to save you." The Targum calls this messianic. Another hint, it seems, that the Messiah is to be God Himself.

Then to increase their confidence in the power of God who will save them: "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand? Or with a breath has marked off the skies?"

In admiration Isaiah adds: "Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or whom did the Lord consult for wisdom". No, God is infinitely above all human designs and wisdom. At the end of the grand sketch of the Providence of God in Romans 11, St. Paul exclaims: "O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How incomprehensible are His judgements and untraceable His ways! . . . Who has been His counsellor?" Similarly in 1 Cor 1:26: [We paraphrase]: "That which seems stupid in God's work is really wiser than men, and what seems weak is stronger than men." We will see a similar thought in Isaiah 55:9: "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways."

He continues saying that the nations are like a drop in the bucket to God's eye. The islands are mere dust. Lebanon with its great forests is not enough for a fire for His altar, nor are all its animals enough for a sacrifice. In His eyes all the nations are nothing, worthless and less than nothing.

Then to the Israelites who were so prone to worship idols: To whom could you compare God? A craftsman laboriously makes an idol, but the idol can do nothing at all. He asks the people: Have you not heard: He sits enthroned above the skies, people look like grasshoppers from that height. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy. He brings princes to nothing. He blows on them and they wither. He calls out the host of the stars - here we might think of some figures from astronomy. Antares in the southern sky seems like a dot, yet it is so huge that if the distance from the earth to the sun were tripled, it could not get in between them. The nearest of the countless spiral galaxies, Andromeda, is so far away that light racing at over 186, 000 miles per second takes 2. 2. million years to reach us. And yet He made all these, not with great planning or computers, but by merely saying: Let it be.

Israel is tempted to say: God does not know our woes. Yet His eye takes in all things, His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary;, even young men in their great vigor may stumble, but those who hope in the Lord will see their strength renewed, they can soar like eagles.

God Sends Cyrus. Chapter 41. Summary and Comments

Solemnly the prophet bids the foreign lands to be silent, and to come to a place of judgment for a lawsuit to see if God is true or not.

Who has stirred up someone from the east and called him in righteousness to serve Him? Of course it is God, who has called Cyrus to serve Him by conquering Babylon and then releasing israel from captivity and even encouraging them to rebuild the temple.

Isaiah says God has done this in righteousness. For God to observe the covenant was righteous, for He could not enter into a covenant, and then refuse to fulfill what He had promised. He promised to save israel if they were faithful, to punish if they were not. They had deserved punishment, and by this point, had fully received it. So now it is time as righteousness says to rescue them. For that, He calls Cyrus of Persia.

The prophet says God hands over nations to Cyrus. On God's handling of things in the external economy cf. our comments on 10:5 ff. above. He subdues king before Cyrus. Then "he" turns them to dust with his sword. The he here is probably Cyrus. But soon: God asks: Who has done this? It is the Lord who has predicted it and has done it. In contrast, the idols have never predicted anything and brought it to fulfillment: they have done nothing at all.

But now that their debt has been paid by the exile, He calls Israel His servant and friend. He says He took them from the ends of the earth. This is probably a hyperbolic expression for the fact that God called Abraham, the beginning of the chosen people, from Ur of the Chaldees.

He then says He has chosen and not rejected them. We must ask:Why did He chose Israel for special favor? In Dt 7:7-8 we read that God did not chose them because they were the greatest of nations, but because He loved them, and was keeping the promise He swore to Abraham.

To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. When we humans love, we need a starter for that, seeing something fine in another. But God is the only one who can love without a starter. What good did He see in me when He first loved me? Nothing, for I was then nothing. And if he looked a bit farther up and saw me already in existence, what good did He see there that He had not put there? Nothing at all. 1 Cor 4:7: "What have you that you have not received?"

So Israel did nothing to earn the beginning of the favor they received - we speak of the beginning, since in Ex. 19:5: "If you really hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my special people." If you obey, you get favor. They had done very badly in the matter of obeying, and had received their punishment. Now, gladly He says that is all over, and He can begin to give favor within that covenant, in righteousness as we said above.

But we ask further: Why did He make choice of that people for such special treatment? It seems the reason is the same as that for which He chooses people for the special favor of being full members of His Church, as He says in Romans 8:29ff and all though to the end of chapter 11. It was not for merits. What was it for then? Paul in Romans does not say what for. But at the end of 1 Cor 1 we notice that God has chosen the weak to confound the strong. In Ezek 5:6-7 God told the prophet: "I am not sending you to a people with obscure speech and difficult language. . . . If I were to send you to these, they would listen to you, but the house of Israel will refuse to listen to you, since they will not listen to me. For the whole house of Israel is hard of brow and obstinate in heart." And Ezek 5:6: "She [Jerusalem] has changed my judgments into wickedness more than the gentiles." And so when God sent Jonah to the pagan Nineveh, he found they welcomed him at once, in contrast to what happened to the prophets sent to the Holy People of Israel. The , a late 4th century work, a Midrash on Exodus, imagines Jonah as saying that since the gentiles are more inclined to repent, he might be bringing on the condemnation of Israel by going to Nineveh.

Similarly in the NT, the parable of the good Samaritan pictures two officials of the holy people passing by the wounded man, but a Samaritan takes good care of him. And in Luke 17:11-19 ten lepers are cured; the only one who came back to say thank you was an outsider, a Samaritan. Cf. also Matthew 11:21.

So we gather that the reason was not only not merits, but instead greater need: they were, as Ezek 3 and 5 said, more hard of heart than the gentiles.

This is quite uncomplimentary to Israel - but also to those chosen for full membership in the Church of Christ.

Isaiah continues saying that all who rage against them will be ashamed and disgraced and become as nothing. If they look for their erstwhile enemies, they will not even be able to find them.

But then, to try to keep Israel from pride: "Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob. . . . Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel." Redeemer here is the next of kin who has the right and the duty to rescue his kinsman who has fallen into captivity or terrible straits. So God by the covenant became their kinsman, as signified by the ceremony of the sprinkling of the blood at the foot of Sinai. By His power they will thresh the mountains and winnow the hills. But you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel. Holy One as we saw above refers to the fact that He is perfectly righteous, both in rewarding and in punishing. To be righteous in rewarding, He created a covenant, so that if they fulfilled their condition, He would owe it to Himself to do what He had said. He loves to have one thing in place to serve as the reason for granting a second thing, even though that first thing does not really move Him: St. Thomas I. 19. 5. c.

So they are poor and needy and search for water and do not find it, the Lord will take care of them and turn the desert into pools of water. We filled in the word on the ground that we could take the structure as paratactic, i.e., one in which subordinate conjunctions are not expressed, but carried by the thought.

After all of this, He returns to the lawsuit: Who has predicted all these things and has brought them to pass? Not the idols, which do nothing at all. But the God of Israel.

So to help them He again says He has stirred up one from the north, Cyrus. Here He says from the north, before He had spoken of the East. Really Cyrus came from lands to the East, but came north around the upper bend of the fertile crescent. Only God predicted and brought to reality these things, not the dumb idols who cannot do anything at all.

First Servant Song. Chapter 42:1-7. Summary and Comments

This is the first of four such songs. The others, which will be marked as we go along are: 49:1-9a; 50:4-9; 52:13 - 54:12.

First, there is no special reason for calling these songs. We keep the word only since it has become usual.

The word servant or servant of God is frequent in Scripture in general. It is used of Moses, of Joshua, Job, David, Zerubabbel and often of prophets like Ahijah, Elijah, Jonah or the prophets in general.

Next we ask: Who is the Servant? There is no need to suppose the Servant is the same person in all four. The Targum marks the first and fourth as messianic, but not the others. The New Testament similarly indicates that the first and fourth are messianic, but does not do so for the other two.

Some have suggested the servant is a collective figure for Israel, or the faithful remnant. But the very personal terms used are against that view.

In Mt 12:17-21, after Jesus has worked some cures, we read that thus was fulfilled what Isaiah predicted. It then quotes substantially this first passage. We could still ask: Did the text of Isaiah refer directly to Christ, or only through a typological sense? Such combinations do occur at times. However, there is no good reason to suppose that happens here. Yet, we saw in commenting on 7:14 that it is quite possible that the Holy Spirit, the chief Author of Scripture, may have intended more in a given passage than what the human author saw. Such a thing is quite possible here especially with the first and fourth songs which definitely do look ahead to a Messiah. In the first verse God says "I have put my spirit upon Him." We naturally think of the Messiah of Isaiah 11, on whom the Spirit will rest.

Then verses 2-3 say he will not put out a smoldering wick: He will be kind and merciful to the weak. WE think of Jesus in Matthew 11:28: "Come to me all who find life burdensome. . . my yoke is easy." The smoldering wick could also refer to Israel languishing in exile.

Then in v. 4 He will not stop until He establishes justice () on the Lord, and in His teaching () even the gentiles who are far off will have hope. They had walked in the darkness spoken of above in 9:1. Hebrew could be translated, . Before the coming of the Messiah the gentiles depended upon what the Spirit wrote upon their hearts(Jer 31:33 and Romans 2:15)t o know this. But the Messiah will spell out the will of God to the nations, that they may more easily know and fulfill it. So He will be like another Moses, who made the will of God known explicitly to the people.

Verse 6 says he will be a covenant for the people and a light for the gentiles. Even though the singular is used, , which seems to refer primarily to Israel, yet the following words, a light to the gentiles, foreshadows in a way what St. Paul was to say in Eph 3:6, a thing not revealed before, that the gentiles are co-heirs with the Jews as members of the People of God in the new covenant. And He is surely a light for the gentiles: cf. Luke 2:32 in the canticle of Simeon who says He will be "a light for the gentiles."

Finally: Thus says God the Lord who created the heavens and gives breath to all those who dwell on earth. This expresses His majestic power, which is also an assurance that the mission of the Servant will be fruitful. For God has called the Servant in righteousness (), He will free captives and those in the dungeon.

Thus ends the first Servant Song.

New things and a New Song. Chapter 42: 8-17. Summary and Comments

Now God speaks and says He is the Lord, and will not let idols take His glory. As proof; See the former things predicted have taken place-- this could be the fall of Damascus and the northern Kingdom, the frustration of Sennacherib. Since they have happened as predicted, Israel should trust in the further prediction that He will bring them out of exile.

therefore all the ends of the earth should sing a new song to the Lord. Even the desert and it towns --like Kedar in North Arabia, and Sela, capital of Edom -- should join in the song. The words "the ends of the earth" can easily refer to the gentiles-- and this idea is aided by the mention of Kedar and Sela. In time, all nations are to praise the Lord. Israel did not understand this, as we saw in the introduction to Isaiah, yet it s true that as St. Paul foretold in Eph. 3:6 the gentiles are to be part of the People of God, and to join in praising Him.

Therefore as to the future:The Lord will march as a mighty warrior and triumph over the enemies of Israel. He has kept silent for some time during the Exile. The time was not right, and the demands of justice to pay the debt of Israel's sin had not yet been met by their suffering.

God asks: Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? This is remarkable, for in the first servant song, the servant is the Messiah. Now he calls Israel his servant and messenger. He intended them to bring the truth to the gentiles; but the have been blind, and instead have taken over the errors of the gentiles by worshipping false gods.

But now He is glad to hold back no longer. He announces the end of the exile, and, as he said in chapter 40, He will make the rough places plain. He will do all this for the sake of his righteousness (42:21:sedeq): This is the same as saying:His Holiness, for it is His Holiness that loves all that is right, and insists that if out of balance, it be restored. Now the suffering of the exile has restored the balance -- so far as mere humans could - the full rebalance is to come from the obedient sufferings of the Suffering Servant, Jesus, who thereby [] will make many just: 53:11.

The Lord Redeems His unworthy People. Chapter 43. Summary and Comments

To restore the confidence of the exiles God says: I am the one who created you, and formed you. Do not be afraid. Even if you pass through waters or fire I am with you. I gave Egypt and Cush and Seba as your ransom. He means that these lands are the compensation to Cyrus for releasing Israel. (Not Cyrus in person, though he had planned it), but his son Cambyses actually took Egypt).

So, God says, I will bring your sons from afar from the east, from the north, from the south, from the ends of the earth. He speaks of all of them as His Sons. This is like what Hosea 11:1 has God saying at the Exodus: "Out of Egypt I have called my son", which St. Matthew, under inspiration, saw fulfilled a second time in the return of Jesus from Egypt.

Isaiah imagines all nations gathered together. They hear and see that what God had foretold has now come true. So again He calls Israel His servant whom He has chosen. There was no god before Him, nor will there be any other after Him. He is the Lord, the Savior. They are to be His witness that He is their Savior. He planned this from eternity, from ancient days, and when He acts, no one can reverse it. Again, as we saw in 41:14, He calls himself their the next of kin who was pledged to redeem them. For their sake He is sending Cyrus to Babylon and he will bring it down. Once He made for them a path through the Red Sea and drew the Egyptian army into the sea to destroy it there.

But He urges: Forget what is past. I am doing new things. He is making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland through which they will pass on the way out of exile. He had long ago provided water from the rock in the desert, so that they should praise Him.

He blots out their sins for His own sake -- for they have not earned it. So He asks: Review the past, as it were, come to court with me. Your first father sinned - probably referring to the sins of Jacob, and your spokesmen rebelled against me- perhaps thinking of the infidelity of Aaron and of the doubt of Moses, plus the infidelities of so many kings of theirs. So, He says, He will bring disgrace upon the officials of their temple, and hand over Israel to scorn -- the captivity.

God predicts restoration, Cyrus will accomplish it. Chapter 44. Summary and Comments

He tells Jacob to listen and calls him His servant - a tie to the first servant song perhaps? Then he even says that He is the one who formed them in the womb. Is this meant as an allusion to the sort of thing God was going to say to Jeremiah in 1. 5: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. . . I dedicated you as a prophet to the nations." God could call them prophets only in that they were destined to preserve the clear knowledge of the true God and eventually to give it to the gentiles. So He says; Do not be afraid. Then he calls Jacob - a name that also is found in Dt 32:15; 33:5, 26. Meaning is uncertain, probably means , in contrast to the seeming etymology of Jacob, which may mean .

So to bring them back, He will pour water on the thirsty land and pour out His Spirit on their offspring, which will flourish like the grass in the meadow. Then verse 5 according to some means that gentiles will accept the God of Israel. The Jews did not at first see that this meant the Gentiles were to be accepted as part of God's people without becoming Jews. Cf. again St. Paul Eph. 3:6.

To try to keep them from going back into idolatry - into which so many had fallen before the exile -- he says: I am the first and the last, there is no God but me. In proof of that: The idols have never done anything, never foretold anything. The true God has done so.

Verse 7 speaks of what has happened since He established "My ancient people." This may refer to the whole human race.

But returning to idolatry,. He tells what is obvious: the craftsman makes an idol - an expensive one from fine wood, a cheaper one from lesser wood. But half of the wood he cut he uses to make a fire to warm himself and to cook food. What an implication of the worth of the idol! Their craftsmen who make them are only human - so they could not make a real god. If the craftsman works long he gets weak. When he has made a god -- out of half the material of which the one half served for cooking -- he bows down before it: Save me, my god! What nonsense! Shall anyone bow down to a block of wood? Anyone who does this is like a man who tries to make a meal of ashes.

So Israel should remember these things. God has made Israel, and has redeemed Israel. So the heavens should sing for joy.

The beginning of the actual restoration is God's choice of Cyrus. The Lord who made all things, who makes fools of diviners, called Cyrus, who is called His shepherd, who will do all God wills. Interestingly, the Hebrew form of Cyrus is .

We notice the diviners are called fools. Isaiah is thinking probably of the Babylonian pseudo- science of divination. They even made clay models of livers, and marked on them the significant spots to look for in the liver of sacrificed animals.

But their predictions are haphazard. Only God can predict and make His predictions come true. He will say of Jerusalem: Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple: Let its foundations be laid.

Continuation of the above thought. Chapter 45. Summary and Comments

The Lord speaks to Cyrus, His anointed, whose right hand He takes. He calls Cyrus the anointed. Kings were anointed. Cyrus has a special mission for God. So God will subdue nations and kings before him, and will level the mountains. We notice the same language as He used for preparing a way for the exiles to return. God will give Cyrus the treasures of darkness, that is, things that have been hidden away, so Cyrus may know God is the Lord. God will cut through bars of iron: Herodotus the Greek Historian (1. 179) said there were a hundred brass gates in the walls of Babylon.

God will do all this for the sake of Jacob, His servant. Again we see a connection to the Servant songs, in which the Servant sometimes seems to be Israel, sometimes the Messiah. Really, Hebrew writing often enough used an individual to stand for and in a sense be identified with a group. This was commonly done with the King of Israel.

God will honor Cyrus, even though Cyrus does not know or honor Him, so that from the rising to the setting of the sun man may know there is no Master but God. For Cyrus does all this only by commission of the Lord.

Then God says: I form light and create darkness. Amos 3:6 says: "Is there an evil in the city which God has not caused?" This was in accord with the Hebrew way of saying God positively did things that He really only permitted. We compare 1 Samuel 4:3, in which the Israelites exclaim (in the Hebrew, NAB disguises it) after being beaten by the Philistines: "Why has the Lord struck us today before the face of the Philistines?" They knew the Philistines did it, but that was their way of speaking. Again, during the plagues before the Exodus, the Pharaoh more than once was on the point of letting Israel go, but then became hardened. Exodus at times says that the Pharaoh hardened his own heart. More often it says God hardened his heart. -- Really, if we remember Aristotle's potency and actuality, even when some evil is done, it is the power of God, the First Cause, that actualizes the potency - though the evil orientation comes from the creature, not from God: cf. Phil 2:13. As a loose comparison, think of an electric outlet. The power company furnishes the power that makes things go, but the customer decides the way it will be used: cf. 2 Cor 6:1.

Poetically Isaiah exclaims: Let the heavens and the clouds shower down righteousness. Let the earth cause salvation to spring up. Salvation here means rescue from temporal danger, not eternal salvation.

Then: woe to him who quarrels with his master, as if a pot should tell the potter: why did you not make me into something nicer? (We think of the same comparison in Romans 9:20-24 -- where the comparison is to bring out the fact that God alone decides who will get the special added favor of full membership in the People of God. These verses do not at all refer to predestination to heaven or hell, as was once mistakenly thought.

But the Holy One of Israel, its Maker says: Why question me about what I am doing? It is I who made the earth, who gathered the stars. So if I will to use Cyrus for my purposes, who can speak against it?

After this is over, the gentile nations will bring gifts to Jerusalem, even Egypt, Cush, and Saba, wanting to attach themselves to Israel, for God is there. Basically a prediction of the time when the Gentiles would be invited to be part of the People of God, without becoming Jewish: cf. again Eph 3:6.

In wonder, Isaiah exclaims: Truly, you are a God who hides himself, Savior of Israel. He hides self in that His ways are cloaked in impenetrable mystery, even though we see some things, such as His use of Cyrus to end the exile. But this is the God who created the heavens. He fashioned the earth, wanting it to be inhabited. He did not tell Jacob to seek Him in vain. He said He has not spoken in secret from the land of darkness - may be an allusion to the practice, in Babylon and even in Israel, of necromancy, of consulting the dead.

He says: Was it not foolish of you gentiles who are fugitives from Cyrus to trust in idols instead of in me? They are gods who cannot save. They never did anything, never foretold anything. But Israel's God does all things, even creating darkness as well as righteousness. There is no other God. He is righteous. He wants all things to be done in accord with objective morality. And that same Holiness leads Him to keep His covenant when the people do what He has prescribed. So He says to the gentiles: Turn to me, and be saved. Every knee will bow to me. All the descendants of Israel will become righteous: this includes the gentiles who will join the People of God.

Babylon's Gods and the God of Israel. Chapter 46. Summary and Comments

The gods of Babylon, Bel and Nebo, bow before the God of Israel. Those idols have to be carried by beasts of burden, they cannot move by themselves. They themselves are led into captivity. In those times each city had its god. If the city was powerful in war, they thought their god must be powerful. If the city was defeated, the god was defeated. The idols are made by craftsmen who are paid a price. And when the idol is made, they bow down before it, though it cannot do anything.

So they should remember what He has done long ago. He makes known the end from the beginning, for all is in His hands. Now He summons Cyrus from the East. He promises salvation to Israel.

Fall of Babylon is Near. Chapter 47. Summary and Comments

Isaiah calls out: Daughter of Babylon (= the city), come down off your glorious throne and sit in the dusk, and do a slaves work of grinding flour. God will exact justice, sparing no one. (please recall our comments on chapter 1 where we explained the great difference between vengeance and rebalancing the objective order, Hebrew ). The Holy One of Israel, who loves all that is right, will bring this about.

In chapter 13 from the viewpoint of his own days before 700 B. C. Isaiah had foretold the fall of Babylon. Now in a vision (unless we think it a different author - please recall our comments before chapter 40) he sees the fall of Babylon as proximate).

He continues to speak to Virgin Babylon: No longer will you be called a queen. God was angry with Israel, and gave them into the hand of Babylon. Babylon was harsh, did no spare even feeble old people. Babylon thought it could never fall. But it will come, and all their spells and astrology cannot ward it off.

Then in mockery: Keep up your magic spells, and sorceries. Let your astrologers come forward. They will be burned like stubble. Not one of them can save Babylon.

The city fell to the forces of Cyrus in 539 B. C. It had been powerful since the time of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar II (who wrecked Jerusalem) in the period 605-562. It is interesting to read the account of the fall of Babylon in Daniel chapter 5 through 6:1. There it is said that Darius the Mede took Babylon. Many say there was no such person. But Josephus in Antiquities 10, 245-49 does report that Darius was a kinsman who could have ruled for Cyrus for a time while Cyrus was occupied with other things. This would be in accord with known policies of Cyrus.

Cyrus is at Hand. Chapter 48. Summary and Comments

There are abrupt alternations of mood in this chapter, but we have seen such things before, threats of punishment interspersed with hopeful passages.

God speaks to His people. He says they do take oaths in His name, but not in truth or righteousness. They still, in exile, speak of themselves as citizens of the holy city, Jerusalem. .

God reminds them again that He foretold things to them before. He says they were and are stubborn, with a stiff neck and a forehead of bronze. Already in Exodus 32 the people fell into idolatry while Moses was on the mountain with God for 40 days. Then God told Moses He wanted to destroy them, and make him into a great nation:Ex 32:10. Moses appealed to the memory of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and God relented. It is sad to see how often God Himself or Moses called them a stiff-necked people, or used similar terms: Exodus 33:3, 5; 34:9; Dt 9:6, 13; 31:27. Cf. also Ps 78:8; Jer 5:23; 16:12; Ezek 2:4; 3:7; Hos 4:16.

Because they were so rebellious, God has foretold things far in advance, so that when they happened they might not give the credit to their idols.

So, now He will tell them new things, that is, the coming victory of Cyrus. God will delay His wrath for His name's sake, that is, for His own sake (name is often about the same as the person). He has refined them in the fire of tribulation, yet they have not responded like silver which becomes fine in such a test. Yet He will do as He has said, He will not give His glory to another.

He repeats: I am the fist and the last. My hand laid the foundations of the earth. Tell me: Which of your idols foretold these things? Yes, I have called Cyrus, and will bring him.

God is the Lord who teaches them what is best for them. If only they had heeded His command, well-being () would be like a river for them.

Now the prophet imagines that Babylon is already fallen, and he tells them: Flee Babylon. This may mean so they will not be hurt in its destruction, or he could use Babylon as a symbol of evil, so this would mean: flee from evil.

Second Servant Song. 49:1-9a. Summary and Comments

Who is the Servant here? At times it seems like an individual, at times it is all Israel. This fits the Hebrew pattern we mentioned above, where an individual stands for and embodies a group. So at times, such as 49:6, the Servant has a mission to Jacob or Israel, at other times, he is individual.

The Targums do not mention this passage as messianic, nor does the NT. Yet since the servant is in close continuity with the servant of the first song, and especially because of the prediction of suffering by him, when he is despised and abhorred by the nation, the nation of Israel, it seems the same as the suffering servant of the 4th song.

The servant speaks to the far away lands, or islands. He says that before he was born the Lord called him from the womb of his mother - a thought like that of Jer 1:5 of or 44:2 above.

The servant says the Lord made his mouth like a sharpened sword, or he was a polished arrow. His words, it seems, are like the two-edged sword that the word of God is (Hebrews 4:12). God concealed Him, that is, did not make him known at first, like the Lord in His 30 years hidden life.

The servant groans: I have labored for no purpose - the people of Israel are stiff-necked, as we saw above, and as Jesus saw when He preached to them. But His reward is from the Lord -- like that of the suffering servant of the fourth song, in 53:10 - 11. So he is sent to bring back Jacob and gather Israel.

But that alone is not enough for his mission: he is to be a light to the gentiles. We saw this in 42:6, and in the canticle of Simeon in the NT, saying he will be a light to the gentiles. Through him salvation is to come to the ends of the earth, that is, to even the most distant places. Again, an indication of the universality of the mission of Jesus.

After he is despised and abhorred by the nation - which must be the Jewish people, as happened to Jesus. (Here the singular is used. When the gentiles are meant it is normally , the plural) - after that Kings will see and bow down before Him - the later honor paid to Jesus too.

It is then that it is said that he will be a covenant for the people and will free captives - like the words of 42:7.

The Return from Exile: 49:9b - 50:3

On their return, they will find food even besides the roads, and on barren hills. There will be no hunger of thirst, nor will the desert heat strike them. In fact, God will turn the mountains into roads and raise up the highways -- we think of course of the opening words of chapter 40.

They will come from afar, some from the north, and some from the west, a nd some from the land of Syene. (We are not sure of this last name. The Hebrew has . Some have thought it meant , but there were no Jews in China then. From Qumram, the old text of Isaiah, 1QIsa, reads: . That could mean Jews living at Aswan or Syene, the first cataract of the Nile in Egypt:cf. Ezek 29:9-11. Jeremiah 44:12-29 refers to Jews of his day living in this area of Lower Egypt.

So the Lord comforts His people.

Now, beginning at v. 14, Isaiah visualizes the people actually back in Jerusalem. First for contrast he paints the picture of Jerusalem during the time of exile. The people complain that the Lord has forsaken them. He replies: Sooner could a mother forget her own child. We think of the lament of Our Lord over Jerusalem in Mt 23:27 where He says He wanted to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks, but they refused. St. Augustine ( 15) makes a fine remark that the hen is the most motherly of animals. Even when the chicks are not following her, one can still see that she is a mother.

Then Isaiah changes the image, saying He has engraved them in the palms of His hands. This would be tattooing, which was prohibited in Israel: Lev 19:28.

After that: See, your sons are hurrying back, they will be like ornaments on a bride. Yes, Jerusalem was ruined, but now it will be too small for all those who come. Those there will marvel: Where did these come from? The Lord replies: I will call the gentiles. Kings shall be your foster fathers and queens your nursing mothers.

They will bow down before you. -- A prophecy of the conversion of the gentiles. At that time, and much later, the Jews thought it meant all gentiles would become Jews, not knowing that God intended to call the Gentiles (Eph 3:6) as gentiles to be part of His people.

Someone objects: Who can take plunder away from an armed warrior? He replies: Yes, the all powerful Lord can do all things. He will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, i.e., destroy one another in civil war.

Now, at the start of the next chapter (poor chapter division), He imagines them saying: Where is the bill of divorce, for He had renounced Israel. He replies: You were sold because of your sins. I called, and no one answered. I could have ransomed you, I can dry up the sea, but I needed to punish you.

3rd Servant Song. 50:4-11. Summary and Comments

The Servant speaks: The Lord has given me a tongue trained to help the weary. Every morning He wakens me to listen to His message. I have not been rebellious to His plans, even though I have suffered. Instead, I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard. I did not hide from those who mocked and spat upon me.

Even though the Targum does not mark this song as messianic, we cannot help seeing the connection to the fourth song, which is surely messianic. The prophet had to suffer personally, and the same sort of sufferings as in the fourth song, and as in the Passion of Jesus. So there is really no obstacle to understanding all three songs thus far - and the fourth to come - as having a double sense: they refer to the servant individually, who at times seems like the Prophet, but with full fulfillment in Jesus -- and at times the servant is Israel, following the Hebrew pattern of using an individual to stand for and even embody a collectivity. Did God really appear to Isaiah every day? Not necessarily. Perhaps at times, at other times it could be merely interior locution, or just part of the general commission: please recall the introduction to this text.

So the prophet does not lose confidence, he makes his own face like flint to stand up to those who torment him. The Lord defends me, he says, no one can accuse me. Does Isaiah ask for punishment of the offenders? If he did, it would not be in a tone of revenge, but of rebalancing the objective order, cf. our comments at chapter 1 on . Is this different from Jesus praying: Father forgive them? Not entirely. Jesus did ask for forgiveness, and of course His prayer was granted. Yet as with any offer of forgiveness by God, it is not effective if the intended recipient rejects it. And so many did reject Jesus. He knew all too well both sides of the picture. Hence in Mt 23:27 He wept over Jerusalem, and He foretold what was going to happen in 70 A. D. He willed to offer forgiveness, yet He knew it would be in vain for most of them.

In v. 10 the prophet is the one who speaks, asking: Who obeys the message he gives? Even though the one who obeys is still walking in the dark, he must trust in the Lord.

In v. 11 God Himself speaks: They light fires, hoping to destroy the Servant. But God will turn even the fire against them, it will burn, not help them. Instead of walking, they will "lie down" in suffering.

More on Zion's Restoration. Chapter 51. Summary and Comments

God says: Listen to me, you who follow after what is right, i.e., morally right, in accordance with God's law. Look to the rock from which you were cut. God Himself is often called the Rock. But here the term means:you are descended from Abraham and Sarah. He assures them:God will comfort Zion. He will turn her deserts into a paradise like Eden. Joy and gladness will be in her.

Then again: "Listen my people, my nation. The teaching on what is right, law () will come from me, and God's justice () will be a light to the nations. God promises to bring justice () to the nations, that is, even the gentiles. It means they will come to know what is right even by revelation. Anthropology shows that primitive people in general have a rather good knowledge of the basic moral code in their consciences. St. Paul echoes this in Romans 2:14-16, where he says that the gentiles who do not have a revealed law, still do what the law calls for, since that requirement is written on their hearts. Of course it is an advantage to have it spelled out in writing, for what is in the hearts may be misunderstood or dimmed by sin. Again, the result of all this is very similar to what St. Paul will say clearly in Eph 3:6 that the gentiles are called to be part of the people of God. Paul says this call was not known to previous generations. That is true, for it was in the prophecies, but was not clear enough. Most Jews took these prophecies of all nations coming to Jerusalem as meaning all would become Jews. They did not yet grasp God's intent. (Please recall comments given on chapter 2 above).

Then: the heavens will vanish like smoke. We spoke of this before, it is apocalyptic language. It means not that this creation will be destroyed, but renewed. It goes on to say "Its inhabitants will die like flies." This probably does not mean there will be a large extermination of humans before the end. But Luke 18:8 says: "When the Son of Man comes, do you think He will find faith on the earth?" In other words, a great apostasy. 1 Thes 2. 3 also speaks of it. But no matter what happens, God says: His salvation ( will last forever. ( does mean salvation. It may mean eternal salvation, or it may mean rescue from temporal dangers. means basically God's concern for what is morally right, but if people keep His covenant, then He has bound Himself to give favors to them, so later develops the meaning of benefits. Cf. the appendix to Wm. Most, ).

In verse 7 the thought of universality continues: "Hear me, you who what is right, you people who have my law () in your hearts." here is the verb , which is much broader than English . It means not only know with the mind, but also act with the will, by love/obedience. The next words speaks of those who have his law in their hearts. Again we think of St. Paul, Romans 2:15: "They show the work of the law written on their hearts." (That in turn is taken right out of Jeremiah 31:33, the prophecy of the new covenant). So not only Israel can know God's will and obey it. Even the gentiles can know what is written in their hearts, and obey it. And many of them did better than did Israel, cf. The book of Jonah which shows gentiles responding to a prophet with open arms, and Ezek 3:5-7, plus the terrible words of Ezek 5:6: "She [Jerusalem] has changed my judgments into wickedness more than the gentiles." So those who obey the Lord should not be frightened at the insults they may meet. We think of 2 Timothy 3:12: "Anyone who wants to live devoutly in Christ will suffer persecution." The same could happen to men who wanted to obey God even before Christ. Cf. Wisdom 2:12-20, especially the words of the wicked: "Simply to see him [the just man] is a hardship for us."

Now the prophet cries to God: Awake, arm of the Lord. It was you who cut Rahab to pieces, and pierced the monster through. Rahab was thought of as a mythical sea monster: cf. Job 26:12. The monster may be Rahab too, or may be another creature of fancy: cf. Psalm 89:10. It continues, reminding God that He had dried the Red Sea. So He can easily ransom Israel from exile. Gladness will overtake them.

God responds: "I, yes I, am He who comforts you, sons of man who last no longer than the grass, but forget Him who made you, who made the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. Prisoners who cringe will soon be free." We do not know if some of the exiles were actually in prison, or if this is merely Semitic exaggeration again. God says He is the one who churns up the sea, who set the heavens in place. The same God says to Zion: You are my people. So no need to fear.

Then the prophet seems to see Jerusalem in a sleep of helplessness before him. He cries out: Awake, Jerusalem. You have drunk to the dregs the cup of the Lord's wrath. But that is over now. Your sons fainted away like an antelope that struggled long against the net that caught him, but in vain. So they were drunk, but not on wine. God says: See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of wrath that made you stagger. I will give that cup to your enemies. You may walk over them as they lie prostrate. In the Near East, sometimes conquerors literally did walk or ride over the backs of the conquered.

Fourth Servant Song. 52:13 - 53:12. Summary and Comments

Who is the Servant?. The Targum says it is the Messiah - though we will see presently how the Targum distorted it. The relation of this person to the previous songs is easy to see. We even saw mention of the sufferings of the servant in the third song. In the second, it seemed to be at times Israel, at times an individual. We explained the Hebrew pattern in which an individual stands for and embodies a collectivity. But here it could not be such a double though, for in no way is the Servant here Israel. Here the Servant suffers innocently; not so for the sufferings of Israel. Here the servant suffers for others; Israel did not suffer for the nations.

Some have foolishly tried to see this figure taken from BAbylonian mythology, from Tammuz, a vegetation divinity that died in the heats of summer, returns again later, and is mourned. But Tammuz is not an innocent sufferer, nor does he atone for others.

The concept of atonement for others is strong here, as we shall see. Such an idea comes in many other places in Judaism, e. g., Job 42:7-8; 2 Mac 7. 37; Qumran Rule of Community 5:6; 8:3, 6; Simeon ben Eleazar citing R. Meir in 1. 14. Especially significant is 4 Mac 6:28-29 and 17:21-22. Cf. also H. J. Schoeps, , p. 129. This idea is part of the notion that sin is a debt, which the Holiness of God wants paid, that is, He wants the scales of the objective order to be rebalanced: cf. W. Most, , appendix. Cf. also Paul VI, doctrinal introduction to .

The Targum, as we said, does consider this song to be messianic. Yet strangely it distorted it sadly. It turned the meek suffering servant of the Hebrew into an arrogant conqueror. There are several reasons why this happened. First, the idea that the Messiah would reign forever and never suffer was very strong at the time of Christ. This even led at times to a belief in two Messiahs. So there is a Messiah Son of David, who does not suffer, and another Messiah, son of Joseph who does: c. Talmud, Sukkah 52a, commenting on Zechariah 12:10(which said: "They will look upon me, whom they have pierced"). This second Messiah was to be the precursor of the Messiah, son of David. Secondly the Targum picture is influenced by hopes that Bar Kokhba (so of the star, thinking of Numbers 24:17) leader of the second Jewish revolt against Rome, 121-35. Thirdly, the Jews after a time, seeing the Christian use of this song, tried to distort it. This is admitted by several good Jewish scholars: H. J. Schoeps, (Westminster 1961, p. 129) and Jacob Neusner, , p. 190, and Samson Levey, p. 152, note 10.

The NT takes this song as messianic: Mt 8:17; Lk 22:37; Acts 8:32-33; Romans 15:21.

To see the distortion, we give first the Hebrew, then the Targum of a few passages:

Verse 3: Hebrew: "He was despised and rejected by men. " Targum: "then the glory or all kingdoms will be despised and cease. "

Verse 5: Hebrew: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. " Targum: "He will [re]build the sanctuary, polluted because of our sins, [and] handed over because of our iniquities. "

Verse 7: Hebrew: "He was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. " Targum: "He will hand over the mighty ones of the peoples, like a lamb to the slaughter. "

The word in v. 15 has overtones of priestly sacrifice, and prepare the way for further sacrificial language later in this passage. Cf. Exodus 19:20-21 on the ordination of Aaron and his sons, in which they are sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice, and Leviticus 16:14-15 tells us of the sprinkling of the blood of the sin offering on the propitiatory. In Romans 3:25 Christ is spoken of as the new propitiatory. During the "time of passing over" of sins, in the OT, perfect rebalance for sins was not provided. But God's concern for the objective order wanted to supply that. (On this concept of Greek in Romans, cf. Wm. Most, , appendix).

However in Romans and here we of course should not take the idea as being merely a liturgical ceremony - far too painful for that. Rather, it is the fact that the sufferings of Christ rebalanced the objective order, put out of line by sin. For the OT, intertestamental literature, the NT, rabbinic writings, and the Fathers view sin as a debt, which the Holiness of God wants repaid. Hence the image of a two pan scales, suggested by Simeon ben Eleazar ( 1. 14. cited above in notes on chapter 1) is helpful. A sinner takes from one pan what he has no right to take: the scale is out of balance. It is the Holiness of God that wants it rebalanced. If the man stole property he begins to rebalance by giving it back; if he stole a pleasure, he begins to rebalance by giving up some pleasure of similar weight. But all this is only the beginning of rebalance, for the imbalance from even one mortal sin is infinite. So IF the Father wanted a full rebalance, the only way was to send a divine Person, who by anything He did, could provide infinite rebalance, in the categories of both merit and satisfaction.

In fact, the mere fact of the Incarnation, without any death, would have been infinite in both ways. (The Greek Fathers with their theology of Physical-Mystical Solidarity saw this). But the love of the Father for us and for objective goodness led Him to go even to the stable and to the cross.

We said IF, since contrary to St. Anselm, the Father was not obliged to do this or anything at all. We also stressed Holiness. There is a matter of justice too, but if we make justice central, then someone may object: if someone offends me I do not always demand justice: why cannot God just be nice about it? But if the center is Holiness, then Holiness will want full rebalance. By His terrible sufferings, Christ put back into the scale far more than all sinners taken together took away. We are reminded of the plaint of the Psalmist in 69:5: "I restore what I did not steal. "

It is evident that this explanation of the sufferings of Jesus is right, and surely more in accord with the Holiness, the Justice, and the Goodness of the Father than the notion put forth by some Protestants, that Jesus was our substitute, that the Father really Him. How could there be any justice in that? How could injustice make up for sin?

We said above that the love of the Father for objective goodness and for us led Him to go beyond an incarnation without death to the stable and the cross. Really, His attitude seems to be: if there is ny way to make it all more rich, I do not want to pass it by. In that vein, we might imagine Him looking back on the fact that He could have used any ordinary human to do any religious action and could have called that a redemption, imperfect, but real. So the Father willed to add to the sufferings of Christ those of Blessed Mother. She knew all too well from the very day of the annunciation, that He would suffer. As soon as the angel said He would reign forever, any Jew would see He was the Messiah).

She understood our passage of Isaiah without the distortion the stiff-necked Jews put into it. She understood Psalm 22, "they have pierced my hands and my feet". She would have understood also Zechariah 12:10: "They will look upon me whom they have pierced."

At the annunciation in saying she agreed to be the Mother of the Suffering Messiah. At the cross of course she did not retract that. Any soul that knows what the Father positively wills, must positively will it too. She knew too well the positive will of the Father, that He should suffer and die so terribly. So she was called upon to will that He die, die then, die so horribly - and that going counter to her love which was so great that, as Pius IX wrote (), "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it." (Pius IX was speaking directly of her holiness, but holiness and love of God are interchangeable terms). So Vatican II, twice in LG #56 and again in 61 spoke of her as sharing the sacrifice by - the obedience we are speaking of. Of course, obedience was the essential condition of the New Covenant, and was the essential interior attitude of the Great Sacrifice and of any sacrifice, without which it would have no value. So she joined with Him in that which gave His sufferings all their value. Of course, her whole ability to do that, and anything, came entirely from Him. Yet is was real, painfully real, and beyond our comprehension as Pius IX said.

His appearance was so disfigured that he hardly looked like a man - from the hideous scourging, skin torn everywhere and with blood all over. Pilate brought Him out looking this way: :Behold the man". But not even that horrid sight could appease the fury of the priests and the mob.

He will sprinkle many nations - comment given above.

Who has believed our message, what we report about Him? He grew up like a tender shoot. He had no beauty of majesty. He was despised and rejected. St. Margaret Mary reports that He told her the rejection was worse than the physical pain.

He took on our suffering, that which was due to our sins, to rebalance the objective order. The Father did not really Him - a hideous thought. Yet people thought or Him as stricken by God. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our sins. All we () had gone astray. But God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all(). The punishment that brought us well-being () was upon Him. We are healed by His wounds.

He was oppressed, yet did not open his mouth, He was like a lamb led to the slaughter. He was taken away, out of this life, by this oppression and by a wicked judgment of His people before Pilate. He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people.

When he died they intended to give him a dishonorable burial, a shallow burial where wild dogs might eat his body. But God planned otherwise, had Him given a tomb by the rich Joseph of Arimathea.

It was the will of the Lord to crush him. The Lord made Him a guilt offering, a sacrifice. We saw above in commenting on Isaiah 29:13 that a sacrifice consists in two things: the outward sign, and the interior disposition. The outward sign was his physical suffering and death, which expressed His interior disposition, obedience to the Father. (On the night before, He had offered the same sacrifice, putting Himself under the appearance of death, body and blood separated. The outward sign then was that seeming separation, but the interior disposition was the same). Already on entering into the world (Hebrews 10:7) He had said: "Behold I come to do your will O God." He could do this at the moment of conception only because, as the Church teaches (Cf. Pius XII, , , and W. Most, ) His human soul at once saw the vision of God, in which all knowledge is present. So He saw and accepted even then the painful knowledge of all that was to come. During His life that bothered Him greatly: Cf. Luke 12:50 and John 12:27 On the cross He still had that attitude of obedience to the Father - we spoke of it above as the condition of the new covenant, as the interior disposition of His sacrifice.

But now after this, the prophet speaks of His resurrection, and says: "He will see his offspring, [that is, his spiritual descendants, and He will prolong His days." So, there was a resurrection. This is a remarkable line, for the doctrine of resurrection was not much developed in the day of Isaiah. (We saw a possibility of it at 14:9-22, which describes the king of Babylon coming down to the underworld - but this may well be only a literary fancy. Again 29:19 seems to speak of a resurrection, but it could mean merely the resurrection of Israel, in its restoration. Job 19:25 seems clearer, but is difficult to interpret).

Verse 1l says much the same: After the sufferings of His soul He will see the light of life, and be satisfied.

Next, most versions say something like this: By his knowledge. . . he will justify many." The word is the heart of the problem. It makes Isaiah sound like a Christian scientist. Every version I have seen does use the word . What can we do with it? The Hebrew is . Unfortunately the standard lexicons for that noun do not help here. But if we notice that the noun is the same root as the verb we can get an answer. That verb has a broad meaning, it is not narrow like English Rather, Zorell, lists among the meanings: . He gives examples: Jer 31. 34: "Know the Lord"; Hos 8, 2: "Israel shall cry to me: My God, we know you"; Ps 36. 11: "continue your love to those who know you." 87. 4: "I will remember Rahab and Babylon among those acknowledging me."; Pr 3. 6: "In all your ways acknowledge him"; Job 24. 1: "Why are not times set by the Almighty and why do not those who know Him see His days?"; Dn 11. 32: "But a people who knows Him will be strong. "

It is evident that in all of these we could use the translation or . This is especially suggested in the lines from Ps 36. 11 and 87. 4 as well as in Pr 3. 6, Job 24. l and Dn 11. 32.

Now although there is a technical difference between and God, in practice it all the same. In loving anyone else we will good to the other for the other's sake. Of course we cannot do that for God. So we turn to the analogical sense, partly different but adjusted. Scripture pictures Him as pleased when we obey, displeased when we do not. It is not that He gains anything by our obedience - He cannot gain at all. But still He wants it for two reasons: 1)He loves all that is good: but objective goodness says creatures must obey their Creator, children their Father; 2)He wants intensely to give us good: but that is vain if we are not open to receive. His commandments tell us how to be open, and at the same time, steer us away from the evil that lurk in the very nature of things, e. g., a hangover after a drunk, or a high danger of a loveless marriage after a lot of premarital sex. Hence when we love God it really means we obey Him. Incidentally, the Hittite vassal treaties commonly required that the subject king "love" the great king. They meant obey.

Still more helpful is Hosea 6:6, so often mistranslated. It should be: "For is my pleasure and not sacrifice; and knowledge [or love or obedience to] of God rather than burnt offerings." The Hebrew parallelism is useful here as so often. The first half says that God takes pleasure rather in observance of the covenant, obedience, than in external offerings; the second half says the same, so it must mean that to know or love or obey God is more than burnt offerings. The thought is the same as in Isaiah 23:19: "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." That is, He does not desire the externals of sacrifice, but the interior disposition, which is obedience to Him.

We conclude, instead of we should read to the Father, which gave the value to his sacrifice. The NAB reads instead of knowledge. That is an improvement, but the direct meaning is not , but obedience, which led the Servant to accept suffering.

But we notice also in verse 11, the word . In Hebrew it is . The same word occurs two more times, in verse 12. It expresses the fact that His suffering was for . We surely must not say He died only for some. 52:15 about sprinkling surely refers to all, for even gentile kings are sprinkled. The fact that its does mean all is clear from the context, and especially from 53:6: "All () we had gone astray. . . . The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us . There the Hebrew has , whose meaning is beyond all doubt. So by parallel, the here means . The solution lies in the odd use of . If I were in a room with three people, I could say , but I could not say . means . Greek has no such word as . But a check of a Greek concordance reveals that every time St. Paul uses Greek , which means , he means . There is no exception. For example Romans 5:19 speaks of original sin coming upon all. The word is . Similarly in Mk 10:45 (=Mt 20:28) Jesus said He was to give His life for . Of course He did not die just for some. 1 Tim. 2:6 echoes Mk 10:25 and uses Greek , which is of course . For further data cf. G. Kittel, s. v., .

Verse 12 concludes this song: So I will give Him a portion among the , He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life, was counted among transgressors, and bore the sin of .

The Eternal Covenant of Peace, Chapter 54. Summary and Comments

A remarkable comparison: Sing O barren woman who never had a child. More are the children of the desolate than of her who has a husband. The meaning: Jerusalem has been briefly abandoned, but now will have countless children. So they should enlarge their tents - even though they no longer lived in tents -- to hold all those who will come to Jerusalem.

Do not be afraid, God says, you will forget the shame of your youth. The Lord will call you back, as if you were a wife deserted, who married young, only to be deserted. God speaks of Himself as the husband of Israel. This theme is especially strong in the book of Hosea. Really, He has not permanently abandoned her. He will now call her back. He did abandon her briefly, during the exile, but with deep compassion He will bring her back. He hid his face only for a moment, but with everlasting fidelity to the covenant He will have compassion on her. He has sworn not to be angry with her again, an oath like He took to Noah not to bring another deluge. What then, we must ask, of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70? We reply: the prophet's vision spans long periods of time, and much that he says applies fully only to the really new covenant, that made by Christ. (We will see a special instance of that in comments on chapter 55 below).

So God says: O afflicted city, lashed by storms, I will rebuild you splendidly with precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord. We think of Jeremiah 31. 31-33 where God says much the same, which applies to the new covenant which Jeremiah foretells, which is fulfilled in Christ. Your children will have great peace ( --general well-being). Terror will be far removed.

Exhortation to Accept the Promised Blessings. Chapter 55. Summary and Comments.

Isaiah encourages them to take up what God promises and return to their land. His fear was not in vain, for out of the 12 tribes, only 2 returned, Judah and Benjamin, and probably not every one out of them either. For many had put down roots in Babylon, had homes, and probably commercial interests too. To return to a ruined city was not inviting.

So God says: Those who are thirsty come to the waters, get bread with no cost. Of course they had bread and water in Babylon. This means accept all the good things God will give you.

God adds: Come, I will make an everlasting covenant with you, as I promised to David. I have made him a witness to the peoples. The seems to be David, who is dead. It really means a future descendant of David, the Messiah. In 2 Samuel 7:12-17 God had promised David through Nathan: When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to rule. St. Augustine observes well ( 17. 8) that this could not really mean Solomon, who began to rule before, not after the death of David. Augustine points out well, in 17. 3, that some prophecies refer only to OT persons and events, some to NT only, some to both. We get the clue of this extension when we see something that seems at first sight to refer to only OT things, but yet does not entirely fit, as in the case of Solomon just mentioned.

The prophecy given through Nathan continued saying: If he is wicked, I will punish him, but I will not take away the kingship as I did with Saul, whose dynasty came to an end. Yet the line of Davidic kings stopped with the great exile. Again, an indication to look further to the One of whom the Archangel Gabriel said: He will rule over the house of Jacob .

Isaiah added: See I have made him a witness to the peoples. That of course applies to the Messiah, only then would verse 5 come true: You will summon nations, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you. Israelites did not really understand this, they thought all gentiles were to become Jews. They did not yet know what St. Paul revealed in Eph 3:6 that the gentiles are called to be part of the people of God. On the problem of prophecies like this, please see again comments on chapter 2 above.

Therefore: Seek the Lord while He can be found. Let the wicked forsake his wicked way and come to God.

Now a most remarkable line in vv. 8-9: My thoughts are not your thoughts: as far as the heavens are above the earth, so far are my ways above your ways. -- Yes, we could not understand God, for He is transcendent, above all our categories (on transcendence, please see our comments on the first part of chapter 6 above), So we could not know what to expect form Him, if He would not tell us, which He did by the commandments and the covenant. Still more, He gave us His only Son, incarnate, and so having a human heart. We can understand a human heart. Further, so no one might say: Yes, but the human heart is the heart of a divine Person --He has added the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, which is perfectly attuned to His heart. We can surely understand her heart.

To encourage confidence: Just as rain and snow come down from the sky, and do not go back without accomplishing all that I send them to do, so my word will accomplish what I say. Trust it, go out in joy. The mountains and hills will burst into song before you. This will be an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed. In ancient times there was a common belief that a word spoken by a person in authority, of its own power, could bring things into being. So in an ancient Egyptian creation myth, the god Atum stood on a mud hillock that emerged from the primeval waters, and named the parts of his body. Thus the gods came into being. Much later, in early medieval lives of Irish Saints, one Saint had a quarrel with an Irish King. During it both said harsh things to each other. They made peace, but yet the text adds: Everything they said to each other came true.

Various Prophecies for Restored Israel. Chapter 56. Summary and Comments

We are now at the start of what many call Third Isaiah. They claim there are three Isaiahs. One for chapters 40-55 looking forward to exile; a second for chapters 40-55, in exile; third, chapters 56-66 for restored Israel. We have not found any convincing proof that there are three Isaiahs. Really the patterns described here are simply the so-called Deuteromomic pattern: sin and threat, punishment, repentance and restoration. Without knowing anything of the future Isaiah could have written all three except for the detail about Cyrus. Those who reject everything supernatural of course have to reject that. But we do not have to. *** This new block of chapters has puzzled many commentators. For in the last block before this we saw the most glowing promises about the restoration. Now it looks a bit different. We have to remember the very strong Semitic hyperbole, of which we have spoken many times. We recall the apocalyptic language he used for the fall of Babylon, of Edom, and of Egypt, which sounds just like the last signs in nature of Matthew 24.

No, we must face the realities, as those who returned did. Their city had been ruined, they needed to rebuild it. The same for the temple. If we read the little Book of Haggai, only two chapters, we see they were sluggish in rebuilding it, and finally, in 520 (they returned in 539) God had to send them a strong message through Haggai. In the fist chapter He said: Look at the things you are doing, you are sowing much, reaping little, putting on clothes, but you do not get warm, etc. The message: No wonder things are not prosperous, you are not doing what you should do: rebuild the temple. They had had trouble and interference form neighboring people, which was finally resolved. So they did go ahead to rebuild. Haggai said the glory of this new house will be greater than that of the old. But that clearly did not match the reality:" The glory was to come when Christ entered the temple.

Haggai spoke of the coming of Christ in 2:6-7, if we adopt St. Jerome's translation: Just a little while and I will move heaven and earth, and the one desired by the nations will come in." (There has been a doubt because the Hebrew word which we translated as the desired one, is singular in ending, while the verb is plural. But such shifts are not unknown else where in the Old Testament). Jerome was following the tradition of the rabbis with whom he associated). We noticed Haggai spoke in 520, yet said "a little while" on the Lord's time scale, from 520 to the birth of Christ is really only a little time. One day is like 1000 years, and 1000 years like one day.

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah show conditions after the return were not ideal. There were religious faults, severe ones. The old administration needed to be rebuilt, for the line of Davidic kings had not survived the exile - though even after it they always had some kind of leader from the tribe of Judah - as Gen 49:10 foretold - until the time of the Messiah.

During the exile, the only religious thing they could still hold on to, lacking a temple, was the observance of the Sabbath.

Encouragement for those who keep the Law. 56:1-8. Summary and Comments

God tells them: Do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand. Salvation of course here means temporal benefits. So the foreigners who have bound themselves to the Lord by becoming proselytes, or nearly that, we should not think God would exclude them. No, He accepts them. Similarly eunuchs - formerly, as in Dt. 23:1 eunuchs were not allowed to be in the Lord's community - - should not say they are only a dry tree (no possible offspring), nor think God would reject them. No, He now is willing to accept even them. Also, many probably had been made eunuchs during the exile, while in the Babylonian royal court. Such courts had a use for them, for obvious reasons. So now God will let them in and if they keep the Sabbath, they can come to the temple, and their name will be continued, in that sense they will have a memorial in the temple.

Some think the lines about eunuchs were not to be taken at face value right after the return: that they referred to a later time, when Jesus would say (Mt 19:12) that some have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of His kingdom, or even the final eschatological time.

Sinful leaders and people. 56-9 - 57:21. Summary and Comments

But not all really did keep God's law. So now Isaiah says that Israel's watchmen, the leaders, are blind, like dogs that ar mute and so do not warn of coming danger. Or they are like faithless shepherds, who just want to drink beer and wine.

As a result, the righteous are oppressed, and no one wonders about it. The righteous are taken away by death, to be spared from such evils. So those who live uprightly do enter into peace, at least with their deaths. This is remarkable if we interpret it as we have just done: it refers to future retribution in the next life, a concept that in general is not thought to have been known in the time of Isaiah or even the so-called third Isaiah.

So God calls the people sons of a sorceress, who mock Him, who burn with lust among the oak groves sacred to Baal (pagan rituals might involve ritual sex), who even sacrifice their children to the idol Moloch. 2 Kings 21:6 tells that King Achab immolated His son by fire (cf. Micah 6:7).

Instead of the Lord as their portion, they have chosen idols, and poured out drink offerings and brought grain offering to the idols. They have made their bed on a high hill- may refer to the high places of Canaanite idolatry.

They have put pagan symbols on their doorposts - instead of the text that God had ordered in Dt. 6:9 (which at least later became the Mezuza).

They went to their idol Molech (the word is another spelling of , king, a Canaanite deity). To him they brought offerings of olive oil and perfumes. They sent ambassadors far off. Does this mean embassies like those they formerly sent to Egypt? Possibly, more likely it meant embassies to the netherworld, by sacrificing to idols.

So He asks:Who did you fear and reverence so much that you have been false to me, your real God? (We do know that fear was one of the motives of the old idolatry: cf. Judges 6:10). So God will expose their "righteousness" an ironic use of the word. Properly it mean doing what God ordered; here it is use to mean what the pagan gods ordered. But when they cry for help, these idols will not save them.

Ezekiel in chapter 8 (dated in 592 when he was already in exile, between the first and second invasions of Nebuchadnezzar) saw in a vision, the abominations being done even in the temple. He saw images all over the walls, of animals, even creeping things, which 70 of the Elders were worshipping even in God's temple. He saw about 25 men with their backs to the temple, facing east and bowing down to the sun.

In contrast, the man who makes God his refuge will inherit the land and possess Mount Zion. A voice will be heard: Make straight the way on which the Lord will lead His people. God lives on high, but also with those who are lowly in spirit. God will not always be angry, if they repent. God was angry because of their sinful greed, and so punished them. But now He wants to heal them. and restore comfort to them. In contrast, the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest. There is no peace for them.

True Fasting and True religion. Chapter 58. Summary and Comments

God speaks:Shout out to the people that they are rebellious. They seek God, and expect Him to hear. They want to know precisely the things required: cf. Zech 7. Cf. also the distressing nit-picking they went in for in regard to Levitical Purity, as explained in J. Neusner, (Harper & Row, 1984, esp pp. 53-62) On p. 53 Neusner, a great Jew, calls such things "monumental nonsense." For example, on pp. 75-76 he tells of the debate between the Houses of Hillel and Shammai -- the chief schools at the time of Christ - over washing hands. Shammai said they wash hands before mixing the cup: the liquid on the outer surface of the cup might be made unclean on account of the hands, and then in turn that would make the cup unclean. But Hillel said that the outer surfaces of the cup are always considered unclean. Neusner explains that hands are presumed to be unclean, but they are only in "the second remove of uncleanness." So they would make the Heave-offering unclean but could not make vessels unclean. But they do make liquids unclean, and the liquids' uncleanness is in "the first remove." So liquids will make the cup unclean. But now comes the real explanation why God does not hear them: On the very day on which they fast they commit uncharitable and unjust acts against workers and the poor. Their fasting ends in quarrels - excessive physical stress can weaken one, and make him quarrelsome.

Instead, God wants the corporal works of mercy. They should rend their hearts, not their garments: Cf. Joel 2:13. If they do this, then their light and their healing will come quickly. When the call, God will answer quickly. They will have the name of those who rebuild ancient walls -- apparently after the ruin of the destruction of Jerusalem in 596 and 586 BC.

They must also keep the Sabbath and instead of considering it a burden - cf. Amos 8:5, where the wicked are eager to see the end of the Sabbath so they can sell their grain, and use false measures.

Then they will find their joy in the Lord. They will ride triumphant over the heights of the land: cf. Dt. 21-13.

No redemption without conversion. Chapter 59. Summary and Comments

This chapter seems to refer again to the period after the exile. He says that the arm of the Lord is not unable to save them, but their iniquities have separated them from Him and have caused His face to be hidden from them. For their hands are stained with blood, their lips have spoken lies, probably including false accusations in court. There they use "empty arguments." It sounds like ancient Greece where in court invalid arguments often carried the day.

So the prophet says they are like those who hatch eggs of a viper. Whoever eats such eggs will die. When an egg is broken, an adder comes out. They spin spider's webs, useless for clothing. Their thoughts aim at evil, they turn into crooked paths. Interestingly, in Romans 3:15-17 St. Paul cites verses 7 and 8a as part of a sad litany of how low people have sunk. But commentators need to notice that Paul is not only using Semitic exaggeration, but also is making what can be called a focused picture, i.e., one in which the law is seen as making heavy demands, giving no help, and so everyone falls. We called it focused since the view is limited, as if one looked through a tube, and saw only what was framed by the circle of the tube. Yet, off to the side, outside the circle, was divine help even before Christ: if one used it, the result was the opposite (On focusing cf. Wm. Most esp. p. 186. So the people say that justice is far from them. They look for light, but all is dark. They stumble and grope like the blind feeling their way along a wall. They look for God's just intervention () but find none, and for deliverance () in vain. For their offenses are many in the sight of God, and their sins are witnesses against them.

The next lines (15b to 18) are remarkable for the way words are used: "The Lord saw, and it was evil in His eyes, that there was no carrying out of right judgment ( by His people), and He saw that there was no man [to help] and wondered that there was no one to intervene [on behalf of ]. So His own arm causes salvation for Him [] and His moral rightness [] it sustained Him. And He put on moral rightness [] as a breastplate, and salvation [] as a helmet on His head. He clothed Himself with garments of executive vindication []. . . . According to deeds, accordingly He will repay. "

It is remarkable that in these lines we find three words - -- (usually meaning ) - and - which can turn in two directions, i.e., can mean favorable or unfavorable action by God. This is because the framework is the covenant. In Dt 11; 26 Moses told the people he was putting before them a blessing or a curse, according to whether they did or did not carry out the covenant. (Is 63:5 has a similar picture with similar wording. On this cf the appendix to Wm. Most ).

When God makes things right () then people from East and West will fear the name of the Lord. Judgment will burst in like a flood that has been pent up. The Redeemer will come from Zion for those who repent. St. Paul in Romans 11:26 uses this line about the Redeemer from Zion to refer to the coming conversion of the Jews.

Redemption of Zion. Chapter 60, Summary and Comments

This is the theme of chapters 60-62.

Isaiah opens: Arise, shine, for your light has come . Darkness covers the earth, but the Lord rises upon you. --The words about the darkness recall 9:1-2, which say that a light has come to the people who walked in darkness, they have seen the great light - the Messiah.

So even the gentiles will come to your light. Here we need to recall our comments on chapter 2 above. Most Jews took this and similar texts to mean gentiles would all become Jews. The fulfillment was that all would be called to the kingdom of the Messiah.

So the prophet says: Lift up your eyes, and look. Your sons and daughters come from afar. The real fulfillment was that of the nations coming to join the kingdom of the Messiah.

Isaiah 60:5 says that the nations will bring their treasures to Zion. This is like Haggai 2. 6-9: "Yet one moment [this as said in 520 BC!], and I will shake heaven and earth, and the treasures of all nations will come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of Hosts. . . . the glory of this later house will be greater than that of the first, says the Lord of Hosts." -- We have followed in the above the more usual way of translating verse 7, by saying "the treasures." St. Jerome rendered: "the one desired" by the nations will come in. The problem is in the fact that the Hebrew , which can mean the desired is singular in form, yet the verb is plural. So translators feel authorized to change from the to the , wealth. But St. Jerome was following the interpretation of the rabbis. And clearly the prophecy is messianic, even if we treat as plural. For then we will have the same sense as 60:5. Further, Haggai said the glory of the new temple would be greater than that of the old. Physically that did not come true - but the glory was greater when Christ, the Messiah, came into it. Then really the house was filled with glory, even though the Jews did not recognize it.

So we have here as many times in Isaiah, a prophecy that seemed to refer to the restoration after the Exile, and did in part mean that, but the complete fulfillment was to come with Christ.

Next he says that herds of camels will come, all from Sheba will come with gold and incense. The liturgy for the feast of the Epiphany makes beautiful use of this verse, and of some of the preceding verses. He says the flocks of Kedar, probably standing for all Arabian tribes, and Nebaioth, a Midianite tribe, and Sheba in SW Arabia will come to Jerusalem and bring sheep to offer in the temple.

Then Isaiah in his vision looks to the sea, and exclaims: Who are these that fly along the clouds, like doves to their nests? The far away nations are coming, and the ships of Tarshish trading ships from the remote part of the Mediterranean.

Foreigners, he says, will rebuild your walls and kings will serve you. There was a partial fulfillment of this in the work of Cyrus, who in 44:28 is foretold as saying: Let Jerusalem be rebuilt, let the foundations of the temple be laid: cf. 2 Chron 36:22-23.

So the glory of Lebanon, the precious wood, will come to adorn the sanctuary. Even more, instead of bronze they will get gold for the temple, and silver in place of iron.

Then Isaiah becomes more fully eschatological in saying that the sun will no longer be their light by day or the moon at night: the Lord Himself will be their everlasting light: cf. Apoc/Revel 21. 23.

Then the people will be righteous, and possess the land forever - that is, unless they become unfaithful. Cf. the warnings in 1 Kings 9. 1-9 and Jer 22. 4-9.

Because they did not know the day of their visitation, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, in Luke 19. 41-44.

Messenger of Good News. Chapter 61, Summary and Comments

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. - Who is it? A partial fulfillment may have been in the prophet himself. But the great fulfillment came when Jesus Himself said it was fulfilled in Him, in Luke 4. 16-19. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. He was to aid those who were oppressed. This is much like the work of the Servant of the Lord in 42. 3 and 50. 4.

He is to proclaim a year of the Lord's favor, but also a day of setting things right -- the word here is which means action by the one in charge of the community to put things right. It is often translated vengeance, but improperly, for vengeance is immoral. Rather, it is rectifying the objective moral order.

There is an allusion here to the Year of Jubilee, every 50th year, when those who had defaulted on debts and been sold into slavery had to be set free: Lev 25. 39ff. It as also called the Year of freedom: Ezek 46. 17. Then there would be a beautiful crown, a fine turban, for all who grieved in Zion, instead of ashes, put on the bare head in sign of mourning. They will be called oaks of righteousness, planted by the Lord.

They will rebuild ancient ruins, most likely those left from the Babylonian invasion of 596 and 586. But now outsiders will shepherd their flocks for them, for the people of Israel will be called priests of the Lord: cf. Exodus 19. 6. They will feed on the wealth that the nations will bring - cf. 60. 6ff above.

In his faithfulness the Lord will reward them with a double portion, and make an everlasting covenant with them, to compensate them for all the suffering of the exile.

So he - Isaiah or the Messiah - says: I delight greatly in the Lord, He has clothed me with garments of salvation. - These lines are given as optional readings for the common of Masses of the Blessed Virgin, there to be understood as referring to her. This is not mere accommodation, for because of her close union with Him in all His mysteries (as chapter 8 of , brings out) what is said of Him, applies in a way to her also. As Pius XII said, in she is "always sharing His lot. "

As the soil makes plants sprout and come up, so the almighty Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Persistent Prophet. Chapter 62. Summary and Comments

Isaiah himself speaks, it seems: For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, I will call out until her righteousness and salvation shine like the dawn. Righteousness and salvation here are - and . In context, they mean here, well- being. Nations and kings will see this. You will have a new name- recall that in Hebrew thought the name was often almost equivalent to the person. So to give a new name is to change the character. They will no longer call your land Deserted and Desolate. Rather, you will be called ("My delight is in her") and ("married"). The sense is that Israel is the bride of God (Cf. the marriage imagery in Hosea). He now takes her back. Her will delight in you as a young man delights in his bride.

So watchmen are posted on the walls to call on the name of the Lord without rest until He establishes Jerusalem again. He has sworn He will not again give your grain to an enemy. Rather, you who harvest it will eat it, and then praise the Lord.

So he exclaims: Pass through the gates, prepare the way for the people to return. Say to the Daughter of Zion (that is Zion): See, your Savior comes, and His reward is with him. They will be called a Holy People, and the city will be Sought-after (), and No-Longer-deserted.

Day of retribution. 63:1-6. Summary and Comments

Isaiah asks; Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah with garments stained red. Bozrah was the capital of Edom, often used to stand for nations opposed to the Lord - especially since Edom had refused Israel passage on its return from Egypt, and had taken advantage of the weakness of Judah when the Babylonians took Jerusalem. Edom seems to have been understood to mean ), mighty to save.

He is asked why his garments are red. He replies that He has trodden the winepress alone, no one from the nations helped. Here treading the winepress stands for executing the wrath of God (Apoc/Rev. 19. 15). He says that the day of naqam was in his heart. sands for executive action of the authority to set things right, whether favorable or unfavorable effect is required. It does not really mean , as versions commonly put it, for that word stands for immoral hate. Hence here he adds: the year of redemption has come. means benefit to God's friends, punishment for His enemies.

Then he said:I looked, and there was no one to help - the very wording is much the same as that which we saw above in 59. 15. God in His wrath made them drunk, on the wine of His wrath.

Prayer and Lament. 63. 7 - 64. 12. Summary and Comments

The prophet says; I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord- - really, the plural of , the ways in which He observes what He has pledged in the covenant, according to His compassion () and many kindnesses (). In all their distress, He was so compassionate that even He was distressed seeing their suffering. So an angel of His presence saved them and carried them as in days of old. Some think the angel of His presence is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. But this is unclear, though we grant that in Malachi 3. 1 the messenger of the Covenant is probably the Lord Himself. He , recalls Exodus 19. 4, in which He said He carried them in leaving Egypt as on eagle's wings.

In spite of this they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. Does this mean the Third Person of the Holy Trinity? Not impossible, but less likely so early as this in history. As a result of this rebellion, instead of helping them, He actually fought against them.

Then the people recalled the days of Moses when He brought them out of Egypt and through the sea.

So Isaiah begs: Look down from heaven and see. Where are your zeal ( intense love, like that of a jealous lover) and your might? Your compassion is withheld from us.

But you, Lord, are our Father. Even if Abraham did not know us, or Jacob did not acknowledge us: you are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Redeemer is , that next of kin who had the right and duty to rescue his kinsmen in great distress. In the covenant, as the blood sprinkling suggested, God pledged to act as though their kinsman and .

Therefore: Why, O Lord, do you cause us to wander from your ways and harden our hearts? This is a common Hebrew way of speaking, which attributes to direct action of God that which He really only permits. Cf. Amos 3. 6: "Is there an evil in the city which the Lord has not caused"? Or 1 Samuel 4. 3.

So he pleads: Return for your servants, for your inheritance. We are yours from of old.

Now the prophet exclaims: O, I wish you would break open the heavens and come down, while the mountains would tremble before you. Since ancient times no one has heard nor has any ear perceived, no eye has seen any God but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. -- St. Paul modified this considerably in 1 Cor 2. 9 to make it read: "Eye has not seen nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him." Paul is not quoting Isaiah closely at all. Some early writers -- Origen, Ambrosiaster and St. Jerome, thought he was quoting from . But this text is not found in any copy we possess of that intertestamental writing. Most likely Paul was acting much as the rabbis often did: he is free in his use of Scripture, and does not normally take into account the original setting of the words. (Similarly today, the line is often used to speak of Heaven: Neither Paul nor Isaiah had that in mind).

So he goes on saying: All of us have become like one who is unclean. Everything we have done to be righteous is like the rags of a menstruating woman. Some Protestants here have tried to use these words to say we are so totally corrupt that all our best works are evil. They forget several things: 1)64. 7 says: "There is no one who calls on your name." But Isaiah and his followers did. 2)40. 2 said that Israel "has received double for all her sins." But that would be unjust. So we see strong, and common Semitic exaggeration here. We compare 13:9-10 on the fall of Babylon, and 34. 4 on the fall of Edom, and Ezek 7-8 on the punishment of Egypt - all three use language much in line with Matthew 24. 29 in which the sun is darkened, and the moon does not give its light, and the stars fall from the sky. In the seeming face value of these texts nothing like it happened in reality: more Semitic exaggeration.

Furthermore, Luther did not really say what these objectors think. In what he considered his major work, (Tr. J. J. Packer, and O. R. Johnston, Revell Co., Old Tappan NJ, 1957) Luther said on p. 273 that we have no free will. On pp. 103-04 he said man's will is like a beast. If God rides, it does good. If satan rides, it does evil. A man has nothing to say about which rider gets on. So he goes to heaven or hell without any control over it. And God damns most people: p. 101. So on p. 314 he said that in this God is "damning the undeserving". Few Lutherans or other Protestants know what Luther really held!

Then, in a more consoling tone he says that the Lord is their Father (cf. 63. 16), ?We are the clay, and He is the potter. Of course Isaiah does not mean, like Luther, that we have no free will. He means that God can guide us and affect our actions in many ways without violating our free will. Cf. our comments on chapter 10. 5 above. St. Paul used the comparison of a potter i in Romans 9. 20-25 to teach that God gives or omits to give full membership in the People of God as He wills, independently of human merit. Cf. comments on those verses in Wm. Most, .

Isaiah continues pleading: Your sacred cities have become a desert, our glorious temple has been burned. O Lord will you hold back? Will you punish us beyond measure?

Contrast of the Obstinate and the Lord's Servants. Chapter 65. Summary and Comments

God says: "I revealed myself to those who did not call on me. I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on me, I said: Here I am."

St. Paul in Romans 10. 20 uses this verse to mean God has called the gentiles. And as Ephesians 3. 6 tells us, God did call the gentiles to be part of His people. Paul adds in 10. 21: "to Israel He says: All day I stretched out my hands to a people that did not believe, but contradicted." Yes. Jesus did stretch out His hands to Israel all day, but on the whole, they contradicted, rejected, and nailed those hands to the cross.

In Romans 3. 29 St. Paul asks: "Is He the God of the Jews only? No, He is also God of the gentiles." He means that if God had made eternal salvation depend on keeping the Mosaic law, He would act as if He did not care for any people but the Jews. Then He would not be the God of the others. But God has actually made provision for the others, by means of justification by faith. Faith in St. Paul's sense includes: 1)believe what God says; 2)Have confidence; 3) obey:cf. Romans 1:5, "the obedience of faith", i. e, the obedience that faith is.

So Paul in Romans 4 explains that Abraham was justified, not by the law, but by faith. This is evident. 1)Abraham believed God; 2) Had confidence in His word; 3)he obeyed, so as to believe in the coming birth of Isaac, and to be willing to sacrifice Isaac.

We can see how the gentiles, as Isaiah predicts here, could be justified by faith.

St. Justin Martyr, c. 145 A. D. in 1. 46, said that in the past some who were thought to be atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus, were really Christians, for they followed the Divine Logos, the Divine Word. Thus Socrates 1)believed what the Spirit of Christ wrote on his heart (Rom 2:15 citing Jer 31. 33) ' 2) He had confidence in it; 3) He obeyed what the Spirit of Christ wrote on his heart. Hence Socrates fulfilled the Pauline definition of faith, and could be called Christian, for He followed the Spirit of Christ, even though He did not know it was the Spirit of Christ that wrote this on his heart.

Further Socrates in following that Spirit of Christ was accepting and following the Spirit of Christ. Now in Romans 8:9 we learn that if one does have and follow the Spirit of Christ, he Christ. So Socrates did belong to Christ. But then, in Paul's terms: to belong to Christ means to be a member of Christ, which in turn means to be a member of the Church. So Socrates had a substantial, even though not formal, membership in the Church. (Not formal, since there was no visible adherence).

In accord with this, in 8. Vatican II said that the Church "subsists" in the Catholic Church. For persons like Socrates could be substantially members, by following what the Spirit wrote on their hearts.

Socrates followed a pagan religion. That religion was not a component part of the Church. Yet Socrates personally was a member. The same is true of those who follow a Protestant religion. That Protestant church is not a component part of the Catholic Church, yet its adherents can be members of the Catholic Church, as Socrates was.

So one reason we can call the Church a with LG 3 is that there is more to it than what meets the eye, it can include those who are in this way substantial members.

In saying there can be members without visible adherence, we are not contradicting the documents of the Church, but adding to them:

a)_Pius IX, in of August 10, 1863 said "God. . . in His supreme goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault." But some who do not visibly adhere meet this description. Pius IX in the very next sentence repeats the necessity of the Church for salvation, so those who meet thee requirement must in some way be members of the Church.

b)On August 9, 1949, the Holy Office, by order of Pius XII, condemned the interpretation given by L. Feeney of "no salvation outside the Church" and said, citing the same Pope's Mystical Body Encyclical: "It is not always required that one be actually incorporated, but this at least is required that one adhere to it in wish and desire" which can be "a desire of which he is not aware" contained in the good dispositions mentioned.

c)Vatican II in LG #16 explicitly said the same: "Those who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation." To attain that, one needs to be in some way a member of the Church. Socrates was, so are many others, even without visible adherence.

d)John Paul II, in , 10 affirms the same thing: "The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. . . . For such people [those who do not know of the Church] salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church. . . ." We are proposing to fill-in on that "mysterious relationship", and agree that those we have described are not 'formally" part of the Church, since they do not explicitly and externally adhere, but yet in some sense are members, for they could not otherwise be saved.

In contrast, the prophet complains of those who are unfaithful to God, who offer sacrifice in gardens, and keep vigil at night (probably for necromancy) and eat the flesh of pigs, and even say they are thereby made holy and sacred: "Keep away from me. I am holy." We think again of What Ezekiel saw in his vision in his chapter 8.

So God says: Such people are like smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps on burning. So I will not be silent, but will repay them with full payment for their deeds.

Then the prophet thinks of the others, the remnant who are faithful: Just as when a cluster of grapes still has some juice in it, and so we do not destroy it, so God will not destroy all, but will save the remnant. He will bring forth descendants from Jacob and Judah. From the plain of Sharon (In the west by the sea) to the Valley of Achor (in the east by Jericho) will be pasture for their flocks.

But the others, the unfaithful, who spread a table for Fortune and mix bowls of wine for Destiny -- He will "destine" them for the sword. He called (as in verse 1 above) but they did not hear. Yet His servants will eat and not go hungry. They will sing, and He will give them a new name (cf. Apoc/Rev. 2. 17) - a new name stands or a new role). They will be so blessed that people invoking a blessing will say: "May you be blessed like these. "

Behold, I am creating a new heaven and a new earth(cf. 2 Peter 3. 13 and Apoc. /Rev. 21. 1). The former things will be forgotten. I will make Jerusalem a delight, its people a joy. The sound of weeping will no longer he heard there. There will be in it no infant who lives only a few days. If a man dies at age 100 he will be thought to be cursed, for not living out his lifespan. I will answer them even before they call. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw, while the serpent eats dust. -- A recollection of the idyllic image given above in 11:6-9 and of the serpent in Genesis 3. 14 condemned to eat dust.

The end of all things. | Chapter 66. Summary and Comments

God points out that the heaven is His throne, so nothing on earth can contain Him, even if He wills to dwell in the old temple -- unless and until the people are unfaithful, after which it was to be destroyed, as indeed it was. Cf. again, mentioned above, 1 Kings 9. 1-19 and Jer 17. 27. So an external temple is not enough: God wants the interior, as in the those who are humble in heart: cf. again God's complaint against empty sacrifices in 1. 11-31; 29:13.

A strange saying: He who sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and he who offers a lamb is like on who breaks a dog's neck, or he who makes a grain offering is like one who presents a pig's blood. There are two possibilities for these sayings. They are against 1) Those who have only the exterior of sacrifice, but not in the interior; 2) against those who offer sacrifices but also kill. The first in context seems to be the right sense.

God then says: Those who have chosen their own ways will receive harsh treatment from God. He called, but no one answered. They did evil in His sight.

Therefore: Hear what the Lord says, and tremble at His word. God mocks those who ridicule the faithful Jews because they honor the name of the Lord, and even say in mockery: "Let the Lord be glorified, so we may see the joy you promise will come from Him!

So the prophet tells them to listen. There is a noise from the temple, it is the Lord repaying His enemies. But for His friends. It will be as if a woman gives birth without any labor, so will Zion bring forth so many children without labor.

Therefore: Rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad for her. You will nurse at her breasts. God will extend well-being () to them like a flooding stream or river. He will be as kind as mother comforting her child.

Then the faithful will flourish like grass. But those who seem to flourish without God will be burned down by the Lord.

Such wicked persons go into the garden and do what they call "purifying' themselves to worship false gods, and they follow a leader who even eats the flesh of pigs and rats and does other abominable things.

So because of this, God is going to come to gather all nations for judgment. He will show their punishment to all, this will be a sign of God's justice. Some of the survivors, the faithful remnant, will go far, to Tarshish, to Libya, and Lydia that have not heard of the Lord and they will proclaim His glory among the nations. They will bring other to the holy mountain in Jerusalem, and bring them to the temple. The image again is like that of chapter 2, in which God brings the nations to Jerusalem. Please recall our comments there.

To close the entire book: There will be new heavens and a new earth, which will last. So too will the descendants of those faithful to Him last - this includes those brought to Jerusalem, which will include gentiles. Isaiah seems to say they will worship according to Jewish rituals, from one New Moon to another, from one Sabbath to another. But here he is using almost material images to stand for a future which he does not clearly see. This is much like the vision of Ezekiel 40-48 of a new temple, which at first sight sounds like a restored Judaism with animal sacrifices. Actually, just as many older things, such as the Sinai covenant, promised in the first place material blessings, which were later understood to really stand for spiritual things, so it will be in the actual future.