Brief Notes on Isaiah 1

So this will not give a full exposition, but will only consist of some observations about the text.

  • Verse 2 summons law court imagery with the heavens and the earth being witnesses.
  • Verse 3 does not complete its thought, intentionally so. Israel does not know what? God’s people do not understand what? The hearer/reader must fill it in.
  • In verse 4 there seems to be a playing on the ideas in verses 2-3. Verse 3 is about masters. God is meant to be Israel’s master but Israel does not know this. Instead, in verse 4, the sinful nation is a people who is ruled over/oppressed by (“laden with” in the ESV) iniquity. Then verse 2 talked about children and the next part talks about them being offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly. Possibly, the last half of verse 4 does something similar. While the heavens and earth hear and give ear, Israel forsakes, despises, and thus is estranged.
  • Verses 9 and 10 compare Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • In verse 10, there is a call to hear and give ear that seems to reference back to verse 2.
  • In verse 11, in contrast to the few survivors there is a multitude of sacrifices. But clearly God is not pleased.
  • The rest of 11-14 play on a lot of ideas. The blood idea will carry forward. The appearing before possibly goes back to the call to heaven and earth to be witnesses (is there also a play on courts here in verse 12?). Iniquity references back and forward. Not only is Israel burdened from verse 4, but God is burdened.
  • Verse 15 is one of the starkest images where the people spread their hands in prayer but their hands are full of blood.
  • Verses 16-18 again have ideas that reverberate through the text. The imagery of washing with white. The scarlet with blood. God hiding his eyes and them removing their evil deeds before his eyes. Evil, good, justice, oppression, the fatherless, and the widow’s cause are recurrent.
  • Verses 19-20 has some interesting play because the people will either be obedient and thus eat the good of the land or rebel and thus be eaten by the sword, and all of this comes from the mouth of the Lord.
  • Verses 21-22 again have themes running throughout.
  • Verse 23 is interesting because the people love a bribe. They run after gifts. But they do not bring justice to the fatherless. More than that, the widow’s cause does not even come to them.
  • Verses 24-28 have themes throughout too.
  • Verses 29-31 have interesting points of contact. The people become like the oak (verse 30) that they desire (verse 29). Verse 30 picks up on similar themes of Jeremiah 17 and Psalm 1. This tree (oak) has a leaf that withers though and the garden is without water (cf. the garden in verse 29). This dryness from lack of water means the tinder and spark in verse 31 lead to a burning fire.

Grasp the Bible’s Storyline in a Month

Inspired by this tweet (and using it as a starting point), the goal is to have people do 30 days of reading and grasp the big picture of the bible’s storyline while incorporating diverse elements (psalms, etc.). Ambitious, I know. Ideally, I want this to be done where the person only has to read 17 minutes per day (for the ease of the math below). Clearly that means a lot needs to be omitted, so this is more of a starting off point than the end goal. Given an average reading pace [1] and assuming an average number of words per chapter [2], this means I can choose 180 of the 1,189 chapters of the bible. [3] In other words, this would mean reading 6 chapters per day. If you have any changes within the confines above, feel free to suggest them.

Here is the list (in canonical English order):

  • Genesis 1-4; 6-9; 11-13; 15-17; 21-22; 24-30; 32; 37; 39-46; 49-50
  • Exodus 1-14; 19-20; 40
  • Leviticus 16; 23
  • Numbers 13-14; 16-17
  • Deuteronomy 28; 30
  • Joshua 1-3; 6-8; 10-11; 24
  • Judges 1-2; 19-21
  • 1 Samuel 1-13; 15-20; 31
  • 2 Samuel 1-2; 5-7; 11-15; 18; 24
  • 1 Kings 1-3; 6-8; 11-12; 17; 25
  • Ezra 1-2
  • Nehemiah 2; 4; 6
  • Psalms 1; 119
  • Proverbs 9-10
  • Isaiah 1; 5-6; 11; 28-29; 40; 52-53
  • Haggai 1-2
  • Luke 1-24
  • Acts 1-4; 6-11; 13; 15
  • Ephesians 1-6
  • Rev 21-22

One final observation: the percentage of NT chapters of this list is surprisingly greater than the percentage of NT chapters in Scripture.

Notes

[1] 225 words/minute
[2] Derived by the total number of words in the ESV divided by the total number of chapters; because I am too lazy to do a word count of the chapters I include.
[3] There are 757,439 words in the ESV. Reading at 225 words/min for 17 minutes for 30 days = 225*17*30 = 114,750 words. 114,750/757,439 = .151497 is the decimal of the total number of words read of the bible. 1189*.151497= 180.130347 chapters read. So, we are going with 180 chapters. This means 6 chapters per day.

Sin, Impurity, Sacrifice, Atonement: The Priestly Conceptions (Sklar)

I really love Leviticus, and I finally got around to this book. As the title suggests, Sklar investigates how the four concepts of sin, impurity, sacrifice, and atonement relate to one another. Leviticus is a foreign world to us in a number of ways, so thinking through the social matrix of ancient Israel can be difficult. Here’s the puzzle (taken from page 1). The sacrifices of atonement address sin in some contexts and impurity in others. Both, however, lead to atonement (kipper) for the one offering the sacrifice. In contexts of sin, the result is forgiveness. In contexts of impurity, the result is purification or consecration. In both, however, an atoning sacrifice is required and the priest makes atonement for the offerer. So, why is atonement required in both? How should we think about these priestly conceptions.

Read the book and find out! It’s a really great study that is less than 200 pages. Highly recommended.

Two Views on Women in Ministry (ed. Beck)

This book is a great introduction to the topic. Although I am fairly familiar with the terrain, there were still some interesting points I found throughout. Each view has two proponents. Linda Belleville and Craig Keener defend egalitarianism while Craig Blomberg and Tom Schreiner defend compelementarianism. Each side is allotted the same amount of space. After an essay by a contributor, brief response pieces follows from the other contributors. Here is a statement that the editor and all contributors agree with:

We believe one can build a credible case within the bounds of orthodoxy and a commitment to inerrancy for either one of the two major views we address in this volume, although all of us view our own positions on the matter as stronger and more compelling.

In a debate that often produces more heat than light (oppression!; radical feminist!), may this book help us grow in thinking about God’s word, kingdom, and glory.

The Book of Pastoral Rule (St. Gregory the Great)

This book was absolutely fantastic. I am reading through the church fathers at about 10 pages per day, but I read this one much more quickly. It often includes what we consider quirky readings of the biblical text. Othertimes the readings are simply not what was meant. So in Revelation when Jesus talks about wishing the Laodiceans were hot or cold, Gregory thinks this means he wishes they were either on fire for Jesus or didn’t even pretend to be believers. But that’s not right: we know from archaeology that there were different aqueducts and that hot and cold water both served a different purpose. Does this make Gregory’s reading wrong? That one is less clear. But plenty is well worth thinking through. Here are a few quotes:

No one does more harm in the Church than he who has the title or rank of holiness and acts perversely.

Doctrine does not penetrate the mind of the needy if the hand of compassion does not commend it to the soul.

[W]hen a pastor is asked about a spiritual matter by a layperson, it would be disgraceful for him to have to learn the answer, when he should have been prepared to solve the question.