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.

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