Isaiah 5-8

Good morning! Welcome to the handful of folks who decided yesterday to join this community and read through the prophets with us! I hope you had a chance to read the first four chapters of Isaiah. Today in Isaiah 5-8, we read a famous allegory, Isaiah’s call story, and a situation in Hebrew history where Isaiah demonstrates his commitment to being God’s mouthpiece.

Isaiah 5 describes vineyard which does not produce good fruit, though it has every possible advantage. As a consequence, the landowner breaks down the protective walls that keep out marauding trespassers, with the result that the vineyard is destroyed. Just so will God remove the divine protections that have kept the Assyrian threat at bay, Isaiah says, because the people of Jerusalem have failed to bear the fruits of righteous, holy obedience to God’s ways. Instead, the wealthy take advantage of the poor and people live only with the thought of their next distracting entertainment. God’s judgment on this self-centeredness involves foreign invaders who will not stop until they have ransacked Jerusalem.

One common feature of prophetic literature is a description of how the prophet gets into this role in the first place. These “call stories” always includes an action of God, human resistance, divine reassurance, and a call to prophesy. Isaiah 6 follows this pattern with imagery from the Jerusalem temple. Heaven looks something like the grandeur of Solomon’s greatest construction, and yet the hem of God’s robe barely fits in the temple. After proclaiming his unworthiness and receiving divine purification, Isaiah responds to God’s call for a prophet with “Here am I; send me!” Little does he realize the stark message of judgment that will be his to deliver throughout Judah.

Isaiah 7-8 show this vocation in action. Isaiah the prophet shares a conversation with young King Ahaz, who is convinced that enemies are too powerful for the Hebrew people. This must have been a very famous encounter, for we read other accounts of it earlier in the history books. Isaiah follows divine instructions and names his own child in a way that carries a prophetic dimension. (This is common in later prophets like Hosea as well.) Note how Isaiah’s role as prophet casts him as the vessel through which divine judgment comes, so he adopts that perspective even when it calls for denouncing the misbehavior of powerful leaders.

One final noteworthy part of chapter 7 is a prophecy concerning a young woman with child who names her son Immanuel. While Christians look back on texts like this (and others here in the prophets) as clear precursors of Jesus Christ, such a strange means of salvation would have been far from the Hebrew imagination. We do well to consider these prophecies in their original context, and if possible to resist the lens of later Christian interpretations. Happy reading!

Read Isaiah 5-8.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Isaiah 9-12. Thanks for reading!

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