Good morning! In today’s passage (Isaiah 17-21), we come to appreciate our cosmopolitan, well-traveled protagonist. Isaiah is an international man of prophecy! Most of these chapters deal with oracles about what’s going on in other nations and cities around Israel. A good study Bible or commentary will help to place some of the significant images and metaphors from Isaiah’s prophecies. What I’m struck by today is that Isaiah did not have to maintain his awareness of regional, international dynamics. Plenty of Hebrew leaders had focused exclusively on the “chosen people”, ignoring all else. Yet Isaiah’s prophecies here reveal the extent to which he was involved in regional conversations and aware of the dynamics at play when the superpower Assyria started throwing its weight around the entire Middle East.
I see at least three reasons why Isaiah would offer such prophecies about the circumstances of other nations beyond Egypt. First, it makes sense when advising national leaders to have an idea what else is out there—both in terms of what sorts of leadership is being modeled in other nations, and where potential threats might be coming from. Second, there is a nationalist implication, because it demonstrates that Judah’s prophets are important enough to balance the oracles of Israel with the prophecies for other nations. We see this in chapter 19, where Isaiah places Israel in and amongst the great civilizations of Egypt and Assyria. But third and most importantly, I believe Isaiah is aware of international situations because God is active across the nations as well. Somewhat uniquely for this time, Hebrews understood that their God is not a “local” deity to be revered by the people of Israel alone. Rather, God is the creator of the whole universe and is active throughout all civilizations. Therefore, Isaiah’s prophesies concerning God’s actions far from Israel was both wise leadership at home and faithful witness to the God of all corners of creation. Even though the God of the Hebrews has given Jews a special authority and responsibility, the same God also orders the entire cosmos, and will never be confined to one nationality or country. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Isaiah 22-24. Thanks for reading!