Read: Isaiah 9 and 11
Background Considerations These chapters introduce us to some of the memorable lines from Isaiah, especially for Christians who have the New Testament in mind as they read both the descriptions of the child-turned-redemptive leader and the idyllic picture of the peaceful coexistence in nature of wild and domestic animals. A beauty exudes from the prophet’s words, matched in few other places in the book.
In this context, what might it mean to pay attention to the original setting and language of the time and place from which the book of Isaiah comes? Are there clues in the book and the other prophets which might help us? Are there any terms which would have an original significance which we could have passed over in the past? Are there any assumptions which we bring with us to the texts which could interfere with the interpretation closest to what the Bible writers had in mind? Are these words predictions of the far-off future (a heavenly one) or the best the prophet could imagine as an earthly ideal future? Or both?
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Read Isaiah 9-12 a couple of times this week.
- Isaiah 9:1-7 – These verses set a contrast to what had preceded in chapter 8, with its darkness and gloom associated with misguided sources of information. Here there is light! Here there is joy! Here there is excitement and success. The reasons for this change are three, all introduced by a “for” or “because.” 1) for the oppressing nation has been removed (vs. 4). 2) for enemy weapons have been converted to fuel (vs. 5). 3) for a child has been born. All three are the cause of a major change; all three result in light replacing darkness. Why this set of reasons? Is there anything we should hear or assume with these three? The first two are military, but what of the last one? Which is the most important, given the space dedicated to it?What is the function of the son? Are we to keep in mind the echos with other sons in Isaiah 7-9 – Isaiah’s first son, Shearjashub; Immanuel; Mahershalalhashbaz? What do the descriptions and names suggest of the function of this son – government, kingdom? Are the titles throne names? Do we have a king here? And what kind of king – just and righteous, dependent on the Lord of hosts? Is this the ideal ruler?Although some divide the titles differently, there probably should be four: Wonderful Counselor; Might God; Everlasting Father; Prince of Peace. Checking with a good Bible dictionary, students of this passage will likely find helpful information about these names and what they meant in the context of the Old Testament. All except for the final name have parallels in Old Testament sources like the books of Samuel, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all have been used to designate a king in Judah. While we automatically apply them to Jesus as Christians, there are other connections which likely would have occurred more readily to Old Testament hearers and readers. If so, Isaiah is originally speaking of the best king in the line of David who ever ruled, an ideal king, one who trusted God implicitly and treated everyone, especially the underprivileged, with justice. This king, in a long history of Old Testament understanding, would vanquish all threats and opponents, granting peace to Judah. Without losing track of original meanings, Christians will also see an ultimate Son of David in the New Testament.
- Isaiah 9:8-21 – Arrogance and adversaries figure strongly in this brief passage, pitting proud Israel against opposing Syria and Philistia. This kind of context reminds us that Isaiah was speaking primarily to people in his day who faced real threats, both internally and externally.
- Isaiah 10 – More on arrogance and its results in chapter 10. As we will see later, both of these ideas will become major themes in the book.
- Isaiah 11:1-10 – A beautiful passage about what it could be like under God’s rule. Justice and fairness among humans should parallel peaceful coexistence among the animals. Again, we likely have here an ideal picture of how God intends life to be lived on a more earthly level. The idea of a heaven after this life is not a prominent theme in the Old Testament. But that has never precluded the kind of hope and anticipation of how things could be.
- Isaiah 11:11-16 – The idea of a remnant, developed with great care throughout the book of Isaiah, is the main focus here. This remnant will be gathered from all over the world and will rule over historic opponents.
- Isaiah 12 – A song of thanksgiving, these verses provide a wonderfully warm expression of gratitude to God for deliverance and salvation (usually perceived as both everyday threats in the lives of the people as well as guilt and sin).
Contributions to the study of Isaiah Isaiah was a master at imagining and communicating the shape of hope, as chapters 9 and 11 indicate. Arrogance and injustice meet their match in God’s gracious acts of hope.
Lessons for Life What would it be like to have no hope? To have Isaiah’s hope?