Book of Isaiah Summary
You can break Isaiah down into roughly three parts. The first part (Proto-Isaiah) prophesies death and destruction, but keeps lightening it up with cheery prophecies of a good and holy kingdom at the end of time. He always finds the sunny side. Sure, God might attack and annihilate people for wearing earrings, or appoint children to rule as bad kings over Israel, but he always gets to a silver-lining at some point.
In the end, everyone—God included—is going to be so relaxed and peaceful, that formerly carnivorous lions will be able to eat straw with oxen in peace. A vegetarian or vegan diet will be the rule in the Animal Kingdom (Alicia Silverstone's bringing the brownies, probably). We're not suggesting that the end of days stops with a Phish and Widespread Panic Jam Band festival, but uh, maybe that's one metaphor you might want to try on.
License to Ill
The second part of Isaiah (part of Proto-Isaiah and most of Deutero-Isaiah—the latter of which includes chapters 40-55 or so) is much more revved up and eager to see some carnage. Nation after nation receives prophecies of gloom and doom: Assyria, Edom, Ephraim, Babylonia, Moab—you name it, it's getting the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid Treatment: discontinued.
Promulgating the ethos of Iron Maiden's "Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter", God hands out beat-downs and dishes out vengeance to all the nations, Israel and Judah included. It's not quite as graphic as some other parts of the Bible, but Isaiah—despite its peaceful rep—definitely portrays a God with a license to kill (and, potentially, a "license to ill" as well).
The Big Chill
Finally, the third part of Isaiah (Trito-Isaiah, or chapters 56-66) seems to be coming more from a future perspective—the slaughter is (or is almost) behind us, and now everyone is getting it together, waiting for the peaceful time that the earlier part of Isaiah had prophesied. God's not only going to be the Big Kahuna, but really the only Kahuna on the block, as far as anyone can tell.
The blood and guts fest comes to an end, and everyone will go to God's temple and God's holy people and pay homage and reverence to them, while the corpses of everyone who rebelled against God continue to rot ignominiously in the fields. (Despite this gory little sideshow, the cosmic Woodstock on God's Holy Mountain is really still the main event.)
Also, it would be important to mention some of the Messianic prophecies scattered throughout Isaiah—everyone argues about these (as covered in the later analysis sections, like "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory"). Is the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah (particularly prominent in chapter 52) a personification of the righteous members of Israel? Is he Jesus of Nazareth? Is he a figment of a narrator's hopeful imagination? Is he a Messiah yet to come? Obviously, we're not going to attempt to answer any of those questions. This is just to note that those prophecies are some of the big, standout passages in Isaiah, for everyone—in addition to being the most fiercely debated.
- Jumping straight into the prophecy zone, Isaiah kick-starts with a vision prophesying against the wickedness of Judah, during the reign of a number of its kings.
- Isaiah speaks in the voice of God himself—and God, as it turns out, is very displeased.
- God says that the people of Judah were raised up as his own children, but they've gone against him.
- Unlike a donkey, who is capable of knowing who its master is, Judah is totally rebellious. God rhetorically asks Judah why it hasn't managed to stay true and become obedient, even after it has suffered so many punishments for its crimes.
- Zion is now left like a "booth in a cucumber field" (among other things), meaning that it's exposed to outside attack, and has already been ravaged by foreign invasions.
- But thanks to God's mercy, he's still left some survivors around. Still, he addresses Judah as though they were the same as the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, heading for total annihilation.
Frankly, Scarlet—Then, Snow
- God attacks Judah's ritualism. He says that its sacrifices don't please him; in fact, they're abominations. And its ceremonies are a huge waste of time.
- God says that he will continue to hide himself from them, refusing to answer their prayers, until the people of Judah make a big 180 degree turn-around.
- They need to start walking the walk, instead of just being all ritual and talk. They need to do things like, "defend the orphan, plead for the widow."
- This part of the speech ends on a note of promise, with God saying that their scarlet sins will become white as snow. But he warns them, still: if they don't change their ways, destruction will be the order of the day.
Sleeping with the Enemy
- God goes on to say more. He says the people are prostituting themselves to wickedness. Failing to take care of the orphan and the widow, they're getting in bed (God uses the adultery metaphor a lot) with murderers and thieves and power-hungry bad guys.
- God says that he's going to annihilate all these villains and corrupt people. Pouring out his wrath, God compares it to destroying an alloyed metal, melting it down to make it pure.
- He says once this process is complete, the city of Zion will be a beautiful and faithful place once more, like it was in the beginning.
- But then again, he reminds them that destruction is still going to be dished out in heaping portions. He says that they'll all regret worshipping sacred trees (we're looking at you, weeping willow), and they themselves will suffer the fate of a tree that withers and dries up.
- The wicked deeds done by their strong men will be like a spark that sets them on fire, utterly destroying them.
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
- Now, Isaiah (still channeling God) goes on to offer more prophetic words about Judah and Jerusalem. He says that, in the days to come, God's house will be established on a mountain higher than all other mountains (maybe metaphorically higher).
- All the nations, all the Gentiles, and everybody will be coming to gather at this house of God
- Everyone is going to dedicate themselves to walking in the ways of Jacob's God—both Jews and Gentiles.
- God will maintain order between all the nations so that peace will come everywhere. People will "beat their swords into ploughshares." (In other words, they'll turn weapons of war into farming implements—which is nice.)
- Isaiah then addresses Jews themselves, telling the "House of Jacob" to return to following God's ways.
- He tells them that they've been too influenced by foreign diviners and soothsayers like the Philistines. Evidently, they've been overly impressed by the riches and splendors of those foreign lands, tempted towards idol-worship.
- But the day of the Lord will come, when God will stand taller than all the tall things associated with these other people—like the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, and the ships of Tarshish (in addition to generally tall things like mountains).
- God alone will be exalted on that day; all the idols are going to bite the dust. The people are going to chuck their idols into caves and holes, and run away themselves to hide in caves and holes. (Those are going to be some crowded hiding spots.)
- The chapter ends with a final exhortation to turn away from everything that is mortal and for the House of Jacob to dedicate itself to God.
- Now, says Isaiah, God is going to remove all the supporting and sustaining things from his people: food and water, for starters, but also the warriors and judges and elders (and magicians and enchanters too). (What, haven't you been supported by a magician at some point in your life?)
- God's going to appoint excessively young and inexperienced princes to rule over Judah, as well. Everyone will be acting hostile towards everyone else, and the young people will mock their elders and disrespect them.
- They'll try to make a relative, a member of their clan, their leader—but even he's going to refuse. It'll be social chaos, all because Judah and Jerusalem couldn't live up to God's rules.
- The wicked people can't hide their guilt: they simply look really guilty, when you see them walking around. The innocent people are going to prosper, but the wicked are headed for a fall.
- He says that, not only children will oppress Judah, but women will rule over them too. (Yeah, maybe that's a good thing, Mr. Isaiah?)
- But God's going to punish the wicked and unjust elders and princes, mainly for oppressing the poor.
Hand Bags and Glad Rags
- Now, God attacks the women of Zion for being haughty and lustful. God's going to—in a rather un-P.C. manner—inflict their heads with scabs (ew). Oh, and he'll also "lay bare their secret parts." Yikes.
- The anti-woman attack continues, as Isaiah says the Lord is going to get rid of all their finery and jewels: the hand-bags and the glad-rags, the nose rings, the bracelets, the anklets, etc. (They'll be no accessorizing in ancient Judah, basically.)
- Their perfumes will be replaced with horrible smells, they'll go bald, they'll need to wear sack-cloth and rope, and all their beauty will be taken away from them.
- Oh, and all the warriors are going to get killed, and the women will have nothing better to do than sit around and mourn. Bad times.
- Isaiah continues on the same themes: multiple women are going to all cling to the same man, begging him to take away their shame, and saying that they'll buy their own bread and food.
- But again, shifting back to how in the end it'll all be good, the prophecy goes on to say that the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and flourishing. Everyone who's left over after all the destruction will be able to have a great time, once God has finished spreading the punishment around.
- Then, God will create the appearance of a cloud during the day, and a fire by night—like during the Exodus—and will spread a canopy over everyone. The canopy's going to function as a shelter from both heat and from cold.
Home and Gardening Tips
- Isaiah sings a hymn about how his beloved (God) planted a vineyard on a hill and built a watchtower in the middle of it. God thought it would yield nice, domesticated grapes, but it didn't. Instead, it yielded wild grapes (that came in from outside the vineyard).
- Now, speaking in God's voice, Isaiah asks what more he could've done to protect the vineyard? The implied answer is "nothing."
- So, since the vineyard just yielded up all these lousy wild grapes, God's going to totally destroy it. He'll remove the hedge and won't water it, just let it get wiped out.
- Isaiah, revealing the significance of this metaphor, explains that the house of Israel and the people of Judah are themselves the vineyard. Instead of yielding up good grapes (righteousness and justice), they yielded up wild grapes (wickedness and injustice). That's pretty sour.
No Happy Hour
- God attacks the greedy people who are taking over all the land, adding field after field into their own ownership.
- He says that many houses will be emptied and made desolate, and that all these fields will end up yielding barely anything.
- Next, God goes after people who are waking up early and drinking hard booze, then keeping it up through the evening. God says that such people are just pleasure-seekers who ignore his own righteous ways.
- He says this is a big part of the reason why the people are hungering, the nobles are starving, and others are getting sent into exile.
- Sheol (the underworld) "has enlarged its appetite": everyone's dying. All the nobles of Jerusalem are dying out, and everyone else is being humbled.
- Lambs will be able to play in the ruins of the city. (Well, at least the lambs will be happy.)
Hold the Cosmopolitan
- God calls out the people who impatiently keep saying that he should hurry up and manifest his divine plan.
- He says that they're just sinners who think what's good is evil and what's evil is good. Further calling them out, God condemns such people for thinking that they're so wise, and also for cultivating bar-tending skills at the expense of righteousness (he says they're "heroes at drinking wine and valiant at mixing drink").
- He also says that they're corrupt, can be bribed to get guilty people off, and deal unjustly with the innocent.
Whistlin' Dixie (or, uh, Assyria)
- All of these people (says God) are going to die like a withering plant or dry grass getting burned up in a fire for refusing to follow God's instructions.
- This tends to make God really angry. God's already filled the streets up with corpses and he's still miffed, won't turn his wrath away.
- God's going to whistle up a foreign army from far away. They'll have a really high-end, state-of-the-art army—great arrows and chariots and all the rest. Like devouring lions, they'll sweep down and destroy Judah. Darkness and distress will be the order of the day.
Who Needs Chapstick?
- Now, Isaiah says that in the same year that King Uzziah died, he (Isaiah) had a really intense vision of God seated upon his throne:
- The hem of God's robe hangs down and fills the temple. Seraphim—angels with six wings—are attending on God and singing his praises. They cover their faces with two of their wings, cover their feet with another two, and use the remaining pair to fly.
- The entirety of the throne room-temple fills with smoke. Isaiah cries out, saying that he is a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, yet he's somehow managed to still see God.
- One of the Seraphim comes down to fix this problem. He takes a burning coal from the temple and presses it against Isaiah's mouth. It hurts—but hey, his lips are clean now, his sins have been purified, and now he can prophesy.
- Isaiah hears God ask who can go and speak to his people, and Isaiah eagerly volunteers.
What?? It Was in the Stump All Along!
- Next, God tells Isaiah what he should say to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It's basically a set of somewhat paradoxical commands: "Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not understand."
- God says that Isaiah should make the people unable to understand what's going on. He says that Isaiah should prevent them from understanding what God desires of them, making sure that they're unable to be healed and forgiven. (This might be an ironic way of saying that, though. By telling them the right things to do, Isaiah will make them blind to the truth, because they'll be so naturally opposed and unwilling to listen to it.)
- Isaiah is supposed to keep this mission up until cities are totally demolished, and the country is thoroughly depopulated (through death and through exile).
- God says that, if even ten percent of the population remains, it will still be subject to destruction, like a tree cut down until it's just a stump.
- But he also says (cryptically), the holy seed (the power that will redeem the people) will be hidden in the stump. Hmm.
Three Kings (No, not the Movie with Ice Cube and George Clooney)
- Shifting the setting of the story, we're now in the reign of King Uzziah's grandson, King Ahaz. King Ahaz has just found out that King Pekah of Israel and King Rezin of Aram have allied with Ephraim to launch an attack on Jerusalem. He—along with everyone else—gets really nervous.
- But God speaks to Isaiah and tells him to go meet King Ahaz and reassure him, saying that their evil plot to conquer Jerusalem won't come to pass.
- God says that those who don't stand firm in faith won't stand at all.
- The Voice of God tells King Ahaz that he should ask God for a sign. But King Ahaz doesn't really get what's going on, apparently, and he says he's not going to put God to a test by asking him for a sign.
- So Isaiah, saying that this kind of misunderstanding is really wearying and annoying for God, says that he'll reveal what the sign will be to Ahaz.
- A young woman will give birth to a child and name him Immanuel (which means "God is with us").
- Translation Station: The Hebrew word translated as "young woman" here sometimes got translated in the ancient world to read "virgin." As you could guess, most ancient and medieval Christians read this verse as a reference to the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. Hence, the Christmas carol (also a whole body of theology, but never mind that) “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” which celebrates Jesus as the Immanuel of Isaiah. That said, most scholars think the Hebrew as it stands just means young lady, with no comment on her—ahem—extracurriculars.
- He's going to eat curds and honey (de-lish) and know how to tell evil from good, choosing the good.
- But before he knows how to do all this, the land of the two kings now getting ready to attack Judah will be deserted, and God—using the King of Assyria as his tool—will bring more disastrous days on those kings and their lands (and on Judah, too) than have been seen since Ephraim split from Judah.
Mack of Bees
- God will whistle for the fly from Egypt and the bee from Assyria, and they'll settle in the abandoned rocks and crags of the land and on the pastures and bushes.
- God will use the King of Assyria like a razor to shave off the beard and the hair of the head and feet from the lands he's attacking.
- On that day, says God, one person will keep alive two sheep and a cow, and will be able to eat the abundant curds from these animals. In fact, everyone will be able to eat curds and honey.
- But briars are going to grow up in the places where there used to be vineyards, and on all the hills, which will become overrun with wandering cows and sheep, just to top it all off.
For the Baby's Name, We're Debating Between "Kyle" and "Maher-shalal-hash-baz"
- God tells Isaiah to go write "Maher-shalal-hash-baz"—which means "quick to the spoils, quick to the prey"—on a tablet, and have two particularly trustworthy priests attest to it.
- So, Isaiah goes and impregnates his wife, the prophetess, and she gives birth to a son.
- God instructs Isaiah to name the son, again, "Maher-shalal-hash-baz." (That's not exactly like naming your kid "Apple" or "North West"—or, wait… yeah, it's exactly like that.)
- This is because, before the son even knows how to say "Mother" and "Father," Damascus and Samaria will get crushed by the King of Assyria—his name describes what Assyria is going to do to those places.
- Because the people have "refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently" and acted cowardly before the King of Israel's threat of invasion, God says he's going to let the King of Assyria launch a full-blown assault on everyone—Israel, Judah, and Aram—which will fill up and overtake the land.
- A short hymn follows, warning people that if they band together (against this threat) they will end up being dismayed; whatever they do to prepare, they'll just be dismayed and overwhelmed (bummer). Their plans and schemes won't stand—only God will.
Ignore the 'Truthers'
- God tells Isaiah not to listen to the people and the things that they claim are conspiracies against them. God is the only one Isaiah should fear and revere.
- God will be like a rock that both royal houses of Israel will stumble over. And many people are going to stumble over that rock.
- Isaiah says that all this testimony should be bound up and sealed with his disciples. He will remain waiting for the Lord, who is now hiding his face from the House of Jacob, and Isaiah will continue to put his hope in God.
- He says that he and his children are signs that God has sent to Israel, to warn them.
- Isaiah ends the chapter by warning people against consulting the ghosts or foreign gods to try to receive aid and destruction. It won't work. They'll end up cursing their leaders and the gods they were worshipping, and will be destroyed in the end—only darkness and distress can awaken them.
Prince of Peas—Wait… Oh, Prince of Peace (Sorry, We Were Hungry)
- But the people who are now suffering anguish will not face any more gloom in the future.
- God had once condemned the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the future he will make the lands beyond the Jordan much better.
- Further, the people who were formerly in darkness will now see "a great light." Whereas despair and darkness were what had formerly held sway, good times will finally come.
- God will destroy the powers that oppress the people, and a holy child will be born.
- This child will grow into an authority—the "Prince of Peace"—who will rule over a world where war and violence have vanished, one that will be perfectly righteous. God is going to accomplish all this.
Heads or Tails?
- Isaiah next describes how—even though God had wrought all this devastation on not only Israel but also on Ephraim and Samaria—people will still arrogantly refuse to learn the lesson, trying to rebuild with the same stones that had fallen and re-plant the trees that had been deforested.
- So God sent the Arameans and Philistines to attack Israel (yes, God's still angry).
- Since the people failed to turn to God, he cut off Israel's head and tail—specifically, the elders (the head) and the false prophets (the tail). Ouch.
- Isaiah says that this is why everyone was punished by God, even the widows and orphans. They all followed bad leaders, who led everyone into confusion and wicked behavior. And hey, guess what? God's still angry. (This is becoming a sort of refrain.)
- The wickedness of the people was like an out-of-control forest fire, burning and consuming everything.
- God's wrath stoked the fire, it burned up the whole land, and people were like fuel for it.
- Although everyone kept trying to satisfy their desires and appetites, this was just like eating your own family members (yuck). And nations do this too—with Mannaseh devouring Ephraim, and Ephraim devouring Mannaseh, and Ephraim and Mannaseh together devouring Judah. Isaiah ends by repeating his refrain, saying that God is (can you guess?) angry and his hand is still stretched out in anger.
God Eggs People On
- Isaiah asks the corrupt people who are passing unjust laws and oppressing the widows and the orphans what they'll do when the time for judgment comes. He suggests that they won't be able to escape when everyone's getting killed and taken prisoner by invaders. God's anger is still very much "on."
- But Assyria—which is doing most of the invading and plundering—is going to get its come-uppance too. First, however, Assyria is going to act as God's own fury, attacking the godless people who've failed to worship him.
- Assyria doesn't know that it's serving God's purposes. It just wants to destroy, plunder, and cut off different nations. Assyria will ask why, if it has destroyed so many other nations and overthrown their idols and gods, it won't be able to do the same thing to Israel.
- But God will destroy Assyria after it has finished its destructive work, punishing its king for his arrogant boasts.
- God says that his own strength will accomplish all of this destruction, in reality. He's the one who's doing it. God gathered up all the wealth and kingdoms of everyone as though he were gathering eggs from a bird's nest. No one even could chirp against him.
God vs. Smoky the Bear
- God asks whether an axe or a staff can rebel against the person who uses it. The answer (in case you were wondering) is "No." So, in the same way, God says he will wreak destruction on his own warriors, who were once his tool.
- The light of Israel will become like a fire, and so will the Holy One himself. It will be like another forest-fire, burning away all the briers and thorns and trees.
- When that happens, Israel finally will only have God to support it. It will have none of the other false things that it has been trying to lean on.
- Only a remnant of the people will ultimately survive and become righteous.
Assyria Comes to a Serious End (Get It?)
- Nonetheless, God tells Israel not to be afraid of the Assyrians when the attack happens. Just as the Egyptians' rule over the Hebrews came to an end, so will Assyria's.
- Once they've accomplished his purpose (of destroying Israel), God will turn on the Assyrians and annihilate them too, just as he swallowed the Egyptians with the sea.
- Then what follows is a long list of all the places through which God will wreak destruction on his way to shake his fist at Zion.
- Continuing with the tree-chopping metaphor from earlier, Isaiah says God will cut down the mighty and proud, like a man chopping down really tall trees—like those in the forests of Lebanon.
- God proceeds from all this destruction onto another vision of peace in the future. The stump of the tree of Jesse (Jesse being the father of King David and a Bethlehem resident) will see a single shoot sprout out from it—just like the holy seed hidden in the stump from earlier.
- God's spirit will rest on this shoot—the shoot we understand now is actually a person (descended from the House of David, it's implied). The shoot-person will be blessed with knowledge, wisdom, power, and reverence before God.
- This person's not going to judge just by what his eyes and ears tell him. Instead, he's going to use true righteousness to judge everyone, giving the meek and the poor their fair shake.
- His words will be like a weapon, striking down all evil. Righteousness and faithfulness will be like the belt holding up his clothes.
- The kingdom that he rules over will be a holy mountain—like Jerusalem—where the wolf won't prey on the lamb (snuggling up with it instead). All predators and their prey—lions and calves and the rest—will cease to be enemies.
- Bears are going to go vegetarian and graze with the cows, and children will be able to play with snakes.
- All killing will end, totally, and the entire world will have knowledge of God.
- The root of Jesse—the same holy one just mentioned—will stand up and be a signal to all the nations of the world, and live in a glorious house.
- God will recover all of his own people, who have been exiled throughout the world, in places like Assyria, Ethiopia, and Egypt.
- He will gather together all the outcasts from Israel and Judah together in one place.
- Judah and Ephraim will stop fighting, and will instead go attack the Philistines and people further east (we're assuming this is before all that wolves-snuggling-with-sheep stuff kicks in).
- The Ammonites, Edom, and Moab are going to feel the pain, too. They'll all bow down and be obedient in the end.
- God will destroy "the tongue of the sea of Egypt" and build a way to cross over it (presumably for the Jewish exiles to go back home). There will also be a highway leading from Assyria back to Israel and Judah for the exiles trapped there, too—just as there was for the Israelites Moses led out of Egypt centuries before.
Drop in the Bucket
- Isaiah now sings the hymn that people will sing, in the future, when God has accomplished all of these things.
- The hymn basically says "hey, thanks"—it expresses how, though God was angry before, he won't be angry anymore. Naturally, this makes everyone glad (and relieved).
- The hymn goes on to say that God is the source of strength and salvation.
- Salvation will be like a well that people draw buckets of water from.
- In another short hymn, the singer will say that God has done glorious things, and the whole world will become aware of them, since the Holy One is present in the midst of the people of Israel.
Do the Wave
- Speaking in the voice of God (again), Isaiah prophesies against Babylon.
- God says that people should create a signal on a hill and then wave their hands to let someone into the gates of the nobles. Apparently, this is a signal for God's warriors to come and execute his anger against the Babylonian rulers.
- God says that he is mustering up a huge army, comprised of people from many nations (meaning the Median-Persian army that will come to defeat Babylon), which will lay waste to all the lands of the known world.
- The Day of the Lord—when this judgment is passed on the Babylonians—will come with great destruction. Everyone is going to look confused and anguished. They will look like they're in as much pain as a woman in labor.
Making Room for the Goat Demons
- The wrath of God will blot out the sun, moon, and stars from the sky, punishing all the wicked and the evil. The surviving humans will be as rare as gold from Ophir.
- The heaven and earth will be knocked out of place, and people will go running away like gazelles fleeing from hunters.
- But the Babylonians are all going to die. They'll be run through with swords, their babies will be dashed to pieces, the houses will be destroyed, and their wives will be raped (yeah, this is all pretty awful stuff).
- God says that he's stirring up the Medes against them, since they (the Medes) have no regard for silver or gold, and just want to kill… and kill.
- The Medes won't just kill young men, but children, as well. Babylon will suffer the same fate of total destruction that Sodom and Gommorah experienced.
- It will be abandoned and no one will live in it anymore. Arab Bedouins won't even camp there, and shepherds won't lead their flocks there. Instead, wild animals and evil spirits are going to move in: ostriches, hyenas, jackals, and "goat-demons" (to name a few)—spooky.
- But Israel is going to escape from all this destruction in the end. Instead of getting destroyed, they'll end up having aliens from other lands flee to their country.
- Israel will then be able to rule over all the nations, like "male and female slaves in the Lord's hand." Israel will take its former masters captive.
- When God lets Israel rest from its tribulations, they will be able to taunt Babylon.
- They will be able to chide Babylon for getting destroyed when it had previously oppressed them.
- God will turn the tables on Babylon, fiercely persecuting them.
- The whole world will be at peace and sing, now that Babylon has fallen. Even the trees will mock Babylon, saying that no one can come to chop them down now.
- All of the dead kings from the underworld, Sheol, will rise up to meet the dead Babylonians who are coming down to join them, saying that the Babylonians have become just like them.
- Maggots and worms will be like their bed and their blankets and covers (cue up the Bed, Bath, and Beyond-themed joke).
Hedgehogs Rule… Human Beings Drool
- Mocking the King of Babylon—here called the Day Star (later interpreted as being Satan)—people will be able to marvel at how he's been cut down.
- The Day Star had said that he would ascend up to heaven and try to conquer God himself. Instead, he finds himself sent down to Sheol.
- People will ask if this is the same person who had once lorded it over everyone else and taken so many prisoners.
- While all the other kings of the past lie in glorious tombs, the King of Babylon's corpse will be thrown out like carrion and left for wild animals to eat, with other corpses piled on top of him. This is punishment for having destroyed his own land and people, and for having been so unjust.
- The sons of the king will be killed for his sins, too, so that they can never launch a similar reign of terror. (The speech Israel can make mocking Babylon and its king ends right here.)
- After God has destroyed Babylon, he'll let it fall into ruins and pools of water, and hedgehogs will take over… (yeah!). God's going to give it a good sweep with the "broom of destruction" (brought to you by Swiffer).
- Next, God mentions that the Assyrians are going to get it too. As he says he has planned beforehand, he'll trample them underfoot. The Assyrians will no longer wield power over Israel.
- God says that this is his plan, his hand is stretched out to fulfill it, and no one's going to turn it back.
- Also, another prophecy from God threatens the Philistines too. Although he says the power that destroyed them (Israel) is broken for now, in the future "from the root of the snake" (meaning of the power of Israel, which had been broken), a "flying fiery serpent" will come out. The poor and needy will have comfort, but the Philistines will get killed.
- He says that the smoke of the fire will come out of the north, and no straggler will survive to escape from it.
- The needy of Israel and Judah will find final refuge in Zion.
Moab Gets Mo' Ab-solute Destruction (See What We Did There?)
- Now comes a prophecy against Moab.
- Because a bunch of different places have been destroyed, Moab has been totally undone. (God, through Isaiah, provides a list of all the locations: Ar, Kir, Dibon, Nebo, and Medeba.)
- Everyone has gone bald and lost their beards. They walk around mourning, dressed in sackcloth, wailing and crying
- Another list of locations that are being destroyed are listed. These are all different places where people are crying out. Local roads and waters are full of crying people fleeing from desolation.
- The grass dies and the rest of the planted stuff withers, and people are forced to carry away and use their formerly abundant stashes of food.
- Wailing will keep happening all over (note: there'll be lots of wailing).
- Oh, and the waters of Dibon will be filled with blood. And God will kill anyone who tries to escape… with lions. Got all that, Moab?
Watch the Throne
- Continuing with his anti-Moab spiel, Isaiah says to send lambs to the ruler of the land from Sela (a rocky place in Edom), through the desert, and to Mount Zion.
- The fords of Arnon and daughters of Moab will be like skittery birds (as destruction falls on them).
- But Isaiah instructs people, saying that they should grant refuge to the refugees from Moab and not turn them away.
- When all the oppression and destroying and marauding is over, a throne will be placed in the house of David with a just and righteous ruler sitting on it.
- Moab is an arrogant boaster, but all of its pride and his boasts are going down. Moab is going to have nothing better to do than wail all the time.
- Also, they're going to mourn for "the raisin cakes of Kir-Hareseth" (this is the Moabite equivalent of mourning the Nabisco company getting shut down).
- Fields in various Moabite hot-spots—like the oh-so-trendy Heshbon and the rather posh locale of Sibmah—are going to see their vines and fields dry up. No one's getting drunk off of those grapes again, even though they used to make the (more kingly version of the) box wines of their day, which were diffused far and wide over the globe.
- But this really upsets Isaiah—or God, if God's weeping through Isaiah. He's going to cry for all the wine grapes that have gone to waste in Sibmah.
- No one's going to shout joyfully over the fruit and wine harvest, because all those people and plants are going to be dead.
- No one's going to be around to tread out the wine or sing happy songs, or do anything nice like that. But Isaiah's heart's going to throb "like a harp" for Moab.
- When Moab tries to pray in the sanctuary, it's not going to work.
- This, says Isaiah, is what God predicted would happen to Moab. And in three years, this is all going to come to pass. Very few are going to survive. The ones that do will be feeble—bad times, gang.
Just Say 'No' to Sacred Poles
- Next on God's hit-list, we come to Damascus.
- Guess what's in store for Damascus? That's right—more destruction. It'll get turned into a heap of ruins. Its towns will be destroyed, no one will live in them, and sheep will troop in and live there instead.
- Ephraim and Damascus will lose their fortresses and kingdoms. But the surviving remnant of Aram (the region of Damascus) will be like the glory of the children of Israel, which is a good thing.
- At the same time that all this harshness is going down in Damascus, the glory of Jacob (Israel) is going to be knocked down a peg or two, as well. The fat will grow lean, and it will be like a field getting reaped. Only little bits will be left, like some olives or fruit after a tree gets cut down.
- When this happens, people will pay attention to God, the Holy One of Israel, and disregard the falsely religious things they've made, like altars and sacred poles.
- Their cities will all be deserted, though, because of the massive destruction.
- The people have forgotten God. They plant nice plants and worship an alien god. But all the nice plants they've planted are just going to die before they can be harvested, in a day of pain and desolation.
- The nations and the people make the noise of roaring and thundering, like waters rushing, but God's going to slap them down and make them run away.
- At evening there will be terror, but by the morning time—none. So the persecutors of Israel will come to an end.
- Next, Isaiah talks about what will happen to Ethiopia, the land that sends ambassadors up the Nile in papyrus ships to transmit messages.
- Isaiah tells swift messengers to go to Ethiopia, a land of people "tall and smooth." The Ethiopians are considered to be mighty rulers, controlling a wide kingdom.
- Addressing everyone in the world, Isaiah says that God will appear like the heat on a sunny day or a cloud of dew during the harvest. He'll destroy the harvest, tossing the shoots and branches to the birds of prey and the animals of the earth.
- After all that's happened, the Ethiopians will come and bring gifts to God at Mount Zion.
- Now, Egypt is slated for a fresh demolition. God's going to go there, riding on a cloud. He says he's going to make them fight each other.
- The spirit of the Egyptians will be emptied out. They'll turn to consulting the spirits of the dead and practicing magic (probably not the "pull the bunny out of top hat" kind).
- As punishment, God will appoint a tough king to rule them.
- The Nile with all of its canals and branches will dry up. This will hurt the fishermen and the farmers and the weavers, who all rely on the life that the Nile helps sustain.
- The princes of Zoan and the counselors of the Pharaoh are too deluded to be of any help.
- No sages are left who are capable of giving real guidance, either. This is all due to the fact that God poured a spirit of confusion into them, so that all of Egypt is reeling around like some drunk guy.
Highway Under Construction
- The Egyptians will be like scared women before God (what can we say—Isaiah's not the most P.C. guy). The land of Judah will be a terror to them, with everyone cowering in fear before the power of God.
- Five cities in Egypt—including the City of the Sun—will speak the language of Canaan and continue to pay worship to God.
- There will be an altar in the center of Egypt and a pillar at its border, both dedicated to God.
- God will send a savior to liberate the Egyptians from their oppressors, and they'll be free to worship God with sacrifice and burnt offerings. God will both strike Egypt and heal it.
- Assyria and Egypt will have a highway between them, and people from both countries will travel to each other's countries and live there. Israel will be a third presence with them and all three countries will be blessed by God. Good times.
Prophecy au Naturel
- In the year when the Assyrian King Sargon's commander-in-chief won a huge battle at the city of Ashdod, God ordered Isaiah to walk around barefoot and totally naked.
- God says that Isaiah—who does this whole nudist thing for three years—is a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia, many of whom are going to get taken prisoner by the Assyrians and be led away naked as slaves and exiles.
- People who live on the coastlands are going to wonder how they themselves can possibly escape, since the people they went to for help are now being conquered and enslaved.
Two Riders Were Approaching…
- Next comes an oracle about "the wilderness of the sea."
- Isaiah talks about how he received a vision from the desert brought by a whirlwind. He says that the vision relates to how "the betrayer betrays and the destroyer destroys."
- Isaiah tells Elam to "go up," and tells Media to lay siege, bringing the pain this land (Babylon) has caused to an end.
- Isaiah said that he felt full of anguish, like a woman about to give birth. He's discombobulated, unable to hear or see or understand what's going on, his mind reeling in terror.
- While in this metaphorical labor, he tries to get everyone else amped up and ready for action: before he had the watchmen relaxing, eating, and drinking, but now, he squawks that it's time for combat.
- Isaiah says that they (the people of Judah) should post a look-out on a watchtower, and the watch-man will tell them when he sees pairs of riders coming.
- When the watchman says he sees the pairs of riders coming, he'll cry out to God telling him what he sees. God will respond by saying that Babylon has fallen.
- Then, there is a cryptic oracle about the land of Dumah. A person from Seir asks the watchman "What of the night?"
- The sentinel just says that morning comes and so does the night, and tells him to keep coming back and asking more questions, if he feels like it. Not the answer our inquirer was looking for, no doubt.
- Next, another oracular prediction says that a people called the Dedanites will take refuge from war in the land of Tema, and the people there will help support them.
- Also, the land of Kedar will be destroyed and the number of its warriors will be reduced.
Snap on the Sackcloth
- This chapter begins with an oracle about the "valley of vision."
- Isaiah asks why people have gone onto on all the roofs and high places in town acting tumultuously and excited.
- He says it doesn't make sense, since none of their soldiers or leaders died. They just got captured.
- Isaiah personally just wants some time alone to cry.
- In the valley of vision, God's has a time of trampling and confusion and walls getting knocked down.
- Elam and Kir were the military forces instigating this.
- Isaiah says that people helped knock down houses to build walls and defend against these armies, but they didn't turn towards the person who planned it long ago and who helped them do all this.
- They should've humiliated themselves and worn sackcloth and mourned. But instead they threw a big party and ate and drank.
- God says he won't forgive them for this until they die.
Stewing Up the Steward
- God tells the people to go ask a steward named Shebna why he's taken over the house he's in and set up a place to live.
- They're supposed to tell him that God's about to chuck him out and leave him in a foreign land, since he's disgraced his master's house.
- Instead, God will appoint some dude named Eliakim to take his place. He'll be able to open and close the door of the House of David whenever he wants to.
- For a while, he'll be like a secure peg that God can hang glory and stuff on. But eventually the peg's going to break, because God wants it that way.
- Now, there's an oracle prophesying against Tyre.
- Its ships, which once dominated the seas, are going to come back and see how the city has been destroyed.
- Tyre once dominated trade on the ocean, but now the ocean will say to it that, unlike God, it (the ocean) never begat or raised any children.
- Egypt will be disheartened by all the nasty stuff that happened to Tyre.
- Isaiah gloats a little over how the city got wasted. He says they should make sure that God's responsible.
- They can't even escape by going to the isle of Cyprus (nice try, Tyre).
- He says the Chaldeans destroyed Tyre and tore down its towers.
- Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years.
- But then, like a forlorn prostitute, Tyre will wander around singing songs about how it wishes people remembered to pay attention to it.
- God will make sure Tyre returns to her trade, like a prostitute restored to business. This time, though, it'll all be for God's greater glory. Tyre's merchandise will help people who are devoted to God.
- Now, God goes back to the big theme of devastating the whole earth and not just specific nations. He's going to mess everything up and no one will escape: priests, maids, slaves, buyers, sellers. They're all in for it.
- The earth and the heavens both wither up. The people all suffer and die as a penalty for their sins, just as wine dries up when the vine that supplies it withers.
- No one will be able to party anymore, and there will be a massive wine shortage that depresses all the people still living in these devastated cities.
- Everyone's going to praise God and sing songs of joy after this has all run its course, but for now Isaiah says that he will just be pining away.
- Isaiah says that every inhabitant of the earth is at risk of getting destroyed.
- Anyone who tries to run away will end up getting trapped.
- The earth will stumble around like a drunkard because of its bad deeds.
- God's going to punish both his own host, in heaven, and all the kings of the earth. They'll be locked in a pit and punished after many days.
- The moon and sun will both be ashamed because God is replacing them and ruling over the earth with his own glory from Mount Zion.
Moab Gets the Barnyard Treatment
- Isaiah praises God. He's glad God has fulfilled all his plans and destroyed all of these foreign cities.
- After this humbling, all the strong peoples and cities will fear God. They're like a heat wave that God put down with a raincloud.
- On his mountain, God will prepare a feast for people with well-aged wines and rich food.
- God will destroy a shroud that's been put on people, liberating them from death forever. He'll wipe away everyone's tears and comfort them all on his mountain.
- But the Moabites will be stomped on like straw on a dung-pit (ew). Their buildings and forts will all be destroyed.
We Are the Champions
- In Judah, everyone will sing a victory song when they've come through all the rough stuff, emerging in an era of peace.
- The song celebrates God's defeat of Judah's enemies. The people of Judah will now enter into a "strong city" themselves, supported by God.
- God helped them by destroying the lofty cities and letting the feet of the poor and needy trample the dust of those places.
- God prepares the way of the righteous, aiding people in their attempts to behave better.
- The singer sings about how God is, alone, his soul's great desire.
- The wicked seem to be favored and keep enjoying themselves in a land that's supposed to be upright.
- The singer asks God to make sure those wicked folks are put down and realize who's the boss. God will favor his own people and consume their adversaries with fire.
- The singer says that the people only acknowledge God as their ruler, though others have ruled over them.
- The dead whom God has punished will remain dead, but God will make his own kingdom bigger and better.
Bringing Up the Dead
- The people of Judah were like a woman in the anguish of labor pains while waiting for God. They struggled and writhed but "gave birth only to wind."
- They look forward to a possible resurrection, however, when the dead will rise—like the earth giving birth to them.
- The singer says that people should hide until God's wrath is past.
- The earth will reveal all the dead people buried in it and the blood that has been poured into it.
Serpentine Smack Down
- In the future, God is going to kill Leviathan, the giant sea-dwelling dragon.
- He's also going to tend a vineyard (the people themselves). If the vineyard yields good grapes, God won't destroy it. If it doesn't, though, he will. So, he wants there to be peace.
- Israel will be like a blossoming fruit tree in those times.
- God will punish the people before he does all these nice things for them. He will purify them through destruction and obliterate all the sacred stones and trees they've set up.
- The fortified city will be totally devastated. Calves will graze there and women will gather firewood. And that's because the people who used to live there just didn't know what was up, didn't follow God's will.
- God is going to gather together everyone in Israel, from the Euphrates to Egypt to Assyria. All these exiles will finally come home and worship God on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.
Fig Newtons, Old School Version
- The over-fed drunkards of Ephraim wear a garland of flowers that is fading in beauty.
- But God's going to come and destroy that garland, and the people wearing it, and trample them in the dust.
- Straggling people will then come by and eat the fallen flowers from the garlands, as though they were figs.
- God himself will be like a garland or a crown on the remnant his people in that day, ornamenting them with righteousness.
- Also, all the priests and so-called prophets are drunk on strong drink (maybe metaphorically). They give confused advice and their tables are covered in puke (aw, come on).
- A voice asks who will God (or Isaiah) explain his message to. Apparently, people who've been weaned off of breast-milk and can handle learning a little bit at a time—a precept here, a line there.
- Like Moses, someone (Isaiah?) will speak in a strange language with a stammer, telling his people to give rest to the weary.
- But they won't listen, so God says they'll just learn a little bit at a time. Finally they will fall back and be defeated because they couldn't learn enough. (So do your homework, gang.)
One Order of Righteousness—with Dill and Cumin
- The rulers in Jerusalem think they've managed to cheat death, making a deal with the Underworld. But they haven't. God's going to totally defeat them.
- God says that he's laying a cornerstone in Zion that will stand forever. People should trust in it and not panic.
- God will scourge the rulers with hail and destroy them, washing them away. Beds will be too small and uncomfortable to sleep on.
- God will rage and accomplish his violent work, destroying all the rulers who thought they'd cheated death.
- Isaiah rhetorically asks if people who are plowing a field just keep plowing it forever. Or do they plant seeds like dill and cumin in it? (Mmm… cumin.)
- He says that these seeds are beaten out with sticks and rods, and grain is threshed. Still, none of this happens forever.
- Isaiah hints that God's wrath is just a necessary part of his people's development towards righteousness.
A Fistful of Chaff
- God says that he will put Ariel, the city where David camped, into distress. He says that, to him Jerusalem will be like an Ariel (meaning an altar, probably). He will besiege it like King David did.
- Ominously, God says that Jerusalem will speak from the dust of the earth like a ghost.
- But the foes of Jerusalem, too, are going to get pummeled, flying around like dust or chaff in the wind.
- All these opponents are going to be just like a dream, passing away in the night. They'll feel like someone who dreams of drinking and eating, then wakes up still thirsty and hungry.
- God has closed the eyes of the prophets and seers. They will just stupefy themselves and lie around like severely drunk people.
A Little Clay Pot, Short and Stout
- This vision has come to Isaiah like a sealed letter that people who can and can't read won't be able to read—either because of the seal or because they're already illiterate.
- Since the people only pay God lip-service and don't put any heart into what they're doing, God's going to punish them and take away the wisdom from their wise men.
- People think they can hide their schemes from God, but they're just like a clay pot trying to have a will free from that of the potter who made it. It can't be done.
- But Lebanon will become a fruitful field in a little while.
- Then the blind will be able to see, and the deaf will hear. The meek and the needy will be rewarded.
- Corrupt people and tyrants will disappear.
- Jacob will be proud (instead of pale) with what his people have done, since they're honoring God now.
- Even people who make mistakes and grumble will improve and be instructed by God.
World's Stillest Serpent
- God prohibits Israel from trying to make an alliance with Egypt and Pharaoh to receive their protection, even though they're already doing it.
- It will all come to humiliation and shame. Pharaoh can't protect them.
- People in the desert try to bring trade-goods and gifts to Egypt, but it all amounts to nothing. Egypt is the same as the serpent, Rahab: a great beast that just sits still.
- As for the people of Israel and Judah, they refuse to do what is right and listen to their prophets and seers.
- The people only want to hear illusions and deceit.
- For doing all this, they'll be punished in the same way that a wall suddenly collapses on an unsuspecting person.
- The devastation will be so massive, it'll be like a clay pot smashed into uselessly tiny bits.
- Instead of turning to quietness, peace, and goodness, they will try to simply flee from the destruction. This won't work out.
Souped Up Sun
- But God is going to show mercy in the end, anyway.
- God will answer their cry and comfort them. They'll finally get to see their teacher and will turn away from their bad deeds and abandon their idols.
- They'll hear a voice telling them the right things to do.
- Everything will be prosperous. The fields will be full, the cows and oxen will be able to graze, and tons of brooks will run down mountains and hills. But somehow, this will also be the same as the day of destruction.
- The light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the sun will be seven times brighter.
- God will heal all the injuries that have been afflicted on his people.
- The anger of the Lord (now, aimed at everyone) is pretty scary: God's tongue is like fire, his breath like a stream that inundates people. He'll bridle people just to lead them astray.
- People will cheerfully be heading to God's festival and at that same time he's dishing out divine vengeance—his arm will descend in fury, and there'll be cloudbursts and storms and hailstones.
- The Assyrians will cower before God, as he destroys them.
- And God has also prepared a "burning place" for their king.
A Lion—like Aslan!—Except Less Cuddly
- God says, again, that people shouldn't be so impressed by Egypt or trying to make an alliance with them.
- They should put their trust in God, since he's spirit, and the Egyptian horses are only flesh.
- Both Egypt and Israel are going to be punished, both the helper and the helped.
- God will be like a lion, unperturbed by the shepherds who are yelling at it for attacking their herds.
- He will protect Jerusalem like a flock of birds hovering over Mount Zion, too.
- Also, he says that Israel really does need to turn back to God and stop worshipping idols which, in the end, they'll throw away.
- The Assyrians will be destroyed with God's sword, and their young men will be made into slaves.
- Also, God says that his fire and furnace are located in Jerusalem (you know, in case anyone happens to be in the market for some really quality heating).
King of Rock
- But amidst all the chaos that's taking place, Israel will find a just king who will be like a refreshing stream or "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
- Instead of having their eyes closed and ears shut, they'll be opened, and the people will know the truth.
- The villains are going to get punished, no one will think that fools are noble, and the truly noble will stand out heroically.
- Isaiah tells women not to be complacent—the harvest isn't going to come next year. Therefore, they should strip off their clothes and put on sackcloth and wail.
- The palace and the city will be deserted—wild asses and flocks will roam around there instead.
- But when a spirit on high is poured out on the people, the wilderness will be transformed into a fruit field. The fruit field (a different one) will be transformed into a wilderness. The order of the world will be totally reversed: Justice will reign in the wilderness and righteousness in the field.
- Everyone will live in peace—donkeys and oxen can range freely—and the forest and the city will both disappear.
- God warns evil-doers that, when they stop destroying things, they'll be destroyed. And the treachery they've used will be turned back against them.
- Isaiah asks God to have mercy on the people and pays tribute to God's strength and battle prowess.
- He says that the fear of God is Zion's greatest treasure.
- But valiant people are crying in the streets; no travelers are on the highways. Lebanon and other places are withering away. It's kind of a mess.
- God says that he will exalt himself by destroying everybody, like throwing thorns into a fire.
- God asks the people to acknowledge him and poses the question, "Who can endure my fire?" No surprise—it's righteous people, who don't look at evil or take bribes.
- The righteous will be able to take refuge in rocks and have enough food and water to survive.
Roll On, Big River
- The people will finally be able to see a beautiful and majestic king in a land that is equally great.
- Instead of being surrounded by Babylonians and other foreigners who don't speak their language, they'll see that Jerusalem has become a nice, quiet, pious place.
- God will be present, but like a river that can't be crossed by human ships.
- Everyone will divide up their spoils, including the lame.
- Sickness will disappear and everyone will be forgiven for their sins.
Return of the Hedgehog
- God announces to all the nations of the world that he's doomed them (said the nations, "rats").
- Corpses will pile up everywhere; mountains will overflow with blood.
- The host of heaven and the skies themselves will disappear or be rolled up.
- God's sword will be gorged with the blood and fat of all the people it killed and all the animal's sacrificed to it, in places like Bozrah and Edom.
- God will turn the rivers of Edom into burning pitch. It'll be a wasteland with only birds and hedgehogs owning it.
- He'll spread chaos and confusion there so that the people re-name it with the snappy title "No Kingdom There."
- After it's destroyed, wild animals will move in (like ostriches and jackals) and dark forces like goat-demons and Lilith (in later Jewish legend, Adam's first wife, who became a baby-killing demon). They'll all get to chill and relax there, inhabiting it forever.
- The wilderness and desert will both be blessed with plenty, plants and blossoms coming out all over. They'll be just as nice as Lebanon was.
- Isaiah speaks a little prayer urging people to be strong and trust that God will save them.
- In the end, the deaf and the blind will be able to see, the lame will be able to leap around, and streams will break out in the middle of the desert.
- The places where jackals used to roam will be turned into a swamp, and a highway called the Holy Way will run through this land.
- God's people will travel on the highway, and not even fools can wander off it.
- The redeemed will walk down the road, heading towards endless joy, safe from dangerous animals.
Rabshakeh Laka Laka
- This chapter moves from recording prophecies back to narrative. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, has just taken over every fortified city in Judah.
- Three Jewish officials—Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah—come out from the walls of Jerusalem to meet with the Assyrians.
- Sennacherib's vizier (like a high-ranking political advisor), the Rabshakeh, tells them to give a message to their king, Hezekiah, mocking their alliance with Egypt.
- The Rabshakeh says that they might say that they're actually relying on God more than on Egypt—but isn't it God who ordered the King of Assyria to attack and destroy Judah in the first place?
- Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah tell him to speak to them in Aramaic instead of Hebrew, so that the Jewish soldiers standing on the city walls won't be able to understand what their conference is about.
- The Rabshakeh sarcastically asks what the difference is, since the people on the wall are doomed to meet the same fate as all the other Hebrews—eating their own excrement and drinking their own pee as the Assyrians besiege and starve Jerusalem (totally gross).
- But, says the Rabshakeh, if they don't listen to Hezekiah and his orders to rely on God to save them, if they don't welcome the King of Assyria into Jerusalem instead, then they'll be able to eat their own grapes and figs and drink their own water before the King of Assyria takes them away to serve in his own kingdom. That place is supposed to be pretty nice.
- The Rabshakeh says that none of the gods of any of the other cities Assyria has conquered managed to save those places, so why should Jerusalem expect anything better?
- They refuse to answer Rabshakeh (Hezekiah told them not to). But they tear their clothes and run to tell Hezekiah what the Rabshakeh said.
Assyrian Trash Talk
- When Hezekiah hears the message, he freaks out, tears his clothes, and does the whole sack-cloth-and-wailing routine.
- He sends Eliakim, Shebna, and the senior priests to take counsel from Isaiah.
- Isaiah tells them to tell Hezekiah not to worry. God's going to punish Sennacherib by putting a spirit in him, so that he'll hear a rumor and return to his own land, where he'll end up getting killed.
- The Rabshakeh brings Isaiah's message to Sennacherib, who is occupied with fighting other battles, elsewhere.
- Sennacherib tells him to send another snarky message, asking Hezekiah how he expects his God to resist Assyria when the Assyrian kings have beat down so many other gods. And he gives examples of his various triumphs—it's a classic example of arrogant bad-guy talk.
- Hezekiah gets Sennacherib's message, which he then takes to the Temple and spreads it out before God.
- Hezekiah prays for God to save Jerusalem, telling him about how arrogant Sennacherib's boasts are, and also about how he has burned the idols of other people's gods. Hezekiah suggests that it would be good P.R. for God to defeat the Assyrians, since all the nations would then know that God was real.
Involuntary Nose Piercing
- Soon thereafter, Isaiah relays a message from God to Hezekiah.
- God says that Assyria is like a haughty Mean Girl, tossing her hair in front of God's daughter, Zion.
- He angrily rebukes the Assyrian King for his boasts, talking about how he's cut down the tallest trees in Lebanon and dried up Egypt with his own foot (and things like that).
- God notes that he, alone, has allowed Sennacherib to attack and plunder all these cities and lands. He knows when Sennacherib is asleep and awake, and when he's been bad or good… and he's been very bad, indeed.
- God says he'll put a hook into Sennacherib's nose and turn him right around, sending him back to Assyria.
- Before ending his prophecy, God offers words of reassurance to Judah: Jerusalem won't fall to Assyria's siege, a remnant of Judah will survive, and Sennacherib will return to his home.
- The next day, this is all fulfilled. The angel of God slaughters 185,000 Assyrian troops during the night.
- Sennacherib returns to Assyria, but his sons plot against him and kill him, leaving one of them to become his successor.
- King Hezekiah is sick and bedridden. Isaiah tells him that he won't be able to live any longer, that God has decreed this to be the end.
- Hezekiah prays to God, asking him to remember how Hezekiah has served him wholeheartedly and tried to be righteous.
- God then tells Isaiah that he'll extend Hezekiah's life by fifteen years, in return for his goodness. God proves this with a sign, making the shadow on the sundial turn back by ten steps.
Fig Newtons, Anyone?
- Next, there's a poem of thanks Hezekiah wrote after his recovery.
- He discusses how sick he was, how he seemed destined for the underworld, his life-span being cut off like a weaver's thread. Wracked with pain, he cried day and night.
- He worried about life in the underworld, lost in darkness, unable to speak to God.
- But God has restored him. Hezekiah says, "Thanks," stating that he and others will sing to God with stringed instruments in the Temple for all the days of their lives.
- Isaiah then recommends using figs to treat the boil that's been making Hezekiah so sick.
- Hezekiah asks what sign there will be for him to go to the Lord's House (but it ends without answering).
Hezekiah's Episode of Cribs
- Envoys from the King Merodoch-Balan of Babylon come to visit Hezekiah to congratulate him on his surprising recovery.
- Hezekiah thinks these guys are fairly boss. He gives them a tour of his palace and store-rooms, showing them his riches and oil and spices—his most cherished possessions.
- Isaiah asks Hezekiah what he showed them and Hezekiah's like "Uh, everything."
- Isaiah says there will be a time when all of that stuff belongs to the Babylonians, since they're going to conquer Judah and make Hezekiah's sons serve as eunuchs in Babylon—though not in Hezekiah's lifetime.
- Hezekiah is very pleased and relieved that he'll be dead by that time.
Divine Lawn Care
- This chapter begins with a change of tone (as if there were another author taking over—hint, hint). Instead of threatening people with wrath, God tells them to be comforted.
- Jerusalem has already suffered more than double the punishment for her sins.
- A voice cries out, saying that God's highway should be prepared in the desert and wilderness. All the valleys will be raised up and the hills and mountains will be lowered, and God's glory will be revealed in front of everyone.
- Another voice tells Isaiah to cry out, but a puzzled Isaiah asks what he's supposed to cry out. The voice says he should say that all people are like grass—they live and then they wither when God's breath blows on them. But the word of God lives forever.
- The people should go up onto the holy mountain of Zion. God will come to comfort and lead them, like a shepherd taking care of his sheep.
Fly like an Eagle
- Isaiah asks a bunch of rhetorical questions illustrating how great God is. God is, as Isaiah already knows, super duper great, having measured out all the oceans and the earth in the hollow of his hand and weighed the mountains and hills.
- Obviously, God didn't learn his knowledge or wisdom from anyone else. All the animals and trees of Lebanon aren't enough to provide and fuel a burnt offering to him.
- The nations are nothing to God, just a few drops in the bucket.
- God can't be compared to any idols, which are just cobbled together from material things.
- He sits above everything, watching people hop around like grasshoppers below, and making princes and kings pass away almost as soon as they start their reigns.
- Isaiah tells Israel not to wonder if God knows what it's doing. God doesn't get tired or weary, he's always aware.
- Even young people get tired sometimes. The people who serve God will be strengthened by his inexhaustible power, though, as he lifts them up with wings like eagles.
The Coastland Hush Up
- Isaiah tells the people of the coastlands to listen to him in silence as the people recover from the war trauma they've suffered.
- He asks the people who called the Assyrians out of the East and then defeated them. God decides to field the question and answers through Isaiah, saying "I am."
- The people are trying to stick together and help each other in the war's aftermath—with goldsmiths helping other artisans, beat-boxers helping a cappella groups...etc.
- God tells them to take heart and to realize that Israel is still his servant. He's still got their back.
- Everyone who opposes them will be defeated. Israel won't be able to even find enemies anymore (a welcome change from the near-constant history of siege thus far).
- God calls Israel a worm and an insect, yet still offers lots of help, giving them the power to knock over mountains and crush them to pieces. Not a bad day for a bug.
Hot Air Idols
- God is going to take care of the poor and the thirsty and needy. He'll also make water flow in dry places, and cause nice trees to grow up in the wilderness and the desert—all so that people will know of his power and mercy.
- Next stop at excoriation station: idols. God dares the people to try to get good advice from their idols or learn about the future from them. Ultimately, it'll come to nothing because the idols are frauds and their worship is an abomination.
- God is always, always, super clear about his feelings on idols. God reminds them that he alone stirred up a power from the north, which came and crushed nations like broken clay pots. None of the idols could predict that it would happen—only God. God: 1,000,000. Idols: 0.
- God alone gives comfort to Jerusalem, whereas the idols are like "an empty wind."
Wouldn't Hurt a Fly—or Bruise a Reed
- God will send a servant to the world, a person who pleases and delights him. God loves effective people.
- The servant will spread justice to all the nations, but he'll be so meek that he won't even break a bruised reed or put out a dimly burning wick.
- He won't die until he's succeeded at his mission—understandably, people are pretty excited that he's coming.
- God tells the servant that he's given him as a covenant with his people and a light to the nations. He'll help free prisoners from their dungeon, and open the eyes of the blind.
- God says that he's only spoken of things that already have happened ("Already happened?! Where's that servant dude?" – The Audience), but now he's telling the people of new things.
Sing Along Apocalypse
- Isaiah asks the people to sing a new song, praising God. All over the land, towns and cities will raise up their voices, doing the same.
- God will go out, like a soldier, and triumph over his foes. He'll cry out like a woman in labor (classic battle cry, eh?), and start wreaking righteous havoc on the natural world.
- After all this destruction, time for some community service. God announces a new plan to lead the blind along unfamiliar paths (no news on whether they requested this, or whether it's a "we're going and you're gonna like it" situation).
- God won't forsake his people, but he will turn back idolaters. Boo idolaters.
- He tells the blind and the deaf to look at his servant (now, it seems like God is talking about Israel in the abstract as his "servant," asking if there is anyone who is blind or deaf but him. (Another translation: you think you know blindness? Wait until you see this pack of loons.)
- God notes that Israel has been given a ton of signs and messages, but they refuse to pay attention to any of them. God, quite pleased with his righteousness, reminds Israel that he saw fit to give them a great and glorious set of laws.
- Meanwhile, the people have been robbed and plundered, living in prisons and holes.
- "Isn't anyone gonna save them?" Isaiah asks rhetorically.
- Alas, as we've heard many a time, God wanted them to follow his laws, but they wouldn't. So he poured out his wrath like fire on Israel, which still failed to get his message.
- God lovingly tells the people of Israel that he has already redeemed them. They can pass through rivers and fire, without drowning or being burned.
- He will give away other nations—like Egypt and Ethiopia—in exchange for Israel. The exiles and offspring of Israel will be returned from all over the earth.
- God says to gather together the people who are (paradoxically) blind but can see, and deaf that can hear, and gather all the nations together too.
- God takes the stage: "Now that you're all here, go ahead and tell me about those other gods and how great they are. Oh, you can't? Because they're not?"
- *Mic drop*
- We're glossing, but that's the gist. God harps on how he is the only god, the only hope for salvation, and the only one who can tell the future.
- He calls on all the nations to witness that he, and only he, is the Big-G God.
Out with the Old Out with the Old
- God will destroy the Babylonian Empire, turning the Babylonian shouts of victory into lamentations.
- He compares this, implicitly, to how he parted the Red Sea to deliver his people while drowning their enemies.
- God tells the people not to regard the old ways, since he's got some brand new goodies coming their way. He's making a way in the desert and the wilderness, and even the wild animals are acknowledging him. (Seems new to us.) He'll give water to his people so that they'll praise him.
- But instead of giving God some juicy sacrifices, the people just keep wearying him with their sins. He reminds them by saying that he hasn't given them a very tough burden to keep up.
- Yet, God says he's going to forgive and forget. They can bring their case against him if they want and try to take God to trial ("I won't be offended, I promise." – God, his voice dripping with sarcasm), but their ancestors really were sinners (says God). They deserved the suffering that came to them.
"Tamarisk" Is a Pretty Cool Word
- God again offers more comfort, saying that he'll let water flow through the land for the thirsty, and promising that Israel's descendants will spring up like green tamarisk trees.
- These descendants will acknowledge God in different ways: some will be called by Jacob's name, or some will adopt the name of Israel.
- God proclaims (again) how incomparable he is, daring them to name any God who equals him. (We can infer, from the flow of the text, that this dare is met by the sound of crickets.) He concludes that he's the only one.
- He further attacks idols, their devotees, and the people who make them, saying that they'll all be ashamed.
The Idol Factory Grand Tour
- Now, God goes through the whole process of idol-making—kind of like the "How It's Made" segment from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (which no one reading this summary probably remembers—we are old).
- First, the ironsmith forges the iron, getting tired and week as he hammers. Then, the carpenter works with wood and does his whole thing, planning out his wooden idol. God points out that the carpenter uses for fuel and for cooking the same wood that he uses to make his idol. So, says God, how deluded can you get, worshipping the wood you'd otherwise burn? God announces that the carpenter is the kind of dude who feasts on ashes. (This is sort of like a kid on a playground announcing that lil' Bobby eats worms)
- God tells Israel to remember all this, since he's swept away its sins like clouds from the sky.
- Isaiah asks the heavens and the earth to sing with joy for how God has redeemed Israel.
- God proclaims his glory as the world's savior, who made everything, who formed the people of Israel in the womb, and who can frustrate fortune-tellers and pagan magicians.
- He says he will rebuild Judah, dry up the rivers, use King Cyrus of Persia to carry out his purpose, and make sure that Jerusalem and its temple are rebuilt.
Cyrus (Not the Jonah Hill Movie)
- God has a little chat with King Cyrus (by chat, we mean God-driven monologue). He says he's going to help King Cyrus defeat the other nations of the world. God will break down city gates, knock down mountains, and give Cyrus treasure and rewards.
- Even though Cyrus has no idea who this God character is, God says he's going to do all this for the sake of Israel.
- God tells the skies to rain down righteousness, so that salvation will spring up from the earth (along with more righteousness). Quick message to the haters: it seems like people might criticize him for doing what he's doing or ask him why he's doing it. God says that's like a pot questioning its maker or someone harassing a woman in labor. He knows how to take care of his kids. He's a good parent.
- He'll make King Cyrus fight for his cause, leading him to victory. Cyrus will set his exiles free from Babylon and rebuild Jerusalem.
Cutting Out Chaos
- Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sabeans will all come to Israel as slaves and bow down to it and its God.
- All the idol-makers are going to be confounded and put to shame, but Israel will be saved eternally. (Talk about a clear outcome.)
- God says that he didn't create the world to be chaos, but to be inhabited. So people shouldn't seek for him in chaotic ways. They should search for him in light and truth.
- On the other side of things, the Babylonians are in desperate straits. Their idols won't be able to save them, and God will win his victory over them.
- He says that he's already told them that he's the only God, but they refused to listen. Your loss, guys, God gently reminds them to switch tems sooner rather than later, since he's the only source of righteousness and strength.
- God keeps inveighing against idols. He says that pagan deities like Bel and Nebo are unable to save anyone. They're like burdens put onto overloaded donkeys. They exhaust people and solve nothing.
- But on the other hand, God pledges to definitely save the House of Jacob. He'll carry them instead of burdening them.
- God can't be compared to idols, since they're unable to speak. They are artificial and totally ineffectual.
- He further asserts that he is supreme and that no one is above him (no harm in continually repeating this, apparently). To prove it, he'll call the Persian Army and King Cyrus out of the East. They'll be the ones to liberate the House of Jacob, freeing Israel from the Babylonian death-grip. Salvation is near…
- God calls Babylon a "virgin daughter," and whisks her off her metaphorical throne. She's going to grind meal and tromp about through the rivers naked and ashamed. God vows he's taking a "take no prisoners" attitude towards Babylon.
- Now, even though God is the one who gave up Israel to Babylon in the first place, it's time for a reversal: Babylon is going to sit in shame and darkness, instead of being the richly rewarded mistress of all the nations.
- Unable to enjoy its fine pleasures anymore, Babylon will know what it's like to be a widow and lose its children (just as Israel had).
- God reminds them that he was watching as they performed their wicked deeds, and he's really not cool with their selfish behavior. He's sending a calamity that they won't be able to ward off with any amount of money or pleading.
- Oh, and they can put that sorcery and magic away, too. That won't help either.
- The disaster that's coming can't be held off by spells and enchantments, but God challenges them to try anyway. He says they should see if their royal astrologers might be of any use in helping them succeed. Maybe they will succeed, God hints…
- But no. Psych! He says they're actually going to get consumed like stubble in a fire.
- There's no one who can possibly help Babylon—absolutely no one.
New Ball Game
- God addresses Israel, saying that they invoke his name but without any truth or righteousness inside them.
- He announced different things to them in the past, he says, because he knew that when those things would come to pass, they would be obstinate and give credit to idols.
- But now, God's turning over a new leaf. The things he's telling them in the present are things they've never heard before. It's a totally new ball-game.
- Of course, you may remember a few chapters ago, when God also announced that things were about to get new up in here. "But this is super new," God explains.
- They can't rebel against them or claim they've already heard them. God's making it brand new.
- All the wrath that God's been inflicting on Israel, he admits, was really just a way of refining them—purifying them and knocking the rebellious attitudes out of their hearts. "Giant you're welcome, pals."
- God affirms that it was all adding to his glory, so their struggles weren't in vain.
That's, Like, Soooo Totally God
- God continues with more statements like, "I am He; I am the first and I am the last"—you know, classic God comments.
- He says that King Cyrus has declared these things are true about God too, and God will support him in his military efforts against Babylon.
- God reminds Israel to follow his commandments (he does this a lot, not that it helps). He says that, if they'd managed to do so before, their prosperity and their offspring would've been as great as the ocean or as numerous as grains of sand.
- The people of Israel should go out, proclaiming God's victory over Babylon and shouting for joy.
- He reminds them that he's the same person who sustained them during the Exodus, bringing water from the rock for them, and here he is, saving the day yet again.
- But, signing off, God reminds them that there will be "no peace for the wicked."
A Bad Case of Sword Mouth
- It's super hard to know who's speaking here: Is it Isaiah? All of Israel? the as-of-yet unrealized servant, come to save all of Israel? Cyrus, King of Persia?
- The servant, whoever he is, compares himself to an arrow readied and placed in quiver, waiting for a time to strike. His mouth was made like a sword, because of its ability to speak words that would destroy wickedness. So much for "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me."
- God calls him his servant, the representative of all Israel. But Isaiah says that he's labored in vain, having failed to change anything—though his reward lies with God.
- Nonetheless, God has appointed the servant to save the House of Jacob, and to be a light to all the other nations, as well. God says that all the pagan and Gentile kings will end up falling down to pay reverence to God and to Israel.
- God says that he's given his servant the mission of dragging the (metaphorical) prisoners out of the darkness and into the light, allowing them to roam freely in the world without hungering or thirsting.
- He promises to guide people from all over towards the right way, leveling mountains and creating a holy road everyone can travel on.
- All of nature should rejoice (the mountains are ordered to burst into song) because of how God will comfort the sufferings of people.
- Zion thinks God has rejected it, but in reality, God can't forget it any more than a woman can forget her own newborn baby—although God says he's actually even more reliable than that, he says.
- The constructive people in Israel outnumber its destructive people. So it'll all get better. Even though it seems destroyed for now, it will soon be crowded with inhabitants again.
- Finally, God promises all the nations will start being nice to Israel, instead of trying to sack and destroy it. They'll play with Israel's children, act as foster fathers and mothers to the country as a whole, buy them nice Playstations, and bow down to them in reverence.
- Those who wait for God's promise to be fulfilled won't be disappointed. He'll destroy the tyrants and oppressors, and everyone will know that he's really God.
A Temporary Separation
- God asks the children of Israel how their mother (apparently, Israel in the abstract) could have received a bill of divorce from him, from God.
- He answers his own question: they were separated from God because of their sins.
- No one answered God's call to redemption (which, he reminds you, he totally could've pulled off had anyone been willing), so he dried up the seas and killed fish and made the sky black as though it were covered in sackcloth.
- Now, somebody's (Isaiah? A future Messiah? A past historical figure?) voice jumps in, discussing how he was appointed God's servant, and had his ear opened to the Lord's word.
- He had to put up with a lot of abuse—people spitting on him and pulling his beard—but he didn't give up.
- Isaiah says that God is his ally and challenges any of his enemies to confront him.
- Those enemies are just going to get worn out like clothes eaten by moths. (Classic smack talk.) He challenges everyone to fear the Lord and follow him, but ultimately concludes that they're all burning themselves with their own fires and will be forced to fall into torment.
More Moth Munching
- Our speaker invites everyone to turn their attention back to God, "the rock from which you were hewn," the same God of their ancestors.
- He says that God will make the wilderness and the desert surrounding Zion into a garden as nice as Eden.
- God's voice breaks in, saying that he will save the people swiftly. Heaven and earth will both vanish, but his salvation will endure forever. With a little sprinkling of ultimate justice and righteousness.
- Righteous people shouldn't worry about the naysayers who make fun of them—they're just going to be devoured like wool getting munched on by moths.
Some Good Ol' Fashioned Serpent Wrastlin'
- The speaker calls on God to awake and reveal his strength again, since he was the same person who killed the evil sea serpent Rahab and dried up the sea so that Israel could cross and return to Zion and salvation.
- Now, God's voice comes back into the prophetic monologue. He is the one who comforts Israel, and he's confused as to why they would be afraid of mere mortals (like the Babylonians). After all, if they get into any trouble, they should know that they're going to get released from oppression right away.
- That said, Israel has drunk from the bowl of God's wrath, making it stagger around like someone totally deluded. Its children are all caught by God's wrath, too. So who can save Israel?
- God will give the cup of wrath to Israel's enemies instead, and Israel will receive mercy from now on. Probably one of the few times that someone was pleased to have their beverage confiscated.
Your Sunday Best
- Isaiah tells Jerusalem to put on beautiful robes—uncircumcised and unclean people won't enter the city anymore.
- Just as Jerusalem was sold for nothing (a.k.a. God didn't hand them over for a payday), it will be redeemed without money (says God).
- The Egyptians and Assyrians have both oppressed the Hebrews in the past, but now God is going to make his name known to his people, freeing them from the ignorance they suffered from these foreign rulers.
- God, again, repeats his call for rejoicing and celebration. He's sending a beautiful messenger to free the people.
- He requests the Lord's vessel-bearers (who carry his sacred vessels in the temple) to leave unclean places, purify themselves, and return home. God will guard them.
- His servant is going to be lifted up and exalted over all, which will surprise everyone because of how disfigured and defeated the servant had seemed to be.
- In fact, you could even say this servant has suffered quite a bit. Why...is that the Suffering Servant's music?
- Because of the servant, kings will be forced to deal with truths that they had denied before. As the Bible puts it, they'll have to "shut their mouths."
Outcast (Not the Rap Group)
- This chapter continues describing the "suffering servant." He grows up in front of God like a plant. People ignore him because he doesn't look particularly majestic. They all reject him and despise him, and he spends his whole life suffering.
- But he pays off everyone's sins with all this horrible suffering. No one realizes it, but it works. The people return to God like sheep to their shepherd.
- Meanwhile, the servant goes like a sheep to the slaughter, bearing the people's punishment silently. He is taken away by a "perversion of justice," and is buried with the wicked and then with the rich.
- God organized all of this to pay off the people's transgressions. So, in the end the servant will be alright. He'll see light through his troubles and find a place with the righteous and mighty as a reward for his atonement.
Heaven's Fertility Clinic
- God says that Israel—depicted as a barren woman—should rejoice, because (paradoxically) the barren woman will end up having more kids than the married woman.
- They'll need to widen their tents for all of the descendants who will eventually live in them. (Purchase diapers in bulk, etc.)
- Israel can give up all its shame and disgrace. It can forget all the crazy, idolatrous, and sinful things it did in its youth. God is Israel's husband, who will comfort Israel like a wife who has been momentarily abandoned, but is then reunited with her husband.
- He says that he was wrathful towards Israel for a moment ("lots of moments!" grumble some of the Israelites), but will now redeem it with everlasting love. It's the same situation as Noah faced. After the flood, God promised never to inundate the world again. And he kept his promise.
- Whatever else falls apart and falls away, God says that his love won't.
- God will deck Israel's foundations with jewels and make sure that its children will prosper and be instructed by God.
- Oppressors won't come near again. If they do, they won't be sent by God and will fall when they confront God's people. So, they won't get around to the whole "oppressing" bit.
- God will give them the weapons they need to defend themselves. He'll make sure that they won't be confused by the people who try to judge and deceive them.
- God invites the people to join in this new covenant, saying that the thirsty should come and drink and the people without money should come and eat. He then points out that people are wasting their time and money on things that "do not satisfy." Ah, we gotcha. God's talking about spiritual sustenance. Clever.
- Because he loved King David back in the day, as a sort of homage, God's gonna bless all of his people in a new covenant.
- God predicts that all the nations will come running, drawn to Israel's splendor like moths to a flame (or Shmoop to an In 'n' Out).
- Isaiah urges the people to return to God. If the wicked give up their evil ways, they'll definitely find their pardon because God is really merciful.
- God reminds the reader that his thoughts and ways are different from those of humans—specifically, they're "higher," and presumably, more awesome.
- His word is going to be like rain or snow which pours down on the land to make the vegetation grow. And the word won't return to God until it has successfully accomplished this purpose.
- The people will go out in joy and peace, and everything in nature—mountains, hills, fields, and the whole shebang—will join them in celebrating.
Eunuchs are Welcome
- God orders the people to keep (or start, really) being just and to observe the Sabbath, so that they'll be saved.
- He promises to take care of the foreigners and the eunuchs who've been joined to his people, saying that he'll give them "an everlasting name" if they maintain his covenant.
- He also tells the eunuchs to quit complaining that they are only dry trees. Which is actually a pretty poetic complaint, all things considered.
- God will bring the foreigners who honor him and keep the Sabbath to his holy mountain, where he'll accept their sacrifices and offerings. The Temple there will become a house of prayer for everybody (you, too, dry trees...er, eunuchs.)
- More people are going to get brought into this covenant than the people who've already been gathered together. Despite all the lovey-dovey-ness, God switches back to some condemnation.
- He sends out a formal invitation to all the wild beasts of the forest, inviting them to take advantage of Israel's lax defenses, since the Israelite sentinels are like silent dogs, unable to bark, just snoozing.
- He says that the shepherds (of the people) are also ineffectual, only interested in drinking themselves silly.
- God basically thinks a little wild-animal attack would snap Israel out of its funk. Maybe.
Public Exposure and Strange Gods
- The righteous and devout end up getting destroyed—or at least, they seem to end up that way.
- No one gets what's going on (story of Isaiah, are we right?), but it seems that they've been brought out of calamity and into peace. They're able to attain rest.
- But the unrighteous people—the children of a sorceress, or of adulterers and prostitutes—are condemned.
- They do things like sacrifice children to their gods and worship idols with wine and grain offerings. Neither of which are really cool with God.
- God also furiously notes that they sacrifices to other gods, put up pagan symbols, and generally cheat on God with other idols. He's also pretty upset that they tried to descend to the realm of the dead.
- He realizes that they think these sorts of things are working out okay, but God is here to remind them that everything is going to go south, if they keep it up.
- God asks the idol-worshipers why they've ignored him for so long. He says he's been lenient towards them by turning away from their transgressions. He even says he'll take their righteous acts into account.
- But in the end, it still won't be any good. Their idols will shatter and be blown away like dust. Talk about a poor return on investment.
- Nevertheless, everyone who turns to God will have peace. Hint, hint.
- God's going to remove the obstacles from his people, letting them all move towards him. He'll have mercy on the humble and penitent people—he won't be furious forever.
- The wicked, however, aren't going to have any peace. Their passions make them like a tossing sea that can't be still, throwing up "mire and mud." Pro tip: Don't surf on the sea of the wicked.
The Sackcloth Routine—Repeated Yet Again
- God criticizes the people for trying to draw near to him without practicing moral actions; a.k.a. for being fake friends. They're super loud about how they're fasting, but all the while they're exploiting their workers.
- The problem with these people, says God, is that their acts of humility are only self-interested. They just want some brownie points with God. As it is, God doesn't want people to put on sackcloth and wail in a big show of humility. He actually wants them to share food with the hungry, bring homeless people into their houses, and give clothes to the naked.
- If they do all this, they will receive God's favor and be healed from their sins.
- The people's light will shine out if they can manage to do all of these things. Oh, but also, they gotta quit accusing other people of sin. Just, generally, no more backbiting. Got it?
- Now if they can manage all that, God will guide them and make them strong. Their ruins will be rebuilt, and they'll be praised by future generations for restoring their cities to glory. And also, they'll need to keep the Sabbath holy. Also stop doing self-interested things. (List over. We think)
- But, anyway, if they do all that, God will make them "ride on the heights of the earth."
- So...do we get amusement park tickets?
Eggs and Webs
- God totally can save his people, he just doesn't want to cuz they've been sinning left, right, and center.
- They've been abusing their legal system, launching frivolous lawsuits, and lying about a whole bunch of stuff. This, says, Isaiah, is like hatching serpents' eggs (since it only makes more serpents) or weaving a spider's web (which seem like a good idea, but are too insubstantial to cover them as clothes. We could've told them that).
- Basically, their bad deeds lead to more bad deeds, and their protestations of innocence aren't fooling anybody.
- They've also committed more horrible sins, like murdering the innocent. Thanks to their sinful doings, the people (it's now in the first person plural, so it's all about "us" and "we") wander around in the darkness, begging for light and stumbling through the night, growling like bears and moaning like mourning doves.
- The people confess that they can't find salvation, since their sins are so great that there's a wicked (pun intended) high barrier between themselves and God.
- God, however, is going to solve all of this. He dresses up in righteousness (it looks like white taffeta, to the untrained eye) and vengeance (more of a black velvet)—like a soldier putting on armor, heading out to defeat the evil.
- He'll deliver swift justice to the wicked but forgive everyone who repents. Seems fair.
- He promises to redeem Zion and says that he will put the spirit that has spoken these good words into the mouths of the people and into the mouths of all of their descendants forever.
- Although darkness will settle over the rest of the earth, the light of God is going rise among the people of Israel. The nations that are now in darkness will later be led towards that light.
- Currently on the approach: long lost sons and daughters, the wealth of the nations, a whole bunch of camels (thanks, we guess?), a whole bunch of curious kings that are eager to act as advisors, and the Glory of Lebanon (a WNBA team, we think.) He says that his wrath towards Israel was only momentary. Now's the time for mercy.
- Of course, every nation that doesn't serve God's people will be destroyed. Makes their choice pretty easy, we think.
- The descendants of people who used to bash them will come to bow down to them.
- God will make Israel totally majestic, allowing them to drink the milk of nations and "suck the breasts of kings." (Yup, you read that correctly.)
- God will switch all of Israel's lesser materials with better ones: gold will replace bronze, silver will replace iron, etc. Peace and Righteousness will be their supervisors. (Are they paid hourly?). Violence will cease, and the city will become a place of salvation.
- There will be no more violence, and the city itself will be the place of salvation.
- The sun and the moon will both disappear, being replaced by the light of God himself.
- The people will be completely righteous. They'll be like a small shoot that has finally grown up into a full plant in bloom. Even the smallest clan will grow into a nation.
- God promises to accomplish all of this quickly. Though the exact quote is "in its time, I will accomplish it quickly." Kind of a hurry up and wait situation.
Father of the Bride
- The speaker says that God has anointed him and sent him to comfort the oppressed, release the prisoners, announce God's mercy and his wrath, and teach the people how to Dougie.
- He says that the people are going to repair the ruins they've inherited from previous generations.
- Although other nations will take care of Israel's flocks and vines (outsourcing!), the people of Israel are going to be like priests to the entire world, receiving the wealth of the nations and, as a fun bonus, everlasting joy.
- God loves righteousness (in case no one's realized this yet), but he doesn't like wrongdoing. So, he says he'll make a permanent covenant with the people who really live up to his expectations.
- God will make sure that everyone else acknowledges the greatness of his people, as well.
- Our non-God speaker (Isaiah? Future Messiah? Will Smith?) will personally exult in what God has given him, since he's like a person dressed in fine robes and clothes (representing righteousness), as a bride or a groom.
- Righteousness will grow up around the world like plants tended in God's garden (and God has a real green thumb for this sort of thing).
A New Brand Name
- God will keep working and hustling until Jerusalem's glory shines out brightly, evident to everyone. When this happens, it will be called by a new name.
- The land will be adorned richly with all this goodness and majesty, like a royal crown for God.
- As though it were actually married to God, the land will be known as "My delight is in her" and "Married," instead of "Forsaken." God will be a like a builder marrying his own creation.
- The sentinels God has appointed will keep reminding Jerusalem of its destiny and keep reminding God of the same as well, until it's all fulfilled.
- God promises that he won't give up the wine and the grain of his people to foreigners and enemies. It'll be reserved strictly for his own people.
- He urges them to build up the highway that will lead into his holy city.
- Then, they won't be known as a bunch of forsaken nobodies anymore. They'll be called "The Holy People."
- The first part of this chapter takes the form of a little Q&A sesh between God and someone else (a voice that exists to ask God questions, we guess).
- The unnamed voice asks "Who's this guy coming from Edom?" God says, "Me, vindicating my power and saving people."
- The voice asks why God's robes are red. It turns out that God's been stomping on some grapes—in anger and wrathfulness.
- This is really a metaphor, he says, for trampling on and destroying the people of Edom, splattering their lifeblood all over his robes.
- Now, we switch back into mercy mode. Our narrator says that God has saved his own people himself, without the help of any angels or any partners.
- God lifted up the people, but then became their enemy when they rebelled against him.
- But the people remembered Moses and the way God had led them during the Exodus.
- The fact that they recollected this allowed God to save them.
- So, like with the end of any "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode, chaos gives way to order. Things are back to being the way they should be, with the people contentedly shepherded by God.
- At the very end of the chapter, there's a short prayer of penance.
- The narrator moans that God's might and compassion are both withheld from him. Even though God is Israel's father, Israel fails to know him.
- Since God has withdrawn his presence, Israel's been hung out to dry, basically. They're ruled over by their enemies and don't feel any different from any of the nations who aren't called by God's name.
Waiting for the Big Reveal
- Continuing in the penitential prayer zone, the narrator wishes that God would burst through the heavens and come down to earth, making his presence known to all.
- God did all sorts of rad things no one expected in the past, like making mountains quake and so forth. He's the only God who has ever really made himself known to people.
- He meets the people who follow his law and rewards them, but when they sin he won't agree to the same kind of rendezvous.
- Since no one calls on God's name, the people have become like falling leaves, blown away by the winds of their sins. God doesn't intervene to help.
- The narrator says that, nonetheless, the people remain God's clay while he himself is the potter that shapes it.
- Since Zion has been destroyed and so much of the land has been reduced to wilderness and chaos, the narrator asks God if he will continue to hide his face from the people.
Not Destiny's Child
- God responds to the questions and worries from the last chapter, saying that he wanted the people who weren't searching for him to find him—they just wouldn't look.
- It's not that he hid himself from the people. His hands were outstretched the whole time. They just wouldn't accept him. They kept offering illicit sacrifices, eating pork and doing other things that provoke God's outrage.
- God says that he's going to repay everyone for these sins but—as with a grape cluster that has good and bad grapes in it—he's not going to destroy them all.
- The descendants of Jacob will inherit the promised land again. Still, if people forget God, and start to worship Destiny and Fortune, they'll get slaughtered.
- Whereas God's servants will be amply rewarded and delighted, the Fortune-worshippers get nil (zip, zero, nada), just shame, thirst, hunger, and discovering that their name has now become a curse before finally being put to death.
- God will end up being the only deity invoked for blessings anywhere on earth.
The Ultimate Re-Do
- God is going to create an entirely new heaven and earth. Everything that existed before will no longer be remembered by anyone.
- He will re-create Jerusalem as a place where joy and delight are the rule, both for God and for the people living in the city. Weeping and despair come to an end. No infants will die shortly after birth, and even one hundred year old people will be considered youths.
- People will live in the houses and fields they themselves have created. No one else will come and take them away.
- All carnivorous diets will end. Wolves and lambs, and lions and oxen, will eat together. But the serpent will be utterly defeated, only able to eat dust.
- All violence will end on the holy mountain of God.
- God says the earth is his footstool (take that, earth) and heaven is his throne. Then, surprisingly, he asks who can build a house for him, implying that temples built by humans can't contain him.
- He says, instead, that he'll look to people who are humble and contrite and who follow his word.
- The sacrifices that people offer him—whether of oxen, sheep, grain, or frankincense—actually appall and disgust him (which may contradict things God says in other parts of Isaiah, depending on how you interpret them).
- The people who worship in these offensive ways are going to get punished. ("Wait, but you told us to!") God will turn away from them.
- And the people who pretend to be pious, but reject those who really do follow God, will also be put to shame. ("Okay, well that we expected.")
- Next, Isaiah says that no one has ever heard of a woman giving birth without going through the pains of labor first. So why should Jerusalem giving birth to righteousness be any different?
- But paradoxically, Isaiah says that Jerusalem gives birth to her children and skip that nasty labor thing. God asks, again rhetorically, whether he, the deliverer, won't follow through and deliver the child Jerusalem is giving birth to. (He will. Duh.)
- God urges everyone to rejoice in Jerusalem and be nursed at her breast. God says that he too will comfort them like a mother comforting her child.
- The good people will thrive like flourishing grass. But God also says that he's going to execute a furious judgment against the wicked with fire and with chariots like a whirlwind. Widespread panic (not the jam band, sorry) and death will ensue.
- The people who hold illicit ceremonies in gardens and eat pork and vermin and other gross foods (Brussels sprouts, etc.) will all get wiped out.
- God is going to send out emissaries from the survivors of this destruction all over the world.
- They'll bring back people to worship God from every part of the globe, all arriving in Jerusalem, the same way that the Israelites already bring grain offerings in clean vessels. Some of them will even become priests.
- The new heavens and the new earth will remain, and everyone will come on the Sabbath to worship God.
- But they'll be able to look out on the dead bodies of the people who rebelled against him. (Nothing like a little site-seeing.) A worm that never dies and a fire that never burns out will continually eat and burn these corpses—a permanent reminder against any sort of rebellion.