Verses 1-7 are a story about a vineyard that produced bitter grapes. It’s a parable about the destruction of Jerusalem. The rest of the chapter is basically “there goes the neighborhood”; a polemic about how all those evil people will get their comeuppance, and heaven will exult at the justice (v 16). Yahweh sure is vengeful (v 25).
This is just plain creepy – for a few reasons.
First, it sounds to me like Isaiah is high on something. He’s hallucinating 6-winged creatures.
Which brings me to reason the second reason. I’ve heard of those 6-winged creatures before; had to turn to google to remember where – they are in the lyrics to a strange little hymn I used to sing in church. Listen to it – don’t both the words and music creep you out?
And lastly, because in v 9-13, Yahweh is playing the evil puppet master again, just like he did in Exodus, hardening people’s hearts to cause them to disobey, just so that he can punish and destroy them to make a point. What a sick book this is.
Now we get to some important passages. Make sure to read it all – it contains one of the key discussion points today’s religious debates, but you have to read the chapter from the beginning to get the context. First, King Ahaz of Judah is told not to worry about the kings of Israel and Syria invading. Then in v 10-11, he is told to ask for a sign from god as proof that he has nothing to worry about. Ahaz refuses to question god by asking for proof, so Isaiah offers a sign – “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel…”. The original Hebrew version reads “young woman” – ‘virgin’ was just a mistranslation that stuck. It’s not clear who the woman was that Isaiah was talking about, but in this context, it doesn’t really matter, either. Just that a woman would have a son named Immanuel. Isaiah’s prophesy continues to the end of the chapter. The point is, he was talking about a sign that god would give to Ahaz, so it had to happen in Ahaz’s lifetime – not centuries later.
So what are the discussion points? First, there’s an interesting contradiction in the basic story. 2 Chronicles 28:5-6 clearly states that Israel and Syria defeated Ahaz in a great slaughter. So much for Yahweh’s promise and Isaiah’s ‘proof’. And more importantly, v 14 has been plucked out of context and used to imply prophesy of the birth of Jesus. This makes no sense.
When we get to the NT, we’ll learn that most (all?) of the OT passages that supposedly prophesy the birth of Jesus were actually ‘retro-prophesy’, i.e. the gospel writers wanted to make Jesus into a Messiah and so they looked for passages in the OT that could be used in that way. In other words, the Jesus story was written to fit existing prophesy. The gospel writers didn’t do such a great job connecting up this story, either, because no one in the NT ever referred to Jesus as “Immanuel”. (Really – go look.) And if you wanna know who really made this line famous and connected it to Jesus, look no further than George Frederick Handel. He wrote a little oratorio that we hear a lot at Christmas, called “Messiah”. (It has a few familiar melodies in it, like the “Hallelujah Chorus”.) Handel put this ‘life of Jesus’ oratorio together by cherry-picking obscure verses of scripture from unrelated parts of the bible, and he chose several from Isaiah. Here is v 14:
The first part sounds like nonsense, but it’s prophesy. The significance of that ridiculous baby name is that it means “swift to plunder and quick to carry away”; so this prophesies the plunder and downfall of Judah. In v 5-10, Yahweh threatens the land with a great flood; well why not? It worked the last time he wanted to start over. But Isaiah seems to think he’s safe from all these threats, because he’s righteous and god regards him as special. What egos these biblical characters have!