O for pity’s sake! These four chapters are just a retelling of 2 Kings 18-20. What the heck are they in here for? We’ve been there and read that. I’m not rehashing it again. There are probably some minor contradictions but I’m not going to bother to go through it with a fine-tooth comb to find them all. Some of the text is almost word-for-word identical, like the remark about eating dung and drinking urine (Isaiah 36:12 and 2 Kings 18:27). It was bad enough the first time… Ditto the crap about god moving the sundial back 10 steps to prove a point (Isaiah 38:7-8 and 2 Kings 20:9-11).
The second part of chapter 38 features Hezekiah’s feelings about his illness and fear of death. Note his thoughts about the finality of death in v 18 “For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness.”
Oh boy, the cherry-picking musicians have had their fun with Isaiah 40. If the words sound familiar it’s because Handel used these verses for five numbers in his Messiah.
- v 1-3: Comfort Ye,
- v 4: Every Valley Shall Be Exalted,
- v 5: And the Glory of the Lord (best-known chorus),
- v 9: O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion (the preceding recit, Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive was from Isaiah 7:14, and Handel just stuck these two unrelated verses together), and
- v 11: He Shall Feed His Flock like a Shepherd (remember the accompanying recit was from Isaiah 35:5-6).
Isaiah 40 has to be one of the most-read and most-quoted chapters in the whole bible – almost every verse is at least somewhat familiar to me. And it’s all interpreted by Christians as prophesy related to Jesus – why else would it appear in the Messiah, which is about Jesus? And if that’s not enough, v 3 forms the basis of the lyrics for one of the most familiar hymns sung during the Advent season (the 4 Sundays before Christmas, when church services focus on the coming of Jesus).
V 6-8 (starting with the words ‘all flesh is grass’) are frequently read at funerals, and Brahms used them in his German Requiem.
And the last part of the chapter, v 12-31, is loved by creationists and cherry-picked for sermons and bible readings by the “god is love” crowd. Gotta love the science in v 22 and 26. Read the whole chapter in context – the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and the beginnings of restoration. Then reread it with Jesus in mind. You can certainly make the prophesy fit, but is there any reason to think it actually relates to Jesus? Couldn’t it equally well foretell any other great and inspirational leader, like Gandhi, for example?
We’re back to the mundane. Yahweh is bragging about his power and asserting his authority…zzzzz.