This chapter is an apologist’s dream, a psychologist’s nightmare, and a non-believer’s facepalm. The first 14 verses tell us that the reason god doesn’t help people or listen to their prayers isn’t because he can’t, but because people are so wicked and commit such horrible sins that god has ‘had it’ and washed his hands of them. Imagine how many people are traumatized by having this idea pounded into them at church (as children!), and how many end up in therapy because of it. And the fictional beasts are back in v 5; I have posted pictures previously.
Describing the restoration of Jerusalem, Isaiah announces that it will be glorious, radiant, bright (v 2-3). So Handel plucks these 2 verses out of this chapter, pairs them up with 2 other unrelated verses from Isaiah (9:2 and 9:6), and creates a passage that makes it sound like it heralds the birth of Christ. What a stretch! I’ll never feel the same way about the Messiah again….
Continuing right along, joyous people will flock to Jerusalem from miles around. But there’s always a dark undercurrent to optimism – nations that refuse to serve Israel will be destroyed (v 12); the descendants of Israel’s tormentors will come and bow before it, and those who despised the Israelites will kiss their feet (v 14). And don’t miss the bad science in v 19-20.
Isaiah continues to describe how wonderful life will be; the land will produce abundantly and everyone will prosper. He proclaims that “the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come (v 1-2). Read this passage and its surrounding context carefully, because it is clear that the speaker is Isaiah and the subject is the restoration of Jerusalem after the siege of 586 BCE. This is important later because, as the SAB points out, in Luke 5:16-19, Jesus quotes these verses but applies them to himself (and he adds some stuff about healing the blind as well). Whether Jesus really said this, or whether Luke, or possibly some later eager apologist, added it in to tie Christ into Isaiah’s prophesy is beyond me. But it’s the basis of much dispute among scholars and between believers and non-believers – did any prophesy in Isaiah actually apply to Jesus, could it be interpreted another way, or were the NT passages that reference it deliberately written later to fit prophesy? (My money’s on that last option.)
Isaiah is praying for Jerusalem. The whole chapter is just a big zzzzzz to me, except for v 11 “The Lord has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’” No need to tell you how that is interpreted by Christians.
The first 6 verses are violent. The lord has trampled his enemies as though they were grapes, and their blood stains his clothes. He crushed the nations in his anger and made them stagger and fall to the ground, spilling their blood upon the earth. (v 1-6) (Does the ‘god is love’ crowd ever read this stuff?) The rest of the chapter is just sad. It is the pathetic, heartfelt pleading of people who feel abandoned by the god of Moses, and wonder why he no longer appears to help them. As inane and reprehensible as the bible is, I often find myself sympathizing with some of the authors.