The Jerusalem of the Future and Present, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Swords into Plowshares Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 2:1-22

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If Isaiah 2:2-5 seems familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of the nearly identical passage at the beginning of Micah 4.  The Bible quotes itself frequently; that may explain the similarity in texts (Micah 4 and Isaiah 2).  Another theory holds that Micah 4 and Isaiah 2 quoted the same text.  And one may point out that Micah and First Isaiah were contemporaries. Alternatively, Micah 4 and Isaiah may have paraphrased the same source.

The eschatological vision in Isaiah 2:2-5 indicates that Jerusalem will become the seat of God in creation, restored to the divine ideal of primordial harmony of the universe.  The nations, without becoming Jews, will learn from God.  Isaiah 2:2 reads, “all nations,” but Micah 2:2 reads, “many nations.”  One word makes a major difference.

Isaiah 2:2-5 (the vision of future Jerusalem) contrasts with Isaiah 2:6-21 (about divine judgment on a sinful population).  Isaiah 2:6-21, addressed to the (northern) Kingdom of Judah, condemns a variety of offenses, including arrogance, pride, soothsaying, and idolatry.  That pride and arrogance will not stand amid divine punishment, we read.

Verse 22 stands out from the rest of the chapter.  This verse addresses some audience other than verses 6-21.  In French, “you” in 2:6 is tu–singular.  Yet, in French, “you” in 2:22 is vous–plural.  Commentaries on the Book of Isaiah also indicate that “you” in Isaiah 2:22 is plural.  Verse 22 is a late addition.

As for you, stop worrying about mortals,

in whose nostrils is but a breath;

for of what worth are they?

–Isaiah 2:22, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Context is crucial to interpretation.  Given the layers of writing and editing in the final version of Isaiah 2, establishing context can be difficult.  Who are “you?”  They may be the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, but that identification is uncertain.  Also, given the updating of the writings of the early prophets (Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah) through the time after the Babylonian Exile, the identity of the plural “you” in verse 22 may be less important than one may think at first.  After all, the prophecy still speaks clearly, long after its original context has ceased to exist.

Isaiah 2:22 pleads with a population to trust in God, not mortals.  It encourages people to rely on God and to abandon the delusion of human self-reliance.  That delusion is at the heart of arrogance, which Isaiah 2:6-21 denounces.  That delusion contradicts the Law of Moses, which teaches that people rely entirely on God, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.  The delusion of self-reliance belies the reality of mutuality.  Whichever population the “you” of Isaiah 2:22 originally was, that “you” can, functionally, be any population in the modern world.  The reality of 2021 is far from the ideal vision of Isaiah 2:2-5 for a range of reasons, including human arrogance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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