I have included some brief footnotes at the end of this post along with a suggested resource list for those who wish to delve more deeply into Isaiah. If length is a concern, the RSM administrator is free to delete these. If that course is taken I will provide a link in the comment box for those interested in this material.
ISAIAH 1 IN THE LECTIONARY AND OFFICE:
Although I wont be doing so in this post, it is often fruitful to study a given text (such as Isaiah 1)
in relation to other texts associated with it in the Lectionary and the
Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office). In the Liturgy of the Hours Isaiah 1:1-18 is the scripture reading used in the Office of Readings for the First Sunday of Advent. It is prefaced by Psalm 1:1-6; Psalm 2:1-12; and Psalm 3:1-8. The reading for the next day consists of Isaiah 1:21-27, 2:1-5. It is prefaced by Psalm 6:1-10; Psalm 9:1-10; and Psalm 9:11-20. In the Daily Lectionary for Mass, Isaiah 1:10-17 is the first reading for Monday of the 15th week in Ordinary Time (Year 2). It is used in conjunction with Psalm 50:8-9, 16b-17, 21, 23 and Matthew 10:34-11:1. On Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent (Years 1 & 2) the first reading is Isaiah 1:10, 16-20. Like the previous passage from Isaiah it is used in conjunction with Psalm 50:8-9, 16b-17, 21, 23. The Gospel reading that accompanies it is Matthew 23:1-12.
One should pay attention to
verbal, thematic and theological connections and contrasts in comparing Isaiah with the other passages. One might
also ask certain questions, such as, why is it that in the Office all of
Isaiah 1 is covered in the first two days of Advent except for Isa 1:19-20 and Isa 1:28-31? Why is it that on Tuesday of the second week of Lent the Mass reading skips from Isa 1:10 to Isa 1:16-20, eliminating Isa 1:11-15?
NOTES ON ISAIAH 1:
Read Isaiah 1:1.
This is a superscription to the entire book and was probably added at a
late date; possibly at the final compiling/editing of the book
(scroll). It is written in the 3rd person and the style is referred to
as either archival or titular style. Archival, because it serves as a
record to the time period of Isaiah's ministry via the four kings
mentioned; titular, because it serves as a title, mentioning the author
(Isaiah) and the subject matter (vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem).
The first king mentioned, Uzziah, began his reign around 785 BC. The
reign of the last mentioned king, Hezekiah, ended in 698 BC. Assuming
that Isaiah 6 narrates the prophet's initial call to ministry, modern
scholars establish its beginning in 742 BC, "the year King Uzziah died" (Isa 6:1). This is rather problematic. His ministry can be dated with certainty to have lasted until at least 701 since he is shown to be active in the events surrounding the Assyrian invasion of Judah in that year (see chapters 36-37).
Read Isaiah 1:2-3. The Prophet Announces God's Accusation Against His People. The text opens with a call to attention and the reason for it: Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken. Bidding heaven and earth in this fashion calls to mind the Book of Deuteronomy wherein Moses is portrayed as delivering a series of exhortatory sermons to the people to inform and warn them concerning what was necessary for them to maintain possession of the Promised Land they were about to enter (e.g., Deut 4:26; Deut 30:19-20). Thus the first "sermon" in Isaiah begins on an ominous note. See footnote 1.
What the LORD has spoken is an indictment of His people: "Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” In a fashion typical of the wisdom genre they are compared to beasts. The ox, and, especially, the ass, were common symbols of stupidity and stubbornness (Prov 7:22; 26:3; Job 11:12; Gen 16:12). The statement that Israel does not know, my people does not understand, indicates in the Hebrew text that their lack of knowledge/understanding is willful.
Read Isaiah 1:4-9. The text opens with the Hebrew word hoy, which would be better translated as "woe" rather than "ah." The opening verse is a lament for what God's sons (2) and people (3) have become.
What is lamented is the fact that the people have reversed their most fundamental relations with God as witnessed to in the foundational traditions of the Old Testament, where it is seen that
Israel is God's firstborn son whose duty it is to serve God (Ex 4:22-23). It was this Father-God that carried them through the desert (Deut 1:31), and trained them to learn obedience (Deut 8:5). But they have rebelled against their Father (Isa 1:2) and become offspring of evildoers and sons who deal corruptly (Isa 1:4). Also in these foundational traditions Israel was to be especially "God's own people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:5-6). In Isaiah's day they were the exact opposite; a sinful nation and a people estranged from God (Isa 1:4). These "priestly people" were also perverting their religious activity (see Isa 1:11-15). See footnote 2.
The question in Isa 1:5 is rhetorical and is intended to get the people to rethink their relational status with their Father. According to Deuteronomy, failure to maintain covenant loyalty to their
God would bring covenant punishments upon the people, culminating in
invasion, siege and exile (Deut 28:49-57, 63-68). There were warnings about these things that heaven and earth had heard Moses deliver to the people (e.g., Deut 4:26; Deut 30:19-20), and indeed, the people of Isaiah's day had begun to suffer such things. In Isa 1:5-8
the people and the Promised Land are kind of melded into one. The
people/land are portrayed as a rebellious son who has been punished so
repeatedly that no spot is left upon which to exact punishment (Isa 1:5-6).
What is behind this image is the Assyrian invasion of 701 BC when the
Promised Land was fiercely devastated, and dozens of fortified towns and
cities (intended to protect Jerusalem) were destroyed. Out of a sheer
act of mercy God saved His still unrepentant people (Isa 1:9).
Read Isaiah 1:10-17. The fact that God had spared His people from becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1:9) had nothing to do with their religiosity which the prophet here highlights as a mere sham and hateful to God (Isa 1:11-15); detestable because it is devoid of any moral concern for others (Isa 1:16-17).
The fact that God has spared his undeserving people (9) is probably to
be taken as an intended incentive for the people to treat rightly those
among them in need of mercy and justice.
Read Isa 1:18-20.
God calls the people to repentance and obedience, promising that they
will again be able to eat the good things of the land (19). Recall Isa 1:7
where we saw that the land was desolated and its fruit consumed by
foreigners. Obedience to God would have prevented this situation (Deut 28:49-51); here we see God promise that repentance can bring it to an end (see also Deut 31:1-10).
Read Isa 1:21-31. The people had been bidden to wash themselves (Isa 1:16), and they had been told that the redness of their sins could become the whiteness of innocence (Isa 1:18).
Here in this present passage we see an incentive for the people to
cleanse themselves (repent); a cleansing punishment from God is coming.
Those who have become or remain corrupted (Isa 1:-23a), not caring for widows or orphans (Isa 1:23b) will be treated as God's enemies and experience a searing blast of judgment, like tainted silver in a furnace (Isa 1:24-25). In this way renewal will come about (Isa 1:26). Because of this judgment some will repent (Isa 1:27), others will remain obstinate (Isa 1:28).
Those among the obstinate who have indulged in the worship of idols
under oak trees (terebinths) and in groves (gardens) will become like
dry, dead trees and withered gardens, stuff to kindle fires ((Isa 1:29-31).
1. Extremely ominous is Isaiah 1:2-4 which calls to mind the early
verses of the song God taught to Moses and Moses taught to the people.
That song was intended to act as a witness against the people and
indicates that God knew the people would forsake him (see Deut
31:16-22). Pertinent to this passage of Isaiah are the following
phrases from the song: “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear
the words of my mouth...For I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Ascribe greatness to out God...A God of faithfulness and without
iniquity, just and right is he. They have dealt corruptly with him, they are no longer his children because of their blemish; they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus requite the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, and made you and established you?" (see Deut 32:1-6).
2. Stark reversals or contrasts are a characteristic of Isaiah's preaching (e.g., Isa 1:21-23; 3:16-26; 5:1, 4). However, in the midst of such reversals something better is often promised. Compare for example the negative Isa 1:21-23 with the positive Isa 1:25-26. Also, compare Isa 3:16-26 which portrays the daughters of Jerusalem in a negative light and the protective gates of Jerusalem as mourning with Isa 4:2-6 where the daughters are cleansed and Zion/Jerusalem is protected by the presence of God.
The Men and Message of the Old Testament. Catholic. By Peter F. Ellis. Dated but still useful.
Father William Most's Chapter Summaries of Isaiah. Online. Catholic. Opens with some introductory material.
Introduction to Isaiah. Online. Catholic. A very brief introduction written by Mark Giszczak.
The Conscience of Israel: Pre-Exilic Prophets and Prophecy. By Father Bruce Vawter. A dated but still useful introduction to prophecy and to the times and themes of Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah.
Isaiah Chapter 1. Notes from the famed 11th century Jewish Rabbi, Rashi. Online.
The Purpose of the Book of Isaiah. Online. Protestant.
Sennacherib's Attack on Hezekiah. Online. Protestant. Tries to make sense out of the confusing biblical and Assyrian accounts of this event.
Old Testament Prophets. Online audio by Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN. listen to episodes, 1, and 30-51.
The Book of Isaiah. By Edward J Kissane. Catholic. Dated but still useful.
Isaiah 1-39: Old Testament Message Series. By Father Joseph Jensen.
Isaiah 40-66: Old Testament Message Series. By Father John Scullion.
Isaias: Prophet for Our Time. By Father Hubert von Zeller. Originally published in 1938.
Father Cornelius a Lapide's Latin Commentary on Isaiah.
Navarre Bible Commentary on the Major Prophets. Catholic.
Isaiah 1-39: Yale Anchor Bible Commentary. Catholic. Somewhat technical.
Isaiah 40-55: Yale Anchor Bible Commentary. Catholic. Somewhat technical.
Isaiah 56-66. Yale Anchor Bible Commentary. Catholic. Somewhat technical.
Eusebius of Caesarea's Commentary on Isaiah.
St Jerome's Commentary on Isaiah and Origen's Homilies 1-9 on Isaiah.
The Church's Bible: Isaiah. Patristic and Medieval excerpts on various parts of the prophet.
Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scripture: Isaiah 1-39.
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Isaiah 40-66.
St Thomas Aquinas' Lectures on Isaiah are being translated into English
and will become available to Logos Bible Software users. I don't know if
there are plans to publish it in book format as well.
5 years ago