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IsaiahEssay2

IsaiahEssay2

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Published by Nick Pack

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Published by: Nick Pack on Apr 29, 2012
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Pack 1
Interpretative Message of Isaiah 63:7-64:12
Interpretative Message ContextWith all the turmoil that the people of Israel had been through up to the point of the exileand return, under King Cyrus, one would think that sooner or later God’s chosen peoplewouldget their act together and takeYahweh, their God, and his law a little more serious. But sadly, itseems—and any overview of Israelite history would confirm this—that Israel was perpetuallystuck in their sin, being blown to and fro, wherever it carried them (64:6). The exile had failed tocreate the faithful people envisioned by Isaiah, thegreat prophet (Dillard/Longman 279). Thus,with their temple smashed to bits and little to no external evidence that Yahweh was their God(64:7)—because of their spiritualdeadness and the inactive relationship between them andGod—in the middle of Third Isaiah (Isaiah 56-66), the prophet writes a lament to capture thatgrim moment in Israelite history to hopefully catch the attention and emotion of both thecommunity and God. By pulling from the prior elements of this project, I will construct theinterpretative message of this lament: Isaiah 63:7-64:12. I am proposing that
 Isaiah 63:7-64:12 isa prayer/lament, written by the prophet, complaining about the inactivity of God due to the people’s sin and God’s turning from them, urging God to “look,” “return” and act powerfullyon their behalf, despite their sinful rebellion, as he did in the days of old.
Before the actual message, a few things are in order, such asthe structure of the book of Isaiah, the literary setting of 63:7-64:12, the genre of lament, the occasional setting of the book and passage and the historical context. First, the general structure of the book. The book of Isaiahis broken up into three major sections: chs. 1-39, 40-55, 56-66. The passage at hand, obviously,falls in the middle of the latter. Immediately preceding 63:7 is six verses regarding a vision of Yahweh as a warrior coming “to act as a warrior clothed in battle garb and acting in wrath for thecause of vengeance,
tsedaqah
, redemption, and salvation” (Goldingay 353). Immediately
 
Pack 2following—the final two chapters of the book, 55 and 56—begins the book’s conclusion andthus parallel many of the themes in the first chapter. “Thus, we find references to the peopleforsaking Yahweh, to their rebelliousness, to their acts that displease Yahweh, to their religiousobservances in gardens, to their destiny to be shamed, and to the unquenchable fire” (Goldingay365). Apart from these rather chillingreferences, much of the content of 56-66 is filled with thefuture blessings of the people of God (Dillard/Longman 281). Some important ones aresalvation/deliverance (56:1), the foreigner/eunuch (56:3-8), fasting (58:3-7), the coming/blessingof nations (60:5-16), new creation and Jerusalem’s blessing (65:17-25).63:7-64:12 is, generally speaking, a psalm. Psalms were musical poems (Fee/Stuart 206)and thus were intended to instruct “the mind through the heart,” to “evoke feelings… and tostimulate aresponse on the part of the individual that goes beyond a mere cognitiveunderstanding of certain facts” (Fee/Stuart 207). Additionally, psalms were also stronglymetaphorical (Fee/Stuart 208). But more specifically, 63:7-64:12 is a lament.
1
Laments, whether individual or corporate, as explained by Fee and Stuart, “help a person [or group] to expressstruggles, suffering, or disappointment to the Lord”(212). Though 63:7-64:12does not followthe
typical 
 pattern and structure of a lament, it clearly has the main elements weaved throughoutas well asthe tone and overall feeling of one. And though most likely it was written by anindividual, it would have been used in ancient Israelite corporate worship (Fee/Stuart 210). Inwriting this lament on behalf ofGod’s people,the prophet yearns forGod’s attention so to speak.He is tired of the silence and hiddenness of Yahweh and thus desires God to “look” (63:15) and“return” (63:17b), that God’s activity and involvement might be restored as in the days of oldwhen God performed amazing miracles and ledthem with the power of his arm (63:11-14).
 
1
This passage could be further categorized as a
 protest 
 psalm. Instead of the solely victimizing language of laments, protests seek divine action through direct, confronting and often radical language.For a relevant discussion seeGoldingay, John.
Old Testament Theology: Israel's Life
. Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003. Print.
 
Pack 3 Now for the historical context.In a general sense, Third Isaiah is dealing with “the needsof the exilic community” (Dillard/Longman 275). This is true, but it deals also with the needs of the
 pos
t-exilic community: “Its references [64:10-11] to the ruined state of country and templesuggest a time in the sixth century B.C. before the temple had been rebuilt, and might well thusimply a time prior to that of chapters 40-55” (Goldingay 355). There is a good amount of openness when it comes to matters of timeframe regarding Third Isaiah. Seitz reminds hisreaders this is “partly because Third Isaiah is so bereft of concrete historical indicators” (502).Thus, “it has given rise to wide-ranging and speculative proposals as to historical and sociallocation, from the pre-exilic period to the late Hellenistic period” (502). It is important to keep inmind that though there is much interpretation regarding the actual timeframeof 56-66, the prophet wrote on behalf of a diverse collection of Israelites, those who had returned from exileand those who were the descendants of those left, whom most likely occupied one of threegroups: “those who were deeply concerned about God and the relationship of Judah to him; thosewho were concerned about religion; and those who cared little for either” (Oswalt 16).Interpretative Message of the PassageIsaiah 63:7-14The passage begins with a recalling of the goodness and kindness that Yahweh has shown“the house of Israel” (v 7). More than a specific moment, this is more likely a remembering of Yahweh’s incredible love and fidelity throughout their history. Though Fee and Stuart posit thattypically the praise element of a lament comes at the end (215), Childs affirms in hiscommentary, “
as is common
in the Psalter, complaints are often introduced with praise and therecitation of the great events of God’s show of mercy to Israel” [(523) Italics mine].Immediately, the reader’s attentionis on the
hesed 
of God. “This though is [further] emphasized

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