Isaiah 1 – “A Conviction and Sentence for Evil Israel”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Isaiah condemns Israel for abandoning God. God denounces temple worship, bemoans murder and corruption, and vows to cleanse Israel of its sins.

II. Photo
God admonishes Israel: “For you shall be like a terebinth wilted of leaf, and like a garden that has no water.” (v. 30)

III. Important Verses
1: The prophecies of Isaiah son of Amoz, who prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
3: An ox knows its owner, An ass its master’s crib: Israel does not know, My people takes no thought.
5-7: Why do you seek further beatings, That you continue to offend? Every head is ailing, And every heart is sick. From head to foot No spot is sound: All bruises, and welts, And festering sores — Not pressed out, not bound up, Not softened with oil. Your land is a waste, Your cities burnt down; Before your eyes, the yield of your soil Is consumed by strangers — A wasteland as overthrown by strangers!
11:  “What need have I of all your sacrifices?” Says the LORD. “I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, And suet of fatlings, And blood of bulls; And I have no delight In lambs and he-goats.”
16-17: Wash yourselves clean; Put your evil doings Away from My sight. Cease to do evil; Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow.
25-28: I will turn My hand against you, And smelt out your dross as with lye, And remove all your slag:  I will restore your magistrates as of old, And your counselors as of yore. After that you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City.”  Zion shall be saved in the judgment; Her repentant ones, in the retribution. But rebels and sinners shall all be crushed, And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

IV. Outline

1. Superscription
2-4. Condemnation: Israel has abandoned God
5-8. Derisive question: Hasn’t Israel had enough pain and suffering?
9. Comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah
10-20. Oracle #1
    10. Exhortative introduction
    11-13. God’s rejection of the sacrifices
    14. God’s rejection of Sabbath and new moon practices
    15. God’s rejection of prayer
    16-17. Do good and shun evil
    18. The power of repentance
    19-20. Blessing and curse
21-23. Condemnation: Jerusalem has become murderous and corrupt
24-31. Oracle #2
    24a. Introduction
    24b-25a. God’s vengeance
    25b. God will clean Israel
    26-27. Jerusalem’s righteousness will be restored
    28. Evildores will be killed
    29. Condemnation: Israel’s forbidden practices
    30-31. Curse: Israel will burn like dessicated foliage

V. Comment
The book of Isaiah is, in many editions of the Hebrew Bible, the first book of the so-called “Latter Prophets.” Although it may seem odd that the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings – all of which deal with “history” – are considered to be “prophetic” works, Blenkinsopp points out that “history” was the work of prophets. He writes: “That all eight books are classified as prophetic is due to the belief that emerged in the late Second Temple period that the writing of history was a prophetic activity.” (74) The following verses illustrate this idea:

  • The acts of King David, early and late, are recorded in the history of Samuel the seer, the history of Nathan the prophet, and the history of Gad the seer. (1 Chr 29:29)
  • The other events of Solomon’s reign, early and late, are recorded in the chronicle of the prophet Nathan and in the prophecies of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Jedo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat. (2 Chr 9:29)
  • The deeds of Rehoboam, early and late, are recorded in the chronicles of the prophet Shemaiah and Iddo the seer, in the manner of genealogy. There was continuous war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. (2 Chr 12:15)
  • As for the other events of Jehoshaphat’s reign, early and late, they are recorded in the annals of Jehu son of Hanani [the prophet], which were included in the book of the kings of Israel. (2 Chr 20:34)

In fact, Isaiah is himself described as a “historian” in 2 Chronicles:

  • The other events of Uzziah’s reign, early and late, were recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. (2 Chr 26:22)
  • The other events of Hezekiah’s reign, and his faithful acts, are recorded in the visions of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.  (2 Chr 32:32)

The book begins with a superscription in v. 1: “The prophecies of Isaiah son of Amoz, who prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Who was Isaiah the son of Amoz and when did he live? Blenkinsopp writes: “As the narrative sections of the book tell it, Isaiah was involved in Judean politics at three critical jungtures between 734 and 701 B.C.E. during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah and the reigns of three Assyrian kings. The first was his intervention in the crisis of Ahaz’s reign in 734-732 while Tiglath-pileser III ruled in Assyria; then, after more than two decades, under Hezekiah during Sargon II’s Philistia campaign in 713-711; finally, in direct association with Hezekiah during Sennacherib’s campaign in southern Palestine to suppress the revolt inspired by the death of Sargon (705-701).” (98)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Isaiah 1-39” The Anchor Bible vol. 19 (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Sweeney, Marvin A. “Isaiah 1-39 with an Introduction to Prophetic Literature” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 16 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1996).
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