We start Isaiah today. It's been hard reading up on background on a new book everyday, but fortunately Isaiah, at 66 chapters, will last us awhile. We may even end up having to review background info!
Harris's Understanding the Bible has this to say about the composition of the book:
Although traditionally regarded as the work of a single prophet, scholars believe that the Book of Isaiah is an anthology of prophetic literature that spans almost the entire era of Israelite prophecy, from the mid-eight to the early fifth century BCE. Most scholars divide the book into three different parts, each representing a different historical period and a different author.
Scholars have long wondered what principle guided ancient biblical editors when they combined the work of three different prophets from three different periods of Israel's history onto a single scroll. Some recent commentators suggest that the editors wished to illustrate the entire spectrum of Israelite prophecy in a book that they placed at the head of the prophetic collection. In its edited form, the Book of Isaiah represents and incorporates the three principal themes or concerns of Israel's prophets: warnings of divine judgment, promises of forgiveness and reconciliation, and responsibilities of restoration. ... The book as a whole thus served as a pattern or model for future generations, illustrating the nature and consequences of covenant-breaking, as well as the willingness of Israel's God to save and redeem a repentant people.Let's just cover the first part for tonight:
Most of Isaiah's genuine sayings, embedded amid later prophetic and editorial additions, express advice to Davidic kings during the Assyrian threat and warning of judgment against Judah for its sins.Harris reminds us of the historical context of this part of Isaiah. The historical Isaiah was active during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Assyria was powerful. They had taken over much of the region. During Isaiah's lifetime, Assyria would conquer the kingdom of Israel.
And that's probably enough for now. On to today's reading! Since it's poetry, there's a pretty low content to word ratio, but I am okay with that. ;-)
The content in the first chapter of today's reading boils down to this: the people of Israel/Judah/Jerusalem have rebelled against God. They live sinful lives and disgust God by donning the clothing of tradition without following its deeper meaning. Isaiah says that the people should:
Learn to do good.If the people turn to God and live righteously, he will make them clean again.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
The second chapter presents a vision of future judgment and world peace.
Paul defends himself and his authority.
Psalms and Proverbs
Another proverb about not securing other people's debts.