The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 28-39

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The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 28-39

#1 Postby Elder Gideon » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:23 pm

Chapters 28-32: The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

We’ve discussed how the prophets Amos and Hosea, who were based in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, shared the same basic prophesy their land. Together, Amos foresaw what Hosea would later witness: the destruction of their kingdom to Assyrian aggression. From his base in the Southern Kingdom, Isaiah is contemporary with both Amos and Hosea, overlapping them in time, seeing and prophesying the same message in these chapters.

Isaiah’s imagery is very graphic with metaphors of the stupor and drunkenness of the Israel’s elite. What lies and futility have replaced is an awareness of the Covenant; lost, forgotten, are its most basic precepts. As if speaking to our own decadence today, he further extends this metaphor:

Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through
it will not come to us;
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter’.
(28:15)

The same Assyrian aggression moving through the Northern Kingdom isn’t stopping there, but intends to take the Southern Kingdom of Judah as well. Arrogance is Judah’s same vulnerability, centering all that is known and possible in oneself, rather than one’s source in Hashem:

Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’
You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?
Shall the thing made say of its maker,
‘He did not make me’;
or the thing formed say of the one who formed it,
‘He has no understanding’?
(29:15-16)

In place of Hashem, Judah’s political intrigue and protective alliances with Egypt precipitate greater futility, putting “trust in oppression and deceit, and rely[ing] on them,” (30:12) rather than recognizing: “In sitting still and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (30:15).

Chapter 33 and 35: Deliverance of Zion


What’s very lovely in the promise of deliverance of Zion from Assyria’s aggression are episodes of the merit of the righteous, who are addressed as a collective, single body, in whom the terrors of the past are as passed as a memory. The king is temporally Hezekiah and prophetically Messiah, Tiferet: Beauty:

Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly,
who despise the gain of oppression,
who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it,
who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shut their eyes from looking on evil,
they will live on the heights;
their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks;
their food will be supplied, their water assured.
Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;
they will behold a land that stretches far away.
Your mind will muse on the terror:
‘Where is the one who counted [persons for hard labor]?
Where is the one who weighed the tribute [for the Assyrian king]?
Where is the one who counted the towers [to levy taxes accordingly]?’
(33:15-18 )

Chapters 34: Destruction of Edom

Sharply contrasting with these and other blissful images of future repose and plenty in Judah (Chapter 35) are the harsh pronouncements against Edom. We must remember that Edom is an archon of lethal hostility to the children of Israel. Descended from Esau, Edom is ultimately regarded by Mekubalim as the Roman Empire. This dominion never fell if, as lineage holders in Sophian tradition assert, one considers its continuity as the Vatican. From this larger perspective, Isaiah’s prophecy of the fall of Edom is quite multi-layered and enduring, relaying all the way into St. John, an exiled prisoner of Rome, whose Apocalypse speaks of the same archonic entity but in veiled form as ‘Babylon’. We understand ‘Babylon’ in his Apocalypse to mean ‘Rome’: Edom.

With this in mind, simply visualize Vatican City, with the only overt mention of Lilith in all of scripture:

And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,
and her soil into sulphur;
her land shall become burning pitch.
Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up for ever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
no one shall pass through it for ever and ever.
But the hawk and the hedgehog shall possess it;
the owl and the raven shall live in it.
He shall stretch the line of confusion over it,
and the plummet of chaos over its nobles.
They shall name it No Kingdom There,
and all its princes shall be nothing.
Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,
nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
an abode for ostriches.
Wildcats shall meet with hyenas,
goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall repose,
and find a place to rest.
(34:9-14)

Chapters 36-37: Assyrian Invasion of the Southern Kingdom of Judah

Recounting the pride of the Assyrian King Sennacherib approaching Judah’s King Hezekiah, this book shifts to an intriguing narrative where we further feel not just the human words of an aggressor’s envoy, but of the archon of Assyria itself. Recent Assyrian conquests and of people’s failed devotions to their gods are a fascinating manipulation in the mouth of King Sennacherib’s envoy. Archons’ accusations are a most penetrating venom, pre-digesting the mind and heart before swallowed in doubt of Hashem's greater power.

Isaiah had already anticipated Sennacherib’s march upon Judah back in Chapter 10:

Shall the axe vaunt itself over the one who wields it,
or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it?
As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up,
or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood!
Therefore the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts,
will send wasting sickness among his [Assyria’s] stout warriors,
and under his glory a burning will be kindled,
like the burning of fire.
(15-16)

Isaiah is clearly here an oracle of God for the king, who takes the promise of deliverance into the temple itself and prays (37:16-20); with the LORD upon him, Isaiah answers King Hezekiah’s prayer in scathing retort upon Sennacherib, promising a miraculous destruction of his troops; in one night, 185,000 troops fell by the angel of the LORD. Jewish tradition relates that this occurred on Passover, alluding to the same miraculous destruction by the angel of the LORD upon the firstborn of Egypt. Sennacherib withdrew home to only later be slain by his in-fighting sons.

Chapters 38-39: King Hezekiah's Illness, Miraculous Healing, and Fatal Breach

I never knew until referencing footnotes in Jewish commentaries upon this strange episode that Hezekiah’s illness and healing all occurred three days before Sennacherib’s approach. See then, chapter 38 as a flashback: the most dreaded enemy is approaching Judah and the king is deathly ill. Hezekiah’s sincere confession and repentance turns events not only for Hezekiah, who is granted fifteen more years of life by the mouth of Isaiah, but the salvation of the city of Jerusalem from Assyrian aggression. The king is the land and the land is the king.

This is true in righteous deeds and in misdeeds. The healing of Hezekiah and the deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria shifts him radically when, in what must be euphoria of flattery, he not only receives the son of the king of Babylon, but shows him every treasure, every storehouse, and most fatally, according to legend, the Holy of Holies and the two tablets of the Law within the Ark of Covenant. Can you imagine this, Hekekiah opening the Ark and showing its contents to visitors? The Zohar makes mention of Hezekiah’s flaw in the context of exposure and judgment, of archons entering through energetic seals broken:

“Come and see how much damage that sin inflicted by exposing what had been concealed. As soon as it was exposed, an opening was provided for the other, undesirable realm to dominate it. Thus blessing dwells only in a concealed place, as has been established. Something may be concealed with a blessing hovering over it, but once it is revealed, an opening is provided for the other realm to dominate it.”
(1:202a)

The king is the land and the land is the king. Because Hezekiah, in profound lack, needed to impress those who were not his friends, exposing to Babylon Judah’s talismanic core, all the merit and energy of the Covenant begins to meltdown irreversibly. The Temple will fall; Jerusalem will fall; the Ark will be lost; the Children of Israel will be slaves in Babylon:

“Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (39:6-7)

The loss of everything established by Patriarchs and Matriarchs, by Moses, David, and Solomon pales in comparison to Hezekiah himself, who is comforted by the deferment of this judgment coming as Babylon in his sons’ lifetime after his own:

“Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’”

I’m as challenged by Hezekiah’s response to Isaiah as I am by my brothers and sisters in Christ who rejoice in being raptured ‘out of here’ in self-cherishing, personal salvation, far above a collapsing world of suffering beings. Is His Cross our ticket out of here or is His Cross the means by which we’re more immersed in service of here with greater immunity to here? I’m left with this question and leave it with you as well, mindful that our every thought, word, and deed, never stops effecting our relations, even long after we’ve disappeared.

It is quite appropriate that the lineage of Isaiah would end on this point, for it marks the end of Isaiah the prophet as well, the Baal Shem. According to legends in Talmud, he will be violently martyred by the next king of Judah, Menasseh. The voice continuing in chapters 40-55 is believed to be Isaiah’s successor in the assembly of prophets, who will speak from the experience prophesied exactly by Isaiah to Hezekiah: the Babylonian Captivity.

We praise you, Messiah, for by your blood,
taking captivity captive,
you're awakening us in and from the dream of Babylon.


Elder Gideon+

Anna
Posts: 511
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Location: Fredericksburg, VA

#2 Postby Anna » Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:00 pm

Greetings and blessings in the Light of Messiah!
Thank you, brother, for these contemplations on the prophets. Certainly it is a great vision of sorrow to see in these dark days so many ensnared by oppressive churches, indoctrinated from cradle to grave into believing that their church embodies the Way taught by Yeshua.

1 Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
to the fading flower, his glorious beauty,
set on the head of a fertile valley—
to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!
2 See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong.
Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind,
like a driving rain and a flooding downpour,
he will throw it forcefully to the ground.
3 That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
will be trampled underfoot.
4 That fading flower, his glorious beauty,
set on the head of a fertile valley,
will be like figs ripe before harvest—
as soon as people see them and take them in hand,
they swallow them.


Here it seems that wine and drunkenness are a reference to delusion. These oppressive teachings of unspiritual churches seem to be swallowed up quickly, unthinkingly, by their followers. Perhaps we are also seeing the effects of ignorance on the actual extent of free will in our choices on the spiritual path as well as the result of choices made in fear and arrogance. At best, the decision not to think for ourselves seems a retreat into spiritual infancy. At worst is appears a passive-aggressive retreat into death, destruction. I am reminded of family and friends who pray earnestly and in faith for my return to the Roman Church. What other response is there but to pray for our liberation from ignorance, for the liberation of all beings? If we look into ourselves we see the seeds of this gnawing desire for pacification by delusion. How easy it seems to just let someone else decide what is best for us, thereby giving up the calling of the Human One, to co-labor with Spirit for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The wreath speaks to me of what crowns these oppressive systems. It also seems to imply that the fruits lead to destruction.
So, the destruction of these systems, the trampling, the "hailstorm and a destructive wind, driving rain and a flooding downpour," imply the tikkune for the system that flourished but now fades in the fertile valley. I wonder if the significance of these terms could be discussed in detail in view of the necessary tikkune for oppressive religious systems. This passage seems replete with teachings totally relevant to our times and to our work in realization, individually and collectively.
Shalom!
Anna

Elder Gideon
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Stillness and Quiet, Calm and Confidence

#3 Postby Elder Gideon » Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:48 am

Shalom!

Sister Anna, I confess I never saw this post from so many years ago! Doubtless, you would have even more to say today of the problem that corruption presents in every human field, most shamefully in religious leadership. Like all the prophets, Isaiah calls out the religious superstructure aligning itself with worldly power and prestige. In his day, the northern and southern kingdoms were seeking help from other nations, such as Assyria and Egypt, which only embroiled them further in their faithless pit of ruin. The pattern continues today, when, instead of a nation going within in faith to trust in the LORD, the only wisp of trust left is in weaponizing technology and foreign economies.

In response to such times as our very own, Isaiah calls the faithful and elect of God in a peculiar moment:

Thus said my Adonai YHVH,
The Holy One of Israel,
"You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;
Your victory shall come about
Through calm and confidence."


I've not stopped contemplating the power of this response for us in our own land. All of the divisiveness, polarization, escalation, and anxiety feeding our collective experience is for a lack of faith in the One. I see no other way to be in this place and time apart from the faith that brings literal calm abiding from within. Spiritual warriors bring peace. It is their contrast of stillness and quiet and calm and confidence that I'm hearing in St. John's Apocalypse how the faithful and elect are to relate with the End of Days:

If you are to be taken captive,
into captivity you go;
if you kill with the sword,
with the sword you must be killed.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints
(13:10).

Again,

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus (14:12).

We who profess the LORD will be set apart not for our beliefs and their political defense (or blatant compromises with evil), but by our stillness and quiet, our calm and confidence.

May we trust our Adonai YHVH in all things, with us in all things.

Elder Gideon


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