Israel and Judah Repent! (Isaiah chapter 1)
Some of the points raised below were already discussed in the Brit-Am Commentary to Isaiah, chapters 1 to 5. See:
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Isaiah was a descendants of King Yehoash (Jehoash) of Judah who was the grandfather of King Uzziah. Jehoash had 2 sons Amazia and Amoz. Anmazia begat King Uzziah, and Amoz begat the Proophet Isaiah. Isaiah was thereofre the cousin of Uzziah.
Amaziah -Amoz (brothers)
Uzziah - Isaiah (cousins).
Uzziah begat Yatom who begat Ahaz who begat Hezekiah.
Isaiah was therefore from the House of David.
According to tradition the daughter of Isaiah married King Hezekiah and from this line will emerge the future Messiah.
Isaiah came from Judah. He was related to the ruling House of David from Judah. His point of view is that of somebody from Judah whereas some of the other prophets (Hosea, Amos, etc) saw things more from the prospective of the northern kingdom.
Nevertheless Isaiah lived through the period in which the exile of the northern kingdom was completed. Isaiah speaks frequently about the Lost Ten Tribes.
2 Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth;
For the LORD speaks,
'Sons I have reared and brought up,
But they have revolted against Me.
3 'An ox knows its owner,
And a donkey its master's manger,
But Israel does not know,
My people do not understand.'
The People of Israel have forgotten that they have been chosen. They are the Chosen People. This entails obligations.
4 Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity,
Offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned the LORD,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.
The People of Israel are Children of the Almighty but they do not act like it but are a sinful nation.
5 Where will you be stricken again,
As you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick
And the whole heart is faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head
There is nothing sound in it,
Only bruises, welts and raw wounds,
Not pressed out or bandaged,
Nor softened with oil.
Many of us are sick. We have all kinds of problems and imperfections. Our food is not healthy. Our air is not clean. Our water is polluted. We take pills, or drugs, or alcohol, have phobias, and all kinds of problems.
7 Your land is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire,
Your fields, strangers are devouring them in your presence;
It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.
The Israelites are physically and ecologically suffering for their sins (1:7).
Isaiah prophesied both concerning Judah and concerning Northern Israel. Remember the principle that the Prophets prophesied both about their own times and about the future events leading up to the Messianic era. They prophesied in a visionary state and saw things in a non-rational way. The application of prophecies can therefore flit back and forth between different periods with the emphasis on the Messianic Era that somehow parallels something in the Prophet's own time or shortly after. The future is an outcome of the present. Someone in an elevated state of consciousness with Divine help can therefore glimpse something of the future. He will do this via contact with the present and in terms understandeable to his own time.
Isaiah foresaw a future destruction of Israelite cities. By "Israelites" we mean both the Jews in Israel and the Lost Ten Tribes in Western Nations.
8 The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,
Like a watchman's hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
9 Unless the LORD of hosts
Had left us a few survivors,
We would be like Sodom,
We would be like Gomorrah.
Sodom and Gomorrah reminds us of homosexuality which is promoted and condoned in our media and in childrens programs.
Zion is meant to represent the Jews of Judah though Midrash Tanchuma implies that in some contexts it may also mean Joseph.
The Jews especially have the obligation to keep the Torah. If the Jews would act properly the rest of Israel would be influenced in a positive direction. They would listen to Judah.
Perhaps this is what we need to do?
Should we spread the message of the Bible and the ten Tribes to Judah?
Should we encourage Judah to be more religious in a Jewish sense and from such a standing point call to the Ten Tribes to reform themselves.
This does not mean asking them to become Jewish.
It means telling them to maintain a standard of basic morality.
If Judah would set an example perhaps they would listen? Nowadays Judah is influenced by the negative aspects American and western civilization.
Perhaps this should be reversed?
Is this something to strive for?
10 Hear the word of the LORD,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
If God did not have mercy upon us we would be destroyed altogether (1:10).
11 'What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?'
Says the LORD.
'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
This refers to the Temple Service. The Temple Service requires righteous behavior. It is not a substitute for righteousness but rather a means to receive the right spirit conducive to acting rightly.
The Temple will be re-built.
At least one Midrash (Pesikta Zutratha Lekach Tov, Balak, Numbers 24;17) says that the Messiah Son of Joseph will rebuild the Temple. This person is the future leader of the Lost Ten Tribes just prior to their reunification with Judah.
12 'When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
13 'Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies,
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 'I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 'So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
Perhaps at this stage the Almighty does not want the Ten Tribes to adopt Biblical practices but rather to undergo a MORAL REFORMATION.
Both Judah and the Ten Tribes need to better themselves in this regard.
They also need to know who they are.
They have been chosen and therefore more has been expected of them and they can do more!
16 'Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
Your prayers and worship will not be accepted unless you act righteously (1:12-16) meaning especially the practice of social justice with protection and care for the vulnerable (1:17).
18 'Come now, and let us reason together,'
Says the LORD,
'Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
For every sin through repentance forgiveneness can be obtained. Even more than that someone who repents can reach the highest heights.
19 'If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
20 'But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.'
Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
If we repent God will forgive us and show us favor (1:18-19) but if not violence will overtake us (1:20).
21 How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
Your drink diluted with water.
"YOUR DRINK" sometimes rednered as "YOUR WINE" actually in the Hebrew here is "Sabech" meaning "your strong drink". In those days wine was a basic foodstuff. Today our basic foods are adulterated and emasculated with chemicals that reduce their potency as vitality-sustaining substances.
Violence, fraud and graft are among our major offences (1:21-23).
23 Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow's plea come before them.
"COMPANIONS OF THIEVES": Friends of gangsters and cheating merchants and bankers.
EVERY ONE LOVES A BRIBE: We are all human.
THEY DO NOT DEFEND THE ORPHAN: This is true. People seem less willing to put themselves out to rectify injustice and help others.
"ORPHAN" or "FATHERLESS" can mean anyone in general who is limited in his ability to fend for or protect him (or her)self.
WIDOW'S PLEA: This is also applicable in our day to vulnerable womenfolk. Many of our women and daughters are effectively alone against a predatory world. God wants us to do what we can to help those we can.
24 Therefore the LORD God of hosts,
The Mighty One of Israel, declares,
'Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries
And avenge Myself on My foes.
25 'I will also turn My hand against you,
And will smelt away your dross as with lye
And will remove all your alloy.
26 'Then I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning;
After that you will be called the city of righteousness,
A faithful city.'
27 Zion will be redeemed with justice
And her repentant ones with righteousness.
The emphasis on Zion and Jerusalem and their future reform bears out our point that Judah should serve as an example.
In "The Tribes" we quote an old tradition tracing the Anglo-Saxons and Dutch Frisians back to "Jerusalem" meaning in their terms the former Land of Israel.
28 But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together,
And those who forsake the LORD will come to an end.
29 Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired,
And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen.
30 For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away
Or as a garden that has no water.
Here oaks are mentioned as characteristics of Israelite pagan practices.
Oaks were sacred to the Druids of Western Europe. The Druids also worshipped in groves, i.e. in gardens. The Druids were prominent amongst the so-called Celtic peoples of the West. Julius Caesar wrote that the center of Druidism was in Britain. The Druidic religion appears to have been a combination of Ancient Hebrew practices with pagan Middle Eastern accretions.
31 The strong man will become tinder,
His work also a spark.
Thus they shall both burn together
And there will be none to quench them.
This will change. The "bad eggs" among us will be removed (1:24-25, 28).
Righteous rulers (judges) and counselors will come forth and show us the way to Redemption (1:26-27). This applies especially to "Zion" (1:27) who according to Midrash Tanchuma in Prophecy can also represent Joseph. We will be ashamed of our pagan practices and punished through them and for them (1:29-31).
In Summary we may say that Isaiah calls on ALL Israel to reform itself.
Judah especially has a task to serve as an example and as a source of inspiration for the others.
Judah (Zion and Jerusalem) needs to be the source of GOOD INFLUENCES rather than the recipient of bad ones.
The Ten Tribes NEED to place an emphasis on MORAL REFORMATION together with internalizing the message of their Israelite ancestry. The two should go together.