The Prophet Isaiah

A couple of months ago I wrote that I would be blogging through portions of the Book of Isaiah as I read through it this semester (see here). My study is being supervised by a humble man whose love for Scripture is very apparent: Dr. J. Carl Laney. It is a privilege to be reading along with someone who has been studying this book for many years.

I don’t propose any order to this blogging series. It will random. For those who have read this book, and who want to contribute something to my study, the comments are always open.

I begin with my first observation. I stopped at 1.2 with the statement “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!”
(שִׁמְע֤וּ שָׁמַ֙יִם֙ וְהַאֲזִ֣ינִי אֶ֔רֶץ) This echoes the words of Deut. 31.28 and (more precisely) 32.1 where God calls the heavens and earth to be witnesses of the covenant between YHWH God and his people, Israel. Now the prophet Isaiah says that YHWH God is calling these witnesses to expose Israel’s failure to maintain the covenant.

Later in this book these witnesses are called forth again (e.g. 44.23). They are seen as creations of the Covenant God (44.24; 45.12; 48.13; 51.13, 16) and they are promised renewal (49.13; 65.17; 66.22). Their personification is very interesting to me (it reminds me of Pauline language seen in Rom. 8.18-23).

I have wondered why this language was chosen in the Book of Deuteronomy and why this language is used in this book. Why personify heaven and earth? In what sense does the heaven and earth serve to condone or condemn Israel?

An adjacent thought comes to mind: What is the relation here to Gen. 1.1? I know there is debate as to when the first chapter of Genesis was written. Many scholars see it as a post-exilic edition, yet this part of Isaiah is understood to be pre-exilic, so where is the dependency? Similarly, do we see Isaianic language as describing heaven and earth as a summary of the creative order or do we see this as language referring to (as some have described it) the place where God reigns and the place where humanity (or in this scenario the true humanity, Israel) reigns?

OK, I have asked a bunch of questions. I don’t have any answers yet, but if you do, I am listening!