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Isaiah 1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah- Some of these kings were generally 'good kings' but the prophecy makes clear that the state of the nation was very weak spiritually and therefore good leadership did not lead to personal spirituality. Hence the appeal is to 'heavens and earth' (1:2), to the ruling classes and also the individual Israelites- an appeal repeated in :10 to "the rulers" and "the people".

There is a very clear structure in Isaiah, which hinges around the historical interlude in Is. 37-39. This demonstrates that the prophecies in Is. 1-36 of judgment at the hands of Assyria were ameliorated and deferred by the intense repentance and intercession of Isaiah's school of prophets. But the interlude concludes with the bad news that the reformation was not thorough, and that Judah would go into captivity in Babylon; and therefore the earlier prophecies of judgment by Assyria would be reapplied to judgment by Babylon. But out of that there was to come a wonderful restoration of God's Kingdom in Israel, explained in the so called 'second Isaiah' (Is. 40-55). But sadly, the Jews who returned failed to allow that amazing potential to come true; and that is the burden of the so called 'third Isaiah' (Is. 56-66). It seems that God therefore gave up trying to restore the Kingdom in a political, national sense; and looked instead to a purpose with individuals who had His word in their humbled hearts.

There’s been much talk of how Isaiah 1-39 appears different in style and attitude to Israel from Isaiah 40-66. I’m personally of the conviction that the two ‘halves’ of Isaiah are by the same inspired author. The phrase “the holy one of Israel” occurs 12 times in Is. 1-39, 14 times in Is. 40-66 (the so called ‘second Isaiah’), and only 5 times elsewhere in the Old Testament. The New Testament quotes ‘Isaiah the prophet’ with the same rubric, regardless of whether ‘first Isaiah’ or ‘second Isaiah’ are being quoted (compare Jn. 12:38-40; Rom. 9:22-29; 10:16,20). The Septuagint supports the unity of Isaiah, and the Dead Sea scrolls copy of Isaiah doesn’t make any break between chapters 39 and 40. These arguments for the unity of Isaiah must however be balanced against the fact that there is a marked difference in attitude to Israel when chapter 40 begins; and that parts of the prophecy are clearly relevant to Hezekiah’s time, whereas other parts are relevant to the events of Judah’s restoration and the fall of Babylon which enabled this. My suggestion is that, as with the Psalms and some of the other prophets, Isaiah was edited and in places re-written, under inspiration, during the captivity. Hence, parts of it clearly have relevance to Hezekiah’s time and the deliverance from Assyria, but these were used to inspire and teach the Jews in Babylon about a similar great deliverance and restoration which they could expect from Babylon. This is why some commentators have made a convincing case that the whole of Isaiah applies to Hezekiah’s time, whilst others have made an equally convincing case that most of the prophecy applies to the restoration. My suggestion is that the whole of it did apply to Hezekiah’s time, but it was re-written, under inspiration, as applicable to the Jews in exile in Babylon and their deliverance from Babylon, which was set up to happen after the pattern of their earlier deliverance from Assyria.

The first 12 verses of Is. 58 are similar in essence to Is. 1:1-31. This is just one of many connections between the later part of Isaiah (Is. 40-66) and the earlier part (Is. 1-35). The two sections are connected by the historical interlude of Is. 36-39, where Isaiah works with Hezekiah towards repentance, and then has to judge him for his pride and collapse of faith, concluding that his sons shall go into captivity in Babylon. The prophecies about the Assyrian invader in Is. 1-35 then become reapplied to Babylon; hence Is. 14 speaks of "Babylon" when it was initially Assyria which was in view. As I explain on Is. 36-39, Hezekiah sinned quite badly and let the baton drop. A Messianic Kingdom could have been established after the defeat of the Assyrian invader outside Jerusalem, but this possibility was ultimately deferred until our last days. But God didn't give up working with Judah. At the time of the restoration, there could again have been a Messianic Kingdom, the temple of Ez. 40-48 could have been rebuilt; but due to short termism and lack of repentance, this didn't happen. Therefore the same appeals are made to the returned exiles as were made to Judah in the days of Isaiah and Hezekiah.

The Inspired Re-Writing Of The Old Testament In Babylon

Briefly, here are corroborative reasons for thinking that perhaps the whole existing canon of Old Testament Scripture was [under inspiration] edited, re-written and codified during the exile in Babylon:

- According to Jewish tradition, Ezra edited and produced the Pentateuch in its present form in Babylon (Carl Kraeling, The Synagogue (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956) pp. 232-235 reproduces plates from the synagogue wall at Dura-Europas showing Ezra doing this in Babylon). This would account for the record of Jacob in exile being so verbally similar to the allusions made to it in the restoration-from-Babylon prophecies in Isaiah. There was certainly great scribal activity in Babylon- 2 Macc. 2:13 speaks of Nehemiah founding a library of the Jewish scriptures there. This gives another perspective on the way Nehemiah’s prayer in Neh. 1 is so full of references to Deuteronomy- if the latter had just been re-written and presented to the Jews in Babylon. The commands to build the tabernacle are repeated in Exodus, and there is the record of Israel's golden calf apostasy set in the middle of them. Ex. 25:1-31:18 give the tabernacle building commands, then there's the golden calf incident, and then the commands are repeated in Ex. 35-40. Surely this was edited in this manner to give encouragement to the exiles- the commands to rebuild the temple had been given in detail in Ez. 40-48, but the exiles failed- and yet, the implication runs, God was still willing to work again with His people in the building of His sanctuary despite their failure. There is good internal reason to think that the Pentateuch likewise was re-written in places to bring out the relevance of Israel's past to those in captivity. Consider the use of the word pus, 'scatter'. It was God's intention that mankind should scatter abroad in the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28); but it required the judgment of the tower of Babel to actually make them 'scatter' (Gen. 11:4). Thus even in judgment, God worked out His positive ultimate intentions with humanity. And this word pus is the same word used with reference to Judah's 'scattering' from the land into Babylonian captivity (Ez. 11:17; 20:34,41; 28:25). The intention, surely, was to show the captives that they had been scattered as the people had at the judgment of Babel / Babylon, but even in this, God was working out His purpose with His people and giving them the opportunity to fulfill His original intentions for them.

- The Talmud claims that the majority of the prophetic books were re-written and edited into their present form during the captivity, under the guidance of a group of priests called "The Great Assembly" (M. Simon and I.W. Slotski, eds, The Soncino Talmud: Babba Bathra 14b - 15a (London: The Soncino Press, 1935) Vol. 1 pp. 70,71). There are many verbal points of contact between Chronicles and the returned exiles.

- Time and again we encounter the phrase "to this day" in the historical books of the Old Testament (e.g. "the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there to this day", 2 Kings 16:6)- and each time it appears the reference is to the time of the restoration, when presumably those books were edited and rewritten as relevant for the Jews, either those still in Babylon or those who had returned to the land. A good case can be made, for example, that the book of Judges was rewritten at that time in order to show that God's people don't need a King in order to be His people, but rather they can be ruled by Spirit-filled leaders (See W.J. Dumbrell, 'No King In Israel', Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament Vol. 25 (1983) pp. 23-33).

- The way Deuteronomy refers to cities East of Jordan as being "on this side Jordan" (e.g. Dt. 4:41,49) would suggest that the editor of the book was writing from a location East of Jordan- likely Babylon. The comment in Josh. 15:63 that "the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day" sounds very much as if it were written in the captivity, lamenting the way that the local tribes still lived in Zion. "The children of Judah" is very much a phrase used about the exiles. Thus books like Joshua were written up in the captivity in order to show Judah how they were repeating the sins of their forefathers, and appealing to them thereby to learn the lessons. It's even possible that the lament that "Geshur and Maacath dwell in the midst of Israel unto this day" (Josh. 13:13 RV) is a reference to "Geshem the Arabian" and Sanballat dwelling amongst Israel at the time of their return (Neh. 2:19 etc.).

- It has been observed that the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings have certain similarities. For example, they all quote the Deuteronomy version of Israel's earlier history, leading to the suggestion that Deuteronomy was the first of the collection, a kind of introductory background history. The curses listed in Dt. 28 are all especially relevant to the situation in Judah before the Babylonian invasion, and a number of the curses are alluded to in Lamentations as being descriptive of the situation after the final destruction of Jerusalem. Some of the curses can have little other application, e.g. Dt. 28:41 speaks of begetting children, "but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity". Other relevant passages are Dt. 28:36 (a king taken captive), 49,50,52. These "former prophets" (Deuteronomy - 2 Kings) appear to have been edited during the exile as history which spoke to the concerns and needs of the exiled people of God (The similarities of style, language and indications of common editing are explained in detail in Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981); there is a good summary in Terrence Fretheim, Deuteronomic History (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989). See too M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy And The Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972)). This combined history speaks mainly of the southern Kingdom, which was the group who went to captivity in Babylon; and it explains why this captivity was justified, as well as giving many examples of where repentance could bring about a restoration (1 Kings 8:46-53 is specific). This history addresses the questions which concerned the captives- does God abandon His people for ever? Are Israel entirely to blame for what happened? Is there hope of restoration after receiving Divine judgment and breaching His covenant? Can God have a relationship with His people without a temple? To what extent will God always honour the promises to Abraham and David? Should other gods also be worshipped? Reading these books from this perspective reveals how incident after incident was especially selected by the inspired editors in Babylon in order to guide God's people there. Take the story of Naaman's Hebrew "maid". Naaman had been the enemy of Israel, and that little child [Heb.] was one of the children of those taken captive. But she witnessed to her captor; he turned to Yahweh; and his skin became like that of "a little child" (2 Kings 5:14)- like her. The message was obvious. The children of the captivity were likewise to witness to their captors and bring them into covenant with Yahweh.

- A comparison of Psalms 14 and 53 illustrate this process of re-writing at Hezekiah's time. These Psalms are both "A Psalm of David", and are virtually identical apart from Ps. 53:5 adding: "There were they in great fear, where no fear was; For God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: Thou hast put them to shame, because God hath rejected them". This surely alludes to the Assyrian army encamped against Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:1), put into fear by the Angels, and returning "with shame of face to his own land" (2 Chron. 32:21). Yet both Psalms conclude with a verse which connects with the exiles in Babylonian captivity: "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Then shall Jacob rejoice, and Israel shall be glad". So it would appear that the initial Psalm was indeed written by David; the version of Ps. 14 which is now Ps. 53 was added to and adapted in Hezekiah's time (Prov. 25:1), and both versions had a final verse added to them during the exile. A number of Psalms appear to have some verses relevant to the exile, and others relevant to earlier historical situations. It would seem that an inspired writer inserted the verses which spoke specifically to the exilic situation. Psalm 102 is an example. Ps. 102:2-12 and 24-25a appear to be the original lament; and the other verses are relevant to the exile. Psalm 22 likewise appears to have had vv. 28-32 added with reference to the exiles; other examples in Psalms 9, 10; 59; 66; 68; 69:34; 85; 107; 108 and 118.

- There are evident similarities between the vocabulary and style of Zechariah, Job and the prophets of the restoration. Thus both Job and Zechariah refer to the ideas of the court of Heaven, "the satan" etc. My suggestion is that Job was rewritten during the exile, hence the many points of contact between Job and Isaiah's prophecies about the restoration. When we read that Job has suffered less than his iniquities deserve (Job 11:6), this is the very term used to describe Israel's sufferings in Babylon (Ezra 9:13). Job, "the servant of the Lord", is being set up as Israel, just as that same term is used about Israel in Babylon throughout the latter part of Isaiah. Job's mockery by the Arabian friends perhaps parallels the Samaritan and Babylonian mockery of Judah; his loss of children is very much the tragedy of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians which Lamentations focuses upon. And Job's final revival and restoration after repentance would therefore speak of the blessed situation which Judah could have had at their return to the land. Job's response to the words of God and Elihu would then speak of Judah's intended repentance as a result of God's word spoken to them by prophets like Haggai and Zechariah. There are many connections between Job and the latter parts of Isaiah which speak about the restoration.


Isaiah 1:2 Hear, heavens and listen, earth; for Yahweh has spoken- The prophets often balance guilt between the leadership ["heavens"] and the ordinary masses ["earth"]. All society was guilty; it wasn't that they all suffered just because of a corrupt leadership. Leadership tends to act how the masses want them to, and so whether or not democracy is practiced, there is over time a subconscious socio-political mechanism in place in human society whereby the masses get the leadership they really want.

I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me-   That may be a fair translation in the context, but the Hebrew words essentially carry the idea of exaltation- the phrase is translated 'exalt and magnify' in Ez. 31:4; Dan. 11:36 and Ps. 34:3. As Balaam's prophecy made clear, by grace God had given Israel an exalted position- not so much in the eyes of the Gentile world, but in His eyes. And Israel abused that by rebelling against the Father who had so loved them. Is. 43:27 uses the same word to say that "your teachers" had 'rebelled' against God. But all society, heavens and earth, were thereby rebels, because the false teaching was so eagerly accepted. But the continual conviction of Judah as rebels / transgressors [s.w.] sets the scene for the climactic statement in Is. 53:12, where the word is twice used of how all those rebellions were laid upon the suffering servant, who would die to get them forgiven.

So often in the prophets, the pronouns change. One moment we have God speaking, the next, the prophet is responding in agreement, appealing to his people, or echoing the message in his own words. So in Is. 1:2,3 we have the direct words of God, ending with “They have rebelled against me… my people don't consider”. And then in Is. 1:4 we have Isaiah echoing back those thoughts of God: “They have forsaken the Lord”. Prophecies begin with God speaking in the third person, and end with Him speaking in the first person; and vice versa. In all these examples, we see God merging with His prophet, and vice versa (Am. 3:1; Is. 3:1,4; Is. 5:1,2 cp. 3-6; 7; Is. 10:12; Is. 11:3,9; Is. 22:17,19,20; Jer. 11:17; Jer. 23:9,11; Jer. 9:1,2; Is. 53:10,12; Is. 61:6,8; Is. 1:2,3,4; Jer. 4:1,2,21,22; Jer. 8:13,14; Nah. 1:12,13). However, there was more than an echo going on between God and the prophet. There was a kind of dialectic in the Divine-human encounter. God is influenced by man, as well as man by God.

The passage condemns Israel's behaviour from a child. It has been observed that it has many similarities with documents which are formal disownings of a child, giving all the reasons. Rather like some of the criticisms of Israel are expressed in terms of contemporary divorce statements. This is God disowning His own child, just as Hosea disowned 'His' children by Gomer, calling them Lo-Ammi, not mine. And yetin Hosea, Yahweh is unable to finally do this for His beloved child Israel. Such disownings of a child even to having them executed were known by the Israelites from Dt. 21:18-21. We have a similar passage in Hos. 11, where as here, hope is still held out that the child may repent.  Death was the punishment for a rebellious child (Dt. 21:18-21), but here God decides not to go ahead with this.   

Isaiah 1:3 The ox knows his owner-
Heb. 'his buyer', s.w. 'redeemer'. There should be some intuitive bond between God's redeemed people and God; if there is not, then it is because His people have consciously cast it off. They had been redeemed from Egypt, as we have been- to serve, as an ox.

And the donkey his master’s crib- God had noticed from Heaven how animals and their owners / carers form a special bond. But he found even that to be lacking between Him and His people for whom He had done so much for.

But Israel doesn’t know Me, My people don’t consider- To live the unexamined life, doing whatever feels good and seems immediately right for us, drifting forward on autopilot as in a dream with no real sense of God... is rebellion against Him (:2) and calls for judgment of the hardest sort. It was because they of themselves would not "consider" / 'understand' that they were psychologically confirmed in their attitudes and blinded so that they would not understand / consider (Is. 6:9,10). And so God operates to this day. It was the suffering of the servant, the Lord Jesus upon the cross, which was designed to as it were jolt them into considering / understanding (s.w. Is. 52:15).

Isaiah 1:4 Ah sinful nation-
Heb. goy, usually used about the Gentiles. When God's people are rejected they are treated as the world.

A people loaded with iniquity- This sets the scene for the image of the suffering servant, the Lord Jesus, bearing or loaded down with Israel's sins. He was their representative even in their sinfulness. He suffered as them, and therefore by identification with Him, salvation is possible. Sin is the crippling burden. The Lord's appeal to those 'heavy laden' was therefore to sinners to come to Him, and exchange their load for His load (Mt. 11:28). As with the analogy of changing masters, there is no total release from any load whatsoever.

A seed of evildoers- They had been raised as God's children (:2), but this implies they were children by adoption. Despite all His love and nourishment, they reverted to the ways of their biological parents, and forsook and despised Yahweh.

Children who deal corruptly!- Often Biblical Hebrew uses terms for destruction / condemnation which also refer to the actual sin being committed which warrants such judgment. This is because sin is its own judgment. The Hebrew word used here is an example. Three times in the record of the flood we read that the earth was "corrupt" (Gen. 6:11,12), and four times the same word is used regarding how God would therefore "destroy" the earth (Gen. 6:13,17; 9:11,15). And so any indulgence in sin is in fact an indulgence in condemnation; so that ultimately, all who are finally rejected at the last day are those who have rejected themselves from God.

They have forsaken Yahweh, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are estranged and backward- The same word is used about how idolaters would 'turn their backs' upon their idols in the time of their condemnation (Is. 42:17). The condemned are left in an unbearable limbo- they turned their backs on God, and now turn their backs on the idols of their lives.

Isaiah 1:5 Why should you be beaten more, that you revolt more and more?-
They had been "beaten" by the experiences of the recent invasions ; by the Syrians (2 Chron. 24:24) and the ten tribes (2 Chron. 25:13,23). It seems the results of those invasions were still felt. They had been intended to learn from them, and yet instead they increasingly revolted- implying that a far greater invasion was to come. We too see God operating like this in our lives.

The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint- The essential problem with Judah was their heart, standing for the mind or head. The spirit, the thinking, conscious and unconscious... is what God is supremely interested in.

Isaiah 1:6 From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it: wounds, welts, and open sores-
see on Job 2:7. Job represented sinful Judah. These types of wounds made them ritually unclean. In Isaiah’s first context, the suffering servant was King Hezekiah. Yet all Israel were to see themselves as ‘in’ him, as spiritual Israel are to see themselves as in Christ. “He was oppressed”, as Israel at that time were being “oppressed” by Assyria. As they were covered in wounds and spiritual sickness (Is. 1:5,6), so the suffering servant bore their diseases and rose again in salvation victory. Significantly, Isaiah 40-53 speak of the one servant, whereas Isaiah 54-66 speak of the “servants” who fulfill in principle the work of the singular servant.

They haven’t been closed, neither bandaged, neither soothed with oil- The implication is that they had refused this. The Lord quarried the language of the wounded man on the Jericho road from this verse. The priests and Levites were unable to offer this; but the despised Samaritan Saviour did. And yet, Judah refused even that.

Isaiah 1:7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; foreigners devour your land in your presence and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers-
This describes the Assyrian invasion of Judah at Hezekiah's time, burning the cities until Jerusalem alone was left holding out against them. Note the present tenses- the prophetic word was so sure of fulfillment in the future that it was as if it was already fulfilled. And yet as noted on :5, there had been other invasions prior to that from which they were intended to learn.

Isaiah 1:8 The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a besieged city-
This could refer to how the Assyrians would take the whole land apart from Jerusalem. The entire "vineyard" of God's work was to be destroyed, apart from a "shelter"- which was Zion. But it is the "daughter of Zion", the faithful remnant, and not the literal Zion which is in view here. They were to be a "shelter", a place of refuge, for others (Is. 4:6 s.w.).  As explained on Is. 4:6, Zion was intended to become not only a place of spiritual refuge, but the capital of a revived Kingdom of God in Judah. That didn't happen, Zion was saved by grace alone from the Assyrians; and so the "hut" was destroyed (only s.w. Is. 24:20).

Isaiah 1:9 Unless Yahweh of Armies had left to us a very small remnant-
The same Hebrew word as in :8, where God "left" Jerusalem as the only city which didn't fall to the Assyrians. But this was by grace. The very existence of the faithful remnant within Jerusalem (centered around Isaiah himself) was by grace, they were "left" by God. In a sense, even spiritual strength is a gift from God. It was due to that remnant that God did not judge Judah as Sodom- even though their rulers were in fact rulers of Sodom (:10). They were Sodom, disobedient Israel were to be judged as Sodom (Dt. 29:23), but were not judged as Sodom because of a remnant- who themselves were preserved by God's grace. We see grace all through this. The one city that was preserved, Jerusalem, was indeed preserved by grace because 1:21 states that she had become a prostitute against God.

We would have been as Sodom; we would have been like Gomorrah- Even when rebuking them, God sees Israel as in some ways "perfect" (Is. 42:18-20). Israel were like Sodom, and yet they weren't treated like Sodom (Is. 1:10). They were Jeshurun, the upright one, but they kicked at God (Dt. 32:15). We ought to be witnessing “to the Jew first” world-wide in these last days, as well as supporting the work of preaching in Israel itself. Paul makes the point that for the sake of the tiny group of Jews who did still hold and practice the truth, Israel would not suffer the judgments of Sodom in totality (Rom. 9:29 cp. Is. 1:9). This would indicate that there will also be a latter day Jewish remnant which will stop the faithless Israel of today receiving the judgment of permanent destruction.

Isaiah 1:10 Hear the word of Yahweh, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!-
The rebuke of the rulers of Judah at the time of the Assyrian invasion shows that Hezekiah's spiritual decision making was the more commendable, seeing the rest of his committee, his Government, were worthy of such condemnation. Each of her rulers is condemned in :23.

Isaiah 1:11 What are the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?, says Yahweh. I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed animals. I don’t delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of male goats-
Despite all their revolt against Yahweh of the previous verses, they still religiously offered sacrifice. It just shows that there is a strong religious inclination within people; but that isn't the same as spirituality. Animals were costly; but they were still offered. Is. 65:12; 66:4 use the same phrase "I don't delight in...". Judah are destined "to the sword, and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because when I called, you didn’t answer; when I spoke, you didn’t listen; but you did that which was evil in My eyes, and chose that in which I didn’t delight". The context is their choice of sacrificing to idols; but in Is. 1:11 the same term is used of God's lack of delight in the sacrifices offered to Him. It seems that they worshipped the idols in the name of Yahweh worship. And this is an abiding temptation for all God's children- to worship our idols in the name of worshipping God.

Isaiah 1:12 When you come to appear before Me, who has required this at your hand-
This is a rhetorical question. God has made it clear that He had not required all this offering from them, because He couldn't bear it. Who had required it? They themselves, their own religiosity, their need to sacrifice to someone or something. That is the answer to the question. God did not "require" sacrifices, rather He wished that men would "require" or "seek" relationship with Him (Is. 45:19 s.w.).

To trample My courts?- The Hebrew is literally 'to trample underfoot' and is used of the trampling underfoot of Jerusalem by her invaders. But the point is that in essence, this had been done by the Jews already. Their judgment was but an extension of their own behaviour. And this really is the essence of condemnation.

Isaiah 1:13 Bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to Me; new moons, Sabbaths, and holy gatherings: I can’t bear with evil assemblies-
Or "The solemn meeting"; perhaps Passover was in view? The feast became sin, just as Paul warned the breaking of bread meeting could turn into a drinking of wine to condemnation rather than blessing (1 Cor. 11:23-31). "Abomination" is a word associated with idolatry (e.g. Is. 44:19 s.w.). Their incense was offered to Yahweh but was effectively part of their idolatry; they worshipped idols in the name of Yahweh worship (:11). This was 'unbearable' to God, as if He just could not endure it further. Hence the threatened destruction of the entire system. This kind of thing drives God as it were to the limits of what He "is able to bear" (s.w.).

Isaiah 1:14 My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them-
A love as strong as God's is going to also elicit the emotion of hatred and anger when that love is rejected and abused. He "hated" (s.w.) Judah's insincere worship and relationship with Him (Is. 1:14; 61:8; Jer. 44:4). But it is hard to separate the sin from the sinner. That distinction may be helpful for us in order to avoid judging others too personally, but God it seems doesn't make that decision. He gave Israel into the hands of those who hated her (s.w. Ez. 16:27,37) and in that sense He hated her. The feelings of hatred which Hosea had for Gomer due to her abuse of His love were those of God for Israel: "There I hated them" (Hos. 9:15). God is not simply "love" in the abstract. He is love for real, with all the emotion and psychological complex which goes along with love; and this will include hatred if that love is abused.

The wrath of God, His grief at sin and being rejected, is intertwined with His amazing grace and love. The gravity and emotional enormity of each ‘side’ of the total equation, the huge tension of the equilibrium that keeps them in perfect balance in God’s character and words, was reflected in the prophets personally; and it will be in us too. The result of this is that the anger of both God and His prophets becomes understandable as more an expression of His and their sorrow, the hurtness of their love, even their weariness. God says that He has “had enough” of Israel, even saying “I am weary to bear” them (Is. 1:11-15). Is. 43:24 specifically speaks of God’s weariness with His people- and this too was part of the prophets’ spirit. And yet shining through all that is God’s hopefulness for His people, and His grace: “The Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore will He exalt Himself [in judgment] to show mercy to you” (Is. 30:18). This wasn’t an angry God hitting back at a rebellious people; this is the God of Israel looking at judgment only as a way to reveal His grace and mercy in the longer term.

Isaiah 1:15 When you spread forth your hands, I will hide My eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood-
  See on Is. 6:7. Their incense was as  an idolatrous abomination to God (:13), and their prayers likewise, seeing incense represents prayer. Full hands was an idiom for sacrifice; but God saw them as deeply unclean, and with the guilt of blood on their hands. Jer. 22:3 uses the term with reference to how human victims (perhaps not only children) were offered to the idols in the name of Yahweh, and this was done in the temple.

Isaiah 1:16 Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil-
The language is priestly, as if all Israel were priests, and were intended to wash themselves and then come and offer true sacrifice. It isn't possible to make ourselves clean (s.w. Prov. 20:9); it was Yahweh who could wash them (s.w. Is. 4:4); but He would do that if they had the desire to wash themselves.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do well-
Heb. 'be taught'. They were to accept God's teaching (s.w. Is. 48:17); this is an exhortation to be open to His leading and teaching, rather than to academic Bible study of itself.

Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow- They had to show justice to others; and if they wished to do that, then God would purge them with His "spirit of justice" (Is. 4:4). God will confirm us in the way in which we wish to go. All these sins of omission left them with actual blood on their hands (:15)- through their inaction. We would likely have chosen idolatry and child sacrifice as parade examples of their need for repentance; but God instead focuses upon their inaction in being just towards the vulnerable. For this is of equal significance to Him.

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, says Yahweh-
A legal term. God and man enter into judgment- and the judge pleads with the guilty to accept forgiveness from Him. God is beseeching men to see the obvious logic of responding to His word (2 Cor. 5:20), pleading with us to see the greatness, the magnificence of His love towards us in Christ, begging us to realize that if He gave up His Son for us while we were yet sinners, how much more will He give us all things now that we are reconciled to Him through baptism (Rom. 5:6-10)! This is more than logic, way beyond the limits of linguistic reasoning.

This is extraordinary indeed. God is seeking to persuade men to accept the forgiveness available in the blood of His Son. And He asks us to do this work for Him, to reflect this aspect of His character to the world, with that same spirit of earnest humility: " As though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). No wonder in the context Paul says that we should therefore watch our behaviour and attitudes. The fact men turn away from God's beseeching, His praying that they will accept His grace, is surely the greatest tragedy in the whole cosmos, in the whole of existence.

Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool- David's sin, desperation and restoration are typical of the experience of all God's true people (e.g. Ps. 51:7 = Is. 1:18). But this becoming white as snow was due to God's purging, the work of His Spirit; it would not be achieved by repentance alone, simply stopping sinning. A Divine program is in view here, of psychological cleansing; what Jeremiah and Ezekiel call a new heart, a new covenant, the work of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah foresaw the invasion by the Assyrians; what was potentially planned was the complete destruction of Judah. So he appeals for repentance; and the fact that Jerusalem was saved and the Assyrians destroyed could mean that some responded to this appeal. Or perhaps the intercession of Isaiah and the faithful remnant in Jerusalem meant that God relented; but that too was of grace, see on :9.

Isaiah 1:19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land-
As noted on :18, Isaiah was appealing for repentance to avert the invasion by Assyria. But more than that, there was the possibility of a Messianic kingdom of God being established in Judah, when they would eat the good of the land. The allusion is to a repentant Israel eating the good of the land of Egypt (Gen. 45:18,20). The entire eretz and not just the territory of Judah would be theirs. Ezra 9:12 quotes this as being possible if the exiles repented; but it was again precluded by their lack of penitence (Neh. 9:35,36).

Isaiah 1:20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it-
The same words are used in Hos. 11:5: "the Assyrian will be their king, because they refused to repent". For the most part, Judah did refuse; and so the fact they were not all devoured was by grace. Those who were thus devoured had done so to themselves; "your own sword has devoured you" (Jer. 2:30).

Isaiah 1:21 How the faithful city has become a prostitute! She was full of justice; righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers-
There were a host of issues the prophets could’ve raised with Israel; but injustice is the recurring theme. Because of the injustice going on in Jerusalem, Isaiah calls her a whore (Is. 1:21). The prostitution was through forging relationships with other nations such as Egypt, in order to save them from the Assyrians; see on Is. 2:6. And part of the deal was that they worshipped their gods. They were murderers not just because of their human sacrifices, but because their injustice would lead to their being devoured by the sword; see on :20.

Isaiah 1:22 Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water-
They had been intended to respond to the purging fire of previous invasions (see on :5), but instead that which was by nature supposed not to corrupt, had become dross. This was how insistent was their desire to sin. LXX "Your silver is worthless, thy wine merchants mix the wine with water". The adulteration of the silver and wine connects with the charge of adultery in :21.

Isaiah 1:23 Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves. Each one loves bribes and follows after rewards. They don’t judge the fatherless, neither does the cause of the widow come to them-
Hezekiah's personal reforms were not followed even by other members of the royal family; see on :1. They were no better than petty criminal, lowlife merchants who mixed wine with water (:22). They were unjust to the poor just for the sake of small amounts of money. The connection with Hos. 9:15 suggests that all the princes were like this.

Isaiah 1:24 Therefore the Lord, Yahweh of Armies, the Mighty One of Israel, says: Ah, I will get relief from My adversaries, and avenge Myself of My enemies-
We sense God in pain, needing "relief". His beloved people had turned to be His enemies. We sense His emotions pent up within Him and requiring release. Yahweh of Israel was and is no stone faced deity.

Isaiah 1:25 and I will turn My hand on you, thoroughly purge away your dross, and will take away all your tin
- see on Zech. 12:4. Israel had come to perceive of Yahweh as a god like the gods of the other nations and tribes around them. The prophets consciously brought home the fact that He is unique, and not at all like any local pagan deity. The pagan gods were thought to punish their people for minor infringements of ritual, or simply because deities were cruel at times. Yahweh wasn’t like that; His judgments came only after passionate pleading, after being deferred time and again, and even then, they came in order to bring about correction, as a purging (Is. 1:25,26 and often), and not as an expression of irritation or mere anger of a capricious, unstable deity.

Isaiah 1:26 I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as at the beginning. Afterwards you shall be called ‘The city of righteousness, a faithful city’-
But this is right after calling them a whore in :21. Hosea’s failed marriage with the unfaithful Gomer spoke of God’s terribly painful and tragic relationship with Israel. But like God, Hosea lived in hope of restoration. He fantasized about the day when he would re-live his romance with Gomer, they would again wander together in love in the wilderness, they would re-marry with a new covenant, the joy of which would be so great that the birds and trees joined in with them, and he would re-name the children born during their first marriage. Time and again he wished that Gomer would go back to how things were with them at the beginning; and he tried to engineer things so that she would wish to return there too (Hos. 2:9). All this reflected the fantasy of God for Israel’s return to Him, for a restoration of things (Is. 1:26; Jer. 33:7,11). And yet both Gomer and Israel were unfaithful from the beginning; and yet as Hosea decided to view their early romance positively, so God decided to view Israel in the wilderness through the lens of His amazing grace.


Isaiah 1:27 Zion shall be redeemed with justice-
Justice would require that Judah be permanently destroyed. But God's redemption by grace works in such a way that justice is not infringed. LXX: "For her captives shall be saved with judgment, and with mercy". The judgment of condemnation was going to be used by God to purge them (:25) and thereby save them. If they responded.

And her converts with righteousness- I mentioned on Is. 1:1 that the original application of Is. 1-35 was to the times of Hezekiah; but it was then rewritten and reapplied to Babylon. And so "converts" is literally "they that return of her" namely the remnant that were to return from the Babylonian captivity mentioned at the end of Is. 39.

Isaiah 1:28 But the destruction of transgressors and sinners shall be together, and those who forsake Yahweh shall be consumed-
The impression is given of all sinners being destroyed at the same time. Due to some repentance and intercession, this threatened outcome didn't happen in Isaiah's time; but it will come true at the last day. "Destruction" is literally "breaking into shivers" and this will happen at the last day (Rev. 2:27).


Isaiah 1:29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, and you shall be confounded for the gardens that you have chosen-
For all their offerings of expensive sacrificial animals to Yahweh, they still worshipped idols in the oak shrines. The frequent command "You shall not covet" (Ex. 20:17 etc.) uses the same Hebrew word translated "desire" when we read of how Eve "desired" the fruit (Gen. 3:6); yet Israel "desired" the wrong fruit (Is. 1:29). The "gardens" were planted enclosures for idolatry; the counterpart of the garden of Eden.

Isaiah 1:30 For you shall be as an oak whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water-
They thought that oaks were symbols of immortality; but they were to fade like their idols would. They were to be "as a garden" because they had worshipped gardens (:29). People become like the gods they worship (Ps. 135:18). Thus sin becomes its own punishment and judgment (Jer. 2:9).  These principles apply today, and are put into so many words in :31.

Isaiah 1:31 The strong will be like tinder, and his work like a spark. They will both burn together, and no one will quench them
- GNB "Just as straw is set on fire by a spark, so powerful people will be destroyed by their own evil deeds, and no one will be able to stop the destruction". This is summing up the theme of :29,30;  that sin becomes its own punishment and judgment. These people were effectively burning themselves up.