Isaiah 40-55: Messages for those in exile

 

We’ve been working our way through certain events from 2 Kings 18-20 that result in the people being in exile. These are all messages from God to the people in exile.


Chapter forty is broken into three sections: comfort for the people, reassurance that God is forever, and a reminder of God’s greatness.


Chapter forty one  has a passage where they are told to not fear anyone because God is with them and the ways that He helps them. I found verse 8 interesting:

8But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;

So, sure, we know that Israel is His chosen nation and that they were descended from Jacob, but its when God calls Abraham His friend that gave me pause. It was just an interesting little mention that I wanted to point out.

The chapter goes on to talk about how futile it is to worship idols.


Chapter forty two has three parts to it. First there is a reminder that God chose Israel, then a “new song”, and then a bit of a rebuke that Israel doesn’t see or hear what God done for them.

In verse 14, women in labor are again mentioned. This time the fact that women “gasp and pant” is recognized as a symbol of doing hard work. It is used to show the difference between the silence that God had been showing before and the exertion of doing everything in the verses that follow it.


Chapter forty three reminds the Israelites that it is only God that can save them and that He will but they must remember Him, and not just in times of strife when they pray but also make sacrifices to Him.


Chapter forty four has an early mention of a womb and God “forming” Israel inside it and then again in verse 24. Aside from that, the chapter is about God having chosen Israel, that He won’t abandon the nation, and that it is stupid to worship something you carved out of wood with your own hands. Okay, maybe not stupid, but that God doesn’t get why anyone would do that.


Chapter forty five reminds us that God uses Cyrus to release them the Israelites from exile. You might remember this happening from the book of Ezra. Verses 9 and 10 are interesting in that they not only mention parents but is about created things questioning their creation.

9“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”

I’ve known people to ask such stupid questions, and “woe to him” is usually how it goes too. It goes from this to a reminder that it is still God that is saving them. He is the only one that can save them.


Chapter forty six has yet another mention of being made by God while in the womb.


Chapter forty seven uses a lot of language referring to women and femininity but it’s actually talking about Babylon. First Babylon is referred to as a “virgin daughter” and then there are some things that make it sound more like “she” was promiscuous instead. I believe the overall gist is supposed to be that Babylon presented itself as innocent and wonderful but is really that person using charm to manipulate people into doing terrible things because they think it’s fun. I’d resent the usage of female personification if cities hadn’t already been consistently personified as women, even when they’re good.


Chapter forty eight is split into parts but both have the same sentiment. God tells them that they will be free of Babylon but that they need to believe in Him and follow the commandments and be assured in the memory of what He had done for them before that they will be fine once this happens, so long as they continue to follow Him.


Chapter forty nine opens with a section titled “Servant of the Lord” that has a few references to being made in the womb “from the body of my mother” and named by God while still in there. It goes on to the section about Zion and compares God remembering them to a woman remembering her own children. Of course, a woman’s way of “remembering” her children is lesser than God’s but I don’t think that’s a slight on women. I’ve seen plenty of places where men are lesser than God too in a way that is socially masculine.

There’s a part of verse 18 that says to “bind them as a bride” that alarmed me. Why is the bride bound? Apparently that is simply a figure of speech for getting her into her wedding gown.


Chapter fifty has something about a mother being sent away right in the first verse. It doesn’t make sense to me for a mother to be sent away for a child’s transgressions. I imagine there is some historical or cultural significance that I’m missing. It’s important to remember, though, that this is overall about the Israelites ending up in exile. Perhaps it has something more to do with that. That’s about it for this chapter though.


Chapters fifty onefifty two, fifty threefifty four, and fifty five don’t refer to women directly but do use the feminine pronouns to refer to Israel and Jerusalem a bunch.


Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

 

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