I’ve been talking about the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and giving some background on one of the earliest in particular, Isaiah of Jerusalem. Here I’d like to summarize what he teaches to help provide an idea of the sorts of things Israelite prophets were saying. A you’ll see, Isaiah is deeply involved with political and military issues connected with his nation.
The following brief exposition comes from my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.
The message of Isaiah, in essence, is that the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) have strayed from God; this is most evident in the social injustice that pervades society, but it is the leaders of the people who are principally at fault. These problems cannot be fixed simply by attending to proper religious rituals. The nation will be punished by God at the hands of the Assyrians.
Right off the bat Isaiah laments how the people of Israel (meaning, in this case, Judah) have fallen away from God. God had raised them as his own children, but they have rebelled. This is for Isaiah (and God) an astonishing thing:
The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who deal corruptly, who have forsaken the LORD, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged. (1:3–4)
The sins of the people are largely social and political in nature. They have
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