Isaiah Chapter 1

Against an unthinking people

1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz foretold concerning Ju dah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Heze kiah, kings of Judah.

2 Listen, O heavens!
Give heed, O earth! for the Lord speaks:
¡°I raised children, I brought them up,
but they have risen against me.

3 The ox knows its master
and the ass its owner¡¯s manger,
but Israel does not know me,
my people do not understand.

4 A sinful nation,
a people weighed down with iniquity,
a wicked race, perverted children!
They have turned away from Yahweh
and despised the Holy One of Israel.

5 Shall I strike you again and again?

5 People always rebelling,

5 your whole head is diseased

5 and your heart also afflicted.

6 From the soles of your feet
to the top of your head ¨C
all is wounds and bruises,
sores uncleaned and unbound,
not eased with soothing ointment.

7 Your country lies desolate,
your cities razed by fire.
Aliens have devoured the harvest
before your very eyes,
and you were left in ruins.

8 The Daughter of Zion is left
like a shanty in a vineyard,
like a hut in a melon field,
like a hamleted town.

9 Had not Yahweh of hosts
left us a small remnant,
we would resemble Sodom,
we would be like Gomorrah.

10 Hear the warning of Yahweh,
rulers of Sodom.
Listen to the word of God,
people of Gomorrah.¡±

11 ¡°What do I care,¡± says Yahweh
¡°for your endless sacrifices?
I am fed up with your burnt offerings,
and the fat of your bulls.
The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats
I abhor.

12 When you come before me and trample on my courts,
who asked you to visit me?

13 I am fed up with your oblations.  
I grow sick with your incense.
Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings,
evil with holy assemblies,
I can no longer bear.

14 I hate your New Moons and ap pointed feasts
they burden me.

15 When you stretch out your hands
I will close my eyes;
the more you pray,
the more I refuse to listen,
for your hands are bloody.

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Remove from my sight
the evil of your deeds.
Put an end to your wickedness

17 and learn to do good.
Seek justice and keep in line the abusers;
give the fatherless their rights
and defend the widow.¡±

18 ¡°Come,¡± says the Lord,
¡°let us reason together.
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they will be white as snow;
though they be as crimson red,
they will be white as wool.

19 If you will obey me,
you will eat the goods of the earth;

20 but if you resist and rebel,
the sword will eat you instead.¡±
Truly the Lord has spoken.
You became a harlot

21 Zion, the faithful city,
has become a harlot!
She who abounded in justice,
in whom righteousness lodged,
has become a hideout of murderers!

22 Your silver has turned to dross,
your best wine thinned with water.

23 Your rulers are tyrants,
partners of thieves.
They love a bribe
and look around for gifts.
No one protects the orphan,
or listens to the claim of the widow.

24 This is why the Lord speaks,
Yahweh Sabaoth,
the Mighty One of Israel:
¡°I will subdue my foes
and exact payment from my enemies.

25 I will turn my hand against you,
I will smelt away your dross and remove your impurities.

26 I will restore your judges,
I will give back your counselors,
as it was in the beginning.
Then you will be called
the City of Righteousness,
the Faithful City.¡±

27 The deliverance of Zion will be like a judgment
there will be a remnant: the just ones.

28 But rebels and sinners
alike will be destroyed,
and those who desert the Lord
will likewise perish.

29 Yes, you will be ashamed of your sacred oaks which have
given you delight;
you will blush for your gardens
which you have chosen.

30 You will be like an oak,
the leaves of which wither,
and like a garden
which runs out of water.

31 The strongman will be as tinder
and all his work a spark:
both will burn together
and no one will quench the fire.


Comments Isaiah, Chapter 1

• 1.1 Verse 1 introduces the prophecies of the first twelve chapters. We find messages proclaimed on different occasions, over a long period of time but they are not arranged according to the time they were spoken.

I raised children¡­ but they have risen against me. We often think that God demands what is due him, but it is not so: the Lord is a Father, a neglected Father. His love is wounded, not because of any particular sin, but because his children are irresponsible: my people do not understand.

Perverted children. People must hear the pro ph ets¡¯ harsh words. The power of their in terests, their passions and propaganda are such that they are accustomed to accept everything, except the truth and their vocation as sons and daughters of God.

Shall I strike you again and again? Scarcity, bad laws, defeat are not in themselves punishment from God; we cause them ourselves. If those who are suffering are God¡¯s children, God is committed to them, yet he does not spare them because only suffering can teach them. So, in another sense, it is true that God is the one striking them.

Here we have several expressions which are repeated in the following pages:

The Daughter of Zion means the city of Zion, or Jerusalem. Zion was the area of Jeru salem where David had established his residence.

The Holy One of Israel. In chapter 6, God will reveal himself as the Holy One, that is to say, God whose mystery is inaccessible and whose brilliance causes the death of any creature blemished by sin. Isaiah will be the prophet of the Holy God.

Yahweh Sabaoth or the Lord of Hosts: it is an ancient title for Yahweh. It means both the God who leads Israel¡¯s armies to victory and the God who rules the heavenly hosts, the angels, the stars and the forces of the universe.

• 11. What do I care for your endless sacrifices? It is characteristic of the prophets to condemn ex ternal worship that does not express a true sur render to God. The sacrifices and the festivals in question here were required by the law of God; yet God says that he detests them, because when done without proper dispositions, they are a lie (see Ps 40:7 and 50:16, also, Mt 5:23).

Give the fatherless their rights. The Mosaic com mandments condemned theft (Ex 20:14). The prophets denounce a social system which crushes the lowly.

Some people are fond of great ceremonies, others of their own devotions and prayers and still others, of doing generous and philanthropic works. When doing this, we may be covering up the injustice we do every day.

• 21. Jerusalem is the city chosen by God. As the groom chooses his bride, so did Yahweh choose his people. Now, they are a harlot, because with their crimes, their trampling on the poor, they are unfaithful to Yahweh. Those who forget God and run after their own interests, without caring for their brothers and sisters, are adulterers.

It is a question of justice. Justice is one of the words most often used by the prophets. In the Bible, the ¡°just one¡± is the one who lives accord ing to the truth, that is, who remains faithful to the Covenant with God. What the prophets ask with such insistence is that justice be a profound righteousness and not just an external observance of the laws. Finally with Jesus, we come to the ¡°justice¡± of the Holy Spirit, meaning the holiness of God deep in the human heart.

The deliverance of Zion will be like a judgment. Israel, plundered and ruined, prays for salvation. God says: ¡°My salvation means punishing what you are doing.¡±

Here we have something very new. Up to this time people always prayed for the salvation of Israel, and if they were faithful God promised them prosperity in the land of Palestine. Here Isaiah opens up other perspectives. God comes to judge his people and it is the just who will be saved. A new world is beginning, and Isaiah understands that this future will be beyond the present world where violence prevails. A new age is foreseen.

We must also note that the opposition of Israel to the ¡°nations¡±, that is to the rest of humanity, has disappeared: different peoples come to Jerusalem to find there a light that God has simply put into the hands of his people.

Without saying it, Isaiah questions Jewish nationalism and in the poems that follow (7:10; 9:1; 11:1) he will show the figure of a Savior who in a certain way will be son of David, but certainly not the heir of corrupt kings and judges who reign and govern in the name of Yahweh.

Jesus and the Apostles will in their turn, speak of a judgment. God prepares something new and he cannot but condemn and destroy a world that has grown old in evil to which we become too easily accustomed. Certain liberations in history bring to mind the coming of a Kingdom (as in Exodus, Isaiah 37, in the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem¡­). More often mo ments of anguish prepare for it, less through the good they bring than because they destroy ancient structures in which sin was embedded (Lk 21, 28 and Rev).

• 29. This passage deals with the pagan cults which were practiced in groves and woods where they used to sleep with the prostitutes consecrated to the Baals