Wittgenstein's Monster (Transcript)
Chris Sims: "Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight." The book of Isaiah chapter 5 verse 21.
Hello friends and neighbors, and welcome to Apocrypals. It's the podcast where two non-believers read through the Bible, and we really try to not be jerks about it. My name is Chris Simms. With me, as always, is the other set of footprints, Benito Cereno. Benito, how are you today?
Benito Cereno: I'm pretty good, Chris. I'm gonna be honest, man. I'm a little nervous, a little nervous. Got some anxiety a little bit.
C: What's troubling you?
B:This episode that we are recording right now has given me a little bit of that nervous anxiety a little bit, to be honest.
C: Well, let's talk about that then. Why are you nervous about this episode? This week, we are reading the Book of Isaiah. And again, this is one of my picks. And I picked this because in Daniel and in the Book of Acts, we ran into people talking about the prophecies of Isaiah. They are very important.
B: Right, exactly. And that's part of why I'm feeling very anxious. This is a very important book, but also because this is kind of where the rubber meets the road on the concept for this show. Like this is the real proof of concept. Can we do an episode about Isaiah? It's very easy for us to get together and talk for 90 minutes about talking dogs and babies and miracle contests. What are we going to do about a book that does not have a readily apparent narrative that is basically 66 chapters of poems about God destroying people?
C: I can't believe you think that's going to be a problem.
B: I'm sure that my, I'm sure that all of my concerns will be put to ease as we get into the actual episode. But you know, still, I feel like someone's going to call me out on a, I'm going to mess up a detail about the Neo-Assyrian empire and I'm going to feel very terrible about it.
C: If that happens, I think that's fine because we have made it clear that we are not experts. experts. You're someone who knows a lot about the Bible, about the Apocrypha, about infancy gospels and non canonical gospels and deuterocanon. I'm just someone who's sitting down to read the Bible cover to cover, Acts to Zephaniah for the very first time.
B: Yeah. So yeah, I hope people understand. You know we're just two guys. We're doing our best and we are gonna make mistakes and again last week's maxim "everything is always more complicated than we make it on this show." Like the philosopher Wittgenstein had his idea of the ladder where you give an example of something that's actually technically incorrect but it's simple enough that you can use it to understand a more complicated concept. Like that's kind of us. We're not just Wittgenstein's ladder. We're like Wittgenstein's monster on this show, I guess.
C: Yes. Agreed. So here's what we're going to do. We talked about this a little bit before we started recording. Since Isaiah does not follow a straight narrative through line from chapter one to chapter 66 and we should say here, this is the longest book we have done so far.
B: Yeah, considerably.
C: This show goes up on Sunday morning at church time. It is Friday night because I finished reading it yesterday.
B: Normally we record on Tuesday or Wednesday, and yeah, I actually finished reading it in the car, sitting in the parking lot at Kroger about like two hours ago, so not even that, about an hour and a half ago, so yeah.
C: There's a lot to get through, but I think you can break a lot of it down into three or four main themes.
C: Theme number one, God is mad at you.
C: Theme number two, "Hey, by the way, Jesus is coming," or something of importance is going to happen with the context of the New Testament and the context of the book of Isaiah being referenced in Matthew and in Acts, we interpret that as Jesus is coming.
B: We'll say a Messiah is coming. We'll say that.
C: Something big. There's gonna be a new relaunch coming down for summer. Point three, God is still mad at you, but he is going to rise up and destroy all of your enemies.
B: That's pretty accurate. And it's actually funny that you talked about it being broken up into three things, but we'll talk about that in just a second when we get into a bit of context and historical ideas and interpretations about this book.
C: So within those three main points, as I interpreted it, as I read the book of Isaiah, Within those three main points is some truly beautiful language. We're again, we're reading the HCSB translation. I am familiar with a lot of these quotes from the King James Version, because that's what I grew up with. But I wrote on page one of Isaiah, "This is possibly the most quotable book of the Bible." It is full of choice language.
B: Absolutely. And in fact, if we want to look at how often it is quoted, it is the most quotable book in the Bible. It is quoted in other books of the Bible more than any other book.
C: So what we're going to do for this episode is go through the historical context that informed all of this writing first. And I think the second half of the show is just going to be us going through and talking about favorite verses because I will tell you, I wore my highlighter out on these pages.
B: Yeah, man. Yeah, there's a lot to look at.
C: All right, so let's get into it.
B: Yeah, let's start. So here we are, we're back in the Tanakh again, which is, if you remember from our Daniel episode, that's the Hebrew acronym that is used for what Christians refer to as the Old Testament. We are in the Na part this time, that's the Nevi'im. We looked at the Ketuvim last time, we looked at the writings when we looked at Daniel. This time we're looking at the prophets.
And so yeah, Isaiah is, he's the biggest beefiest boy of all the prophets, honestly. Like, last week we covered a book that, while very popular and influential, was never considered canon by anybody. This book, Isaiah, is possibly the most canon possible book except for something from the Torah, right? Like, outside of the first five books, like, this is the most solidly canonical book, whether for the Jewish faith, for the Christian faith, any denomination, even Muslims revere Isaiah as a prophet. He is the most major of the major prophets. Among the Jewish writings, the way they separate the Tanakh, the Nevi'im, the prophets include books that in the Christian division of the Old Testament, it includes books that Christians would refer to as books of history, like Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. Those books are considered prophets among the Jewish scriptures. So Isaiah, however, is considered the first of the latter prophets, L-A-T-T-E-R, prophets, but he's still the major prophets. And among the Jewish people, the major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Among Christians, the major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, also includes the Book of Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, who we looked at.
And yeah, like we said, it's the most quoted book in the New Testament. I think nearly half of the verses from the Old Testament quoted in the New Testament come from Isaiah, and if Jesus is going to drop an Old Testament verse, it is almost always going to be Isaiah. Like, statistically speaking, it is very likely that Jesus is going to reference Isaiah to the point where many Christians refer to Isaiah as the fifth gospel because its theology is considered to tie in so much to the coming of Christ, like we hinted at.
So who is Isaiah? He is our figure we see mentioned in the book of second Kings during the time period of around the the 8th century. He lived in the 8th century during the time when the major world power was the Neo-Assyrian Empire, being a latter-day empire in which the Assyrians basically invented the tactics that would be used by empires from then on. Pretty much, this is the point where they kind of define what an empire even is. Isaiah is a Hebrew name, as we should expect by now among Hebrew-speaking people. In Hebrew his name is Yeshayahu, hopefully I'm saying that close to correct, which gets translated into Septuagint into Greek as Esaias, and that's what eventually becomes Isaiah to us in modern times. The interesting thing about this name is that it means the Lord of Salvation. it puts together these two elements, yahu, which we should recognize by now as yah, meaning one of the names of God, and then the yeshah bit here refers to the idea of calling out for help, calling out to be saved, and the idea is that the Lord is the one who will answer if you call out to be saved. And what's interesting though is we see those same elements just flipped and that makes the name Yahoshua, which we see not only as the name that is transliterated as Joshua these days, but it's also the one that gets abbreviated as Yeshua, which is what we translate now as Jesus. So Isaiah, Joshua, and Jesus all technically have the same name or the same word elements put together to make their names.
So yeah, like I was saying, the funny thing about you mentioning Isaiah broke--it seemed to broken into three parts. I thought you were going to hit upon one of the major scholarly interpretations and looks at Isaiah. The biggest train of thought or interpretation of how Isaiah was put together throughout most of the 20th century was that it can be broken up into three parts, and in fact was probably written by three different people. So Isaiah, there is a historical Isaiah, Isaiah son of Amoz, and we see his name mentioned several times. He's from 2 Kings. We see him. And it is generally agreed that this Isaiah probably wrote, from the traditional perspective, Isaiah wrote the whole book, of course, possibly at two different times. Even in the most traditional interpretations, the book is broken up into two sections. And you might have noticed this, Chris, when you were reading, that there's a lot of destruction, destruction, destruction, destruction is coming. And then there's a point where he starts going, "Destruction has happened, restoration is coming." I don't know if you picked up on that break. That happens about 60% of the way through the book. And that break is considered to be very real. So, even from the most traditional standpoint, if you assume that Isaiah wrote the whole book, then he probably wrote the first 39 chapters at one point, and then some number of years later wrote 40 through 66.
However, throughout the 20th century, the main thought is that you could break it up into three sections, and they were called proto-Isaiah, deutero-Isaiah, and truto-Isaiah, which is just first, second, and third Isaiah. And that breaking point is 1 through 39, which was believed, even most scholars will say probably 1 through 39, written by the historical Isaiah during the time of Assyrian invasion and so on that we see happening in the first 39 chapters of this book. However, the thought is that Deutero Isaiah, second Isaiah, which is chapters 40 through 55, was written by someone almost 150 years later during the Babylonian exile, which you guys, I hope, recall from our Daniel episode, and that someone had put together those chapters as the the exile was coming to a close. And third Isaiah is believed to have been written by someone living following the end of the exile in Babylon by people living during the restoration of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple.
So basically, you have to decide, you know, if you want to decide between the traditional and the historical viewpoints, basically you're deciding whether Isaiah was really a prophet who could really see the future. So choose to believe that Isaiah, that God really did speak through Isaiah and he was able to accurately predict things from the future, then you could say yes Isaiah was able to talk about things that happened some 150 years after his life. Or from a historical perspective Isaiah wrote the first 39 chapters and then some point during the Babylonian exile someone came in to edit the text and added some additional bits and then someone even later came in and added some additional bits.
And the reason that it's broken up that way is because there's a stylistic differences. Also it stops talking about Assyria after 39 chapters and starts talking about Babylon, so it moves from one empire's concern to another. Also it stops talking about Isaiah. It stops saying his name. Isaiah is a major character even if only as narrator for the first 39 chapters and he says his name all the time. And then after 39 his name is never mentioned again. Between that and the textual analysis looking at the language of the first 39 chapters versus the remaining 27 or whatever it is, it's easy to look and say this is this these are different authors. However the most modern scholarship says ultimately this doesn't matter because it's probably a patchwork all throughout and in fact the poetry part of the first 39 chapters is probably Isaiah but probably someone about a hundred years later went in and added all the little the prose bits in between to kind of help explain and set context for the different oracles that are written in poetry. And Chris, I assume you have an idea of how to tell the difference between prose and poetry, just like looking at it on the page?
C: I did attend school in my youth. I am a professional writer.
B: It's fine. I think some people maybe are not familiar with why suddenly the text goes jaggedy, you know what I mean? But the poetry is written in meter, and so the lines in the line breaks are not going to be the standard fully justified column to column kind of thing. So if you're looking in a Bible and you're wondering, "Why did the text go jaggedy?" Well, it's because it's poetry now. And so those prose bits that are interspersed throughout the various oracles would have been, presumably, according to historical view, later additions to provide additional context for the different oracles in the first half. Following me so far, first, second and third Isaiah?
C: I'm with you. He's like the Infinity Man. These multiple people coming together as one.
B: Exactly, and I should note that like this kind of thing is not uncommon in ancient times. To take another text that already exists and then add to it anonymously is not considered like gauche in any way, right? Like it's not uncommon for that kind of thing to happen. So it seems weird to us now if we were to say, like, "Oh yeah, I was reading Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and I thought it needs another chapter, so I wrote one, and anyway, this is how it's going to be published now." So yeah, I don't know.
Anyway, so Isaiah, as a prophet, we see him talk about how he served as a prophet during the reigns of the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and then Hezekiah. Uzziah's reign starts about 783 BC, but we see that Isaiah gets his call to serve at around 740, near the very end of Uzziah's reign. And then he lasts until about 686, or rather I should say, Hezekiah's reign lasts until 686. But even though we don't see the end of Isaiah's life, either in 2 Kings or within the book that bears his name, there is an extra biblical tradition about what happens to Isaiah, and I'm just, it's too bad that there's not some kind of, like, vehicle that you and I have where we might explore an extra biblical tradition about how Isaiah died, for example. So, we'll just have to put that one in the old regret box and never come back to it. I mean, it might be whispering to me that he got sawed in half, but we'll never know. There's no way that we'll ever know that he got sawed in half by an evil prophet at a wizard-off in the desert. No, there's no way for us to know that. So it's too bad. It's not one of those regrets for the show.
C: I feel like the regret box is rapidly going to fill.
B: Yeah, it is. Fortunately, it's a box of holding. So there's extra-dimensional space in there just to hold everything. But yeah, so anyway, even though, like we were saying, this is primarily a book of poetry, various songs of different genres, different kinds of oracles and judgments and things upon not only Judah and Israel, and I should note that we are during the time of the divided kingdom where Judah is the southern kingdom, Israel is in the north, and they are going to be at war in just a minute. So yeah, someone on our tumblr asked me if we were going to come back to the conflict between Judah and Israel, and I said, "Well, the next episode is going to have them fighting a war, so, yes," and here it is. So here we are during the divided kingdom. We are in Jerusalem, so we're in Judah, which is where a lot of, much of the Old Testament that we have comes from people living in the southern kingdom, and so a lot of times there's going to be a pro-Judah kind of bias on a lot of the things that we look at.
C: Well, we saw that in Daniel as well, because one of the things that, well, actually I guess technically we saw it in the book of Susanna.
B: It was in Susanna, yeah.
C: Because Daniel tells the creepy judges, he's like, "Hey, you got away with this in Israel, "but you're in Judah now."
B: Yeah, Judah, don't play that, yeah. So yeah, so you do kinda get that side-eye from Judah to Israel, yeah. And if you just read the scriptures that we have as part of the canon, you're gonna think like, "Oh, Judah did pretty good, Israel hecked up pretty bad." But yeah, that's 'cause much of what we have written by people from the southern kingdom.
And so you can put together a bit of a narrative throughout all of this bits of vitriol that we see throughout. And I mean, part of that you can do by paralleling the story of Isaiah's life from 2 Kings, which we will get to when we do 2 Kings. But the first thing we see is a very famous bit is we actually see how Isaiah receives the call and the mission from God in chapter 6, which is very famous among people who are interested in angels, because this gives us maybe the most thorough description of what angels look like.
C: Oh yeah, I wrote this one down.
B: Yeah, I figured you probably did. Yeah, what do you--
C: Unusual number of arms?
B: Yeah, yeah, and wings and eyes and what have you. We do see, These are specifically mentioned as being seraphim, which means burning ones. And yeah, they're described as six wings, two cover their face, two cover their feet, and someone will get me if I don't mention this, feet here is almost certainly a euphemism for genitals. So they had junk wings, that's fine. Then two to cover their face, or two to fly.
C: I'm sorry, do you think you can just drop "feet" as a euphemism for genitals and I'm not gonna ask you to go in depth and explain that one?
B: Well, I mean, there's not much more to it. More than one time in the Bible, the word "feet" is used as a euphemism for genitals because the idea is they're both unclean parts of your body. And I mean, if you really want to get down to it, in the book of Isaiah, there's a part where the word "hand" is used as a euphemism for genitals, which is weird because there's also a part where they do also just straight up say genitals. So, I don't know.
C: They do! I wrote that down as well.
B: The part about you've gazed upon their genitals near the end, yeah, that kind of stands out a little bit. But anyway, yeah, so we got six pairs of wings, we got burning guys flying, and then yeah, the famous bit where the angel approaches and puts the coal onto Isaiah's lips, giving him the power of prophecy basically. Also, that cleanses his lips, right, by burning and cauterization. His lips have been made clean. His sin was atoned for, his wickedness is removed. And yeah, of course, this is the bit, "The angels sing, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts.'" So I don't know about you, but in my church, hymn number one, first page in the hymnal was "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty."
C: We had that one.
B: I know. There's various versions of that. course you get it in Latin as well. "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus." So I'm sure other people have, there are many different churches have different variations on this story. So we do get that. We get that bit in chapter 6. We get a little bit more narrative going on in chapters 7 and 8, which includes a very famous bit, a very famous and controversial bit.
Chapter 7 we see Ahaz, right? So Ahaz is the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah the king. So he's king of Judah and what's happening at this time, as I said, the Neo-Assyrian Empire is the big deal in the known world at that time. Certainly the Middle East, what we think of as the Middle East today. And basically what happens is Syria, known in, mostly called in this book, Aram, A-R-A-M, Aram. Syria with its capital of Damascus and also Israel the Northern Kingdom which gets called a couple different names in this book. It gets called Samaria from its capital, right? The capital of the Northern Kingdom was Samaria so sometimes it gets called Samaria but often it gets called Ephraim or Ephraim which is the name of the most prominent tribe in the Northern Kingdom and so what's about to happen ends up getting called the the Syro-Ephraimite War because it's Judah fighting against Syria or Aram and Ephraim or the northern kingdom of Israel.
What happens is basically Syria and Israel decide that they're tired of Assyria's junk causing them trouble and them trying to think that they could take over everywhere and so they decide they're going to fight back and they turn to Judah and they turn to King Ahaz and they say, "Hey, do you want to do a team-up and try and take down Assyria?" And Ahaz says, "That sounds like a terrible idea. No thank you." And so they decide to invade Judah. And so the Syro-Ephraimite War is Syria and Israel invading Judah, putting the city of Jerusalem under siege. Meanwhile there are a couple of enterprising neighbors in Philistia and Moab which are on the to the west and east respectively of Judah. Philistia you might recall from the name the Philistines like Goliath and those guys right? The Philistines are the western neighbors of Judah and then Moab is the territory on the on the other side of the Dead Sea. They decide they're also going to try to invade Judah to take advantage of the fact that their resources and attention are focused on the siege in Jerusalem.
And what happens is Ahaz consults Isaiah, the main prophet of Judah in this time, and Isaiah says to him, "I'm gonna give you a sign from God." And Ahaz says, "Mm-hmm, that's a trick. you're not supposed to test God." And he was like, and he says to him, "Listen, House of David, is it not enough for you to try the patience of men? Will you also try the patience of my God?" And so he gives him the sign anyway. And this is the sign. This maybe will sound familiar to you if you went to a Christian church. "The Virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel." Right? That's familiar. They read that at my church, my family's church, at Christmas time. I don't know. Do you know that one, Chris? 7:14 is what we're looking at.
C: Yeah, I'm familiar with the song.
B: Yeah? Okay. Yes. Excellent. So yeah, Emmanuel is a name. It means "God with us." So naturally, like, Christians, of course, have taken this prophecy and they go, "Eh, 'the virgin will conceive and have a son and name him God with us.' Yeah, a virgin had a son, and it was God with us, like on Earth where we live?" That's Jesus, obviously. And so that's a major one. Matthew, of course, latches onto it. Here's the thing, though. Like, if you look at it in the context of what's going on, it has an immediate meaning, right? Isaiah is speaking directly to Ahaz, and he says, "Here's what's going to happen in regards to this war we are fighting right now with Syria and Israel," not with cereal. And so what he's actually telling him, at least in this context, again, if you want to choose to believe that it has a larger application, if you want to believe that many of these prophecies have a larger application rather than to the immediate meaning of the contemporary times, cool. That's how people have been doing it for 3,000 years. So cool, cool, cool. But the immediate meaning of this is he's trying to tell Ahaz, this problem is going to be resolved within this amount of time. A woman is going to give birth. She's going to have a son. And by the time that son is old enough to know right from wrong, that he puts it as "by the time he knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned." And so he's saying by the time this child that's about to be born is old enough to know right from wrong, this war will be over and those two kingdoms are going to be done for.
There's a lot of questions about who is Emmanuel, who is the virgin that will conceive. And here's the other controversial thing, of course. In Hebrew, the word here that is used is "alma." And what "alma" means is not a virgin. It means a young woman, possibly an unmarried woman, probably a woman who has not had a child before. But it does not have a connotation of virginity. But the problem is, by the time of the New Testament, the Jewish people didn't speak Hebrew anymore. They spoke Aramaic or they spoke Greek. And so, when you've got the translation, you have to translate this stuff into one of those languages in order for contemporary people to understand it. And so the Greek word that is chosen to translate Alma is the Greek word "partanos," which does mean "virgin." recognize it from the name the Parthenon, which is a temple to Athena, one of the virgin goddesses. You also, if you're a scientist, you might recognize it from the word parthenogenesis, which means an asexual reproduction, right, where some normally sexual species reproduces without a second organism present.
And so that starts to create the idea that the prophecy now is about a virgin birth and Matthew is able to take that and go, "Hey, I know a story about a guy who was born from a virgin, so this is probably a reference to that." In modern day times, some new biblical translations have started to look at that and say, "Hey, the Hebrew just means 'young woman.' We should say 'young woman' here." But fundamentalist Christians didn't care for that, and they get very upset. And so now, even to this day, basically it's considered like a litmus test for a biblical translation by fundamentalist Christians. They look at this verse and they say, "Does it say 'virgin' or does it say 'young woman'?" The HCSB of course says 'virgin', I guess, knowing what side their bread is buttered on. Controversial thing.
So the question is, who is Immanuel? Who's his baby? No real consensus on that, I should say. Some people believe that it's a reference to Hezekiah, who will be king, and we'll see him come back. However, I think most historians say that Hezekiah was already born by this point. Some people say that it refers to a child of Isaiah, that Isaiah is going to have a child, that his wife, who by the way, I should say, is mentioned as being a prophetess even though she doesn't receive a name. There's some question about whether that means she actually had prophetic powers like Isaiah or if she just was called that because it meant like the prophet's wife. She doesn't get a name, but she does get called the prophetess. But the problem is we know already that Isaiah had a child already. So, So if an alma means a young woman who hasn't given birth already, then you wouldn't use that to refer to Isaiah's wife having her second child. So maybe it refers to a grandchild of Isaiah. Nobody knows. Nobody knows who this Immanuel is.
But we do have a couple of other prophetic children, children with prophetic names. Isaiah's older child, who I just mentioned, is Shear-Jashub, which means "a remnant shall return," which is a prophetic name because there's a great deal in this book about a remnant. Right? Did you notice that one, Chris?
C: I can't say I did. A remnant?
B: Okay, yeah. Much of the prophecy is about the idea that, like, "Hey guys, in Judah, you're God's favorite people, but you've been hecking up real bad, so there's going to be some destruction for you. However, a holy remnant will survive and come back, and it will be that remnant that serves as the basis for God's new, enduring kingdom." So, the name of Isaiah's first child is prophetic of that. Isaiah also has another child named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means spoil quickly, plunder speedily, or he hurries to the spoils, however you want to think about it. It is the longest name of anybody in the Bible and the longest word in the Bible, unless you count another one that I'm going to get to in just a second. But that name is prophetic as well, referring to the coming desfoliation done by the Assyrian Empire.
So yeah, what we end up seeing is the Assyrian emperor, Tiglath-Pileser III, does come through and he takes out Syria and he takes out Israel as well by 722 BC. I think Damascus goes out in 732, Israel's down by 722, Samaria's down by 722. The way that the resolution to this war, as we see it, is Ahaz, instead of joining Syria and Israel to try and go against Assyria, instead goes to Assyria and says, "Hey, these guys are attacking me. Please take care of it." And Tiglath-Pileser does. And the problem is, Judah ends up having to become a vassal state and pay tribute to Assyria. And that involves giving out treasures from the temple and also setting up idols for Assyrian gods throughout the city, which you could probably guess is not God's favorite thing.
Yeah, and so that's the first major bit of historical context that drives a great deal of the prophecy in the earlier parts of the book. It has a lot to do with not only God using Assyria basically as the tool of his punishment and destruction for both Israel and Syria, but also ultimately Judah because Ahaz does end up basically dishonoring God by giving away temple treasures, putting up idols. But also ultimately, and this is one of the major messages of the book is he puts his faith and trust into earthly powers. He trusts Assyria, but he shouldn't do that. He should be trusting God. These are God's people. He's gonna take care of them. But Ahaz says, "No, I think I'm gonna trust my alliance with Tiglath-Pileser instead." And so God says, "Well, that's alright. Assyria is gonna be the instrument of my wrath, but then I'm gonna destroy Assyria too, and they'll be judged," and yeah, so that's the first major thing. The Syro-Ephraimite War, that's the major bit of historical context for a lot of the first part.
The other major bit that ties back into Syria and kind of what's going on, if we jump ahead to chapter 36, where we're getting towards the very end of what would be called Proto-Isaiah, get a big prose section. After you've had basically 35 chapters of mostly poetry, it cuts to being prose for chapters 36 through 39. And in there we get a big story about Hezekiah who is the fourth king during Isaiah's tenure as a prophet. And what's going on here in the 14th year of King Hezekiah is that there is a transition of power in the Assyrian Empire. The Emperor had been Sargon II, so he comes after, there may be, I don't know how many are between Tiglath-Pileser and Sargon II, but it does at least ultimately transition to them. However, by 703 BC, Sargon is thrown out and a new guy named Sennacherib comes in and takes over the throne of Assyria.
And so during this time of coup d'etat in Assyria, Hezekiah says, "You know, why don't I take advantage of this and maybe we don't have to be a vassal state to Assyria anymore. Now's our time to rebel, stop having to send tribute to the Assyrian emperor all the time." And so he decides that he's going to make an alliance with Egypt. and Egypt and Judah are then going to rebel against Assyria and hopefully get out of the tribute that they're having to pay to them. It doesn't go great at first. We see the introduction of a guy called the Rabshaka, and he is the head cupbearer of the king of Assyria, Sennacherib. And so that doesn't sound like a major important governmental function, but apparently it is. He's a lieutenant and he's got some pretty harsh language for Hezekiah and for his diplomats and for the people of Judah in general. He says, "Look at you. You're trusting in Egypt that splintered greed of a staff that will enter and pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it." So he's saying, you're foolish to try and trust in Egypt. We can beat Egypt. It's no good for you to trust them. Look, here's the deal. I'll give you 2,000 horses. I bet you don't even have enough people to seat these horses. And they're talking in Hebrew at this time. And the diplomats who are speaking to him say, "Look, can we not speak in Hebrew, please? Can we speak in Aramaic, please the soldiers along here all speak Hebrew and they can hear the things you're saying." And he says, "Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you but not to the men who are sitting on the wall?" And then he says, "These men who are destined with you to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine." Which just sounds like a gross burn on these guys but the context there is he's implying that there's going to be a siege of Jerusalem, and the siege would last so long that the people would run out of food and water and be forced to eat pee-pee-poo-poo.
C: Yeah, I think I get it. I think I get where he's going.
B: Yeah. A cool thing that's actually not mentioned in the book is that that wouldn't have happened, because Hezekiah had looked at and seen what the Assyrians were doing to other people in surrounding areas, and he had foreseen the possibility of a siege. And so to prepare for that he built a tunnel under Jerusalem that leads out to a water source. So that was pretty cool. That doesn't actually come up in this book, but it's a thing to keep in mind because there is a siege on Jerusalem. It does happen.
Yeah, Hezekiah says no. He decides that he's going to trust in the Lord, like Isaiah has been saying. And one of the things that we can see in this book and that we're gonna continue to see throughout all the scriptures, including especially the Hebrew scriptures, is there's kind of a cycle with the people of Israel, and I say they're including people of Judah as well, where, and like you know I'm not Jewish, I've never been Jewish, so I hope I'm not overstepping anything when I say this, but I don't think it's controversial for me to say that the story of the Jewish people is a story of people continually falling in and out of love with God, right? There's a cycle where God will take care of the people and put them in a safe and comfortable place, they become complacent and they stop worshiping God. They start worshiping idols or whatever and then God punishes them, usually in the form of some foreign empire coming in and destroying their city or taking them into slavery or into exile or whatever, but then they return to God and God helps them out again.
And that's the cycle that we're gonna see over and over throughout the Old Testament and we literally see it happen in the course of just this book, right? The Assyrians pose a danger. The people decide to rely on their own powers and on their earthly allies, and God says, "No, no, no. This is no good." Until finally you get a king, Hezekiah, who goes, "Hey, you know what? Maybe Isaiah's right. Maybe we'll trust in God and God will help us out." And we see that he does, to the point where Assyria's getting close. They're putting a siege on the city. They've been sacking other major cities in Judah on their way there, until eventually what happens is the angel of the Lord goes down and strikes down 185,000 in Sennacherib's camp. And they get so scared of this that they leave.
C: Yeah, I would also be very scared.
B: Yeah, what that actually means, I don't know. I mean, if you want to believe an angel came down, one of those giant six-winged boys, that's cool and fine. Some people believe maybe there was a disease that broke out among the Assyrian camp. Who knows? It doesn't specify here. It also doesn't specify in 2 Kings, which takes a more narrative look at what's going on here. But at any rate, yes, Sennacherib leaves, and then we get a flash to the future, and we see that Sennacherib gets killed by his own sons. So that's what's going to happen to that guy.
Then we see Hezekiah, who has returned to being faithful to the Lord. He's got a terminal illness. He says, "Hey God, I did my best, man. Can you help me out?" And God says, "You know what? Good job. You can live for 15 more years." And so his life is extended for 15 more years. But then, later, there's letters coming from Babylon to Hezekiah, and he talks to Isaiah, and he's like, "Well, what should we do?" And Isaiah says, "Look, hear the word of the Lord of hosts. The time will certainly come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. Some of your descendants who come from you will be taken away, and then they'll become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." And we know from reading Daniel that that happens, right? We know that that happens. Also, that last bit is not good news for our boys Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel.
C: There is a light in there, though, about how, hey, they're gonna make a eunuchs, but you know what, they can't cut out. That's right. It's the Lord.
B: Yeah. But Hezekiah's reaction to this, well, I don't know. I want to say that it's wild, but maybe it's not. It's very human in a lot of ways because he says, "Look, there's going to come a time. This is going to happen." And we do know it does happen, right? The Babylonian empire, who was at the time of first Isaiah, is not a major world power. That they're going to rise up, and they're going to come, and they're going to conquer us, and they're going to take all our dudes. And Hezekiah's response is, "There will be peace and security during my lifetime." He's like, "That'll happen in the future, but things will be good as long as I'm king." Not probably the reaction that God was looking for, but also it does feel like a very human thing, right? He's like, "Well, I've brought about peace and there's not much that I can do about that now."
So yeah, and that's really, honestly, that's the last narrative bit we get. That's the end of the first Isaiah, and then it kind of jumps to, stops talking about destruction, right? There's a whole catalog of destruction where he names off all the places that God, names all the places he's going to destroy, and now he starts talking about restoration and comfort, that those things, that it implies that destruction has happened and restoration is coming now.
So that's it in terms of like the narrative that we can glean from here and there in the book of Isaiah. So if you want to start looking at separate individual passages, let's do it.
C: Let's start in on that because now this is the stuff that I know about because I read the book.
B: Yeah, man.
C: And I do want to say thank you for doing all the historical research necessary for the context because I do think that's important.
C: Obviously, that's very important. But just going through here to look at what is said on these pages. It is first verse to last verse: bangers.
B: It is.
C: All the way through.
B: Absolutely is.
C: My first note that I wrote on chapter one, verse one is "All of this is great." And then the last note that I wrote was on the very last verse, which is Isaiah 66, 24, and I just wrote "strong closer."
B: It's a very strong closer, yeah, absolutely. It's just diss track after diss track, and every nation of the Middle East gets ether'd absolutely in the course of Isaiah.
C: Yes. There's a little preamble, like verse one, chapter one, verse one 1 is a preamble, chapter 1 verse 2 is "Listen heavens and pay attention earth," which I -- that's how I want to start introducing this show.
B: Yeah, that's "shut up 5, a 10 is talking."
C: I mean, literally, because the Lord has spoken. And if, as we all know, if man is 5..
B: Then the devil is 6.
C: Then do you know the rest.
C: "O sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned their on him." That's where we're starting with this book. Is Isaiah rolling up and being like, "You are depraved children, and you need to listen." From there, God tells everybody that he's sick of parties.
B: It's true. Too much drinking?
C: Chapter 1, verse 13, "Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to me. New moons and sabbaths, the calling of solemn assemblies, I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your new moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to me. I am tired of putting up with them." God doesn't want to come to your party. That's how dire things are at this point.
B: Yeah, it's pretty rough.
C: We also get a bunch of stuff even right here in the beginning in chapter one that as I mentioned before, I am a professional writer, Benito, you are also a a professional writer. We are of the comic book world. If you ever read something that I write that has a quote from the book of Isaiah in it, then I have failed in the willpower that I am exerting to not put basically every line from Isaiah into whatever it is I'm writing.
B: Yeah, just crib from it. It's in the public domain, just go for it.
B: We got Scarlet Sins coming in, in Isaiah 1:18. That's a good one. Though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as snow. That's a good one. Tell me what happens in chapter two, verse four.
B: Chapter two, verse four, we get a very excellent image that I think most people would be familiar with. Here we get the idea of, "they will turn their swords into plows or plowshares,"" maybe if you're familiar with the King James, "will turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations and they will never again train for war." Just one of many very common phrases that we're gonna keep encountering as we go through that we use in modern day language, swords and plowshares, that have their origin in Isaiah.
C: We skip ahead to chapter two, verse nine. "So humanity is brought low and man is humbled. Do not forgive them. Go into the rocks and hide in the dust from the terror of the Lord and from his majestic splendor. Human pride will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be brought low. The Lord alone will be exalted on that day."
B: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
C: There's a word in this that I've never seen before.
C: It comes in chapter four.
C: Verse four, the word is bloodguilt.
B: Oh, yeah.
C: One word.
B: Yeah, blood guilt is basically the stain that you get on you after doing a murder. The back half of chapter three, we got the excellent bit where he calls out the women of Jerusalem. The Lord says, "The daughters of Zion are haughty, walking with heads held high and seductive eyes, going along with prancing steps, jingling their ankle bracelets. The Lord will put scabs on the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will shave their foreheads bare." Yeah, on--
C: See, I did not like that part.
B: Yeah, instead of perfume, there'll be stench.
C: Yes, it does say that. But that's very, oh, who do you think you are walking around with your bracelets?
B: Oh yeah, no, I mean, sure, from a feminist point of view, not great. Not great. you wear all the sashes, bracelets, and perfumes you like whatever is necessary.
C: You can maybe wear "ankle bracelets, headbands, crescents, pendants, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle jewelry, sashes, perfume bottles, amulets, signet rings, nose ring, festive robes, capes, cloaks, purses, garments, linen clothes, turbans, and veils." That, by the way, is chapter 3 verses 18 through 23. It's just straight five verses of listing women's clothing.
B: Yeah, all women's clothing that the Lord did not think was a good fashion choice for the women of Zion. There is a song that I will post on the tumblr by a Christian alternative band that I enjoyed in the mid 90s called Johnny Q Public. They had a song called Women of Zion that was just basically this chapter turned into a song. I'll put that up on the tumblr so you guys can enjoy it.
C: That is a bonkers thing to turn into a song.
B: Yeah, it is. It was one of those that I enjoyed as a kid because it sounds... You hear it and you're just like, "What are you listening to?" And my parents and other adults, they would hear it and they would go like, "What is this? Singing about bald women. What's going on?" And fortunately, Johnny Q Public had the foresight to... I had the cassette of this album, by the way. And so in the liner notes in the cassette, they had next to the title, Women of Zion, they had the forethought to write Isaiah chapter 3 verse 16 through chapter 4 verse 2. And so I was able to go, "Uh-huh, they're just quoting the Bible, perhaps you've heard of it," as a very snotty 14-15 year old. Yeah, definitely a wild thing to turn into a song, absolutely.
C: I also quite liked chapter 8 verses 9 and 10, where the Lord says, "Band together peoples, and be broken. Pay attention, all you distant lands, prepare for war, and be broken. Prepare Prepare for war and be broken. Devise a plan, it will fail. Make a prediction, it will not happen, for God is with us." That's pretty strong.
B: Yeah, it is strong, absolutely. It's a sign of, that's God using Assyria as his tool. He's like, "You guys have majorly hecked up. I'm bringing in Tiglath-Pileser." Which I'm gonna see how many times I can say that name during this show. It's pretty great. Assyria had some pretty good names.
C: We've also got chapter nine. We're not going to go through all 66 chapters. No. There's extremely good stuff.
B: Chapter 9 has another very famous section, famous among Christians, definitely one that is read at my family's church literally every Christmas Eve in chapter 9, verse 6. "For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Maybe that sounds familiar to you guys, but obviously that is one of the verses that's used by Christians that is supposed to be a prophecy regarding the birth of Christ.
And that is, coming back to a thing I put a pin in, that is the source of the longest name/word in the actual Bible, which is the word "Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom"," which is, that's "a wonderful counselor, mighty God, eternal Father, Friends of Peace." It's all one word in the Hebrew.
C: That's that's a very good word.
B: It's a good word. It's a good name. It might not fit on your library card, but not bad and It does outstrip Maher-Shalaal Hash-Baz by quite a number of syllables.
C: I have actual questions for you, going through that I wrote in the margins of the Bible here.
C: One of them is concerning language and one of them is actually theological. Which one would you like first?
B: Oh, surprise me, surprise me.
C: How does a hired worker count years?
B: Yeah, that phrase comes up a couple of times. The idea is very precisely, because if you're paid wages, you're counting the days, how many days you're owed for.
C: When he says in three years as a hired worker counts years, that's in three years from today.
B: Yeah, and like exactly to the day. Yeah, pretty much, yeah.
C: Interesting, I get that, that's good. Second, this is the first time I have encountered a mention, again we are reading the Bible out of order.
C: But this is the first time I have encountered a mention of Sheol.
B: Yeah, okay, yeah, okay, well you brought it up. I was gonna introduce a new segment for this show that will be irregularly occurring. One of two, we got another one that's gonna be popping up in a second. It's a little segment I like to call Hellwatch. 2018.
So one thing that I think you're going to find that might surprise you, Chris, and might surprise our listeners if they're not super familiar with the Scriptures as taken as a whole, hell's not really a thing. It's very barely a thing in the Bible. It does develop over time. There are some differences between the depiction of hell in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, but hell is largely the creation of folklore and other literature that's taken and assembled into a new thing that borrows from Greek religion and other things. What do we have within the Scripture canonically about hell? Well, one piece of the puzzle is Sheol, which does occur quite a number of times throughout the book of Isaiah. Which one are you looking at? Which verse you have.
C: Chapter 14 verse 9, "Sheol below is eager to greet your coming. He stirs up the spirits of the departed for you, all the rules of the earth. He makes all the kings of the nations rise from their thrones."
B: Okay, you know what Sheol is? Chris, I assume you must know since you recognized it.
C: It was described to me when I was taking my Confirmation classes when I was a teen, getting ready to be baptized in the Presbyterian Church, and eventually we're gonna have to talk about resurrection bodies, which is another thing my pastor told me about that you had never heard of.
B: No, that's not a thing.
C: And I just thought this was like, commonly regarded, but apparently resurrection bodies were unique to Swan Lake Prez. It was described to me as being an underworld, a repository for dead souls. So no, like basically, according to my pastor when I was a teenager, obviously he was a Christian, he was a Presbyterian. He described it as basically just souls waiting around for the Messiah to show up and do the judging.
B: Yep, 100%, that's right. Sheol is the grave. It is basically a waiting room for souls, like in "Beetlejuice," I guess. But yeah, so it's the grave, it's the underworld, it's the Greeks translated as Hades because it's the same basic concept, right? For the Greeks, Hades is not necessarily a place of punishment, although there are sections of it that are meant for punishment. It's just if you're dead, it's where you go. And that's what it is, yeah, it's souls waiting around for the resurrection, which we did see promise of in the apocalypse section of Daniel. And there's a little bit of talk of it in here. There's a bit of apocalypse in Isaiah as well.
So yeah, Sheol, there we go, part one of the puzzle that will eventually become hell. We actually have another one that while we're on the topic, while we're in the Hellwatch section of today's episode, We have another bit that comes up in chapter 30 verse 33. During a section where Isaiah is predicting annihilation for the Assyrians, he says, "Indeed, Topheth has been ready for the king for a long time now. Its funeral pyre is deep and wide "with plenty of fire and wood. The breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, kindles it." So Topheth, what this is, is an area located in the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem. And Tofeth, we know, appears elsewhere. Second Kings, we see the King Josiah desecrating the place. It was a place where the worship of the god Moloch happened. You might recognize him from Hellboy or from season one of Sleepy Hollow. He was worshiped there, human sacrifices were done there. It's a bad, not so great place and later it becomes a garbage dump where garbage is burnt and was basically eternally burning. And so the Hebrew word for valley of Hinnom is Gehenom in Greek, rendered as Gehenna, which is the word that in the New Testament will be the Greek word used for hell.
So, so far we've seen two key pieces of the hell puzzle. Number one, Sheol, the idea of the grave, a big waiting room for hell that is in this book, frequently personified as a very hungry boy who is ready to eat up your soul. And here we get Gehenna, the perpetually burning garbage dump, which is the IRL metaphor for what's going to happen to your soul. But here, not a reference to hell, specifically just literally talking about a burning garbage dump where there will be a funeral pyre for the king of the Assyrians. But two crucial pieces of the hell puzzle. Chris, you want to hear our second recurring but irregular feature that I'm introducing in this episode?
C: I would love to.
B: All right. It's called Satan Watch.
C: You know I'm into it.
B: Yeah, here we go. That's just like how hell is surprisingly not much of a thing in the Bible. Also, Satan is not that much of a thing in the Bible. We don't get very much information about him. We will see him in the New Testament. We'll see him in a couple books in the Old Testament. But here's a piece that people and Christians did use as evidence or information about Satan that actually has nothing to do with Satan whatsoever. Nevertheless, it's relevant.
Here we go. If we turn to chapter 14, verse 12, we get, "Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens, you destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground. You said to yourself, 'I will ascend to the heavens. I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the gods assembly in the remotest parts of the north. I will ascend above the highest clouds. I will make myself like the Most High,' but you will be brought down to Sheol into the deepest regions of the pit."
Now in the context of Isaiah he is 100,000% talking about the king of Babylon. However, this is a verse that was used to give us the "information" that we have about Satan that, you know, he tried to to supersede God and was cast out of the heavens. None of that is actually stated canonically anywhere within the Scriptures, but this verse is used as information for things that would be used, for example, in John Milton's Paradise Lost, which is one of the major influential pieces of literature about Satan that has influenced our modern ideas of him. Also, another key piece of information, the fact that he's called Shining Morning Star. Chris, you have any idea what the Latin word for the Morning Star is?
C: It's not Lucifer, is it?
B: It is Lucifer. So the word Lucifer in Latin literally means the light bearer, the bringer of light. So it's the morning star.
C: Well, let's see, that's what I thought. I thought, I knew it meant light bringer.
B: Right, yeah, absolutely. And so when this is translated into the Vulgate, and in fact, even if you were to check out the King James version of this verse, it straight up says Lucifer. And so the morning star, of course, for you astronomers out there, is actually the planet Venus and not a star at all. But yeah, so our first piece of the puzzle for Satan right here is a verse that actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Satan that nevertheless provides for us a number of pieces of information that we quote unquote know about the Friends of Darkness.
C: While we're over here in the teens, I did just want to get into chapter 14 verse 23. "Hey God, what are you going to do to Babylon?" through Isaiah, he tells us, "I will make her a swampland and a region for screech owls and I will sweep her away with a broom of destruction." Which is not a great metaphor, but it is a very evocative metaphor.
B: Yeah, so like when we did the Book of Acts and we did the whole bit where we decided that Peter was Batman because I kept using bats as an example of a thing that would have been on the sheet, that's because bats are an animal that stick out in my mind as something that I definitely know is considered unclean by kosher laws. However, this book makes it clear that Isaiah constantly had owls on the mind because owls are always coming up as examples of things that are considered unclean animals and so it's supposed to be a sign of scorn and shame that your city will be torn down and then owls will go and live there. There's some other animals as well that I'm gonna that I think we'll probably get back to but...
C: I honestly cannot imagine anything more intimidating than someone rolling up on me and being like, "Is that your house? Because I'm gonna put a screech owl in there."
B: Yeah, gonna sweep that away with the broom of destruction, which is, why is that not the title of a metal album?
C: The next thing I wanted to mention was that we talk about puke a lot.
C: There's a lot of vomit in the book of Isaiah.
C: We get up into chapter 19 verse 14, "The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of confusion. The leaders have made Egypt "Stagger in all she does as a drunkard staggers in his vomit." That's not the only time we get a line about staggering and vomit in this.
B: Yeah, it's true, there's a lot of talk about drinking. There's a surprising number of references to beer throughout the Book of Isaiah, quite a lot, actually. Yeah, a lot of drinking, staggering and vomiting.
C: Now, you went, as far as I know, pretty exhaustively into the the history of the historical Isaiah. You did not mention the part where he was naked and barefoot for three years?
B: Yeah. As my servant I said that.
C: That's definitely in chapter 20 verse 3.
B: Yeah, it doesn't come up again. But yeah, it's symbolic action to show mourning. Like, sackcloth is not enough. You gotta be naked. And so it just represents humiliation of Europe. Egypt. Yeah, here we've got Kush, which is a region of the upper Nile, so Ethiopia, basically. So Kush is Ethiopia, and then Egypt. These are places where Judah could have looked for help, but again, they would have been leaning on earthly powers, and God is like, "Nah, man. Nah."
C: Again, I want you to take a moment. Imagine a naked man telling you that God's gonna put a screech owl in your house. And anything more terrifying than that.
B: With bared buttocks. Literally said so, yeah, full on butt naked.
C: Oh, "let us eat and drink for tomorrow we will die?"
B: Hey, yeah, there's-
C: That's in Isaiah.
B: There's one, yep.
C: This one I also thought was a good, a very good threat from Isaiah. "Look you strong man, the Lord is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, wind you up into a ball and sling you into a wide land. There you will die and there your glorious chariots will be a disgrace to the house of your Lord." That's some Stardust the super wizard stuff.
B: Yeah, I was going to say, I think I saw that episode of Popeye, but yes, that is, it's way more Stardust. Yeah, for sure.
C: He's going to pick up a strong man and turn him into a ball. Go bowling with him. I did. I also liked here in chapter 24, "Panic, pit and trap await you who dwell on the earth. Whoever flees at the sound of panic will fall into a pit. Whoever escapes from the pit will be caught in the trap."
B: It's great.
C: No getting out.
B: Yeah, man. And here's another thing. It's a pun. It's another pun because the three words are Pachad, Wapachat, and Wapach. Nice one, Isaiah.
C: Who knew the prophets were that into puns?
B: Yeah, man, they love them.
C: I am not a religious person, generally, but I do quite like all of Isaiah's talk about the incomprehensible majesty of God, where he's like, "Look, would you think it was okay for a pot to tell a potter, 'You didn't make me.' That pot doesn't know what it's talking about." it was made out of clay.
B: Yeah, man, it's good. He knew what he was doing in that, that Isaiah.
C: Yeah, we get all the way into chapter 40. Who will you compare God with? What likeness will you compare him to? To an idol, something that a smelter casts and a metal worker plates with gold and makes silver welds for it? I actually really liked this with him going like, "Yeah, you cannot understand this."
C: I had to have an angel with six wings come down and put a hot coal in my mouth to get to this point.
B: He really is going after these other nations. He's like, "These guys think they're strong. They're kissing up to a piece of metal. You can't contain God in a piece of metal. You can't contain God in a pole. You can't—uh, silver? Come on. No way. God is God. Silver is nothing."
C: Then we have—-this is a new contender for my favorite line—my favorite verse of the Bible so far. So right now it's beating out Peter calling down the Holy Ghost, it's beating out a porky party trying to figure out who Jesus was after arriving to that party about 10 minutes too late. Chapter 41 verse 24, "Look, you are nothing and your work is worthless. Anyone who chooses you is detestable." That's really laying it out.
B: Yeah, it really is. Also, that should be my new Twitter profile, probably.
C: It really should.
C: Now, in chapter 44, we get some hard monotheism that I know you wanted to talk about.
B: I do, yeah. Chapter 44, verse 6, "This is what the Lord, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts says, 'I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me.'" And here's the crazy thing about this that might surprise some people, maybe. This is chronologically the first clear assertion of monotheism in the Bible, which might sound wild because you're thinking, "Eh, the Ten Commandments, right? There's no other god before me." Well, if there's no other god, you wouldn't have to say that, right? You can just say, "There is no other god, only this god." Instead, you're saying, "There's no other god before me. Don't worship these other gods." it doesn't say, "Don't worship them because they don't exist." It says, "Don't do it." Right?
This is, this chapter 44 is from, this is from 2nd Isaiah. This is definitely in the exile period, and so it's at, really at this point that the idea of monotheism gets hammered down into Judaism, and that will become the key to post-exilic Judaism, and also of course Christianity then Islam eventually. Prior to this the Jews were not monotheists, they're what we would call monolatrists, which means not that they believed there was only one God but rather that they only worshipped one God. And that's gonna be a key element in earlier books as we go through and it's also part of why if you guys have enjoyed the wizard battles we've covered so far you can be happy to know those are not going to stop because various books of the Bible are going to contain God's prophets or other chosen people having to do miracle-offs against the priests of some competing God. Moses and Aaron do it. Elijah does it. It's going to keep happening. So if you like the wizard battles, good news they're going to keep coming because the ancient Jews were actually monolatrists and not monotheists. They believed there were other lesser gods that might provide powers to the priests of these other gods. Of course, by the time of the New Testament, most of those other gods are reduced to being demons rather than other gods, and so it's really demons that are powering Simon Magus, for example. But in the Old Testament, you've got competing gods. So here we have 44 verse 6, the first clear statement of real-for-real monotheism in Bible.
C: It also, on the subject of that, there is a part in chapter 46.
C: "Who will you compare me or make me equal to? Who will you measure me with, so that we should be like each other? Those who pour out their bags of gold and weigh their silver on scales, they hire a goldsmith and he makes it into a god. They kneel and bow down to it. They lift it on their shoulder and bear it along. They set it in its place and there it stands. It does not budge from its place. They cry out to it, but it doesn't answer. It saves no one from his trouble.
C: On the surface.
C: Very reasonable. Being like, "Hey, you can't worship this idol. This idol is not a god. It is a thing made by men." And we actually had a question from a listener, Dave Lartigue, an old online pal of mine who's been enjoying the show. He did want to know what the deal was with there being so many idols. And if you could just straight up go make something out of gold and be like, "Hey, this is a god now."
B: I mean, yeah, we saw that. In Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar did it, you know?
C: Is there any review process? Or what do you have to go through?
B: I don't know, could any Joe on the street do it? I don't know, maybe. Like if they could convince people of it, I don't know. Like what's the process for making an idol and turning it into a god? Yeah, I mean, certainly people were making them and it's just a matter of people being sufficiently convinced that there was some kind of numinous power within that piece of metal or stone or wood. He's really dragging idolaters here for sure.
C: So that's a surface reading, very reasonable. Another thing that I thought was: I feel like it's kind of a slippery slope for God to be like, "Hey, don't worry about it. I'm going to answer all your prayers." Because that's a house built on sand.
B: Yeah. Well, Chris, Chris, God answers every prayer. Just sometimes the answer is no.
C: I guess so.
B: Yeah, we skipped something. We skipped a little bit of an important thing, the Messiah. One thing that I can say for absolute certain, this book for sure prophesies the coming of the Messiah and names him exactly, and he definitely came and he definitely delivered the nation of Israel or Judah or both for sure, everyone knows him, we all know his name Chris, who is it who's the coming Messiah prophesied by Isaiah?
C: That's the boy Jesus.
B: No, incorrect. It's Cyrus the Great of Persia.
C: Oh, right right, okay, yeah, you got me, you got me ther.
B: Here we go: we see him chapters 44-45 there he is he says "To Cyrus my shepherd who will fulfill all my pleasure he says the Jerusalem she will be rebuilt and of the temple its foundation will be laid the Lord says this to Cyrus his anointed" there's our word right there the Hebrew word Mashiach. Yeah, that's the source of Messiah, his anointed one, "whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him to disarm kings, to open the doors before him and the gates will not be shut." Yeah, that's our boy Cyrus the Great, we saw him at the tail end of Daniel. He is the Persian emperor who rose up and he said, "Babylon, I'm coming for you." And he took them down and he liberated the Jewish people and he helped them rebuild their temple, leading to the Second Temple era, before the temple would later be destroyed again by the Romans. But yeah, so there's a very definite and clear Messiah here, and we know he's real, he's Caesar real, Cyrus the Great.
C: I did notice the word anointed, 'cause I know that's the big one.
B: Yeah, this is the one. There's a Messiah, clear, clear cut, no controversy. There he is, Cyrus the Great, the Messiah.
C: Chapter 47, we have some talk about sorcerers. Chapter 49, "I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh and they will be drunk with their own blood with sweet wine." That's some Dracula talk.
B: It is a little bit. Actually, while we're looking at 49, chapter 49 is part of a series of songs that we see in chapters 42, 49, 50, and then 52 and 53. They're called the Songs of the Suffering Servant, very nicely alliterative. And you might notice, if you pay attention to the headers in the different sections, they all mention the servants. So sometimes they're just called the servant songs. But the idea here is that God has some servant that he gives a mission and he is going to suffer greatly. The people will reject him. He will be physically harmed. However, he will come through. He'll receive a great reward and he'll fulfill God's will. And so of course there's some controversy about who that servant is. Naturally, Christians believe that He is Jesus and not Cyrus the Great, whereas for Jewish people that's obviously not a very satisfying conclusion. And so the idea is that the servant here is probably the nation of Israel itself, although that's maybe not great because we see Israel and Judah continue to have problems. So maybe it's referring specifically to the holy remnant that the book of Isaiah keeps talking about the holy people who will come in and restore God's kingdom and help him make Jerusalem the center of a worldwide kingship. Yeah, so the Song of the Suffering Servant, that's another, that's one element that is very commonly referred to by Christians later on as being about Jesus.
C: Chapter 54, verse 17, we get another one that's gonna be familiar. In the HCSB, it's translated as "No weapon formed against you you will succeed and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the Lord's servants and their righteousness is for me." I'm gonna guess that's translated slightly differently by old King James.
B: Yeah, it is. Yeah, you might recognize it from Carman. He quotes that one. "No weapon formed against you shall prosper." Yeah, absolutely. That's in there. I don't even remember what song that is. Is that one in, is that in Witch's Invitation? I don't remember.
C: Chapter 57, I marked off about 13 verses as basically being Isaiah yelling at horny teens.
B: Wow, yeah, alright.
C: This is the part where it says, "You have loved on their bed, you have gazed on their genitals, and sent them down even to Sheol." It's a little raw. It's a little raw for my taste.
B: It's pretty raw, yeah, for sure. Oh, but chapter 57 does include another common phrase in modern English. 57 chapter 21, it actually gets repeated later in 58, "but there is no rest for the wicked, says my God." That one might be familiar to you guys. It's a translated piece here, but that same idea.
Yeah, and in fact, yeah, throughout the book, there's a number of sources for common English expressions. We've hit on a couple of them. We hit on swords into plowshares, no rest for the wicked. I know you hit on a couple of other ones that I'm forgetting. Verse, or chapter 40, verse 15. "Ah, look, the nations are like a drop in the bucket." So that's the origin of that particular phrase, "drop in the bucket." This is not a common English expression, but this is a verse that I hear a lot that I actually really like. "Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." That one gets quoted fairly frequently, but even though I put it in my list of common expression origins? It's not one.
However, chapter 52 verse 8. Ah, here we go. This one, in order to get the expression, you've got to kick over to King James, which of course, King James is the most influential translation, so most of our common expressions are going to come from that. But if I go to King James for 52:8, it says, "My watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye." The origin of the phrase, to see eye to eye, right there in chapter 52. 57:21 we just did, and then 65:5 gives us... And again we got to go to King James for this one. They say, "Keep to yourself, don't come near me, for I am holier than thou." So that's the origin of that particular one. Also, "a voice in the wilderness" is in here somewhere, so that's another common expression. I didn't write the verse number down for that one. But yeah, Isaiah, majorly influential on the English language.
C: That's the thing that I was really happy about going through this because even though after those prophecies in Daniel, I was really worried that going into another major prophet was just going to be a bit of a slog because Daniel starts real strong then slows down at the end. But this one, just by virtue of the use of language and the facility of language, is really enjoyable to read. I had a lot of fun reading Isaiah. It's a long one, but it's good. That brings us to, as I said, the strong closer. And I think this is where we're gonna leave it. I don't think we're gonna do a specific reading each on this one, 'cause I feel like we've covered it all, yes?
B: Wait, I got one more. Can I hit one more? Because we talked about a number of recurring metaphors. One that comes up over and over in the book is birth. Birth as a metaphor, labor pains, and you're going to go through all this suffering and it's gonna come to nothing, right, is a common metaphor throughout the book. In chapter 26, verse 17 and 18, "As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so were we before you, Lord. We became pregnant, we writhed in pain, we gave birth to wind." That means they did all the labor and then they just did a big toot. And it's not even a fart joke. It is just a fart statement in the middle of, in the middle of this old book. Kind of undercuts a little bit of the, the solemnity of the, of the warning there.
C: Closing out Isaiah 66, 24, the last verse in the book. "As they leave, they will see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind." That's a strong closer.
B: Crushed, crushed, crushed. Yeah, good job, good job, Third Isaiah.
C: Yeah, heads up everybody. Don't mess, don't mess with Isaiah and his one God. So that does it for Isaiah. I think we kind of covered everything that we wanted to talk about.
B: Yeah, I think that's about it.
C: Super influential, super enjoyable to read. Hopefully we did a good job of explaining it. I know you got pretty deep into the history and I just wanted to read a bunch of Bible verses. In theory, we will bring those two ideas together for the future, but this being our first big prophecy episode, please let us know what you think and if this was listenable, as I hope it was.
B: I gotta say, I mean, it's a huge book. It's very beefy. We did what we could to hit the high points and I know we left things out and I'm sorry if we didn't hit your favorite verse. I'm sorry if you missed something. But hit us up on our Tumblr. At some point when we have maybe a shorter book to cover, we're going to really try and hit that altar call segment where we kind of answer some questions. I'm stocking up a couple on our Tumblr to answer in a future episode. So if we miss something that you'd like us to cover or that you were confused or concerned about, just hit us up on Tumblr and we'll try to get to it in a future episode.
C: That's going to do it for this week's Apocryphal. What are we going to talk about next? We going back to the New Testament?
B: Yeah, man, we're going to hit the New Testament again. I think we're going to try and hit something a little bit shorter for next week. And we're going to stay on the non-narrative train because there's only so many New Testament narratives. So we're going to hit an epistle. We're going to do Romans, Paul's epistle to the Romans. It should be very easy to find. It should be pretty easy to read compared to this one. It's much shorter and I think you'll hit a lot of verses that are familiar to you in that one.
C: If you've been listening to this show waiting to see if we are led to a conversion, Romans might be the one that does it.
B: It's the one. gonna do it, it'll be Romans, yeah.
C: Please join us back here next time for the Book of Romans. Before we get out of here, just real quick, we've talked about this on the show a little bit before, but for those of you who have been asking, yes, we do intend to have guests on the show to bring in some different perspectives so that it's not just two jugs of milk spewing violently, constantly. But rather than bringing people on for books of the Bible as a whole, because as you can tell, these conversations tend to take quite a bit of time. I think what we're going to do is we're going to have people come on to talk about very specific topics. We're going to ask people like, if there is a particular Bible story, if there is a particular Bible verse that they want to talk about. If it's something that we've already done on the show, then maybe we'll have them on to talk about it and go into some detail that we don't get to go to in the hopefully less than 90 minutes we have together every week, because I don't want to edit three tracks for an hour and a half long show. I'll tell you that right now. No podcast editing formed against that will prosper, I promise you. But we do intend to have guests and we are looking forward to bringing some different perspectives in. I think that's going to be a really fun thing to do once I am a little more fluent in the Bible and a little more familiar with some of the stories that we're talking about. Thank you for listening. Please join us for those episodes and our future discussions. If you want to catch up, Romans is the book that we're doing next and the HCSB translation is available online on Bible Gateway, so you can always check that out if you don't have a copy of that specific translation handy. And of course you can always read it in the King James, which you can find literally everywhere. For Benito Cereno, I've been Chris Sims. Peace be with you.
B: And also with you.
B: We did it.