Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Brief Summary of the Book of Isaiah

When I was in grade school, I attended a Mormon seminary. The seminary teacher taught us that the Book of Isaiah is really complicated and hard to explain. Isaiah is an important book for the Latter Day Saints because it is quoted at length in the Book of Mormon. I decided to reread the Book of Isaiah and see if I could make any sense of it.

It helps to read it in a modern day translation, for as poetic as the King James Bible is, it's difficult to understand. There are more than 500 words in the KJV which have since changed their definitions. For example, "awful" originally meant "inspiring wonder," "by and by" meant "immediately," "profitable" meant "useful" and so on. Of course, Isaiah isn't going to make much sense if you read an out of date translation of it.

It turns out that Isaiah isn't that difficult to understand after all. There are a few confusing passages here and there, of course, but basically it's just an explanation of why Israel has been brought low with a prediction for future greatness. The Mormons, like most Christians, try to interpret Isaiah as being a prophecy about Jesus. This simply does not work if you take Isaiah at face value. It could be about Jesus if you read it metaphorically, but then again, it could be about absolutely anything at all if you read it metaphorically.

I've included a broad outline of Isaiah below. It's obviously not an in depth analysis, it's simply a humble summary.

Chapter 1 Israel has been overthrown because her rulers are greedy. Yahweh detests prayers, offerings, and religious assemblies.

Chapter 2 In the last days, there will be peace between all nations, but everybody will run and hide from Yahweh who is mad at them for making idols.

Chapter 3 Yahweh is going to destroy Jerusalem and Judah.

Chapter 4 Yahweh will clean Jerusalem and his glory will be like an umbrella over Mount Zion, providing shade during the day and protection from storms.

Chapter 5 Jerusalem and Judah are wicked, so Yahweh is going to destroy everything and start over.

Chapter 6 Isaiah sees a vision of Yahweh seated on his throne. The seraphim with six wings cleanse Isaiah's sin by touching a hot coal to his lips.

Chapter 7 A young woman (some translate this as virgin) will soon give birth to a son named Immanuel. King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel are marching on Jerusalem now, but the land of these two kings will be laid waste before Immanuel is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. Also, Yahweh will hire the king of Assyria to be a razor to shave off Jerusalem's beard and pubic hair.

Chapter 8 Yahweh commands Isaiah to impregnate a temple prostitute and name his son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (quick to the plunder) because Assyria will plunder Damascus and Samaria before the boy is old enough to speak.

Chapter 9 In the future, a child will be born in Galilee named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (or Elgibor, the father of Ad, ruler of Hashalom as the Dead Sea Scrolls have it). He will rule upon the throne of David in peace forever until the end of time. Yahweh will burn Israel and Judah and the inhabitants will eat their own children.

Chapter 10 After Yahweh is done using Assyria to destroy Jerusalem, Yahweh will destroy Assyria.

Chapter 11 A Branch from the stump of Jesse will judge with righteousness. He will slay the wicked with his breath. Lions will start eating straw. The scattered people of Judah will gather together again and destroy their enemies. The Euphrates River will dry up.

Chapter 12 Yahweh will be praised when he does this.

Chapter 13 Babylon is screwed.

Chapter 14 Israel will enslave the other nations and taunt Babylon. Even trees will taunt Babylon. Children will be slaughtered for their ancestor's sins. The Philistines will rejoice that Babylon is gone, but Yahweh shall destroy them too.

Chapter 15 Moab is screwed.

Chapter 16 Boy, is Moab screwed.

Chapter 17 Damascus is screwed.

Chapter 18 Cush is screwed.

Chapter 19 Egypt is screwed. Egypt will stagger about like a drunk in his own vomit.

Chapter 20 Yahweh commands Isaiah to walk around naked for three years because Assyria will one day lead Egyptian and Cushite captives away naked.

Chapter 21 Babylon is destroyed yet again. Also Edom and Arabia will be destroyed.

Chapter 22 Jerusalem is screwed. Yahweh will take Shebna, the palace administrator, and roll him into a ball and throw him far away.

Chapter 23 Tyre is screwed. Literally. The city of Tyre is a prostitute who will screw all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. All the money Tyre earns from her prostitution will go to Yahweh, which makes Him the Pimp Daddy.

Chapter 24 The whole world is screwed.

Chapter 25 Yahweh will prepare a rich feast for all people and swallow up death. Moab will be trampled down like straw in manure.

Chapter 26 Yahweh casts down the rich and raises up the poor. Yahweh has killed the other gods Israel used to worship, but the earth will soon give birth to her dead.

Chapter 27 Yahweh shall slay the great sea monster Leviathan with his sword. Jacob's guilt will be atoned once Israel stops worshipping Yahweh's wife Asherah.

Chapter 28 The tribe of Ephraim are drunks, so Yahweh will kill their leader and transform Himself into a crown. All tables are covered with vomit from the drunken priests and prophets. The people of Jerusalem have made a covenant with Sheol, the realm of the dead, but it will be annulled. Yahweh instructs farmers in the correct way to plant crops.

Chapter 29 Ariel, the city of David, will be destroyed, but so will all the nations that fight against her.

Chapter 30 Woe to those who go to Egypt seeking protection. Those who remain in Jerusalem will throw away their idols like a menstrual cloth and be protected. Yahweh sets Topheth on fire with His breath.

Chapter 31 Just in case you skipped past the last chapter, Yahweh will destroy those who fled to Egypt and protect those who remain in Jerusalem.

Chapter 32 The harvest will fail and the land overgrown with thorns and briers, but then the land will be fertile again.

Chapter 33 The sinners will suffer from a drought and be burned. The righteous will live in a mountain fortress and have plenty of water.

Chapter 34 Yahweh will destroy all nations. The stars will fall from the sky. Yahweh's sword is bathed in blood and covered in fat from lambs, goats, rams, and wild oxen. Edom will be set on fire and burn forever.

Chapter 35 The desert will blossom. The blind will see; the deaf will hear; the lame will walk; and the mute will speak. There will be a highway called Way of Holiness that only the redeemed can walk upon. There will be no lions or wicked people there.

Chapter 36 Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, besieges Judah and asks that they surrender. The besieged are forced to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine.

Chapter 37 Isaiah tells King Hezekiah not to worry for Yahweh will kill Sennacherib. The angel of Yahweh kills 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib runs away. Later his sons kill him while he is worshiping his god Nisrok.

Chapter 38 King Hezekiah becomes ill. Isaiah predicts that he will die. Then he says Hezekiah will live for 15 more years and Judah will be delivered from Assyria. As a sign, the shadow cast by the sun goes backwards ten steps.

Chapter 39 Hezekiah shows off all his treasures to messengers from Babylon. Isaiah predicts that Babylon will steal all this treasure and make Hezekiah's descendants into eunuchs.

Chapter 40 Yahweh will raise the valleys and bring down the mountains so all the land will be flat. People are like grass that withers, but the word of God endures forever. Yahweh regards all nations as worthless and less than nothing. People are like grasshoppers to Him.

Chapter 41 Yahweh destroys nations with his sword and bow.

Chapter 42 Yahweh is more powerful than idols. Yahweh hands Israel over to plunderers for not obeying His law.

Chapter 43 Those of Israel can walk through fire without being burned. Yahweh will destroy other nations as a substitute sacrifice to redeem Israel. Yahweh is the one and only God and there is no other savior. Yahweh has disgraced Israel because they have stopped making animal sacrifices to Him.

Chapter 44 Yahweh is the only god and it's dumb to worship idols.

Chapter 45 Yahweh is the only god and it's dumb to worship idols.

Chapter 46 Just in case you skipped past the last two chapters, Yahweh is the only god and it's dumb to worship idols.

Chapter 47 Babylon is likened to a virgin daughter whose nakedness will be exposed. Yahweh allowed Babylon to destroy Israel, but soon Babylon will be destroyed. Babylon's astrologers and sorcerers will be burnt up.

Chapter 48 Yahweh is better than idols.

Chapter 49 Yahweh will remember Israel and gather the exiles back together. He will force Israel's oppressors to eat their own flesh and become drunk on their own blood.

Chapter 50 The servant of Yahweh has suffered, but Yahweh will soon return to torment all who oppose him.

Chapter 51 Yahweh will rebuild Zion. The inhabitants of earth will die like flies, but Yahweh's salvation will last forever. Yahweh defeats the monster Rahab and cuts it into pieces.

Chapter 52 Yahweh will redeem Jerusalem.

Chapter 53 The servant of Yahweh is ugly and despised. He suffers for the sins of Israel.

Chapter 54 Yahweh has abandoned Zion, but He will return and rebuild the city with sparkling jewels.

Chapter 55 Yahweh will forgive all who abandon their wicked ways. Mountains and hills will sing and trees will clap their hands.

Chapter 56 Eunuchs and foreigners will be blessed.

Chapter 57 The righteous die so they may be spared from evil. Those who worship idols will be destroyed. There is no rest for the wicked.

Chapter 58 Fasting does not please Yahweh. Instead, one should free the oppressed, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.

Chapter 59 Yahweh isn't helping due to Israel's sins.

Chapter 60 All nations will either bring their wealth to Zion or perish.

Chapter 61 Israel will be rebuilt. Foreigners will be servants and the wealth of all nations will reside in Zion.

Chapter 62 Zion will be renamed Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and Beulah (married) for Yahweh will marry Jerusalem just as a young man marries a young woman.

Chapter 63 Yahweh makes his garments red with blood by stomping on all the nations like one treading a winepress. Yahweh was once Israel's Savior, but now he turns against them.

Chapter 64 Israel begs Yahweh to come back.

Chapter 65 Yahweh will punish most of the people of Israel for worshipping other gods, but will save a portion of them. Yahweh will create new heavens and a new earth and the former will not be remembered. The new people will live as long as trees, wolf and lamb will feed together, lions will eat straw.

Chapter 66 Yahweh will punish anyone who makes sacrifices to Him. He will execute judgment on all people with fire and with His sword. The dead bodies are eaten by worms and burned forever.


Anonymous said...

It's not about Jesus? Who do you think the child in the future that is called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Everlasting Father is?
I think you are taking some parts of this book too literally. Some parts are literal, but a lot of it seems to be metaphorical too. For instance, I don't think the part in 28 about planting crops is really just God stopping to tell people how to properly plant crops.I think it's probably more about comparing how one would plant crops to how one should behave in other aspects of life. That's just my interpretation, but c'mon, start asking questions about what you're reading! If something seems random, maybe there's more too it. The Bible is a mix of the literal and the metaphor. And just because something is metaphorical doesn't mean it can apply to anything. Metaphors symbolize something. They have to make sense to work, you can't just plug in any random thing and say it fits the metaphor.
I'm glad you decided to actually take the time to read through all this, but research is always helpful when studying thousands-of-years-old writings. As you say, some things don't translate well into the modern day, and that goes for context as well as phrases. Perhaps it's not quite as easy as you think.

Amandarrell said...

This was mainly a flippant post meant to point out how ridiculous it is to take the Bible literally. You're right; Isaiah is a very metaphorical book. I still don't think it's about Jesus, though. The Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Everlasting Father was supposed to rule upon the throne of David and reign over an never ending peace. Jesus never did that, unless he did so metaphorically. You think he did, I think he didn't. We'll just have to agree to disagree on that.