I have finished the part of Goldingay’s book that surveys the contents of Isaiah.
My routine has been broken by baseball–staying up for extra-innings games and celebrating into the next day. That is over now. The Royals made me proud. But my routine will still be messed up for a while. I have to work and lead worship this week. Next week I am flying to Montana for a few days.
The result is that blogging will be light for a while.
In The Theology of the Book of Isaiah John Goldingay’s final collage or section is Isaiah 56-66. The historical situation and the addressees have changed again. Now Cyrus and the Persian Empire have acted as prophesied in the previous section. The exiles have returned to Jerusalem and face the task of rebuilding. These returnees are those addressed.
There is some ambiguity in this section. It helps to understand the context in order to puzzle this out. The ambiguity has to do with the attitude toward the nations. On the one hand, this section has the most positive prophecies about the non-Jewish world of any part of the Hebrew scriptures.
As for foreigners who become followers of the Lord and serve him, who love the name of the Lord and want to be his servants – all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, and who are faithful to my covenant. I will bring them to my holy mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray” (Isaiah 56:6-7 NET Bible).
But there is also the negative imagery in Isaiah 63:1-6. which ends with the splattering of the blood of the nations upon the ground.
The context, says Goldingay, is that Cyrus has already done what he did for the Jews. There is no new Cyrus to act as the arm of God. So God promises that in the case of new foreign threats he will intervene personally (see 59:16).
The historical situation is the same one where Ezra and Nehemiah take a stand against marriage to Gentiles. This Isaiah author does not directly contradict them, but implies that foreigners who attach themselves to Israel, especially by observing the Sabbath, do not fall under these restrictions. The background may be that the Sabbath was under pressure at the time so that it became the main marker of whether someone was obedient to God or not.
The earlier sections of Isaiah usually saw the nations in terms of superpowers on the geopolitical stage. That is also a consideration in 55-66, but there is a parallel concern for individual foreigners that is akin to the stories about Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah.