Isa 62:6-12

   Print this page

Background to the Book of Isaiah

The last eleven chapters of the book of Isaiah, after a period of neglect by scholars, are now the focus of renewed interest. B.Duhm in 1892 first focused attention of Old Testament commentators on Isa 56-66 when he proposed that these chapters were written by a different hand and at a different time from the material in Isaiah 40-55. Duhm believed that the author of Isa 56-66 had two emphases which were very important: Sabbath worship and fasting.

Isa 56-66 contains radical proposals for an inclusive community based on faithfulness rather than on blood line. The composition of the community described in Isa 56-66 has changed from that previously accepted in the Hebrew Scriptures. We note two important differences: foreigners and eunuchs are included in the worshipping community; and the nation of Israel no longer can regard itself automatically as the ' chosen people'. Instead, inclusion as part of God's chosen people is dependent on a person's faithfulness and response to Yahweh rather than on biological descent.

Isa 56-66 has been used as the basis for a number of discussions on the genesis of certain groups within Judaism: for example, Pharisees, Samaritans, a Levitical Prophetic group and others. One notable scholar who explores the issue of diverse groups/parties within post-exilic Judah is Hanson. However, a secondary issue evolved in which Hanson uses Isa 56-66 to prove a conflict between two parties, one of which is epitomised in chapters 56-66. This proclamation may confront the exclusive theology expounded in Ezek 40-48 and Nehemiah. Whether this is the precise historical setting of the reader or not, Isa 56-66 is constructed to defend an inclusive group against the actions of those who want a 'pure' Israelite community. This does not necessarily imply that there is a cohesive unity in Isa 56-66, but that the author has used different genres from various periods and allowed them to stand side by side. We take seriously the final literary form, without denying that the material may have come from many different sources and historical situations.

The creation of the book probably took place around the time of Ezra/Nehemiah (400 BCE).

Literary Comments: xThe whole book of Isaiah has been divided up into three main sections which appear to reflect preaching from different historical periods. Chapters 1-39 are often referred to as the prophecies from Isaiah of Jerusalem and cover the periods shown in the table in last week's background Section. Chapters 40-55 speak to the exiles, offering forgiveness and a strong encouragement to move back to Jerusalem. It contains some of the most beautiful language and a comprehensive theology of God as creator and redeemer. The remaining chapters 56-66 speak to a later post-exilic situation addressing quite different concerns to those expressed in Isa 40-55.

A literary Structure which is quite helpful is that first proposed by N.K. Gottwald, The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Litery Introduction. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

56:1-8 - Proclamation of salvation for foreigners
       56:9-57:13 - Indictment of wicked leaders
                  57:14-21 - Salvation for the people
                      58:1-4 - Indictment of corrupt  worship
                             58:1-15a - Lament/confession over sins
                                    59:15b-20 - Theophany judge/redemption

                                                                       60-62  - Fully redeemed people

                                    63:1-6 - Theophany judge/redemption
                              63:7-64:12 - Lament/confession over sins
                        65:1-16 - Indictment of corrupt worship
                 65:17-25 - Salvation for the people
           66:1-6 - Indictment of wicked leaders
66:7-24 - Proclamation of salvation for foreigners

Context of Isa 62:6-12

The lectionary verses for Old Testament come at the end of the section Isa 60-62. Note above that this is the centre of Isa 56-66 and speaks of a fully redeemed people back in Jerusalem. Surrounding these central chapters are verses describing appearances of God proclaiming judgement. The emphasis in Isa 60-62 is on the consequences of God choosing to let his glory rest on Jerusalem. The images of light and radiance permeate these chapters which combined with the descriptions wealth leave us in no doubt about the restored splendour of Jerusalem. Even foreigners will come, bring their wealth and be subjugated to the Israelites. God is the provider in control of creation, history and their redemption. The relationship is described "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you." The shock as one moves into Isa 63 is quite profound because here we have another strong statement of judgement because there was no-one to help; the people had all abandoned their God. Isa 63:7ff reminds the people of how Yahweh had redeemed them and cared for them but the people had rebelled. The people even want to blame God for their apostasy.

Insights/Message of Isa 62:6-12

Literary structure:mxxxxx The poetry emphasises the message by the repetition in the second line of the idea stated in first line. Vv. 6ff. describe the glory of Jerusalem because the Lord has decided to restore her so that she will be a sign to all around. The promise in vv.6-9 states that the enemy will never again be in a position to eat and drink that which is rightly the property of Israel. The language in vv.10-12 recalls Isa 40:1 (prepare the way, build up the highway) and a direct quote in v.11. Furthermore, vv.10-12 now instruct them to act after they have heard the great promises of salvation in the earlier chapters (60-62:5).

Message / Theology. xxxThe Lord will establish Jerusalem. This is a certainty because it is not dependent on the people, but on God who declares that it will happen. This declaration of what God will do in Jerusalem is an encouragement to the people who might be feeling despondent. Isa 40-55 had promised a great and glorious return and the let down when the people saw the state of Jerusalem probably made them despondent. The prophet wants them to rebuild Jerusalem in order for it to be a sign of hope for others who might still be in exile and who are reluctant to return because the city is still in ruins and living conditions are hard. The prophet reminds the people that they have to be persistent in their faith (v.6) and in turn the prophet reminds God also to take no rest until Jerusalem is established.

On Christmas Day it is a declaration to tell of the salvation which has come in the form a babe in a manger. It might be helpful to pick up the theme of persistence from Isa 62:6-7 in that God was persistent enough to give of self in the birth of Jesus. The reminder to many when Christmas can be a time of despair not joy that they also must be persistent and keep faith.

My guess is that most people will not use the Old Testament reading at all on Christmas Day. If any text is used from the Old Testament it is more likely to be the Psalm 97 which is one of exaltation to the reign of God. This psalm would make an excellent opening Call to Worship.

Worship: Psalm 97 is a joyous psalm which can be used as a Call to Worship and praise

Resources: Commentaries

The Old Testament Guides (OTG) by Sheffield Academic Press are an excellent small resource which give many suggestions for readings on particular aspects in the book.

The New Interpreter's Bible is another very helpful resource and published in the late 1990's - 2002 is more up to date than some earlier works.

Brueggemann, Walter. Isaiah 40-66. Westminster BC. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, c1998.
Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. OTL. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Emmerson,Grace I. Isaiah 56-66. OTG. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992.
Hanson, Paul D. Isaiah 40-66. Int. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox, 1995.
Muilenburg, James, and Henry Sloan Coffin. "The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66." In The Interpreter's Bible. 5:381-773. New York: Abingdon Press, 1956.
Oswalt, John. The Book of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66. NICOT. Grand Rapids, Mich. W. B. Eerdmans, 1998.
Scullion, John J. Isaiah 40-66. OTM. Wilmington, Del. Michael Glazier, 1982.
Thompson, Michael. Isaiah Chapters 40-66. Epworth Commentaries. Peterborough: Epworth Press, 2001.
Tucker, Gene. "The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66." In The Interpreter's Bible. 6:307-552: Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.
Watts, John. Isaiah 34-66. WBC. Waco, Tex.: Word Book, 1987.
Westermann, Claus. Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary. OTL. London: SCM Press, 1966.b
Whybray, R. N. Isaiah 40-66. NCB. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott; Grand Rapids, Mich. W. B. Eerdmans, 1981, c1975.
Young, E. J. The Book of Isaiah: The English Text, with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. NICOT. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans, 1972.

Web sites with helpful lectionary resources: