Isaiah: Chapter One | The Wolfe Notes

Welcome, Family! We're spending 2024 with the prophet Isaiah. While we claim no expertise, we're excited to sit with you as we both learn at the feet of Jesus. Each month, we offer a calendar that outlines daily exercises (adapted from Jenn Wilkin's Women of the Word Bible study process) to progress through Isaiah. Download January's calendar to begin with us and witness what we uncovered in our weekly "Wolfe Notes" postings.

Sheep in snow with text overlay that quotes Isaiah 1:18

Contents:

  1. Setting the Background of Isaiah Notes on author, time period, genre, audience, and purpose.
  2. Different versions Noting and clarifying differences in the KJV and ASV.
  3. Annotation Our thoughts, connections, clarifications, and questions on the chapter.
  4. Research On names of God.
  5. Summary An approximately twenty word overview of the chapter.
  6. Reflection Why I selected Isaiah 1:16 & 17 as my favorite verses.

Setting the Background

  • Author: Isaiah, but possibly also others. Though several authors may have recorded Isaiah's initially oral messages, the authority of the entire book is Isaiah. (Zondervan)
  • Time Period: Covers a 200 year span beginning in the later half of the 8th century during the reign of the four kings mentioned in Isaiah 1:1 (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah). Includes prophecy of future events and references previously transpired events. Written between 739 and 711 BC when Assyria was expanding and Israel was declining. (Zondervan & Bible Talk TV)
  • Genre: Prophecy & poetry. Isaiah's literary skills surpass all Old Testament prophets. It's difficult to outline and to read in one setting. Should be viewed as an anthology or collection of individual compositions. There is no smooth flow. (Bible.org & The Gospel Coalition)
  • Audience: Israel and specifically Judah. Isaiah was called by God to deliver His words. (Got Questions & Bible.org)
  • Purpose: To exhort people to place their trust in YHWH for their deliverance by predicting and historically demonstrating judgment which falls on those who don't trust and blessings for those who do. Details radical universal monotheism and a redemptive plan for all creation: one God, one world, one faith. (Bob Utley & David Malick both at Bible.org)
  • Interesting Facts: Isaiah reflects the overall structure of the Bible. The Bible has 66 total books; Isaiah has 66 total chapters. The Bible is divided into 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books; Isaiah is divided into 39 chapters that focus on plight and judgement followed by 27 chapters that focus on comfort, hope, and a life-giving Messiah. (God Can. God Cares)

Reading in Different Versions

Compare Bible translations using this post from GodsWord.org.

For each chapter, my goal is to choose two different types of translations from the chart: word-for-word, meaning-for-meaning, thought-for-thought, or paraphrase. 

For chapter one, I read in the King James Version (word-for-word) and the American Standard Version (word-for-word).  Any differences that stick out to me, are noted here.
  • Jehovah (ASV) vs. Lord (KJV). According to Carm.org, Jews began substituting YHWH or Jehovah with "Lord" to avoid mispronouncing God's name which they believed might risk violation of the third commandment "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain..." Exodus 20:7 KJV
  • Despised (ASV) vs. Provoked to anger (KJV). Verse 4. The Hebrew, naats, means "to spurn or treat with contempt". So, "despised" would be the more accurate translation here. We don't really know that God is angry, but can infer He would be.
  • His work (ASV) vs. the maker (KJV). Verse 31. The Hebrew, poal, means "doing, deed, work". So, the “what” instead of the “who” is referenced here. Regardless, the point is the same: the strong and the efforts of the strong will cease to exist.

Annotation

To annotate I:
  1. Print out a version of the Bible (this time the ASV) with wide margins.
  2. Add my highlighting code to the top. (Totally optional. I find it helps me quickly locate specific details and make sense of what I'm reading.) Find a highlighting code that makes sense to you. The one I use is:
    1. Pink for people.
    2. Orange for times.
    3. Yellow for events.
    4. Green for places.
    5. Blue for emotions.
    6. Purple for evidence of God.
  3. Highlight my way through the text.
  4. Jot down questions (?), clarifications (ABC), thoughts (*), connections (!).
  5. Add subheadings to note transitions in the text.
My questions, clarifications, thoughts, and connections follow. Quick answers I researched to find are in italics. Find more involved answers on the research day, denoted as "*R" here.
  1. Introduction (v. 1)
    1. The audience is Judah and Jerusalem
    2. A speaker is Isaiah who conveys a message from God.
  2. Problem (v. 2-9)
    1. Israel treats God with indifference. v3
    2. Why is God referenced in different ways? v4 *R
    3. Stricken (v5) = afflicted, smote (Hebrew) - (!A way God commonly disciplines and guides His children as evidenced in Judges and wandering the promised land.)
    4. Is God experiencing hopelessness? resignation? confusion? (*Perhaps He wonders if the correction of His unruly children is worth it - "Is this a fight I'm willing to fight?") v5
    5. Mollified (v6) = softened or eased
    6. *It's a pervasive problem and no cure is sought. v5&6
    7. What is the relevance of the simile regarding a booth in a vineyard and a lodge in a garden of cucumbers (v.8)? Both the booth and lodge refer to temporary, frail structures used for watchers to guard the fruit from thieves and animals. *So the simile here implies Israel offers an abandoned, temporary shelter in the midst of destruction. - Barnes
    8. Like Sodom and Gomorrah - completely destroyed v9
    9. Was there a difference between Sodom and Gomorrah? I always lump them together. v9
  3. God's Emotion (v10-15)
    1. Is there a reason that the word is given for Sodom and the law for Gomorrah? v10
    2. Is Isaiah being literal here? Surely descendants of Sodom and Gomorrah were not actually present? v10
    3. *God's indifference in verse 11 matches the Israelite's indifference in verse 5.
    4. Did God have enough of their sacrifices because they were offered insincerely? v11
    5. Did someone require them to go to God's courts or is it rhetorical? v12
    6. To trample my courts - indicates carelessness.v12
    7. Were these times appointed by God? v13 Yes. See Numbers and Leviticus.
    8. Why is God fed up with their rituals? v13 & 14 Offered insincerely. They went through the motions without conviction. - Pulpit; They were hollow and heartless. - Barnes
    9. Were their hands actually full of blood? Implies disgust from God. v15
  4. God's Instruction (v16&17)
    1. Wash, stop, learn. v16&17
    2. How will judging the fatherless lead to good? Does it mean instruction? v17 Govern, guide. "Children with absent fathers account for 63 percent of youth suicides, 90 percent of homeless and runaway children, 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, 71 percent of high school dropouts, and 85 percent of youths sitting in prisons." - Nancy Pearcey in The Toxic War on Masculinity 
  5. God's Ultimatum (v18-20): I can bring you back, if you choose & obey.
  6. The State of Israel (v21-23)
    1. God shows shock and dismay. v21
    2. Israel is completely polluted (v21), full of selfishness (v22).
  7. What Will Happen (v24-31)
    1. Why the different names of God? v24 *R
    2. *What you wanted and sought after will amount to nothing. v25-31
    3. What do the oaks and gardens represent? Are the transgressors and sinners ashamed of the oaks because they bring stability and the gardens abundance? v29-30 The oaks and gardens represent nature worship. - Cambridge
    4. Tow = weak and powerless v.31 - Cambridge

Research

An * denotes my own thoughts.
Why is God given different names?

  • 26 names of God are given in Isaiah across 174 occurrences. The top 4 names are: Lord of Hosts, Holy One of Israel, Sovereign Lord, and Redeemer. (For a list of all the names, scroll to the bottom of Dan Flynn's article, "God's Names in Isaiah".)
  • The four mentioned in Isaiah 1 are the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, Lord of Hosts, and the Mighty One of Israel.
    1. The Lord
      • Shows power, authority; or denotes the master or ruler - Oxford Languages
      • The - *indicates only one!
      • Master, Lord, Owner - Barnes
      • *This title reminds us who has ultimate power and authority and to whom everything belongs.
    2. The Holy One of Israel
      • We treat this casually, but the truth is: He is "pure-to-the-core, unquestionably perfect, upright in all His ways" - Flynn
      • When the Bible characters encounter God, THEY FALL DOWN in reverence and fear. - Flynn
        • Genesis 17:1-3 ASV: And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect...And Abram FELL ON HIS FACE...
        • Joshua 5:13-15 ASV: ...when Joshua was by Jericho, ... he lifted up his eyes...and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or four our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as prince of the host of Jehovah am I now come. And Joshua FELL ON HIS FACE to the earth, and did worship...And the prince of Jehovah's host said unto Joshua, Put off thy shoe from thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.
        • Revelations 1:16-18 ASV: And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I [John] saw him, I FELL AT HIS FEET AS ONE DEAD...
      • Israel delights dwelling on this name of God, resounding with ideas of consecration, purity, and holiness. A corrupt people must be reminded of this truth. - Ellicot
      • *This title reminds us to fear (reverence) Him.
    3. Lord of Hosts
      • Actually Lord Sabaoth, which combines Yehova (Lord) and Sabaoth (a Greek transliteration of Saba which means "of hosts or armies") - Flynn
      • A reminder that God will win the battle. Revelations 19:11-21 - Flynn
      • Reminds us of the limitless power of God (Flynn) and that he is able to accomplish what He threatens, as Isaiah reminds the Israelites about Sodom and Gomorrah in verse 9. - Barnes
    4. The Mighty One of Israel
      • *Reminds us that He is stronger than any other and that His strength is for us.
      • He will use that strength to take vengeance or to save. - Barnes and Jamieson-Fausset-Brown
      • Also used in:
        • Isaiah 49:26 ASV: "And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I, Jehovah, am thy Savior, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."
        • Isaiah 60:16 ASV: "And thou shalt also suck the milk of the nations, and shalt suck the breast of kings, and thou shalt know that I, Jehovah, am thy Savior, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty one of Jacob."
        • Genesis 49:24 ASV: But his [Joseph's] bow abode in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong, By the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel)
        • Psalms 132:2 & 5 ASV: How he sware unto Jehovah, And vowed unto the Mighty One of Jacob:; Until I find out a place for Jehovah, A tabernacle for the Mighty One of Jacob.
  • On Isaiah 1:4
    • Progression of the actions undertook by the Israelites - forsake, spurn, apostatize - show the growing stages of evil. - Ellicott
    • Various names used for Israelites:
      1. Nation: "Ah, sinful nation..." Shows the extent (Barnes) and consistency (Gill) of their corruption. Using the word nation reminds them that they were called to be holy, but they are now sunk in sin and wickedness. (Pulpit)
        • Exodus 19:6 ASV: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation...
        • Leviticus 20:26 ASV: And ye shall be holy unto me: for I, Jehovah, and holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that ye should be mine.
      2. People: "...a people laden with iniquity..."  People is a peculiar designation of God's elect nation. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown). Here, they are being reminded that their burdens were too heavy to bear (Pulpit), even though they didn't feel or complain of their burdens (Gill). They had no sense of their sin but were under the guilt and bondage of their sin (Poole). 
        • Hosea 1:10 ASV: Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, YE ARE THE SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.
        • Psalm 38:3-4 ASV: There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine indignation; Neither is there any healthy in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: As a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
        • Matthew 11:25 ASV: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
      3. Seed: "...a seed of evil-doers..." Seed of Abraham; Genesis12:7 - (Poole & Jamieson-Fausset-Brown). Children of wicked parents whose guilt they inherit and example they follow (Benson)
        • Genesis 9:9 ASV: And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you and with your seed after you;
        • Isaiah 14:20 ASV: Thou shalt not be joined with [the kings of the nations] in burial, because thou has destroyed thy land, thou has slain thy people; the seed of evildoers shall not be named forever.
        • Galatians 6:7 ASV: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
      4. Children: "...children that deal corruptly!" Adopted by God. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown) Moral and doctrinal corruption within themselves (Pulpit) who then corrupt others (Gill, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown & Poole)
        • Hosea 11:1 ASV: When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
        • Isaiah 1:2 ASV: Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for Jehovah hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
        • Genesis 6:12 ASV: And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
  • On Isaiah 1:24. The word "saith" is more accurately "whisper". The whisper combined with the list of the names of God work together to create a solemn mood.
*Conclusions: The many names of God serve to remind Israel of who He is. The many titles for Israel serve to remind them of who they are. Together, it is to show the relationship between the two. They are woven together.

Summary

God outlines Israel's corruption with disgust. He pleads that they return to experience restoration. If not, they choose destruction.

Reflection

My favorite verses are 16 & 17:
Wash you, make you clean; put away your evil doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Here, God directly instructs us. If we are to be His followers, then this is what we are to do:

  1. Get clean.
  2. Put away evil.
  3. Learn to do good.
    1. Seek to do what is right.
    2. Relieve the oppressed (poor and needy).
    3. Guide the fatherless (ones who don't know God).
    4. Plead for the widow (the forgotten, unprotected, the lonely).

In Closing


Father God, You alone are holy and demand our holiness. You ask us to listen and willingly obey. Willingly, I come because I know I need Your guidance and correction. Wash me, Father, make me whiter than snow. 

Learning with You,

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*Winter sheep image from Pixabay

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