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Old Testament Survey - Lesson 27

Daniel, Esther, & Isaiah

In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

Douglas Stuart
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 27
Watching Now
Daniel, Esther, & Isaiah

The Exile:  Daniel, Esther and Isaiah

 

I.  Overview of Daniel

 

II.  Orienting Data for Daniel

A.  Style factor

B.  Dating

 

III.  Apocalyptic as a Category

A.  Visionary

B.  Great sweep of history

C.  Numerical coding

D.  Symbols

E.  Images

F.  Encouragement

G.  Prophet-angel / prophet-God dialogue

H.  Hidden truth is revealed

 

IV.  Overview of Esther

A.  Content

B.  Author

C.  Date

D.  Emphasis

 

V.  Themes and Issues in Esther

A.  Those who did not return to Judah

B.  Would God further punish His people

C.  Accommodating pagan ways

D.  No mention of God

E.  Not cited in New Testament

F.  Laws of the Medes and Persians

 

VI.  Second Part of Isaiah

A.  Message

B.  Zionism

C.  Reverse of the exile / reverse of the curse

D.  Comfort was there, salvation was not

E.  New Israel

F.  New creation

G.  Servant songs


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  • The purpose of this overview of the Old Testament is to focus on the content of each of the Old Testament books, the historical events that give context to the books, and specific questions that help draw out the overarching principles contained in the Old Testament. There is also an emphasis on identifying ways to use this material that can help people in their daily lives.

  • Genesis narrates ten stories that describe origins or beginnings. These include the origin of the “heavens and earth,” and the origin of specific families that are significant in God’s dealings with Israel and the nations.

  • Themes from selected passages in Genesis about which there are interpretations that differ greatly. These include Genesis 2 regarding creation of women and their roles, Genesis 6 about the "Sons of God," and Genesis 9 about the "curse of Ham." Other themes are the story of Abraham, and God as a punisher of evil.

  • The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

  • In this lesson, the concept of a covenant is defined as a legal binding agreement between two parties. In the ancient world there were many covenants. There were covenants between individuals, and even between nations. For example, a superior ruling king would make a covenant with a lesser vassal king. Covenants in the ancient near east contained the following six elements.

  • Does God punish the grandchildren for what the grandparents have done? Some people read these passages (Exodus 20:5, 34:7) and assume that they mean God punishes grandchildren based on their grandparents' sins. Unfortunately, they misinterpret these texts because they fail to understand the phenomena of numerical parallelisms. The Hebrew language favors parallelism, so that numbers which are close to other numbers will often be put in parallel to exhibit literary balance.

  • The historical books--Joshua, Judges, and Ruth--are essential reading for understanding how the bible views the progress of history. These books help us understand what the basic stages are in the progress of God’s relations with humanity. There is development, and progress in history we can refer to as epochs. This lecture provides an overview of redemptive history and a summary of the book of Joshua.

  • When discussing violence in the Old Testament it is important to discuss the concept of Holy War. This lesson does not suggest that Christians are soldiers first and nothing else since Christians are also called to be peacemakers. However, this lesson does put forward the idea that God is fighting a holy war. That is, God is seeking to promote blessing for all people by eliminating evil everywhere. The final enemy is death itself, and God is resolute on destroying evil and death. Holy war is a complex set of ideas that should be interpreted in light of the entire corpus of scripture.

  • In this lesson the extent of the conquest is discussed to frame the book of Judges. The orienting data for the book of Judges helps explain how the book recounts the decline of the people of Israel. Finally, the Dueteronomic cycle which recurs in the book is explained and helps frame Israel’s history up to the time of the exile.

  • After the division of the kingdom, 40 kings reigned during this period of the divided monarchy. Only three Kings reigned during the united monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. We might be able to assume the time period of the united monarch to be something like 120 years with each of the three kings reigning forty years. But the term “forty” in Hebrew means something like the English expression “several dozen.” That’s why we see the idiomatic expression “forty” so often in Hebrew literature.

  • David is a man after God’s own heart. How is this possible when he made so many moral mistakes? Being after God’s own heart does not mean David is morally upright, but that he has unwavering faith in the one true God of Israel. That is unique to David in these narratives. The narratives are clear that both Saul and Solomon conjoined belief in the God of Israel with the worship of other gods. David, however, is never portrayed as worshipping other gods or setting up altars to Idols.

  • In this lesson several key elements from the lives of Saul, David and Solomon are briefly reviewed. The rejection of Saul as King is explained. The rebellions against David are highlighted. And the disobedience of Solomon is described. Although these three kings are imperfect, God keeps the Kingdom of Israel unified throughout their successive reigns.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart provides an overview of the ten types of Psalms found in Scripture, a few suggestions regarding preaching through the Psalms, and addresses how we are to interact with the hystoricizing statements within the Psalms.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the structure of Proverbs, which seems to be the most secular book of the bible. Proverbs is a book of wise memorable sayings collected by Solomon. These sayings are collected from various individuals in Israel and the Ancient Near East and serve to provide wisdom for how to live in the world.

  • There is a chiastic structure to the book of Job that begins with the prologue and ends with the epilogue. In a chiasm, the middle portion is a convenient hinge of the book, it is not necessarily the most important piece of textual material. The main question the book is asking is, where do you find wisdom? The answer is, wisdom is found in the LORD. Proverbs is monological wisdom, whereas Job is dialogical wisdom. People are debating back and forth throughout the book about the nature of wisdom.

  • This lesson briefly describes existentialism as a philosophical movement in order to frame Ecclesiastes as an ancient type of existentialist literature. Existentialism tends to argue that this life is all there is. Ecclesiastes entertains these various perspectives in the first six chapters, which serve as a literary foil, before ending with a surprise for the reader—life does have meaning because there is a God who will judge our actions.

    There is a storyline to the Song. A clue is found in the term Shulamite, which in Hebrew can be translated as Mrs. Solomon. So this is a story about Solomon marrying his wife. It conveys some of the challenges Solomon and his wife face in coming together in covenant marriage. The beginning of the book outlines their engagement. In the middle of the book they get married, and the end discusses their honeymoon. What we see in the Song is the biblical ideal of a monogamous marriage, which, ironically, Solomon failed to live up to.

  • While it is difficult to preach through the prophets it can be done well if some basic views are taken regarding the prophetic books in general.

  • This lesson provide an overview concerning three contemporaries Prophets during the period of the divided monarchy at the end of the 8 th Century BCE.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the background and content of 2 Kings.

  • Historical context is vital when one moves to reading the prophets. After Solomon’s death in 931 BCE, the kingdom of Israel undergoes an extended period of civil war as rivaling leaders take control of the northern and southern regions of the kingdom. Unfortunately, this split eventually becomes permanent. In the north the kings reigned for short periods and when compared with the southern kingdom of Judah this shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. This may have to do with the fact that the north is never ruled by a descendant of David. In addition, the north fails to worship at the Jerusalem temple, and decides instead to worship idols.

  • In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

  • An overview of the revival under King Josiah, the fall of King Josiah, and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Stuart provides an overview of Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and how they each relate to end times and God’s eternal reign.

  • Lamentations is a massive, huge, compound, complex lament that seeks to help God’s people see God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.

  • Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

  • An overview of the background to the post-exilic books including the necessity of the temple and the role of the Persian empire in it’s rebuilding.

  • An overview of Haggai and Zechariah, the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple, the encouragement of God’s people to put the things of God first, God’s sovereignty, the need to be faithful, the nature of God’s covenant, and God’s promises being fulfilled.

  • A look at the latter days, the closing of the prophetic cannon, and the books of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and tells us the stories of people whose lives still affect world events today? Are you familiar with the Old Testament prophets that describe in detail the characteristics of the Messiah and the events that happen when he comes, hundreds of years before they take place? Have you ever read the Old Testament books of poetry and wisdom literature that contain inspirational and instructional passages that we still use today to inspire, comfort and inform our lives during life events, and are ubiquitous in both classic and contemporary literary works?

In Dr. Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, he guides you through each of the Old Testament books by giving you the historical background, major themes and insight into the stories, characters and teaching of the book. In the historical books, you will become familiar with Old Testament Names like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David. In the Old Testament prophets, Dr. Stuart will introduce you to the lives and messages of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others. When you study the Old Testament books of wisdom literature, Dr. Stuart will give you insights into the teachings, structure and creativity in Proverbs, Psalms and other books in the Writings.

From the description of Creation in Genesis, to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the Old Testament contains stories and teachings that can inform, inspire and transform your life. Dr. Stuart’s years of training and his skill in communicating, provides you with this opportunity to study and learn from one of the best. Now it’s up to you!

You may download a syllabus for the class including the Course Outline by clicking on the link in the Downloads section. We do not have access to the notes or the 130 exam questions that he mentions in the lectures. The Syllabus is from the SemLink class that was originally offered online through Gordon-Conwell Seminary so you can see the class outline and suggested readings. The links are not active. If you want to participate in the assignments and tests and earn credit, you may contact Gordon-Conwell Seminary to find out if they still offer this class.

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes. Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Course: Old Testament Survey

Lecture: Daniel, Esther, & Isaiah


I. Overview of Daniel

Here is an overview look at the way Daniel is structured. It is really very visibly bifid. You have six chapters of stories about Daniel and then six chapters of apocalyptic prophecy. I am going to talk about apocalyptic very shortly and what its basic characteristics are. You have the various stories. If you have ever read through the book, you know about all the ways in which there are challenges and dangers for Daniel or opportunities for him to interpret dreams that help you appreciate the nature of what is coming. All the themes of those are that the world empires must eventually give way to God’s empire.

Then with chapter 7 you start in the apocalyptic visionary material. You notice that there are three chapters that are each individual visions, 7, 8, and 9, and then a big, single three-chapter vision in 10-12, so the second half also kind of divides. It is all very neatly structured. Daniel may not have had these things happen in the order that they are given. They have been ordered more thematically and structurally than chronologically perhaps, but we do not know that for sure. Although, there appears to be a general, chronological order from earliest to latest in the first half, so that could be also true in the second as well.

The point of all of these visions is that whatever is happening now, whatever is going on with all these great nations and these superpowers of Daniel’s day, it will not last. It may take centuries, it may go from one nation to another, but in the final analysis there will be a special new kingdom, the kingdom of the Messiah, that is going to finally rule. It is going to eliminate all earthly kingdoms and it is going to last forever and ever. That is the great message of the Book of Daniel.

The sub themes of the first section are stories about faith under oppression, trusting in God during times that are hard, and continuing to pray. The big theme even of the first part of the book is, “Look, if you are God’s people, you don’t have to worry about the nation you are under. It can be a good nation, it can be crummy nation, you can be in times of relative freedom or times of horrible oppression; you know where things are headed. You trust in God and all will come right.” That is really what both parts of the book are emphasizing.

II. Orienting Data for Daniel

A. Style factor

First the style factor. Certain critical scholars have said, “These stories in the Book of Daniel are obviously folk stories. They aren’t historical.” That is a huge mistake. How you tell a story can vary enormously. You can tell a story that is perfectly true in a comic book format. Comic book strips are usually the kind of thing that are fictitious, but they do not need to be. Likewise, you can take pure nonsense and make it look historical. We could make up a story of how Hillary Clinton landed here in a flying saucer and came into class and pulled off her face mask and turned out to be an alien from the Andromeda Galaxy and was here to destroy the world and we overpowered her and saved the world. Pure nonsense, but we could do it in the form of a scholarly journal article with sections and headings and a huge bibliographical reference and excellent footnotes. The style of how you write something does not say whether it is historical or not. Do not ever be fooled by that.

Because Daniel is reflecting life under the foreign regime and in that foreign regime, it has the biggest Aramaic section in the Bible. Aramaic was the language most people were speaking. They were all from different linguistic groups and Aramaic was the lingua franca of the day.

B. Dating

1. There are some great doubts about the dating of Daniel.

2. The traditional date is that Daniel was written sometime around and about events that take place in the sixth-century BC. That is what it purports to be, as seen in the following:

a. The quality of the Aramaic.

b. The presence already at Qumran of fragments of the Book of Daniel.

c. Its immediate acceptance already in the Maccabean period when others think it was composed suddenly.

d. The knowledge of certain key details that are represented and probably were lost and again confirmed only by archeological excavation.

e. The tricky issues of Belshazzar’s co-regency again, not known anywhere in the ancient world as far as we know.

f. Lots of other kinds of details, etc.

C. Authorship

1. However, other people have said, “No, this book was made up in the Maccabean period.” That is a period in the second-century BC starting around 180-175 when the Jews were trying to revolt against the terrible oppressors called the Seleucids, a particular Greek empire.

2. Otherwise, the author would be Daniel himself because that is what the book seems to be and there is widespread agreement that a single person wrote all of this. So either somebody made it up in this Maccabean period and projected it back in time or that it really comes from that time.

III. Apocalyptic as a Category

I do want to address the characteristics of apocalyptic because it applies to both Daniel and some of Isaiah. It applies to Ezekiel, Daniel, parts of Isaiah, Joel and Zachariah. There are five Old Testament books that have a lot of apocalyptic in them. Apocalyptic is a type of literature that emphasizes that somebody has revealed to him how everything is going to turn out. It is the revelation of, the uncovering of, history from this point to the end. That is what apocalyptic means. Apocalypse means an uncovered thing. You can also say it is a revelation, a revealed thing.

A. Visionary

First of all, apocalyptic is visionary. It has lots of visions in it. Just as you would expect in the second half of Daniel, the apocalyptic part, which is loaded with visions.

B. Great sweep of history

Secondly, it deals with the great sweep of history. Apocalyptic literature is saying, “Let me tell you how history goes from now to the very end.”

C. Numerical coding

It tells you through a lot of numerical coding. It is very common to get seventy of this and three and a half of that and four hundred and ninety of these and so on. Part of the reason is to say, “Look, God has decided how history is going to unfold. He has it all figured out. By way of these symbolic numbers we also give you the impression that if you really knew what these numbers meant, you yourself could add it up.” The question is, does the numbers really have enough information to tell you that? People have always tried to crack the codes but not always with much success. Some have argued, “No, the numbers are too hidden. They are just ways of saying God has it all numbered and that is what we are to understand.”

D. Symbols

There are also a lot of symbols.

E. Images

You have statues, you have images, and you have things that people see.

F. Encouragement

These statues and images and visions and so on of figures and events, they all give you a feel, they are all devices for giving you an understanding of what history is going to do, what is going to happen.

This gives encouragement. How does it give encouragement? It is not easy to be in a situation that is rotten because you are a believer. Many people live in those situations today with their faith crushed and living in oppression. A lot of the world just looks at the freedom we have to be religious in any way we want and is amazed by it. That is not their experience; they have never known that. So if you know that what you believe is true and that God is unveiling how it will all come to fruition so that your faith is rightly placed, that is very encouraging. If you know that the nations now oppressing you will one day be eliminated, that is very encouraging. So it does encourage you in hard times.

G. Prophet-angel / prophet-God dialogue

There is often a prophet-angel dialogue or a prophet-God dialogue because what happens is a progressive unveiling in apocalyptic literature. The prophet sees something, a scene God lets him see, a vision or whatever, and he says, “What does this mean?” and it gets explained. You will see that question and answer format all over the place in these kinds of books.

H. Hidden truth is revealed

It is true; it is just that it was not generally known. You get in on it if you are the prophet and your job is to convey it to others. This gives certainty for the elect. If they know they are going to win, it is nice; it is good to have that encouragement. That is important to know that if you are God’s chosen people based on your faith in him, then there is no doubt about the outcome. I list four of the major Old Testament books because Joel has the fewest of these characteristics and then the Book of Revelation which is loaded with them. The apocalyptic can be in one part or the other. Daniel is a bifid book, in Daniel the apocalyptic comes at the end. Zachariah is a bifid book, in Zachariah the apocalyptic comes at the beginning. There is no special thing in the way it has to be located, just be aware that it can be in either place.

IV. Overview of Esther

Esther is a book that gets misunderstood a lot.

A. Content

It tends to get interpreted exemplaristicly. What do we mean by that? What tends to happen is that people say, “I want to see what Esther had and I want some of that.” Many women have Bible studies and they want to be more like Esther. The problem is that Esther is a mix of good and not so good. God is using her the same way He uses many characters in the Bible who are not consistently exemplary. He uses them for His purposes. You have to watch that and not just say, “Well, if Esther did it, it must be good.”

1. It is a story about how Jews escaped an extermination during the Persian Empire; a war of extermination that is planned against them. This is during the time of a king named Xerxes who, as far as we know, reigned about 486 to 463, 464 or so BC.

2. Esther is a Jewish woman who became a queen and, with the help of her cousin/stepfather (he is her cousin but he adopted her), helps preserve the Jews. That sounds great and is great; it is a wonderful thing and a blessing of God.

B. Author

1. Probably written by some fifth-century Jew.

2. Prominent in the civil service because of his vast ability to quote from the Persian records. There were a number of Jews in the civil service; Daniel was the most prominent. Remember that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Daniels associates, are as well. So this tradition was there.

C. Date

1. Most of it takes place during a single year, so probably near the end around 470 or 465.

2. It could have been written down later; that is always possible especially because of its connections with the feast of Purim.

D. Emphasis

1. How Jewish people and Jewish identities survive in a hostile culture.

2. The importance of remembering that God was merciful to a whole group of people. It is very easy to say however, “Oh good, the Book of Esther represents a wonderful story of faithful people trusting in a reliable God.” Esther is in a tradition of several Biblical characters who have a kind of a up-and-down story to their life. There are a lot of Biblical characters like this. A number of characters, out of the dozens whose stories we know quite a bit about, have this kind of situation. They are in a position of honor of some kind that is challenged and then vindicated and even enhanced.

V. Themes and Issues in Esther

A. Those who did not return to Judah

More important, what kinds of questions is Esther answering? One of the questions is this: What about the Jews who did not go back with people like Zerubbabel and Jeshua, who did not answer the call of God as it is made in Isaiah, but who stayed, who accommodated, who fit into the Persian Empire? There were many who did. Esther tells you that side of the story. Focus back to Judah as people return from the exile and go back to Judah and rebuild the temple and so on. Most of the rest of the Bible is going to focus on that. Esther is special in that it focuses the secularized or paganized Jews. God’s call was to go back to Judah; go back, live there, rebuild, build the temple, worship there again and so on. That is the official call. Thousands did follow, but Esther tells you about those who did not.

B. Would God further punish His people?

It also answers the question, would God further punish His people? You have the exile and all of that. Is He going to do something beyond that? The answer is, no He is not. He will not let that happen because their punishment was plenty.

C. Accommodating pagan ways

It also describes accommodationism. These are Judeans, these are not Jews, you have to be very careful. Esther is less than ethical about many things. For example, she gets to be queen by trying out as one of the one-night stands of the king. What King Xerxes did was to have a new woman come in every night to his bedroom and if he liked her he might keep her around for awhile, if he did not he would send her off to be a palace worker; she would be one of the servants in the palace. Esther is very eager to please the king so she asks, “What can I do? What’s the tricks? What does he like?” The harem keepers are only too happy to help her because that makes them look good. She pleases the king very much and eventually gets to be queen through a series of circumstances that the storyline describes for you pretty well. But, this is not some specially godly desire on her part; to be a Persian queen, married to a non-Jew, administrating things, yet God does use her in a good way.

D. No mention of God

Interestingly, the book does not even mention God. No mention of Yahweh, no mention of Elohim, or any of the other names for God. That is usually purposeful. When you get that kind of thing in a narrative anywhere, it is usually because you are in a secular setting and the people there are nonbelievers. It is a part of style that Moses used already back in Genesis. If you do not have any mention of any name of God, you also are implicitly being told that this was a secular context. These are Jews ethically now, but not religiously. That is important.

E. Not cited in New Testament

Esther is not cited in the New Testament, not because it is not a legitimate book but because it is not a book that tells you about how to have faith, it is a book that shows you God’s faithfulness in not further punishing His people but protecting them. Thus, the danger is exemplarism. You will say, “Oh well, I’m going to copy what is going on in Esther,” and that is not really what is going on.

F. Laws of the Medes and Persians

It also does demonstrate how you can get around the laws of the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians had this system that said law should be about people and you should not allow a king to change the law, otherwise, they will do whatever they want. So, laws once made could not be broken. But what Esther shows in the story is the fact that you can always figure out a counter law and pass that. In the story of Esther a character named Haman gets the king to believe that a good thing to do would be proclaim quietly and secretly that everybody throughout the Persian Empire had a legal right at a certain time to attack the Jews. How are you going to handle that? Once the king makes such a proclamation what is he going to do? He can make another proclamation privately and secretly that the Jews are ordered to be prepared for this, to know about it in advance, and to defend themselves. So when their anti-Semite neighbors come to kill them, the Jews are ready and waiting and they learn who their enemies are and they defend against them and it is total turning of the tables.

It provides freedom and stability for Jews because they eliminate their enemies. That is not a real peachy Christian message as you can guess, but it is a way of showing that God retains an interest in those people that He had already punished and His fairness will not allow them to be punished further.

After Esther, the story is going to focus back on Judah and on the Jews who really did believe that the faith direction is the direction of return to Judah and rebuilding and reestablishment of the covenant and of the sacrifices and the temple and so no. I think Esther is a very useful book; it helps you appreciate God’s actions, His steadiness, and His reliability. You just have to be awfully careful not to get a lot of religious guidance from Esther in that easy way you can get it from many other books. Statements made by people in other books will be right on target. You just have to be always much more cautious to realize that Esther and Mordecai are much more secularized; they are accommodationist Jews. If you see that it will still help you appreciate what is going on in the book.

VI. Second Part of Isaiah

Our last look is at the second part of Isaiah. Many of you know that in some circles this second part of Isaiah would simply be called 2 Isaiah. By that terminology people would mean a second author or group of authors writing long after the prophet who wrote the material in chapters 1-33. The person who wrote 1-33, of course, was prophesying in the late eighth-century BC. This prophet was prophesying during the middle of the sixth-century BC so he is one hundred and eighty years later or so. That is only one view so I am certainly not going to use that terminology. I am going to say instead that we do have another bifid book. We have the Book of Isaiah organized with the material that relates directly to that early period, the eight-century BC in one half, and then a nice dividing chunk, as we talked about before in the biographical material that involves Isaiah, taken from 2 Kings. Then we have the chunk that reflects what he preached about the exile and the period after the exile. Isaiah covered a lot of territory, a huge book, all these different time foci and it is grouped by foci—by what it focuses on.

A. Message

1. Hope during and after the exile. If you use that terminology of woe and weal which has been popular to use among scholars, this is the weal portion of much of the book.

2. It really picks up with chapter 40; 36-39 is the biographical part from 2 Kings and then 40 comes. 40-48 have the big theme of deliverance out of captivity. The exile is coming to an end, get out, and go back to Judah.

3. Chapters 49-55: the Messiah. It focuses on God’s Messiah and His redemption. How He pays the price so we can be right with God again.

4. Then 56-66 have great emphasis on Zion as the home of the redeemed.

B. Zionism

Out of this comes a term that is sometimes used, Zionism. Today Zionism often refers to modern Jews in the modern world feeling the call to become citizens of Israel. Actually, if you are a Jew, migrate to Israel, live and help out that in country, then you are the modern definition of zionism. Biblical Zionism is just a way of talking about this strong emphasis on the Jews who settled in as Jeremiah had told them; buy houses, live there; plant fields, grow fields; get married. You have got to remember it is going to be a whole seventy-year exile. Many had taken that so seriously and done it so well that they were right at home. When the Persians took over from the Babylonians, they were fairly nice emperors. It was not a bad empire. Many people could say, “You know, we are doing quite well. Yes we are not independent, and yes the Persians are the ones finally and ultimately in control but gee, the roads are good, the mail is good.” The Persians had an actual pony express system; an excellent mail system. There was a lot of prosperity for many Jews. They were hardworking and industrious and they did well. If you have a nice house and good farmlands somewhere in Mesopotamia, and your children have grown up there, they speak Aramaic, and they have friends, it is not going to be easy to go back to little Judah which is poor, empty, and the city is in ruins. Jerusalem was in ruins for a hundred years later. When Nehemiah comes back, the whole city is still in ruins. There is not much to go back to. It is going to be hard; you are going to have to try to build up a livelihood, all those years you have put into your fields in Mesopotamia are gone, you have got to sell those and go back. Not a lot of people wanted to do that.

So Isaiah is inspired by God just to hammer away and say, “You belong back in Judah. You belong back so you can worship at Mount Zion. That is where I want you to go; that is the focal point.” It is answering the question—what do you do now that the exile is over? It is clear what Isaiah says, “You are delivered from captivity, the Messiah is going to redeem you for all time, not just now. For now your call by God is to return home.” Can there be hope for those whom God had so severely punished? Yes, it is a glorious hope and a wonderful future. That is what Isaiah is doing. A lot of positive, warm, encouraging, glorious, and grand themes in the book.

C. Reverse of the exile / reverse of the curse

What is the expectation? The expectation is the reverse of the exile. When Isaiah originally predicted it in 720 BC, they did not even have an exile yet. They had had during part of his lifetime the exile of the north that occurred but not the exile of the south. So he is predicting that all of these things will eventually take place. The reverse of the curse. Also, he specifically talks about the Persians and about King Cyrus. It requires great faith though when he says it because it is way in advance even of the exile, let along the return. But Israel just has to get right with God, has to leave the land of captivity, and has to return to help rebuild Judah.

D. Comfort was there, salvation was not

What did many Jews do? Nothing, they stayed where they were. Comfort was theirs, but eternal salvation was not. You can preach that to people; there is a lot of parallels here. Many people are perfectly comfortable and they will be comfortable most of their life. They will die comfortably with plenty of Morphine to take away the pain. So comfort is available in modern times just as it was for many, many Jews in the Persian Empire but that is different from salvation. That is what Isaiah is trying to say. “Yes, it may be harder. Yes, it may be more challenging. Yes, it may involve difficulties. Yes, it is a long way to go. Yes, there is all these barriers to doing it but the will of God is to come home. Quite a contrast and great stuff there in the second part of Isaiah.

E. New Israel

You already see increasingly in Isaiah what Paul will pick up in a great way. You see the term Israel being broadened, the Israel of God, some of those concepts are there already in the second part of Isaiah. What is Israel? Who is His people? It is not everybody who is ethnically an Israelite; it is those who believe and respond in faith and come back to Orthodox worship. It is not just anybody who has the genes that cause him to be able to say, “I’m descended from Abraham.”

F. New creation

In addition, you have a great emphasis on the New Creation. A lot of New Creation language in the second part of Isaiah. So the theme of the New Creation that Paul and others bring up is not something that springs new with them; they are following the lead of what God already inspired through Isaiah.

G. Servant songs

Then the servant songs in chapters 42053 are a wonderful. By the way, if you look carefully, the servant really is a Moses figure. Themes like identifying with the people and exodus and all that. Those themes are there. Christ is the new Moses. He is a lot of things. He is the new Israel. He is the new Jacob. Christ is the new David. But among other things, he is the new Moses. Christ does a lot of things all at once. Thus, the suffering servant leads God’s people as Moses did, as Christ did. They are His body. That is not nearly as clearly played out in the Moses’ stories in say Exodus through Deuteronomy as you have it in Christ, but Moses is the representative of the people and so he suffers when they suffer. He does not say, “Well, that is your problem.” No, he always gets what they get. That is part of Moses’ involvement with the people, and you see that theme in the second part of Isaiah. He is their head; he suffers for them and Moses has some of that. He does not enter the Promise Land; they do. He is also vindicated by God on their behalf because of his faithfulness. These themes that are thin and partial in Moses, of course, and are full-blown and beautiful and complete in Christ. I do not mean to say that Christ is just anything; He is not just anything, but He is the ultimate fulfillment of some of the things that Moses is in on in this Moses language of the servant of God.