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Old Testament Exegetical Paper - Isaiah 62

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The prophet Isaiah lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah in the 3rd century B.C. He had a reputation as an uncompromising prophet who did not soften his words of condemnation and urge to make changes (Stafford 616). The nation of Judah stood in a precarious position: the wickedness of the people, the civil war which divided the Israelites into two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the neighboring countries which stood by, threatening war and the dilemma that faced the leaders about whether or not they should take on allies all indicated the downfall of the nation of Judah if the people did not heed his words and change their ways. According to The Interpreter's Bible, Isaiah 62 was written in the later part of the prophet Isaiah's life. By this time, Judah had been attacked and invaded by the Babylonians. Many of her fortified cities lay destroyed with their walls torn down, conditions in Judah and Palestine were unstable and Jerusalem lay desolate and ravaged ("Conditions in Palestine" 397). It is here that the cry goes out, " For Zion's sake I shall not remain silent..." (NIV Isaiah 62:1).

I always interpreted the "I" in the passage to signify YHWH. The Lord God had finally had enough. He had seen Jerusalem fall, suffer and had now come to redeem it and restore it to its former glory, give it a new name. However, there is another point of view that seems to be the more accepted: "I" does not refer to the Lord but to the prophet (Watts 311). This changes the interpretation considerably! The prophet seems to be making an urgent declaration that he will not keep silent any longer. He will pray and preach till the Lord breaks his silence and once again establishes Zion's legitimacy. Not only that, but he mentions a new name that will be given by YHWH alone (Isaiah 62:2).

The noun 'Zion' appears 163 times in the Bible, 150 times in the Old Testament itself. Most references to Zion take place in the books of Psalms, Lamentation and Isaiah. Its first appearance is in 2 Sam 5:6 as "the stronghold of Zion". G.A. Barois points out that "it need not be interpreted restrictively as a single building, but rather as the fortified crest of the hill between the valleys..." (959). The name 'Zion' has been suggested by many to designate the entire walled town that covered the southeast hill of Jerusalem. During the exile however, the whole of Judah came to be known as Zion. 'Zion' occupies synonymous parallelism with the noun 'Jerusalem' (not just the southeast hill) while "sons of Zion" and "daughters of Zion" implies the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Lam. 4:2, Isa. 10:32). In 1Kings 8:1,2 we read, "...out of the City of David which is Zion..." Hence we can correctly assume that both refer to the same place, which is Jerusalem. Since my chosen passage is about 'Zion', it is good to be sure what exactly is being spoken about.

Now that I've mentioned Zion the city, I'd like to cover another important aspect concerning cities that's mentioned several times in the Bible-- watchmen. According to The NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the word 'watchmen' has been used 13 times in the Old Testament (the singular form, 'watchman', has been used 16 times). This word is often used figuratively in the Bible, hence it is important to understand its particular meaning in the passage chosen. 'Watchmen' is mostly found in the books of Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Songs of Solomon and once in Micah (NIV Exhaustive Concordance 1219). Watchmen were men who were posted along the city walls during times of war and at night to warn the city if there was any impending danger. J.L. Kelso informs us that figuratively, the word indicates prophets. They performed a similar duty in that they warned the people about God's anger and the punishment that was to come if the people didn't change their ways. "Blind watchmen' are false prophets (Kelso 902).

In the Book of Isaiah, 'watchmen' has been used around four times. Interpreting it literally, I understood that Isaiah assigned men to keep watch at the city walls so that the enemies would not attack them by surprise. However, on looking at it figuratively, I see that just as watchmen on the city walls stay awake all night, awaiting the break of day, Isaiah ordered the prophets to pray and cry out to the Lord till he makes Jerusalem's 'righteousness shine like the dawn' (Isaiah 62:1).

Isaiah 62: 4-6 talks about the renaming of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is said to have been 'forsaken'. W.C. Kaiser informs us that this term is generally used to describe a woman forsaken by her husband and the word 'desolate' means to be without children. Remarks such as these were very derisive and the new names are meant to indicate a change in circumstance, situation or the beginning of a new stage of one's life (Kaiser 363). For example, Naomi, on the death of her husband and two sons changed her name to 'Mara', meaning 'bitter'. This sort of practice is cited around twelve times in the Old Testament. Its important to understand this custom so that we can better understand the new names given to Zion.

I feel that the entire passage revolves around and can be pinned down to this one occurrence--the new names given to Zion. God's promises needed a confirmation, an assurance that salvation will come and to me, this is given in the new names and not just the names, but also the new 'marital status' implied by the names.

At first, I interpreted the new names just at their face value--'Hephzibah' means 'My Delight is in Her' and 'Beulah' means 'Married' (NIV Student Bible 1100). I understood it to mean that God is openly stating His pleasure in the nation of Israel and removing her shame by saying that her land is 'married'. The names are meant to wipe out Jerusalem's shame and abandonment and glorify her. However, there are deeper implications, which are directly connected to the chosen names. Hephzibah and Azuba (meaning 'Desolate') were the names of the queen mothers of Manasseh and Jehoshaphat respectively. This implies, rather indirectly that Jerusalem, as a city has a role--the consort of YHWH, someone he delights in (Halpern 369). The ironical thing is that the names given don't match the circumstances of the queen mothers. Azuba's name means abandoned but her son Jehoshaphat was a good and righteous king. Hephzibah's name implies exaltation but her son



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