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Isaiah Chapter 35 Notes

Posted by lehunt on September 20, 2014

Isaiah Ch 35 Commentary //

Chapter Thirty-five

v. 1:  Ending the last chapter with Edom’s desolation (born out of prosperity) and beginning this very next chapter with Israel’s desolation (which will give birth to prosperity) gives this chapter that sense of irony that characterizes so much of the book of Isaiah.

vs. 6-7:  God often uses the image of waters breaking forth miraculously in the desert to express his ability to deliver and rescue his loved ones.  Sometimes the image is metaphorical, as 33:21 may be, and sometimes the image is literal, as when Moses strikes the rock (Exodus 17:1-7) or Hagar and finds the spring (Genesis 20:15-19).

Barnes points out a particularly beautiful use of such imagery here in v. 7.  According to him, the “parched ground” (“burning sand” in the NRSV) of 7a is a translation of the Hebrew wordsharab, which he says is a cognate of the Arabic word serab, which should be translated as “mirage.”  To prove this, he provides several Arabic proverbs in which the word serab clearly refers to the phenomenon of a mirage.  Thus, he argues that the writer is actually saying that God will turn the mirage of water (a disappointing and dangerous illusion) into real, refreshing water.  I think he makes a good argument.

vs. 8-10:  This image of the Holy Way is very pleasant.  Both Barnes and the Oxford commentary connect it with the return of the captives from Babylon, which seems reasonable to me. The language is idyllic, so, in as much as it does literally refer to the return from the captivity, the writer must be using hyperbole a little.  In the context of the rest of Isaiah, however, I believe it also refers to the Messianic age and the beauty of that time.[1]  Nevertheless, the interpretation of one part of the image is a little elusive for me.  This Holy Way is such that “not even fools shall go astray” from it.  I wonder what that means, especially if this Holy Way has application to the time of the Messiah.  It sounds like the kind of verse that George MacDonald and others who believe in the universal salvation of humanity could get a lot of mileage out of.

[1] See notes on 2:1-4.


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