My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Isaiah 26

Judah's song

Then Judah will sing:
Our city is awesome and strong! Only open the gates to the righteous. There'll be peace; just trust God! He humbles the proud, and give the righteous an easy path.

We wait on your morning and evening. The unrighteous don't even see you.

You've made our nation bigger, to your own glory. We used to come to you desperate, but now you dead will rise! We should go hide ourselves for a while, whilst God comes to judge.

Key verse:
19. But your dead will live;
their bodies will rise.
You who dwell in the dust,
wake up and shout for joy.

My thoughts:
Hmm... this concept of the dead rising seems much earlier than Daniel 12! Resurrection clearly isn't a systematic part of Jewish faith, but I think there is evidence to suggest that it does have a long history beside Jewish religion.


Anonymous Deane said...

Given the surrounding context of Isaiah 26, the passage is usually interpreted as employing metaphoric language of the dead coming to life, to refer to 'dead' Israel again coming back to 'life' after the exile. Although Yahweh had wiped out all memory of the dead Israel (Isa 26.14), Yahweh was now increasing the nation and enlarging its borders (Isa 26.15). It's not the only imagery found in the passage. Israel is also compared to a woman that tries to give birth, experiences birth pangs, but rather than bearing offspring, only produces a large fart, which means that there's no offspring available to take over the world (Isa 26.17-18). It is in this national context that the "dead" (Israel) returns, after the wrath of God has passed (Isa 26.19-20). It is very similar to Ezekiel's picture of dry bones coming to life, which is also used as a metaphor to describe the national restoration of Israel (Ezek 37). The metaphor depends on the impossibility or at least improbability of dead coming to life for its effect - that is, the restoration of Israel is amazing, because the nation was considered to have been beyond return (like the dead).

So there's nothing in Isaiah 26 to suggest a belief in individual life after death.

Yet, the author probably believed in some sort of on-going existence for the dead. The "rephaim" seem to have a sort of minimal shadowy existence, even if they don't do anything, or seem to be aware of anything.

... on the other hand, given the high esteem for Persia and the description of Cyrus as Israel's messiah, maybe you could argue that this is the first sign of an idea of eternal life in Judaism? That is - are Zoroastrian beliefs beginning to influence Jewish writings? Unfortunately, there's not much evidence of this in the text of Isaiah 26. The confluence of ideas with Zoroastrianism is only clear by the time of Daniel 12.

What do you think?

8:27 pm

Blogger Pete W said...

Yea, it's hard to exactly determine the exact beliefs of ancient Judaism sometimes. I do believe that it is possible that there was some belief in some sort of the dead coming alive at the time that Isaiah was written. Of course, this could be a result of surrounding beliefs, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. We shudn't see a belief in resurrection, and suddenly go "Oh, they must have taken it from here."

10:24 am


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