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Freedom... Isaiah commentary

Not eating would be a singe that we are grieved. After Jeruslem’s fall and through to the later part of the sixth century B.C. Atleast, people naturally thus fasted on various occasions to mark their deolation at the city’s desolation. But God seemed to take no notice (v.3) The city remained unrestored.


The problem was that some of these who sought Yahweh also treated ordinary people badly, and for Yahweh the seeking and this behavior clash (very. 3b-5). Evidently the prophet again addressed the powerful people in the community. They would be in a position, for instance, to employ people to take part in teh harvest in teh way described in Ruth 2. LIke many empyers in modern societies, both in traditional and developed countries, these powerful people assumed that their relationship with the their workers gave them the right to treat them like anmimals. THey cannot expect to do that and also expect God to hear their prayer.

Fasting is supposed to be an act of self-denial (v.3a), so it should be a genuine one. These employers are inclined to treat people like beasts of burden, tied down and tied up. Instead, let them set these people free. When bad harvests lead to poverty, they are inclined to further victimize their own people. THey use the situation to gain for themselves chaps land and cheap labor and they allow the poor to forfeit their land, their homes, and their freedom. Rather, they should share their resources with these people (very.6-7) That, not fasting is the key to having Yahweh restore them as a city and nation. (Pg. 326)


The anointed Preacher takes up the commitment. The king’s task was to take action to making decisions that would favor the afflicted and needy. Teh Preacher’s task is to make an announcement to them. Once again preach good news, takes up from chapter 40-55 and suggests that the prophet salso echelons to be the fulfillment of the commission and vision of hear aids bringing good news to Jerusalem (see 40:9; 41:27; 52;7). Further, to judge from teh verses that follow, the word poor designated the community as a whole. While chapter 56-59 presupposed divisions within the community and the leadership doing well at the expense of ordinary people, chapter 60-62 look on teh community as a whole as opporsesed and sorrowful, in teh matter of chapter 40-55.


So despite their reconstitution in Jerusalem, the people remain poor, broken-hearted, demoralized, crushed in mind and spirit (cf. Ps. 34:!8; 51:27) captives in their own land, prisoners, people who grieve the continuing suffering of their city, and who are metaphorically smeared with the ashes of mourning. (V.3; cf. 58:5, 60:20; Lam 3:16) THey still live in a devastating city and are still shamed by the well-deserved humiliation that had come form Yahweh. (V. 7)


THe preacher is sent to announce and transformation fo all that and thus to bind up the people who are cursed in mind. That is to come about by bringing good news and announcing the coming of FREEDOM (the words freeing the slavets at the sabbath or jubilee year) and release for these people who are still subject to foreign control (v. 1) This is the moment of Yahweh’s favor on one hand and vengeance on the other. The parallelism signals the fact that these are two sides of one idea. In taking the side fo the victims and acting on their behalf, Yahweh will put down the oppressors and punish them.


So at last COMFORT will come. Once again the Preacher takes up one of the Poet’s favorite expressions, in a way that brings out the two-sidedness of the notion. Comfort is both a message that makes people feel better and an act that gives them ground for feeling better (v. 2) Their deliverance means, metaphorically, that the ashes on their head can be replaced by a garland, that the people can receive their own announcing with oil that makes their faces shine and so reflect that newfound joy and that their clothes will not reflect their inner brokenness and can become instead the festal garb of worth. They will stand tall and solid and secure now, displaying Yahweh’s splendor (v. 3)


In concrete physical terms, the city will be rebuilt (v. 4) In teh context it is unlikely that they are its inhabitants, for the passage promises what will be done for them. More likely the “they” are other people who are unspecified, but see 60:10). Similarly, other people will look after their flocks and farms (v. 5) and provide for them in abundance (v. 6b) while they are becoming “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:6; Isa. 61:6a). This will more than make up for their material deprivation and their consequent shame (v. 7). The repeated word for double is different form that in 40:2, but he parallels is still noteworthy - especially as Yahweh goes on to promise that heir will now receive their reward (v. 8; cf. 40:10). In teh context, the robbery and iniquity must be that exercised against the community (cf. Deut. 28:29, 31). At last Yahweh is implementing mishaps, on Israel’s behalf and fulfilling that promise to Abraham (very. 8b-9)


Like 40:3-5, verses 1-3 aroused particular interest among the Qumran community (who applied them to Melchizedek, understood as a member of the heavenly cabinet) as well as among other Jews (who usually assumed they were the words of the prophet himself). There would thus seem to be some arrogance about Jesus’ applying the words to himself (Luke 4:14-29). There would also be good news in Jesus’ declaration that their moment had come. Jesus commits himself to proclaiming the liberation of the Jewish people from foreign oppressors, though he combines this commitment with a commitment to outsiders (very. 24-27) that corresponds to that in passages such as Isaiah 56:1-8. His audience is less pleased with this. In Luke 4 he stops short of the phrase about the “day of vengeance,“ but takes up such talk of “days of vengeance“ in 21:22 (NIV “time of punishment”) These must come “in fulfillment of all that has been written.” Jesus that even the promise of God’s day of vengeance must be fulfilled.

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