Isa 1:1-31

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Home > The Old Testament > Isaiah > Chapter 1
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Summary[edit]

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Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Isa 1:1: Vision. The English word vision as chosen by the KJV translators is particularly apt. The Hebrew word (from the Masoretic OT Hebrew text) is חָזן "chäzôn" which literally means a "sight", "dream", "revelation", or "oracle". The Greek word (from the Septuagint OT) '΄ορασις "hórasis" also carries the same meaning. Both the Hebrew and Greek Old Testaments are in agreement that Isaiah was having a revelatory experience via sight, dream, or vision. It also underscores the translation acumen of the KJV translators.
  • Isa 1:1. This chapter is generally considered a superscription for the entire book of Isaiah. As such, there is a question as to whether the vision in this verse refers only to this chapter or to the book as a whole.
    • The argument for understanding this as a reference to only this chapter relies on the self-contained nature of this chapter as a whole prophecy and the absence of this term in describing entire prophetic books elsewhere. The exception is Obad 1:1, which is similarly introduced, but which is only a chapter long. Elsewhere, this term introduces specific visions Hab 1:1), without seemingly referring to the entire book.
    • The argument for understanding this as a reference to only this chapter relies on the chronological information listed here, which seems to cover all of Isaiah's ministry and, therefore, possibly refers to the entire book of Isaiah (or, at least, chapter 1-39). Although the exact dates of the reigns of these kings remains debated, it is clear that this verse places Isaiah in the latter half of the 8th century BCE.
  • The reason why this argument is important is because, with Isaiah, there is always the problem of scope. In this verse, Isaiah notes that this vision is regarding Judah (meaning the southern kingdom of Judah) and its capital, Jerusalem. If this verse is understood as referring to the entire book of Isaiah, arguments that he is prophesying regarding the whole House of Israel (especially those who come from the northern kingdom of Israel) may be harder to make. That said, it still would not be impossible to make such an argument.
  • Isa 1:4. The idea of the LORD's people provoking His anger by forsaking Him, as introduced here, is repeated again in verse 28 where it says, "they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed." This concept is repeated again with greater detail at the end of the book of Isaiah in Isa 65:11-12:
11: "But ye are they that forsake the LORD,
that forget my holy mountain....
12: Therefore will I number you to the sword,
and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter:
because when I called, ye did not answer;
when I spake, ye did not hear;
but did evil before mine eyes,
and did choose that wherein I delighted not.
The next two verses (13-14) then juxtapose those that forsake the LORD with the LORD's servants.
  • Isa 1:7: Strangers. The chiasm in Isa 29:5 suggests that "strangers" is synonymous with "the terrible ones", as does the synonymous parallelisms in Isa 25:5.
  • Isa 1:7. Given that Isaiah uses "strangers" and "terrible ones" as synonyms (Isa 25:5; Isa 29:5), here are what other verses in Isaiah tell us about this group:
1. The Israelites to please themselves in the children of strangers. Isa 2:6,
2. the terrible ones are proud Isa 13:11,
3. strangers will eventually cleave to the house of Jacob, Isa 14:1,
4. The terrible people, after getting scattered and peeled, trodden underfoot, spoiled by "the rivers", will bring a present to the LORD in Zion Isa 18:1,7
5. The terrible land = Egypt? Isa 21:1,
6. Lord to destroy a defenced city (the capitol?) of the strangers. Isa 25:2,
7. "The strong people" = the city of the terrible nations - Isa 25:3,
8. The blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall - Isa 25:4,
9. The terrible ones have a "branch" - Isa 25:5,
10. strangers/terrible ones to be wiped out suddently Isa 29:5,
11. the terrible one = scorners = those that watch for iniquity. Isa 29:20,
12. the terrible = the mighty Isa 49:25,
13. strangers apparently don't know the LORD Isa 56:6, and
14. The strangers' sons will come to the LORD and help Israel rebuild. Isa 56:6, Isa 60:10, Isa 61:5.
  • Isa 1:13: Vain. In the other two uses of the word (30:7 and 49:4), Isaiah seems to be using it to mean, "to no purpose" and "for nought".
  • Isa 1:13: Oblation. Webster's defines it as: "something offered in worship or devotion: a holy gift offered usually at an altar or shrine".
  • Isa 1:13: New moons, Sabbaths and Assemblies. As "New moons" are mentioned here in the context of other social gatherings (ie. assemblies, meetings, and feasts), perhaps the ancients held monthly meetings at each new moon. In contrast to this verse, Isaiah 66:23 suggests the LORD has no problem with "new moon" and sabbath meetings, IF they are held for worshiping Him.
  • Isa 1:19-20. This two-pronged promise made by the LORD is a prominent theme taken up by Nephi and the other Book of Mormon authors. Here, the positive promise is that the willing and obedient will "eat the good of the land", whereas in the Book of Mormon, the phrase "prosper in the land" is used. And its authors use "cut off from his presence" instead of Isaiah's "devoured by the sword". The latter seems to fits the Nephite's experience best.
  • Isa 1:20: The mouth of the LORD. A review of all the verses in Isaiah using this phrase brings to light the very real possibility that Isaiah uses this phrase to represent a class of people, or even, a single individual. These passages can easily be interpreted that "mouth of the LORD" refers to the LORD's prophet: Isa 6:7; Isa 30:2; Isa 40:5-6; Isa 48:3-5.
The parallels between the first two phrases of Isa 51:16 and Isa 49:2 suggest that "the mouth of the LORD" is some one or group in whose mouth the LORD puts His word (ie. one who is an oracle for God). Which then fits with the millenial promise in Isa 59:20-21 that the LORD will put his spirit upon "them that turn from transgression in Jacob", ie. "put his words in their mouths" and in the mouths of their descendants, forever.
  • Isa 1:25: My Hand. The theme introduced here of the LORD using his "hand" to purge the wicked from among His people is repeated several times throughout Isaiah:
Isa 5:25, Isa 9:12,17,21, Isa 10:4, Isa 40:2, Isa 51:17
Together these can be summarized thus: "In His anger against His people, the LORD stretches forth His hand against them and smites them (many die)".
Also, the hand of the LORD whacks other groups:
A & A' = destruction of the wicked (v.20 & 28)
B & B' = the faithful city / judgment & righteousness (v.21 & 26b-27)
C & C' = dross / princes / thieves // dross / judges / counsellers (v. 22-23 & 25b-26)
D & D' = LORD to avenge himself of his enemies (24a & 25)
Note that A & A' appear to be topically equivalent to the center elements D & D'.
  • Isa 1:21-27: Political apostasy, cleansing, and restoration prophesied.
  • Isa 1:21-23: A political apostasy. Judges, princes, and their counselors are POLITICAL officers and in these verses the LORD makes it clear they are rebellious and more interested in gifts and bribes than in establishing justice and judgment for the politically powerless widows and orphans [sound familiar?]. The parallelism in 22-23a suggests "princes" = "silver that has become dross". This theme is expanded in Isa 3:1-7, and Isa 3:12-15.
  • Isa 1:24-25: A political housecleaning. The dross (corrupt princes) is to be swept away by "the hand of the LORD".
  • Isa 1:26-27: A political restoration. LORD to restore the judges "as at first" - refers to His original establishing of the judges for Israel before they demanded a king. Since this was not done at any time during Isaiah's lifetime, perhaps it is referring to the latter days.
  • Isa 1:26. The LORD is going to bring about a political restoration after a political apostasy.
This conclusion is supported by this verse and its corresponding verse (23) in the chiasm of which this verse is a part.
Verse 23 explains that their dross-like princes (political leaders) are rebellious and clearly in it for the money and have no interest in establishing justice for the downtrodden (fatherless & widows). Verse 25 tells us that the LORD is going to completely purge his people of this dross. Then in this verse He promises to restore their judge-based free government "as at the first" -- a political restoration. Clearly this cannot refer to ancient times as it never happened during or after Isaiah's time.
Isa 3 supports this conclusion that there will be a political apostacy among the LORD's people, and that the LORD will end it. See specifically verses 1-5 and 12-15.
  • Isa 1:28. Close examination of Isaiah's use of the terms in this verse suggest that the "transgressors" and "sinners" who are to be destroyed together include the LORD's people, Israel.
Transgressors among the LORD's people:
  • Isa 48:1,8 - House of Jacob was called a transgressor from the womb.
  • Isa 50:1 - For Israel's transgressions is her "mother" put away.
  • Isa 53:8 - "my people" were mentioned as transgressing.
  • Isa 58:1 - ditto
"Sinners" includes Babylonians and residents of Zion:
  • Isa 13:1,9,19 - Babylonian sinners to be destroyed out of the land in the day of the LORD.
  • Isa 33:14 - "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites."
One can only forsake someone with whom they have once had a relationship. Other verses that support the idea that forsaking the LORD has serious consequences:
  • Isa 1:4 - "they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger..."
  • Isa 65:11-12 - those who forsake the LORD ("forget [his] holy mountain") are slaughtered.
  • Isa 1:29: The gardens that ye have chosen. The oaks and the gardens here seem to refer to pagan open-air places of worship where fertility rites were performed. The word chosen is typically used to choose between to things. If Isaiah had the same background understanding as Nephi (in 1 Ne 11:22–23 Nephi seems to know, independently of the angel's explanation, that the tree in Lehi's dream symbolized the love of God), then there would be an implicit contrast here between the trees of the idols vs. the tree of life per Lehi's dream. (Cf. Isa 40:20.)
  • Isa 1:29. Among other uses, oaks and other trees are mentioned as a place where idolatrous acts are performed, and, are used to make idols. Isa 40:20; Isa 44:14; [Isa 57:5]]; Isa 66:17
Gardens are twice mentioned elsewhere in Isaiah as locations for idolatrous sacrifice in Isa 65:3 and Isa 66:17.
Of further interest is the fact that this verse and the next are both structured as synonymous parallelisms. In which case the author is using a literary device to link the ideas of oaks and gardens.
So it appears, that this verse is saying that those who either manufacture or otherwise trust in idols will be ashamed. This conclusion is supported by these additional three verses: Isa 42:17, Isa 44:9-11, and Isa 45:16.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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  • Isa 1:13. What does "the new moons and sabbaths" and also "the calling of assemblies" refer to?
  • Just from the context I'm guessing that the point of the verse is to say that the rituals that they are supposed to do as part of the law of Moses are vain because they aren't clean. The people continue to do evil so they the rituals mean nothing.

Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Isa 1. Doesn't the fact that Isaiah introduces so many themes here that are reworked throughout the entire book suggest that Chapter 1 is a preface and not a stand-alone work? For example, the two-pronged results promised in verses 19-20 are played out in virtually every chapter.
  • Isa 1:1. Should the possibility that this vision refers specifically to the ancient kingdom of Judah change how we approach this chapter? Should it change how we approach the entire book of Isaiah?
  • Isa 1:1. What is the nature of the rebellion of the LORD's children?
  • Isa 1:12. How might this verse apply to our attending the temple?
  • Isa 1:19-20. Are verses 19 and 20 the center of a thematic chiasmus? Verse 19 and the preceeding verses are more positive, and 20 and the verses that follow are correspondingly negative. Also, the righteousness in verse 17 clearly contrasts with the wickedness in verse 23. Both mention widows and allude to justice (ie. judgement) or the lack thereof.

Resources[edit]

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Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




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