The Inflexible Isaiah. Life and death of the prophet Isaiah

IsaiahThe reader has the right not to believe us, and, nevertheless, we declare: the prophet Isaiah was known to every Soviet schoolboy. Without getting acquainted specifically with the history of ancient Judea, without studying the old Testament, remaining a cheerful pioneer, activist and timurite-I knew. Although about the hidden
I didn’t know what I knew, but I thought about Isaiah that the name was funny and out of use. And yet-he knew,as does the reader. And all because Pushkin’s essay “the Prophet” is included in the school curriculum.

When was the prophet Isaiah born

Isaiah was born in Jerusalem in about 765 B.C. and could be considered happy just because, unlike many other prophets, he lived in this city all his life, not knowing exile and captivity. He came from an aristocratic background, was close to the court, and survived four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezikiah.

In the year of the death of the first king, in 740 BC, when Isaiah was praying in the temple, he had a vision. On a high throne sat the Lord, and the edges of his vestments filled the entire temple. Near Him were Seraphim, two wings covering their legs, two others covering their faces, and finally, with the help of the last pair, flying.

Isaiah was not a little afraid: he did not have such special merits to be worthy of such a spectacle. “Woe is me! I am lost! “For I am a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people also with unclean lips – and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

It was then that the Seraphim came to the aid of the humble worshipper. Suddenly finding his hands as well, he took the coal from the altar with a pair of tongs and touched Isaiah’s mouth with it. This, in fact, was limited to the picture of “self-mutilation” (the rest of the torment that fell to the lot of Pushkin’s prophet, the full pain of this operation, he does not mention, it is more important for him to be wrong and bear their will).

“Villains are villainous, and villains are villainous»

In those years, Judea was ruled by the young king Ahaz. It is said that he indulged in such extreme impiety that he built pagan altars everywhere, and even sacrificed his own children to foreign idols. At this time, neighboring Syria began to look at the Jewish lands with undisguised appetite, and the wicked king was not a little concerned. He decided to turn to Assyria for help.

Isaiah came to warn Ahaz. He predicted the imminent death of the Syrian king, and advised his own to rely not on the strength of weapons, but on the help of God. And to support his words, he offered to ask the Lord for a sign. However, Ahaz, after waiting a short time, still sent for the Assyrians. They did not break down and immediately occupied Syria. But at the same time and Galilee. Judea was completely dependent on her “Saviour”. Nothing held back the pagan sympathies of the Jewish king, and soon many of his subjects forgot their purpose and God.

“Bring no more vain oblations!”

However, some of the elegantly combined the new-fangled beliefs and some semblance of the old faith. They offered sacrifices and Sabaoth, scrupulously observed rites and rituals. Then God spoke again through Isaiah’s mouth.

And he said something that few Church reformers would dare to do: “Why do I need so many of your victims? I am satiated with the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fatted cattle; and the blood of calves and lambs… I do not want. And when you stretch out your hands, I close my eyes from you… your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean, prestante to do evil… seek the truth; to rescue the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together”.

“Here is my boy»

Let’s agree, for the eighth century BC (for comparison: at this time in Greece, Homer created), the installation is quite unexpected. And yet Isaiah gained fame in the ages in another way: with his famous Messianic prophecy-about the coming birth of a Child from the family of David: “Behold a virgin in her womb will receive and bear a Son.”

Most likely, he himself believed that the Savior of the Jewish race would appear in the Royal family. Perhaps he was even referring to the next king, Hezekiah, with whom he had (and not unreasonably) hopes of restoring the faith. And he certainly didn’t know how his prediction would come true in the distant future. Surprisingly, (so in the Hebrew original) as “the virgin”, no one pulled the language, but long before the birth of Christ, they made this strange “mistake”in their texts. So the prophecies of Isaiah turned out to be the main old Testament texts about the coming of Christ.

All not thank God

At the age of thirty-six, king Ahaz died suddenly. He was succeeded by his son, Hezekiah. He drew Isaiah closer to him, especially since he himself was an ardent zealot of the old, true faith. The king not only fought against paganism, but even destroyed many of Yahweh’s altars, fearing that the worship of an idol would only interfere with pure religious feeling.

However, as the country was put in order, its borders became more and more uneasy. The former Assyrian king died, and his subordinate rulers began to break out of obedience. However, Sennacherib, the new Assyrian king, did not want to give up his former position. He destroyed rebellious Babylon, and marched to Judea. Many cities were taken, and hundreds of thousands were taken captive. About Hezekiah, he boastfully wrote: “But he himself was shut up in Jerusalem, his Royal city, like a bird in a cage.” Hezekiah paid off with a huge indemnity, but after 10 years the Assyrians returned and besieged Jerusalem.

To each according to his faith

By that time, Isaiah’s position at court had become much stronger: he had managed to heal the dying king, and he trusted him absolutely. However, the Council Isaiah troubled Esekia. The latter, as before, told us to rely on faith in everything, not to worry about the superior forces of the enemy, and not to think about the plans for the upcoming battle. Hezekiah did just that.

The Assyrian ambassadors were surprised at the intransigence of the “caged” Jew and asked, not without irony: “What is this hope that you hope for?.. But if you say, “in the Lord our God we trust,” is it in the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah took away?» (It must be assumed that the rumor of Hezekiah’s more than decisive actions in the field of religious reform reached Assyria.)

… In the vicinity of Jerusalem, in the corresponding temporary layers, archaeologists found a one-time burial of a huge army-destroyed not by the enemy’s art, but, apparently, by some terrible epidemic. So modern scientists believe. Isaiah had a different point of view: “The angel of the Lord smote one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the camp of the Assyrians… and Sennacherib retreated.”

Add to this that when the Assyrian king was praying in the temple before the idol, he was cut down by his own sons.

“Come down and sit on the dust, daughter of Babylon»

The latter, however, could not have come as a surprise to Isaiah. We remember how he treated the idolaters: a piece of wood or gold, no matter how skilfully it was worked by human hands, can neither save nor protect. And the fact that the pagan had fallen directly at the foot of his impotent God – well, there was some ironic logic in this.

And although our reader may not like it, Isaiah was so consistent that he did not favor the Babylonian Hobbies of astrology, and even predicted Babylon’s death for its pernicious and unholy predilections. “Stay with your magic and your many sorceries,” he said in the name of God to the neighboring country, ” which you have practiced since your youth; perhaps you will help yourself, perhaps you will stand. You are weary of your many counsels; let the watchers of the heavens, and the stargazers, and the forerunners of the new moons, come forth and save you from what is to befall you.” Alas, the mighty Babylon, as we know, could not resist…

“When the Nations, strife forgotten…»

About the death of Isaiah we can judge by the later Christian texts. They say it was painful. After the death of the well-behaved Hezekiah, Manasseh succeeded to the throne, and the prophet’s harsh instructions and constant reproaches irritated him greatly. In order to force Isaiah to recant his words, the king’s servants tortured him and, failing, sawed him in two with a wooden saw.

Isaiah did not beg for mercy, “did not cry out or weep, for his mouth spoke with the Holy Spirit.”

And yet, even if you accept this apocryph on faith, do not be in a hurry to break down in spirit, to say that this is the way of decent people in a world where everything is “fear, a loop and a hole.” After all, Isaiah himself gave us comfort. Speaking of the future destinies of the world, he foresaw a time when “the wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the ox will be together, and the little child will lead them.” All this will happen when the Savior comes to earth.

Among other old Testament prophets, Isaiah stands alone. He does not favor the Gentiles, does not spare the enemies of Israel, but does not wait for the time when the true believers will Shine blissfully on the bones of the infidels – this, according to him, is not the fate and role of God’s chosen people.

… In new York, on the wall opposite the United Nations building, are inscribed the amazing words-either a prophecy or a dream: “and they will turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: people will not lift up the sword against people, and they will no longer learn to fight.” Their author is the old Testament prophet Isaiah, who long before Christ declared that God is not an angry teacher who punishes a negligent student, but a harsh father, sometimes heavy on the hand, but always believing in His child, able to forgive him and, most importantly, very loving.

Author: Ekaterina Detochkina

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