Posted by: mattcolvin | December 3, 2011

Isaiah 52 and Rescue from Abuse

Second Sunday in Advent: Isaiah 52:1-10.

Isaiah 52 is most famous for its closing Servant Song, and for its breathless announcement of YHWH’s return to rescue His people that begins “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…” But this all comes after chapter 51, with its horrifying spectacle of Jerusalem drinking the cup of YHWH’s wrath, “the cup of trembling and the dregs of the cup of my fury.”

It becomes clear that the cup leads to drunkenness, and drunkenness leads, then as now, to physical and sexual degradation. When YHWH comes to rescue Zion in 52:1, He rescues her from foreign oppressors: “Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean shall no longer come to you.” We should not miss the sexual connotation here: for the uncircumcised to “come to you” (יבא בך) is a Hebrew euphemism for sex, used also in 2 Samuel 16:22, where Absalom “came to” (ויבא …אל) David’s concubines. The uncircumcised will no longer sexually abuse God’s bride.

Thus return from exile is like rescue from sexual degradation. For YHWH to call Jerusalem the “holy city” is to say that she is married to him. To this day, Jewish marriage vows are in the form, “I make you holy (i.e. consecrated) to myself.” Outside the shelter of her Divine Husband’s huppah, Zion is exposed to the sexual and physical abuse of the Gentiles.

There is a lot of this metaphorical language in the prophets. It would be interesting to read a book on it.


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