THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 4: Chapters 5-7
Part One: Prophecies of Condemnation
Indictment of Israel and Judah Concluded, Isaiah's Prophetic Call, and the First of the Immanuel Prophecies

Lord of Justice,
Help us to remember that You send just judgments when we fall into sin with the intention of calling us to repentance and to bring about a return to fellowship with You and the covenant community. Divine judgment is the means and not the end, and it is our free-will choice to either remain in sin or to repent. In a society where sin is applauded as tolerance and where the exercise of iniquities are held up as lawful conduct, protect us and our children from these works of Satan that mascaraed as acceptable behavior. Give us pastors who are not afraid to speak out against depravity and teachers and leaders within our community who stand as examples of righteousness. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson as Isaiah lists Israel's sins and God's divine judgments. These are the same sins for which our society is guilty. When will our judgments come? We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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So let me warn you, holy seedlings, let me warn you, fresh plants in the field of the Lord, not to have it said of you what was said of the vineyard of the house of Israel: "I expected it to produce grapes, but it produced thorns." Let the Lord find good bunches of grapes on you, seeing that he was himself a bunch of grapes trodden in the winepress for you. Produce grapes, live good lives.
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430), Sermon 376A.2

 

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his Life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.
Matthew 16:26-27 NAB

In the middle of Isaiah's covenant lawsuit indictment (Is 2:2-5:30), God promises through His prophet redemption and a time of everlasting peace that will come to pass in the "final days" when "Yahweh's house" will rule the entire earth and He will judge between the nations (Is 2:1-5). This vision is followed by a continuation of the indictment and another break in a parable about Yahweh's "vineyard" that is Israel. Yahweh's fruitful "vineyard" has failed to produce the "fine grapes" of righteousness and instead produced "wild grapes (Is 5:2, 4), and now is the time for God to judge Israel His "vineyard" and Judah His cherished plant (Is 5:5-7). The parable of Yahweh's "vineyard" and the failure of the covenant people is recalled by Jesus in His Parable of the Wicked Tenants. In His parable, Jesus prophesies His own martyrdom and God's judgment on Israel/Judah in which His divine authority will be taken away from the leadership of the old Israel and given to others. It was not missed on the crowd who heard Jesus that Isaiah's covenant lawsuit was now being directed against them by another prophet "the Supreme Prophet who is the "beloved Son" of God the Father (Mk 1:11; 12:6).

The vineyard parable in Isaiah 5:1-7 (end of Lesson #3) establishes a number of Biblical truths:

Isaiah 5:8-24 ~ The Six Judgments of the Covenant Lawsuit Against a Rebellious People
In this part of the indictment, Isaiah calls down 6 curse judgment against 6 different groups of people in Israel/Judah. A curse judgment is one of the literary forms of prophetic preaching (see Amos 6:1-7 Jer 22:13-19; Ez 7:5-26; Mic 2:1-5; Hab 2:6-20; Mt 23 and Lk 6:24-26). Isaiah's cures judgments are:

  1. Against a covetous people (verses 8-10)
  2. Against a debauching people (verses 11-17)
  3. Against a vain and unbelieving people (verses 18-19)
  4. Against a people who pervert the truth (verse 20)
  5. Against an arrogant people who are wise in their own eyes (verse 21)
  6. Against a people who pervert justice (verses 22-23)

In the document significance of numbers in Scripture, 6 is the number that represents man (created on the 6th day of Creation) and especially of man in rebellion against God. Isaiah now specifies the "wild grapes" (Is 5:2) which Israel has produced in her rebellion against her mission as God's holy people. Each judgment is introduced by the Hebrew word hoy, translated as "woe" or "alas" or "ah." The term is used to introduce a lament and in this case also a threat. The prophet is angry but he is also grief stricken over the sins of his own people. In the Hebrew text, the list is also interrupted by a repeat of the Hebrew word ken (can be translated as "therefore" or "this" or "that"), dividing the indictment into segments in verses 13-14 and 24-25. Also note the repeated connection between drunkenness and injustice in the two subdivisions in verses 11-12 and 22-23. All the laments clearly show the moral degeneracy of the people, but especially by the ruling class that is supposed to provide an example of righteous behavior to the populace.

Judgment # 1: 8 Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is nowhere left and they are the sole inhabitants of the country. 9 Yahweh Sabaoth has sworn this in my hearing: "Many houses will be brought to ruin, great and fine ones left untenanted; 10 for ten acres of vineyard will yield only one barrel, and ten bushel of seed will yield only one bushel."

The first charge is against greedy and oppressive landowners who establish a monopoly on property and make others homeless. This is in violation of the Law that commanded the Israelites were only tenants on the land, and the land must be returned every 50th year to the rightful caretakers who are the descendants of the 12 tribes to whom the land was allotted at the time of the conquest (Lev 25:23-34). These landowners gobble up property until they own house after house and field after field, dispossessing the rightful tenants.

Question: But their greed is self-defeating. What is God's judgment against this group?
Answer: God will reduce the yields of the landowner's fields and bankrupt their estates.

The message to the wealthy in Scripture is consistent and the formula is simple: to single-mindedly acquire is to lose "to give is to get. Covertness produces blight upon the spirit. This is the paradox of Biblical teaching as expressed by Jesus when He said, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his Life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct (Mt 16:25-27 NAB).

Judgment #2: 11 Woe to those who get up early to go after strong drink, and stay up late at night inflamed with wine. 12 Nothing but harp and lyre, tambourine and pipe, and wine for their drinking bouts. Never a thought for the works of Yahweh, never a glance for what his hands have done. 13 [Therefore] that is why my people is in exile, for want of perception; her dignitaries starving, her populace parched with thirst. 14 [Therefore] that is why Sheol opens wide its throat and gapes with measureless jaw and down go her noblemen and populace and her loud revelers merry to the last!

This condemnation is against the pursuers of drunken revelry. They waste their lives in drinking bouts and entertainment without a thought about God or expressing gratitude for His blessings. Perhaps the music and entertainment is meant to dull their consciences' to the consequences of their actions. The prophet is not condemning music. Music and singing is a gift from God and part of liturgical worship in the Jerusalem Temple.

Question: What is meant by "the works of Yahweh" to which they never give a thought in verse 12? See Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; Gal 3:8.
Answer: The phrase probably refers to the fact that the Israelites are supposed to be God's partners in His work in human history and His plan of salvation for mankind that is meant to cumulate in a world-wide blessing that was promised through them as the descendants of Abraham.

Question: What will be their judgment?
Answer: Both the upper classes and the common people who indulged themselves in this way will suffer the same judgment which is exile from the land where they were blind to the sufferings of others. Now they will suffer and experience starvation and thirst. Their ultimate destination is judgment in Sheol, the abode of the dead, from which none can escape.

The gates of Heaven were closed from the time of the Fall of Adam (CCC 536), and, therefore, Sheol was the destination of all the dead prior to the Resurrection of the Christ.(1) Christ holds the keys of both death and Sheol/Hades (Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10). The Catechism on Sheol: "Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, hell' "Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek "because those who are there are deprived of the vision of god. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into Abraham's bosom.' It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.' Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him" (CCC 633 quoting Roman Catechism I, 6, 3 and the Council of Rome). Sheol continues to exist as a state of purification for the just who are destined for Heaven but require a final cleansing of confessed mortal sins and unconfessed venial sins (Purgatory; CCC 1030-32; 1 Cor 3:12-15) until the Last Judgment when both death and Sheol will be destroyed (Rev 20:14).

14 [Therefore] that is why Sheol opens wide its throat and gapes with measureless jaw and down go her noblemen and populace and her loud revelers merry to the last! 15 Human nature has been humbled, humankind brought low, and the eyes of the proud have been humbled. 16 Yahweh Sabaoth is the more respected for his judgment, God the Holy One has displayed his holiness by his justice!

Sheol is the leveler of humanity and is pictured as a great monster with a gaping mouth. The proud and arrogant and all humanity will at last be humbled in Sheol.
Question: Which of Yahweh's attributes is demonstrated by judgment in Sheol?
Answer: Sheol demonstrates God's holiness and His divine justice because those who thought they were above human justice for their bad deeds will face justice when they are condemned to pay for their sins in Sheol.

God the Holy One has displayed his holiness by his justice!

God's holiness sets him apart from all created things, and since He transcends them they cannot contaminate Him. This is why Jesus was not contaminated by sinners and the ritually impure but He imparted His holiness to them when he healed them physicals and spiritually. This perfect sanctity of God is apparent in His dealings with human beings in its aspect as divine justice, emphasizing its moral nature: God both rewards good and punished evil "this is God's judgment.
Question: Is God's faithful love and mercy at odds with His justice? See Ps 51:14; Mic 7:9.
Answer: No. On the contrary, it is part of it since God's mercy in forgiving Israel and the repentant sinner comes from his faithfulness to what He has promised. Justice is also an attribute of His holiness in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked to bring them to repentance, as expressed by the prophet Micah in 7:9 and the psalms attributed to David in 51:14.

17 Now the lambs will graze in their old pastures, and the fields laid waste by fat cattle will feed the kids.
This verse is left out of the NAB translation and the Greek Septuagint translates "the kids" as "foreigners/aliens." When the land is abandoned by those in exile, the land will recover from the misuse from the overgrazing of cattle. The Septuagint translation of "foreigners/aliens" probably reflects the five Gentile groups that the Assyrians imported into the Northern Kingdom when the citizens of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were sent into exile into Assyrian lands to the east. The imported Gentile people came to be known as the Samaritans (2 Kng 17:24-41).

Judgment #3: 18 Woe to those who drag guilt along by the reins of duplicity, drag along sin as though with a cart rope; 19 to those who say, "Why doesn't he do his work quickly so that we can see it; why doesn't the Holy One of Israel's design hurry up and come true so that we can experience it?"

The third woe judgment is against the vanity of the "God testers" "the unbelievers who challenge God to do works that will convince them that He is real, that He is active in human history, and that He has a divine plan. Notice that this third group drags along their sins like a beast of burden pulls a cart because they haven't the faith to confess their sins and receive forgiveness.

Judgment #4: 20 Woe to those who call what is bad, good, and what is good, bad, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

These are the morally twisted who pervert truth and righteousness "insisting that what is a sin is permissible and even acceptable in the view of society. Light and darkness are often used as symbols for truth and sin in Scripture. Pope John Paul II quoted this verse when he wrote that many Christians who were called to martyrdom, "by witnessing fully to the good, are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf. Wis 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Is 5:20).'" John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, 93.

Question: What are some of the many sins condemned in Scripture that have become acceptable today? Read about some of those practices St. Paul condemned in Romans 1:28-31.
Answer: Murder of the unborn (where children are sacrificed to the false gods of self-interest), sexual intimacy before marriage (fornication), divorce, homosexual relationships, abuse of the body through drunkenness and drug use, etc. ...

Judgment #5: 21 Woe to those who think themselves wise and believing themselves enlightened.

This verse is a condemnation of the arrogant self-exalted. They believe their worldly wisdom is greater than the wisdom of God and have only contempt for the righteous who believe in the power and sovereignty of God over mankind.
Question: How did St. Paul condemn such people? See Rom 1:18-25 and 1 Cor 1:18-25?
Answer: Human wisdom cannot compare with the wisdom of God. The workings of a purely human mind will not be able to save anyone. Paul condemns what is believed to be genuine human wisdom. He taught that the means to knowledge of God is a gift of God, and Paul condemns the arrogant wisdom which fails in faith. Such "wisdom" that denies God will only lead to folly and sin because they "have denied God's truth for a lie" (Rom 1:25).

Judgment #6: 22 Woe to those whose might lies in wine bibbing, their heroism in mixing strong drinks, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe and deny justice to the upright. 24 [Therefore] Yes, as the flame devours the stubble, as the straw flares up and disappears, their root will be like decay and their shoot be carried off like dust, for having rejected the law of Yahweh Sabaoth, for having despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

This 6th judgment condemns the immoral opportunists who practice injustice. Isaiah 10:1 may be a 7th judgment in the list against groups of individuals. It is a "Woe judgment" against judges who enact unjust decrees and is a logical conclusion to the 6th "Woe" judgment.

Question: What is their judgment?
Answer: Total destruction.

Straw and dry grasses or the worthless chaff separated from the grain (verse 24) are quickly consumed by flames and the comparison is to those who oppose God who won't last long against His judgments. The people's sins began with a rejection of God's law (verse 24). The Hebrew words for rejection and despised (ma'as and na'ats respectively) emphasize a conscious decision to turn away from God's moral standards and laws. Judah had not simply drifted into sin but had turned away from God deliberately to run to sin and to embrace it! The result is divine vengeance!

Question: When did Jesus, God's Supreme Prophet, deliver a similar series of covenant lawsuit judgments and who were the judgments against? See Mt 23:13-32
Answer: He delivered 7 judgments against the scribes and Pharisees for many of the same offenses.

Isaiah 5:25 ~ Yahweh's Anger
25 [Therefore] this is why Yahweh's anger has blazed out against his people; and he has raised his hand against them to strike them; why the mountains have shuddered and why corpses are lying like dung in the streets. After all this, his anger is not spent. No, his hand is still raised!

Verse 25 is a summing up of the judgments. These sins of the covenant people in the woe judgments are the reasons God's anger has "blazed out" against Israel and Judea like an all-consuming fire. In response to His anger, even the mountains have shuddered and His anger is the reason why death is all around them. But divine judgment is only beginning. The image of fire in Scripture can be a symbol of purification and of judgment (Is 6:6-7; Jer 6:29; Ez 22:18-22; Mal 3:2-3; Mt 3:11; Acts 2:3). In this case, it is the fire of divine judgment that will purify the covenant people of their sins to prefect the faithful remnant who will continue Israel's mission to bring forth the Redeemer-Messiah.

Isaiah 5:26-30 ~ Yahweh summons the Invaders
26 He hoists a signal for a distant nation, he whistles them up from the ends of the earth; and see how swift, how fleet they come! 27 None of them tired, none of them stumbling, none of them asleep or drowsy, none of them with belt unfastened, none of them with broken sandal-strap. 28 Their arrows are sharpened, their bows all strung, their horses' hoofs you would think were flint and their wheels, a whirlwind! 29 Their roar is like that of a lioness, like fierce young lions they roar, growling they seize their prey and carry it off, with no one to prevent it, 30 growling at it, that day, like the growling of the sea. Only look at the country: darkness and distress, and the light turned to darkness by the clouds.

Sometimes God uses pagan armies as His instruments of judgment. The first set of invaders Yahweh has summoned is the Assyrians. Their highly trained, professional army is equipped and ready.
Question: What two metaphors does Isaiah use to describe the fierceness and unyielding advance of the invaders?
Answer: Isaiah uses the metaphors of a lioness and the roaring sound of the waves of a stormy sea breaking on the shore to describe the fierceness, strength and determination of the enemy. Even nature in the darkness of the sky signals the doom that is coming to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Chapter 6: The Call of Isaiah to His Prophetic Ministry in c. 740 BC

 

Behold mercy and judgment: mercy upon the elect, who have obtained the justice of God, but judgment upon the others who have been blinded. And yet the former have believed, because they have willed, while the latter have not believed, because they have not willed. Hence mercy and judgment were brought about in their own wills. Clearly this election is through grace, not at all through merits.
St. Augustine, (Predestination of the Saints, 6)

 

Having delivered the first part of his covenant lawsuit indictment against Israel and Judah, the prophet now tells of his experience in his call to prophetic servanthood. It is from Isaiah chapters 6 - 12 that come the majority of the messianic oracles that earn the title for this part of Isaiah's work, "the Book of Immanuel" ("immanuel" is a Hebrew word meaning "God with us" from the Hebrew words immau = with us" and el = God; see CCC 612).

Isaiah 6:1-7 ~ Isaiah's Vision of the Heavenly Court
1 In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; his train filled the Sanctuary [Hekal]. 2 Above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings: two to cover its face, two to cover its feet and two for flying; 3 and they were shouting these words to each other: "Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh Sabaoth. His glory fills the whole earth." 4 The door-posts shook at the sound of their shouting, and the Temple was full of smoke. 5 Then I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh Sabaoth." 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in its hand a live coal which it had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 With this it touched my mouth and said: "Look, this has touched your lips, your guilt has been removed and your sin forgiven."

Isaiah received a theophany of God and experienced his prophetic call in c. 740 BC (some sources list the date as 742 BC), the year of King Uzziah's death. It was the year that Uzziah's son, Jotham, succeeded him as king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah and Menahem was king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (reigned 743-738).

I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; his train filled the Sanctuary [Hekal].
In his vision, Isaiah is taken up into the heavenly Temple. He saw God sitting on His throne like an earthly king, but Yahweh is the sovereign King over all humanity. The Hebrew word Hekal is the same word used for the Jerusalem Temple (i.e., 1 Kng 6:3, 5, 17, 33; 7:21-50; etc.). The desert Sanctuary and the larger Jerusalem Temple were patterned after the heavenly Temple and its furnishings (Ex 25:8-9). The verse says Isaiah "saw" (ra`ah can mean "saw, discern, or perceive") the Lord seated on a high throne. It was always the teaching that no human could see the face of God and live (see Gen 19:21 and as God told Moses in Ex 33:20; Dt 18:16), so Isaiah probably thought his death was imminent. But did he actually see God or only perceive a visually ill-defined figure seated on a throne covered by His garment and obscured by the smoke that filled the Sanctuary (verse 4). There were various individuals, however, who were permitted to see God or His representative, the "Angel of the Lord," especially where there was an element of encouragement and confirmation (i.e., Gen 16:9-13; 28:13-15; 32:31; Ex 24:9-11; 34:5-10; Judg 6:11-24; 13:33).

2 Above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings: two to cover its face, two to cover its feet and two for flying... The seraphs (seraphim is the plural in Hebrew) were a class of angels. The word seraph means "fiery ones" or "burning ones." They are the attendants or guardians who stand before the divine throne who have human shape and are equipped with six wings: two of which cover their face to shield their eyes from the magnificence of the Almighty, two to cover their bodies in modesty, and two wings for flying. They are believed to be the same supernatural beings that carry Yahweh's chariot-throne in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. Later tradition gave the names seraphim and cherubim to two classes of angels. Cherubim guarded the entrance to Eden after Adam and Eve were exiled (Gen 3:24), and two statues of cherubim adorned the lid of the Mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:22; 33:7-11). The seraphim are also described by St. John in Revelation 4:6b-9.

Question: When had men been privileged in the past to be the first to view the heavenly throne room and what did they see? See Ex 24:9-11.
Answer: At the covenant ratification ceremony, Moses, Aaron, two of Aaron's sons and the seventy elders of the tribes of Israel viewed the heavenly throne room from below (looking up through the sapphire pavement) and ate a sacred meal in the presence of Yahweh.

Compare that first view with Isaiah's vision and Ezekiel's vision in Ezekiel 1:4-28, and St. John's vision in the Book of Revelation, 4:1-11.
3 and they were shouting these words to each other: "Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh Sabaoth. His glory fills the whole earth."
That they shout out a hymn of praise to God and call to each other suggests the hymn may be antiphonal. The hymn announces God as thrice holy, which the Fathers of the Church saw as a glimpse into the mystery of the triune nature of God (Ambrose, Caesarius, Cyril of Alexandria, and Jerome to name a few). St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan and teacher of St. Augustine (c. 333-397) writes: "Cherubim and seraphim with unwearied voices praise him and say, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts.' They say it not once, least you should believe that there is but one; not twice, least you should exclude the Spirit; they say not holies [in the plural], lest you should imagine that there is plurality, but they repeat three times and say the same word, that even in a hymn you may understand the distinction of persons in the Trinity and the oneness of the Godhead, and while they say this they proclaim God" (On the Holy Spirit, 3.16.110).

Question: Is the hymn the heavenly beings sing at the throne of God in the presence of the heavenly assembly familiar to you? Why?
Answer: It is similar to the hymn of praise we sing in the Liturgy of the Mass. We sing the same hymn because in the Mass, Heaven and earth are joined in liturgical worship in praise of the Most Holy Trinity.

4 The door-posts shook at the sound of their shouting, and the Temple was full of smoke.
The smoke that filled the heavenly Temple reminds us of the manifestation of God's divine Presence in the Glory Cloud (leading the children of Israel in the Exodus in Ex 13:21-22; at Sinai in the Theophany of Ex 19:16-19 and recalled in Dt 4:11-12; the desert Sanctuary in Ex 40:34-35; and the Jerusalem Temple in 1 Kng 8:10-12 and Ez 10:4). It is probably that the whole Heavenly Temple shook, but perhaps Isaiah is kneeling at the door and so he was more aware of the shaking of the door-posts.
Question: What is Isaiah's response to the vision and how is his response similar to St. Peter's response to Jesus in Luke 5:8?
Answer: Their response is the same. Both men were overcome by being in the presence of the holy God and were immediately aware of their sins.

Question: What was done to purify Isaiah of his sins?
Answer: A seraph touched his lips with a burning coal from the heavenly altar.

Imagine Isaiah's relief. Crushed by self-despair brought on by the weight of his sin in God's presence and fearing his immediate destruction, he has received a complete and unmerited cleansing and is ready for the next step in his journey. Notice how each event leads to the next:

Isaiah 6:8-13 ~ The Commissioning
8 I then heard the voice of the Lord saying: "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I, send me." 9 He said: "Go, and say to this people, Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive!" 10 Make this people's heart coarse, make their ears dull, shut their eyes tight, or they will use their eyes to see, use their ears to hear, use their heart to understand, and change their ways and be healed." 11 I then said, "Until when, Lord?" He replied, "Until towns are in ruins and deserted, houses untenanted and a great desolation reigns in the land, 12 and Yahweh has driven the people away and the country is totally abandoned. 13 And suppose one-tenth of them are left in it; that will be stripped again, like the terebinth, like the oak, cut back to the stock; their stock is a holy seed."

For the first time it is God who speaks: Who will go for us? The same plural form in relation to the Godhead is found in Geneses 3:22. Isaiah's immediate response is that he is prepared to go, even before he knows what that mission will be. All baptized and confirmed Christians are called to provide the same willing response. None of us can know the mission until we first say "yes' to God.

9 He said: "Go, and say to this people, Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive!" 10 Make this people's heart coarse, make their ears dull, shut their eyes tight, or they will use their eyes to see, use their ears to hear, use their heart to understand, and change their ways and be healed."
In Matthew 13:14-15 Jesus quotes these verses from Isaiah when He first begins to teach in parables (also in Mk 4:12 and Jn 12:40 on His last day of teaching in Jerusalem the week of His death). Jesus follows the quote in Matthew by saying: "But blessed are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! In truth I tell you, many prophets and upright people longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it. As Jesus continues to teach, He challenges those who have come to Him to hear, see, and understand (Mt 13:9, 43; 15:10). And in Acts 28:26-27, St. Paul quotes from the same Isaiah verses when giving his testimony of Christ to the unreceptive Roman Jews, saying, "How aptly the Holy Spirit spoke when he told your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah: Go and say to this people: Listen and listen but never understand! Look and look but never perceive! This people's heart is torpid, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight, to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear, using their heart to understand, changing their ways and being healed by me.' You must realize, then, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen to it."

Isaiah 6:9-10 is somewhat difficult to comprehend. Does God intend that the people not repent; does He want them to be destroyed? No, because we know that God destined every man and woman to come to eternal salvation; it is only their exercise of free-will to reject God that causes their downfall (1 Tim 2:3-4; 2 Pt 3:9). The fact is that the more the people who are deeply persistent in their sin hear the prophetic word of God's prophet, the angrier and harder their hearts become, and their judgment is part of God's divine plan that will teach its climax in the Resurrection of the Messiah. Therefore, the command to Isaiah is to continue relentlessly to preach God's word, even though it only causes the sinners to more tightly close their eyes and ears to the truth, contributing to their ultimate downfall.

11 I then said, "Until when, Lord?" He replied, "Until towns are in ruins and deserted, houses untenanted and a great desolation reigns in the land, 12 and Yahweh has driven the people away and the country is totally abandoned. 13 And suppose one-tenth of them are left in it; that will be stripped again, like the terebinth, like the oak, cut back to the stock; their stock is a holy seed."
Imagine Isaiah's dismay "he is to preach and preach but he will only encounter resistance.
Question: Isaiah asks the Lord how long the people will resist; what is the Lord's bad news and what is His good news? What is repeated in the good news? See Is 4:2.
Answer: God tells Isaiah the people's refusal to listen to the warnings of judgment will continue until the country is completely destroyed and the people are sent away into exile. However, He will preserve a remnant within the surviving remnant that is a "holy seed" to replenish the covenant people and to carry forth God's divine plan. God repeats the same promise He made in 4:2.

The remnant will be the people who survive the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem who will be sent into exile. In Isaiah 4:2 Yahweh promised that "seedling/branch or shoot [tsemach] will flourish among Israel's survivors. The "holy seed" will the remnant of their descendants who will return to the Promised Land after the 70 year exile (2 Chr 36:17-23). But it is also a promise that more perfectly fulfilled in the "holy seed" of David that is Jesus Christ.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: Do you see a reflection of the six different groups of people condemned to judgment in Isaiah 5:8-24 in modern society? How are they like the people in Isaiah's time or how are they different?

Endnotes:
1. The New Jerusalem Bible uses the literal Hebrew word Sheol in its translation.  Other translations use the words "abode of the dead", or "the netherworld," or "the grave;" however the word in Hebrew for the physical grave is an entirely different word.
The list of Old Testament passages that use "Sheol":
Gen 37:35; 42:30; 44:29, 31; Num 16:30, 33 Dt 32:32; 1 Sam 2:6; 2 Sam 22:6; 1 Kng 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Psalm 6:5; 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14 (twice), 15; 55:15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48; 116:3; 139:8; 141:7; Prov 1:12; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11, 24; 23:14; 27:20; 30:46; Ecc 9:10; SS 8:6; Is 5:14; 7:11; 14:8/9, 11, 15, 18; 38:10, 15, 18; 38:10, 18; 57:9; Hos 13:14 (twice); Ez 31:15, 16, 17; 32:21, 27; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; Hab 2:5.
Sheol is called "Hades" in the Greek and this designation is found in
Tobit 3:10; 4:19; 13:2; Wis 1:14; 2:1; 16:13; 17:14; Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 14:12, 16; 17:27; 21:10; 28:21; 41:4; 48:5; 51:5, 6; 2 Mac 6:23, and Baruch 2:17; 3:11, 19
in the Greek translations, but Sheol was used in the Hebrew texts of these books, some of which were discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New Testament books also use the word "Hades" for Sheol in
Mt 11:23; 16:18; Lk 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14. See CCC 633.

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Catechism references:

Is 5:1-7 (CCC 755); 5:14 (CCC 536, 632-33)
Is chapters 6-12 (CCC 612); 6:1 (CCC 1137); 6:2-3 (CCC 1138); 6:3 (CCC 2809); 6:5 (208, 2584); 6:6 (CCC 332); 6:8 (CCC 2584); 6:11 (CCC 2584);