1 At that time Merodach- Baladan, son of Bala dan, king of Baby lon, sent letters and a gift to He ze kiah after hearing that he was recovering from an illness. 2 Hezekiah was pleased and showed the envoys all that was in his treasure house, the silver, gold, spices and fine oil, his entire armory and all that was in his treasury. In fact there was nothing in his palace or in his king dom that Hezekiah did not show them.
3 Isaiah the prophet came to Heze kiah and asked him, “What did these men say and from where did they come?” Hezekiah answered, “They came to me from a distant country – from Babylon.”
4 And Isaiah said, “What have they seen in your palace?” Heze kiah replied, “They have seen everything in my palace; there is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
5 Isaiah then said, “Hear this word of Yahweh, the God of hosts: 6 Be hold the days are coming when all that is in your palace, and which your fathers have treasured to this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left. 7 And some of your descendants, born of you, will be taken and will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Baby lon.”
8 Hezekiah then said to Isaiah, “The word of Yahweh which you have spoken to me is good!” For he thought: there will be peace and truth in my lifetime.
Book of Isaiah chapters 40–55
The book of Isaiah ended with the deliverance of Jerusalem. Once more there was a manifestation of God’s Providence: a spectacular miracle. Sennacherib chose to invade the Holy City and flout the God of Israel, but the following day he hastily decamped, returned home and was assassinated by his son.
Yet a century later, Nabuchodonosor took possession of Jerusalem, left the Temple in flames and set off for Babylon dragging behind him a troop of captives. With everything in shambles, faith was called into question to its very roots, for, if Yahweh, the Savior God was powerless, he was but nothing.
The prophet Ezekiel, who was among the deportees, affirms that the captives, converted as a result of their trials, would return to their country and rebuild their nation in justice.
Yet after this exile, should they expect a coming back to the happy times Israelites had known during the reign of David (or rather: as they were imagined with an aureole of times past)? What was it that God, so mysterious, had in store for Israel?
It was then that there arose a prophet who has remained anonymous. He was not one to preach and dispute like the great prophets of the past whose oracles were written later, but a man who wrote his poems and exclamations. His name fell into oblivion and tradition has placed his writings into Isaiah’s book where they form chapters 40-55.
Four parts of these poems have attracted most attention: 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12. They are not detached sections drowned in a body foreign to them. They are highlights of a vision or of a meditation which develops the mystery of God’s relationship with his people throughout the book. The Servant of God is Israel, without doubt, but it is a very poor servant of God: for the most part a people “incapable of seeing and under -standing”. Nevertheless there are among them genuine faithful believers, true disciples; God has “opened their ears”, enabling them to grasp what he wants them to understand. From among them God chooses his servants, the prophets who are in the vanguard and whose example will benefit the rest. Again and again the prophet spoke of the Servant; in the first time this term was certainly applicable to all Israel but in the end the prophet is taken over by this image and lets it embodied in the portrait of Christ the Redeemer.
Finished are the images of the divinity that the religious person has sketched from the beginning attributing all that in this world breathes power and greatness: gold, marble and cedar for temples, bulls and goats consumed on the brasiers of altars… embroidered tunics… turbans and tiaras for priestly robes…. In the crucible of the Exile the prophet received a strange revelation from the Spirit: the God who saves is the God who loves, and he loves the humble.
So the faithful God was present in the midst of the deportees, preparing together with them the salvation of the world. All the suffering of the people of God, all their humiliations were clearly the price of their sin but much more a way God chose to manifest his loving-kindness and his power. One of the surprising features of this prophecy is that the God of Israel, the Savior of all the nations, made Israel his servant to carry out salvation and take on itself the burden of the world.
This revelation is a contrast to all our natural aspirations. It is not strange that most of the Jews upon their return from Chaldea soon forgot the message and had no other project than the restoration of the bygone kingdom of David. When Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom in the true spirit of the prophet of the Exile, the majority of Jews opposed him with Law and ritual of the Temple. It is an everlasting temptation to confuse the city of humans with the city of God, and a few centuries later the disciples of Jesus would display the same blindness when they continued to cherish an old dream of Christianity.
However, with the “second Isaiah” as he is usually called, a new way opens that will be followed by the Little Remnant announced by Amos and Isaiah. This way would be that of the “poor of Yahweh” who, like Mary, the Apostles and the disciples would recognize in Jesus of Nazareth the One sent by God and promised by the prophets.