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The Book of Isaiah and God's Kingdom: A Thematic-Theological Approach (New Studies in Biblical Theology) (VOLUME 40) Paperback – October 19, 2016
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"The Book of Isaiah and God's Kingdom is a model of how to synthesize the theological message of a biblical book. Abernethy presents a multifaceted central theme reflective of the whole of Isaiah and has effectively incorporated exegetical analysis, historical background materials, and structural features of Isaiah that are supportive of this theme. While tackling numerous interpretive issues, the book maintains its focus on the overarching message of Isaiah. Abernethy's attention to canonical issues and even the inclusion of suggested preaching outlines reflect his concern to demonstrate the prescriptive relevance of Isaiah for the church. I highly recommend this book for students, pastors, and those who teach Isaiah." (Gary Yates, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Fall 2017)
"This volume is a stunning achievement. . . . What is most impressive about this book is the way in which Abernethy has made one of the longest and, arguably, most daunting books in the Bible accessible and meaningful for the lay reader without dumbing it down. It is the perfect resource for the pastor, student, and scholar who wants to preach through or study Isaiah. If you love the book of Isaiah, this book is for you!" (Seulgi L. Byun, Themelios, December 2017)
"This book would be of interest and of benefit to a variety of audiences, from scholars engaged in the study of Isaiah and the task of reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture to preachers and teachers faced with the task of introducing the book of Isaiah." (Jonathan Bentall, Reviews in Religion and Theology, 25:3 (2018))
About the Author
- Paperback : 250 pages
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- ISBN-10 : 0830826416
- ISBN-13 : 978-0830826414
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : IVP Academic (October 19, 2016)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #135,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I would like to comment on four aspects of the book:
A. To his credit, Abernethy was unafraid to stray from certain conservative Christian interpretations. Abernethy believes that Isaiah 7:14 originally related to the seventh century B.C.E. rather than predicting a Messiah who would be born of a virgin centuries later. He argues that the description of the newborn son in Isaiah 9:1-6 does not portray the son as a divine being, but rather calls this newborn Davidic king “mighty God” to highlight God’s might in the seventh century B.C.E. Although Jesus applies Isaiah 61:1 to himself in Luke 4:18, Abernethy disputes the scholarly idea that the messenger of Isaiah 61 is portrayed as a prophesied Davidic king; rather, he maintains that the messenger is a prophet, speaking about God’s restoration of Israel when the Persians were ruling it. In these cases, and more, Abernethy judiciously evaluates scholarly views, noting their strengths and weaknesses, while defending his own view. Some chapters in this book were better than others, but Abernethy’s surveys of different interpretations made this book especially interesting.
B. Abernethy does attempt to connect the Book of Isaiah with the New Testament. Although he says that Isaiah 7:14 originally applied to a child in the seventh century B.C.E., he states that the Gospel of Matthew applies that verse to Jesus to argue that, as God was with Israel in the seventh century B.C.E., so likewise is God with Israel in the first century C.E. Abernethy notes that God in Isaiah 59:15-17 wears the same sort of armor that Christians are exhorted to wear in Ephesians 6:14-17; reading these texts together, Abernethy concludes that Ephesians 6:14-17 is encouraging Christians to join God in God’s work of defeating oppression (in the case of Ephesians 6:14-17, supernatural oppression). On pages 197-198, Abernethy compares the story of Jesus with the larger story in the Book of Isaiah: both discuss God rebuilding Israel on a righteous or repentant remnant, and both posit a role for Israel in God’s plan to renew creation and bring Gentiles to God-self. This last discussion would have been stronger had Abernethy interacted with the theme of Israel’s return from exile in the New Testament, since (as Abernethy knows) Israel’s restoration from exile is highly significant to God’s purposes in the Book of Isaiah.
On one occasion, in discussing the Servant of the Lord in Second Isaiah, Abernethy appears open to the view that the Servant was an ideal figure, someone Israel in exile hoped would come. That would open the door to Jesus being the expected Servant of the Lord, rather than the Servant being some historical figure in the sixth century B.C.E. But does such a view do justice to the context of Second Isaiah? Even Abernethy seems to acknowledge that the Servant related, in some manner, to the amelioration of Israel’s exile, presumably (albeit not necessarily) her exile in Babylon. How would an ideal figure accomplish this? How would that be relevant to Jesus? I am not saying a connection between Jesus and the themes of Second Isaiah is impossible, but, if one believes in such a connection, it should be explained.
C. Overall, Abernethy treats First Isaiah (Isaiah 1-39) as relating to the seventh century B.C.E.: God will deliver Judah from the Assyrians and establish a Davidic kingship, along with eschatological paradise, in the aftermath of the Assyrians’ defeat. Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55) and the Servant in that section of the Book of Isaiah, for Abernethy, pertain to God delivering Israel from Babylonian exile. And Third Isaiah (Isaiah 56-66), along with the messenger of that book, concerns God’s imminent judgment of evildoers and vindication of the righteous, within the context of Persia’s subjugation of post-exilic Judah.
One can ask: Is the Book of Isaiah a collection of frustrated, unfulfilled eschatological hopes and dreams? Obviously, writers, redactors, and editors of the Book of Isaiah did not think so, for they continued to see themes in the book as still relevant, even amidst new historical situations. The writer of Second Isaiah, for instance, arguably observed themes about Israel’s deliverance from Assyria and applied the theme of deliverance to Israel’s redemption from Babylonian exile. What was their theological rationale for this, though? Would not the unfulfillment of certain prophecies in First Isaiah disqualify First Isaiah’s divine authority, in light of Deuteronomy 18:21-22?
Abernethy in this book never devotes a section or an explicit discussion to this topic, yet he does say things that are relevant to it. Sometimes, he prefers to look at the book thematically or generally while bypassing thorny historical questions: he says that the Book of Isaiah affirms that God was Israel’s deliverer from the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians, and will continue to be Israel’s deliverer. That may coincide with the view of those who put the Book of Isaiah together, continued to see relevance in its parts, and canonized it. Still, such an approach dodges the problem that sections of Isaiah seemed to expect a near eschatological divine intervention that historically failed to take place.
The closest Abernethy gets to resolving this problem is when he appears to imply that God changed God’s strategies. For instance, God hoped that God’s plans in First Isaiah would result in a righteous people and a righteous Davidic king, but they did not, so God in Israel’s exile appealed to Israel with the Suffering Servant. Yet, for Abernethy, God did not abandon God’s plan for a righteous Davidic king to rule God’s eschatological kingdom, for that would remain on the table; it would just come later. Convincing or not, Abernethy deserves credit for his attempt to balance the Book of Isaiah’s historical meanings and their possible trans-historical (i.e., canonical) meanings, and what he says is thought-provoking.
D. Abernethy’s discussion of social justice in Isaiah 58 was especially good. According to Abernethy, Isaiah 58 exhorted wealthy landowners to free the indebted, including slaves, while also providing the newly freed people with resources to get, and stay, on their feet. That should be the goal of charity for the poor, in my opinion.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!
As the fifth longest book in the OT, and having been written by an Israelite almost 3,000 years ago, it might be redundant to say that Isaiah is a difficult book to read. The way a book is organized is just as important as what a book says, but for most of us—Isaiah is just too long, and it’s difficult to get a grasp on the entire story and on each section.
In The Book of Isaiah and God's Kingdom, Andrew Abernethy, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, gives a thematic-theological approach to Isaiah looking at God as the king in the three sections of Isaiah (1–39, 40–55, 56–66).
Abernethy, while not eschewing the historical details of Isaiah, but focusing on the final literary form of Isaiah, he wants to show the reader what the book of Isaiah teaches us today. In doing so, he examines Isaiah’s varied portraits of God in each of the three sections of Isaiah, with each of those sections incorporating different aspects of God.
In Chapter 1, he is seen in poetry, narrative, and prose. He is the God who judges (Is 6; 24) and the one who saves (25; 33; 36–37). The book of Isaiah bears a message of judgment and hope from the beginning (1–6) to the end (66). Isaiah 1–12 focuses on how God will judge Israel and Judah through Assyria, while “Isaiah 24–27 looks to an eschatological time when the heavenly king establishes his rule in Zion” (31). In Isaiah 33, God’s reign has implications for his people: they can gaze on the beauty of their Lord and be protected from their enemies. Isaiah 36–37 present a snapshot of the unrivaled King who stands against the mighty Assyrian army. This is the unrivaled king of all ages who is more than able able to stand against all mighty armies.
Chapters 2–3 present God as a saving warring, international, and compassionate King. In Isaiah 40–55 Israel has been led out into the wilderness (40.1), which “symbolizes Zion’s desolation” (57). The “good news” is that God will be the great shepherd King who carries his people close to him in his bosom (40.11).
Chapter 3 covers Isaiah 56–66, represented in by a chiasm. Zion’s glory is the centerpiece of that chiasm (E), and it can only be understood in light of Yahweh’s coming as the warrior king (D/D’) who sees the injustice in Israel and will come to take action. Because of his just and righteous actions, the nations will flock to him and give gifts to him, and he will show compassion on all of his people.
In Chapter 4, Abernethy points us to the “lead agents” in each of the three sections, though he is not certain that these agents (of Yahweh) are understood to be the same individual. “Instead of forcing all of these lead agents into one mould, it is better to allow the uniqueness of each figure to emerge” (120). He examines the Davidic ruler (1–39), the Servant(s) of the Lord (40–55), and God’s messenger (56–66). This does not mean Abernethy doesn’t find these figures fulfilled in Jesus. He says, “The claim here does not undermine the New Testament’s application of all three of Isaiah’s figures to Jesus; instead, it displays the grandeur of Jesus and the surprise of recognizing how one person, Jesus Christ, can take on the role of all three figures, while also being the very God of these agent figures” (169). If Isaiah didn’t express these three figures as being one figure, this helps explain the Second Temple period’s emphasis on the coming Davidic Messiah, their lack of emphasis on a suffering servant, and the Pharisees confusion over Jesus.
Chapter 5 seeks to answer to questions, “Where is God’s kingdom? And, who are the people of God’s kingdom? . . . God’s kingdom is ‘placed,’ if you will, with people in the midst of it” (171). In this reality, God rules the entire cosmos, but he will also rule from Zion. God’s people are a purified, redeemed, obedient, just, national and international community which trusts God.
After each section in each chapter, Abernethy gives a summary and some canonical reflections of the content. The canonical reflections always look forward to Jesus, which is especially helpful when it comes to preaching and teaching through the book of Isaiah. Abernethy draws our eyes from the King who sits above the heavens in Isaiah to Yahweh in the flesh, who preached the kingdom of God, lived the kingdom of God, and was the Davidic king who suffered and died for the people of God. He created the world, commands destinies, and builds his temple brick by brick, person by person. He is the servant king whose glory Isaiah saw (Jn 12.41; Isa 6).
There is so much more that could be said about these five chapters, and even more to be said about God’s kingship in Isaiah. He is the ruling, judging, warrior, loving, compassionate, caring, shepherd King who is watching out for his people, who will return and care for them, and will dine with them on his great mountain (Is 25.6–8; Rev 21.1–5). Abernethy’s book is recommended for all sorts, especially pastors and teachers. Be warned, this is not light reading. Abernethy’s work is mighty detailed and is best read with your Bible open and a pen in your hand (unless you don't want to remember pivotal details). Abernethy has written an excellent resource on grasping on of the main themes of Isaiah (if not the main theme), and even provides two preaching outlines in an appendix at the end. You would be well-served in reading this book. Highly recommended.
This was posted on Spoiled Milks.