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A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Isaiah 2-4

Kuruvilla Thomas
Bangalore
Published on 24 December 2019




Isaiah 2-4 Timeline
Fig. 1


Introduction

This study treats Isaiah 2-4 as a "Functional Chiasmus" in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is arranged in the form of a functional chiasmus must be rearranged based on certain logical principles to be correctly interpreted. A functional chiasmus is a new concept; see definition here [1]. This study also contains an exegesis of the rearranged text. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Part 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.

Isaiah 2-4 is a simple chiasmus describing Christ's millennial reign and end times tribulation. This prophecy also has a more detailed account of the Roman attack on Jerusalem and its devastation than what we usually see in chiastic reconstructions.


Notes:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem in the 1st century who primarily were of the tribe of Judah; We will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.


Discussion

1. Presuppositions

We base our parse of Isaiah 2-4 on the assumption that it refers to 3 periods:

  1. The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD). The Roman army kills most of the population of Judah and Jerusalem and enslaves the rest.
  2. Christ's millennial reign on earth (circa 2000AD).
  3. End times tribulations (c. 3000AD)

2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will use the NIV Bible for this parse.

Parsing this chiasmus involves dividing portions of the text into three categories as above. We will call the period of First Jewish–Roman War Period 1, Christ's millennial reign Period 2 and End times tribulation Period 3.


Categorizing Isaiah 2-4

Ch 2 Vs 2-6 belong to Period 2. A description of the glorious millennial reign of Christ.

Ch 2 Vs 7-22 belong to Period 3. The sins and punishment of the people during the end times.

Ch 3 belong to Period 1. The punishment of Judah and Jerusalem in the First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD).

Ch 4 Vs 1 appears to belong to Period 3. The fate of women during the end times tribulation.

Ch 4 Vs 2-6 belong to Period 2. More information on the millennial reign of Christ.


Original text

We color-code the chiastic units of the original text (NIV) below for easy visual identification using: red for Period 1, blue for Period 2 and green for Period 3.


Isaiah 2 2 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
6 You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs.

7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. 9 So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them.
10 Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty! 11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
...
(Verses 12-19 omitted)
...
20 In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. 21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
22 Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?


Isaiah 3 See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, 2 the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, 3 the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.
...
(Verses 4-23 omitted)
...
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. 25 Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. 26 The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.


Isaiah 4 1 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!”
2 In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. 5 Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.


3. Building the reconfigured text


From this parse, it appears that Isaiah 2-4 form a Functional chiasmus as below:

A1   Ch 2 Vs 2-6 Period 2. Millennial reign of Christ.
  B1   Ch 2 Vs 7-22 Period 3. End times tribulation.
    X   Ch 3 Period 1. The First Jewish–Roman War.
  B2   Ch 4 Vs 1 Period 3. The fate of women during the end times.
A2   Ch 4 Vs 2-6 Period 2. More on the millennial reign of Christ


We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure above and based on the ordering rules of a functional chiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X'. The corresponding subunits (For example; subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

X  [A1,A2]  [B1,B2]        (1)

Translating (1) into verse numbers, we get:

Ch 3  [Ch 2 Vs 2-6, Ch 4 Vs 2-6]   [Ch 2 Vs 7-22, Ch 4 Vs 1]        (2)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (2).



4. Isaiah 2-4 Reconfigured

The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD).(Ch 3)
Chapter 3 See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, 2 the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, 3 the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.
...
(Verses 4-23 omitted)
...
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. 25 Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. 26 The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.



Christ's millennial reign on earth (circa 2000AD ) (Ch 2 Vs 2-6, Ch 4 Vs 2-6)
Chapter 2 2 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
6 You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs.


Chapter 4 2 In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. 5 Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

End times tribulations (c. 3000AD) (Ch 2 Vs 7-22, Ch 4 Vs 1)
Chapter 2 7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. 9 So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them.
10 Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty! 11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
...
(Verses 12-19 omitted)
...
20 In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. 21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
22 Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?


Chapter 4 1 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!”



5. An exegesis of the reconfigured text.

The passage has been split into 3 sections as above for analysis.

5.1 The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD)(Ch 3)


Chapter 2 1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

Isaiah 2:1 lies outside the chiasmus but is included here for completeness because it indicates the start of the prophecy.



Chapter 3 1 See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water,

The Roman General Vespasian and his son Titus began the campaign to crush a revolt by attacking the Judahite centres surrounding Jerusalem in 67AD (See our parse on the "70 Weeks of Daniel" [2] for more detailed historical background on this period). A large number of Judahites in these towns fled Roman punishment to take refuge in the fortified city of Jerusalem. The Roman attack and siege left Judah and Jerusalem with limited supplies. During the siege, supplies of food were intentionally burned by one Judahite group to induce the defenders to fight against the siege; as a result many city dwellers and soldiers starved to death.



Chapter 3 2 the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, 3 the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.
4 “I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them.”
5 People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.
6 A man will seize one of his brothers in his father’s house, and say, “You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!” 7 But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house; do not make me the leader of the people.”

At the start of the war in 66 AD, the Roman governor had launched a raid on the city, and arrested and crucified numerous Judahite leaders. Since the leaders, elders and the capable were killed, anarchy, lawlessness, and dearth abounded. We have seen from our reconstruction of Micah 4&5 [3] that the leadership was singled out as a punishment from God for leading the people astray (See Matthew 23).



Chapter 3 8 Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. 9 The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.
10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. 11 Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.

Most of the citizenry of Judah and Jerusalem were killed and the rest sent into slavery for their unrepentant, unashamedly evil nature. However the righteous were saved by taking Jesus' advise to flee to the mountains when they saw the Roman soldiers arrive (Matt 24:15-20).



Chapter 3 12 Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.
13 The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. 14 The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

The unwise, effeminate elders and leaders led the people astray, placed the people under oppressive laws (Matt 23:4) and abused their position to take advantage of the poor.



Chapter 3 16 The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. 17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”
18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding.

This passage has a rather detailed description of the typical eastern forms of feminine adornment. The women's excessive use of fine clothes, jewellery and cosmetics indicate they had become vain and immoral - a reflection of a corrupt society. As punishment, the women of Jerusalem who either brutally killed or led away into slavery ("...instead of beauty, branding").



Chapter 3 25 Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. 26 The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.

The irregular troops that defended Jerusalem were crushed. The temple and city were razed to the ground.



5.2 Christ's millennial reign on earth (circa 2000AD ) (Ch 2 Vs 2-6, Ch 4 Vs 2-6)


Chapter 2 2 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

This passage, Isaiah 2:2-4, is virtually identical to Micah 4:1-3, which is a part of our parse of Micah 4&5 [3]

During the reign of Christ, a temple will be established in the new Jerusalem, the capital of the reconstituted Israel; it will be a highly regarded source of Godly wisdom and law.



Chapter 2 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Christ, likely through representatives, will act as a judge over international disputes and so, in effect, will rule the world. There will be no more need for war or even preparation for war, because disputes are settled through Christ, and because he will have complete control over world affairs; this will be a period of true peace on earth.



Chapter 2 5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
6 You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs.

The prophet calls on the people of Israel to return to their God before the start of the millennial reign. Their God has abandoned His people, Israel, to pagan religions and ancient occult practices.



Chapter 4 2 In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.

The Messiah will have a glorious millennial reign, and the new Israel will be a reconstituted people living in a fruitful nation. The consecrated saints who inhabit the new Jerusalem will be those who are judged faithful - those who were not swayed by Satan's threats and temptations.



Chapter 4 5 Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

God's protective covering will be over all of Jerusalem at all times during Christ's reign.



5.3 End times tribulations (c. 3000AD) (Ch 2 Vs 7-22, Ch 4 Vs 1)

Chapter 2 7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. 9 So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them.

In the end times people will be extremely wealthy from living in an advanced society; they will have all means of transportation available to them. But the people outside Israel will choose to worship idols and will be punished for it. Verse 2:7 may seem to be a continuation of verse 2:6 but we believe that just before the start of Christ's millennial reign, the true tribes of Israel will mostly be a poor people as a curse for worshipping other gods (Deut. 28).



Chapter 2 10 Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty! 11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
12 The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled), 13 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan, 14 for all the towering mountains and all the high hills, 15 for every lofty tower and every fortified wall, 16 for every trading ship and every stately vessel. 17 The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, 18 and the idols will totally disappear.
19 People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth. 20 In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. 21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
22 Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?

In the end times, the people of the world outside Israel will be arrogant and proudly self-sufficient because of their wealth, knowledge and achievements. On this terrible day of the Lord, they will be shown the power and splendour of God, which will make them terrified and aware of their inadequacy; they will stop worshipping idols.



Chapter 4 1 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!”

The world will be hit by a calamity that inordinately affects men, leaving women without mates. Even though this verse comes immediately after the detailed description of the vanity of the women of Jerusalem, we do not believe this verse applies to them as the women in 70AD were either killed or led into slavery.




Conclusion

This paper is a chiastic reconstruction of the text which shows that the passage contains three interwoven prophetic passages. Once again, we see the destruction of Jerusalem feature prominently as the pivot of this chiasmus; this is an event that appears so often in functional chiasmi that we treat its presence as a validation of the parse. Note that even though this is a simple, straight-forward chiasmus, its chiastic structure is hidden through the the use of language that obscures the boundaries of the chiasmus. For example, in Isaiah 4:1, the text about the plight of women makes it appear to be an extension of the previous chapter.

This passage gives us more details on the First Jewish-Roman war, the reign of Christ and the end times, all of which we have seen in previous reconstructions. This parse implies that after the reign of Christ there will be a short, separate end times period, during which Christ appears in all his glory and the end time tribulations occur.



References

[1] A Definition of Functional Chiasmus
[2] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel"
[3] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Micah 4 and 5










Related pages

Daniel 9
Mark 13
Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37
Functional Chiasmus