Thursday, January 11, 2007

2 Epiphany, Year C, continued

For the preceding post on this Sunday's lesson, Isaiah 62:1-5, click here.

Let's look more closely at the exquisite poetry of v. 5 of the lesson. The perfectly balanced sounds of the verse are exhilarating in the Hebrew, as I've diagrammed in this image from the TanakhML verse analyser (click to enlarge):

Isa 62:5

The two poetic lines here interconnect as the ending sounds of the two cola within each of them echo and repeat each other. The verse is a rare Hebrew rhyming quatrain!

The poetic echoing and doubling corresponds to a double joy of Zion in the verse. The NRSV emends the text, so that God is Zion's loving partner in each poetic line (see also the NAB, NJB, and Message). In the Hebrew and the other early versions, however, Zion is embraced from two sides: her many new children embrace her (v. 5a) and God rejoices over her (v. 5b). (See NJPS, NET, NIV, NLT, NASB). (I think it is probably best in v. 5a to render the second בעל as "commit to" or "take to themselves" rather than "marry." This will avoid the impression that Zion has two husbands!)

The theological thrust here goes well beyond the wonder of God's joyful embrace of us, God's own beloved spousal people (v. 5b). God is at work removing infertility and barrenness from Zion, filling Zion with a sprouting, budding blessing of offspring.

No Longer Barren
Zion, like Sarah in Genesis, had suffered the tragedy and loss of barrenness throughout the exilic period. Now, God is fulfilling God's Genesis plans to bring a wondrous, sacred fruitfulness into being on earth.

As God's epiphany proceeds, Zion is budding with new children (cf. Isaiah 49:20; 54:3; 60:21). She is fulfulling God's Genesis plan for her to "be fruitful and multiply."

This message can surely be preached. God is at work in Epiphany season to bless God's spent, demoralized people so that their spiritual vigor abounds, their vindication and praise flares up before the world, and the blessings of salvation and righteousness reverberate abroad so that knowledge of God's glory covers the earth.

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