Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Isaiah 38

Well, here's a surprise. Hezekiah is one who really prays. The historian in Kings and Chronicles does not record a prayer, just the judgment of the king's self-centred attitude toward his own remaining time, but the prophet records the prayer and it is tender-hearted and the king like other prayers in the Bible switches from third to second person in mid thought. This is the simple turning that I have written of before. It is not repentance or any complex psychological movement. It is a very simple turn from self to other, that other presence that is always in the present for us.

Here also is a metaphor of exile from self, where self is represented as 'my generation'. One might see verse 12 as a meditation on body as tent, a place where the 'I' is tended, as a shepherd tends a sheep. This is followed by a metaphor of weaving. So the king speaks in poetry. This prayer is hard to render. Some words are rare and the context demands something more creative for the metaphor or simile implied in the prayer.

I reviewed some of this with the Jerusalem Bible who are happy to correct the Hebrew from the Greek or other sources and conjectures. For verse 16 their note is: the Hebrew is unintelligible. Does every prayer have to be formed in sentences? Is Hezekiah writing literature? Or is this a hesitant, dismal, inarticulate, searching, guilty human, who does not make sense without a certain senselessness? It's part of the puzzle that some bits are unintelligible and some bits are lost under the chesterfield.

Sometimes I cannot tell what the root is or the sense. For example in verse 12, is מדלה from דל, דלל, or דלה. I chose to ignore the weakness guess and picked lattice from the Song of Songs, 'cause I think Hezekiah got Yahweh's attention with this simple turn of his. It's equally curious that some of these sentences are phrased as Hezekiah's actions and some translations turn them around and make them Yahweh's actions. That may be missing the whole point of the mysterious relationship between G-d and the human whereby G-d takes on our weakness (דל) in our lattice and its portals (דלה). Here there is a direct word relationship to Psalm 91 in the use of a rare word, attach oneself to another (perhaps a metaphor related to the building of the court in Exodus 27).

I tested Psalms 90 and 91 and found more than 30% shared words with the prayer. There are several resonances with several psalms according to JB, but they seem to match some by 'concept' only. The 'word based' resonances are worth a separate post and could probably be a doctoral thesis - no time for it now. What it says is that the king was aware of the relational aspects of the psalms from their liturgical usage and it would seem he was a musician himself.

When you put a puzzle together, sometimes the colour of a piece does not match its surroundings, but you don't notice and perhaps it fits adequately for the moment. Such is the case in many places of this puzzle for me, I am sure. My mother told me that she had read the Bible through cover to cover twice. (Dear mum, more to learn.) I will count myself lucky if I get through it once in my lifetime.

We should have a fig tree.

Isaiah 38
בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם חָלָ֥ה חִזְקִיָּ֖הוּ לָמ֑וּת
וַיָּב֣וֹא אֵ֠לָיו יְשַׁעְיָ֨הוּ בֶן־אָמ֜וֹץ הַנָּבִ֗יא וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ צַ֣ו לְבֵיתֶ֔ךָ כִּ֛י מֵ֥ת אַתָּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִֽחְיֶֽה
1 In days those Hezekiah was ill to the point of death,
and Isaiah child of Amoz the prophet came to him saying to him, Thus says Yahweh, Set in order your house for you will die and not live.
13
38
וַיַּסֵּ֧ב חִזְקִיָּ֛הוּ פָּנָ֖יו אֶל־הַקִּ֑יר
וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֖ל אֶל־יְהוָֽה
2 And Hezekiah turned his face around to the house wall,
and he prayed to Yahweh.
12
7
וַיֹּאמַ֗ר אָנָּ֤ה יְהוָה֙ זְכָר־נָ֞א אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁ֧ר הִתְהַלַּ֣כְתִּי לְפָנֶ֗יךָ בֶּֽאֱמֶת֙ וּבְלֵ֣ב שָׁלֵ֔ם וְהַטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵינֶ֖יךָ עָשִׂ֑יתִי
וַיֵּ֥בְךְּ חִזְקִיָּ֖הוּ בְּכִ֥י גָדֽוֹל
3 And he said, Beseeching, Yahweh, remember, if you will, that I walked in your presence in truth and with a heart at peace, and what is good in your eyes I have done.
And Hezekiah wept, great weeping.
38
11
וַֽיְהִי֙ דְּבַר־יְהוָ֔ה אֶֽל־יְשַׁעְיָ֖הוּ לֵאמֹֽר 4 And the word of Yahweh happened to Isaiah, saying, 13
הָל֞וֹךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֶל־חִזְקִיָּ֗הוּ כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵי֙ דָּוִ֣ד אָבִ֔יךָ שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ אֶת־תְּפִלָּתֶ֔ךָ רָאִ֖יתִי אֶת־דִּמְעָתֶ֑ךָ
הִנְנִי֙ יוֹסִ֣ף עַל־יָמֶ֔יךָ חֲמֵ֥שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָֽה
5 Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says Yahweh, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears.
Note me well adding to your days a fifteen year span.
41
14
וּמִכַּ֤ף מֶֽלֶךְ־אַשּׁוּר֙ אַצִּ֣ילְךָ֔ וְאֵ֖ת הָעִ֣יר הַזֹּ֑את
וְגַנּוֹתִ֖י עַל־הָעִ֥יר הַזֹּֽאת
6 And from the palm of the king of Ashur I will deliver you and this city.
I will defend this city.
16
9
וְזֶה־לְּךָ֥ הָא֖וֹת מֵאֵ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה
אֲשֶׁר֙ יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֵּֽר
7 And this to you is the sign from Yahweh,
that Yahweh will do this matter that he spoke.
10
17
הִנְנִ֣י מֵשִׁ֣יב אֶת־צֵ֣ל הַֽמַּעֲל֡וֹת אֲשֶׁ֣ר יָרְדָה֩ בְמַעֲל֨וֹת אָחָ֥ז בַּשֶּׁ֛מֶשׁ אֲחֹרַנִּ֖ית עֶ֣שֶׂר מַעֲל֑וֹת
וַתָּ֤שָׁב הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ עֶ֣שֶׂר מַעֲל֔וֹת בַּֽמַּעֲל֖וֹת אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָרָֽדָה
8 Note me well, reversing the shadow of the degrees that it had gone down on the degrees of Ahaz in the sun, backward ten degrees.
And the sun returned ten degrees by the degrees that it had gone down.
32
20
מִכְתָּ֖ב לְחִזְקִיָּ֣הוּ מֶֽלֶךְ־יְהוּדָ֑ה
בַּחֲלֹת֕וֹ וַיְחִ֖י מֵחָלְיֽוֹ
9 The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah,
in his illness, and he lived from his illness.
12
9
אֲנִ֣י אָמַ֗רְתִּי בִּדְמִ֥י יָמַ֛י אֵלֵ֖כָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵ֣י שְׁא֑וֹל
פֻּקַּ֖דְתִּי יֶ֥תֶר שְׁנוֹתָֽי
10 I, I said in the muting of my days, I will go to the gates of the grave,
officiating over the leftovers of my years.
18
8
אָמַ֙רְתִּי֙ לֹא־אֶרְאֶ֣ה יָ֔הּ יָ֖הּ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ הַחַיִּ֑ים
לֹא־אַבִּ֥יט אָדָ֛ם ע֖וֹד עִם־י֥וֹשְׁבֵי חָֽדֶל
11 I said, I will not see Yah, Yah in the land of the living.
I will no longer take note of humanity with the inhabitants of the finite.
14
10
דּוֹרִ֗י נִסַּ֧ע וְנִגְלָ֛ה מִנִּ֖י כְּאֹ֣הֶל רֹעִ֑י
קִפַּ֨דְתִּי כָאֹרֵ֤ג חַיַּי֙ מִדַּלָּ֣ה יְבַצְּעֵ֔נִי מִיּ֥וֹם עַד־לַ֖יְלָה תַּשְׁלִימֵֽנִי
12 My generation is pulled out and exiled from me as the tent of my tending.
I excise the warp, like the weaver of my life from her lattice. He will find my mark. From day until night will you make me whole?
14
24
שִׁוִּ֤יתִי עַד־בֹּ֙קֶר֙ כָּֽאֲרִ֔י כֵּ֥ן יְשַׁבֵּ֖ר כָּל־עַצְמוֹתָ֑י
מִיּ֥וֹם עַד־לַ֖יְלָה תַּשְׁלִימֵֽנִי
13 I conferred until morning. Like a lion indeed he breaks all my bones.
From day until night will you make me whole?
17
9
כְּס֤וּס עָגוּר֙ כֵּ֣ן אֲצַפְצֵ֔ף אֶהְגֶּ֖ה כַּיּוֹנָ֑ה
דַּלּ֤וּ עֵינַי֙ לַמָּר֔וֹם אֲדֹנָ֖י עָֽשְׁקָה־לִּ֥י עָרְבֵֽנִי
14 Like a horse? A thrush? Indeed I did twitter. I muttered like a dove.
My eyes are brought low from exaltation. My Lord, I am my oppression. Be my insurance.
13
16
מָֽה־אֲדַבֵּ֥ר וְאָֽמַר־לִ֖י וְה֣וּא עָשָׂ֑ה
אֶדַּדֶּ֥ה כָל־שְׁנוֹתַ֖י עַל־מַ֥ר נַפְשִֽׁי
15 What will I speak? And he say to me? And himself, he undertake?
I will go in solemnity all my years over the bitterness that is mine.
12
11
אֲדֹנָ֖י עֲלֵיהֶ֣ם יִֽחְי֑וּ
וּלְכָל־בָּהֶן֙ חַיֵּ֣י רוּחִ֔י וְתַחֲלִימֵ֖נִי וְהַחֲיֵֽנִי
16 My Lord, on them they will live,
and for all, in them is the life of my spirit, and you will make me dream and I will live.
8
19
הִנֵּ֥ה לְשָׁל֖וֹם מַר־לִ֣י מָ֑ר
וְאַתָּ֞ה חָשַׁ֤קְתָּ נַפְשִׁי֙ מִשַּׁ֣חַת בְּלִ֔י כִּ֥י הִשְׁלַ֛כְתָּ אַחֲרֵ֥י גֵוְךָ֖ כָּל־חֲטָאָֽי
17 Behold of peace, bitterness to me, bitterness.
But you, you have attached yourself to my being, impaired, worn out, for you have cast behind your back all my sin.
8
26
כִּ֣י לֹ֥א שְׁא֛וֹל תּוֹדֶ֖ךָּ מָ֣וֶת יְהַלְלֶ֑ךָּ
לֹֽא־יְשַׂבְּר֥וּ יֽוֹרְדֵי־ב֖וֹר אֶל־אֲמִתֶּֽךָ
18 For the grave will not thank you, death praise you,
Those going down into a pit will not inspect your truth.
13
12
חַ֥י חַ֛י ה֥וּא יוֹדֶ֖ךָ כָּמ֣וֹנִי הַיּ֑וֹם
אָ֣ב לְבָנִ֔ים יוֹדִ֖יעַ אֶל־אֲמִתֶּֽךָ
19 One who lives, one who lives, he will give you thanks, like me today.
Father to children will make known your truth.
11
12
יְהוָ֖ה לְהוֹשִׁיעֵ֑נִי
וּנְגִנוֹתַ֧י נְנַגֵּ֛ן כָּל־יְמֵ֥י חַיֵּ֖ינוּ עַל־בֵּ֥ית יְהוָֽה
20 Yahweh to save me,
and my accompaniments we will perform all the days of our life over the house of Yahweh.
7
17
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְשַׁעְיָ֔הוּ יִשְׂא֖וּ דְּבֶ֣לֶת תְּאֵנִ֑ים
וְיִמְרְח֥וּ עַֽל־הַשְּׁחִ֖ין וְיֶֽחִי
21 And Isaiah said, Take a pressed lump of figs,
and apply it over the ulcer and he will live.
15
10
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר חִזְקִיָּ֖הוּ מָ֣ה א֑וֹת
כִּ֥י אֶעֱלֶ֖ה בֵּ֥ית יְהוָֽה
22 And Hezekiah said, What is a sign,
that I will ascend to the house of Yahweh?
9
7


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