More On Reading Isaiah

Navpress has published a workbook on Isaiah as part of their "Life Change Series" of Bible study workbooks. These books have helpful study questions on each book of the Bible along with notes to promote group reading and discussion. Below is an example of their "Study Skill" sections which are found through out each of their books.

"Isaiah 11:6-7 tells us that in the Kingdom of God, lions will eat straw and sleep peacefully with calves. Isaiah 35:9 says there won't be any lions near Zion's highway. Is Isaiah confused?
In the Western world, we might hear several responses. Some say, "These passages contradict each other. The Bible is fallible." Others say, "Isaiah doesn't mean real lions. These verses are just symbols of a spiritual reality. The real Kingdom is people living in peace." Others use logic to harmonize the statements: "Lions that eat straw are in one sense lions and in another sense not lions."
A Hebrew would think differently. To him, the word lion represents a physical creature with the characteristic nature of "lionness." In prophetic poetry, a lion is both a physical animal and a symbol--the fiercest, most deadly predator Israel knows. The Hebrew would assume Isaiah is talking about physical lions. But the important thing would be the essence of what the lions are: lioness. Both 11:6-7 and 35:9 assert that lioness will be absent.
Why doesn't Isaiah just say, "nothing fierce or dangerous will be there"? Because he is painting word-pictures that speak to the heart, not defining data that explain to the mind. Lion evokes the physical , spiritual, and symbolic all at once. So, instead of trying to nail down data about the Kingdom, try exploring what each image means. The Kingdom of God is a banquet(25:6), a tranquil farm(32:18-20), a blossoming desert (35:1-2), a land of transformed lions (11:6-7), and no lions at all (35:9)."

Keep Reading Isaiah.

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