Haftarah: 8th Day of Pesach: The Unsung Song
Isaiah 10:32 – 12:6: Sancherib, king of Assyria, was leading his seemingly unstoppable armies through one country after another. No one could stand in his way. He set his sights on Jerusalem. The rest of Israel had fallen. The Northern Kingdom, of the Ten Tribes had fallen. Judah was quickly swallowed by his hordes and none expected that Jerusalem would stand for long. King Hezekiah was confident that God would protect His holy city and Temple. Israel had not faced such devastation since their final confrontation with Egypt at the Yam Suf. One city, only one, remained of the beauty and glory of David and Solomon.
Isaiah assured the people that their king was right. God would save His city and them. They would survive for the time being. (See Kings II, Chapter 19)
We can still hear echoes of the massive sigh of relief when the people realized that their larger than life enemy was miraculously defeated, well, at least we can hear that sigh in our imaginations. We certainly do not read of any such relief or celebration. There are no reports of victory parties. There is no record of a song similar to the Song of the Sea. There is no frisson of the miraculous. King Hezekiah was silent. There were no congressional committees to study the war and its dénouement and report back to the king. There are no recorded sermons urging the people to reflect on what happened and why.
It seems as if the nightmare was so terrible that the people simply could not even think about what happened. They all just went on with their lives. All, that is, except for Isaiah, the prophet, teacher, leader and visionary.
Isaiah understood that the silence indicated that the Israel of David and Solomon was no longer a tree, but a stump. There were indications of life, but the general appearance was that of a dead tree. The people perceived themselves as no more than a stump. They knew that they were not the great nation they were under the reigns of David and Solomon. They sensed what Isaiah knew, that they were more dead than alive, and Isaiah tells them that a perfect world could and would grow from that stump. Isaiah’s prophecy is the unsung song of King Hezekiah and the people.
Isaiah the teacher describes the world, as it will be. He teaches us about a peaceful world, a world in which even “A wolf will dwell with a sheep,” (11:6) a world in which a child will have no reason to fear a lion. “They will neither injure nor destroy, for the world will be filled with awareness of God.”
Isaiah the visionary describes a world on which all will make sense and we will all declare; “Give thanks to God, declare His Name, and make His acts known among the peoples.” (12:4)
Isaiah the leader defines the ultimate leader: the Messiah. “He will be censed with fear of God; he will not judge by what his eyes see nor will he decide by what his ears hear.” (11:2-5) He will live and breathe the spirit of God.
Step by step, the prophet develops his vision of a perfected world and transforms the vision into a song, a song for the people to sing through the long exile, when they are only stumps of the tree. Isaiah gives voice to the unsung song of King Hezekiah and Israel, and provides us with the words we can sing as we wait for and dream of the world of Isaiah’s prophecy.