Bible Review 1:1, Spring 1985

What the Ass and the Ox Know—But the Scholars Don’t

By David Noel Freedman

The first chapter of Isaiah contains one of the most powerful prophetic passages in the entire Bible. The Lord, through the prophet, castigates his people Israel for rebelling. As a result, the country lies desolate, devoured by Israel’s enemies. The Lord rejects the sacrifice of his people. What is the sacrifice the Lord desires? Isaiah 1:12ff.

“Pursue justice,

Champion the oppressed,

Give the orphan his rights,

Plead the widow’s cause.”

The Lord pleads with his people:

“Come now, let us reason together

Though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow …

If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land,

But if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be devoured by the sword.”

Isaiah 1:17ff

At the beginning of the prophecy (verse 2), the Lord berates Israel for rebelling.

“Hear, O heavens and give ear, O earth.

For the Lord has spoken.

‘Sons have I reared and brought up,

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