Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963. (National Archives ARC Identifier 542069)
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:3, 5–6
January 19, 2020
Today’s reading from Isaiah is undoubtedly beautiful but is often considered confusing. Who is the servant? Is it Israel, Isaiah himself, or someone or something else? All these positions have their defenders. Yet I think we will see that the editors of the final version which we read have produced is something theologically profound and psychologically accurate.
This passage was composed by someone we have named Second Isaiah. He lived in Babylon at the end of the exile of the Jewish people around 540 BC. To be more precise the exile only ended for those who wished to end it. Babylon was conquered by Assyria and the new king, Cyrus, invited the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their country and temple. His reasoning was colonial. He wanted people indebted to him to be in charge of the locals, and be subservient to him. Enough Jews thought there was a higher force involved, accepted the invitation and returned.
We see the consequences with the beginning of this chapter: