Today I preached on Isaiah 9:8–10:4. I explained that the reason for preaching on such weird boundaries—half of chapter nine and the first four verses of the next chapter—was because Isaiah uses a repeated “chorus” or refrain at the end of each paragraph, tying the literary unit together. The chorus says, “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still” (all Scripture in ESV).
Isaiah uses this chorus at the end of 9:12, 17, 21 and 10:4. It expresses the way his anger is not abated due to Israel’s refusal to repent of her sin, even after suffering judgment. But did you know that this chorus shows up once more in the book of Isaiah?
In Isa 5:25, the prophet writes, “Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.”
Some scholars believe that Isa 5:25-30 was originally written in conjunction with 9:8–10:4, due to this repeated chorus (e.g., J. J. M. Roberts in his Hermeneia commentary on First Isaiah). But as there is no manuscript evidence of such a displacement, this theory is just that—an unprovable and ultimately an unsubstantiated theory. It’s probably better to take the repeated chorus as an intentional literary callback to the previous passage, where Isaiah calls down woes upon the people of Israel and then indicates that God’s anger with them will result in judgment by the “nations far away” (5:26 – referring to the Assyrians).
Reading the text in this way, we see an intentional link between the first section of Isaiah (chapters 1–6) with the second (chapters 7–12). Isaiah’s words to the northern Israelites should not be read in isolation, but in conjunction with the rest of his message to the people of God. Chapters 1–12 speak a singular message with the intended result that the Judeans would humble themselves and repent in light of the judgment of northern Israel.
May we also take the message to heart.