The destruction of the Hebrew nation and their captivity in Mesopotamia would have proved of great benefit to their expanding theology had it not been for the determined action of their priesthood. Their nation had fallen before the armies of Babylon, and their nationalistic Yahweh had suffered from the international preachments of the spiritual leaders. It was resentment of the loss of their national god that led the Jewish priests to go to such lengths in the invention of fables and the multiplication of miraculous appearing events in Hebrew history in an effort to restore the Jews as the chosen people of even the new and expanded idea of an internationalized God of all nations.
During the captivity the Jews were much influenced by Babylonian traditions and legends, although it should be noted that they unfailingly improved the moral tone and spiritual significance of the Chaldean stories which they adopted, notwithstanding that they invariably distorted these legends to reflect honor and glory upon the ancestry and history of Israel.
These Hebrew priests and scribes had a single idea in their minds, and that was the rehabilitation of the Jewish nation, the glorification of Hebrew traditions, and the exaltation of their racial history. If there is resentment of the fact that these priests have fastened their erroneous ideas upon such a large part of the Occidental world, it should be remembered that they did not intentionally do this; they did not claim to be writing by inspiration; they made no profession to be writing a sacred book. They were merely preparing a textbook designed to bolster up the dwindling courage of their fellows in captivity. They were definitely aiming at improving the national spirit and morale of their compatriots. It remained for later-day men to assemble these and other writings into a guide book of supposedly infallible teachings.
The Jewish priesthood made liberal use of these writings subsequent to the captivity, but they were greatly hindered in their influence over their fellow captives by the presence of a young and indomitable prophet, Isaiah the second, who was a full convert to the elder Isaiah’s God of justice, love, righteousness, and mercy. He also believed with Jeremiah that Yahweh had become the God of all nations. He preached these theories of the nature of God with such telling effect that he made converts equally among the Jews and their captors. And this young preacher left on record his teachings, which the hostile and unforgiving priests sought to divorce from all association with him, although sheer respect for their beauty and grandeur led to their incorporation among the writings of the earlier Isaiah. And thus may be found the writings of this second Isaiah in the book of that name, embracing chapters forty to fifty-five inclusive.
No prophet or religious teacher from Machiventa to the time of Jesus attained the high concept of God that Isaiah the second proclaimed during these days of the captivity. It was no small, anthropomorphic, man-made God that this spiritual leader proclaimed. “Behold he takes up the isles as a very little thing.” “And as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
At last Machiventa Melchizedek beheld human teachers proclaiming a real God to mortal man. Like Isaiah the first, this leader preached a God of universal creation and upholding. “I have made the earth and put man upon it. I have created it not in vain; I formed it to be inhabited.” “I am the first and the last; there is no God beside me.” Speaking for the Lord God of Israel, this new prophet said: “The heavens may vanish and the earth wax old, but my righteousness shall endure forever and my salvation from generation to generation.” “Fear you not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.” “There is no God beside me—a just God and a Savior.”
And it comforted the Jewish captives, as it has thousands upon thousands ever since, to hear such words as: “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have created you, I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine.’” “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you since you are precious in my sight.” “Can a woman forget her suckling child that she should not have compassion on her son? Yes, she may forget, yet will I not forget my children, for behold I have graven them upon the palms of my hands; I have even covered them with the shadow of my hands.” “Let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Listen again to the gospel of this new revelation of the God of Salem: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom. He gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might he increases strength. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
This Isaiah conducted a far-flung propaganda of the gospel of the enlarging concept of a supreme Yahweh. He vied with Moses in the eloquence with which he portrayed the Lord God of Israel as the Universal Creator. He was poetic in his portrayal of the infinite attributes of the Universal Father. No more beautiful pronouncements about the heavenly Father have ever been made. Like the Psalms, the writings of Isaiah are among the most sublime and true presentations of the spiritual concept of God ever to greet the ears of mortal man prior to the arrival of Michael on Urantia. Listen to his portrayal of Deity: “I am the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity.” “I am the first and the last, and beside me there is no other God.” “And the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear.” And it was a new doctrine in Jewry when this benign but commanding prophet persisted in the preachment of divine constancy, God’s faithfulness. He declared that “God would not forget, would not forsake.”
This daring teacher proclaimed that man was very closely related to God, saying: “Every one who is called by my name I have created for my glory, and they shall show forth my praise. I, even I, am he who blots out their transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember their sins.”
Hear this great Hebrew demolish the concept of a national God while in glory he proclaims the divinity of the Universal Father, of whom he says, “The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” And Isaiah’s God was none the less holy, majestic, just, and unsearchable. The concept of the angry, vengeful, and jealous Yahweh of the desert Bedouins has almost vanished. A new concept of the supreme and universal Yahweh has appeared in the mind of mortal man, never to be lost to human view. The realization of divine justice has begun the destruction of primitive magic and biologic fear. At last, man is introduced to a universe of law and order and to a universal God of dependable and final attributes.
And this preacher of a supernal God never ceased to proclaim this God of love. “I dwell in the high and holy place, also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit.” And still further words of comfort did this great teacher speak to his contemporaries: “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your soul. You shall be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters fail not. And if the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a defense against him.” And once again did the fear-destroying gospel of Melchizedek and the trust-breeding religion of Salem shine forth for the blessing of mankind.
The farseeing and courageous Isaiah effectively eclipsed the nationalistic Yahweh by his sublime portraiture of the majesty and universal omnipotence of the supreme Yahweh, God of love, ruler of the universe, and affectionate Father of all mankind. Ever since those eventful days the highest God concept in the Occident has embraced universal justice, divine mercy, and eternal righteousness. In superb language and with matchless grace this great teacher portrayed the all-powerful Creator as the all-loving Father.
This prophet of the captivity preached to his people and to those of many nations as they listened by the river in Babylon. And this second Isaiah did much to counteract the many wrong and racially egoistic concepts of the mission of the promised Messiah. But in this effort he was not wholly successful. Had the priests not dedicated themselves to the work of building up a misconceived nationalism, the teachings of the two Isaiahs would have prepared the way for the recognition and reception of the promised Messiah.