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Home » Daily Readings, Old Testament

Strong Like the Eagle

Submitted by on Wednesday, 10 December 2008No Comment
  • Reading I: Isaiah 40:25-31
  • Resp. Psalm:  Psalm 103:1-2,8.10
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:28-30

golden_eagle-sm

Deutero-Isaiah had the unenviable task of convincing Israelites who have grown accustomed to live in exile to go back to a Judah that is still in ruins.  He had to convince them first of all that God has not forsaken Israel, that He was not defeated by the gods of Babylon, that the return to Judah will be an event greater than that of the Exodus from Egypt.

The second idea that God has not been defeated by the gods of Babylon is connected to the conviction of ancient peoples that a kingdom is as strong as its gods((The conviction actually extends until — as far as I can determine — the Fall of Rome in the 5th century.  Augustine’s City of God, in fact, was written to the allegation that Rome has been weakened because the traditional gods have been replaced by the Christian god.)).  The kingdom of Judah was destroyed by a far superior empire and the Israelites still remember the taunts of the Chaldaeans that their God was not able to protect them.  Jewish theology during the exile — as reflected in the Lamentations — point to a different idea:  Yahweh left Israel to the power of the enemy because of sin.  The exiles then have to see the connection between their sins and the alleged "defeat" of Yahweh.

Yahweh therefore tells the Israelites through Deutero-Isaiah that He can create wonders because He is the Almighty, and He wants Israel back.  What is interesting in this speech from Isaiah 40:25-31 is the latter part:  those who associate themselves with Yahweh will never grow weak nor tired.

He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings
;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

The comparison with eagles is not original to Deutero-Isaiah.  There is an ancient hymn that implicitly compares Israelites to young eagles

As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, So he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions. (Deuteronomy (NAB) 32:11)

In Israel’s liturgy too, God is compared to a large bird and his devotees to those who are protected under His wings

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, "My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust."
God will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague,
Will shelter you with pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge; God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield. (Psalms (NAB) 91:1-4)

The strength and youth of the eagle was proverbial.  It was believed that the eagle never grew tired nor old.  In this oracle from Deutero-Isaiah, it is explicitly asserted that those who associate themselves with God will also gain His strength.

The selection from Matthew 11:28-30 gives the above idea a Christian key.  The Lord gives rest, comfort and solace for those who need it.  They need only to come to him and put on his yoke.

Isaiah 40:25-31
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
25And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal, saith the Holy One?
26Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these things: who bringeth out their host by number, and calleth them all by their names: by the greatness of his might, and strength, and power, not one of them was missing.
27Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel: My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28Knowest thou not, or hast thou not heard? the Lord is the everlasting God, who hath created the ends of the earth: he shall not faint, nor labour, neither is there any searching out of his wisdom.
29It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not.
30Youths shall faint, and labour, and young men shall fall by infirmity.
31But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Psalm 103:1-2,8
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1For David himself. Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless his holy name.
2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee.
8The ford is compassionate and merciful: longsuffering and plenteous in mercy.
Matthew 11:28-30
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
28Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you.
29Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
30For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.
Isaiah 40:25-31
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
25And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal, saith the Holy One?
26Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these things: who bringeth out their host by number, and calleth them all by their names: by the greatness of his might, and strength, and power, not one of them was missing.
27Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel: My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28Knowest thou not, or hast thou not heard? the Lord is the everlasting God, who hath created the ends of the earth: he shall not faint, nor labour, neither is there any searching out of his wisdom.
29It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not.
30Youths shall faint, and labour, and young men shall fall by infirmity.
31But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Matthew 11:28-30
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
28Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you.
29Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
30For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

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