The Old Testament lesson for Epiphany is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 60:1-6 and has been chosen for this Sunday because of its strong focus on “light.” Isaiah in our text contrasts the light with darkness, as well as prophesying about the “light coming” and the “coming to the light.” Certainly, Isaiah provides an all-encompassing view of light in this text. Having just finished the Advent and Christmas seasons of the Church Year, it is interesting to see how this Epiphany text brings the coming of the Light and the Light shining in the darkness drawing all men to it together.
The “light motif” in many ways is explained by Isaiah. It has its beginning in Genesis 1:3 when God declares, “Let there be light...,” and out of the darkness light comes. Of course, the fall into sin brings back the darkness, the thick darkness which covers the whole earth. In Exodus and the ninth plague we see a foreshadowing of where the light motif is going as the land of Egypt is in deep darkness while the land of Goshen, the dwelling of the Israelites, has light. Our text with its description and use of the light motif points us forward to John 1 and the “Light the darkness has not overcome,” in reference to the birth of Jesus. All the “light” language surrounding the birth of the Christ-child (the star and the Angel’s appearance to shepherds in the night) remind us of this same motif. Then, we see the great reversal of this motif on Good Friday when the world goes dark as the Son of God dies. This is followed by the three days of darkness in the tomb, but on the dawn of the third day the light shines once again as Christ is risen! This beautiful motif provides its own sermon.
I would like to give credit to Reed Lessing in his Isaiah 56-66 Commentary in the Concordia Commentary Series for his insights on Isaiah’s incarnational glory and its connections to John 1:14 as well as the feminine identity of Zion/Jerusalem here in chapter 60. The Holy City is seen as a “mother” to whom both sons and daughters return (as well as the converted nations).
+On the dawn of the third day the light shines once again as Christ is risen!
60:1 קוּמִי אוֹרִי (Ku-mi o-ri) The verse begins with two feminine Qal imperatives. Roots: קוּמ (koom) אוֹר (ore) “Rise/arise, shine” The shining aspect may be connected to the face of Moses which shown after being in the presence of the LORD and required a veil. The LXX translates this with a doubled verb, but the manuscripts from Qumran support the Hebrew, Masoretic Text.
אוֹרֵךְ (o-Rech) “your light” The word for light or verb “to shine” occurs seven times in this chapter.
בָא (va) Either a Qal perfect, or a Qal participle. “has come, or, is coming”
זָרָח (za-Rach) Qal perfect: “to rise, shine” Various options exist for the translator with these two verbs. “is coming… has risen”; “has come… has risen”; Lessing chooses: “is coming… is dawning”
60:2 הַחֹשֶׁךְ (ha-Cho-shech) from: חֹשֶׁךְ (kho-shek) “darkness; obscurity”
יְכַסֶּה (ye-chas-seh) Piel imperfect “to cover”
וַעֲרָפֶל: (va-a-ra-Fel) from: עֲרָפֶל (ar-aw-fel) “thick darkness; deep darkness; heavy cloud” Note the contrast between light and dark taking place in these two verses. Also, those addressed can “Rise and shine” BECAUSE their Light has come.
לְאֻמִּים (le-um-Mim) “nations; peoples”
יֵרָאֶה (ye-ra-Eh) root: ראה (raw-aw) Niphal: “to see” The niphal passive sense: “will be seen”
60:3 וְהָלְכוּ גוֹיִם (ve-ha-le-Chu go-Yim) “Nations shall come” This language is also found in Micah 4:2, a contemporary of Isaiah.
לְנֹגַהּ. (le-No-gah) From: נֹגַהּ (no-gah) “brightness; gleam; bright light”
זַרְחֵךְ (zar-Chech) “your rising; your dawning; your shining forth”
60:4 שְׂאִי (se-i) root: נשׂא (naw-saw) Qal imperative: “to lift up”
וּרְאִי (u-re-I) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal imperative: “to see”
נִקְבְּצוּ (nik-be-Tzu) root: קבצ (kaw-bats) Niphal perfect: “to gather”
צַד; (tzad) “[your] side”
תֵּאָמַנָה (te-a-Ma-nah) root: אמן (aw-man) Niphal imperfect “to be looked after; to be carried on the hip; to be carried by a nurse; to be nursed on the hip” Sons and daughters coming from afar speaks of a return from exile or the diaspora to the holy city of Zion.
60:5 וְנָהַרְתְּ> (ve-na-Hart) root: נהר (naw-har) Qal: “to shine; to be radiant; beam”
וּפָחַד (u-fa-Chad) Qal: “to shiver; to be in awe; to tremble; Literally: and with joy”
וְרָחַב> (ve-ra-Chav) Qal: “to open oneself up wide; to be enlarged; to be widened”
יֵהָפֵךְ (ye-ha-Fech) root: הפך (haw-fak) Niphal: “to turn to; to fall upon; (passive) to be turned to”
הֲמוֹן (ha-Mon) “noise; din; roar; wealth; Literally: the abundance”
60:6 שִׁפְעַת (shif-At) “large amount; multitude; abundance; quantity”
גְּמַלִּים> (ge-mal-Lim) “camels”
תְּכַסֵּךְ (te-chas-Sech) root: כסך (kaw-saw) Piel imperfect: “to cover; Literally: shall cover your [land]”
בִּכְרֵי (bich-Rei) “young male camels; dromedaries”
וּלְבוֹנָה (u-le-vo-Nah) “frankincense; incense”
וּתְהִלֹּת (u-te-hil-Lot) from: תְהִלֹּת. (teh-hil-law) “praiseworthy deeds; praises; praiseworthy actions”
יְבַשֵּׂרוּ> (ye-vas-Se-ru) root: בשׂר (baw-sar) Piel: “to announce; to tell; herald as glad tidings”
The language of verses 5-6 denote wealth being brought to Jerusalem. It is the reverse of all the exiles and conquering experienced by the Hebrews when the wealth was taken away. Now, these foreign nations and peoples return the wealth to the holy city of Zion. We are reminded of King Solomon and all the wealth that was brought to Jerusalem during his reign, but we are also pointed forward to the visit of the Magi as they followed the light of the star to visit and bring wealth to the Light of the World.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 60:1-6.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 60:1-6.