Isaiah, the Prophet (12″ high)

Isaiah was a piece of work. By turns garrulous, and then taciturn, sociable and then solitary. He could be humorous, though maybe he did not intend that. He spent such time in his study writing out his scrolls, that when he did break himself away, he could be a very likeable character. But then after awhile he was apt to become too much a character, with his opinions, and always very dogmatic about these opinions,  and you’d wish there was some way to tell him to just give it a rest and go home.

Still, women liked him, or most did, anyway. He was one man that could really listen, and then offer wise advice, and not reprimands. They all agreed he should have a wife to look after him, fix him proper meals, wash his cloak, for goodness sake. But none was willing to take up the task. It would not do to irritate him, for he had power. He was known to be a seer, a prophet. And if you were not careful, he might just see a future for you that was less than rosy, or in fact littered with disaster.

He made his money by prophesying. One tribal chieftain or another would come to him wanting to know how a battle he had planned would work out, and Isaiah would set by himself for a spell and then write it out, for a few shekels. And the tribal chieftain would go off happy, for of course in Isaiah’s prophecy, this chieftain would triumph, and mightily. Then of course, the tribal chieftain this first one was to fight with and “utterly destroy,” would get wind of the prophecy of Isaiah, and come to the old man himself, with a few more shekels in hand, to see if he could get a favorable prophecy, too. And so Isaiah would take the shekels, and go off for a spell, and write this second tribal chieftain a prophecy, in which he would “lay waste” to the first chieftain’s fields and tents and cattle and so forth. This tit for tat prophesying would go on, with profit to Isaiah, until both chieftains decided, with some tantrums and shouting, not to do battle at all, and only just skirmish, now and again, and wait for a more fortuitous moment to do battle .  Isaiah saved the lives of who knows how many women and children, that way.

Mostly though, what mattered to Isaiah was Israel, God’s little kingdom among so many great empires. What mattered was the fate of that kingdom. The future of it. And his mattering was so intense that even at the most inopportune moments, as for example a Hanukkah celebration, he would break from the circle dance, and go outside to stare up into the night sky, and watch the turning of the constellations, sometimes for half the night. Then he would rush home to his desk, open his scroll, dip the pen, and write. When he wrote out alone like that, by the light of his tallow candle, midwifery was closer to the mark of what he did, than prophecy. He brought into being. He wrote up what was not, into what was. His words upon the scroll knit together a promise from his innards, the poetry from his pen moved like a child in the  womb. So he would write, until he was faint, seized upon by the agony and the joy of that child in his manhood verily coming into this actual world: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.