Signs and Symbols in Jerusalem: A glossary of places, people, and what they tend to represent for Isaiah

Bashan’s territory represents natural richness and abundant resources, especially forest and pastureland. It was located to the Northeast of ancient Israel, conquered by the Jews in Numbers 21.

Bashan’s territory represents natural richness and abundant resources, especially forest and pastureland. It was located to the Northeast of ancient Israel, conquered by the Jews in Numbers 21.

For Gomorrah, see Sodom and Gomorrah

Jacob's name (or ‘Jacob’s house’) often stands in for the Jewish people, because Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and his children founded the tribes of Israel (see Genesis 25-49). He himself was given the name Israel when he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32).

The Jews’ possession and management of Jerusalem was considered a sign of the favour they had found with God, whereas if they sinned and incurred his anger the city would be lost or corrupted. Jerusalem was the political and religious center of the territory promised by God to his chosen people from Abraham onwards (Genesis 12, 15, 26; Joshua 1:1-9, etc.).

Judah represents royalty and nobility in ancient Jewish society. Among the twelve tribes of Israel, Judah was the one from which came the famous kings David and Solomon, and it was the one from which it was predicted the Messiah would come.

The mountain ranges of Lebanon represent natural beauty and grandeur – it was a place of sweeping hillsides, grand vistas, tall cedar trees, cool waters, etc. (see e.g. Psalms 29:6, 72:16, 104:16-18). Lebanon is at the Eastern outskirts of Israel’s territory, and although the Israelites tried to capture it they never did (see Judges 3:1-3).

The Philistines were nemeses of the Jews whose presence in the Hebrew Bible usually connotes foreignness or hostility. Originally from the Aegean (east of Greece), they settled territory near and around ancient Israel from the 12th century BC onwards – they were defeated by King David in the 10th century (see 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 5), but their conflicts with Israel remained ongoing.

Sodom and Gomorrah stand in for the heights of venality, corruption, sin, and indecency. God's obliteration of these cities in punishment for their wrongdoing is recorded in Genesis 18-19.

Tarshish stands in for the triumphs of human craft and commerce because of its huge trading ships, which carry metals and other valuable raw materials over long stretches of treacherous ocean. It may be the name of a place in Spain or North Africa, or it may simply be a word of Phoenician origin meaning ‘metal mine’ or ‘open sea.’ See Ezekiel 28:2-5.

Zion represents the seat of Jerusalem’s divine majesty: God is said to dwell there, as are rightful and just kings (David, the Messiah, etc.). It is a mountain to the South of Jerusalem captured by King David in the 10th century BC – see Isaiah 8:18, 24:23; Psalms 2:6, 74:2.
(For the phrase the phrase 'Zion's Daughter', referring collectively to all the Jews chosen by God to occupy Israel and especially Jerusalem, cf. commentary on Chapter 3.)

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