Exploring the Conspiracy, item L14c: Shrimp Lo Mein

If it’s not clear what this is or why I’m doing it, check out the intro post.

Sick of lo mein yet? I konw I am! Shrimp lo mein is a lot like any other sort and the comments are mostly the same. But for a change of pace, I went to Double Dragon 2, the Germantown Square restaurant’s evil twin down south of campus. Rumor had it that DD2 was the institution responsible for Double Dragon’s signage disclaiming any affiliation with other restaurants of that name. Anyways, long story short, this is from a different place with a somewhat worse reputation, where the combos are a little pricier, and instead of coming with an egg roll, come with a soft drink and a crab rangoon.

Shrimp Lo Mein

In the interest of fully documenting the adventure to a new place, I put the crab rangoon up in the top center. The soft drink is not pictured.

What exactly is this dish? Small shrimp stir-fried in a tangle of round wheat noodles, with a brown sauce that’s reduced down to be basically dry. Veggies are sparse and light: bits of scallion, onion, and carrot are among the more prominent.

How authentically Chinese is it? Well, lo mein (捞面) is a real variety of noodle and a dish made with them, but in the Cantonese tradition it’s apparently some kind of deconstructed soup, with the noodles served on the side and dipped into the soup. The Chinese-American stir-fry dish is a wholly local creation, although it’s not entirely sui generis: it’s not too far afield from, say, Shanghai fried noodles. I’m a bit suspicious of any direct ancestry there though, since Chinese-American cuisine derives more from the culture of Guangzhou than Shanghai.

Is it any good? In this particular combination, it’s not really, and for reasons which can’t actually be laid at the feet of the dish itself. This form is a lunch combo with fried rice (or white rice on demand), and there’s no two ways about it: noodles with a side of rice is kind of aggressively starchy. Most of these lunch-combo dishes are driven by protein and veggies, and while shrimp certainly has a toothsome texture and a reasonably strong flavor, it also tends to be used more sparingly than other proteins and, in this particular setting, is swamped entirely by the noodles. All in all, this combo taken as a whole is something of a carbohydrate monster with only moderate relief from the bland starchiness. Noodles alone would actually work OK, in a not very aggressive way, but it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for either the main or the side when they have a certain indistinguishable cereal aspect. In considering this particular incarnation of the dish, it’s worthwhile noting the differences from the more familiar Double Dragon (1) presentation: the rangoon, to my eyes, is a less pleasing appetizer than an egg roll, but opinions may differ there; more substantively, the fried rice had bits of either raw or undercooked onion in it, which still had crunch and the sharp raw-onion flavor. In this particular pile of indifference, that sharp flavor and crunch was somewhat welcome, but it’s still a bit irregular and unnerving.

How does it complement the rice? Er, see above. The rice entirely upsets the balance of the meal and turns it from a reasonably tasty tangle of fried noodles into a grim deathmarch through the Land of Starch. The noodles themselves are, while not bone-dry, only thinly coated with a sauce which does not really transfer onto the rice at all.

Advertisements

Tasting the Conspiracy, item L14b: Beef Lo Mein

If it’s not clear what this is or why I’m doing it, check out the intro post.

Unsurprisingly, beef lo mein is pretty similar to chicken lo mein and most of the comments below are the same as those for the chicken.

Beef Lo Mein

Yup, looks a lot like any other lo mein.

What exactly is this dish? Strips of beef stir-fried in a tangle of round wheat noodles, with a brown sauce that’s reduced down to be basically dry. Veggies are sparse and light: bits of scallion, onion, and carrot are among the more prominent.

How authentically Chinese is it? Well, lo mein (捞面) is a real variety of noodle and a dish made with them, but in the Cantonese tradition it’s apparently some kind of deconstructed soup, with the noodles served on the side and dipped into the soup. The Chinese-American stir-fry dish is a wholly local creation, although it’s not entirely sui generis: it’s not too far afield from, say, Shanghai fried noodles. I’m a bit suspicious of any direct ancestry there though, since Chinese-American cuisine derives more from the culture of Guangzhou than Shanghai

Is it any good? In this particular combination, it’s not really, and for reasons which can’t actually be laid at the feet of the dish itself. This form is a lunch combo with fried rice (or white rice on demand), and there’s no two ways about it: noodles with a side of rice is kind of aggressively starchy. Most of these lunch-combo dishes are driven by protein and veggies, and giving credit where it’s due, the beef is less aggressively bland in texture or flavor than the chicken. Nonetheless, here it’s really in a pretty lopsided balance with the noodles. All in all, this combo taken as a whole is something of a carbohydrate monster with only moderate relief from the bland starchiness. Noodles alone would actually work OK, in a not very aggressive way, but it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for either the main or the side when they have a certain indistinguishable cereal aspect.

How does it complement the rice? Er, see above. The rice entirely upsets the balance of the meal and turns it from a reasonably tasty tangle of fried noodles into a grim deathmarch through the Land of Starch. The noodles themselves are, while not bone-dry, only thinly coated with a sauce which does not really transfer onto the rice at all.

Wibble Wednesday: Here be dragons (Isaiah 27)

Back from travels, and here to stay. OTOH, the semester starts up soon, and then I’ll be slammed again, but I’ll try to continue my routine.

Short snarky summary: How do we differentiate between eschatological battles of primal elements and the usual scuffles with the Assyrians? How about including a huge-ass sea monster? That’ll do the trick.

So Chapter 28 starts out with a distinctly supernatural turn. Admittedly, all of Isaiah is pretty suffused with supernatural elements, but there’s an awful lot of it that’s vague enough that you could squint at, say, “God’s wrath will destroy Israel’s enemies and bring Israel prosperity,” and read it as “Israel will destroy its enemies and prosper, and we attribute that to God”. So in the end it’s all much less mythological than it might seem, but in this chapter we meet an authentically extraordinary foe: the serpent Leviathan, whom God will “in that day” (typically read eschatologically) smite and slay.

Weird beasts actually abound in the Bible. At least some of them are presented in utterly mundane contexts: Deuteronomy 14:5, in listing kosher animals, identifies at least 3 which don’t seem to correspond to any known Near East species, but that may be a vocabulary issue rather than one of exotification (e.g. the “תאו” is variously translated as “wild goat” or “wild ox” or “bubal”, which wouldn’t make it rare or supernatural, but the word itself is a complete stumper and these translations are guesses). But then there are the Biblical beasts which are unmistakably monstrous or at least extraordinary: the בהמות (Behemoth), the ראם which is apparently some sort of mighty hoofed beast, and the לִויתן (Leviathan) There are other kind of dubious beasts in between, like my favorite, the  תחש, whose leather was prized for the Tabernacle and for fine sandals. Interpretations of what this beast might be have included ermine (R. Nehemiah), porpoise (NAS bible and Strong’s Concordance), badger (KJV bible), goats (ESV bible), dolphins (ISV bible), and seals (JPS Tanakh); other views hold that it’s not an animal at all, but a description for leather that is either durable (NIV bible) or exceptionally fine (CEV bible). But the Talmudic consensus is that the תחש is a magical beast no longer visible to humanity, possibly with a horn (following R. Hoshaya) and multicolored (according to Rashi). So depending on who you follow, this could be anything from a goat to an invisible multicolored unicorn..

That digression on mythical animals in the Bible was fun, but it was at best incidental to the text in question here. The point, however, is that there’s no real controversy that the Leviathan is, or was meant to be, a mythic beast. Huge serpents have mythic significance in a lot of cultures, and disproportionately serve as forces of destruction: both the Egyptian Apep and the Norse Jormungandr are key players in the great, epic wars between good and evil which fundamentally reshape or destroy the universe. So the idea that Leviathan might have a role to play in the end times is one which seems to accord with a fairly common mythological mode (and one which the Hebrews could plausibly have adapted fro an Egyptian model hey’d encountered). But for all that, this chapter tells us little about who or what Leviathan is, other than associating it with a twisty and elusive serpent and indicating that it somehow deserves God’s wrath. The other Biblical references (mostly in Job) focus on its bigness. If there’s a mythology of Leviathan’s origins and malice, they don’t show up in this text. This means we can’t attach any real-world consequences to Leviathan’s death, save that it’s a fundamentally epochal event. And maybe that sense of enormity is all we’re meant to take from it, because the rest of the chapter (there are 13 verses, and Leviathan’s only in one of them) describe goings-on among the people Israel.

And one of the reasons I spent a lot of paragraphs teasing out this one offhand mention in the first verse is that the other verses are, thematically, awfully familiar and I feel like I’ve said everything there is to say about this kind of triumphal prophecy. There’s a paean to God, which makes use of an extended metaphor of his favor as a “Vineyard of Delight”, kept fresh by God’s tender care of the vines and his ruthless purging on the weeds. This metaphor is carried forwards in a proto-nationalistic vein, with the people Israel themselves taking root and blossoming. There’s then an abrupt shift to suggestign that Israel itself (in spite of representing the vines, not the weeds) will be scourged. The agentof this scourging in opaque: it’s simply about the House of Jacob getting beaten to purge away its sin. That last bit suggests God’s approval, if perhaps not his direct agency. Peculiarly, the purgative includes the destruction specifically of temples, razing altar stones, sacred posts, and incense altars. It’s possible these particular sacred sites (especially the sacred posts and incense offerings) are actually cultic sites to other gods and thus offensive in the site of the Israelite God, but that’s a surprisingly Deuteronomical bent to what has otherwise not gone that way (quick recap of this discrepancy: the Deuteronomists were highly invested in a strong centralized priesthood and temple system, and spent a lot of invective on worship of other gods and even of Yahwist cults outside of the Levite priesthood; Isaiah has hitherto not really fought that fight and, to the extent that the Israelites are guilty of crimes against God’s majesty in his mind, it’s for outright lack of faith, not for faith misdirected).

So, as the above discussion suggests, we segue (rather abruptly to my mind) from one of Isaiah’s tediously repeated tropes (joy and ease in the time to come) to another (the harrowing and destruction of Israel). They’re a weird fit particularly in that order. Interpreting the textual ordering as suggesting a chronology, we have God’s defeat of Leviathan ushering in an era of delight under the wings of God’s grace, and then, after that, Israel is laid waste by God’s wrath. It doesn’t read very well in this order and it works better the other way around (which has been the usual flow in previous chapters). And just to be confusing, it seesaws right on back, because right after Israel is beaten out like grain being threshed and scattered, then the sounding of a horn (a happening which could be either commonplace or mythical depending on interpretation and setting) brings the exiles back home to once again serve God in Jerusalem. So the text bounces from apocalyptic supernatural battle to ease and comfort in the aftermath, immediately to ruination and exile, and then right back to triumph. And none of the connections seem motivated. It’s a peculiar and uneven text and frankly the ill-described sea monster might be the least of its woes.

Wibble Wednesday: Good Things Happen to Good People (Isaiah 26)

Hard getting back into the saddle again. And soon enough I’ll have to go back to work. And this one’s a long’un.

Short snarky summary:more paeans of praise, noww with 60% more nationalistic fervor!

Isaiah comes out as a bit of a slog in the end. Not because on the level of individual chapters it’s badly written — it’s not — but because it’s so damn <I>repetitive</I>. After we saw a nice wide variety of themes in the first 15 or so chapters, we’re just cycling through variations on the theme after a while. So, for instance, chapter 26 reads a lot like chapter 25, down to feeling vaguely like a misplaced section of Psalms. This chapter even begins with an invocation making it clear that it is a song of triumph, an one to be sung in Judah, so it’s a very Judahite-specific victory anthem (in that it’s perhaps unlike the considerably less nationalistic works in Psalms). He describes the qualities of Judah as including “a mighty city” (presumably Jerusalem; no other city in Judah has similar universality), defended by God, who lets “a righteous nation enter”. So, yeah, we’re hammering real hard on blurring the lines of faith, righteousness, and national character here, collapsing all of these into the identity of Judah generically.

After this first stanza, the praise dials back to more generally god-oriented, and it’s more circmspect about who both the righteous and the wicked who will be destroyed actually are (so, for once, maybe I don’t have much to say about Assyrians specifically here). And twin to the defense of the righteous in the last verse, we absolutely have the scourging of the wicked as a theme: set aganst the mighty city of Jerusalem where the righteous are shielded, we in this verse see how God has “humbled the secure city,… leveled it with the dust”. In this echo of the last stanza’s mighty city there might be a veiled threat: God is protecting your city now, but he could do to it just as he’s done to others.

Actually, in addition to the veiled threat against Jerusalem, this stanza also includes a theme I find more appealing than the sual triumphalism. The evil city is not merely brought low, but specifically is trampled underfoot “By the feet of the needy/By the soles of the poor./The path is level for the righteous man.” I’m more a fan of social justice than of the harrowing of the faithless, and this framing suggests that social justice is <I>somewhere</I> in this act of ruination. It’s a bit opaque, but at leat suggests that the wickedness being purged is not simply ungodliness but lack of care for the needy, and that bringing the high low is ultimately a step towards equity. I like that read, anyways. It’s not the only way to read it, I suppose, but it dovetails well with the fact that social justice has been an active concern in earlier chapters.

But we descend back into tediousness with the next stanza, alas. It’s framed mostly as a bog standard focus on God’s might in an <A HREF=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fINh4SsOyBw”>”Oh, Lord, you are so big”</A> vein, but some incidental details bring it a bit out of the doldrums. God’s judgment is specifically put forward as the only way to guide humans to righteousness: when the wicked are punished, we take it as an object lesson, and when they’re spared, they learnnothing and continue to do evil. It’s a pretty severe philosophy, and whether it’s harsh or outright cruel depends on how you define “righteousness”: when Isaiah’s in social-justice mode I’m somewhat on board with the salutary effects of some humbling, but if it’s all about beating up on people who don’t love God enough I’m a lot less happy about that.

And the next few stanzas certainly bring faith and nationality back to the forefront, with a lot of discussion of God’s proprietary relationship with his people. They love God and God loves them, and everyone who isn’t them is gonna get it. Worst of all, of course are those who themselves presumed to overmaster Judah themselves (and, OK, we can have one reference to the Assyrians in this commentary. But just one). Those nations “are dead, they can never live… You have dealt with them and wiped them out”. This is juxtaposed with a mention of how God has “added to the nation” which is pretty ahistorical; the overthrow of Judah’s oppressors has almost never actually resulted in their lands being annexed into Judahite hands. Notwithstanding, this stanza is long and vivid in its description of both Judah and its rivals, identifying both of them (cunningly enough) with a pregnant woman entering labor.

The rivals naturally are associated specifically with the travails and pains, and the anguished whispering that comes with the pain of childbirth. That’s a pretty simple metaphor, and one that doesn’t make much of the pregnancy aspect of their suffering (any other pain could serve just as well). But in describing Judah’s “pregnancy”, Isaiah delves into greater subtleties which might be the most interesting part of this chapter. Like the other nations, Israel suffers in travail, but the fruits of their labor (as it were) are delved into a bit more deeply, and their outcome is described as being like having “given birth to wind” in that they have no temporal victory. Nonetheless, the victory of Judah is presented as having some transcendent fruit, since even though their dead “have not come to life”, God will eventually “make the land of the shades come to life”. And just like that, our pregnancy metaphor goes careening into messianism, seeing as we kind of have to read the wholesale resurrection of the dead as basically messianic. The messianic aspect isn’t developed much further or embodied in a particular savior the way some other messianic threads have been (it is entirely possible that the consideration of the raising of the dead and the coming of the messiah as one and the same thing is a post-Isaiah innovation, and my inability to extricate them is a matter of my cultural conditioning; in such a case, this chapter might have nothing to do with the messiah whatsoever).

Anyways, the final stanza seems like it’s continuing, to some extent, the thread of a great reckoning and massive upheaval. The people are advised to “lock your doors… until the indignation passes”, while God comes to scourge the evil. All that was concealed will be rvealed, adn particularly murder, but you can escape if you just hide indoors. There are shades of the Pesach mythos in this, but presumably just as in that case, hiding indoors only works if you’re righteous yourself. It diesn’t say so specifically here, and the “lock your doors” bit reads a bit uncomfortably to me, reducing this tremendous day of wrath to something mundane you can avoid if you just don’t go out on the streets that day. If it’s a metaphor, it doesn’t work, and if it’s meant to be taken literally, it’s awfully unimpressive.

Thibble Thursday: The End of All Songs (Isaiah 25)

A bit behind schedule here. I’ll have worse schedule disruptions soon though, I’m afraid, so I’m doing what I can do, while I can do it.

Short snarky summary: Oh, God, you are so great. You are so great in destroying everything. Everything probably deserved it.

The basic shape of this chapter is rather unlike what we’ve seen before. There’s some invocation of God in the form of a paean of praise, something that feels more suited to, say, Psalms than to Isaiah. The first verse basically feels like it could be in Psalms with no revision whatsoever, because it’s pure praise of God’s name. But from there we plunge headlong into a vaguely eschatological (as always, I reserve judgment on what sort of destruction is the Judgment Day and which is just Those Pesky Assyrians) slant on the praise, which is lauding God’s power in “turning… a walled city into a ruin” and so forth. Because of his power, the mighty need to honor and fear God. But then, in a pleasingly turned inversion, the text immediately shifts to the obvious question: if the mighty should honor God for his strength, what should the meek honor him for? For his mercy, of course, and so there’s a smooth segue int going directly from God’s great city-destroying might into the succor and aid he provides to the poor. The overarching metaphor is of shelter: prtection from rain and shade from heat, first presented literally and then as a metaphor, with the rage of cruel foes described as heat in the desert, and God’s mercy as like a shading cloud (regrettably, the literal protection from rain is not given a similar metaphorical treatment, which seems like a wasted opportunity).

Thus far this has been kind of vague about the timeframe, as always. There were lots of cities and walled towns and citadels being ruined all the time in the ancient Near East and the whole “God destroys the strongholds of the mighty” business could totally be about any of those. The refuge offered to the needy is likewise unmoored in time; the poor have found aid and mercy sporadically at many times in history. So, y’know, this isn’t yet explicitly a prophecy so much as an observation. I mention this all because from the sixth verse on it does get somewhat apocalyptic, escribing a rich banquet set out for all the people of the earth (which is peculiarly at odds with most Jewish and Christian eschatology, which maintains that only the deserving, for some definition thereof, are going to enjoy the end times). There’s discussion of destroying the shroud and covering of all the nations too, and that seems rather obscure unless it’s a reference to burial shrouds, in which case it segues nicely into the following claim, that he will “destroy death forever”. Oddly, it is at ths particularly messianic note that the editor of my edition decided to call attention to the fact that Isaiah doesn’t have to be read messianically, and in the footnotes suggests that this might be “an allusion to the mass killings committed by the Assyrians”. Heh. No matter how muuch Isaiah may look like he’s talking end-times, guess someone will slant that into being about the Assyrian Empire. The funny thing is that I am all about fitting Isaiah’s prophecies into an Assyrian-Conquest-shaped hole, and even to me this looks a bit far-fetched. I’m OK with the idea that the great banquet and an end to death are messianic, far-future, and more-or-less literally meant. Saying “destroy death” as a shorthand for “stop the Assyrians, who were the most recent dealers of copious death” does not seem all that well supported by the text.

Anyways, after a brief song of praise attributed to the people (which people? This will become surprisingly relevant soon) who are now in comfort and freedom, the text contradicts itself, suggesting that some of the people of the earth aren’t going to be eating and drinking and singing hymns of praise, but are rather going to be dealt swift and merciless death. The text calls out Moab specifically for the Godsmack, although some emended texts give “Assyria” (cripes, them again?) instead. Moab will be crushed utterly, and some colorful metaphors come to the fore here, with Moab lik straw after being threshed, and God reaching in among them (to kill them, presumably) like a swimmer reaches through water. It’s pretty evocative.

One part I’m not sure I get is why Moab specifically is in the hot seat here. Going back to Isaiah 15, the destruction of Moab was viewed as a tragedy; I conjectured that Moab, like Israel, was interpreted as a wayward fellow-tribe of Judah. with complicated kinship and ambivalent relations. So it’s a bit weird to see them getting all this hate and a sense that, somehow, they deserved to be razed.

Escaping the Conspiracy, item L14*/L11c: Pork Lo Mein

If it’s not clear what this is or why I’m doing it, check out the intro post.

Because lo mein has variants which change the protein but nothing else, I took the opportunity to see how it’s done places other than Double Dragon. I started with China One, which isn’t even part of the Menu Conspiracy; in doing so I accidentally stumbled into the mistake of ordering a non-conspiracy variant, the roast pork lo mein.

Pork Lo Mein

Well, it looks a little more promising than the chicken lo mein. More color, anyways.

What exactly is this dish? Sliced roast pork stir-fried in a tangle of round wheat noodles, with a brown sauce that’s reduced down to be basically dry. Veggies are sparse and light: bits of scallion, onion, and carrot are among the more prominent.

How authentically Chinese is it? Well, lo mein (捞面) is a real variety of noodle and a dish made with them, but in the Cantonese tradition it’s apparently some kind of deconstructed soup, with the noodles served on the side and dipped into the soup. The Chinese-American stir-fry dish is a wholly local creation, although it’s not entirely sui generis: it’s not too far afield from, say, Shanghai fried noodles. I’m a bit suspicious of any direct ancestry there though, since Chinese-American cuisine derives more from the culture of Guangzhou than Shanghai

Is it any good? I think China One maybe does a better, more flavorful noodle than Double Dragon, there’s a bit more vegetable, ad roast pork is one of the more flavorful and enjoyable proteins. that said, most of the criticisms of the chicken lo mein still apply: in the form of a lunch combo with fried rice (or white rice on demand), noodles with a side of rice is just too aggressively starchy. Most of these lunch-combo dishes are driven by protein and veggies, and while there is protein in the lo mein, it’s really in a pretty lopsided balance with the noodles. All in all, this combo taken as a whole is something of a carbohydrate monster with little relief from the bland starchiness. Noodles alone would actually work OK, in a not very aggressive way, but it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for either the main or the side when they have a certain indistinguishable cereal aspect.

How does it complement the rice? Er, see above. The rice entirely upsets the balance of the meal and turns it from a reasonably tasty tangle of fried noodles into a grim deathmarch through the Land of Starch. The noodles themselves are, while not bone-dry, only thinly coated with a sauce which does not really transfer onto the rice at all.

Wibble Wednesday: Pale Horse (Isaiah 24)

Short snarky summary: What, has the destruction of every individual nation not been enough for our insatiable appetite? Fine, we’ll blow up the whole world then.

I’ve made a lot of the fact that almost all the “prophetic” utterances in Isaiah thus far track pretty closely onto aspects of the Assyrian conquest, which was pretty topical when Isaiah was writing. In doing so I’m at odds with most Jewish and Christian scholarship which reads Isaiah as a messianic text for a distant future rather than a recounting of contemporary events. But in this chapter, there’s a pretty sharp shift in content, and it’s hard for me to maintain that interpretation.

Up until now, the destruction which has been wrought has mostly been contextualized as war, or national disaster. In this chapter, though, Isaiah’s thinking bigger: it starts with “The Lord will strip the earth bare” and continues in that vein. It’s not associated with any particular place, and it’s not put in a context of being an invasion or a drought or anything, it’s just divine wrath being poured out on everyone indiscriminately. That’s much more explicitly eschatological than the previous prophecies along the lines of “Damascus will be invaded.” The rationale given for this is the transgressions of those on the earth; presumably, that’s everyone on the earth, not just the wicked. They’re said t have broken “the ancient covenant”, which is presumably not the Torah, bt the considerably older Noachide law, which simply forbids murder and eating bloody flesh. Isaiah is not really forthcoming any further about these transgressions, though, o this is all supposition, and it’s not clear why or when humanity’s sins become great enough to destroy indiscriminately.

Several stanzas are devoted to extensive description of the qualities of the despair and destruction. Images include withered vines bearing no grapes, timbrels and lyres silenced as jo departs, houses clsoed against all conviviality, and cities abandoned and still.

A tonal shift in the 14th verse suggests a counteracting force to all this gloom and doom, with the righteous (“these” in my text; we aren’t told who this is, but contextually it has to be the righteous) exulting in praise of God, honoring him while the rest lament ther lack of faith. Notably, the righteous are “them” and the lamenting wicked are “we” and “I”, in an act of interesting humility where Isaiah places himself among the suffering, and among the imperfect. That’s an interesting and somewhat compassionate choice.

After this brief change of perspective, the text returns to its theme of punishment and despoliation, threatening the peoples of the earth with “terror, pit, and trap”, with each leading inexorably to the next: flee from the terror, fall in the pit; climb out of the pit, get caught in the trap. It’s not clear if these are metaphorical scourges or literal pits and traps, and if the latter, how they come to be everywhere and consuming everyone. But this starts a segue into what might be read as references to natural disasters, for this stanza concludes with the threat of “sluices opened on high”, which reads like a prediction of massive floods, and it continues to a discussion of earth “breaking” and “swaying like a drunkard”, which sounds like an earthquake.

Finally, we are told that divine punishment will be meted out not only on “the kings of the earth, on earth”, bt also on “the host of heaven, in heaven”. This seems like it wants some sort of backstory, because while many human kings, obviously, are wicked, we know nothing of the moral status of the host of heaven; hitherto they’ve appeared infrequently, and typically been presented as absolutely loyal instruments of God’s will, so their inclusion as targets of this wrath is authentically mystifying. We’re also told that “they shall be locked up in a prison”, which, frankly, strikes me after all this supernatural wrath as bathos. We’re destroying the earth, shaking it to the foundations, and the best God can come up with to do to the wicked it to put them in jail? John of Patmos could usually come up with some authentically bowel-liquefying notion of how the wicked will be tormented in the end of days. Isaiah? Not so much, or at least not here. But on the other side of this, Isaiah can’t be too hard on the wicked, because in this final stanza he wants to convey a sense of hope and redemption, when these captives are at last freed and God reigns over Jerusalem.

It’s haard for me to get excited about the idea of God reigning over a land which he himself converted into a desolate moonscape, but to each their own, I guess.