Thoughts on Isaiah and John’s Revelation
When I discuss symbolism in scripture, I have a few standby examples. There’s the blanket and bed image as a small example with multiple depths of meaning; the wheels within wheels image as an example of how obtuse things can get; the fig and skin coats as an example of something that’s generally taken literally but is also a potent symbol with multiple depths of meaning; and the 26–59kg hail as an example of something that might be literal or figurative but is pretty obtuse either way.
About this last example let me say more. Prior to 2003, the largest hailstone on record weighed 680 grams. In 2003 a stone three times as wide but not verifiably heavier was discovered. John predicts hail weighing a talent per stone; talents have varied over the years from 26 to 59 kg, with both 32 kg and 59 kg versions in use in John’s time. That’s 40–85 times heavier than the heaviest recorded hailstone. Now, God can do what God wants to do, but when I crunch the numbers a stone that large would need updraft windspeeds in excess of 300–600 miles per hour. That’s faster than any tornado or hurricane and is approaching the speed of sound.
So, maybe God will hit people with unbelievably large hail (though how they will survive to “blaspheme God” thereafter baffles me). But maybe the image, as much of John’s imagery, is symbolic. The question is, symbolic of what? And it is a question, not just rhetorically; I don’t know the answer.
I don’t know, but I do suspect. It was Isaiah that gave me the clue, only three verses before the blanket and bed symbolism. Speaking of His acts in establishing Zion, the Lord says “the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies.” Removing the cover of lies is mentioned elsewhere with images like “proclaimed upon the rooftops”, but I personally like this one more. It’s not just that someone will tell all, but there will be no cover, no lie possible. God will wipe away the cover of lies, the hiding from the truth, as surely and completely as 30kg hail wipes away physical cover.
I could, of course, have this wrong. Maybe there really will be widespread hail massive enough to punch through just about every roof in existence. But I like the image posed above nonetheless. There is no hiding from the truth of God.