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Three phrases describing the oppression by foreigners that the Israelites felt, are given one after the other: “the yoke of burden”, “the staff of his shoulder” and “the rod of his oppressor”. The three phrases are piled on top of each other to show a picture of terrible oppression. In those days, foreign domination was not like it always is today. For example, when the Americans invaded Iraq, they didn’t make the Iraqis their slaves. The oppression in our passage was probably more like what we had in World War II. When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland, the people felt dominated by the Germans. In the part of the world where I come from, during World War II, the Japanese would forcibly enlist people from the Asian countries they had overpowered, and force them into virtual slavery. Stories are still coming out now of terrible atrocities as people were forced to build railways and roads in terrible conditions, and women were forced into prostitution for the Japanese soldiers. This is the sort of oppression we see here. It is heavy. It is hard. It is oppressive. Isaiah builds up these images to paint a dreadful picture of tyranny. And then all of a sudden, he tells us that God has broken that oppression! The verb form used in the Hebrew is one of intensity – so it means more than just broken – but shattered! God has shattered this oppression. This light has shattered the burdens of oppression!

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