Justice, Righteousness, and Shalom: An Interpretive Virtue Ethic of Isaiah 32:16-17 for the Whole Community


When we live the way we are supposed to God is glorified and we are blessed or happy (shalom). The biblical view of happiness is cultivated by living according to biblical virtues, such as justice and righteousness, which are motivated by flourishing (shalom). In this paper, I explore the prophet Isaiah’s prognostication in Isaiah 32:16-17 of not only human flourishing but also the flourishing of nature by a supernatural outpouring of divine spirit. The virtue ethic of justice and righteousness, which are the foundation of YHWH’s throne (see Ps 89:14) are responsible for Isaiah’s vision of a renewed society—a new age of God’s rule (see Is 2:1). These virtues are derived from the righteous reign of King Hezekiah (see Is 36-37) and ultimately of an eschatological oracle concerning Israel’s messianic king—King Jesus—who governs a nation “on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever” (Is 9:7). God uses a standard conduct by which to adjudicate a righteous king from a rebellious one. If a king practiced the ethical standard of the Tanak (viz. exhibiting a healthy fear of God via fulfilling a virtue ethic of justice and righteousness), then he was considered righteous and just. These moral norms have been called the “Yahweh criteria” by my spiritual mentor and former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Jefferson McCrory. Thus, the Yahweh criteria of justice and righteousness result in modeling a morality of happiness (shalom).

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Justice, Righteousness, and Shalom

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5 years ago

It’s a sad commentary on our times that the practice of justice and righteousness has become disassociated from people’s understanding of happiness. How much more would people experience true, lasting happiness if they were to value righteousness. Our relativistic society only breeds discontent and fleeting happiness. Thank you, Chester, for reminding us through your powerful work how to frame the idea of happiness in a meaningful, purposeful way.


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and my Chaldean kingdom,

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from the Mountain

that struck the base of the fountain

that raised to life a statue

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