The Oxford Handbook of Isaiah (OXFORD HANDBOOKS SERIES) 0190669241, 9780190669249

The book of Isaiah is without doubt one of the most important books in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, as evidenced by i

529 64 63MB

English Pages 712 [755] Year 2021

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
The Oxford Handbook of Isaiah
Part I: Questions Related to the Formation of the Book of Isaiah
Chapter 1: The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure
1.1. Prolegomena
1.2. The Two Halves of the Book of Isaiah
1.3. The Isaianic Narratives and the Structure of the Book
1.3.1. Isaiah 1–12
1.3.2. Isaiah 13–27
1.3.3 Isaiah 28–35
1.3.4. Isaiah 40–55 and 56–66
1.4. Summary
Chapter 2: The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Bernhard Duhm and the Threefold Division of the Book
2.3. The Rediscovery of the Essential Unity of the Book
2.4. The Composition History of Isaiah 1–66
2.5. The Character of the “Trito-Isaianic” Passages (Isaiah 56–66)
2.6. The Role of “Deutero-Isaiah” (Isaiah 40–55)
2.7. The Composition of Isaiah 1–39 and the Core of the Book
2.8. Conclusion
Part II: Key Parts of the Book of Isaiah
Chapter 3: The Oracles against the Nations
3.1. Introduction
3.2. History of Formation
3.3. Function in the Book of Isaiah as a Whole
3.3.1. The OAN in Relation to the Preceding Texts (Isaiah 1–12)
3.3.2. The OAN in Relation to the Following Texts (Isaiah 24–66)
3.3.3. The OAN of Isaiah in Comparison with the OAN of Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
3.4. Key Messages
3.5. Conclusion
Chapter 4: Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Dating Isaiah 24–27
4.3. Literary Issues: Structure, Form, and Redaction
4.3.1. Literary Forms
4.3.2. Structure and Redaction
4.4. Critical Interpretive Issues
4.4.1. Identity of the Anonymous City
4.4.2. Covenant
4.4.3. Apocalyptic
4.4.4. Resurrection
4.4.5. Intertextuality
Chapter 5: The Narratives about Isaiah and Their Relationship with 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles
5.1. Introduction
5.2. What Happened?
5.3. Sources as Reflections on “What Happened”
5.3.1. The Source Debate
5.3.2. A New Source and Redaction Proposal Source S (Sennacherib Source): 2 Kings 18:13; 19:9–19, 35–36//Isa 36:1; 37:9–20, 36–37 Source R (Rabshakeh Source): 2 Kings 18:17–36; 2 Kings 19:8//Isa 36:2–36:21; 37:8 Redaction I1 (Isaiah Redaction One): 2 Kings 18:37–19:7, 20–34, 37//Isa 36:22–37:7, 21–35, 38 Redaction I2 (Isaiah Redaction Two): 2 Kings 20:1–11// Isa 38:1–6, 21–22, 7–8 Redaction I3 (Isaiah Redaction Three): 2 Kings 20:12–19//Isa 39:1–8 Source HP (Hezekiah Psalm): Isa 38:9–20 [no parallel in Kings] Source A
2 Kings 18:14–16 [no parallel in Isaiah] Conclusion
5.4. The “Original” Context
5.5. Kings 18–20 in Context
5.6. Isaiah 36–39 in Context
5.7. Chronicles 32 in Context
5.8. Conclusion
Chapter 6: Isaiah 40–55
6.1. History of Formation
6.1.1. Redaction Criticism
6.1.2. Other Approaches
6.2. Function in the Book of Isaiah as a Whole
6.2.1. Approaches to the Whole
6.2.2. Shared Vocabulary, Themes, and Formal Features
6.3. Key Messages
6.4. Conclusion
Chapter 7: Isaiah 56–66
7.1. History of Research
7.2. Two Core Compositions
7.2.1. The First Composition: Isaiah 58:1–62:12 Isaiah 58–59 Isaiah 60–62
7.3. The Second Composition
7.3.1. The Prayer of Repentance
7.3.2. God’s Answer to the Prayer of Repentance
7.4. Conclusion
Part III: The World Behind the Text
Chapter 8: The Neo-Assyrian Context of First Isaiah
8.1. Introduction
8.2. The Book of Isaiah in the Neo-Assyrian Period
8.3. The Neo-Assyrian Empire and Its Impact on the Kingdom of Judah
8.4. The Neo-Assyrian Empire and Its Impact on First Isaiah
8.5. Conclusion
Chapter 9: Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background
9.1. Prophecy and International Politics
9.2. Babylon in Isaiah 1–39
9.3. Oracles in Isaiah 13–23
9.4. The Oracle on Babylon: Isaiah 13:1–22
9.5. Isaiah 14:3–23: The King of Babylon in the Underworld
9.6. Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon: Isaiah 21:1–10
9.7. Isaiah 36–39
9.8. Babylon in Isaiah 40–48
9.9. Babylon in the Context of the Theological Politics of Isaiah 40–48
9.10. Queen Babylon Dethroned (Isaiah 47:1–15)
9.11. A Footnote
Chapter 10: The Book of Isaiah: Persian/Hellenistic Background
10.1. Introduction
10.2. Prophecy in Persian Yehud
10.3. Isaiah and Empire
10.4. The Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BCE)
10.5. Cyrus in the Book of Isaiah
10.6. Achaemenid Imperial Policy: King, Deity, and Local Norms
10.7. Cyrus as the Other: Resisting Imperial Hegemony
10.8. “I Who Form Light and Create Darkness”: Creation and Cosmology
10.9. “I am Yhwh, there is no other”: Monotheism
10.10. The Hellenistic Dating of Isaiah Due to Literary Features and Historical Allusions
10.11. Hellenistic Variants: Old Greek Isaiah and Qumran 1QIsa
10.12. The Future Direction of the Debate
Part IV: Themes and Literary Motifs Spanning the Book of Isaiah
Chapter 11: God’s character in Isaiah
11.1. Introduction
11.2. A Personal God
11.2.1. Family Member
11.2.2. Ruler
11.2.3. Farmer
11.2.4. Creator
11.2.5. Warrior/Destroyer
11.2.6. Guide
11.2.7. Nonhuman Images
11.3. A God Who Desires
11.4. A God Who Speaks
11.5. A God Who Acts
11.5.1. Destructive Actions
11.5.2. Creative or Restorative Actions
11.6. Conclusion
Chapter 12: Monotheism in Isaiah
12.1. Monotheism as a Controversial Concept
12.2. Expressions of Monotheism in the Book of Isaiah
12.2.1. Monotheism in First Isaiah and Third Isaiah
12.2.2. Monotheism in Second Isaiah The Aspect of Power The Aspect of Singleness The Aspect of Universalism The Aspect of Salvation
12.3. The Justification of Monotheism in Second Isaiah
12.3.1. Monotheism and “Evidence of Future-Telling”
12.3.2. Yhwh versus Marduk—Who Is the Lord of Fate and Creation?
12.3.3. The Monotheistic Meaning of the Rise of Cyrus in Second Isaiah and Nabonidus’ Religious Politics
12.3.4. Inclusive Monotheism in Marduk Theology and Babylonian Astronomy
12.3.5. Monotheism and “Proof of Creation”: The Law of the Stars
12.3.6. Monotheism in Isaiah 40–55 and the Babylonian Religious Conflict
12.3.7. Deutero-Isaiah’s Prophecy versus Babylonian Divination
12.4. Conclusion
Chapter 13: Sin and Punishment in the Book of Isaiah
13.1. Introduction
13.2. Sin in Isaiah 1–39
13.3. Punishment in Isaiah 1–39
13.4. Sin in Isaiah 40–55
13.5. Punishment in Isaiah 40–55
13.6. Sin in Isaiah 56–66
13.7. Punishment in Isaiah 56–66
13.8. Sin and Punishment of the Nations in the Book of Isaiah
13.9. Vocabulary and Metaphors for Sin
13.10. Punishment in Isaiah: Natural Consequence or Divine Retribution?
13.11. Sin and Punishmentin the Book of Isaiah
Further Reading
Chapter 14: Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah
14.1. Introduction
14.2. Theological Tradition and Literary Theme
14.3. Yhwh’s Protection of Jerusalem and the Holy Remnant
14.4. The Destruction and Restoration of Jerusalem
14.5. Jerusalem as a Center for All Peoples
Further Reading
Chapter 15: Davidic Kingship in Isaiah
15.1. Introduction
15.2. Davidic Kingship in History
15.3. Davidic Kingship in Isaiah’s Poetic Compositions
15.4. Other References to David in Isaiah 1–39
15.5. The Democratization of the Davidic Ideal
15.6. The Royal Servant Who Brings Forth Justice
15.7. An All-Encompassing Figure
15.8. Messianic Hope
Chapter 16: Exile in the Book of Isaiah
16.1. Introduction
16.2. Deportation as a Political-Military Strategy of Subjugation in Isaiah
16.2.1. Unpacking Exile in Isaiah: Deportation in Seven Points Circumstances of Deportation Aftermath of War and Deportation: An Empty Land, yet a Remnant Social Dimensions of Deportation Destinations of Deportation The Nature of the Journey Deportation and Continuity Relocation and Resettlement
16.2.2. Deportation in Other Units of the Book Isaiah 24–27 Isaiah 34–35 Isaiah 40–66
16.2.3. Summary
16.3. Return from Exile in Isaiah: An Actual Experience or a Theological Expectation Construct?
16.3.1. Unpacking Exile in Isaiah: Return to the Homeland in Seven Points Circumstances of Return Aftermath of Return Social Dimensions of the Return Destinations of the Return The Nature of the Journey Return and Continuity Relocation as Return
16.3.2. Summary
16.4. Exilic Settings: Geography and Sociology
16.5. Metaphors for Exile, and Exile as Metaphor
16.5.1. Metaphors for Exile (Deportation and Return)
16.5.2. Exile as Metaphor
16.6. Summary
Chapter 17: The Servant(s) InIsaiah
17.1. Introductory Remarks
17.2. The Four Servant Songs: From the Separation to Integration
17.3. Jacob/Israel and the Servant in the Servant Songs
17.4. The Fourth Servant Song
17.5. From the Servant to the Servants
17.5.1. Davidic and Prophetic Traits of the Servants
17.5.2. The Priestly Traits of the Servants in Isaiah 61
17.5.3. The Servants in the Collective Prayer of Complaint in Isaiah 63:7–64:11
17.5.4. The Servants in Isaiah 65–66
Bibliography: Berges
Further Reading
Chapter 18: Wisdom in Isaiah
18.1. Introduction
18.2. Wisdom in Isaiah in Research
18.2.1. Research on Wisdom in Proto-Isaiah Isaiah as a Wise Man Turned Prophet Isaiah and the Wisdom of the Wisdom School Isaiah and Wisdom in the Israelite Worldview Wisdom and Redaction in Proto-Isaiah
18.2.2. Research on Wisdom in Deutero-Isaiah Deutero-Isaiah, Wisdom, and Direction of Influence Deutero-Isaiah and Wisdom Forms and Themes Deutero-Isaiah, Wisdom, and the Servant
18.2.3. Research on Wisdom across the Book of Isaiah
18.2.4. Research on Wisdom, Intertextuality, and Isaiah
18.2.5. Assessment and Paths Forward
18.3. Overview of Wisdom in the Major Sections of Isaiah
18.3.1. Wisdom in Isaiah 1–39
18.3.2. Wisdom in Isaiah 40–55
18.3.3. Wisdom in Isaiah 56–66
18.3.4. Synthesis and Diachronic Implications
18.4. Conclusion
Chapter 19: Eschatology in Isaiah
19.1. Introduction
19.2. Eschatology in the Book of Isaiah
19.2.1. Issues in Defining the term “Eschatology”
19.2.2. “Eschatologically Addressed Rhetorical Discourses”
19.2.3. The Matter of Time: Tantalizing Temporality
19.3. Dystopia as the Ground for Transformation
19.3.1. Making Dystopia through the Temporal Comparison Dystopia as Warning: Judgment upon Jerusalem in the Impending Future Dystopia as Vindication: Judgment upon Judah’sEnemies in the Near Future
19.3.2. Making Dystopia through the Spatial Notions
19.4. Utopia in the Projected Transformation
19.4.1. Interwoven and Parallel Effects
19.4.2. Two Fixed Points: Jerusalem and Remnants Jerusalem: Space and Persona The Light on the Holy Mountain Well-Watered Garden and Vineyard Remnants
19.5. Theological Purposes: Moving on to the New Era Now
19.5.1. Discontinuity within Continuity
19.5.2. Rhetorical Strategy of the Eschatologically Addressed Discourses
19.6. Conclusion
Part V: The Book of Isaiah as Literature
Chapter 20: The Poetic Structures in Isaiah
20.1. Introduction
20.2. Poetic Lines
20.3. Line Groups
20.4. Larger Poetic Units
20.5. Whole Poems
20.6. Isaiah as a Poetic Collection
Chapter 21: The Poetic Vision of Isaiah
Chapter 22: Use of Metaphors
22.1. Introduction
22.2. Defining Metaphor
22.2.1. Modern Metaphor Theory and Textual Analysis
22.3. Trajectories in Previous Research on Metaphors in Isaiah
22.3.1. Metaphor as a Stylistic and Rhetorical Device
22.3.2. Metaphor and Macrostructure
22.3.3. Metaphor and Redaction Criticism
22.3.4. Metaphor, Ideology, and Propaganda
22.3.5. Metaphor and Gender
22.3.6. Metaphors in Interaction
22.4. Metaphors for the Human Condition: People as Plants
22.4.1. A Pervasive Conceptual Metaphor
22.4.2. Human Beings Are like Grass or Flowers
22.4.3. Nations and Dynasties Are like Trees
22.5. Metaphors for the Human-Divine Relation: Monarchy and Family
22.5.1. God as King
22.5.2. God as Father and Mother
22.5.3. The Many Roles of Lady Zion: Daughter, Wife, and Mother
Part VI: Isaiah in Select Textual Traditions
Chapter 23: Isaiah in the Qumran Scrolls
23.1. Introduction
23.2. The Copies of Isaiah from the Qumran Caves
23.2.1. The Manuscripts
23.2.2. The Text of Isaiah
23.2.3. The Form of Isaiah
23.3. The Use of Isaiah in the Nonbiblical Scrolls
23.3.1. Legal Use
23.3.2. Narrative Use
23.3.3. Poetic Use
23.3.4. Prophetic Use Running Commentaries: The Pesharim A Prophetic Thematic Commentary: 11QMelchizedek Other Explicit Citations: The Rule of the Community
23.4. Conclusion
Chapter 24: Isaiah in Greek
24.1. Introduction
24.2. Text and Its Transmission
24.3. History of Study
24.4. History of Reception and Interpretation
24.4.1. Early Jewish Interpretation
24.4.2. Early Christian Interpretation
Secondary Literature
In Preparation
Chapter 25: Isaiah in Aramaic
25.1. Sources, Provenance, Purpose
25.2. God
25.3. Israel: Election and History
25.4. Zion and Temple
25.5. The Messiah, the Servant, and the Servants
25.6. The Afterlife
Bibliography: Tooman
Chapter 26: Isaiah in Latin
26.1. Introduction
26.2. Vetus Latina
26.2.1. Overview
26.2.2. History of Vetus Latina
26.3. Jerome’s Vulgate and His Commentary of Isaiah
26.3.1. Vulgate
26.3.2. Jerome’s Translation of Isaiah
26.3.3. Jerome’s Commentary on Isaiah
26.4. Some Central Topics in the Reception History of Isaiah in Latin Traditions
26.4.1. The Person of Isaiah in Latin Texts
26.4.2. Messianic Promises and Christology
26.4.3. Ecclesiology and the Polemics against the Jews
26.4.4. Pilgrimage and the Holy Land
26.4.5. Liturgy and Hymns
26.5. Summary
Ancient Literature
Secondary Literature
Part VII: Isaiah is Select Religious Traditions
Chapter 27: Isaiah in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Traditions
27.1. Introduction
27.2. Historical and Biographical Perspectives
27.2.1. Bipartite Book
27.2.2. Midrashic Development of Isaiah’s Encounters with Kings
27.2.3. Isaiah’s Martyrdom
27.3. Isaiah’s Eschatological Message
27.3.1. The Messiah
27.3.2. Inclusive Universalism
27.3.3. Torah Studies for Gentiles in Jerusalem
27.3.4. New Exodus
27.3.5. Longevity and Paradise
27.4. Isaiah 53 in Jewish Tradition
27.4.1. Isaiah 53 and Haftarah
27.4.2. The Servant as Israel
27.4.3. Avoiding Vicarious Interpretation in Isaiah 53
27.4.4. Jewish Messianic Interpretation of Isaiah 53
27.4.5. Isaiah 53 and Chabad-Lubavitch
27.5. Some Individual Topics and Themes
27.5.1. Fallen Morning Star
27.5.2. Solid Stone Foundation
27.5.3. Lilith
27.6. Jewish Liturgy
27.6.1. Trishagion
27.6.2. The Festival of Sukkot
27.6.3. Jewish Qaddish Prayer
27.6.4. Pilgrimage to Zion
27.6.5. Haftarah Texts
Chapter 28: Isaiah in the New Testament
28.1. Introduction
28.2. The Apostle Paul
28.2.1. The Inclusion of the Gentiles
28.2.2. The Stubbornness/Rebelliousness of Israel
28.2.3. The Ultimate Fate of Israel
28.2.4. Other Themes
28.3. Luke-Acts
28.4. Revelation
28.4.1. Visionary Experience
28.4.2. Christological Titles
28.4.3. Eschatological Judgment
28.4.4. Eschatological Salvation
28.5. The Text of Isaiah in the First Century
Chapter 29: Post-Shoah Readings of Isaiah
29.1. Introduction
29.2. Isaiah 6: Isaiah’s Commission Account
29.3. The Hidden Face of God
29.4. Yhwh and the Persian Empire
29.5. Yhwh’s Failure to Ensure National Security
29.6. Conclusion
Chapter 30: Canonical Reading of Isaiah
30.1. Introduction
30.2. Canonical Readings within the Isaiah Scroll
30.3. Canonical Reading of the Isaiah Scroll
30.4. Canonical Reading from the Isaiah Scroll
Chapter 31: Isaiah in Artand Music
31.1. Introduction
31.2. Prophet and Martyr
31.2.1. Scenes from the Life of Isaiah
31.2.2. More Evangelist Than Prophet in Christian Art and Architecture
31.3. The Prophecies and Teaching of Isaiah
31.3.1. The Visions in Jewish and Christian Art
31.3.2. Musical Settings of Texts from Isaiah
Secondary Literature
Part VIII: Select Ideological Readings of Isaiah
Chapter 32: Feminist/Womanist Readings of Isaiah
32.1. Introduction
32.2. Isaiah’s Female Personification of Cities
32.3. Isaiah’s Use of Women as a Synecdoche for the (Guilty) Nation
32.4. Isaiah’s Nonsymbolic Depictions of Women
32.5. Female Voices and Authorship in Isaiah
32.6. Isaiah’s Use of Female Language to Describe God
32.7. Distinct Womanist Contributions
Chapter 33: Postcolonial Readings of Isaiah
33.1. Introduction
33.2. A Torah with Imperial Reach
33.3. Zion’s Shalom in Isaiah 11:1–9 and 65:17–25
33.4. Return Migration and Reconciliation
33.5. Postcolonial Hermeneutics
Chapter 34: Isaiah in Liberation Theology
34.1. Introduction
34.2. Isaiah and Liberation Theologians
34.3. Isaiah and Liberationist Bible Scholars
34.4. Isaiah, Ecology, and Liberation Theology
34.5. Liberating Isaiah and Concluding Remarks
Chapter 35: Interpretive Context Matters: Isaiah and the African Context in African Study Bibles
35.1. Introduction
35.2. The African Bible(1999)
35.3. Prayer and Deliverance Bible(2007)
35.4. Africa Study Bible
35.5. Critical Perspectives
Secondary Literature
Chapter 36: Reading Isaiah in Asia
36.1. Introduction
36.2. God as Father
36.3. God as Mother
36.4. God as the Holy One of Israel
36.5. God as the Universal Sovereign
Author Index
Reference Index
Recommend Papers

The Oxford Handbook of Isaiah (OXFORD HANDBOOKS SERIES)
 0190669241, 9780190669249

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview



the oxford handbook of

ISAIAH Edited by



1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © Oxford University Press 2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia, 1969- editor. Title: The Oxford handbook of Isaiah / edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer. Description: New York, NY, United States of America : Oxford University Press, 2020. | Summary: “The book of Isaiah is one of the longest books in the Hebrew Bible. It contains some of the most hauntingly beautiful passages in the entire Bible, and it has influenced Judaism and Christianity to an exceptional extent. Many of its passages feature in the liturgies of the synagogue and of the church. In Jewish tradition, the threefold acclamation of God’s holiness in Isa 6:3 is recited in prayers throughout the day: it is, for example, among the benedictions framing the recitation of the Shema’ in the morning and part of the central prayer called the Amidah. In Christian tradition, Isa 7:14 is understood to predict the virgin birth; and Isa 9:1–7, the incarnation. Isa 40:3–5 is identified as speaking about John the Baptist, and Isa 52:13–53:12 is read on Good Friday to illustrate Jesus's suffering, death, and resurrection”—Provided by publisher. Identifiers: LCCN 2020020745 (print) | LCCN 2020020746 (ebook) | ISBN 9780190669249 (hardback) | ISBN 9780190669263 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: Bible. Isaiah—Criticism, interpretation, etc. Classification: LCC BS1515.52 .O94 2020 (print) | LCC BS1515.52 (ebook) | DDC 224/.106—dc23 LC record available at LC ebook record available at 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed by Sheridan Books, Inc., United States of America


Contributorsix Abbreviationsxiii

Introduction Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer


PA RT I   QU E ST ION S R E L AT E D TO T H E F OR M AT ION OF T H E B O OK OF I S A IA H 1. The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure Jacob Stromberg


2. The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History Uwe Becker


PA RT I I   K E Y PA RT S OF T H E B O OK OF I S A IA H 3. The Oracles against the Nations Hyun Chul Paul Kim


4. Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse J. Todd Hibbard


5. The Narratives about Isaiah and Their Relationship with 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles Shelley L. Birdsong


6. Isaiah 40–55 Katie M. Heffelfinger


7. Isaiah 56–66 Andreas Schüle


vi   contents

PA RT I I I   T H E WOR L D B E H I N D T H E T E X T 8. The Neo-Assyrian Context of First Isaiah C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays


9. Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background Joseph Blenkinsopp


10. The Book of Isaiah: Persian/Hellenistic Background  Kristin Joachimsen


PA RT I V   T H E M E S A N D L I T E R A RY M OT I F S SPA N N I N G T H E B O OK OF I S A IA H 11. God’s Character in Isaiah Patricia K. Tull


12. Monotheism in Isaiah Matthias Albani


13. Sin and Punishment in the Book of Isaiah  Blaženka Scheuer


14. Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah Frederik Poulsen


15. Davidic Kingship in Isaiah H. G. M. Williamson


16. Exile in the Book of Isaiah Dalit Rom-Shiloni


17. The Servant(s) in Isaiah Ulrich Berges


18. Wisdom in Isaiah Andrew T. Abernethy


19. Eschatology in Isaiah Soo J. Kim


contents   vii

PA RT V   T H E B O OK OF I S A IA H A S L I T E R AT U R E 20. The Poetic Structures in Isaiah J. Blake Couey


21. The Poetic Vision of Isaiah Francis Landy


22. Use of Metaphors  Göran Eidevall


PA RT V I   I S A IA H I N SE L E C T T E X T UA L T R A DI T ION S 23. Isaiah in the Qumran Scrolls George J. Brooke


24. Isaiah in Greek Abi T. Ngunga


25. Isaiah in Aramaic William A. Tooman


26. Isaiah in Latin Anni Maria Laato


PA RT V I I   I S A IA H I S SE L E C T R E L IG IO U S T R A DI T ION S 27. Isaiah in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Traditions Antti Laato


28. Isaiah in the New Testament Steve Moyise


29. Post-Shoah Readings of Isaiah Marvin A. Sweeney


viii   contents

30. Canonical Reading of Isaiah John Goldingay


31. Isaiah in Art and Music John F. A. Sawyer


PA RT V I I I   SE L E C T I DE OL O G IC A L R E A DI N G S OF I S A IA H 32. Feminist/Womanist Readings of Isaiah Sharon Moughtin-Mumby


33. Postcolonial Readings of Isaiah Mark G. Brett


34. Isaiah in Liberation Theology Carol J. Dempsey, OP


35. Interpretive Context Matters: Isaiah and the African Context in African Study Bibles Knut Holter


36. Reading Isaiah in Asia Maggie Low


Author Index Reference Index

683 695


Andrew T. Abernethy  is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, USA. His most recent volume is The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom (IVP Academic, 2016). Matthias Albani is Professor of Old Testament at the Evangelische Hochschule Moritzburg, Moritzburg/Dresden, Saxony, Germany. His most recent article is “Kalender.” In Handbuch für Alttestamentliche Anthropologie (Mohr Siebeck, 2019). Uwe Becker  is Professor of Old Testament at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany. His most recent article on Isaiah is “Jesaja, Jeremia und die Anfänge der Unheilsprophetie in Juda.” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 6, no.1 (2017): 79–100. Ulrich Berges is Professor in Old Testament Exegesis at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn, Germany and extraordinary Professor in the Department of Old Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa. His most recent article is “The Individualization of Exile in Trito-Isaiah: Some Reflections on Isaiah 55 and 58.” In Images of Exile in Prophetic Literature, edited by J. Høgenhaven et al. (FAT II; Mohr Siebeck, 2019). Shelley  L.  Birdsong  is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at North Central College, Naperville, Illinois, USA. Her most recent volume is the co-edited Partners with God: Theological and Critical Readings of the Bible in Honor of Marvin A. Sweeney (Claremont Press, 2017). Joseph Blenkinsopp  is John A. O’Brien Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. His most recent volume is The Beauty of Holiness: Re-reading Isaiah in the Light of the Psalms (T&T Clark, 2019). Mark G. Brett  is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Whitley College, within the University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia. His most recent volume is Locations of God: Political Theology in the Hebrew Bible (Oxford University Press, 2019). George J. Brooke  is Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis Emeritus at the University of Manchester, and Visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Chester, England, UK. His most recent volume is the co-edited T&T Clark Companion to the Dead Sea Scrolls (T&T Clark, 2019). J.  Blake Couey is Associate Professor of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota, USA. His most recent volume is Reading the Poetry of First Isaiah: The Most Perfect Model of the Prophetic Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2015).

x   contributors C. L. Crouch  is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA. Her most recent volume is Translating Empire: Tell Fekheriyeh, Deuteronomy, and the Akkadian Treaty Tradition (FAT; Mohr Siebeck, 2019), with Jeremy M. Hutton. Carol J. Dempsey,  OP, is Professor of Theology (Biblical Studies) at the University of Portland, Oregon, USA. Her latest article is “Metaphor in the Minor Prophets,” in The Oxford Handbook on the Minor Prophets, edited by Julia O’Brien (Oxford University Press 2020). Göran Eidevall  is Professor in Hebrew Bible at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. His most recent volume is Amos: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AYB; Yale University Press, 2017). John Goldingay is Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA. His most recent volume is Old Testament Ethics (InterVarsity, 2019). Christopher B. Hays  is D. Wilson Moore Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, USA. His most recent volume is The Origins of Isaiah 24–27: Josiah’s Festival Scroll for the Fall of Assyria (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Katie M. Heffelfinger  is Lecturer in Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin. Her most recent article is “The Servant in Poetic Juxtaposition in Isaiah 49:1-13.” In Biblical Poetry and the Art of Close Reading, edited by J. Blake Couey and Elaine T. James (Cambridge University Press, 2018). J. Todd Hibbard  is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of the Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan, USA. His most recent volume is the co-edited The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew (SBL Press, 2014). Knut Holter  is Professor of Old Testament, Centre for Mission and Global Studies, VID Specialized University, Stavanger, Norway. His most recent article is “Texts of Affirmation Rather Than Negation: Jesse N. K. Mugambi and African Biblical Studies.” In Religion and Social Reconstruction in Africa, edited by Elias K. Bongmba (Routledge, 2018). Kristin Joachimsen is Professor in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at MF-Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo. Her most recent article is “Esther in Shusan.” In Foreign Women—Women in Foreign Lands, edited by Angelika Berlejung and Marianne Grohmann (Orientalische Religionen in der Antike; Mohr Siebeck, 2019). Hyun Chul Paul Kim  is Harold B. Williams Professor of Hebrew Bible at Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO), Delaware, Ohio, USA. His most recent volume is the co-edited Second Wave Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible (SBL Press, 2019).

contributors   xi Soo J. Kim  is Professor of Old Testament Professor of Old Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, Kansas, USA. Her most recent article is “Contact Points between Korean Shamanism and Bible in Korea.” In Oxford Handbook of Bible in Korea (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). Anni Maria Laato  is Adjunct Professor in Systematic Theology at the Åbo Akademi University, Åbo/Turku, Finland. Her most recent article is “Biblical Mothers as Images of the Church.” International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 19 (2019): 44–58. Antti Laato is Professor in Old Testament Exegetics with Judaic Studies at Åbo Akademi University, Åbo/Turku, Finland. His most recent volume is The Origin of Israelite Zion Theology (LHBOTS; T&T Clark, 2018). Francis Landy  is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. His most recent article is “Traps and Metaphors.” In Profeti Maggiori e Minori a Confronto/Major and Minor Prophets Compared, edited by Guido Benzi et al. (Nuova Biblioteca di Scienze Religiose; LAS, 2019). Maggie Low is an Old Testament faculty member at Trinity Theological College, Singapore. Her most recent article is “An Egalitarian Marriage: Reading Ephesians 5:21–33 Intertextually with Genesis 2.” Asia Journal of Theology 33, no. 1 (2019): 3–10. Sharon Moughtin-Mumby  is Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London, UK. Her most recent volume is Sexual and Marital Metaphors in Hosea, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel (OTM; Oxford University Press, 2008). Steve Moyise  is Visiting Professor at Newman University, Birmingham, England, UK. His most recent volume is the co-edited Exploring Intertertextuality: Diverse Strategies for New Testament Interpretation of Texts (Wipf and Stock, 2016). Abi T. Ngunga  is Pastor of St Andrews Baptist Church, Scotland, UK. His most recent volume is Messianism in the Old Greek of Isaiah: An Intertextual Analysis (FRLANT; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012). Frederik Poulsen is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. His most recent volume is The Black Hole in Isaiah (FAT; Mohr Siebeck, 2019). Dalit Rom-Shiloni is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at the Department of Biblical Studies, Tel Aviv University, Israel. Among her recent articles is “From Prophetic Words to Prophetic Literature: Challenging Paradigms That Control Our Academic Thoughts.” JBL 138, no. 3 (2019): 565–586. John F. A. Sawyer  is Honorary Fellow at the School of Divinity, Edinburgh University, Scotland, UK. His most recent volume is Isaiah through the Centuries (Wiley-Blackwell Bible Commentary Series; John Wiley and Sons, 2018).

xii   contributors Blaženka Scheuer  is Senior Lecturer in Old Testament Studies at Lund University, Sweden. Her most recent article is “Animal Names for Hebrew Bible Female Prophets.” Bible & Critical Theory 15 (2019): 29–33. Andreas Schüle  is Professor for Theology and Exegesis of the Old Testament at the University of Leipzig, Germany. His most recent volume is Theology from the Beginning: Essays on the Primeval History and Its Canonical Context (FAT; Mohr Siebeck, 2017). Jacob Stromberg is a Visiting Lecturer at Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina, USA. His most recent article is “Figural History in the Book of Isaiah: The Prospective Significance of Hezekiah’s Deliverance from Assyria and Death,” in Imperial Visions: The Prophet and the Book of Isaiah in an Age of Empires, edited by Reinhard Kratz and Joachim Schaper (FRLANT; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2020). Marvin A. Sweeney  is Professor of Hebrew Bible at the Claremont School of Theology, c/o Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, USA. His most recent volume on Isaiah is Isaiah 40–66 (FOTL; Eerdmans, 2016). Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer  is Professor in Old Testament at Örebro School of Theology, Sweden. Her most recent volume is the edited Prophecy and Its Cultic Dimensions (JAJS; Vandenhoeck &Ruprecht, 2019). William  A.  Tooman  is Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and­ Co-director of the Institute for Bible, Theology, and Hermeneutics at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK. His most recent volume is the co-edited Standards of (In)Coherence in Ancient Jewish Literature (Mohr Siebeck, 2020). Patricia  K.  Tull  is A.  B.  Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Kentucky, USA. Her most recent volume is Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis (Westminster John Knox Press, 2013). H.  G.  M.  Williamson  is Regius Professor of Hebrew Emeritus at the University of Oxford, UK, and an Emeritus Student of Christ Church. His most recent volume is Isaiah 6–12 (ICC; Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018).



Ägypten und Altes Testament Anchor Bible Commentary Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols. Edited by David Noel Freedman, New York: Doubleday, 1992 ABG Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte ABR Australian Biblical Review AbrN Supp Ancient Near Eastern Studies Supplement Series AfO Archiv für Orientforschung AfO.B Archiv für Orientforschung. Beiheft AJBS African Journal of Biblical Studies AJS Review Association for Jewish Studies Review AMI.E Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran AnBib Analecta Biblica ANEM Ancient Near East Monographs AOAT Alter Orient und Altes Testament AOS American Oriental Series ArOr Archiv Orientalni ASOR American Schools of Oriental Research ASTI Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute ATD Alte Testament Deutsch AThANT Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments AUM Andrews University Monographs BaF Baghdader Forschungen BASOR Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research BAT Botschaft des Alten Testaments BBB Bonner Biblische Beiträge BEATAJ Beiträge zur Erforschung des Alten Testaments und des Antiken Judentums BETL Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium BibRev Bible Review BIOSCS Bulletin for the International Organization of Septuagint and Cognate Studies BIS Biblical Interpretation Series BJRULM Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester




Brown Judaic Studies Biblischer Kommentar. Altes Testament Bible and Theology in Africa Biblical Theology Bulletin Biblisch-Theologische Studien Berliner Theologische Zeitschrift Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament Beiheft zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft Catholic Biblical Quarterly Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series Continental Commentaries Coniectanea biblica. Old Testament Series Centrum Orbis Orientalis Context of Scripture. Edited by William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger Jr. Leiden: Brill, 2003 Cahiers de la Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible Calvin Theological Journal Currents in Biblical Research Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst. 2nd Extensively Revised Version. Leiden: Brill, 1999 Discoveries in the Judaean Desert Dead Sea Discoveries Etudes bibliques Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception Online. Edited by Christine Helmer, Steven L. McKenzie, Thomas Römer, Jens Schröter, Barry Dov Walfish, and Eric Ziolkowski. Eerdmans Critical Commentary Encyclopedia Judaica, edited by Fred Skolnik and Michael Berenbaum. New York: MacMillian, 20072 Ephemerides Theologiae Lovanienses Etudes Theologiques et Religieuses European Journal of Theology The Expository Times Forschungen zum Alten Testament Forschung zur Bibel Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature


Forms of the Old Testament Literature Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments Grundrisse zum Alten Testament Gereformeerd Theologisch Tijdschrift Hebrew Annual Review Göttinger Handkommentar zum Alten Testament Hebrew Bible Monographs Herders Biblische Studien Horizons in Biblical Theology Historical Commentary on the Old Testament Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel Göttinger Handkommentar zum Alten Testament Harvard Semitic Monographs Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament Harvard Theological Monographs Hervormde Teologiese Studies Harvard Theological Review Hebrew Union College Annual International Critical Commentary Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. Edited by George A. Buttrick. New York: Abingdon Press, 1962 Israel Exploration Journal Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology Israel Oriental Studies Journal of the American Academy of Religion Journal of the Aramaic Bible Journal of Ancient Judaism. Supplements Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions Journal of the American Oriental Society Journal of Biblical Literature Jerusalem Biblical Studies Jahrbuch für biblische Theologie Jewish and Christian Perspectives Journal of Gender Studies Journal of Hebrew Scripture Journal of Jewish Studies Journal of Literature and History Journal of Near Eastern Studies Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages Jewish Quarterly Review The Journal of Religion


Journal for the Study of Judaism Journal for the Study of Judaism Supplement Series Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement Series Journal of Semitic Studies Monographs Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement Series Journal of Theological Interpretation Journal of Theological Studies Kommentar zum Alten Testament Library of Ancient Israel The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies Library of New Testament Studies Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche. Edited by Michael Buchberger, Josef Höfer, and Karl Rahner. Freiburg: Herder, 1957–1965 Lunds universitets årsskrift Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires New Century Bible Commentary Near Eastern Archaeology Neue Echter Bibel. Altes Testament Neotestamentica New English Translation of the Septuagint. Edited by Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007 New International Commentary on the Old Testament New International Greek Testament Commentary Novum Testamentum, Supplements New Testament Monographs New Testament Studies Orientalia Biblica et Christiana Orbis biblicus et orientalis Overtures to Biblical Theology Old Testament Essays Old Testament Guides The Old Testament Library Oxford Theological Monographs Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs Oudtestamentische studiën Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association Pretoria Oriental Series



De Prediking van het Oude Testament Perspectives in Religious Studies Princeton Seminary Bulletin Princeton Theological Monograph Revue Biblique Review of Biblical Literature Revue de Qumran Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period Project Recent Research in Biblical Studies State Archives of Assyria Studies in the Aramaic Interpretation of Scripture Society of Biblical Literature Society of Biblical Literature Ancient Israel and Its Literature Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series Society of Biblical Literature Early Judaism and Its Literature Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and Cognate Studies Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series Stuttgarter Bibelstudien Studies in Biblical Theology Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément Svensk exegetisk årsbok Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary Society of Jesus Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism Scottish Journal of Theology Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series Studies in the Reception History of the Bible Studia Semitica Neerlandica Studia Semitica Upsaliensia Studies in Biblical Literature Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah Transactions of the American Philosophical Society Theologische Bücherei Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 15 vols. Edited by Robert J. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry. German original: Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament. Translated by John T. Willis. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974– Theologische Literaturzeitung


Theologische Zeitschrift Theologische Realenzyclopadie. Edited by Albrecht Döhnert et al. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1977–2011 Trinity Journal Theologische Rundschau Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments I–III. Edited by Otto Kaiser. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1982–1997 Theologischer Verlag Zürich Ugarit Forschungen UTB GmbH Vetus Testamentum Vetus Testamentum Supplement Series Veröffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für Theologie Word Biblical Commentary Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche

I n troduction Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

The book of Isaiah is one of the longest books in the Hebrew Bible. It contains some of the most hauntingly beautiful passages in the entire Bible, and it has influenced Judaism and Christianity to an exceptional extent. Many of its passages feature in the liturgies of the synagogue and of the church. In Jewish tradition, the threefold acclamation of God’s holiness in Isa 6:3 is recited in prayers throughout the day: it is, for example, among the benedictions framing the recitation of the Shema’ in the morning and part of the central prayer called the Amidah. In Christian tradition, Isa 7:14 is understood to predict the virgin birth; and Isa 9:1–7, the incarnation. Isa 40:3–5 is identified as speaking about John the Baptist, and Isa 52:13–53:12 is read on Good Friday to illustrate Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection.1 The book of Isaiah is also one of the most complex books because of its variety and plurality. It has, accordingly, been the focus of scholarly debate for the last two thousand years, with no sign of consensus in sight. It reflects many different historical and societal settings, among them debates with Judah’s kings, promises of restoration after Judah’s destruction, and problems in the post-monarchic community. It addresses a wide range of audiences, from the private words spoken to King Ahaz and King Hezekiah to proclamations to the Persian conqueror Cyrus. It communicates its messages through multiple literary genres, including divine oracles, parables, and narratives. The Oxford Handbook of Isaiah offers merely a glimpse of the manifold riches of the book of Isaiah. The topics it covers were selected with the goal of providing readers with a cornucopia of different views. The result does not form a unified standpoint; rather, the individual contributions mirror the wide and varied spectrum of scholarly engagement with the book. The contributors’ chapters likewise represent a broad range of scholarly traditions. I have consciously included scholars from diverse continents and religious affiliations to ensure that the ongoing global scholarly discussions are well represented. The handbook is divided into eight parts. Part I contains two chapters that address overarching issues of structure and history of composition. Jacob Stromberg’s chapter 1 seeks to identify a macro-structure of the book of Isaiah. When we read it as a coherent whole—namely, as the “vision of Isaiah of 1  See further, John F. A. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

2   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer Jerusalem” (Isa 1:1)—we can see that the book of Isaiah falls naturally into two halves: in the first thirty-nine chapters, the reader inhabits the world of the prophet Isaiah prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the ensuing exile of much of its population. In the final twenty-seven chapters, the reader is catapulted into the future that the prophet foresaw but did not live to see. In this half of the book, only God speaks. At a lower level, the book of Isaiah consists of several interconnected subunits. Chapters 1–12 contain oracles of judgment and salvation for Israel and Judah, with the focus on the latter nation, whereas chapters 13–27 offer corresponding oracles of judgments against the nations. In parallel, chapters 13–27 connect thematically forward with chapters 36–39 through their shared focus on Assyria. The oracles in chapters 28 to 35 likewise connect thematically, backward to the material in Isa 1–12 but also forward to the oracles of salvation and restoration in Isa 40–55. Finally, chapters 56–66 bring the book to a close. Here, the predicted eschatological salvation reuses and reverses the earlier visions of doom in the first half of the book (cf. Soo J. Kim). Chapter 2 by Uwe Becker concerns the gradual composition of the book of Isaiah and offers a deliberate contrast to Stromberg’s chapter because it emphasizes diversity and development rather than cohesion. Early biblical scholars focused on matters of authorship and assigned Isa 1–39 and Isa 40–66 to different authors. Subsequently, Bernhard Duhm argued that the last twenty-seven chapters stemmed not from one but two authors—namely, Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah, and he further assigned the four socalled Servant Songs to yet another author (cf. Berges). Duhm also highlighted the unlikelihood that all of Isa 1–39 was composed by a single author called “Isaiah,” suggesting instead that passages such as chapters 24–27 and 36–39 were as late, if not later, than the material in Isa 40–66. More recently, the interest in the prophet Isaiah has receded and to a large extent been replaced by a focus on the book of Isaiah. Whereas some scholars have explored the book from a literary or theological perspective, others have explored questions related to its compositional history. Looking in more detail at this latter group, we see that two basic models for understanding the history of Isaiah exist: (a) the book consists of originally independent texts that were joined together by later redactors; and (b) the later parts of the book were written as a literary continuation of the earlier material. The five chapters in Part II zoom in on key sections in the book of Isaiah. In chapter 3, Hyun Chul Paul Kim offers a succinct analysis of the so-called Oracles against the Nations (OAN) in Isa 13–23. These oracles are unlikely to form an authorial unity; they betray instead an extended textual development beginning in the eighth century and reaching well into the post-monarchic period. The oracles offer expansions of some of the ideas presented in Isa 1–12 (cf. Stromberg), and they also connect with the following oracles in Isa 24–27 (cf. Hibbard) and Isa 30–31, 34. The genre of the OAN is not unique to Isaiah; Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel contain similar OAN. This type of oracle may have a cultic origin or begun as a war oracle. Their key message in Isaiah is dual: God’s judgment on the nations will bring salvation to Judah (cf. Soo J. Kim). At the same time, Judah, with its leadership and elite, is not spared criticism. In parallel, the OAN emphasize God’s kingship (cf. Williamson), but also the hubris of human empires (cf. Brett) and the human devastation of natural resources through warfare (cf. Dempsey).

Introduction   3 Chapter 4, by J. Todd Hibbard, explores Isa 24–27. These four chapters contain a varied group of texts—prophetic oracles, hymns, laments—that probably form late additions to the book of Isaiah (contra Crouch and Hays). In the final form of Isaiah, they can be read as the conclusion of the OAN (cf. Hyun Chul Paul Kim). The question of dating Isa 24–27 is a vexed one in scholarship. The oracles lack clearly datable references, which has left scholars to date the material in view of its thematic and linguistic content or based on its textual allusions to other biblical material. Moreover, the texts in Isa 24–27 may not all stem from the same time but, instead, testify to gradual textual growth. Speaking exegetically, the identity of the city in Isa 24:10, 12; 25:2; 26:1, 5; 27:10 and whether these passages refer to the same city constitute a notorious crux interpretum. Other bones of contention concern the interpretation of the “eternal covenant” in Isa 24:5 and the extent to which extent Isa 26:19 betrays the hope of resurrection. Finally, although Isa 24–27 is often called the “Isaiah Apocalypse,” it is far from clear that this collection of texts really forms an apocalypse. Shelley L. Birdsong, in chapter 5, explores Isa 36–39 and its textual relationship with the similar material in 2 Kgs 18–20 and 2 Chron 32. These texts all describe an event (or possible events) that took place in Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah. One scholarly conundrum concerns the existence of independent sources that the various books utilized and transformed to create their respective accounts of these events. Another issue that has kept scholars occupied relates to the origin of the tradition itself, whether it is in 2 Kgs (and later in 2 Chron) or in Isaiah or whether the origin is in neither context but instead reflects an independent tradition from which both books drew. A parallel question concerns the unique character of each version and how each distinct literary context influences the reader’s appreciation of the narrative. The version in 2 Kgs 18–20 emphasizes Hezekiah’s flaws as a monarch and how his descendants paid the price for his sins. Slightly differently, the Isaianic version stresses both Hezekiah’s piety, as reflected in his prayer, and how he also fails to stay firm in his reliance on God. In this version, Hezekiah becomes a warning example of mistakes not to make. Finally, 2 Chron portrays Hezekiah positively: although he sinned, he also repented. Katie M. Heffelfinger in chapter 6 discusses the uniqueness and interconnectedness of Isa 40–55, a part of Isaiah often called “Deutero-Isaiah” (cf. Becker). From the perspective of redaction-criticism, many contemporary scholars question the authorial unity of Isa 40–55 and not only distinguish the Servant Songs from the rest of the material, but also differentiate between Isa 40–48, Isa 49–52, and Isa 54–55 (cf. Berges). Looking more at the final form of Isa 40–55 shows that the text is characterized by its poetic language filled with images and metaphors, and its use of tension and juxtaposition (cf. Couey and Landy). Thematically, Isa 40–55 stresses the contrast between judgment and comfort, the “New Exodus” motif, and restoration. In parallel, it allows for voices that challenge the divine voice. Despite its unique features, Isa 40–55 is an inherent part of the book of Isaiah: it builds on Isa 1–39 and forms the platform for the later Isa 56–66. These connections are emphasized by shared vocabulary and shared themes, such as the focus on God’s grandeur, holiness, and incomparability, and on his ability to

4   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer control the past, present, and future (cf. Albani). Each consecutive step of growth of the book takes up and transforms the motifs used in the earlier parts. Andreas Schuele’s chapter 7 discusses the final eleven chapters of the book of Isaiah that since Duhm (cf. Becker) have been assigned separate authorship and are often called Trito-Isaiah. Their overarching structure and interconnected history of textual formation are much debated. Much scholarship favors seeing Isa 58–62, constituting two subsections, as the earliest core composition. Isa 58–59 gives the impression that the repercussions of the Babylonian era are still being felt: the city and its temple have not yet been rebuilt. Isa 60–62 then portrays the salvation that Israel can expect if they heed God’s voice and emend their ways. The second composition, Isa 63–66, likewise consists of two subsections. The prayer of repentance in Isa 63:7–64:11 is furnished, and receives a not wholly positive answer in Isa 65–66: it promises God’s presence to a select few who are true and faithful rather than to the entire people (cf. Scheuer). The overarching message of Isa 56–66 is about self-expectation and the gap between pious gestures and moral actions. In the new community, identity as a member of God’s people depends not on birth and origin but on each person’s choice and effort. Part III contains three chapters that each look at the world within and behind the text of Isaiah. As the preceding chapters have already addressed, there is no neat division between Isa 1–39, 40–55, and 56–66 in terms of dating; rather, there is overlap between the various literary subsections of Isaiah. In chapter 8, C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays address the Neo-Assyrian background to (some of) the texts in Isa 1–39. There is material that relates to, for example, the “year King Uzziah died,” that is, 742 bce (Isa 6:1); the Syro-Ephramite War of 734–731 bce (Isa 7); the Ashdod Affair of 714–712 bce (Isa 20); and the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 bce (e.g., Isa 10; 22:8–11; 36–37). Israel, owing to its geographical position and political maneuvering, was spared direct Assyrian domination throughout the larger part of the eighth century. Yet, after Hezekiah’s refusal to pay tribute to Sennacherib (r. 704–681), the Assyrians destroyed the city of Lachish and besieged Jerusalem. After that, Judah and Jerusalem do not seem to have rebelled against their overlord again. The fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire between 611 and 609 bce may be reflected in Isa 24–27 (contra Becker, Hibbard, and Joachimsen). From the perspective of the book of Isaiah, the Neo-Assyrians were Yhwh’s tool and subordinate to his will (e.g., Isa 10). He alone was responsible for the empire’s downfall (Isa 30). Joseph Blenkinsopp in chapter 9 continues the historical survey and addresses the Neo-Babylonian role in the message of the book of Isaiah and its presence in the book. Isa 13:1–22 predicts disaster for the Neo-Babylonian Empire at the hands of Yhwh and the nations under his command. Its downfall is presented as having cosmic significance. The following Isa 14:3–23 expands on the hubris of the Babylonian ruler and how, described in mythological language, he will ultimately fall. Isa 21:1–10 continues to describe the demise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire at the hands of the Elamites and Medes. The tone changes in Isa 39, as it heralds the rise of Babylon as the NeoAssyrians’ successor. Finally, Isa 47 depicts Babylon as a dethroned queen sitting mourning in the ashes. In addition, much of Isa 40–48 contains polemic against

Introduction   5 Neo-Babylonian religious beliefs and practices, with a focus on its supreme deity, Marduk (cf. Albani). Kristin Joachimsen’s chapter  10 concludes Part III by discussing the Persian and Hellenistic background of the book of Isaiah. Many of the texts in Isaiah were written during the Persian and Hellenistic eras and deal with issues connected with events in this wider political context. During these periods, prophecy came to be a more scribal endeavor, and the completion of the book of Isaiah is an illustrative example. Much of the prophetic discourse relates to empire and to the experience of imperial domination. Isa 41–48 depicts the emperor Cyrus as Yhwh’s tool (cf. Crouch and Hays) and his obligation to do Yhwh’s bidding. In this manner, the book of Isaiah not only assigns authority to the Persian Empire but also undermines that same authority (cf. Brett). There may also be evidence in Isa 40–48 of a polemic against the Zoroastrian religion of the Persian Empire (cf. Blenkinsopp). The emphasis in this text on the existence in one deity alone may, for instance, be understood as a reaction to Persian claims of Marduk’s supremacy (cf. Albani). Looking to the later Hellenistic period, several scholars favor such a late dating of, especially, Isa 24–27 (contra Crouch and Hays) and Isa 63–66. If this is the case, then the current book of Isaiah reached is final form in the fourth or possibly even the third century bce (cf. Becker). Part IV contains nine chapters that address important characteristics or themes that run throughout the book of Isaiah. The first three chapters explore God’s character and actions as expressed in Isaiah. Chapter 11 by Patricia Tull focuses on God’s character in Isaiah. In Isaiah, as well as in much of the Hebrew Bible, God is described as a personal God, whose thoughts and feelings are closely connected with those of his people. He is bound to Israel through family ties as its parent and redeemer-kinsman. God is also conceptualized as Israel’s ruler, a farmer of the land, the Creator of Israel and the world, a warrior, and a guide. Furthermore, God is understood as a God who desires: he desires justice and a close relationship with his people, and he makes plans and works actively toward achieving these goals. He is a jealous deity who punishes his people’s misdeeds but also desires reconciliation with them. God is also a deity who speaks. His words are eternal and effective (Isa 55:11) and unhampered by prophetic protest; rather, the divine plan stands firm and unopposed (cf. Sweeney). Finally, and above all, God in Isaiah is a God who acts. He is a destroyer: he raises militarily powers (indirectly) against Israel (Isa 9:8–21) and against the nations (Isa 40:23–24); he terrorizes and humiliates those who exalt themselves (Isa 2:10–17); and he brings vengeance (Isa 59:17). He is also a healer and a restorer: he comforts Jerusalem after destruction (Isa 12:1; 40:1); he guides and protects his people (Isa 40:11); and he inspires justice (Isa 42:1), etc. In sum, he creates both light and darkness (Isa 45:7). Matthias Albani in chapter 12 likewise looks at the perception of God in Isaiah, with focus on monotheism. It is commonly held that Isa 40–55 contains the earliest articulation of monotheism, here understood as the belief in a single God to the exclusion of the existence of any other god. In this discussion, it is worthwhile differentiating between, on the one hand, incomparability and uniqueness and, on the other hand, singleness. Only the latter excludes the existence of other deities. The expressions of monotheism in

6   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer Isa 40–55 are best understood as a polemic against the religion of the conquering Babylonians and Marduk, its chief deity. Isa 40–55 emphasizes that Yhwh, rather than Marduk, is the Lord of Fate and Creation. The reference to the stars in Isa 40:25–26 and 41:22–29, for example, may constitute a direct attack on the tenet of Marduk theology that held that Marduk directs the course of the stars: only Yhwh can predict the future! This polemic became even sharper during the reigns of Nabonidus and Cyrus. It is possible that the conflict between Nabonidus and the Marduk priesthood may have been a catalyst for the formulation of monotheism in Isa 40–48. Although the Babylonians and the Israelites agreed that Nabonidus’s veneration of the moon god Sin was wrong, the Babylonians saw Cyrus as Marduk’s chief tool, whereas the Israelites argued that Yhwh had called Cyrus. Blaženka Scheuer’s chapter 13 continues to explore the theology of the book of Isaiah, with emphasis on the way it depicts sin and punishment. In Isa 1–39, sin is often understood to be a breach of social justice: injustice, corruption, theft, murder, and deceit are all portrayed as crimes against not only humanity but also God. God is a deity who defends the poor and oppressed, and any neglect of these groups is taken as a personal affront to him. The realm of social justice is intimately connected with the realm of worship. God cannot accept the praises of people who in parallel commit the - crimes (Isa 1:10–17). God punishes these sins with the help of war and destruction. Turning to Isa 40–55, the situation is different insofar as sin is less about social justice and more about matters that directly endanger Israel’s relationship with God. Israel does not want to hear what God is saying (Isa 42:20). Idolatry is also a matter of sin because it shows distrust in God’s protection and provision for his people. Notably, there is no direct correlation between sin and punishment in Isa 40–55; rather, the people are being called to repentance because they have now been delivered. Finally, Isa 56–66 reverberates the thoughts of Isa 1–39—namely, the incompatibility of social injustice and worship—and also emphasizes the sin of idolatry (cf. Isa 40–55), whereas the envisaged punishment of the sinners is often pushed into the eschatological future. The lament in Isa 63:7–64:11 stands out in this respect as it questions the fairness of God’s decision to inflict punishment on his people for sins that they cannot help but commit (cf. Schuele, Sweeney). The next four chapters investigate themes that serve as leitmotifs throughout the whole or parts of Isaiah. Frederik Poulsen’s chapter 14 looks in detail at its portrayal of Zion/Jerusalem. The notion that God has chosen Jerusalem as his holy residence and to be its divine king who will protect it from its enemies is central to the book of Isaiah as a whole. It also has parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature. At the same time, it is not possible to speak of a single image of Zion/Jerusalem in Isaiah; rather, the book contains divergent images. On the one hand, the motif of God’s protection of Zion/Jerusalem is an inherent feature. God will raise up enemies who will surround the city, but he will also save his city from any immediate danger (Isa 17:12–14; 29:1–8; 36–37). On the other hand, the destruction and later restoration of Zion/Jerusalem is an equally prevalent motif. Although the actual destruction is never mentioned in Isaiah, it lurks in the gap between Isa 39 and Isa 40 and is presupposed by the material on both sides (e.g., Isa

Introduction   7 6:11–13; 22:1–14; 44:26, 28; 64:10; cf. Rom-Shiloni). The book of Isaiah further portrays Zion/Jerusalem as both Judah’s capital and the universal center of all nations. It will be the source of God’s teaching (Isa 2:2–4), the destination of the nations’ pilgrimage (Isa 66:18–24), and its temple will be a house of prayer for all people (Isa 56:1–8); yet those who refuse to acknowledge its supremacy will perish (Isa 14:1–2; 49:22–23; cf. Brett). Alongside its focus on Zion/Jerusalem, the book of Isaiah also shows a sustained interest in the notion of Davidic kingship. Hugh Williamson in chapter 15 investigates how the Davidic monarch is perceived throughout Isaiah, both in texts written in Jerusalem during the reigns of independent Davidic kings and in texts composed in the post-monarchic era. The interest of the historical character Isaiah in the practical concerns of God’s rule over his people is well illustrated by Isa 32:1: the just rule of a king should extend into all areas of life, coming close to what we today may call “social justice.” Likewise, Isa 9:6–7 and 11:1–9 speak of a royal figure who, endowed by the Spirit of God, ensures a sound judicial and social administration for the benefit of the poor and needy. The later parts of Isaiah pick up and transform this ideal. Instead of a human king, however, many post-monarchic Isaianic passages (Isa 41:21; 44:6; 52:7) describe God’s kingship over Israel. In parallel, other post-monarchic passages transfer the role of the Davidic monarch to a group of people (Isa 55:4–5), as well as to the Servant, who will bring justice and defend the poor and the weak (Isa 42:1–4). Finally, Isa 61:1–4 picks up these royal prerogatives as it speaks of the ideal deliverer, a passage that is reapplied in the new social circumstances of the time in Luke 4:16–21. Dalit Rom-Shiloni’s chapter 16 explores another significant theme that runs through the book of Isaiah, namely, exile. Although this theme is not always pronounced—it is sometimes present only as an absence, such as the “gap” between chapters 1–39 and 40–66 (cf. Landy and Poulsen)—it nonetheless permeates the entire book. Isa 1–39 contains relatively few references to deportation; the key theme is rather that of subjugation to a foreign power (Assyria, Babylon). This notion is often alluded to through references to its aftermath, namely, a destroyed and depopulated land. In contrast, Isa 40–66 emphasizes the return from exile. The text often directly addresses the historical situation in the sixth and fifth centuries bce, but it also uses the theme of exile to reflect retrospectively on these experiences. Both deportation and return are depicted with the help of metaphors from the realm of family life and nature: deportation is likened to a divorce or an bird’s empty nest, and return is conceptualized as a release from prison or birds’ returning from migrations. In both cases—deportation and return—the focal point is theological: God is responsible for the deportation of his people, as well as for bringing them back (cf. Tull). Throughout the book of Isaiah, the location of the Remnant, that is, the survivors, shifts. Whereas Isa 1–39 describes the Remnant as having never left Judah, Isa 40–66 considers the Remnant to be those who have returned from exile. In chapter 17, Ulrich Berges offers an in-depth discussion of the prominent theme of God’s Servant(s), present in the latter part of Isaiah. Since Bernhard Duhm, the four socalled Servant Songs (Isa 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12) have often been distinguished from their surroundings in Isa 40–55. In today’s scholarly context, this view has been nuanced: there are clear links between the Songs and their immediate literary

8   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer c­ ontext in Isaiah. The Servant Songs form a unique collection of texts, yet their individual depictions of the Servant(s) do not form a homogenous unity. First, do all four Songs refer to the same Servant? Second, do they speak about a single Servant or a collective entity? Third, do these Servant(s) represent a certain individual, or do they function as a symbol for a community or an ideal? Moreover, what does it mean to be God’s Servant? In a sense, the obedient servant can be found in every Israelite who confesses that Yhwh is the only true God and savior. The fourth Servant Song stands out in its focus on the Servant’s suffering. In this regard, it may be compared with those texts in Isa 49–54 that depict Zion’s suffering and exaltation, as well as with other literary representations of suffering in Job and Lam 3 (cf. Dempsey). In the final chapters of Isaiah, the single Servant becomes many (Isa 54:17b; 56:6; 63:17; 65:8, 9, 13, 14, 15; 66:14): they are the offspring of the Servant and the progeny of mother Zion, and they are God’s own disciples. The final two chapters in Part IV examine how the book of Isaiah interacts with broader topics such as wisdom and eschatology. Andrew  T.  Abernethy in chapter  18 looks at how wisdom is perceived throughout Isaiah. There has been an interesting shift in scholarly interest in the intersection between wisdom and prophecy in general, and between wisdom and Isaiah in particular. Whereas earlier scholarship often focused on the prophet’s relationship with wisdom traditions, personified through his interaction with the “wise men” (Isa 3:1–3; 5:21; 29:14), more recent scholarship has shifted attention from prophet to book to explore wisdom as a literary motif. For example, the notion of a “wonderful counselor” in Isa 9:5, as well as many expressions in Isa 11:2, relates closely to what is found in Proverbs. Isa 40–55 shows affinity with Job in terms of its portrayal of the Servant (Isa 53:11/Job 38:1–42:6), and with Proverbs in terms of its portrayal of the banquet (Isa 55:1–2/Prov 9:1–6, 11). Turning to how Isaiah conceptualizes wisdom, several texts in Isa 1–39 lament Israel’s lack of wisdom: the people lack knowledge and understanding, and this lack originates in their failure to benefit from God’s wisdom. Isa 40–55 continues yet also transforms this theme: God’s wisdom is infinitely deeper than that of Israel; Israel’s lack of wisdom often results in futile idol worship. The w ­ isdom theme is less prominent yet still extant in Isa 56–66: the wicked are often characterized as lacking understanding, and anyone who pursues wisdom is not welcome. The book of Isaiah spends a lot of ink envisaging the future and what may be called the “end times.” Soo J. Kim in chapter 19 looks at the use of eschatological language in  Isaiah—language that is understood to be universal (spatial: involving the whole world), ultimate (temporal: no room for reversal), and radical (extreme degree of ­transformation)—to help the audience to endure national hardship and to encourage them to practice ethical living during these times in order to reach the anticipated ­dystopia/utopia. First, the book of Isaiah presents time as a moving scale: given the long history of its composition, a given present can be one reader’s past and another reader’s future. Second, the dystopia of one group of people (e.g., the nations) can be the utopia of another group of people (Israel). Isaiah depicts dystopia as either like something (the land of confusion, Sodom and Gomorrah, or a desolated wilderness) or going into something (entering Sheol). These depictions of dystopia serve to rationalize the present difficult situation and to initiate the restoration era. In parallel, Isaiah depicts utopia in

Introduction   9 terms of God’s victory over Sheol, and God’s ensuing transformation of nature. The resulting new world is one of both continuity and discontinuity: the old world is not replaced; it has been dramatically changed. In all these descriptions, the intertwined destinies of Jerusalem (cf. Poulsen) and the Remnant (cf. Rom-Shiloni) form two fixed points around which all revolves. The book of Isaiah consists nearly exclusively of poetry, apart from the narratives in Isa 6–8, 20, and 36–39. The three chapters in Part V are therefore devoted to literary aspects of the book of Isaiah, with a focus on its poetic structures, language, and style. J. Blake Couey in chapter 20 provides a plethora of illustrative examples of how the poetry in the book of Isaiah works. Short units of “poetic lines” constitute the basic unit of poetry. They display a striking variety of shapes: they are of different lengths, and they often form independent clauses and, not rarely, also dependent clauses. They further consist of a single clause with a verb, its associated noun, and frequently also a prepositional phrase. As in most biblical poetry, lines in Isaiah occur in couples and are held together by various types of parallelism. In contrast, single, isolated lines are uncommon, occurring nearly always only at the beginning or at the end of a poem. Turning to larger units, enjambment is a common feature. A section of four lines may contain two parallel statements, where the lines within the couplets are enjambed (A/B//A’/B’). Isaiah contains long poems that stretch across whole chapters. They are held together by a variety of poetic features, such as inclusio and the repetition of keywords, despite their diverse content and thematic shifts. Finally, the whole book of Isaiah can be understood as one long poem, due to the affinity between Isa 1 and 65–66. Francis Landy’s chapter 21 discusses more broadly the “poetic universe” that the book of Isaiah constitutes. The book is identified as a “vision” and, as such, it provides the reader with something that is beyond normal sight. It is, furthermore, conceptualized as God’s word to Israel, and in it, the prophet presents what he sees that is beyond normal human communication. In a sense, the prophet seeks to communicate what essentially cannot be communicated. The book does not need to be read linearly because it does not convey a clear, logical development. Instead, Isaiah, as any other poetic book, can be read backward or forward. It also lacks a precise beginning and end, and instead testifies to multiple possible beginnings and endings. At its center is destruction and exile (cf. Poulsen and Rom-Shiloni), but it is surrounded by salvation and restoration. The book of Isaiah, further, has an anthological quality; it contains a history of ideas and presents how they have changed with changing circumstances. The book of Isaiah is also a family romance, depicting God’s relationship with his people Israel and his city Jerusalem. The relationship is characterized on the surface by patriarchal values, yet these are problematized as God becomes increasingly feminized throughout the book (cf. Low and Moughtin-Mumby). Turning from structure to content, Göran Eidevall in chapter 22 investigates the use of metaphors in Isaiah: how are metaphors used rhetorically to proclaim its theological messages, and what can they tell us about its theological dimensions? Metaphors can serve propagandistic purposes as they portray key entities. The portrayal of the foreign nations in Isaiah, for example, ranges from the overly threatening to the merely helpless,

10   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer the portrayal of Babylon in Isa 47 as a degraded former queen being a case in point. This image simultaneously emphasizes Zion’s corresponding rising fortune as God’s beloved city. In a different manner, the use of traditional female images to depict God in much of Isa 40–66 may appeal to its downtrodden exilic audience (cf. Moughtin-Mumby and Rom-Shiloni). The book of Isaiah testifies to a wide range of metaphors, among them the conceptual metaphor people are plants, where human beings are like grass or flowers, whereas nations or dynasties are like trees. Other metaphors are family oriented and seek to denote Israel’s relationship with his people. God is described as Israel’s king, as well as their father and mother (cf. Williamson, Low). Similarly, Zion-Jerusalem is depicted as a daughter, a wife, and a mother. She develops throughout the book of Isaiah, from being a forsaken and barren woman to having the privileged position of God’s beloved spouse and the mother of many children (cf. Poulsen). Parts VI to VIII deal with the book of Isaiah in its later textual and religious reception, as well as its use in more recent ideological interpretations. Part VI looks at Isaiah in four distinct manuscript traditions. George Brooke in chapter 23 offers a comprehensive overview of the presence and use of the Isaianic material in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is widely held that there are twentytwo copies of the book of Isaiah from the Qumran Caves. Four of these manuscripts cover nearly the whole book (1QIsaa, 1QIsab, 4QIsab, and 4QIsac). Many of the other manuscripts attest either to material from Isa 1–33 or from Isa 34–66, suggesting that the book of Isaiah was copied in two halves during the Second Temple Period. Some of these manuscripts stand close to the MT, whereas others preserve textual variants, some of which correspond with other known versions of Isaiah, and some of which are otherwise unknown. Taken together, these manuscripts help us to understand better the transmission of Isaiah in the Second Temple Period. The nonbiblical material from Qumran, furthermore, sheds light on the uses of the book of Isaiah. On a legal issue, the Damascus Document (CD 10:17–19), for example, employs Isa 58:13 to formulate rules pertaining to the Sabbath. Likewise, the Hodayot (1QHa 16:5–17:36) attest to the widespread poetic appeal of Isaiah. Last but not least, several commentaries (pesharim, e.g., 4QpIsa A, B, and C) cite verses in Isaiah as the prophetic basis for their interpretations. Abi Ngunga (chapter 24) surveys the book of Isaiah in Greek traditions. During the second century bce, Isaiah was translated into Greek by an author living in the Jewish community in Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt (cf. Holter). This translation, commonly referred to as the Old Greek (OG), is part of the Greek Bible called the Septuagint (LXX). The Greek text is preserved to us in Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Vaticanus (B), as well as in the revised versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. It is also quoted extensively in the literature of the Church Fathers. Comparisons between these different versions and that of the Masoretic Text can shed light on the history of the development of the Hebrew text: a different text may be a sign of a different Vorlage. Alternatively, it may inform us about the theology and contextual concerns of the translators, since a variant text may, rather, testify to their own theological views. The Old Greek of Isaiah was used by both Jewish and Christian communities. It was used, for example, in Greek-speaking Jewish communities in the Mediterranean world, including

Introduction   11 by Josephus. Likewise, it is quoted in the New Testament and employed to support specifically Christian interpretations of Isaiah (e.g., Isa 7:14; 53:7). William Tooman (chapter 25) likewise explores the reception of the book of Isaiah in the Jewish Aramaic Targumim. The official Targum to Isaiah is part of Targum Jonathan to the Prophets. It may have originated in the Land of Israel (cf. TIsa 65:4) but subsequently been redacted in Babylon (cf. TIsa 18:1; 29:9). Additional material was composed even later by the Jewish communities in both places. These Aramaic translations were used in synagogues, alongside the Hebrew text, for education and private study. The Isaiah Targum offers a theological commentary on the biblical text. For instance, it transformed many, but not all, of the anthropomorphic portrayals of God in the Hebrew Bible to protect the divine incomparability and inscrutability and to render him more transcendent. It also altered such passages that cast doubt upon God’s justice, mercy, and loyalty toward Israel. The Targum also aimed to uphold God’s covenant relationship with Israel and the validity of his future promises to Israel. Among other issues of concern is the coming of the Messiah. As in early Christianity, the identity of ­ Isaiah’s Servant(s) was a prime concern (cf. Berges). Notably, the Targum transforms the Servant in Isa 52:13–53:12 from being a suffering figure (MT) into a victorious champion of suffering and identifies him with the Messiah (cf. Antti Laato). Finally, Anni Maria Laato in chapter 26 investigates the ways in which the Latin textual traditions have received and transformed the book of Isaiah. Originally, the Vetus Latina (the collective name of all Latin translations prior to the Vulgate) used by the Church were translations of the LXX. These translations probably originated in actual situations: a given text was needed for practical purposes in a sermon or for a liturgical occasion. Yet ongoing discussions with the Jewish community and the uneven quality of the early translations demanded a translation that was based directly on the Hebrew text; thus Jerome’s Vulgate came into being in the fourth century ce. Jerome’s translation of Isaiah was accompanied by his commentary to the book, wherein he explains his translation and provides historical and theological interpretations. In all these Latin translations, the emphasis on messianic prophecies and Christology, combined with polemics against the Jews, stands out (cf. Moyise). The Church identified with Zion and the people of God, whereas the Jews were categorized as those whom the prophet rejected. Isaianic passages of specific interest in this discourse were Isa 2:3, understood to clarify the relation between the Old and the New Covenant, and Isa 6:9, where the Jews were equated with those who do not hear and see despite having ears and eyes. The next five chapters in Part VII look more closely at the reception of Isaiah in ancient and modern Jewish and Christian traditions. These readings are ideological in character insofar as they engage in a dialogue between the texts in the Hebrew Bible and other texts and allow the perspective of the latter texts to influence their reading of the former. Antti Laato (chapter 27) explores the role that the book of Isaiah has played in Rabbinic and other early Jewish texts. Beginning with what can best be called “historical and biographical perspectives,” the idea of a bipartite book that speaks about Israel’s past, present, and future history can be traced back to Ben Sira and is endorsed by, among others,

12   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer Josephus and (later) Ibn Ezra. Midrash sought to complement the scant information about the prophet Isaiah by elaborating on Isa 36–39, which speaks about the prophet’s encounter with King Hezekiah, as well as on Isa 1:7 and 10, which can be interpreted as a hint toward the prophet’s martyrdom during the reign of Manasseh (cf. Sawyer). Other interpretations have focused on Isaiah’s eschatological message, particularly on the Messiah (Isa 11), the pilgrimage of the nations (Isa 2:2–4; 60:1–22; 66:18–21), Gentile Torah study (Isa 2:2–4), a New Exodus (Isa 11:12; 27:13), and longevity and paradise (Isa 65:17–25). The interpretation of Isa 53 has played an important role in Jewish-Christian dialogue and confrontation for centuries (cf. Berges and Tooman). There are four prevalent Christian misunderstandings of the rabbinic exegesis of this chapter. In particular, it cannot be argued that (a) Isa 53 was intentionally avoided in the synagogue liturgy, (b) the collective interpretation of the Servant originated with Rashi in the Medieval Period, (c) Targum Jonathan’s translation is consciously anti-Christian, and (d) the extant messianic interpretations of Isa 53 are in line with Christian doctrine of a suffering and dying Messiah who atones for the sins of the people through his own death. Steve Moyise in chapter 28 investigates the function of Isaiah in the New Testament and beyond. The Early Church often appealed to the book to enhance the Gospel (cf. Anni Maria Laato). Speaking only about Isa 40, Luke 3:4–6 and John 1:23 identify the “voice in the wilderness” of Isa 40:3 with John the Baptist, who paved the way for Jesus’s ministry; the depiction of an unfathomable God in Rom 11:34 draws on Isa 40:13; and the description of the enduring quality of God’s word in 1 Pet 1:25 alludes to Isa 40:7–8. Other Isaianic passages of specific interest are the Servant Songs, where Jesus is identified as the Servant, as well as the description of the anointed prophet in Isa 61:1 (cf. Luke 4:18–19). In other cases, the NT writers draw on Isaiah to depict the people around Jesus. The divine command in Isa 6:9–10 to make the people deaf and blind (cf. Sweeney and Anni Maria Laato), for example, is employed in Mark 4:11–12 to explain Jesus’s teaching methods. Turning to Paul’s writings, references to Isaiah serve to deepen the discussions of three main themes: the inclusion of the Gentiles, Israel’s rebelliousness, and Israel’s ultimate fate. Similarly, Revelation draws on Isaiah to enhance its descriptions of John’s visionary experience, use of visionary titles, and depictions of eschatological judgment and salvation. Taken together, the book of Isaiah was clearly a very popular and influential book in the first century ce. Modern scholarship has seen the rise of many theological and ideological approaches to the Hebrew Bible in general and the book of Isaiah in particular. The current volume focuses on two important and influential interpretations of Isaiah, one Jewish and one Christian. Marvin Sweeney in chapter 29 discusses the new significance that many passages obtain when being read in the aftermath of the Shoah. The end of Isaiah emphasizes disappointment: all of Israel has not been restored, and Yhwh is not universally recognized as Lord of the world; the vision of world peace has not materialized, and no Davidic king sits on the throne in Jerusalem. This unsatisfactory situation, in turn, raises the question of Yhwh’s power, presence, and righteousness, as well as his apparent failure to protect his people from invasion and destruction. Further, the divine commission to the prophet in Isa 6:9–10 to render the people blind, deaf, and ignorant (cf. Moyise)

Introduction   13 constitutes a moral problem: Isaiah is commanded to prevent Israel’s repentance to ensure the fulfillment of Yhwh’s destructive plans. The command is immoral on two grounds: first, Yhwh is willing to murder his people for his own purposes; second, Isaiah fails to protest and thus becomes a collaborator in the crime. Other Isaianic passages, such as Isa 7:1–25 and Isa 54:7–10, stress Yhwh’s hiddenness or his neglect of his eternal covenant with Israel. These passages together suggest that Israel (and humanity) cannot depend on Yhwh to protect them; instead, they must work in partnership with him to ensure the righteousness, holiness, and integrity of the world. Looking at the book of Isaiah from a modern Christian perspective, John Goldingay’s chapter 30 discusses its significance when seen from a canonical perspective. When we read a text, we can explore what lies behind the text (i.e., what the original authors may have meant), what lies in the text (what the text itself says), and what lies in front of the text (what the reader brings to the text). A canonical approach belongs to the last category, insofar as Christian readers desire to read Isaiah as “Scripture.” This approach can, however, take different shapes. First, the book of Isaiah was written by many authors, yet it is possible to view it as a canonical work insofar as chronologically later authors considered themselves to have the authority to read and rework earlier texts. For example, Isa 60:1–2 picks up Isa 8:23–9:1 [Eng. 9:1–2] and Isa 65:25 takes up Isa 11:6 and 9. Second, the book of Isaiah is a canonical work in the sense that its final form was shaped to convey a certain message and to provide a certain theological perspective. As such, a canonical reading means taking Isaiah in its entirety as a theological whole, reading the message of divine judgment in its first half in connection with and from the standpoint of the message of salvation in its second half. Third, a canonical reading may also mean reading the book of Isaiah as part of a canon, in the sense that it has a certain moral authority. The NT reads Isaiah as a key resource to understand and articulate insights about Jesus and about God’s relationship with his people (cf. Moyise). John F. A. Sawyer (chapter 31) investigates the ways that Jewish, Christian, and Islamic artists and composers have conceptualized the language and imagery of Isaiah. First, although the biblical book does not provide much information about the life of the prophet, Christian painters throughout the centuries have filled the gaps by providing details to Isaiah’s commission in Isa 6, his interaction with King Hezekiah in Isa 36–39, and his martyrdom (a tradition known to the early Church and the ancient Rabbis; cf. Antti Laato). Given the significance of the book of Isaiah in the NT (cf. Moyise), the prophet Isaiah is, moreover, often depicted alongside NT characters. Turning to the content of the book, the image of the tree of Jesse (Isa 11:1–3); the return of the divine warrior after battle (Isa 63:1–6); the lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 53:7); and the world vision of peace, when the swords will be beaten into ploughshares (Isa 2:4) are all commonly depicted motifs in paintings and sculptures. In recent times, the image of a realm where animals and humans dwell together in peace (Isa 11:6–9) has become a popular motif in art. Select Isaianic passages have also often been put to music in hymns, liturgical songs, spirituals, and popular music in both Christian and Jewish traditions. Handel’s Messiah is probably the best-known example, and features, in order of appearance, Isa 40; 60:1; 9:5 [Eng. 6]; 53:3–6, 8; 50:6; and 52:7.

14   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer The concluding five chapters in Part VIII continue to focus on the way different communities have read, interpreted, and appropriated the Bible. Many people, scholars and laypeople alike, consciously or unconsciously define biblical interpretation as a traditionally Western, male endeavor. The chapters here challenge this often-tacit assumption by highlighting how the Bible has been and continues to be read across the world by diverse groups of people from different backgrounds and with shifting interests. They present mere glimpses of the richness of current biblical interpretation. As in Part VII, the interpretation is often driven by concerns and ideologies that are not immediately inherent in the biblical texts themselves. Some readings are politically motivated; others are geographically driven. What holds them together is the attempt to make the Bible relevant for readers today. Biblical studies is more than the history of ancient Israel and its religious expressions; it is a vibrant and ongoing communal endeavor that seeks to change people’s lives here and now. The book of Isaiah raises many issues for both feminist and womanist approaches. Sharon Moughtin-Mumby discusses six of them in chapter 32. First, the personification of Jerusalem as a woman runs like a golden thread throughout Isaiah and reaches its culmination in Isa 40–55. These portrayals present feminist readers with substantial challenges: Jerusalem is cast as a powerless and passive victim, and the overarching perspective is androcentric (cf. Eidevall and Landy). Second, Isaiah employs other female entities as a synecdoche of the guilty people. These descriptions often combine images of violence and sexual language, and rape is used to represent the deviation and shame that will befall the people. Third, the description of real women in Isaiah is often negative (Isa 3:16–4:1; 27:11; 32:9–14). Fourth, it is possible that some of the authors responsible for Isa 40–55 may have been women, given the prevalence of metaphors connected to traditionally female roles. Fifth, and connected with the preceding issue, feminist and womanist exegetes have highlighted the metaphoric descriptions of God as mother (Isa 49:15; 66:13), midwife (66:9), and woman in labor (42:13–14; cf. Low). Finally, womanist scholars, especially, have emphasized how the Servant in Isa 40–55 can serve as a symbol of the black woman’s experience of being silenced and treated like a servant/slave (cf. Dempsey). Mark G. Brett in chapter 33 explores the ways that the book of Isaiah reflects the effects of imperialism, as well as how it has been received in colonial and anticolonial contexts. The book—created in the shadow of the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic Empires—naturally contains discourse on empire. Many texts in Isa 1–39 express anti-imperial rhetoric (e.g., Isa 10:14–15; 14:4–23). The situation in Isa 40–66 is more ambivalent, as there is no binary contrast between the colonizer and the colonized. In fact, an anti-imperial attack on Babylon can be construed to reflect support of the imperial Persian administration. Several key motifs in Isaiah deserve scrutiny from a postcolonial perspective. The notion of a Torah with imperial reach (Isa 2:2–4, cf. 42:4) testifies to the idea that Zion cannot rest securely until all other nations have been brought to judgment and then aligned with Israel’s interests. Differently, the visions of peace in Isa 11 and 65 offer a muted resistance to imperial violence, dreams of grandeur, and ensuing exploitation. The call to return and restoration in Isa 40–55, where the

Introduction   15 returning exiles may have been supported by imperial interests, has been termed “colonial” by some biblical critics. Alternatively, select texts in Isa 56–66 express hope for reconciliation between different social groups in Judah and offer an invitation to the nations to be part of a recreated earth. Carol J. Dempsey in chapter 34 focuses on the use of Isaiah by predominantly but not exclusively South American Liberation Theologians. Especially, the motif of the Suffering Servant (Isa 52:13–53:12) has come to serve as a symbol of the suffering, not only of poor and downtrodden humanity, but also of the mistreated Earth (cf. Berges and Moughtin-Mumby). This approach to the biblical text is called “the hermeneutical circle,” whereby the community is both the interpreter of the text and the subject of interpretation. Poor communities identify themselves with the voice of the prophet speaking out against injustice, and the message of the book is transformed to speak directly to their specific situations. Isa 3:12–15, for example, has been read within the context of the injustices committed against the Dalit community in India. At the same time, this reading strategy may interpret the biblical text against the grain as it points out its inherent structures of oppression, especially against women and children. Dempsey concludes by encouraging us to read Isaiah not only as a literary work or a theological treatise but also as a tool for speaking out against, for example, patriarchy, hierarchy, the abuse of power, economic inequity, and a violent deity. Knut Holter’s chapter 35 investigates African translations and interpretations of the book of Isaiah. Although “Africa” as a cartographic, cultural, and political concept is younger than the second century bce, one could argue that the LXX is the first “African” translation of the Hebrew Bible (cf. Ngunga). As such, African interaction with the Bible goes back to its very beginning. Holter focuses on a modern example—namely, how Isaiah is being presented in so-called Study Bibles, which are Bibles that intersect two major reading communities: that of the scholarly world and that of lay readers. Holter highlights how the three Study Bibles under scrutiny offer contextually conscious perspectives. The African Bible (Roman Catholic) conflates practices mentioned in Isaiah with contemporary practices as a way of addressing actual social concerns. It also explores the inculturation of church and faith in (African) culture and society. In contrast, the Prayer and Deliverance Bible (Pentecostal) refers to Isaianic texts as it endeavors to prepare pastors and laypeople for Christian ministry and spiritual warfare. Finally, the Africa Study Bible (mainstream Protestant) emphasizes the Christological interpretations of the prophecies in Isaiah (cf. Anni Maria Laato) and the spiritual aspects of restoration. It further compares the exile in Babylon with the African experience of slavery. Maggie Low concludes the handbook in chapter 36 by looking at some of the ways in which the book of Isaiah has been read and interpreted in the pluralistic environment of Singapore (Christian, Buddhist, Taoist). Reading Isaiah in an Asian context, imbued with the values of Confucianism, emphasizes the fatherhood of God. Its depictions of a perfect divine father, who not only disciplines his children but also loves them unconditionally, may serve as a role model for Asian families. At the same time, the use of traditionally female images attributed to God throughout Isaiah provides a helpful corrective

16   Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer to patriarchal values (cf. Moughtin-Mumby). Together, Isaiah’s masculine and feminine portrayals of God foster a complementary kind of feminism because God is, after all, multidimensional and beyond gender. Similarly, throughout Isaiah, the idea of God’s holiness resonates intuitively with many Asian readers. At the same time, the combination of ritual and the spiritual (e.g., Isa 56) with ethics and social justice (e.g., Isa 2; 58) offers an important lesson to many Asians, who tend to disconnect the two realms. Finally, the tension between universalism and particularism in much of Isaiah, represented by the Servant and Zion, can teach the people of Singapore to work together across social, religious, and racial boundaries. The Servant goes far beyond the Confucian values in this respect, as he does not limit his ministry to his own people (53:8) but extends his ministry to “many” (52:15). It is my hope that this handbook will serve as a useful tool and companion for future study on Isaiah. It has been delightful to be given the opportunity to create this Handbook and to work with the talented authors responsible for its chapters. Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer Aberdeen, Scotland, June 2019



chapter 1

The Book of Isa i a h: Its Fi na l Struct u r e Jacob Stromberg

1.1. Prolegomena How one perceives the structure of Isaiah has a direct bearing on how one reads it. The word “structure” has been used in different ways in relation to texts. As a “purposeful arrangement of parts within a whole,” structure inheres in all texts.1 It is a quality of texts produced by the desire that the reader (or listener) should experience a sequence of words as coherent—be the extent of that sequence great or small. Understood this way, structure is a means to a communicative end. The very question of whether a pattern “exists in the text—whether it has any relevance and any claim to perceptibility—turns on the question of what it does in the text.”2 The book of Isaiah is characterized by structure at the local level in that much of it consists of a series of poems dominated by the typical relationships between lines and poems found elsewhere in biblical poetry. These poems are segmented into parts (lines) that have been coordinated by various means to form wholes (the poem). Segmentation and coordination are indispensable qualities of text structure in general, necessary for making coherence. If structure emerges into perception in the experience of reading in relation to what structure does in the text, then what kind of reading does the structure of the book of Isaiah presuppose? It is obviously a reading undertaken with a high degree of competence in biblical Hebrew poetry. But does such a reading also involve the ability to respond to macrostructural signals that enable levels of coherence beyond the individual passage? Modern scholars have long experienced some aspects of the ­macrostructure 1   Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “structure, n.,” Entry/191895?isAdvanced=false&result=1&rskey=bREXzc& (accessed May 17, 2018). 2  Sternberg, Poetics, 2.

20   Jacob Stromberg of large-scale compositions in the Hebrew Bible—such as Isaiah—as alien to their own intuitions or ideas about what constitutes a book.3 For some scholars, Isaiah is nothing more than a loose anthology of original and secondary material that lacks a macrostructural coordination of its parts.4 Without strategies of coordination, the book of Isaiah as such would lack structure in the just-mentioned sense. This conclusion is not secure for several reasons. First, the “assumptions or habits of text coherence” presupposed by an ancient text like Isaiah are probably not identical to those “assumptions or habits” familiar to modern scholars as readers themselves.5 Indeed, the reading habits underlying much of the history of modern scholarship are alien to those presupposed by this literature to the degree that they have been generated by the desire to critically reconstruct the experiences of the prophet or the formation of his book. Second, though more than one author stands behind the final form of the book of Isaiah, we have good so-called empirical evidence that bookmakers in ancient Israel were capable of creating structured works of their own using preexisting sources.6 Finally, though scholarship has long regarded Isaiah as two or more independent works, a formidable body of research is now persuasively arguing that this text was to be received as a single meaningful whole.7 Here, however, there is a danger of substituting those diachronic descriptions of the unity of Isaiah for the kind of reading that the structure of this book presupposes. It is doubtful that the depth dimension of the text—what scholars take as evidence for the history of its development—was ever assigned the role of meaning signal for the ancient readers by the ancient text producers. That role was assigned to the structure of the book. Thus, the ancient reading habits presupposed by the shape of Isaiah should not be confused with the mental operations at work in the diachronic modes of reading cultivated by modern academics. Lastly, to call Isaiah a “book” is to call it a text above all else. Just what constitutes a “text” has been the subject of considerable analysis. For the sake of economy, I appeal to Alexander Samely’s well-informed definition: “A text is a complex verbal entity, usually a plurality of sentences or other units of meaning, whose de facto boundaries or verbal and literary signals invite constructing the meaning of any one of its sentences/units in the light of the meaning of all others.”8 The very first sentence of the book of Isaiah offers the reader precisely this sort of invitation: “The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, the kings of Judah” (Isa 1:1). The single source of the vision (God), the single recipient (the prophet), the discreet period of time in which the vision was received (“the days of . . . the kings of Judah”), as well as the specification of its subject matter (“concerning Judah and Jerusalem”)—all these serve to invite the reader to receive what follows as a discreet and unified whole. From the first sentence, Isaiah presents itself to the reader as a “text.” And its length warrants labeling it a “book,” which is not to say that it was designed to be read as a stand-alone book.9  Barton, “Book.”   4 Roberts, Isaiah, 2.   5  Samely, “Studies,” 772.  E.g., Chronicles.   7  For literature, see Stromberg, Introduction.   8 Samely, Profiling, 22. 9   Cf. Kratz, Israel, 100. 3


The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   21 In sum, a text invites “constructing the meaning of any one of its sentences/units in the light of the meaning of all others.”10 It is the role of structure to enable the perception of these parts and to guide their coordination in the mental performance of reading. Accepting both the invitation of Isaiah and the conclusions of recent diachronic research, I will attempt to describe the macrostructural features of the final form of this prophetic book, mostly setting aside matters of its prehistory for the reasons already given. Needless to say, restrictions of space prohibit more than a cursory treatment here.

1.2.  The Two Halves of the Book of Isaiah Most scholars agree that the book of Isaiah divides itself into two halves (chapters 1–39 and 40–66). The second half of the book presents the vision of Isaiah in a completely different mode than does the first half. In chapters 1–39 one finds several titles and narratives that are arranged chronologically in a sequence that leads up to Hezekiah’s confrontation with the Assyrians. This chronographic material explicitly relates the first thirty-nine chapters to the prophet Isaiah (Isa 1:1; 2:1; 6; 7:1–17; 8:1–4; 13:1; 14:28; 20; 36–39). Throughout chapters 1–39, the reader is projected back into the days of Isaiah the prophet by means of this narrative thread. At the very beginning of this sequence of chronological references is the book’s title, in 1:1. Since this title defines the entire historical scope of the prophet’s ministry as spanning the years from Uzziah to Hezekiah, it is almost certainly deliberate that immediately after chapters 36–39—the narratives concerning Hezekiah—all such references to the prophet disappear from the book. The second half of the book contains no titles or narratives of the sort that one finds in the first half. No explicit attempt is made to locate the voices of chapters 40–66 within the period of the narrative account of Isaiah’s ministry given in chapters 1–39. Instead, one encounters a striking temporal dislocation built into the self-presentation of the second half of the book, differentiating the way it presents the vision of Isaiah from that in the first half. By design, the oracles in chapters 40–66 require the reader to accept that they speak, not to Isaiah’s contemporaries, but rather to a period after the prophet himself had passed from the scene. By contrast, the oracles in chapters 1–39 never appear to place this requirement on the reader. Instead, these oracles speak as if to those present in the days of the prophet. This temporal dislocation emerges with special clarity when one compares the references to Babylon in chapters 1–39 with the references to Babylon in chapters 40–66. The second half of the book presents the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the Judean exile—events that occurred long after Isaiah’s death—as events that had already happened by the day of the audience. In this half of the book, these events are not presented in a predictive mode, but rather are presupposed in historical retrospect, be it in 10

 Samely, Profiling, 22.

22   Jacob Stromberg the mode of supplication (63:17; 64:7–11) or as the basis of an imperative to the speaker’s audience (48:21). By contrast, the first half of the book presents the threat posed by Babylon (39:6–7) and its own subsequent downfall (chaps. 13–14) as predictions about the future issued in the days of Isaiah the prophet. Accordingly, where Isaiah is said to have foreseen a restoration after the Babylonian exile (13:1; 14:1–4), the second half of the book proclaims this to its audience as a reality of their time. In this respect, that which had belonged to the distant future in the first half of the book is now at hand or has already come to pass. While this temporal shift has played a central role in developing models for the history of the book’s formation, that whole line of inquiry cannot be substituted for the problem of structure as it has been defined here. Structure, in this sense, addresses a different issue. From the point of view of those who gave the book its final shape, how were the ancient readers supposed to encounter such a break and coordinate the two halves of the book? These references to Babylon strongly suggest that the reader was supposed to relate the halves of the book in a prophecy-and-fulfillment schema. This conclusion is supported by evidence in both halves of the book.11 In sum, in the first half of the book, the reader is made to inhabit the days of the prophet himself, listening in “real time,” as it were, to Isaiah speak. By contrast, in the second half of the book, the reader is transported to a later period after the prophet had passed from the scene, into the wake of the Babylonian destruction that he had foreseen. Here, the reader, projected into this later period, listens to voices speaking the vision of Isaiah the prophet to a latter-day audience, an audience living in a time about which the prophet spoke, but did not himself expect to see. In the latter half of the book, the human voice(s)—which emerges in brief autobiographical cameos (49–50; 61)—remains anonymous. The only voice that is explicitly identified is that of God himself, whose presence the book portrays as transcending the temporal divide separating it into two halves. The acceptance of this theological claim—the goal of so much of the rhetoric in the latter half of the book (e.g., 41:4; 44:6, 24; 46:10)—turns out to be the most important postulate given to the reader for coordinating its two halves into a single meaningful whole, the vision of Isaiah of Jerusalem.

1.3.  The Isaianic Narratives and the Structure of the Book At a lower level, the book consists of several subunits (1–12; 13–27; 28–35; 36–39; 40–55; 56–66). What follows gives some of the reasons for these divisions and explores their interrelationship. It does so by drawing attention to the narrative logic of the book, wherein the Hezekiah narrative plays a pivotal role. In Isa 1–39, the titles and narratives have a chronological arrangement, which can only have been deliberate. These come to   Seitz, “Prophet”; Williamson, Book.


The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   23 an end with the Hezekiah narrative, giving the first half of the book a narrative arc that terminates with the story about this Davidic king. Moreover, immediately after Isaiah pronounces the future Babylonian judgment in this narrative (chap. 39), the reader enters the very different temporal landscape of Isa 40–66, which assumes that this judgment has already come to pass.

1.3.1.  Isaiah 1–12 Isa 1–12 deals primarily with judgment and salvation for Israel and Judah, with Jerusalem and Judah accorded a special place. Isa 13 begins a new section with oracles against foreign nations. Internally, Isa 1–12 presents itself as a unit, as is suggested, for instance, by its beginning and ending. It begins exhorting God’s children to repent (chap. 1). It ends with a hymn of praise (chap. 12). The opening exhortation recounts their present suffering at the hands of foreigners, the instruments of divine judgment (1:5–9). The concluding hymn (a response to chap. 11) celebrates their future restoration at the hands of foreigners, acting as the agents of God’s salvific purpose. Accompanying this is a restoration of knowledge and justice. In Isa 1, “Israel does not know [‫ ”]ידע‬its God, and the leadership in Jerusalem lacks justice (‫)ׁשפ״ט‬, which will be restored after a purifying judgment (1:3, 10–20; 1:17 ← 1:23). In Isa 12, the people celebrate the fulfillment of Isa 11, which envisions the return of justice (‫ )ׁשפ״ט‬to Jerusalem under the rule of a Davidic king (11:4). In the days of this king (upon whom will rest “the spirit of the knowledge [‫ ]דעת‬and fear of Yhwh [11:2]), the earth will be filled with “the knowledge [‫ ]דעה‬of Yhwh” (11:9). The foreign nations “will seek him”; and he will stand as the “signal” to which they are drawn for Israel’s restoration (11:10–12).12 This event would be like the Exodus when the Egyptians were to come to know (‫ )יד״ע‬Yhwh.13 Indeed, each passage echoes one of the two “songs” of Moses in the Pentateuch.14 According to Isa 1, the people lived in the days of judgment foreseen by Moses in Deut 32, a fitting introduction to the presentation of the prophet in these chapters.15 According to Isa 12, their future restoration would be like the Exodus celebrated by Moses in Exod 15, a fitting conclusion to chapters that consistently depict judgment and salvation (primarily in connection with Assyria) on analogy to Israel’s bondage in Egypt and exodus from it.16 The “center” of chapters 1–12 has long been regarded as 6:1–9:7.17 Breaks beginning at 6:1 and 9:8 suggest that this is a meaningful unit, as do its beginning and ending. The first verse of this section takes place in the year of the death of the Davidic king (Uzziah) and begins with a vision of God, “the king,” sitting upon his throne (‫)על כסא‬, ready to pronounce judgment on his people (6:1, 5). The last verse of this section envisions the  Stromberg, Isaiah, 183–205.   13  Cf. Exod 3–4; 6–14.   I am grateful to Andrew Teeter for this observation. See now Schwartz, “Mirrors.” Cf. Roberts, Isaiah, 20, 192    15  Isa 8//Deut 31. 16   Isa 12:2//Exod 15:2; Isa 4:2–6//Exod 13:21–22; 14:19–20; Isa 5:1, 2//Exod 15:1, 17; Isa 6:10//Exod 3; 4:21; 6–14; Isa 5:25; 9:12–10:4//Exod 7–15; Isa 10:24, 27//Exod 1–2; 5–6; Lev 26:13. See also Isa 10:26; 11:15–16. 17  Barthel, Prophetenwort, 37–65. 12


24   Jacob Stromberg r­ e-establishment of the Davidic kingdom after this period of judgment comes to an end, a time when there will be “no end to peace” and a new king sitting upon the throne (‫ )על כסא‬of David (9:7).18 Moreover, the presentation of kingship here plays a pivotal role in chapters 1–12. For instance, the announcement of the judgment upon Israel at the hands of a foreign nation(s)19 in 5:26–30 has been carefully referenced in what follows such that a major turning point comes with the royal oracle in 9:1–7.20 The nation summoned by God in 5:26 is identified as Assyria in 7:17–20 (‫ קצה‬+ ‫)ׁשר״ק‬. This identification initiates two cycles, each envisioning the end of Assyrian oppression followed by a renewed Davidic kingdom of global significance (8:1–9:7; 10:5–11:16).21 The transition from oppression to renewal in each cycle is marked by a clear reversal of the prophecy in 5:26–30. In Isa 5:30, God promises a time of darkness and distress, which comes to an end in 8:22–9:2, where the darkness and distress give way to light (‫מעוף־מועף‬//‫ עריפיה‬+ ‫ חׁש״ך‬+ ‫ הנה‬+ ‫)נב״ט‬. According to 9:1–7, that light would be the renewed Davidic kingdom. In Isa 5:25–26, God lifts a “signal” to summon nation(s) in judgment on his people because of his anger and outstretched hand. In Isa 11:10–12:6, God does this again but for the restoration of his people because his anger subsides (‫ ׁשו״ב‬+ ‫ ידו‬+ ‫ אף‬+ ‫)ונׂשא נס לגוים‬. According to 11:10, that “signal” would be a Davidic king with a renewed kingdom. Thus in what follows, Isa 5:26–30 is taken up both in the development of the threat of the Assyrian king (7:18) and in connection with precisely those points at which this threat gives way to a renewed Davidic kingdom in each of the two lengthy royal oracles in Isa 1–12. The dark days foreseen by 5:26–30 would end with the renewed Davidic kingdom in 9:1–7 and 11. All of this suggests a pivotal role for 6:1–9:7 within the first section of the book. As Peter Ackroyd observed, the Hezekiah narrative has been deliberately coordinated with Isa 6:1–9:7.22 Elsewhere I have sought to develop this line of argument, which can only be summarized here.23 By means of a series of parallels, Hezekiah’s response to the Assyrian threat to Jerusalem has been set on analogy to the response of his father (Ahaz) to the threat posed to Jerusalem by the Syro-Ephraimite coalition (7:1//36:1; 7:3//36:2; 7:2//37:1; 7:4//37:6; 7:11//37:30; 7:17//36:6–9). These parallels enable the reader to compare the two kings, their responses to their respective crises, and the outcomes in each case. The relevance of this comparison involves the conditions necessary for God to honor his covenant with David (7:2, 9, 13, 17; 37:35; 38:5). Initially, Hezekiah is contrasted with Ahaz. Confronted by a threat from the Syro-Ephramite kings, Ahaz’s disbelief prevented him from activating God’s commitment to David, and instead he brings the “king of Assyria” against Judah in “days” to come (7:9–17). By contrast, Hezekiah responds piously to the threatening writings (‫ )ספרים‬of the Assyrian king, going to the “temple” (‫ )בית‬to pray for divine deliverance “so that all the kingdoms of the world will know [‫ ]וידעו‬that you alone are Yhwh” (37:14–20). God responds to Hezekiah’s prayer by sending the Assyrian  Barthel, Prophetenwort, 113, n. 28.    19  On the text, see Williamson, Isaiah 1–5, 396.  Williamson, Book, 116–143. Cf. Barthel, Prophetenwort, 44, 125, 182; Becker, Jesaja, 145–148; Beuken, Jesaja 1–12, 156, 208, 319.    21  Isa 9:4 is related to Assyria in Isa 10:27 and 14:25. 22  Ackroyd, Studies, 105–120. Cf. Conrad, Reading, 35–51.   23  Stromberg, “History.” 18


The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   25 i­nvaders off, a response grounded in God’s commitment to David (37:35). However, the peace achieved here is quickly undermined by the last episode of the Hezekiah story, when he is again sent writings (‫ )ספרים‬by a Mesopotamian king, the king of Babylon (39:1). Where the Assyrian writings were malignant, the Babylonian writings were benign. And where Hezekiah responded to the Assyrians with a visit to the “house” (‫ )בית‬of Yhwh and a concern that the nations should “know” God, his response to the Babylonians was precisely the opposite of this. Hezekiah showed the Babylonians every “house” (‫ )בית‬in his kingdom except the house of Yhwh, whom he does not mention to them—despite the fact that God’s healing of Hezekiah had occasioned their visit(38; 39:1). Here the narrative returns to a comparison with Ahaz, as the sin of Hezekiah brings the “king of Babylon” against Judah in “days” to come (39:6–7//7:17). What the Ahaz and Hezekiah narratives work in tandem to demonstrate is the predictability of Israel’s omnipotent God in working out his commitment to David. God would honor his covenant in the face of a threat when the Davidic king turned to him in trust, but any disbelief on the part of the king put him in jeopardy (7:9). The analogical rhythm of this narrative structure gives it a prospective function. Just as God honored the Davidic covenant during the Assyrian crisis, so also will he do during the Babylonian crisis to come, provided the necessary conditions (illustrated by Hezekiah’s response to the Assyrians) are met. Conversely, the sin of Hezekiah would be no more of an impediment to a future fulfillment of this covenant than was that of Ahaz. In this light, it cannot be a coincidence that immediately following the Hezekiah account comes the second half of the book, which addresses those living in the wake of Babylonian destruction. Indeed, this half of the book exhorts all Israel to “fear not” (‫ )אל תירא‬and offers a renewal of the Davidic covenant to Jerusalem (41:10; 55:3). This narrative relates closely to the previously mentioned two cycles in chapters 1–12, each envisioning a renewed Davidic kingdom after the overthrow of the Assyrian king. In fact, Ackroyd noted that the royal oracle in 9:1–7 has been coordinated with this narrative by means of citation: “The zeal of Yhwh of Hosts will accomplish this”(‫)קנאת יהוה צבאות תעׂשה זאת‬.24 This phrase, which serves as a divine assurance for the fulfillment of the royal oracle (9:7), is repeated in the Hezekiah story precisely where God promises him that he will honor the covenant with David by repelling the Assyrians and saving Jerusalem (37:32). Earlier in the book, the fulfillment of this royal oracle is made to depend on the overthrow of the Assyrians “in my land” (9:3 → 10:27; 14:25). Accordingly, the citation of this royal oracle in chapter 37 suggests to the reader that Hezekiah (a Davidic king) could be its fulfillment. However, at its conclusion, the narrative quickly dispels this expectation. Hezekiah, having been told that “days” (‫ )ימים‬are coming when his kingdom will be dismantled by the Babylonians, responds by noting that “there will be peace [‫ ]ׁשלום‬and security in my days [‫”]ימי‬ (39:8 → 38:3). Since the days to come would not be like his own, this statement simultaneously reminds the reader that Hezekiah, because of his good deeds, was able to bring “peace,” but that by his failure, he had limited the scope of that “peace.” This,  Ackroyd, Studies, 118.


26   Jacob Stromberg the last line of the story, seems carefully calculated to tell the reader that, although Hezekiah had earlier looked like the fulfillment of the days anticipated by 9:1–7, in the end, he was not: the scope of peace (‫ )ׁשלום‬in those days would be “without end” (9:7). The narrative initially leads the reader to regard Hezekiah as the fulfillment, only to then tell the reader that he was not. The portrait moves from good Hezekiah to bad Hezekiah to provide a figure or type of the as yet future fulfillment. The fulfillment of 9:1–7 will be someone like good Hezekiah without the failure that limited the peace to his days. Good Hezekiah models how the covenant with David can be activated in the time of crisis. Bad Hezekiah assures the reader that he was not the fulfillment. Given the role the second royal oracle (chap. 11) assigns to the Davidic king as a conduit for the knowledge (‫ )יד״ע‬of God to the nations—precisely where Hezekiah succeeded in responding to the Assyrians but failed in receiving the Babylonians—much the same could be said in relation to this passage: the portrait of Hezekiah is nothing more, but also nothing less, than a type of its fulfillment.

1.3.2.  Isaiah 13–27 Chapters 13–27 are the next major unit in the book. Isa 28 begins a series of “woes” (‫)הוי‬ against Ephraim and (primarily) Judah. Internally, chapters 13–23 are composed of ten oracles each introduced with ‫מׂשא‬. These ten oracles are followed by an eschatological extension or global summary of them in chapters 24–27.25 One important aspect of the macrostructure of Isa 13–27 requires the reader to see how these chapters have been arranged to enable comparison with chapters 1–12. The following chart partly illustrates the relationship between Isa 13:1–14:27 and Isa 1–5.26 Isaiah 1–5 In the vision about Judah and Jerusalem “which Isaiah son of Amoz saw”)‫אׁשר חזה‬ ‫)יׁשעיהו בן אמוץ‬, the “mountain [‫ ]הר‬of the house of Yhwh” will be “lifted up” (‫)נׂשא‬, established “at [‫ ]ב‬the head of the mountains [‫]ההרים‬,” and “all nations [‫ ”]גוים‬and “many peoples” (‫ )עמים רבים‬will go there because “instruction” and “the word of Yhwh” go forth from there. Instructed by Yhwh, the “many peoples” (‫ )עמים רבים‬will learn “war” (‫ )מלחמה‬no more (2:1–4).

Isaiah 13:1–14:27 In the oracle against Babylon “which Isaiah son of Amoz saw” (‫)אׁשר חזה יׁשעיהו בן אמוץ‬, an imperative goes forth, “upon a windswept mountain [‫ ]הר‬lift up [‫ ]ׂשאו‬a signal, raise [‫ ]הרימו‬a sound to them,” in order to assemble “a sound of the multitude on the mountains [‫]בהרים‬, the likeness of a multitudinous people [‫ ”]עם רב‬for “war” (‫ )מלחמה‬against Babylon (13:1–4).

  Cf. Sweeney, Books, 64–78.   Cf. Barth, Jesaja, 114–115; Berges, Buch, 159–160; Teeter, “Isaiah,” 195; Zapff, Prophetie, 213–217.



The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   27 Isaiah 1–5 However, in the meantime, there is a threat to all Israel from a Mesopotamian king, rallied by God, who lifts (‫ )נׂש״א‬a “signal” (‫)נס‬ to “nations” (‫“ )גוים‬from afar” (‫ )מרחוק‬and from the “end” (‫ )מקצה‬of the “earth” (‫הארץ‬ [5:26]). This threat is because God’s hand is outstretched (‫ )ידו נטויה‬against his people and his anger is not turned back (‫ׁשב‬ [5:25]). Outcome: God’s children were not like Sodom and Gomorrah in their destruction because they were left a remnant, the daughter of Zion (1:8–9),27 despite being “wicked seed” (‫[ זרע מרעים‬1:4]). Being like Sodom and Gomorrah in their morality, the leaders are exhorted to heed “the word of Yhwh” and the “instruction of our God” (1:10), presumably with an eye toward the fulfillment of 2:2–4 that follows.

Isaiah 13:1–14:27 This is the threat to the Mesopotamian king from those rallied by God, who lifts (‫ )נׂש״א‬a “signal” (‫ )נס‬to “nations” (‫)גוים‬ “from a distant land” (‫ )מארץ מרחק‬and from the “end” (‫ )מקצה‬of the heavens (13:2–5). This threat is because God’s hand is outstretched (‫ )ידו נטויה‬against all nations, and who can turn it back (‫[ יׁשיבנה‬14:26–27])? Outcome: Babylon will be like Sodom and Gomorrah in their destruction (13.19), because they are a “wicked seed” (‫[ זרע מרעים‬13:20]).

The second half (Isa 14:28–27:13) bears a similar relationship to chapters 6–12; both begin in a way that invites comparison. Isaiah 6 “In the year of king Uzziah’s death” (‫)בׁשנת מות המלך עזיהו‬, Isaiah received “Seraphim” (‫)ׂשרפים‬, each “flying about” (‫)יעופף‬, and he was commissioned with a message of judgment against God’s people (6).

Isaiah 14:28–32 “In the year of king Ahaz’s death” (‫)בׁשנת מות המלך עזיהו‬, Isaiah received an oracle of judgment against the Philistines wherein they would face a worse threat than the one already experienced, a “flying Seraph” (‫[ ׂשרף מעופף‬14:28–32]).28

In each case, the judgment announced takes the form of Assyria. And in each case, the reader discovers this in the narrative material that follows each passage (chaps. 7–8; 20). Significantly, both narratives are coordinated with the story of Hezekiah (on chap. 20, see 1.3.2.); and both speak of a divine “sign” (‫ )אות‬at the time of foreign threat against a city, Jerusalem/Ashdod (7:1–17; 20). Finally, both sections (Isa 6–12 and 14:28–27:13) conclude with a promise that God will gather his “dispersed” (‫ )נד״ח‬people from the lands of “Egypt” and “Assyria,” bringing them from “the River” and the “sea/wadi of Egypt” to his “holy mountain” (‫הר הקדׁש‬/‫ )הר קדׁשי‬on that day (11:9–16; 27:12–13).29

27   Along with 5:26–30, this speaks of devastation brought by Assyria, on which see Williamson, Isaiah 1–5, 47–73, 395–410.    28 Becker, Jesaja, 273. Cf. Ackroyd, Studies, 175. 29  Steck, Heimkehr, 60–64; Sweeney, Books, 92–93.

28   Jacob Stromberg Several features of Isaiah 13–27 suggest a relationship with the Hezekiah narrative, not least the structural analogy of these chapters to Isa 1–12, just noted. I limit the discussion to three examples from the oracles against the foreign nations, which have been arranged into two parallel sets of five oracles each introduced with ‫מׂשא‬.30 ‫ מׂשא‬about Babylon (13:1–14:27) The Medes (‫ )מדי‬are the agent of downfall (13:17).  ‫ מׂשא‬about Philistia (14:28–32) A question (‫ )מה‬is posed in relation to messengers (v. 32). ‫ מׂשא‬about Moab (15–16) Provision made for the refugee (‫נד״ד‬ [16:2–3]). Postscript regarding the timing of the oracle (‫ )כׁשני ׂשכיר‬when the “glory of Moab” will be humbled (16:13–14)  ‫ מׂשא‬about Damascus (17–18) A focus on the demise of the northern kingdom of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians  ‫ מׂשא‬about Egypt (19–20) Yhwh’s plan (‫עצ״ה‬/‫ )יע״ץ‬against Egypt (19:3, 11, 17)

‫ מׂשא‬about Babylon (21:1–10) The Medes (‫ )מדי‬are the agent of downfall (21:2). ‫ מׂשא‬about Dumah (21:11–12) A question (‫ )מה‬is posed in relation to a watcher (v. 11).  ‫ מׂשא‬about Qedar (21:13–17) Provision made for the refugee (‫נד״ד‬ [vv. 13–17]). Postscript regarding the timing of the oracle (‫ )כׁשני ׂשכיר‬when the “glory of Qedar” will be humbled (21:16–17)  ‫ מׂשא‬about the Valley of Vision (22) A focus on the preparations made in Jerusalem in the light of Assyrian aggression ‫ מׂשא‬about Tyre (23) Yhwh’s plan (‫עצ״ה‬/‫ )יע״ץ‬against Tyre (23:8–9)

First, two passages stand out here for their focus on Israel rather than on foreign nations. These two passages are set in parallel: the downfall of Aram and Ephraim at the hands of the Assyrians is set parallel to Jerusalem’s response to the threat by the same empire (chaps. 17–18//22). This arrangement recalls the narrative analogy established between Isa 7:1–17 and 36–39. In Isa 7:1–17, the prophet reassures Ahaz with the news that his enemies, Aram and Ephraim, will soon fall to the Assyrians. But the refusal of Ahaz to accept this assurance leads to the Assyrian threat to Judah and Jerusalem in the days of his son. This threat comes to fruition in Isa 36–38, when the Assyrians capture all the fortified cities of Judah (‫)ערי יהודה הבצרות‬, and advance on Jerusalem with threats aimed at making it capitulate. Hezekiah, however, resists and turns to Yhwh in prayer, who then delivers the city. The reader, who is clearly supposed to understand Isa 22 in the light of Isa 17–18, will discover several features that enable a comparison between these two oracles. For instance, on the day that Ehpraim’s fortified city (‫ )מבצר‬comes to an end because of Assyria, man will look (‫ )רא״ה‬upon his maker (‫ )עׂשהו‬and not look (‫ )רא״ה‬upon the altars that he himself has made (‫[ עׂש״ה‬17:3–8]). Set in contrast to this is the response of the leadership in Jerusalem to the Assyrians. They saw (‫ )רא״ה‬the city being breached and responded by fortifying (‫ )בצ״ר‬the wall and making (‫ )עׂש״ה‬a reservoir for the water of old pool, instead of looking (‫ )רא״ה‬to its maker (‫[ עׂשיה‬22:8–11]). As a consequence, Shebna,  Berges, Buch, 142–143.


The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   29 “who is over the house” of David, would be demoted and Eliakim will take his place (22:15–25). In the story of Hezekiah, Eliakim, not Shebna (now a scribe), is now “over the house” (36:3, 22; 37:2). The repetition of this point draws attention to many other details of the Hezekiah narrative that contrast the response of Hezekiah to the Assyrians and death in chapters 36–3831 with the response of Shebna to the same threats in chapter 22. Their responses are contrasted to highlight the differing outcomes: judgment for Shebna in chapter 22, deliverance for Hezekiah in chapters 36–38. The second feature related to the Hezekiah narrative is the account of the Assyrian siege of Ashdod and the sign act of Isaiah at that time (chap. 20). As with Isa 22, this account deals with looking to the wrong source of confidence (‫[ נב״ט‬20:5–6; 22:8–12]). An analogy is established between the two narratives. Isaiah 20 In the “year” that “the king of Assyria” besieges and captures Ashdod, he sends (‫ )ׁשל״ח‬one of his officials. At that time, Isaiah is told to remove sackcloth (‫)ׂשק‬ and go about for “three years” as a “sign” (‫ )אות‬against the Egyptians who would be taken captive by the Assyrians. Consequently, the Philistines who trusted (‫ )נב״ט‬in Egypt for help would be ashamed. 

Isaiah 36–37 In the “year” that “the king of Assyria” captures the fortified cities of Judah, he sends (‫ )ׁשל״ח‬one of his officials to Jerusalem, who tells its leaders that they were foolish for trusting (‫ )בט״ח‬in Egypt for help. Hezekiah and his men cover themselves with sackcloth (‫ )ׂשק‬and seek God’s help. In response, Isaiah is sent with a message to the king, which includes an agricultural “sign” (‫ )אות‬lasting three years symbolizing the eventual flourishing of a Judean remnant after the Assyrian king is sent away (36:1–9; 37:1–2, 22–35). 

Confirming the interrelationship of Isa 20 and Isa 22 in connection with their importance for the Hezekiah narrative, Hezekiah is given an oracle of deliverance (rebuking the king of Assyria) that alludes to both passages. Isaiah 20:5–6; 22:1, 10–11 “And they will be dismayed and ashamed [‫]וחתו ובׁשו‬ of Cush their object of trust and of Egypt their glory. And the inhabitant [‫ ]יׁשב‬of this coastland will say on that day, ‘Behold, thus is the object of our trust to which we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria. How can we escape?’ ” (20:5–6) “[W]hat do you mean that you have gone up, all of you, to the roofs [‫ ?]לגגות‬. . . you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you tore down [‫ ]ותתצו‬houses to fortify [‫ ]לבצר‬the wall. You made a collecting place between the walls for the waters of the old pool; and you did not look to its maker, its former of old [‫ ]עׂשיה ויצרה מרחוק‬you did not see.” (22:1, 10–11)    Cf. Stromberg, “History.”


Isaiah 37:26–27 “Have you not heard? From long ago I made it [‫]למרחוק אותה עׂשיתי‬, from days of old I formed it [‫ ?]ויצרתיה‬Now I have brought it, that you should lay waste fortified [‫ ]בצרות‬cities into heaps of ruins [‫]נצים‬. And their inhabitants [‫ ]ויׁשביהן‬are powerless; they are dismayed and ashamed [‫וחתו‬ ‫]ובׁשו‬. They have become herbage of the field and green grass, grass on roofs [‫]גגות‬.” 

30   Jacob Stromberg This theocentric account of Sennacherib’s capture of the fortified cities of Judah (37:26–27) likens the fate of their inhabitants to that of the Philistines, who also trusted in Egypt (chap. 20); simultaneously, it contrasts the folly of trusting in fortified walls rather than God (chap. 22) who has the divine power to preordain the destruction of those fortified cities that is now at hand. Significantly, Isa 20, the only narrative in chapters 13–23, is located strategically at the conclusion of the first set of five oracles. Isa 17–18 and 22 belong to the overall parallel structure of the oracles against the nations and so presumably contribute to its purpose. And an allusion to these chapters concludes Isa 13–27.32 All of this suggests that the Hezekiah narrative—strategically related to each of these—has been assigned a significance for the whole of chapters 13–27. The third feature of chapters 13–23 to note here is the “codicil” to the oracle against Babylon in 14:24–27. It is somewhat unusual that this short passage speaks about Assyria. It tells of God’s “plan” to “break” Assyria “in my land,” so as to remove the yoke of the Assyrians from his people (vv. 24–25). Verses 26–27 universalize this “plan” by directing it against “all the earth” and “all the peoples,” making the defeat of Assyria a model for what God would do to any nation that would put a yoke on his people.33 Presumably for this reason, this codicil against one Mesopotamian empire concludes an oracle against another: God’s plan against Assyria (14:24–27) prefigures his plan against Babylon (13:1–14:23). He would “break” the rod of the king of Babylon as well, setting his people free from their captors once again (14:1–5). Several features of Isa 14:24–27 suggest a relationship to the Hezekiah narrative, only two of which I will mention here. First, Isa 14:25 takes up that line of thought—­developed in 9:4 and then in 10:27—regarding the Assyrian yoke to be removed from the shoulder of the people.34 As noted, this line of development suggests that the royal oracle in Isa 9:1–7 would be fulfilled in the days of Hezekiah, which, according to the narrative, saw the repelling of the Assyrians from the land. Second, the reference to breaking Assyria “in my land” also ties its fulfillment to the events recounted in the Hezekiah narrative where God defeats the Assyrians in the land of Judah.35 Since this defeat of the Assyrians becomes a type with universal significance in Isa 14:26–27, the deliverance recounted in the Hezekiah narrative also becomes a type of things to come, not least the overthrow of Babylon to restore God’s people. The fall of Babylon and subsequent restoration of the people are central in the latter half of the book, so that the Hezekiah narrative has likely been assigned a significance for that material as well.

1.3.3  Isaiah 28–35 The next unit in the book begins in chapter 28 with a series of “woe” (‫ )הוי‬oracles (28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1). After a brief word against Ephraim, these oracles turn to Jerusalem (28:14) and thereafter deal with events that led up to Sennacherib’s invasion   Isa 27:9–13 → 17:5–8; 18:3; 22:8–14. Cf. Sweeney, Books, 64–93.   33  Teeter, “Isaiah,” 195.   Cf. Barth, Jesaja, 105; Beuken, Jesaja 1–12, 102–103.   35  Cf. Becker, Jesaja, 208–211.



The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   31 of Judah in 701, the topic of the Hezekiah narrative. In chapter 33, the final “woe” oracle announces the destruction of an unnamed foe and the restoration of Jerusalem, where God’s kingship will be recognized. Following this are two further passages that have been carefully coordinated with what precedes them:36 an announcement in chapter 34 of a judgment against all nations, with a focus on Edom, and a declaration in chapter 35 that God will make the wilderness of his people blossom once again. Like Isa 13–27, the whole section concludes on a note that echoes the ending of chapters 1–12.37 Thus, after the overthrow of the Assyrian oppressor in Isa 31:4–9 (cf. chap. 10), there is a renewed interest in kingship in chapters 32–33 (cf. chap. 11), followed by judgment on Edom in chapter 34 (cf. 11:14) and the provision of a “highway” upon which God’s people may return home in chapter 35 (cf. 11:16).38 Like the twofold cycle in chapters 1–12, both of the last two “woes” in chapters 28–35 envision the overthrow of an oppressor followed by a focus on kingship and restoration. The first “woe”, Isa 31:1–32:20, finds a close parallel in the Hezekiah narrative.39 It begins with the accusation that the people’s reliance (‫ )ׁשע״ן‬on Egypt, their trust (‫ )בט״ח‬in them for “horses” and “chariots” against Assyria, would be of no help, words that find a precise echo in the speech of the Assyrian official in the Hezekiah narrative (31:1–3; 36:5–10). The oracle then turns to a promise that God will defend (‫ )גנ״ן‬Jerusalem against their Assyrian attackers to deliver (‫ )נצ״ל‬them, using precisely the language for this deliverance as it is recounted in the Hezekiah narrative (31:4–9; 37:11–35; 38:6). On the day of their deliverance they would forsake the idols that their “hands” had made (‫)עׂש״ה‬, language that recurs in Hezekiah’s prayer for deliverance, where he confesses that idols are merely “the work (‫ )מעׂשה‬of the hands of man” (31:7; 37:19). While the people foolishly relied upon Egypt, which is “man and not God [‫]אדם ולא אל‬,” the Assyrian invaders will flee from a consuming “sword not of man [‫( ”]לא אדם‬31:3, 8). In the narrative in which the Egyptians are seen to be an ineffectual help, God delivers Jerusalem from the Assyrians supernaturally, as it were, by using an angel to slay a large number of them so that in the morning they withdraw (37:36–38). Immediately following the promise of deliverance from the Assyrians in chapter 31 is the statement, “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness” (32:1). This links the repelling of the Assyrians from Jerusalem with the reign of a king, which reinforces the impression that this oracle has been coordinated with the Hezekiah narrative. If so, it is surely significant that chapter 32 describes the restoration in terms reminiscent of the conclusion to the royal oracle in 9:1–7, exactly the text underlying the promise of deliverance in the Hezekiah narrative.40 The second of the two concluding “woe” oracles (chap. 33), which, not incidentally, references the gifting of the “spirit” in 11:2 (33:6), envisions a time when God “will save us” (‫ )יוׁשיענו‬from the enemy and no one in Jerusalem will say “I am sick” (‫חליתי‬ [33:22–24]). As noted by Odil Hannes Steck, these statements recall each of the two parallel episodes in the Hezekiah narrative:41 the deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, “save us [‫ ]הוׁשיענו‬from his hand” (37:20); and the ­deliverance of   Cf. Berges, Buch, 199–207.   37 Berges, Buch, 249–265; Steck, Heimkehr, 64.   Note also 30:9//10:17; 30:7 (→ 2:8, 10)//10:33–34 (→ 2:11–17); 32:1//11:4–5; 33:6//11:2; 35:9//11:6–9. 39  Becker, Jesaja, 208–211, 257–263.    40 Barth, Jesaja, 211–213.   41 Steck, Heimkehr, 57–59. 36 38

32   Jacob Stromberg Hezekiah from his sickness (‫ )חל״ה‬unto death (38)—the second episode having been narrated on analogy to the first.42 An association (if not identification) with Assyrian aggression is reinforced by 33:19 (→ 28:11). For Steck, the Hezekiah narrative has a typological function vis-à-vis the fulfillment of chapters 33 and 35. A comparison with chapter 35 is surely invited by the immediate juxtaposition of the promise that the redeemed returning to Zion will be kept safe—specifically, that no violent animal will go up (‫ )על״ה‬upon their “highway” (‫ )מסלול‬home (35:8–10; cf. 11:6–9)—with the statement that the king of Assyria went up (‫ )על״ה‬against the fortified cities of Judah, captured them, and sent a messenger to a “highway” (‫ )מסלה‬where he could relay Sennacherib’s threatening message to Hezekiah in Jerusalem (36:1–2). The ensuing narrative contrasts what Sennacherib was able to do to these fortified cities with what he would not be allowed to do to Jerusalem because of Hezekiah’s pious response to the threat (compare 37:22–29 with 37:30–35). In this way, Hezekiah (‫)חזקיהו‬, who obeyed the imperative “do not fear” (‫[ אל תירא‬37:6]), becomes an example to those commanded by 35:4 to “be strong, do not fear” (‫)חזקו אל תיראו‬. For just as Sennacherib was not allowed to go up into Jerusalem (despite his boast in 37:24), so would no dangerous animal be allowed to go up upon the path of those exhorted to emulate the example of Hezekiah. This has significance for the latter half of the book: Isa 51:10–11 is a direct reference back to this very passage (35:9–10) and resembles Sennacherib’s boast, claiming for himself that in the book which otherwise is God’s prerogative alone (11:15–16; 19:5–6; 37:25).

1.3.4.  Isaiah 40–55 and 56–66 This whole narrative structure in Isa 1–39 has been assigned a critical role for understanding chapters 40–66. To understand how this comparative structure functions in the latter half of the book, it is necessary to briefly consider how this part of the book is structured. Chapters 40–66 divide into two related halves (40–55 and 56–66). Chapters 40–55 are preceded and followed by clear breaks: Isa 39:8 concludes the Hezekiah narrative, whereas Isa 56:1 begins a new section in the book. Internally, chapters 40–55 display a unity of subject matter—the fall of Babylon and the restoration of Zion—as well as obvious “bookends.” The beginning and ending of this unit emphasize the efficacy of the divine word (‫ )דבר‬and also contrast the ephemeral nature of human “faithfulness” (‫)חסד‬ with the “sure mercies [given] to David” (‫ )חסדי דוד הנאמנים‬by God (40:6–8; 55:3–11).43 Chapters 40–55 are themselves divided into two sections (40–48 and 49–55) with distinct topics, language, and emphases.44 Running through the whole of chapters 40–55, however, is a series of hymnic passages responding in praise to divine deliverance. These “hymns” come to a conclusion in the last two verses of this section after the renewed offer of the Davidic covenant (55:3, 12–13).45 Chapters 56–66 exhibit a concentric   Stromberg, “History,” 71 n. 17, 82 n. 39.    43  Cf. Berges, Buch, 385–387.  Berges, Buch, 325–331; Stromberg, Introduction, 34.   45 Berges, Buch, 328–331.



The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   33 arrangement that sets them off as a unit of text.46 This structure includes the promise of ingathering to God’s “holy mountain” (56:1–8//66); complaints that deliverance remains aloof, each followed by a divine response (58:1–59:21//63:7–65:25); and a divine theophany to punish the wicked (59:15–20//63:1–6). At the center of this structure is a focus on the restoration of Jerusalem (60–62). Like Isa 40–55, this unit also concludes with a reference to the future of the Davidic promise (65:25 → 11:6–9).47 These two sections have been coordinated with the aim of developing the larger prophecy-­and-fulfillment schema in the book (see 1.3.1.). Whereas chapters 40–55 announce the potential fulfillment of the promises of restoration found earlier in the book, chapters 56–66 explain why they remain unfulfilled in the audience’s present.48 For instance, the promise that the period of “darkness” would give way to a period of “light” after the defeat of the foreign oppressor in 9:1–7, initially related to the overthrow of Assyria (9:4 → 10:26–27; 14:24–27), is connected to the downfall of Babylon in chapters 40–55.49 This sequence then forms the subtext of Isa 56–66.50 Here, the “darkness” remains in the present even after an apparent return to the land, and becomes the object of complaint (59:9–10). The “light” remains an object of hope for the future, provided that God’s people practice “justice” and “righteousness” in the present (58; 60). In Isa 56–66, the promised deliverance has been delayed and the future holds a new act of judgment that will result in a remnant who will inherit Jerusalem (57–59; 65–66). This scenario has already played itself out before the eyes of the reader in the first half of the book where a remnant in Jerusalem is spared during the Assyrian assault on Judah. Indeed, the depiction of this in the first half of Isaiah serves as a model for its eschatological rehearsal in the final chapters of the book (8:6–8//66:10–12; 37:3//66:9; 37:30//65:21).51 A theological premise that shaped much of the prophetic and historiographic literature of the Hebrew Bible posits that the past portends the future or, to put it the other way around, that the future will be analogous to the past.52 Such a principle explains not only elements of the structuring of chapters 1–39, but also the placement of the second half of the book on analogy to the first half, as partly illustrated in the following chart.53 Isaiah 1–39 6—God, the king (‫)מלך‬, appears in glory (‫)כבוד‬ in judgment. In view of this, there is a commission (‫ קול קרא‬and ‫ )קול אמר‬for judgment, so that the eyes and ears of the people will not see or hear leading to a lack of understanding.

Isaiah 40–66 40—God, the king (‫)מלך‬,54 will appear in glory (‫ )כבוד‬in deliverance. In view of this, there is a commission (‫ קול קרא‬and ‫)קול אמר‬ for deliverance, so that the eyes and ears of the people will see and hear leading to understanding.55

 Stromberg, Introduction, 42–48.   47  Stromberg, 67–72.   Stromberg, “Restoration,” 195–218.    49 Williamson, Book, 63–77, 125–143. 50   Gosse, “Isaiah 8.23b,” 57–62; Fishbane, Interpretation, 497–498. 51  Stromberg, Isaiah, 97–101, 226–227. 52  Fishbane, Interpretation, 318–379; Stromberg, “History.” 53   Cf. Ackroyd, Studies, 105–120; Conrad, Isaiah; Stromberg, Introduction, 37, 113–127; Stromberg, Isaiah, 30–32; Stromberg, “History.” 54   Isa 40:10; 41:21; 43:15; 44:6; 52:7.    55  Isa 41:20; 43:8, 10. 46 48

34   Jacob Stromberg Isaiah 1–39 7–8—The divine king sends a reassuring message to Ahaz on the highway (‫)מסלה‬: Do not fear (‫)אל תירא‬. There is a guaranteed downfall of the enemy (the Syro-Ephraimite coalition) at the hands of a foreign nation (Assyria) with accompanying deliverance: the enemy’s plan/word (‫דבר‬/‫ )עצה‬will not stand (‫יקום‬/‫[ לא תקום‬7:5, 7; 8:10]). If they obey, then the Davidic covenant will be honored (‫[ אמ״ן‬7:9]). There is an assurance that God is “with” (‫ )עם‬those addressed. Failure to heed the divine word leads to a future judgment (Assyria). The prophet preaches to a disobedient audience, so that he lives in a time of judgment among those who walk in darkness (‫[ ההלכים בחׁשך‬9:1]). God will hide his face (‫ )המסתיר פניו‬for a time. The prophet “waits” (‫ )קו״ה‬for him and the period of “light” (‫ )אור‬after “darkness” (‫)אפלה‬. Teaching is sealed up among “my disciples” (‫[ בלמדי‬8:17–9:1]). Judgment is pronounced on Edom/Bozrah (34): Bloodshed is explained (‫כי יום נקם ליהוה‬ ‫[ ׁשנת ׁשלומים לריב ציון‬vv. 7–8]). This is immediately contrasted with the restoration of Zion (35): The glory (‫ )כבוד‬of Yhwh will be seen (‫[ רא״ה‬v. 2]); The glory of Lebanon (‫ )כבוד לבנון‬will be given it (v. 2); There will be a highway (‫ )מסלול‬for God’s people, the way called holy (‫ )ודרך הקדׁש יקרא לה‬for the redeemed (‫[ גא״ל‬vv. 8–10]). 36–38—Bearing “fruit” like a “vineyard,” a remnant goes forth (‫ )יצ״א‬from Jerusalem, being spared the Assyrian assault because of seeking Yhwh (37:31–32). Thus, the attempt to destroy (‫ )ׁשח״ת‬the whole of Judah is stopped (36:10). It is stopped “on account of David my servant” (‫למען דוד עבדי‬ [37:35]). This is God’s response to the prayer of Hezekiah (37), a demonstration of the zeal (‫ )קנאה‬of Yhwh (37:32; cf. 9:7). Leaving the enemies as corpses (‫)פגרים‬, God acts in deliverance to spread the knowledge of himself among the nations (37:20, 36).   Isa 40:3; 41:8–13.


Isaiah 40–66 40–55—Prepare the highway (‫ )מסלה‬for the coming of the divine king. Do not fear)‫אל‬ ‫ ;)תירא‬there is a guaranteed downfall of the enemy (Babylon) at the hands of a foreign nation (Persia) and accompanying deliverance: Yhwh’s plan/word (‫דבר‬/‫ )עצה‬will stand (‫יקום‬/‫[ תקום‬40:8; 46:10]). If they obey, then the Davidic covenant will be honored (‫[ אמ״ן‬55:3]). There is an assurance that God is “with” (‫ )עם‬those addressed.56 Failure to heed the divine word leads to a future judgment. In chaps. 50–51, a prophet, like the disciples (‫)כלמודים‬, preaches to a disobedient audience, so that he was forced to walk in darkness (‫[ הלך חׁשכים‬50:10]). In chaps. 58–60, God hides his face (‫הסתירו‬ ‫ )פניו‬and they “wait” (‫ )קו״ה‬for “light” (‫)אור‬, which will appear after judgment (59; 60; cf. 64:6). Till then, they walk about in darkness (‫[ באפלות נהלך‬59:9]). Restoration is announced for Zion (60–62): The glory (‫ )כבוד‬of Yhwh will be seen (‫רא״ה‬ [60:2]); The glory of Lebanon (‫ )כבוד לבנון‬will be given it (60:13); There will be a highway (‫ )מסלה‬for God’s people, a way (‫ )דרך‬for the people called holy (‫)וקראו להם עם הקדׁש‬, the redeemed (‫[ גא״ל‬62:10–12]). This is immediately contrasted with judgment on Edom/Bozrah (63): Bloodshed is explained (‫[ כי יום נקם בלבי וׁשנת גאולי באה‬vv. 3–4]). 65–66—Like “sweet wine in a cluster,” a remnant goes forth (‫ )יצ״א‬from Jacob, being spared the judgment because of seeking Yhwh. Thus, the attempt to destroy (‫)ׁשח״ת‬ the whole is stopped. It is stopped “on account of my servants” (‫[ למען עבדי‬65:8–9]). This is God’s response to the prayer of 63:7–64:11, where the supplicant asks God, “where is your zeal [‫]קנאתך‬,” and implores him, “return on account of your servants” (‫[ ׁשוב למען עבדיך‬63:15, 17; cf. 42:13; 59:17]). Leaving the enemies as corpses (‫)פגרים‬, God acts in deliverance to spread the knowledge of himself among the nations (66:18–24).

The Book of Isaiah: Its Final Structure   35

1.4. Summary The first half of Isaiah has been given a narrative structure that recounts the commission of the prophet and culminates with the story of Hezekiah. On the principle that the past portends the future, this narrative sequence (together with the oracles it frames) has been made the key to understanding that future, foreseen in the second half of the book. Accordingly, the second half of Isaiah begins immediately after the Hezekiah narrative with a reference back to the prophet’s commission, rebooting the whole earlier sequence for the sake of the ancient reader’s encounter with what follows it in the book.

Bibliography Ackroyd. Peter R. Studies in the Religious Tradition of the Old Testament. London: SCM Press, 1987. Barth, Hermann. Die Jesaja-Worte in der Josiazeit: Israel und Assur als Thema einer produktiven Neuinterpretation der Jesajaüberlieferung. WMANT 48. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1977. Barthel, Jörg. Prophetenwort und Geschichte: Die Jesajaüberlieferung in Jes 6–8 und 28–31. FAT 19. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997. Barton, John. “What Is a Book? Modern Exegesis and the Literary Conventions of Ancient Israel.” In Intertextuality in Ugarit and Israel, edited by Johannes C. de Moor, 1–14. OtSt 40. Leiden: Brill, 1998. Becker, Uwe. Jesaja—Von der Botschaft zum Buch. FRLANT 178. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997. Berges, Ulrich. Das Buch Jesaja: Komposition und Endgestalt. HBS 16. Freiburg: Herder, 1998. Beuken, Willem A. M. Jesaja 1–12. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herder, 2003. Conrad, Edgar W. Reading Isaiah. OBT 27. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991. Fishbane, Michael. Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. Oxford: Clarendon, 1985. Gosse, Bernard. “Isaiah 8.23b and the Three Great Parts of the Book of Isaiah.” JSOT 70 (1996): 57–62. Kratz, Reinhard G. Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah. Translated by Paul Michael Kurtz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Roberts, J. J. M. First Isaiah. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015. Samely, Alexander. “Jewish Studies and Reading.” In “Let the Wise Listen and Add to Their Learning” (Prov 1:5): Festschrift for Günter Stemberger on the Occasion of His 75th Birthday, edited by Constanza Cordoni and Gerhard Langer, 757–789. Studia Judaica 90. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016. Samely, Alexander. Profiling Jewish Literature in Antiquity: An Inventory, from Second Temple Texts to the Talmuds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Schwartz, Ethan. “Mirrors of Moses in Isaiah 1–12.” In The History of Isaiah: The Making of the Book and Its Presentation of the Past, edited by J. Todd Hibbard and Jacob Stromberg. FAT. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming. Seitz, Christopher R. “How Is the Prophet Isaiah Present in the Latter Half of the Book? The Logic of Chapters 40–66 within the Book of Isaiah.” JBL 115 (1996): 219–240.

36   Jacob Stromberg Steck, Odil Hannes. Bereitete Heimkehr: Jesaja 35 als redaktionelle Brücke zwischen dem Ersten und dem Zweiten Jesaja. SBS 121. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1985. Sternberg, Meier. The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Stromberg, Jacob. “Deutero-Isaiah’s Restoration Reconfigured.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by LenaSofia Tiemeyer and Hans M. Barstad, 195–218. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Stromberg, Jacob. “Figural History in the Book of Isaiah: The Prospective Significance of Hezekiah’s Deliverance from Assyria and Death.” In Imperial Visions: The Prophet and the Book of Isaiah in an Age of Empires, edited by Reinhard G. Kratz and Joachim Schaper, 64–82. FRLANT 277. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2020. Stromberg, Jacob. An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah. T & T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2011. Stromberg, Jacob. Isaiah after Exile: The Author of Third-Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book. OTM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Sweeney, Marvin A. Reading Prophetic Books: Form, Intertextuality, and Reception in Prophetic and Post-Biblical Literature. FAT 89. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. Teeter, Andrew. “Isaiah and the King of As/Syria in Daniel’s Final Vision: On the Rhetoric of Inner-Scriptural Allusion and the Hermeneutics of ‘Mantological Exegesis.’ ” In A Teacher for All Generations: Essays in Honor of James C. VanderKam, edited by Eric F. Mason and Samuel I. Thomas, 169–200. JSJS 153/I. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Williamson, H. G. M. Isaiah 1–5. ICC. London: T & T Clark, 2006. Williamson, H. G. M. The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994. Zapff, Burkard M. Schriftgelehrte Prophetie—Jes 13 und die Komposition des Jesajabuches: Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der Redaktionsgeschichte des Jesajabuches. FB 74. Würzburg: Echter, 1995.

chapter 2

The Book of Isa i a h: Its Composition History Uwe Becker

2.1. Introduction Among the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah is a special case. With its sixty-six chapters it is not only the longest written work of prophecy that has been transmitted to us. It also brings together under the superscript of Isa 1:1 parts that are unlike each other and that at first glance are difficult to reconcile: “The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Three basic observations can be drawn from this superscription, and they lead us directly to the question of the composition of the book. First, the superscription functions as a heading not only for chapters 1–12 or 1–39 but for the entire book of Isaiah. Second, although the book is called a prophetic “vision,” only a few parts of it fit the term. In other words, the superscription expresses a certain— and presumably late—understanding of the prophetic mission; the entire book is considered a divine revelation. Third, every reader knows that the Judean kings listed in 1:1 belong to the eighth century and the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah but do not cover the second part of the book, chapters 40–66. The mention of Cyrus, king of Persia (Isa 44:28; 45:1) suggests another historical background. These basic observations led rather early to the thesis of multiple authorship: chapters 1–39 (Proto-Isaiah) contain the words of the prophet Isaiah from the eighth century; chapters 40–55 are traced back to an anonymous writer in the Babylonian exile called Deutero-Isaiah; and the third part of the book, Isa 56–66 (Trito-Isaiah), is attributed to a post-exilic prophet also unknown to us. This “classic” division of the book into three parts, which goes back to Bernhard Duhm (1847–1928) and many forerunners, has increasingly been called into question in

38   Uwe Becker more recent Isaiah research. On the one hand, interest has shifted from the person of the prophet (or prophets, if one includes Deutero-Isaiah) to the book in its entirety as a literary work sui generis. On the other hand, it is acknowledged that the three parts of the book are more closely affiliated in terms of their formation than Duhm and his successors thought. In no sense are we dealing with three originally independent books that were put together more or less arbitrarily. On the contrary, there are many common themes, literary links, and intertwined connections running throughout the entire book. These shared themes testify to methodical editorial activity. For this reason, current research faces the difficult challenge of explaining the relative unity of the book of Isaiah, on the one hand, and the undeniable differences among its various parts, on the other. How did the Großjesajabuch (Isa 1–66) evolve into its complex final form? Redaction criticism (Redaktionsgeschichte) has proven to be the methodological key in Middle European and Anglo-American scholarship, with varying emphases, of course.1 Occasionally, the terms “composition” and “composition history” are used to imply a slight difference to redaction criticism.2 Whereas redaction criticism is concerned with the precise reconstruction of the origin of the book from its beginnings to its final form, teasing out each respective editorial profile in the process, “composition history” is as a rule associated with a more modest endeavor.3 It has to do with the weaving of individual texts into larger compositions that resulted finally in the book of Isaiah as we know it.4 But in fact, the concepts are essentially the same, since both attempt to elucidate the complex literary growth process that lies behind Isa 1–66. Although recent scholarship has demonstrated that it is possible, to a certain extent, to read the book of Isaiah as a single literary work, it is not a book in the modern sense. It has no clear or even unified scope, such as one might expect of an author and his or her work. Rather, it looks back from the perspective of a long history that began with the words of the prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century and extends to the “final form” in the second century bce. The book of Isaiah as we have inherited it thus covers a time span of almost six hundred years, reflecting the multifaceted religious and theological history of the period from the Assyrians to the Seleucid rule. Thus, behind the book of Isaiah and its centuries-long history there is a multifaceted process of theological reflection that deserves to be brought to light. One of the main tasks of Hebrew Bible scholars, as Rainer Albertz puts it, is “to restore the ‘frozen dialogue’ of the Old Testament to a living theological discussion between different groups and parties.”5 This particularly applies to the book of Isaiah. If one attempts to uncover a unifying bond, a common theme or leitmotif in the book of Isaiah, this tentative response could be offered: in every part of the book, from the first to the last chapter, Zion plays a pivotal role—its endangerment and protection. With some justification, one could designate the entire work “the book about the future 1  Compare the methodological considerations in U. Becker, Exegese, 81–103. 2  Compare the history of research in Berges, Book of Isaiah, 1–37. 3  The different (German and English) terms are discussed in Van Seters, Edited Bible, 284–296. 4  Cf. Berges, Book of Isaiah, 34–37. 5 Albertz, History, 12.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   39 of Zion,”6 although other theological themes, such as “the holiness of God,” or the issue of “righteousness and justice” appear no less frequently and have given shape to the different parts of the book.7

2.2.  Bernhard Duhm and the Threefold Division of the Book The three-part division of the book of Isaiah into Proto-, Deutero-, and Trito-Isaiah is usually associated with Bernhard Duhm (1847–1928) and his epoch-making commentary on Isaiah (1892).8 But long before Duhm, it was widely understood that from Isa 40 onward, an author other than the one of the first thirty-nine chapters of the book was speaking.9 Thus the beginning of the critical study of the book of Isaiah and the “discovery” of the non-uniform character of the book may be traced to at least a hundred years earlier, to the work of the Göttingen scholar Johann Benjamin Koppe (1750–1791). In 1778 the famous Isaiah commentary of the London Lord Bishop Robert Lowth (1710–1787) had been published, and Koppe had edited the very quickly prepared German edition with accompanying annotations.10 In his notes he also commented briefly on some parts of the book of Isaiah that, in Koppe’s view, could not longer be attributed to the eighth-century prophet. These included not just the oracle against Moab in Isa 15–16 and Isa 30:1–27, but also chapter 50, which he dated to the time of the exile.11 But Koppe made no further remarks concerning the composition of Isa 40–66. At about the same time, Johann Christoph Döderlein (1746–1792), a professor in Altdorf and then from 1782 on in Jena, began to ponder whether Isa 40–66 might fit better in the time of the Babylonian exile.12 But the thesis of dual authorship in the book of Isaiah came to have broad influence in the scientific community only with the work of Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752–1827), who had been teaching in Jena since 1775 and after 1788 in Göttingen. Eichhorn integrated the ideas of Koppe and Döderlein in the third volume of his Einleitung in das Alte Testament (1783).13 This was not only his bestknown work; it also enjoyed an unusually broad distribution outside the circle of professional biblical scholars. Other important studies followed, so that it is possible to say that already around the year 1800 a new conception of the origins of the book of Isaiah was being developed that assumed a later, exilic composition of Isa 40–66.

6 Kaiser, Grundriß, 29–66. 7  Cf., e.g., Williamson, “Isaiah, Book of,” 372–375. 8 Duhm, Buch Jesaia, v–xix. 9  Compare the exhaustive treatment of the problem by Moser, Umstrittene Prophetie. 10  The German translation was published in 1779–1781, shortly after the English edition (1778). 11  Cf. Lowth, Jesaias, vol. 2 (1780), 43, 130, 233–234 (see Moser, Umstrittene Prophetie, 11–13). 12  Cf. Moser, Umstrittene Prophetie, 13–14. First the date of 1780 is mentioned; later, in 1788, Döderlein clearly votes for an exilic origin of Isa 40–66. 13 Eichhorn, Einleitung, 3:52–57.

40   Uwe Becker Duhm’s achievement essentially consisted in the further elucidation of this concept. Both the differentiation between Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah and the disentanglement of the Servant Songs of Isa 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; and 52:13–53:12 came to be associated with his name. Furthermore, he demonstrated in his commentary that considerable portions of Proto-Isaiah could not be traced back to the prophet of the eighth century but were to be dated in part to a much later time.14 Duhm considered, for example, that the Isaiah legends of Isa 36–39 might have originated in the time of Ezra. He dated Isa 23:1–14 and 19:1–15 to the fourth century and went so far as to date the socalled Isaiah Apocalypse (Isa 24–27) in the second century. So Duhm assumed a comprehensive history of development for the first part of the book of Isaiah, which spanned the eighth century to the second century bce. Strangely enough, Duhm did not pursue the idea that the growth of Proto-Isaiah could have also encompassed the origins of Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah. Duhm’s influence on the generations that followed remained enormous. Well into the twentieth century, the three parts of Isaiah were largely treated as separate books. Not only do the relevant introductions to the Old Testament provide eloquent testimony to this, but so do the commentaries, which also orient themselves to a three-part division. Until very recently, as the problems of Duhm’s three-part hypothesis have been felt more and more strongly, commentaries have continued to appear that in principle do not venture beyond the horizon of the respective parts of the book. As examples one might name the—in their own ways masterful—expositions of J. J. M. Roberts about Isa 1–3915 and of H.-J. Hermisson covering Isa 40–55.16 From the current perspective, it seems peculiar that the closely related question of how the three individual parts of the book came to be found in one volume was rarely posed. An essential reason for this may have to do with the conception of the prophet that shaped Duhm and his successors.17 The three parts, or at least Isa 1–39 and 40–55, were traced back to prophetic personas who stood in a special relationship with Yhwh and preached with direct, divine authority. Alongside that was the very high value placed on the “actual” authentic sayings (whether those of the eighth-­century Isaiah or those of Deutero-Isaiah) compared with the “inauthentic” redactional portions of the books. The prophet was considered a rhetorical genius and theologian. He stood as a shining figure over against the “second-class” pupils and imitators who collected his words and passed them on, for better or worse. The task and challenge of exegesis therefore consisted of teasing out the authentic words of the prophets from their historically embedded context and bringing the prophetic voice, the viva vox, back to life. In contrast, relatively little interest was shown in the origin of the book.18 14  Cf. Duhm, Jesaja, 18–22. 15 Roberts, First Isaiah. 16 Hermisson, Deuterojesaja. 17  Cf. Reventlow, “Prophetie,” 259–274; Schmid, “Deutungen,” 225–250. 18  The exception proves the rule: cf., e.g., the study of J. Becker, Isaias.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   41

2.3.  The Rediscovery of the Essential Unity of the Book Since approximately the 1970s, the classic division of the book of Isaiah into three parts associated with Bernhard Duhm has been increasingly called into question from different points of view. The change in scholarly perspective associated with this change can, with good reason, be said to represent a paradigm shift.19 The orientation to the person of the prophet was replaced by an interest in the book, making it possible to speak of a “rediscovery of the book’s essential unity.”20 What factors and developments have contributed to this new orientation? 1.  If one considers American scholarship first, the influence of Brevard  S.  Childs (1923–2007) can scarcely be overemphasized. His “canonical criticism” led to a new, theologically grounded perspective on the final form of biblical books.21 For such a theological, and not just historical, reading of the Bible, the supposedly preliminary stages of the text in the form of prophetic sayings or source documents are of no particular interest. Only the form of the canon of scripture received by the Church is of importance. The differentiation of literary layers, which is a distinguishing characteristic of the Eurocentric, historical-critical interpretation of scripture, plays no decisive role in this approach. In his own commentary on Isa 1–66, Childs emphasizes that the question of literary precursors of the book of Isaiah, though not unimportant, basically represents a theologically fruitless line of endeavor.22 2.  A “secular” version of “canonical criticism” has emerged from the discipline of literary studies and may be summarized under the heading New Literary Criticism.23 Here, too, the goal is a more precise delineation of the final form of the text, by means of literary-critical (literaturwissenschaftliche) description—that is, the text as artefact. The meaning of the text is thus no longer to be found in the supposed intention of the author, but is to be deduced by the reader. Terms such as “reader response criticism” and “reception aesthetics” (Rezeptionsästhetik) are employed. As one might easily imagine, this methodological approach challenges the literary-critical (literarkritische) “fragmentation” of the biblical text associated with continental European scholarship. Since the 1990s, this approach has been applied in many studies of the book of Isaiah, with all its complexities.24 19  Cf. esp. Steck, Prophetic Books. 20  See the history of research in Vermeylen, “L’unité,” 11–53; Sweeney, “Book of Isaiah,” 141–162; Sweeney, “Reevaluating Isaiah 1–39,” 79–113; Melugin, “Isaiah 40–66,” 142–194; U. Becker, “Jesajaforschung (Jes 1–39),” 1–37, 117–152; U. Becker, “Tendenzen der Jesajaforschung,” 96–128; Höffken, Jesaja. 21  Cf., e.g., Childs, Introduction. 22  Cf. Childs, Isaiah, 1–5. 23  Compare the review article of Oeming and Pregla, “New Literary Criticism,” 1–23, and the collection of Alter and Kermode, Literary Guide. Cf. also Barton, Reading, 140–157. 24  Cf. Melugin and Sweeney, New Visions. The second part of the book is entitled, “Is Meaning Located in the Reader?”

42   Uwe Becker 3.  An institutional factor also comes into play. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Formation of the Book of Isaiah Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature has been an important platform for discussion. Chaired at the beginning by Roy  F.  Melugin (1937–2008) and Marvin A. Sweeney,25 the seminar brought various new interpretive proposals that went beyond the classical historical-critical approach, especially Duhm’s division of the book into three parts, into vigorous debate. Among those who paved the way for this “Isaiah Seminar” were Peter  R.  Ackroyd, writing on Isa 1–12,26 and Ronald E. Clements, in his article on the unity of the book of Isaiah.27 Not least is the work of Rolf Rendtorff, who in various studies of the composition of the book of Isaiah (in German and English) played an important bridging role between the work of English-speaking and German-speaking scholars.28 The goal of these and similar studies was to demonstrate the interwoven integrity of individual texts (e.g., Isa 6; 36–39;29 or 56–66) within the whole book and thereby to establish its relative unity. By way of example, two works can be cited, from both the English- and Germanspeaking realms. First is the 1988 dissertation by Marvin S. Sweeney entitled “Isaiah 1–4 and the Post-Exilic Understanding of the Isaianic Tradition.” In his meticulous analysis of these four chapters, Sweeney connects his seminal observations on the structure of the entire book of Isaiah with the redaction-critical question of its origin. In his view, Isa 1–39 reflect the development of the book as a whole: “The early Isaianic tradition found in chapters 1–39, was interpreted, supplemented, edited, and presented in relation to Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah. In essence, the concerns of the latter part of the book dictated the final redaction of the first part.”30 In this way Sweeney’s study builds a bridge between English-speaking and German-speaking scholarship, the latter of which is primarily concerned with the origin of the book. A similar trajectory is followed by the second example, the study of Ulrich Berges, “The Book of Isaiah” (German edition 1998; English translation 2012).31 He, too, takes the entire book of Isaiah as his point of departure, posing synchronic and diachronic questions, and presents its origin as a multistage linking of partial compositions (Teilkompositionen). His analysis brings together a description of the surface structure of the book with questions of textual integrity. The study is innovative and essential insofar as it demonstrates that the older division into Proto-, Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah is only partially correct, since the three parts of the book are much more closely interwoven redactionally than was previously thought. 4.  Since the 1970s, redaction-critical exploration of the book of Isaiah from the European side has generated more intense discussion. This approach, too, has led to a rediscovery of the book with a focus on the history of its origin. Two phases may be distinguished. In the first phase, which was still completely within the scope of Duhm’s 25  Compare the edited volume of Melugin and Sweeney, New Visions. 26  Ackroyd, “Isaiah I–XII,” 152–171. 27  Clements, “Unity,” 93–104, 247–248. 28  Rendtorff, “Komposition,” 141–161; “Jesaja 6,” 162–171; and “Book of Isaiah,” 32–49. 29  Cf. Seitz, Zion’s Final Destiny. 30 Sweeney, Isaiah 1–4, 185. See also his commentary: Isaiah 1–39. 31 Berges, Book of Isaiah; German original Das Buch Jesaja.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   43 t­ ripartite division, analyses of each part of the book were undertaken. Important contributions to the research were made by the Marburg Old Testament scholar Otto Kaiser (1924–2017) in his commentary on Isa 1–39.32 Numerous other studies from the 1970s and 1980s gave rise to a differentiated and complicated conception of the development of Proto-Isaiah.33 Decisive in this regard was the insight that it was no longer just a matter of recovering the authentic, “actual” words of the prophet within their historical context, but was also about appreciating the productive work of the editors, who continually revised and updated the prophetic legacy. In the second phase, exemplified by the Old Testament scholar Odil Hannes Steck (1935–2001) in Zürich, Duhm’s three-part division of the book of Isaiah was taken off its hinges, so to speak, using redaction-critical means. Steck was able to demonstrate that Isa 56–66 did not represent the proclamation of an independent “Third Isaiah,” but rather showed successive literary revisions of Isa 40–55.34 In addition, his thesis concerning Isa 35 became well known—namely, that this text functioned as a “bridge” between Proto- and DeuteroIsaiah, in other words—was oriented from the very beginning to Isa 40ff.35 One might even designate such inner-prophetic literary processes as “tradent prophecy” (Tradentenprophetie) or “scribal prophecy.” To summarize the four factors and developments presented here, the following seems evident. Since the 1970s, the book of Isaiah as a literary work sui generis has become a topic of interest for Isaiah scholarship in both Anglo-American and German circles. Notwithstanding their strongly differentiated motivations and exegetical methods, one may discern in these new approaches a more or less pronounced retreat from Duhm’s three-part division of the book. Furthermore, and closely tied to this, a turning away from the person of the prophet is evident. In many studies, it is the book of Isaiah as a whole (the Großjesajabuch) that is considered the principal point of departure for analysis. This is the case even though the paths that have led to this book are described in varying and sometimes even adversarial ways. The current controversies surrounding the origin of the book of Isaiah can be traced back to the contrast between diachronic and synchronic perspectives. Should analysis of the book of Isaiah in principal be oriented to its final form for methodological reasons, as Childs’s approach appears to conclude (“synchronic approach”)?36 Or should the reconstruction of a many-layered process of growth be considered a requirement and a necessity (“diachronic approach”)? That these approaches are not mutually exclusive should be obvious.37 Ulrich Berges refers to the need for a “diachronically reflected synchrony.”38 For the book of Isaiah that lies before us is not a modern literary work, but—to express it figuratively—a complex building, for which many builders over many centuries collaborated. Its different styles and configurations are still visible. 32 Kaiser, Jesaja 1–12; Kaiser, Jesaja 13–39. 33  Compare the history of research in U. Becker, “Jesajaforschung,” 1–37, 117–152. Two studies from the seventies should be named explicitly: Vermeylen, Du prophète Isaïe, and Barth, Jesaja-Worte. 34  Cf. Steck, Studien. 35  Cf. Steck, Bereitete Heimkehr. 36  Cf., e.g., Conrad, Reading Isaiah, or Miscall, Isaiah. 37  Cf. Williamson, “Synchronic and Diachronic,” 211–226. 38 Berges, Book of Isaiah, 34.

44   Uwe Becker In other words, in order to understand the book of Isaiah, it does not suffice simply to describe its final form. Rather, it is necessary to probe its history and understand its development.

2.4.  The Composition History of Isaiah 1–66 In the current discussion, there are essentially two basic models for understanding the origin of the book of Isaiah as a whole: 1.  According to the first model, Isa 1–39 and 40–55 are to be traced back to two initially independently transmitted literary works, which can be attributed to two distinct prophetic figures: the Isaiah of the eighth century and an anonymous prophet, DeuteroIsaiah, from the sixth century. Later, these units were literarily joined together with so-called bridge texts. As Steck demonstrated in his brief study entitled Bereitete Heimkehr (1985), a redactional bridge is hidden behind Isa 35 (and also in Isa 11:11–16), which joined the two formerly separate books together for the first time soon after the death of Alexander the Great.39 Whether or not Isa 35 in fact represents a joining together of these parts of the book for the first time, may be called into question, as W.  A.  M.  Beuken does. He discerns already in Isa 33 and 34 substantial linkages to Deutero-Isaianic texts.40 At any rate, both complexes, Isa 1–39 and 40–55 (if one for the moment provisionally grants this traditional demarcation) are much more closely interconnected literarily than had been supposed in earlier scholarship, which was primarily interested in determining the authentic voice of the prophet. 2.  In the second model, Isa 40–55 is considered a literary continuation of Isa 1–39, which makes it necessary to dismiss the notion of an autonomous Deutero-Isaiah. The thesis of Rainer Albertz, from 1990, received considerable attention in this regard.41 His argument relates chiefly to Isa 40, which he claimed was incomprehensible by itself but was connected literarily to Isa 6. Even the Deutero-Isaianic references to the “former things” (e.g., Isa 42:9; 48:3) can easily be construed as relating to Proto-Isaiah.42 In 1994, H. G. M. Williamson formulated yet another, more comprehensive rationalization for a model of Fortschreibung in a study entitled The Book Called Isaiah: DeuteroIsaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. His thesis is that Isa 40–55 originated as a literary expansion and extensive reworking of the Proto-Isaianic heritage. His line of argument proceeds in two major steps. First, Williamson shows that distinctively DeuteroIsaianic texts are directly dependent literarily on Isa 1–39 (above all, Isa 40 in relation to Isa 6). “Deutero-Isaiah” considered his own work an unmediated expansion and opening of the “sealed” heritage of Isaiah (cf. Isa 8:16–17; 30:8). In his second step, Williamson 39 Steck, Bereitete Heimkehr. 40  Beuken, “Jesaja 33,” 5–35; Beuken , “Lament,” 78–102. 41  Albertz, “Deuterojesaja-Buch,” 241–256. 42  Cf. Albertz, “Deuterojesaja-Buch,” 243–249, 252–253.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   45 compiles arguments and indications that suggest a systematic reworking of the Proto-Isaianic corpus by Deutero-Isaiah himself. To him are to be attributed not only Isa 8:21–23a; 11:11–16; and 12:1–6, but also the interpolation of 2:2–4 (by means of 2:5), the “relocation” of 5:25–29 (by means of 5:30), and the insertion of Isa 13–14 (by means of 13:1; 14:1–4a, 22–23). Unlike Steck, Williamson emphasizes that the first bridge between Isa 1–39 and 40–55 is not Isa 35, but already Isa 33, written by “Deutero-Isaiah” himself. This theory of ongoing composition is contagiously simple and attractive, because it not only sketches out a plausible reconstruction of the origin of the book of Isaiah, but also attempts to solve the riddle of the anonymous prophet Deutero-Isaiah. Nonetheless, there are critical questions to pose. Reservations are provoked, first of all, by the thesis that Isa 40–55 is a literarily homogeneous corpus. Not only have the Ebed-Yhwh songs long since been identified as additions (according to Duhm already), but there are other passages that do not belong to the basic content. In other words, the Deutero-Isaianic chapters, Isa 40–55, have undergone a longer history of composition, as a series of more recent German studies have shown.43 To cite one example: an analysis of the first chapter, Isa 40:1–11, demonstrates that verses 40:6–8, which evince a close relationship to the report of Isaiah’s call in Isa 6, are literarily secondary.44 This means that the lines of interrelatedness between Proto-Isaiah and Deutero-Isaiah do not pertain to the basic components of Isa 40–55, but were secondarily introduced. Only with the insertion of Isa 40:6–8 is Isa 40 reshaped into a report of prophetic call in imitation of Isa 6. The basic components in Isa 40:1–5*, 9–11* were intended to prepare the people for the return of the divine king Yhwh. Further examples could easily be mustered. Taken together, they support the traditional assumption that Isa 40–55 represents in essence a once-independent literary work, which only later was brought together with Isa 1–39. Thus, the first model seems the more probable one. In fact, the demarcation between Isa 1–39 on the one hand and 40–55 on the other is clearly visible, despite the presence of several bridge texts.45 It is more difficult to assess the “Trito-Isaianic passages” in Isa 56–66. That these chapters exhibit a certain similarity with Isa 40–55 has long been acknowledged. The border between both complexes cannot be drawn as precisely as that between Proto- and Deutero-Isaiah.

2.5.  The Character of the “Trito-Isaianic” Passages (Isaiah 56–66) The similarities in language and style between Isa 40–55 and 56–66 led Walther Zimmerli many years ago to the conclusion that Trito-Isaiah had been a student of Deutero-Isaiah.46 Disregarding Zimmerli’s orientation to the person of the prophet, his 43  See section 2.6. 44  Compare the recent analysis by Weidner, Ende, 49–62. 45  Cf. Seitz, Final Destiny, who points to the transitory character of Isa 36–39. 46  Zimmerli, “Sprache Tritojesajas,” 217–233. Cf. the important collection of studies by Tiemeyer and Barstad, Continuity and Discontinuity, see esp. Tiemeyer, “Continuity,” 13–40.

46   Uwe Becker thesis contains an important observation that has since developed into an influential redaction theory. It asserts that chapters 56–66 do not constitute a formerly in­de­pend­ ent book of prophecy, but instead consist of editorial interpretative texts that were successively appended to either Isa 40–55 or the entire extant book. It was, above all, Steck and his students who developed this thesis and confirmed it in numerous studies.47 Overall, what they have demonstrated is a multitiered process of ongoing writing activity that begins in Isa 60–62 and that is appropriately described as “scribal prophecy.” Three major phases in the history of composition of Isa 56–66 can be delineated: 1.  In the first stage, Isa 40–55 was expanded by the basic components of Isa 60–62. Its themes are the glorification of Zion, the return of the diaspora, and the role of the nations. Later segments within Isa 60–62 (e.g., 62:10–12) already presuppose ProtoIsaiah (cf. Isa 35). 2.  A further expansion in Isa 56–59, once again composed of various clusters, is concerned with the conditions of salvation, which has evidently not proceeded as expected in Isa 60–62. The reason for the delay in salvation is found in the deplorable state of affairs in Jerusalem, which may only be alleviated through repentance. A division among the people of God is thus indicated. 3.  The last great stage encompasses the (not itself unified) complex of Isa 63–66. A great lament of the servants of God is found in Isa 63:7–64:11 (an expansionary segment composed for this context). There is, in addition, a response to the lament in Isa 65–66, which announces the demise of those who abandon Yhwh and attach themselves to the worship of idols. At the same time, these chapters lead back to the beginning of the book, in Isa 1. In the final phases of the book of Isaiah, a division among the people of God is already taken for granted. In 2011, Jacob Stromberg brought forward another model that, though similar in  principle, was somewhat simpler in its implementation.48 The subtitle of the study  shows quite clearly what he—following in the footsteps of his teacher H. G. M. Williamson—wanted to demonstrate: The Author of Third Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book. In a way not much different from Steck’s analysis, Stromberg assumes multiple redactional stages in Isa 56–66. A frame consisting of 56:1–8 and 65–66 was positioned around the earlier core in Isa 60–62. Older segments can be found in the lament of 63:7–64:11 and in the Edom oracle of 63:1–6. In this way, the author of the frame in 56:1–8 and 65–66 is revealed as a “reader” of an available book of Isaiah, who at the same time leaves his signature on distinctive passages. Stromberg not only traces the juridical purification over Jerusalem in 1:27–31, the word concerning the remnant of Israel in 4:2–6, and the brief gloss in 6:13bβ back to “Trito-Isaiah,” but also the insertion of the Isaiah-Hezekiah legend in Isa 36–39, taken over from 2 Kgs 18–20. 47  Cf. esp. Steck, Studien zu Tritojesaja; Steck, “Autor,” 219–259; and Kratz, “Tritojesaja,” 233–242. See also the concise commentary of Zapff, Jesaja 56–66. 48 Stromberg, Isaiah after Exile, cf. also his Introduction.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   47 Even though the analyses of the components of Trito-Isaiah are in some respects clearly different, we see a similar tendency in more recent scholarship, whereby TritoIsaiah is not an autonomous prophetic person but coheres closely in terms of composition history with Isa 1–55. Furthermore, the oldest segments, which are almost unanimously assumed to be in Isa 60–62, are especially similar to “Deutero-Isaiah.” It makes sense then, in analyzing the book of Isaiah to distinguish between the “First” Isaiah (1–39) and the “Second” Isaiah (40–66). Duhm’s division of the book into three parts should be given up entirely. It is of interest only for the history of interpretation. One more observation should be added. Not even the component parts of Second Isaiah are an original literary unit but are also the result of successive development.

2.6.  The Role of “Deutero-Isaiah” (Isaiah 40–55) There is a remarkable division between English-speaking and German-speaking scholars with regard to the composition of Isa 40–55. Whereas the former tend to continue holding to the unity of these chapters, the latter have developed a much more complicated view of their growth. At first glance, chapters 40–55 of Isaiah do in fact appear to constitute a coherent literary unit.49 Not only do they share common themes, such as the new salvation after judgment and the return of God (and the people), which seem to spring from a unified, creative intentionality. But there are also distinctive literary points of reference. For example, Isa 52:7–10 alludes consciously to the beginning of the book in Isa 40:1–5 (having to do in this case with the return and enthronement of Yhwh). Similarly, Isa 55:1–11 and 40:6–8 clearly form a bracket (the theme here being that of the proclaimed word that will not return empty). Both these literary brackets already suggest, however, that whereas the beginning of Second Isaiah may be agreed upon, its conclusion is much less clearly recognizable.50 For this reason, in more recent—especially German-speaking—scholarship, it is increasingly taken for granted that the basic core of Second Isaiah is found in Isa 40–48* (or just 40–46*), and evidently framed by 40:1–5 and 52:7–10.51 There is a change in tone after Isa 49. It is no longer the people (“my people”) who are being addressed in the divine speech, but, increasingly, Zion. In addition, a curious shift takes place from the expectations focused on Cyrus to hope in Zion. This appears to suggest, therefore, that in the second part of Isa 40–55 another hand is at work, one focused on the theology of Zion (various texts in 49:14–54:17). Other apparent additions include not only the Servant Songs (e.g., 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–6; 52:13–53:12) and the polemical passages 49  Cf. Williamson, Book Called Isaiah, and many others. 50  Cf. Weidner, Ende. 51  Cf., e.g., Kratz, Kyros; van Oorschot, Babel; Hermisson, “Einheit,” 287–312; Steck, Gottesknecht. Weidner, Ende, also gives an overview of the current debate.

48   Uwe Becker against idolatry (e.g., 40:19–20), but also those segments concerned with the delay of salvation on account of the guilt of the people of God (e.g., Isa 43:22–28; 48:1–11). Isa 60:1–14 found its way into the book relatively early, probably before Isa 55.52 This suggests that there was never a book of Second Isaiah that ended with Isa 55. It is no surprise, then, that both Beuken and Berges draw the line of demarcation between Second Isaiah and Third Isaiah after Isa 54.53 The collection of Second Isaiah owes its present form to a long editorial process that started with the basic core in Isa 40–46 (or 48). Its various augmentations were added in part to a core that was still independent but also inserted, in part, into what was becoming the Großjesajabuch. Whether there was ever a collection that encompassed Isa 40–55 now seems more questionable than ever. One should add that reasonable doubts have been expressed recently about the Babylonian origins of Second Isaiah.54 The foundational layer, written entirely from the perspective of Jerusalem, is concerned with the expectation of God’s return, not that of the people.

2.7.  The Composition of Isaiah 1–39 and the Core of the Book Even if Isa 1–39 is no longer the sole focus, and instead the entire book must be made the point of departure for any investigation of the history of the book’s composition, one thing is clear: the beginnings of the book can only be found in the so-called Proto-Isaiah. What are the central problems associated with the origin of Isa 1–39? The current state of scholarship is fraught with controversy, for several reasons. In earlier scholarship, the origins of Isa 1–39 were thought of in terms of the classical collection model. The book contains, above all, a compilation of prophetic sayings from the eighth century that were made into a book by pupils of the prophet (Prophetenschüler). At the same time, a considerable number of post-Isaianic sections were recognized (e.g., Isa 24–27), as was editorial activity. Yet these redactional, post-Isaianic parts did not receive any particular literary or theological appreciation in their own right. Thus, that which may be called the “classic” image of Isaiah developed out of this perspective over the course of the twentieth century. The proclamations of the prophet were divided into several—­ usually four or five—biographical phases, which corresponded with key events in contemporaneous history. During the turbulent early period of his activity, the prophet gave expression to social criticism (Isa 5). In the time of the Syro-Ephraimite War, he attained his theological profile (Isa 6–8). And in his later years, around 701 bce, he was able to look back on past events with a mature theological consciousness (Isa 28–31). This division has the advantage of elucidating the rather disparate Isaiah traditions—for example, the 52  Cf. Weidner, Ende, 195–211. 53  Cf. Berges and Beuken, Buch Jesaja, 191–195, and also the commentary Berges, Jesaja 49–54. 54  Cf., e.g., Barstad, Way; Klein, “Zieht heraus,” 279–299.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   49 ­ eculiar interchange of salvation oracles and judgment oracles—with reference to differp ent periods of time and contexts of proclamation.55 In this way, an impressive and closed picture of the prophet and his ministry of almost exactly forty years came to be. But starting in the 1970s, fissures began to appear in the walls of this enclosed building, which could no longer be explained on the basis of the person of the prophet and the various circumstances of his proclamations. The idea of more extensive editorial activity was gradually accepted, whereby the prophetic traditions were transmitted, supplemented, and updated. An important role was played in this regard by the study of Hermann Barth, a student of Steck, concerning the “words of Isaiah in the time of Josiah” (Jesaja-Worte in der Josiazeit), which appeared in 1977. Barth attempts to demonstrate that a group of texts having to do with the deliverance of Zion and the destruction of Assyria stem from the time of Josiah as a “productive reinterpretation of the prophetic tradition”56 (e.g., 8:9–10; 8:23b–9:6; 14:24–27). Even though this thesis, which was taken up in English-speaking circles by Ronald E. Clements,57 encounters more critical re­sist­ ance today,58 it is methodologically important. It not only demonstrates how the prophetic tradition was extended in later generations, but also reveals how creative and theologically innovative these later editors were. Current scholarship on “Proto-Isaiah” is difficult to summarize. The various views and their underlying assumptions are too widely disparate. Nevertheless, it is possible to recognize certain trends. Disputes between “maximalists” and “minimalists” play a considerable role in this regard. It comes down to the question of how highly valued authentic Isaianic material is. On one side are the exegetes, such as Hans Wildberger or J. J. M. Roberts and, to certain extent, also H. G. M. Williamson, who trace a considerable portion of Isa 1–39 back to the prophet himself. On the other side are theories that assume that there is a relatively small core of prophetic material and attribute the bulk of the tradition to later editorial activity.59 This distinction does not tell us much about the hermeneutical assumptions of these positions. For it is apparent even in the commentary by Williamson to what extent the proportion of later extraneous editorial material is assumed. This makes it clear how strongly the redaction-critical perspective of the complete book of Isaiah has influenced scholarship in the meantime. There is another issue that is closely associated with this controversy. What was the character of the original proclamations of Isaiah? Was it essentially oriented to salvation prophecy, such as the older saying in Isa 8:1–4, also suggested by such scenes as 7:1–9 or 36–37? Here the prophet is depicted as counselor or adviser to the king who pronounces judgment on the enemies of Judah.60 According to this model, the prophet of salvation 55  Cf., e.g., Wildberger, Jesaja 28–39, 1579–1586. 56 Barth, Jesaja-Worte, 301 (“produktive Neuinterpretation prophetischer Überlieferung”). 57 Clements, Isaiah. 58  Cf., e.g., Williamson, “Theory,” 3–21, who argues against the unity of the “Assur redaction” and in favor of a later dating of a couple of texts. 59  Cf. Kaiser in his commentary on Isaiah; and, e.g., U. Becker, Jesaja. 60  Cf. U. Becker, Jesaja; U. Becker, “Jesaja, Jeremia,” 79–100; and de Jong, Isaiah. Compare also the short but substantial evaluation of the problem in Kratz, Prophets.

50   Uwe Becker becomes a prophet of judgment only secondarily. From a literary point of view, this is illustrated by the saying against Judah in Isa 8:5–8, which is clearly appended secondarily to 8:1–4 and reorients the judgment against Judah to the rejection of God himself. Such a theological perspective is still missing in the older and apparently Isaianic proclamation 8:1–4. From this point of view, the prophet Isaiah would more closely resemble his ancient Near Eastern colleagues (especially from the Neo-Assyrian period), who, despite their isolated criticisms, reflect the salvation prophecy of the royal court.61 The “classic” alternative model, which understands Isaiah as a proclaimer of judgment throughout, must substantiate its position based on literary-critical analysis of individual texts. The assessment of the so-called “memoir” in Isa 6–8 from the time of the SyroEphraimite War (734–732) plays a role here whose importance is hard to exaggerate. Which parts might be traced back to the prophet himself, and what must be attributed to later editors? Here, too, current scholarship is fraught with disagreement. It becomes apparent in any case that the “memoir” also represents a literary construct that, in its current form, exhibits a long history. If the prophetic commissioning of Isa 6:9–11 can no longer be traced back to the prophet and if, additionally, the narrative in Isa 7 (in the third person) is considered a later insertion connected to the Isaiah legends of Isa 36–37,62 then a new picture emerges. According to this view, Isa 6–8 contains the nucleus of the book of Proto-Isaiah and reflects in the history of its composition a time frame of several centuries. Its beginnings could be found in Isa 6:1–8 and 8:1–4, 16, and this would then constitute the earliest shape of the book of Isaiah.63 It is possible that this earliest book of Isaiah could have been supplemented from the front as well as from the back. If so, it would help explain why the call narrative in Isa 6 is not located closer to the beginning of the book, as is usually the case, instead of in its current position. The second great complex, which up until now has been traced back to the prophet Isaiah, is Isa 28–31. Its traditional placement in the prophet’s latter period of activity— that is, during the time of the Assyrian threat of 701—stems from its location in the book of Proto-Isaiah and from subtle hints about the historical situation (cf. the sayings against an alliance with Egypt in Isa 30:1–5 and 31:1–3). At the same time, however, these “Assyrian” chapters also exhibit distinctive literary connections with the first part of the book of Isaiah (cf. also Isa 5–12). The saying in 29:9–10, for example, refers back to Isa 6:9–11 (cf. also 28:12). Many additional examples could be mentioned. The impression is thus formed that Isa 28–31 reformulates and extends earlier texts in the book of Isaiah that can themselves no longer be traced back with confidence to the prophet.64 These chapters are thus shown to represent internal expansions of the book, which pick up themes from the earlier Isaianic material and apply them to new situations. In the case of the chapters discussed here, this could refer to the hazards of the year 701, but just as well to the destruction of the state in 587 bce. This case demonstrates how it is possible to distinguish, within the repertoire of Proto-Isaiah, between earlier material that might be traceable back to the prophet 61  See esp. de Jong, Isaiah. 62  See also Barthel, Prophetenwort. 63  Cf. U. Becker, Jesaja. This argument is (of course) highly debated. 64  Cf. Kratz, “Jesaja 28–31,” 177–197.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   51 ­ imself, and multiple substantial expansions from later times. When it comes to Isa 33 h and 35, however, a connection to the corpus of Second Isaiah is already assumed (or established). That could also apply to the introductory chapter of Isa 1, which, like an overture, resounds with themes from the entire(!) book. Here, too, it is difficult not to conclude that essential components of this chapter were conceived for a Großjesajabuch that already existed.65 It is therefore no longer possible to understand the making of Proto-Isaiah without considering Isa 40–66. Despite all the differences, this may be the most important insight of contemporary scholarship.

2.8. Conclusion When we talk of the “unity” of the book of Isaiah, we do not mean that it was composed by a single author. Rather, it is evident that two independent complexes are involved— the core of Isa 1–32 and that of 40–46(48). In a complicated redaction-critical process, they have been brought together and expanded in many ways. This insight has several consequences for the exegesis of the book of Isaiah: (a) The person of the prophet (or several prophets, like First Isaiah and Second Isaiah) can no longer serve as an appropriate point of departure for analysis; only the book that we have received can: The given text must be the starting point of the analysis.66 (b) Redactioncritical analysis of Isa 1–39 must always proceed with attention to the whole book of Isaiah. This means that questions of intertextual referencing must constitute a significant part of the work. Of course, it will not suffice to compile an inventory of textual interconnectedness as many “intertextual” studies do. Rather, the issue of identifying referring text and its referent will need to be addressed. The multiplicity of hypotheses concerning the origin of the book of Isaiah, which have been discussed here in summary, may have a disconcerting effect. The divergent lines of development in the English-speaking and German-speaking worlds are particularly noteworthy and conspicuous. But differing exegetical traditions are quite normal and at best fruitful. It should not be forgotten that the different models used for explaining the composition of the book of Isaiah evolved from the complexity of the text itself. To conclude with a quotation from Hugh Williamson: “what counts is not so much the answers that are proposed as the fact that all the scholars, in careful consideration of the material at hand, come up with related questions.”67

Bibliography Ackroyd, Peter. “Isaiah I-XII: Presentation of a Prophet.” In Congress Volume Göttingen 1977, edited by John A. Emerton, 16–48. VTS 29. Leiden: Brill, 1979 (= Ackroyd, Studies in the Religious Tradition of the Old Testament, 152–171. London: SCM Press, 1987). 65  Cf. Eck, Jesaja 1. 66  Cf. Steck, Prophetic Books, 25. 67  Williamson, “Isaiah, Book of,” 370.

52   Uwe Becker Albertz, Rainer. A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period. Vol. 1, From the Beginnings to the End of the Monarchy. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1994. German original: Religionsgeschichte Israels in alttestamentlicher Zeit. Band 1: Von den Anfängen bis zum Ende der Königszeit. GAT 8/1. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992. Albertz, Rainer. “Das Deuterojesaja-Buch als Fortschreibung der Jesaja-Prophetie.” In Die Hebräische Bibel und ihre zweifache Nachgeschichte. Festschrift Rolf Rendtorff. Edited by Erhard Blum, Christian Macholz, Rolf Rendtorff, and Ekkehard Stegemann, 241–256. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1990 (= Albertz, Geschichte und Theologie. Studien zur Exegese des Alten Testaments und zur Religionsgeschichte Israels, edited by Ingo Kottsieper and Jakob Wöhrle, 239–255. BZAW 326. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003). Alter, Robert, and Frank Kermode, eds. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987. Barstad, Hans  M. A Way in the Wilderness: The “Second Exodus” in the Message of Second Isaiah. JSSM 12. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989. Barth, Hermann. Die Jesaja-Worte in der Josiazeit: Israel und Assur als Thema einer produktiven Neuinterpretation der Jesajaüberlieferung. WMANT 48. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1977. Barthel, Jörg. Prophetenwort und Geschichte: Die Jesajaüberlieferung in Jes 6–8 und 28–31. FAT 19. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997. Barton, John. Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. Rev. ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996. Becker, Joachim: Isaias: Der Prophet und sein Buch. SBS 30. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1968. Becker, Uwe. “Die Wiederentdeckung des Prophetenbuches: Tendenzen und Aufgaben der gegenwärtigen Prophetenforschung.” BTZ 21, no. 1 (2004): 30–60. Becker, Uwe. Exegese des Alten Testaments: Ein Methoden- und Arbeitsbuch. UTB 2664. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 20154. Becker, Uwe. “Jesajaforschung (Jes 1–39).” TRu 64 (1999): 1–37 and 117–152. Becker, Uwe. “Jesaja, Jeremia und die Anfänge der Unheilsprophetie.” HeBAI 6, no. 1 (2017): 79–199. Becker, Uwe. Jesaja: Von der Botschaft zum Buch. FRLANT 178. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997. Becker, Uwe. “Tendenzen der Jesajaforschung 1998–2007.” TRu 74 (2009): 96–128. Berges, Ulrich. The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition and Final Form. Translated by Millard Lind. HBM 46. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012. German original: Das Buch Jesaja: Komposition und Endgestalt. HBS 16. Freiburg: Herder, 1998. Berges, Ulrich. Jesaja 49–54. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herder, 2015. Berges, Ulrich. Jesaja: Der Prophet und das Buch. Biblische Gestalten 22. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2010 (English: The Prophet and His Book. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012). Berges, Ulrich, and Willem A. M. Beuken. Das Buch Jesaja: Eine Einführung. UTB. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. Beuken, Willem A. M. “Isaiah 33 als Spiegeltext im Jesajabuch.” EThL 67 (1991): 5–35. Beuken, Willem A. M. “Isaiah 34: Lament in Isaianic Context.” OTE 5 (1992): 78–102. Beuken, Willem A. M. Jesaja 1–12. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herder, 2003. Beuken, Willem A. M. Jesaja 13–27. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herder, 2007.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   53 Beuken, Willem A. M. Jesaja 28–39. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herder, 2010 Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979. Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001. Clements, Ronald E. Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem: A Study of the Interpretation of Prophecy in the Old Testament. JSOTS 13. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1980. Clements, Ronald E. “The Unity of the Book of Isaiah.” Int 36 (1982): 117–129 (= Clements, Old Testament Prophecy: From Oracles to Canon, pp. 93–104, 247–248. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996. Conrad, Edgar W. Reading Isaiah. OBT. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991. Duhm, Bernhard. Das Buch Jesaia übersetzt und erklärt. HKAT III/1. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19685. Eck, Joachim. Jesaja 1—Eine Exegese der Eröffnung des Jesaja-Buches: Die Präsentation Jesajas und Jhwhs, Israels und der Tochter Zion. BZAW 473. Berlin: de Gruyter: 2015. Eichhorn, Johann Gottfried. Einleitung in das Alte Testament. Band 3. Leipzig: Weidmann & Reich, 1783. Hermisson, Hans-Jürgen. Deuterojesaja. 3. Teilband: Jesaja 49,14–55,13. BKAT XI/3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017. Hermisson, Hans-Jürgen. “Einheit und Komplexität Deuterojesajas: Probleme der Redaktionsgeschichte von Jes 40–55.” In The Book of Isaiah/Le livre d’Isaïe: Les oracles et leurs relectures, unité et complexité de l’ouvrage, edited by Jacques Vermeylen, 287–312. BETL 81. Leuven: Peeters, 1989 (= Hermisson, Studien zu Prophetie und Weisheit: Gesammelte Aufsätze, 132–157. FAT 23. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998). Höffken, Peter. Jesaja: Der Stand der theologischen Diskussion. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2004. Jong, Matthijs J. de. Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets: A Comparative Study of the Earliest Stages of the Isaiah Tradition and the Neo-Assyrian Prophecies. VTS 117. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Kaiser, Otto. Das Buch des Propheten Jesaja: Kapitel 1–12. ATD 17. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19815. English: Isaiah 1–12. OTL. London: SCM Press, 19832). Kaiser, Otto. Der Prophet Jesaja: Kapitel 13–39. ATD 18. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1973. English: Isaiah 13–39. OTL. London: SCM Press, 1974. Kaiser, Otto. Grundriß der Einleitung in die kanonischen und deuterokanonischen Schriften des Alten Testaments. Band 2. Die prophetischen Werke. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1994. Klein, Anja. “ ‘Zieht heraus aus Babel’: Beobachtungen zum Zweiten Exodus im Deuterojesajabuch.” ZTK 112 (2015): 279–299. Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. “Jesaja 28–31 als Fortschreibung.” In Prophetenstudien: Kleine Schriften 2, 177–197. FAT 74. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. Kyros im Deuterojesaja-Buch: Redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Entstehung und Theologie von Jes 40–55. FAT 1. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1991. Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. The Prophets of Israel. CSHB 2. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015. German original: Die Propheten Israels. Wissen 2326. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003. Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. “Tritojesaja.” In Prophetenstudien: Kleine Schriften 2, 233–242. FAT 74. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Lowth, Robert. Jesaias neu übersetzt nebst einer Einleitung und critischen philologischen Anmerkungen. Aus dem Englischen. Mit Zusätzen und Anmerkungen von Johann Benjamin

54   Uwe Becker Koppe. 4 vols. Leipzig, 1779–1781. English original: Isaiah: A New Translation. With a Preliminary Dissertation, and Notes Critical, Philological, and Explanatory. London: J. Nichols for J. Dodsley and T. Cadell, 1778. Mathews McGinnis, Claire, and Patricia  K.  Tull, “Remembering the Former Things: The History of Interpretation and Critical Scholarship.” In “As Those Who Are Taught”: The Interpretation of Isaiah from the LXX to the SBL, edited by Claire Mathews McGinnis and Patricia K. Tull, 1–27. SBLSymS 27. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Melugin, Roy F. “Isaiah 40–66 in Recent Research: The ‘Unity’ Movement.” In Recent Research on the Major Prophets, edited by Alan J. Hauser, 142–194. RRBS 1. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008. Melugin, Roy F., and Marvin A. Sweeney, eds. New Visions of Isaiah. JSOTS 214. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1996. Miscall, Peter D. Isaiah. Readings. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1993. Moser, Christian. Umstrittene Prophetie: Die exegetisch-theologische Diskussion um die Inhomogenität des Jesajabuches von 1780 bis 1900. BThS 128. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2012. Oeming, Manfred, and Anne-Ruth Pregla. “New Literary Criticism.” TRu 66 (2001): 1–23. Oorschot, Jürgen van. Von Babel zum Zion: Eine literarkritische und redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung. BZAW 206. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1993. Rendtorff, Rolf. “The Book of Isaiah: A Complex Unity. Synchronic and Diachronic Reading.” In New Visions of Isaiah, edited by Roy F. Melugin and Marvin A. Sweeney, 32–49. JSOTS 214. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1996. Rendtorff, Rolf. “Jesaja 6 im Rahmen der Komposition des Jesajabuches.” In The Book of Isaiah, edited by Jacques Vermeylen, 73–82. BETL 81. Leuven: Peeters, 1989 (= Rendtorff, Kanon und Theologie: Vorarbeiten zu einer Theologie des Alten Testaments, 162–171. Neukirchen-Vlyun: Neukirchener, 1991). Rendtorff, Rolf. “Zur Komposition des Buches Jesaja.” VT 34 (1984): 295–320 (= Rendtorff, Kanon und Theologie: Vorarbeiten zu einer Theologie des Alten Testaments, 141–161. Neukirchen-Vlyun: Neukirchener, 1991). Reventlow, Henning Graf. “Die Prophetie im Urteil Bernhard Duhms.” ZTK 85 (1988): 259–274. Roberts, Jimmy J. M. First Isaiah: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015. Schmid, Konrad. “Klassische und nachklassische Deutungen der alttestamentlichen Prophetie.” Zeitschrift für Neuere Theologiegeschichte/Journal for the History of Modern Theology 3 (1996): 225–250. Steck, Odil Hannes. “Autor und/oder Redaktor in Jesaja 56–66.” In Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah: Studies of an Interpretative Tradition, vol. 1, edited by Craig C. Broyles and Craig A. Evans, 219–259. VTS 70/1. Leiden: Brill, 1997. Steck, Odil Hannes. Bereitete Heimkehr: Jesaja 35 als redaktionelle Brücke zwischen dem Ersten und dem Zweiten Jesaja. SBS 121. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1985. Steck, Odil Hannes. Gottesknecht und Zion: Gesammelte Aufsätze zu Deuterojesaja. FAT 4. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992. Steck, Odil Hannes. The Prophetic Books and Their Theological Witness. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2000. German original: Die Prophetenbücher und ihr theologisches Zeugnis. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1996. Steck, Odil Hannes. Studien zu Tritojesaja. BZAW 203. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1991.

The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition History   55 Stromberg, Jacob. An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah. T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies. London: T&T Clark, 2011. Stromberg, Jacob. Isaiah after Exile: The Author of Third Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book. OTM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Sweeney, Marvin A. “The Book of Isaiah in Recent Research.” CurBS 1 (1993) 141–162. Repr. in Recent Research on the Major Prophets, edited by Alan J. Hauser, 78–92. RRBS 1. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008. Sweeney, Marvin  A. Isaiah 1–4 and the Post-Exilic Understanding of the Isaianic Tradition. BZAW 171. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1988. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–39 with an Introduction to Prophetic Literature. FOTL 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Sweeney, Marvin A. “Reevaluating Isaiah 1–39 in Recent Critical Research.” In CurBS 4 (1996) 79–113. Repr. in Recent Research on the Major Prophets, edited by Alan J. Hauser, 93–117. RRBS 1. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. “Continuity and Discontinuity in Isaiah 40–66: History of Research.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer and Hans  M.  Barstad, 13–40. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55. VTS 139. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. “Isaiah 40–55: A Judahite Reading Drama.” In Daughter Zion: Her Portrait, Her Response, edited by Mark J. Boda, Carol J. Dempsey, and LeAnn Snow Flesher, 55–76. SBLAIL 13. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2012. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia, and Hans M. Barstad, eds. Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Van Seters, John. The Edited Bible: The Curious History of the “Editor” in Biblical Criticism. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006. Vermeylen, Jacques. Du prophète Isaïe à l’apocalyptique: Isaïe, I–XXXV, miroir d’un démi-­millénaire d’expérience religieuse en Israël. 2 vols. EBib. Paris: Gabalda, 1977–1978. Vermeylen, Jacques. “L’unité du livre d’Isaïe.” In The Book of Isaiah/Le livre d’Isaïe: Les oracles et leurs relectures, unité et complexité de l’ouvrage, edited by Jacques Vermeylen. 11–53. BETL 81. Leuven: Peeters, 1989. Weidner, Alexander. Das Ende Deuterojesajas: Eine literarkritische und redaktionsgeschichtliche Studie zur Entstehung von Jes 40–60. FAT II/94. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 28–39. CC. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2002. German original: Jesaja 28–39. BKAT X/3. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner, 1982). Williamson, H.  G.  M. The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994. Williamson, H. G. M. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary of Isaiah 1–27. Vol. 1, Commentary on Isaiah 1–5. ICC. London, T&T Clark, 2006. Williamson, H. G. M. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 1–27. Vol. 2, Commentary on Isaiah 6–12. ICC. London: T&T Clark, 2018. Williamson, H. G. M. “Isaiah, Book of.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, edited by Mark  J.  Boda and J.  Gordon McConville, 364–378. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

56   Uwe Becker Williamson, H.  G.  M. “Synchronic and Diachronic in Isaian Perspective.” In Synchronic or Diachronic? A Debate on Method in Old Testament Exegesis, edited by Johannes C. de Moor, 211–226. OtSt 34. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Williamson, H. G. M. “The Theory of a Josianic Edition of the First Part of the Book of Isaiah: A Critical Examination.” In Studies in Isaiah: History, Theology and Reception, edited by Tommy Wasserman, Greger Andersson, and David Willgren, 3–21. LHBOTS 654. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017. Zapff, Burkard M. Jesaja 56–66. NEB 37. Würzburg: Echter, 2006. Zimmerli, Walther. “Zur Sprache Tritojesajas.” In Gottes Offenbarung: Gesammelte Aufsätze zum Alten Testament, 217–233. TB 19. Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 19692.



chapter 3

The Or acle s aga i nst the Nations Hyun Chul Paul Kim

3.1. Introduction The Oracles against/about the Nations (hereafter, OAN) have taken a backseat in discourses of Isaiah scholarship, both because of the disturbingly judgmental overtones and the seemingly disjointed composition. However, in recent decades, scholars have recognized the significance of each section in the book of Isaiah as a whole.1 Instead of reconstructing the earlier original layers, redactional studies readjusted the methodological goals to discover the situations of the editors, and identifying their implications for re-readers.2 Keeping the contributions of the trends of both synchronic (holistic) and diachronic (redactional) approaches, this study will address the OAN’s history of formation, function in the book of Isaiah, and key themes.

3.2.  History of Formation The older scholarship of discovering the so-called genuine Isaianic words (ipsissima verba) remains disputable, if not unconvincing. Nevertheless, scholarly consensus on the history of formation points to the complex editorial processes that range from the eighth-century prophet down to the exilic and post-exilic eras of the scribes. One of the earliest compositional layers signifies the eighth century bce. King Uzziah’s death (6:1; 734 bce) alongside the Syro-Ephraimite War and, subsequently, Tiglathpileser III’s campaign (735–732 bce) lay a foundational historical background for   Melugin, “Isaiah 40–66,” 142–194.  Lessing, Interpreting Discontinuity, 12–38.



60   Hyun Chul Paul Kim chapters 1–12. Then, Ahaz’s death (14:28; ca. 727 bce) and the reign of Hezekiah alongside Ashdod’s (Philistine) revolts against Sargon II (14:28–32; 20:1; 713–711 bce) after the fall of Samaria (722 bce) mark a pivotal chronology for the core Isaianic materials of chapters 13–23. Thus, Hezekiah’s dilemma to acquiesce to join the neighboring nations’ alliance with Egypt against Assyria underscores chapters 18–19, referencing Cush and Egypt which seem to have affinity with Isaiah’s prophetic career (cf. Isa 22). Within these compositions, scholars also consider portions of these core materials as the seventhcentury Josianic editions (e.g., 14:24–27; 15–20; 23), although controversy remains as to whether chapters 15–16 and 23 are pre-exilic or later.3 Accordingly, a safer scholarly consensus regards the core portions from 14:28–32 toward chapter 22 (especially Isa 14:28–32 and 17–20; Isa 22 remains contested) as the Isaianic, or pre-exilic, compositions.4 The fringe portions (Isa 13:1–14:23; 23), together with various editorial glosses within the inner portions, mark the exilic and post-exilic redactions. Concerning these later compositional strata, Ulrich Berges surmises three exilic and post-exilic redactional stages: (exilic/Babylonian) “Babylonizing” edition, (post-exilic/Persian) “Zionizing” edition, and (later/even Hellenistic?) “sinners versus pious” edition.5 Behind these redactional layers, we detect unique thematic efforts: “The great advantage of the recent redactional analysis is that an attempt is made to recover an editorial intention that shaped the corpus into a unified whole.”6 First, the “Babylonizing” edition has the function of reapplying the presumably earlier anti-Assyrian oracles into the anti-Babylon oracles—hence the exilic redaction (Isa 13–14; 21). Core materials (whether or not they were originally independent) include 13:17–22; 14:5–21; 21:1–10, to which the Babylonizing redaction added the day of Yhwh passages (13:6–16) and the passages that specifically name Babylon (14:3–4; 14:22–23).7 A prime example of this redaction can be found in 14:24–27, which eclipses an antiAssyrian oracle with an anti-Babylon oracle. The catchphrase of the “outstretched hand” (14:26–27), as Marvin Sweeney argues, may have originally been linked to the pertinent earlier oracles with the same phrase (5:25; 9:11, 16, 20 [MT 9:12, 17, 21]; 10:4) through the Josianic redaction.8 Afterward, the Babylonizing redaction of 14:24–27 coalesced the fall of Assyria with that of Babylon, joining in “the one plan of God the destruction of the arrogant oppressor from both the eighth and sixth centuries.”9 This accentuates the explicit polemic against Babylon, the most terrifying enemy empire.  Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39, 57–59, 215; Clements, Isaiah 1–39, 5–6.  Cook, Sign, 45, surmises the four oracles—Philistia (Isa 14:28–32), Moab (Isa 15–16), Damascus (Isa 17), and Egypt (Isa 19)—as the likely earliest collection. 5  Berges, Book of Isaiah, 137–161. 6  Childs, Isaiah, 116. See also Lessing, Interpreting Discontinuity: “Discontinuities occur in prophetic texts because later communities [Sitz-in-der-Gemeinde, as opposed to Sitz-im-Leben] needed to adapt the prophetic message to their current situation” (p. 35). 7   Hamborg, “Reasons,” 146. 8  Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39, 212, 233. 9  Childs, Isaiah, 124. Similarly, on 22:1–14, consider Beuken, “Obdurate”: “It forms an amalgam of various calamitous events which befell the city: the siege of 701, the downfall of 586, and other comparable dangers to its survival” (pp. 60–61). 3


The Oracles against the Nations   61 Such a d ­ enouncement of Babylon coheres with the anti-Babylonian claims of 21:9 (“Fallen, fallen is Babylon”; cf. 23:13). Second, the “Zionizing” edition continues the negative dismissal of the Babylonian tyranny. Yet this redaction simultaneously contains a more positive attitude toward other nations worldwide and the hope of the salvific role of the restored Zion. Berges identifies several passages as the Zionizing redactional works (13:2; 14:1–2; 16:1, 3–5; 18:3, 7; 19:16–25; 23:17–18). Many of these references share common motifs with the texts of Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah. H.  G.  M.  Williamson has suggested 14:1–2 as a Deutero-Isaianic editorial hinge that juxtaposes the previously extant texts of 13:2–22 and 14:4b–21.10 These references coincide with the Deutero-Isaianic and Trito-Isaianic motifs of the nations’ attending to (reversal of fortune), or even joining, the children of Israel (16:1, 3–5; 18:3, 7).11 Thus, the “on that day” passages of Egypt’s restoration, alongside Assyria’s, in 19:16–25 (and also Tyre’s in 23:17–18) portrays the fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing of many nations, as a prototype of the universalistic inclusion or conversion of non-Jews and diasporic Jews in the Second Temple era.12 Third, the “sinners versus pious” edition can be considered contemporary with the “Zionizing” editorial stage. Yet, just as the anti-Babylon polemic (of the Babylonizing redaction) leads to the pro-Zion motif of the nations’ servitude and pilgrimage to Zion (of the Zionizing redaction), we find another separation—that is, the righteous/poor/needy versus the wicked/insolent/arrogant (13:9, 11; 14:5, 20–21, 30, 32; 16:13–14; 17:2, 12–14; 21:2, 10, 16–17; 22:19–23; 23:15–16).13 If the anti-Babylon or pro-Zion trends concern Israel’s external relationship with foreign nations, the division addresses the internal struggles within the (postBabylon) reconstruction Yehud. In this case, we may have editorial correlations between these redactional references and Trito-Isaiah.14 Whereas the tension is predominantly among the groups of Yehud in Trito-Isaiah, these redactional references are placed in the OAN section, dealing with foreign nations. Berges views the role of Zion’s openness to the nations (cf. 2:2–4) in thematic continuity—rather than conflict—with the “restricting admittance to the righteous.”15 This thematic development aligns well with the ensuing traditions of Judaism, where Torah piety would become as important as—if not more important than—one’s genealogy or e­ thnicity.16 Likewise, the tension among the groups of the community, under the c­ apstone control of the empires, paves a way for the theological growth toward the later apocalyptic motifs in Second Temple literature (cf. 2 Esdras 3–14).  Williamson, Book Called Isaiah, 156–175. Lee, Redactional Study, further construes 14:1–2, 26–27, 32b; 16:1–4a; 18:7; 19:16–17; 23:8–9, 11 as editorial expansions by the same late-exilic editor responsible for chapters 40–55 (p. 184). 11   Jenkins, “Development,” 241, observes Isa 16:1–5 as a late pericope, having no literary parallel with Jeremiah 48. For a recent redactional investigation on Isa 18–20, see Cook, Sign, 159–164. 12  Berges, Book of Isaiah, 152–153. We should note that in much of the Second Temple period literature, Assyria (instead of Babylon or Persia or Greece) plays a role of a formidable empire (e.g., Tob 1; Jdt 1). 13  Stromberg, Introduction, 16–18, interprets 16:13–14 as an update on the preceding oracle on Moab. But note that Beuken, “Must Philistia,” 52, considers 14:28–32 as an original unit, traceable back to the prophet. Williamson, Book Called Isaiah, identifies 13:4–5, 9–13 (within Isa 13) as later editorial works of universalizing tendency.   14 Stromberg, Introduction, 41–54. 15  Berges, Book of Isaiah, 154.   16 Collins, Invention of Judaism, 60. 10

62   Hyun Chul Paul Kim

3.3.  Function in the Book of Isaiah as a Whole The OAN section, far from being an isolated island, plays a significant role in its place and function as an essential component for the entire book of Isaiah both compositionally and conceptually.

3.3.1.  The OAN in Relation to the Preceding Texts (Isaiah 1–12) The placement of the OAN section in the book of Isaiah presents linguistic and thematic expansions of chapters 1–12. First, the OAN, in a prototype primarily focused on Assyria and Egypt, may have adopted 11:12–16 as the rhetorical and thematic template. The list of the nations in 11:12–16 (Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Egypt, and Assyria) coincides with the core nations in chapters 13–23 (Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Cush, and Egypt). The Assyria-Egypt ring structure of the OAN segment (Isa 14–20) thus may have resembled the sequence of 11:11–16.17 Likewise, the historical descriptions of key political events make crucial links, though these are more thematic than chronological. For example, the unique superscriptions (1:1 and 2:1) can only be found at the beginning of the OAN section (13:1). The year of Uzziah’s death in 6:1 connects to the year of Ahaz’s death in 14:28, both reports providing rough thematic backdrops of the domestic and international political events. Also, the threat of the Syria-Ephraim coalition against Zion in chapter 7 coheres with the rivalry between Damascus-Samaria and Jerusalem in chapters 17–18.18 In the same way, these threats of anti-Assyrian coalitions connect to the Philistine revolt against the Assyrian king Sargon in 20:1, as well as the likely revolt of Hezekiah against the Assyrian king Sennacherib in chapters 36–37. Furthermore, W.  A.  M.  Beuken delineates substantial overlaps between chapters 10–12 and chapters 13–14 in terms of the motif of “highness.” Thus, the expressions of Babylon’s splendor (13:11, 19) contrast not only with the exalted ones as the divine instrument (13:3), but also with Yhwh’s own exalted name (12:4; cf. 2:6–22). This theme of the Babylonian king’s hubris (Isa 13–14) further echoes that of the Assyrian king (10:5–19). Likewise, the tall trees that are to be cut down (10:33–34), alongside the “rejected branch” (14:19), contrast with the branch and stump of Jesse (11:1, 10).19 The “rod” and the   Kim, “Isaiah 22,” 7; Seitz, Isaiah 1–39, 115–119.   Beuken, “Damascus,” 64. Beuken offers further examples of correlations, e.g., 12:6 → 14:32 → 16:1 → 18:7, and also 13:2, 4 → 17:13 → 18:3, 6 (p. 78). 19   Beuken, “Song of Gratitude,” 102–110. In addition to the correlation between 11:1 and 14:19, Beuken delineates more detailed linguistic and thematic correlations (e.g., 11:4 → 14:5–6; 11:10 → 14:1, 3; 11:2 → 14:26; 11:9 → 14:13, 20; 12:6 → 13:20; 10:32 → 13:2; 1:9 → 13:19–20; 10:19–21 → 14:22; 2:2–5 → 13:2–3; 2:1–5 → 13:5). 17


The Oracles against the Nations   63 s­ erpent’s “root”—Assyria—that struck the “root” of Philistia (14:29–30) reverts back not only to the “rod” of divine anger against Israel (10:5) but also to the “root” of Jesse who is empowered to slay the wicked with the “rod” of his mouth (11:1, 4).20 Accordingly, the OAN in the present form echo and reconceptualize the key motifs of chapters 1–12. Yhwh’s outstretched hand (14:26–27) references the same hand stretched out against Israel (5:25; 9:11, 16, 20 [MT 9:12, 17, 21]; 10:4).21 Now the divine hand is raised against Assyria, Babylon, and all the nations. The “day of Yhwh” (2:12) as a divine announcement against all haughty kingdoms in chapters 1–12 likewise opens the OAN with the pronouncement of divine anger against Babylon and other nations (13:6, 9, 13).22 As Seth Erlandsson observes, the OAN do not stand in isolation to the rest of the book, because “the threat from Assyria and the promises of Jhwh to David and Zion dominate the design of chapters 1–12.”23 The OAN allude to the preceding texts, with the continuous theme of the sovereignty of Yhwh now extended beyond Israel toward surrounding nations and superpowers.

3.3.2.  The OAN in Relation to the Following Texts (Isaiah 24–66) Beyond the inner-biblical correlations to the immediately preceding section (Isa 1–12), the OAN form notable links to the rest of the book of Isaiah. Scholars have observed many linguistic and thematic connections between chapters 24–27 and the OAN. Berges, for example, observes the thematic continuity of Babylon’s devastation between 13:1–14:23; 21:1–10; and 24:10–12; 25:2.24 The divine “atonement,” blocked by the iniquity of the obdurate Jerusalemites (22:14), will be made available when Jacob’s iniquity is “atoned” (27:9).25 In particular, the motif of “city” such as Babylon (and Jerusalem) in the OAN continues in thematically expanded ways with the “chaos city” (and the “strong city”) in chapters 24–27.26 Thus, many scholars regard chapters 24–27 as a deliberate compositional extension of chapters 13–23, in terms of the motifs of the judgment on the nations, cities, and chaotic mythological forces.27 With chapters 28–35, we observe comparable political events for historical background. The “city” Ephraim and its recalcitrant leaders thus become an object lesson and warning for the leaders of Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s alleged alliance with Philistia and Egypt against Assyria (Isa 14; 17–18) likewise recurs with a scathing warning against the reliance upon Egypt (Isa 30–31). In a larger scope, as though forming an inclusio,   Beuken, “Must Philistia,” 55.   Within the OAN, Yhwh’s outstretched hand forms a kind of inclusio (14:26–27 and 23:11). 22   Boadt, “Re-examining,” 184. 23   Erlandsson, “Burden,” 5. In Jeremiah scholarship, scholars note that this is true in the case of Jeremiah’s OAN: “It turns out to be no longer possible to treat the collection of Jeremiah 46–51 as an isolated, secondary appendix.” Peels, “You Shall Certainly Drink,” 85. 24  Berges, Book of Isaiah, 136.   25  Beuken, “Obdurate Short-Sightedness,” 62. 26   Beuken, “Damascus,” 80. See also Kim, “City, Earth, Empire,” 35–59. 27  Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 346–348; Tull, Isaiah 1–39, 258–259, 367–370; Seitz, Isaiah 1–39, 115–126. 20 21

64   Hyun Chul Paul Kim the oracle against Edom (Isa 34) further resumes the OAN with the continuous yet climactic themes of judgment upon Babylon (Isa 13–14) and Edom (Isa 34)—the two nations condemned for the fall of Judah (cf. Ps 137). Whereas both Babylon and Jerusalem face punishment in the OAN, chapters 34–35 wrap up with contrasting fates between Edom’s doom and Judah’s bloom. While chapters 36–39 seem out of place in the whole book, we find notable links with the OAN. The unique phrases with the common motifs of Jerusalem’s crisis—such as the “upper pool” (7:3; 36:2) and the “lower pool” (22:9; cf. 22:11)—bring together these two remote sections. Even the names of two officials—Shebna (22:15; 36:3) and Eliakim (22:20; 36:3)—deliberately build literary connections.28 The parallel patterns of threats by Assyria (Isa 7–11; 36–37) and Babylon (Isa 13–14; 39) legitimate the interconnections. According to Christopher Begg, these correlations of the OAN and chapters 36–39 adumbrate the “Babylonizing” of these components, emphasizing Babylon as the recurring and eventual target (Isa 13–14; 39).29 In addition to the Deutero-Isaianic or Trito-Isaianic redactional impacts in chapters 40–66, the fates of many nations in the OAN correspond to the peoples, nations, coastlands, “ends of the earth,” kings, and foreigners of these final chapters. The anti-Babylon diatribe of the OAN recurs in chapters 46–47, just as the anti-Edom oracle in chapter 34 reverberates in chapter 63. Not only daughter Babylon’s fate, but also daughter Zion’s fate interconnects with the oracle of divine comfort amid desert-like Babylonian exile. Thus, key words such as “wilderness” (21:1), “desert” (21:13), and “valley” (22:1) in the oracles against Babylon and Jerusalem (Isa 21–22) reappear in the opening oracle of DeuteroIsaiah: “In the wilderness, prepare the way of Yhwh, make straight in the desert a highway for our God; let every valley be lifted up” (40:3–4; cf. 35:1, 6).30 Just as the “day of Yhwh” motif (which brackets the OAN in 13:6, 9 and 22:5) links the OAN section back to chapters 1–12 (2:12), this “comfort” motif in the promise of the restoration of Jerusalem (40:1–2; cf. 49:13; 51:3; 52:9; 66:13) in chapters 40–66 connects to the OAN section of “no comfort” to Jerusalem (22:4). Finally, the theme of schism between the pious and the wicked, which is especially notable in chapters 53–66, mirrors the implicit tension between the afflicted and the abusive in the OAN—both sections hinting at the triggering antecedents of the later eschatological and apocalyptic developments.

3.3.3.  The OAN of Isaiah in Comparison with the OAN of Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel Although they contain unique elements, the OAN of Isaiah also have much in common with those of other prophetic books. Comparing similar patterns in other books can illuminate additional insights concerning the function of the OAN within the book of Isaiah. The OAN in Amos 1–2 uniquely start the book of Amos (cf. Zeph 2–3), whereas   Kim, “Isaiah 22,” 12.    29  Begg, “Babylon,” 122.   Kim, “Isaiah 22,” 16. Consider also the occurrence of “desert” and “sea” together in 16:8.



The Oracles against the Nations   65 the OAN in MT Jeremiah end the book of Jeremiah. Otherwise, the OAN are usually placed in or near the middle of the books, for example, (Proto-)Isaiah, LXX Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. First, in Isa 1–39, the OAN take the central place in a roughly tripartite structure.31 Scholars consider this tripartite structure in its final form as mirroring those of Ezekiel (oracles against Israel in chaps. 1–24; OAN in chaps. 25–32; oracles of salvation for Israel in chaps. 33–48) and LXX Jeremiah (oracles against Israel in Isa 1–24; OAN in Isa 25–32; oracles against Judah via Baruch in Isa 33–52). In Ezekiel, the OAN function as a prelude for the salvation of Israel. In contrast, LXX Jeremiah concludes with the judgment on both nations and Israel. In comparison, Isaiah’s OAN overlap with both perspectives— not only judgment on Jerusalem (Isa 22) and Samaria (Isa 17), similar to LXX Jeremiah, but also punishment of the oppressive “destroyers” (Isa 13–14; 21; 33), similar to Ezekiel.32 Second, the OAN of Isaiah start with Babylon, and intertextually pick up the end of the OAN of MT Jeremiah, together intensifying the anti-Babylon polemic in a larger scope. Admittedly, the pattern of Samaria at the climactic end of Amos’s OAN is similar to that in Isaiah’s OAN. However, unlike Amos 1–2, Jerusalem’s demise is penultimate (Isa 22), followed by the oracle against Tyre (Isa 23). Also, whereas Israel’s sin outweighs that of other nations in Amos 1–2, it is Babylon’s sin that stands out in Isa 13–23. To reiterate, MT Jeremiah uncharacteristically places the OAN at its conclusion (cf. Isa 46–52). According to Moon Kwon Chae, MT Jeremiah’s reordering of the OAN signifies a shifted tripartite structure (judgment against Judah in Isa 26–45, against the nations in chapters 46–49, and against Babylon in Isa 50–51), thereby making Jeremiah’s conclusion “a hopeful finale, with the oracles against Babylon at the end, through which Israel’s restoration will be brought forth.”33 This theme of hope at the end of MT Jeremiah opens Isaiah’s OAN, with the common motif of Babylon’s demise. Babylon is the ultimate target both in Jer 50–51 and Isa 13–14 (cf. Isa 21; 46–48). The declaration that “Babylon will sink, and not rise again” (Jer 51:64) resounds in the proclamation, “How you have fallen from heaven” (Isa 14:12; cf. 21:9). The shame placed upon Bel and Marduk (Jer 50:2) recurs in the humiliating cowering of Bel and Nebo (Isa 46:1). The admonition to “flee from Babylon” (Jer 50:8) will be echoed in the same call to “get out of Babylon” (Isa 48:20).34 Third, we should note that Isaiah’s OAN in the final form do not take the central place. Rather, for the entire book of sixty-six chapters, the OAN (Isa 13–23) function as another opening section, along with chapters 1–12. The twofold opening chapters (Isa 1–2) present the themes of the divine warning and restoration of Israel/Judah (Isa 1) and of nations/peoples, who will witness Yhwh’s exaltation over any haughty ones (Isa 2).35 Thus, the first section (Isa 1–12) addresses the calamity and renewal of Israel/Judah, as introduced in chapter 1. Then the second section (Isa 13–23) deals with the fates and ­fortunes of the nations, as introduced in chapter 2. In a nutshell, chapters 1–12 concern  Seitz, Isaiah 1–39, 121.   Note the same Hebrew words—“destroyers” and “betrayers”—in 21:2 and 33:1 (cf. 16:4). 33   Chae, “Redactional Intentions,” 590. 34   See Beuken, “Common and Different Phrases,” 53–73. See also Erlandsson, Burden, 154–159. 35  Kim, Reading Isaiah, 29–41. 31


66   Hyun Chul Paul Kim Zion, and chapters 13–23 concern Babylon (among other nations), and both signify the tales of two cities throughout the book of Isaiah.36 This initial strife between Babylon and Zion continues as strife between two cities (the “chaos city” and the “strong city,” Isa 24–27), two daughters (the “destroying city” Babylon and Zion, Isa 28–33), and two kingdoms (Edom and Judah, Isa 34–35). Such a dichotomous tension continues in Deutero-Isaiah’s anti-idol and anti-Babylon oracles (Isa 40–48), opposite the Servant Jacob-Israel and daughter Zion, with their offspring (Isa 49–57). The schism between the righteous (pious/penitent remnants) and the wicked (recalcitrant/corrupt leaders), especially within the community of post-exilic Yehud, concludes the book (Isa 58–66). Viewed as a whole, Isaiah’s central section lies in chapters 36–39, which bespeak the crises and deliverances both of the nation Judah under the Assyrian threat (Isa 36–37; cf. Ps 2:1–2) and of the individual Hezekiah from mortal disease (Isa 38; while foreshadowing the impending Babylonian exile in chapter 39; cf. Ps 103:1–2).37 Accordingly, this central section mirrors the contention between Babylon and Zion in the OAN in the contention between the Assyrian king Sennacherib and the Judean king Hezekiah. The overall themes accentuate human piety and trust in God rather than the military might, the ultimate restoration of Zion and of Yhwh worshippers over against daunting empires, and the incomparable control and sovereignty of God over all creatures.

3.4.  Key Messages To explore key messages of the OAN, a brief recap of the theories of the origin of the OAN in general may be in order. One theory is that they have a cultic origin that traces back to the Egyptian execration texts or to ancient Near Eastern treaty curses pronouncing doom against enemy rulers. This liturgical origin is often tied to the setting of the royal coronation ritual during the New Year’s festival against the mythological conflict “between chaos and cosmos.”38 Related to the cultic origin, scholars also posit the OAN as a response to lament psalms, and thus analogous to salvation oracles.39 Another theory finds the origin in the war oracles. Duane Christensen conjectures conceptual transformations of the war oracles that are closely associated with the holy war tradition, first into prophetic judgment speeches against both enemy nations and Israel (during the pre-exilic era, e.g., Amos 1–2) and then into the transhistorical shifts culminating in the eventual restoration of Zion (during the exilic era, e.g., Jeremiah’s OAN).40 These hypotheses of origin provide helpful background for retrieving key messages in the OAN. Although the itemization is by no means exhaustive, we can select the f­ ollowing   Davies, “Destiny”: “In a sense therefore the book of Isaiah is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ ” (p. 100).  Kim, Reading Isaiah, 165–167. 38   Geyer, “Another Look,” 87. See also Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, 9–10. 39   Hayes, “Usage,” 89–90. 40  Christensen, Prophecy and War, 281–283. See also Hagedorn, “Looking at Foreigners,” 432–448. 36 37

The Oracles against the Nations   67 themes from the OAN.41 First, these OAN pronounce divine judgment upon enemy nations, thereby implying the salvation of Israel/Judah. Put simply, the enemy’s (the oppressor’s) misfortune is our (the oppressed) fortune. The overwhelming majority of these texts contain prophetic oracles against the nations, not for them. In a sequential flow, whereas Israel and Judah were under the divine judgment in chapters 1–12, the horizon now expands to include many nations, especially those directly or indirectly involved in the hardships of Israel and Judah. For all their oppression and abuse, those nations are served with their just deserts. The fundamental Torah rule (cf. 1:10; 2:3) applies to all the nations in the world: justice (and consequence) first, and mercy afterward. The ideal of divine presence versus the reality of divine absence brings theodicy to the fore. Israel and Judah hear of the impending downfall of neighboring enemies, one after another. Israel and Judah, too, hear of their own downfall. Although the overall tone of these oracles is offensive to modern readers, we should be mindful that Israel and Judah were frequently the underdogs, bullied by superior neighboring forces. Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon were too dominant for the tiny kingdoms of Levant to take even a jab at them. Thus news that Assyria had been overtaken by Babylon, and then that Babylon had fallen, would have been a source of unflinching hope and meaning-making. Evil, in whatever form, must be conquered, overcome, blocked, denied, or, at least, exposed. As war oracles, the OAN may have inspired courage among a vulnerable, suffocated people. As cultic liturgies, the OAN may have represented the “curses” of the trampled, the resistance outcries of the voiceless.42 Rainer Albertz delineates this dual aspect of the OAN—curse on the enemy and salvation for Israel—as a unique byproduct of the exilic situations, “a radical shift from their preexilic function” to “a medium of retaliation against a superior opponent, invulnerable in the political arena.”43 Second, this criticism in the OAN includes Yhwh’s own people, particularly the privileged, powerful leaders of Israel and Judah, who are warned against joining foreign alliances. As in Amos 1–2, the OAN in Isaiah do include Jerusalem as one of the targets of divine judgment, which is not the case in Jeremiah or Ezekiel. In fact, if we exclude the oracle against Tyre (Isa 23), the oracle against Jerusalem (Isa 22) forms a climactic conclusion, much the same way the oracles against Judah and, ultimately, against northern Israel culminate in Amos 1–2. We should keep in mind that the primary (if not exclusive) audiences of the OAN, and of the entire book of Isaiah, were the Israelites/Judeans, and not the foreign nations. How, then, are we to make sense of this inclusion of Jerusalem in the list of nations under divine judgment? Two interpretive proposals deserve our attention, as both theories congruently condemn Israel’s and Judah’s privileged leaders. The first proposal outlines the implicit message of the OAN against relying on aid from foreign nations. Graham Hamborg even argues that the essential message of the 41   Davies, “Destiny”: “The book is more like a billboard on which different political parties or religious groups daub their slogans one on top of the other than a corpus which has a unified perspective” (p. 106). 42   Tremblay, “Comment comprendre”: “les oracles contre les nations étaient de l’ordre du souhait en contexte de conflit, de la prière à son dieu en contexte polythéiste, donc une arme politique et militaire” (p. 66).    43 Albertz, Israel in Exile, 185, 188.

68   Hyun Chul Paul Kim OAN is judgment on Israel, as opposed to salvation for Israel.44 Alliances with Philistia or Egypt against Assyria indicate that judgment on Philistia or Egypt includes judgment on Israel. This theory has been criticized because this kind of warning against coalition is neither frequent nor explicit in the OAN. Nevertheless, the anti-alliance message remains significant, as a similar message recurs in chapters 28–31.45 The second theory proposes that core nations in the OAN may betray polemics against urban elites. Though limited to the study on Zephaniah, Adele Berlin proposes intertextual correlations between the OAN in Zephaniah and the Table of Nations in Gen 10. Berlin argues that Philistia, Cush, and Assyria represent the descendants of Ham, denoting the Canaanites (Gen 10:6–20), who will become subservient to Israel, the descendant of Shem.46 Thus, Zephaniah contrasts the city-dwelling inhabitants of Assyria and Philistia, soon to become deserted lands and animal dens, with Judah’s rural shepherds, who will possess Moab and Ammon. Interestingly, in Isaiah’s OAN, we also find Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, and Cush. Isaiah, too, denounces these citydwelling nations. Notably, Jerusalem, the religio-political capital of the kingdom of Judah, is also indicted in Isaiah’s OAN (cf. Zeph 3:1–8). Here, too, the accusation of Shebna, the high royal official in Jerusalem, may underscore prophetic criticism against urban elites. Third, the OAN emphasize the underlying concept that Yhwh is the true King of all nations, whose plan controls the course of history.47 Readers learn that Assyria was a mere tool for carrying out God’s intention to punish his own people (10:5–6, 15). The implicit message in the OAN asserts that it is not the formidable empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, or Persia but God who controls the ebb and flow of world affairs as the true sovereign Lord of the world. Therefore, not only Israel or Judah, but all nations are under Yhwh’s reign and held accountable for their wrongdoings. Hence the theme of the “two-sidedness” of Yhwh, in that the God who punishes (or abandons or disengages insolent leaders and abusers of Jerusalem) for justice and righteousness is the very God who restores Jerusalem, taking the side of the poor, needy, and upright.48 We should note that MT Jeremiah’s OAN start with Egypt (Jer 46) and end with Babylon (Jer 50–51). In Isaiah’s OAN, which comprise ten oracles initiated by the 44   Hamborg, “Reasons,” 158. Consider also Marzouk, Egypt as a Monster: “For Ezekiel the political alliance between Egypt and Judah stands for religious apostasy” (p. 42). 45   In a recent study on the OAN of Ezekiel, Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, similarly concludes that, instead of the “implicit hope” or “hubris” themes, Ezekiel’s OAN represent the “oblique judgment” theme, criticizing Judah’s alliance with the “indictments directed obliquely at the people in Jerusalem, the capital city of the kingdom of Judah” (p. 18). 46   Berlin, “Zephaniah’s Oracle,” 181–183. 47   Crouch, “Ezekiel’s Oracles,” 479. Note also Amzallag and Avriel, “Cryptic Meaning”: “The Isaian poet approaches the fall of kingship, its divine legacy, and of the cult of dead kings as consequences of the abuse of power. . . . This led both to the deliverance of the nations from tyranny and to the acknowledgment of Yhwh as the God worshiped not only by the Israelites but by all the nations” (pp. 661–662). 48   Beuken, “Obdurate Short-Sightedness,” 57.

The Oracles against the Nations   69 c­ atchword “burden” (massa’; or “pronouncement” or “shout”), scholars identify two parallel columns: ‫( משא‬Named/Concrete Nations) 13:1 = Babylon (+ Assyria) 14:28 = Philistia 15:1 = Moab 17:1 = Syria/Ephraim + Cush 19:1 = Egypt

‫( משא‬Cryptic/Symbolic Nations) 21:1 = “the desert of the sea” (Babylon) 21:11 = Dumah 21:13 = “the desert plain” (Arabia) 22:1 = “the valley of vision” (Jerusalem; cf. 22:25) 23:1 = Tyre49

Both columns start with Babylon (“river”; nahar) and conclude with Egypt (“sea”; yamm) and Tyre (a seaport). Read together, two superpowers—Egypt and Babylon— take up the main stages of both hubris and impending humiliation.50 Steed Vernyl Davidson interprets these two poles—Egypt and Babylon—as “flip sides of a vinyl record” of survival through “escape and withdrawal” (exodus) and “adjustment and adaptation” (exile).51 The fact that Isaiah’s OAN have ten oracles may echo the ten plagues of the old Exodus tradition.52 Isaiah’s OAN, which start with Babylon, function to pick up MT Jeremiah’s OAN in intertextual dialogues, anticipating the new Exodus in Deutero-Isaiah: Yhwh who vanquished Egypt of the old Exodus will quell Babylon of the new Exodus. Furthermore, Csaba Balogh proposes that the structural frame of the “river” and the “sea” constructs Isa 13–23 as the royal “stele of Yhwh” (cf. 19:19). This format resembles the Mesopotamian royal stele, depicting the Assyrian king with his patron deity subjugating the entire range of the Mediterranean Sea (upper sea) and the Persian Gulf (lower sea). Isaiah’s OAN mirror this ideology and enlarge it to incorporate Egypt as well.53 Both structure and ideology thus underscore Yhwh as the true ruler of the world. Moreover, the two-part format of ten “burden” oracles may mirror the twofold format of the six-day creation in Gen 1. In the creation account, the first set of three days recurs in the second set with comparable contents. In Isaiah’s OAN, both columns start with Babylon and end with nations related to the sea. Interestingly, the word “chaos” (tohu) in Gen 1:2, in its anti-Babylon nuance, correlates with the “chaos (tohu) city” in Isa 24:10 (cf. 41:29; 44:9).54 Yhwh the creator (light and order) will contain and control Babylon (darkness and chaos).55 Additionally, according to Sweeney, the foreign nations in the list are those that were under “the hegemony of the Persian empire,” accentuating the 49   Kim, “Isaiah 22,” 14. Ulrich Berges, The Book of Isaiah, 126, 141, takes Isa 20 (narrative) to be the center of these two columns. 50   Likewise, Ezekiel’s OAN devote substantial portions to Tyre (Ezek 26–28) and Egypt (Ezek 29–32), as opposed to other neighboring nations (Ezek 25). The theme of pride accentuates the downfall of Tyre and Egypt in Ezekiel.    51 Davidson, Empire and Exile, 172–176. 52  Kim, Reading Isaiah, 79.   53 Balogh, Stele of Yhwh, 348–349. 54   Ahn, “Story and Memory,” 336–338. 55   See Berges, Book of Isaiah, 137. Geyer, “Mythology,” elucidates this mythological correlation: “(a) in terms of the myth, [Yhwh] subdues the waters of chaos, and (b) in terms of history, [Yhwh] overcomes the nations” (p. 145).

70   Hyun Chul Paul Kim message that it is not Marduk, Ahuramaza, or the Persian king but Yhwh from Zion who controls the world.56 Instead of Pax Persica, Isaiah’s OAN proclaim Pax Yhwh. Fourth, the OAN expound the theme of hubris, especially the vain glory and daunting splendor of the empires.57 This message of pride describes two related rivalries: Yhwh versus Babylon, as well as Zion versus Babylon. On the one hand, the message intensifies the polemical contrast between Yhwh and Babylon.58 Isaiah’s OAN explicitly single out the Babylonian empire, which brackets the core portions of the OAN (Isa 13–14; 21; cf. 23:13). Just as Yhwh accuses Assyria of its arrogance (10:12), now at the outset Babylon hears its own downfall (13:11). The taunt of the king of Assyria rings aloud with his vain insolence (10:8–11, 13-14; cf. 14:24–27; 37:22–29), which now echoes more intensely with the harshest taunt song against the king of Babylon (14:4–21). Comparing Frantz Fanon with this prophet, Christopher Hays avers the rhetorical value of the tyrant’s demise: “The desecration of the king’s corpse is another aspect of the Isaianic song’s curse . . . . The death of the ruler signifies life for others.”59 The prophetic decry against this tyrannical empire anticipates its humiliating collapse, proclaimed in chapters 46–47, while vanquishing Babylon’s pride traces back to the thesis-like introduction in chapter 2, which ascertains that Yhwh alone will be exalted over all that is haughty (2:12–17). On the other hand, the message against the empire’s empty pride sharpens the polemical contrast between Zion and Babylon. Admittedly, in Isaiah’s OAN, neither Samaria (17:3–6) nor Jerusalem (Isa 22) is exempt from the divine judgment. Nonetheless, whereas the OAN include small hints of future restoration for many nations, Babylon’s demise is irreversible. Assyria and Egypt can find hope for a peaceful future (19:20–25; cf. 18:7). Tyre, too, can expect a glimmer of hope (23:17–18). But not Babylon. Unlike other empires, Babylon’s doom is final and complete. The remnants of Israel and Judah will have a restorative future, but Babylon’s future is naught. The OAN present the tale of two cities—Zion versus Babylon. In the fundamental confrontation between daughter Zion and daughter Babylon, the former, with Israel’s remnants, will receive compassion (14:1) but not the latter. Indeed, the prophet likens Babylon’s fate to that of “Sodom and Gomorrah” (13:19), just as daughter Zion, too, is compared to “Sodom and Gomorrah” (1:8–9). However, unlike Babylon, a dramatic rescue remains open to Zion (cf. 14:1–3; 18:7).60 The promise of refuge and restoration is 56  Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39, 216–217. Steed Davidson, “Violence,” unveils the ideological undercurrents of the OAN: “The oracles conscript support for Persia as the divinely chosen superpower and guarantor of peace from among Yehud’s elite, while at the same time convincing those elites that Persian ruler bodes well both for Yehud’s security and its vested territorial interests” (pp. 24–25). 57   Hamborg, “Reasons,” 158. Conrad, Reading Isaiah: “The Lord’s planned warfare against the nations is against the proud . . . in all the earth” (p. 59). 58   Babylon is not the only nation condemned for its hubris. The prophet’s staunch rebuke includes Moab’s pride (16:6, 14), Jacob’s glory (17:4), and Tyre’s haughtiness (23:9), just like that of Assyria (cf. 10:12; 37:23–29). However, in the present form of Isaiah’s OAN, Babylon stands out as the main target. 59   Hays, “Isaiah as Colonized Poet,” 62. 60   Concerning the thematic contrast between Zion and Damascus/Samaria, see Beuken, “Damascus”: “The composition of chapters 17–18 opens where ‘Damascus is removed from being a city [. . .] the fortress (Samaria) will disappear from Ephraim’ (Isa 17:1–3) and it ends with ‘the place of the name of Yhwh of hosts, Mount Zion’ (18:7)” (p. 77).

The Oracles against the Nations   71 available to the afflicted and needy of Zion (14:32; 16:1), with a righteous judge from the tent of David (16:4–5) and rejuvenated hope in God for the faithful community (17:7). The motif of restoration of remnants distinguishes the fates of the two cities, which will be further developed in chapters 24–27 (between the “strong city” and the “chaos city”). Fifth, the OAN’s prophetic announcement against the nations contains the tendency of abstracting away from concrete historical referents, such as the shifts from Babylon to any dominating empires as well as from the tension of specific nations versus Israel to that of the wicked/powerful versus the righteous/afflicted.61 The resulting message of judgment and hope thus applies to different audiences across generations and geography. Besides the fact that most rulers of the nations are not specified (except 20:1), many clues for chronological events, regimes, or locales are missing. Redactionally, John Barton elucidates that this generalizing tendency moves “to the point where we can no longer at all readily ask whether or not its predictions or warnings were ‘correct.’ ”62 As Beuken elucidates, “The oracle’s lack of sufficient historical references thus facilitated its multiple application. It could be used on any occasion when the question of international policy was urgent, whether the danger came from Assyria, Egypt, or Babylonia.”63 Considering that the final forms of the OAN were most likely addressed to post-exilic Judeans, the fluidity in the message makes it clear that God will deal equally with any arrogant, formidable empire which tries to oppress God’s people. At the same time, the setting of the post-exilic community points to the increasing internal sociopolitical and religious tensions, whether in Yehud or in diasporic communities. In the OAN, most Assyrian, Egyptian, and Babylonian kings are unnamed, and the poor, needy, and remnants remain abstract and universal. In fact, even the exact identities or the historical information on the officials—Shebna and Eliakim—in ­chapter  22 seems dubious.64 Through this universalizing tendency, the message is ­applicable to ongoing post-exilic generations with divine reassurance for the upright amid rampant abuses by the reprobate. Sixth, despite unhindered accusations against the unruly nations, and against Judah’s own capital, the OAN do signify radical, even paradoxical, inclusion of foreigners and outsiders. Here, as elsewhere in Isaiah, we have a fluid conceptual tension between particularism and universalism.65 The hermeneutical premise goes as follows: just as Yhwh punishes the nations, so Yhwh can punish Israel and Judah; conversely, “the nations’ destiny in relation to Yhwh is thus not so different from Israel’s destiny,”66 in that the divine concern and care for Israel/Judah can be extended to the nations (cf. Jonah 4:10–11). Concerning the various passages that denote the message of inclusion, scholars propose at least two interpretive perspectives. On the one hand, those “salvific” (as opposed   Geyer, “Mythology”: “One outstanding fact is that direct historic reference is lacking in the major collections (IJE [= Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel])” (p. 136). 62  Barton, Isaiah 1–39, 89. Note also Beuken, “Must Philistia”: “To a certain extent, therefore, Philistia loses its ethnic identity and becomes a symbol for the adversaries of Zion in general . . . In the fact of every world power, only Jerusalem will hold firm as a place of refuge” (p. 56). 63   Beuken, “Must Philistia,” 59.    64  Na’aman, “Violation,” 464–465. 65   Peels, “You Shall Certainly Drink,” 87–88.    66  Goldingay, “Theology of Isaiah,” 183. 61

72   Hyun Chul Paul Kim to “judgmental”) oracles in Isaiah, including those in the OAN, predominantly (if not exclusively) concern the Judean diasporas exiled or dispersed throughout the world rather than foreigners.67 This perspective may appear to be exclusive, but taken from the context of later Persian and Hellenistic diasporic environs, when the dislocated descendants would have to wrestle with dual or multiple ethnic, linguistic, and cultural identities, the message of their restoration can be an inclusive one. We have numerous contract documents from Elephantine in the upper Nile of Egypt that portray the Jews struggling to preserve their identity with or without the temple, ritual, and Torah. Later Second Temple literature depicts the lifestyles of the Jews in Alexandria, in the lower Nile of Egypt, who had to deal with the complexities of Egyptian, Alexandrian, Persian, Greek, and Hebrew/Jewish cultural, religious, and political identities.68 Accordingly, concerning the texts of radical transformation of Egypt and Assyria (19:18–25), Richard Schultz notes, “What is most striking here is . . . that this occurs far away from Mount Zion and without a mediating role being played by Israel.”69 On the other hand, these gloss-like passages in the present form (especially, “on that day” passages with eschatological notions in both the OAN section and Isa 24–27) signify a universalistic outlook, inclusive of foreigners, outsiders, and, later, even proselytes.70 Whether these texts intended concern for non-Judeans or not, they point to ideals beyond the immediate contexts or audiences. It is as though the prophetic oracles that originally solely addressed the people of Israel/Judah have been expanded to attract larger audiences. These ideals of unity and harmony align with the ideals of the peaceable kingdom (11:1–9). Likewise, alongside the comparable passages in Isa 40–66, inasmuch as the nations are to be subdued and chastised, they are also offered the possibility of inclusion in the divine care and blessing (cf. Gen 12:1–3) going back to the thesis-statement in Isa 2:1–4: “This [19:18–25; cf. 27:12–13] is more than the personal faith in adversity enjoined on Judeans by the prophet in chapters 1–12; it is a stunning picture of the nations coming to worship the God of Israel (cf. 2:3).”71 The OAN do not stop at the resolute curses of enemy oppressors, but also envision the possibility of their shalom. Seventh, the OAN penetrate the message of ecology (earth) and economy (food)— two of the most basic elements of human and animal existence—that are intertwined with human actions (e.g., war, destruction, and usurpation). Ironically, issues around ecology and economy are alarmingly pertinent in today’s industrialized capitalistic world as well. As in other sections, the OAN frequently describe the divine judgment in   Croatto, “Nations,” 145; note also on p. 159: “Nothing here implies the inclusion of a universalistic message of salvation for the nations. On the contrary, such a message is strongly excluded.” Kaiser, Isaiah 13–39, 73, interprets 16:4–5 that “this hope is really of comfort only to the Jews. . . . It is of no benefit to the Moabites.”    68 Cohen, Beginnings of Jewishness, 1–10. 69   Schultz, “Nationalism and Universalism,” 134. Consider also Raabe, “Prophetic Oracles”: “But the OAN can also envisage benefits for the nations themselves” (p. 239). 70  Berges, Book of Isaiah, 142–178. Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, likewise interprets 16:1–5 against the post-exilic setting that, as opposed to salvation only for Israel, salvation is “for other peoples also” (p. 145). 71   Johnston, “Faith in Isaiah,” 112. 67

The Oracles against the Nations   73 terms of the devastation of natural resources: crops fail; the fertile fields languish because of drought; famine affects animals and humans alike; and the cities lie devastated. One may, then, wonder whether and how these natural disasters, often depicted as having been caused by God, have anything to do with human beings? Admittedly, many of the described calamities seem beyond human control. However, beneath the rhetorical aspects of the poetic expressions, much of the content pertaining to food and loss is intrinsically related to the “ecocide” of ancient Near Eastern warfare, such as blocking water resources, hacking down fruit trees, and stealing massive resources (e.g., Isa 15:5–6).72 In light of the “imperial-retributive” schema of the prophet’s theo-political rhetoric, Andrew Abernethy expounds numerous descriptions of food as both punishment and restoration by Yhwh, through the agents of the empires.73 In the OAN, the sword “devours” the Babylonians (13:15; 14:19). The vines of Sibmah, as famous as “the Napa Valley of Moab,” come to ruin, and their harvests are not pressed into wine, depicting the invading army’s demolition of the vineyards (16:8–10).74 Harvests in Damascus and Samaria are devastated as well (17:5–6). Birds and beasts will consume the fruits and branches of Cush (18:4–6). Frenzied feasting amid siege and starvation hauntingly portrays societies gone awry both in Babylon (21:5) and in Jerusalem (22:11–13), which connotes that “through similarities with Babylon’s inappropriate feasting in 21:5, Isa 22:12 places Jerusalem on par with the Babylonians.”75 Tyre, once equated with the “harvest of the Nile” (23:3), will undergo economic collapse and starvation (23:17–18). These depictions address ecology and economy, as the depletion of agricultural resources accompanies the collapse of sustenance and nourishment, largely due to the empire’s siege attack and destruction. Underneath the prophet’s warnings of impending judgment lie vehement criticism and outrage against destructive human violence. The role of the empires as tools for the divine purpose do not excuse their human decisions to devastate fields in siege warfare, usurp crops from subjugated people, or brutally massacre their fellow human beings.76 Through the principle of tit for tat, lex talionis, history has shown that the misery visited on others by the cruelty of those with immense power and wealth is ultimately also visited on them. The evil of greed, overindulgence, and oppression by the powers that be (e.g., the empires) have caused unimaginable pain to many, as well as the unalterable devastation of the earth. The fundamental remedy, according to the prophet, is to do good in both domestic and international realms (1:16–17). Thus the OAN reiterate the historical events of calamity and restoration by way of the most tangible hardships of agrarian starvation and societal devastation vis-à-vis the theology of food and war: “If you agree and obey, you will eat the good of the earth; but if you refuse and disobey, you will be eaten by the sword” (1:19–20).   Wright, “Warfare,” 423–424, 456–457.    73 Abernethy, Eating in Isaiah, 54–93.  Abernethy, 61.   75  Abernethy, 63. 76   Wazana, “War Crimes,” 500–501, interprets Amos’s OAN as the prophetic criticism against “abuse of power” that “went too far” with “excess cruelty.” 72 74

74   Hyun Chul Paul Kim

3.5. Conclusion The OAN (Isa 13–23) form an essential fulcrum for the whole book of Isaiah, akin to the careful placement of each act in a play or each scene in an opera. As with the crucial compositional and rhetorical place and function of chapters 1–12, the OAN, too, fulfill essential roles in the book of Isaiah as a whole. That is, the OAN cannot be interpreted fully without chapters 1–12, and vice versa, and the OAN connect in linguistic and thematic mutuality to subsequent chapters as well. As the essay has delineated, the OAN present key messages that are as significant as those of other sections of the book. Rooted in the ancient cultic oracle and war oracle traditions, Isaiah’s OAN represent the prophet’s outcry against abusive powers, whether powerful empires (against their oppression and hubris), domestic rulers (against their tendency to rely on foreign alliances at the expense of the poor among their own people), or “busybody” apostates (against the never-ending wicked groups).77 Nevertheless, the OAN do not stop at casting these staunch condemnations against evil; they also envision resolute futures of peace over war, hope over despair, and inclusion over exclusion. This inclusive hope, in the impending kingdom of God, is open to the descendants of Israel/Judah and even to foreign nations, while the reprobate are excluded, whether Jews or non-Jews. What does the study of the OAN offer to biblical scholarship? The OAN present the value of both diachronic and synchronic studies. Instead of chopping away variant segments, the redaction analysis of the distinct strata can inform how each generation struggled to preserve the inherited traditions, adapted to shifting contexts, and reapplied them to new challenges and aspirations.78 Furthermore, the synchronic approach points out the importance of literary and thematic comparisons of Isaiah’s OAN with the OAN of other prophetic books. The intertextual study of the various yet comparable OAN among the prophetic books can yield significant insights. Moreover, the historical, cultural, and political issues inherent in the OAN invite interpreters to read these prophetic texts in dialogue with the pertinent issues of exile, empire, colonialism, war, trauma, theodicy, justice, peace, and so on. The ancient messages of the OAN are startlingly, and inspiringly, relevant to the history, sociology, politics, economy, ecology, theology, and more, of the twenty-first century world.

Bibliography Abernethy, Andrew  T. Eating in Isaiah: Approaching the Role of Food and Drink in Isaiah’s Structure and Message. BIS 131. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Ahn, John. “Story and Memory: Old Testament.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology, vol. 2, edited by Samuel  E.  Balentine, 332–343. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.  Boer, Sacred Economy: “Tyre is a little kingdom that embodies the status of the middleman or busybody” (p. 175).    78  Sanders, “Adaptable to Life,” 551. 77

The Oracles against the Nations   75 Albertz, Rainer. Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century b.c.e. Translated by David Green. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2003. Amzallag, Nissim, and Mikhal Avriel. “The Cryptic Meaning of the Isaiah 14 Māšāl.” JBL 131 (2012): 643–662. Balogh, Csaba. The Stele of Yhwh in Egypt: The Prophecies of Isaiah 18–20 concerning Egypt and Kush. OtSt 60. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Barton, John. Isaiah 1–39. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1995. Begg, Christopher T. “Babylon in the Book of Isaiah.” In The Book of Isaiah/Le livre d’Isaïe: Les oracles et leurs relectures unité et complexité de l’ouvrage, edited by Jacques Vermeylen, 121–125. BETL 81. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1989. Berges, Ulrich F. The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition and Final Form. Translated by Millard C. Lind. HBM 46. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2012. Berlin, Adele. “Zephaniah’s Oracle against the Nations and an Israelite Cultural Myth.” In Fortunate the Eyes That See: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of His Seventieth Birthday, edited by Astrid  B.  Beck, Andrew  A.  Bartelt, Paul  R.  Raabe, and Chris A. Franke, 175–184. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995. Beuken, Willem A. M. “Common and Different Phrases for Babylon’s Fall and Its Aftermath in Isaiah 13–14 and Jeremiah 50–51.” In Concerning the Nations: Essays on the Oracles against the Nations in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, edited by Andrew Mein, Else Kragelund Holt, and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, 53–73. LHBOTS 612. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014. Beuken, Willem A. M. “From Damascus to Mount Zion: A Journey through the Land of the Harvester (Isaiah 17–18).” In “Enlarge the Site of Your Tent”: The City as Unifying Theme in Isaiah; the Isaiah Workshop—De Jesaja Werkplaats, edited by Archibald  L.  H.  M.  van Wieringen and Annemarieke van der Woude, 63–80. OtSt 58. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Beuken, Willem A. M. “Must Philistia Carry on Wailing? The Enduring Message of a Prophetic Oracles Addressed to a Hostile Nation (Isa. 14.28–32).” In What Is It That the Scripture Says? Essays in Biblical Interpretation, Translation, and Reception in Honour of Henry Wansbrough, edited by Philip McCosker, 50–59. LNTS 316. London: T&T Clark, 2006. Beuken, Willem A. M. “Obdurate Short-Sightedness in the Valley of Vision: How Atonement of Iniquity Is Forfeited (Isa 22:1–14).” In One Text, a Thousand Methods: Studies in Memory of Sjef van Tilborg, edited by Patrick Chatelion Counet and Ulrich Berges, 45–63. BIS 71. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Beuken, Willem  A.  M. “A Song of Gratitude and a Song of Malicious Delight: Is Their Consonance Unseemly? The Coherence of Isaiah Chs. 13–14 with Chs. 11–12 and Chs. 1–2.” In Das Manna fällt auch heute noch: Beiträge zur Geschichte und Theologie des Alten, Ersten Testaments: Festschrift für Erich Zenger, edited by Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger, 96–114. HBS 44. Freiburg: Herder, 2004. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 1–39. AB 19. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Boadt, Lawrence. “Re-examining a Preexilic Redaction of Isaiah 1–39.” In Imagery and Imagination in Biblical Literature: Essays in Honor of Aloysius Fitzgerald, F.S.C., edited by Lawrence Boadt and Mark  S.  Smith, 169–190. CBQMS 32. Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2001. Boer, Roland. The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel. LAI. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2015. Chae, Moon Kwon. “Redactional Intentions of MT Jeremiah concerning the Oracles against the Nations.” JBL 134, no. 3 (2015): 577–593. Chae, Moon Kwon. “Theological Reflections on the Oracles against the Nations.” HBT 37 (2015): 158–169.

76   Hyun Chul Paul Kim Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001. Christensen, Duane L. Prophecy and War in Ancient Israel: Studies in the Oracles against the Nations in Old Testament Prophecy. Berkeley, CA: BIBAL Press, 1975. Clements, Ronald E. Isaiah 1–39. NCBC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980. Cohen, Shaye J. D. The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Collins, John J. The Invention of Judaism: Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. Conrad, Edgar W. Reading Isaiah. OBT. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991. Cook, Paul M. A Sign and a Wonder: The Redactional Formation of Isaiah 18–20. VTS 147. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Croatto, J. Severino. “The ‘Nations’ in the Salvific Oracles of Isaiah.” VT 55 (2005): 143–161. Crouch, C. L. “Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations in Light of a Royal Ideology of Warfare.” JBL 130 (2011): 473–192. Davidson, Steed Vernyl. Empire and Exile: Postcolonial Readings of the Book of Jeremiah. LHBOTS 542. New York: T&T Clark, 2011. Davidson, Steed Vernyl. “Violence in National Security Arrangements: The Case of the United States, the Caribbean, and the Nations in the Oracles against the Nations.” In La Violencia and the Hebrew Bible: The Politics and Histories of Biblical Hermeneutics on the American Continent, edited by Susanne Scholz and Pablo  R.  Andiñach, 13–37. Semeia Studies 82. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2016. Davies, Graham. “The Destiny of the Nations in the Book of Isaiah.” In The Book of Isaiah/Le livre d’Isaïe: Les oracles et leurs relectures unité et complexité de l’ouvrage, edited by Jacques Vermeylen, 93–120. BETL 81. Leuven: Peeters, 1989. Erlandsson, Seth. The Burden of Babylon: A Study of Isaiah 13:2–14:23. Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1970. Erlandsson, Seth. “Burden of Babylon: A Study of Isaiah 13:2–14:23.” Springfielder 38 (1974): 1–12. Geyer, John  B. “Another Look at the Oracles about the Nations in the Hebrew Bible: A Response to A. C. Hagedorn.” VT 59 (2009): 80–87. Geyer, John  B. “Mythology and Culture in the Oracles against the Nations.” VT 36 (1986): 129–145. Goldingay, John. “The Theology of Isaiah.” In Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches, edited by David G. Firth and H. G. M. Williamson, 168–190. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009. Hagedorn, Anselm C. “Looking at Foreigners in Biblical and Greek Prophecy.” VT 57 (2007): 432–148. Hamborg, Graham  R. “Reasons for Judgement in the Oracles against the Nations of the Prophet Isaiah.” VT 31 (1981): 145–159. Hayes, John. “The Usage of Oracles against Foreign Nations in Ancient Israel.” JBL 87 (1968): 81–92. Hays, Christopher B. “Isaiah as Colonized Poet: His Rhetorical of Death in Conversation with African Postcolonial Writers.” In Isaiah and Imperial Context: The Book of Isaiah in the Times of Empire, edited by Andrew  T.  Abernethy, Mark  G.  Brett, Tim Bulkeley, and Tim J. Meadowcroft, 51–70. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013. Jenkins, Allan K. “The Development of the Isaiah Tradition in Isaiah 13–23.” In The Book of Isaiah/Le livre d’Isaïe: Les oracles et leurs relectures unité et complexité de l’ouvrage, edited by Jacques Vermeylen, 237–251. BETL 81. Leuven: Peeters, 1989.

The Oracles against the Nations   77 Johnston, Philip S. “Faith in Isaiah.” In Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches, edited by David  G.  Firth and H.  G.  M.  Williamson, 104–121. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009. Kaiser, Otto. Isaiah 13–39. Translated by Richard A. Wilson. OTL. London: SCM Press, 1974. Kim, Hyun Chul Paul. “City, Earth, and Empire in Isaiah 24–27.” In Formation and Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27, edited by J. Todd Hibbard and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, 25–48. SBLAIL 17. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2013. Kim, Hyun Chul Paul. “Isaiah 22: A Crux or a Clue in Isaiah 13–23?” In Concerning the Nations: Essays on the Oracles against the Nations in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, edited by Andrew Mein, Else Kragelund Holt, and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, 3–18. LHBOTS 612. London: T&T Clark, 2015. Kim, Hyun Chul Paul. Reading Isaiah: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2016. Lee, Jongkyung. A Redactional Study of the Book of Isaiah 13–23. OTRM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Lee, Lydia. Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations. ANEM 15. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2016. Lessing, R. Reed. Interpreting Discontinuity: Isaiah’s Tyre Oracle. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2004. Marzouk, Safwat. Egypt as a Monster in the Book of Ezekiel. FAT II/76. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. Melugin, Roy F. “Isaiah 40–66 in Recent Research: The ‘Unity’ Movement.” In Recent Research on the Major Prophets, edited by Alan J. Hauser and Schuyler Kaufman, 142–194. RRBS 1. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2008. Na’aman, Nadav. “A Violation of Royal Prerogative: The Shebna Prophecy (Isaiah 22.15–19) in Context.” JSOT 40 (2016): 451–465. Peels, H. G. L. “ ‘You Shall Certainly Drink!’: The Place and Significance of the Oracles against the Nations in the Book of Jeremiah.” EuroJTh 16 (2007): 81–91. Raabe, Paul R. “Why Prophetic Oracles against the Nations?” In Fortunate the Eyes That See: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of His Seventieth Birthday, edited by Astrid  B.  Beck, Andrew  A.  Bartelt, Paul  R.  Raabe, and Chris  A.  Franke, 165–183. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995. Sanders, James A. “Adaptable to Life: The Nature and Function of Canon.” In Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God: Essays on the Bible and Archaeology in Memory of G. Ernest Wright, edited by Frank Moore Cross, Werner E. Lemke, and Patrick D. Miller Jr., 531–560. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976. Schultz, Richard L. “Nationalism and Universalism in Isaiah.” In Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches, edited by David G. Firth and H. G. M. Williamson, 122–144. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009. Seitz, Christopher R. Isaiah 1–39. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1993. Stromberg, Jacob. An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah. T & T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies. London: T&T Clark, 2011. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–39. FOTL 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Tremblay, Hervé. “Comment comprendre les oracles contre les nations chez les prophètes?” Science et Esprit 67 (2015): 51–68. Tull, Patricia K. Isaiah 1–39. SHBC 14a. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010. Wazana, Nili. “ ‘War Crimes’ in Amos’s Oracles against the Nations (Amos 1:3–2:3).” In Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature: Essays on the Ancient Near East in Honor of Peter

78   Hyun Chul Paul Kim Machinist, edited by David S. Vanderhooft and Abraham Winitzer, 479–501. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 13–27. Translated by Thomas  H.  Trapp. CC. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1997. Williamson, H.  G.  M. The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994. Wright, Jacob  L. “Warfare and Wonton Destruction: A Reexamination of Deuteronomy 20:19–20 in Relation to Ancient Siegecraft.” JBL 127 (2008): 423–458.

chapter 4

Isa i a h 2 4–27: Th e So - Ca l l ed Isa i a h A poca ly pse J. TODD Hibbard

4.1. Introduction The book of Isaiah presents critical interpreters with a variety of issues that call for investigation. It is arguably the case that no section within the book encapsulates so many of these issues as chapters 24–27, the so-called Isaiah Apocalypse. These four chapters are nestled between two larger recognized sections in the scroll of Isaiah, the Oracles against the Nations (Isa 13–23) and the Assyrian oracles (Isa 28–32). Though they are generally not thought to come from Isaiah himself, the chapters nevertheless fit nicely in the Isaian theological and literary world. The four-chapter section opens with an ominous warning that Yhwh is about to lay waste and despoil the land/earth,1 an act that will affect all regardless of religious, social, or economic status (24:1–3). The first section continues (24:4–13) by stating that a curse decimates the natural world, especially viticulture, because people have violated a perpetual covenant (‫)ברית עולם‬. Human joy ceases as a result. The unit continues by introducing an unnamed city characterized by desolation and chaos.2 Another brief section commences with an abrupt change of tone and content: an unspecified “they” sing and praise Yhwh throughout the world (24:14–16a). This contrasts with a first-person voice (“I”) lamenting ongoing treachery (24:16b–c).3 Finally, the unit closes on another 1  The term ‫ ארץ‬occurs twenty-three times in these four chapters. Its meaning is not always clear, however. In some cases, it appears to mean “earth”; in others, “land” seems to be the best definition. Additionally, the term ‫תבל‬, “world” occurs four times in these chapters (24:4; 26:9, 18; 27:6); it only occurs twelve times total in the latter prophets (nine of which are in Isaiah). 2  For more on the unnamed, anonymous city, see section 3.1 of this chapter. 3  Isa 24:16b is difficult and unclear. Indeed, the LXX of the text is entirely different, suggesting either a different Vorlage or an intentional change.

80   J. TODD Hibbard f­oreboding note: the earth’s/land’s inhabitants cannot escape. Indeed, the earth/land staggers like a drunkard, soon to fall and never to rise again (24:17–20). A brief second unit begins with an “on that day” (‫ )ביום ההוא‬formula announcing Yhwh’s intention to punish heavenly and earthly rulers by imprisoning them (24:21–23). This marks Yhwh’s royal reign in Jerusalem. The next section, 25:1–5, makes up one of the two songs in these chapters (the other is 26:1–6). This first song celebrates Yhwh’s “wonderful plans” (‫)פלא עצות‬, which in this case apparently refer to the destruction of the unnamed city (25:2). The speaker limns that Yhwh’s actions constituted shelter from the ruthless inhabitants of the foreign city.4 It is followed in 25:6–10a with an announcement that Yhwh has prepared a sumptuous feast for all peoples (likely a continuation of 24:21–23). This accompanies the notice that Yhwh will swallow Death (‫)מות‬, which is probably an allusion to the Canaanite deity Mot,5 and a pronouncement that Yhwh will wipe away all tears. The following statement, 25:9–10a, presents the voice of the community (first-person plural) declaring that they have waited for Yhwh’s salvation, made manifest in his hand which has come to rest “on this mountain”—that is, Zion. Isa 24:21–23 and 25:6–10a make the case for Yhwh’s sovereignty over all other heavenly and cosmic forces while simultaneously expressing his benevolence for humankind. All this activity unsurprisingly occurs on Mount Zion (24:23; 25:10a; cf. 2:3). An expected skewering of Moabites in 25:10b–12 portrays residents of a Moabite city being brought low because of their pride. Whatever its origin and purpose, this text contains one of the few references to a known geopolitical entity in these chapters. Finally, a second song follows in praise of the “strong city” found in Judah (26:1–6). The psalm anticipates its gates opening to welcome the righteous nation (‫)גוי צדיק‬. This city appears to be the counterpart to the former fortified city, now a heap (25:2). Additionally, the poor and needy who were provided refuge in the earlier psalm here trample the city brought low (25:5; cf. 26:6), using language found also in the anti-Moabite passage (‫שחח‬ and ‫)שפל‬. How the origin of these disparate texts relate is unclear, but in the final form of the MT as it now exists they appear connected. In the longest unit in these chapters, 26:7–19, the community pleads with Yhwh to intervene on its behalf against the wicked who appear not to acknowledge Yhwh and, rather, enjoy favor. By contrast, the community confesses that Yhwh has ordained well-being for it even if it is failing to experience it at present. The section contains an interesting claim that has sometimes been read as an early affirmation of resurrection (26:19), but the dead here more likely represent the community or nation (cf. Ezek 37:1–14). The section concludes with a brief two-verse admonition to the community to “take cover” until Yhwh’s wrath against the earth’s/land’s inhabitants because of their violence ceases (26:20–21). The final chapter of our text begins with the first of three “on that day” proclamations in chapter 27, one that again calls to mind earlier Canaanite mythic traditions but 4  The reading ‫ארמון זרים‬, “foreign fortress,” in 25:2 has an alternative in two Hebrew manuscripts and the LXX suggesting ‫זדים‬, “arrogant.” 5  See Cho and Fu, “Death and Feasting.” A slightly different view has recently been put forward by William Barker, who sees the reference to either personified or demythologized “death,” with Mot in the background. See Barker, Isaiah’s Kingship Polemic, 30–68.

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   81 refracted through ancient Israel’s religio-mythic traditions. Leviathan of the sea will be punished by Yhwh (27:1; cf. Ps 74:13–14). The second “on that day” passage features Yhwh intoning about his “pleasant vineyard”—that is, Israel (27:2–6; cf. 5:1–7). He acts as its keeper, placing the vineyard under an obligation to produce the proper growth; failure to do so will require the keeper (Yhwh) to destroy it. This gives way to a prophetic rumination about the cause and purpose of divine punishment against Israel (27:7–11). We encounter here reflections on exile, cultic acts, and Israel’s general failure to understand. The chapter is rounded off with a third and final “on that day” pronouncement, this time a declaration of Yhwh’s intention to re-gather exiles from Assyria and Egypt to Jerusalem (27:12­–13). This relatively brief overview of chapters 24–27 reveals how disparate their contents are. They possess first-person singular, first-person plural, and third-person speaking voices, and contain allusions to nonbiblical West Semitic myth and both prophetic and hymnic poetry, just to name a few features of their literary diversity. That said, the chapters are linguistically and thematically congruent with much else that we find in Isaiah (e.g., cf. 11:11–16 and 27:12–13). Before concluding this discussion, something should be said about the placement of these chapters in the larger book. Simply put, why do these chapters appear here in the book? This question is important for two reasons: first, Isaiah displays a complex and intentional literary architecture, which implies that the placement of the chapters must serve some purpose; second, nearly all scholars recognize that these chapters are a later redactional addition to the book. The section follows the Oracles against the Nations, a collection of nine massaot (“oracles”) as well as supplementary material in Isa 13–23 that is primarily about foreign nations. The section precedes a series of Isaianic oracles in chapters 28–32,6 mostly critical of Israel’s and Judah’s political actions and frequently linked to political and military events of the eighth century bce. Chapters 13–23 show evidence of redactional assemblage. Scholars argue that materials in these chapters can be linked with the eighth through the sixth centuries (at least). Chapters 28–32, by contrast, show fewer signs of redaction in a much later period. The five woe sayings (28:1–4; 29:1–4, 15–16; 30:1–5; 31:1–3) constitute the scaffolding upon which the remainder of the section sits. These have been supplemented with other sayings that are reflective of the late eighth-century Assyrian crises, none of which requires us to see them as substantially later. Hence, unless we adopt the view that chapters 24–27 originated in the earliest period of the book’s development, we are left to conclude that this material was added after chapters 13–23* and 28–32. Why was it added at its present location in the book?7 One possibility sees these chapters rounding off the Oracles against the Nations with a universal perspective.8 This view is based, in part, on the absence of specific nations from the chapters (largely), 6  Scholars are divided about how far this unit extends. Minimally, it ends at chapter 31, though some extend the unit to chapter 33 or chapter 35. 7  It should be noted that this question must be addressed even if one sees these chapters as an early submission to the Isaiah scroll. 8 Berges, Jesaja, 139–198; see also Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 346–347.

82   J. TODD Hibbard s­ eemingly replaced by a universal perspective (based on the number of times ‫ ארץ‬and ‫ תבל‬occur). Against this view, we must acknowledge that this explanation accords better with Isa 24–26 than with chapter 27. Collins casts doubt on the idea that these chapters were composed to provide a literary conclusion to the Oracles against the Nations, because the emphasis on the ‫( קרית תהו‬24:10) and the reference to the “disgrace of his people” (25:8) “bespeak an existential situation that gave rise to these oracles.”9 It is not clear, however, that seeing the chapters as having a literary and structural function in the book must be understood in opposition to their having an existential origin. Both can be true. This is the position argued by Willem A. M. Beuken, who sees literary connections with chapters 13–23 and 1–12 but also as originating in the aftermath of the conquest of Jerusalem.10 One consistent theme of chapters 13–23 is Yhwh’s sovereignty over the nations, an idea driven home forcefully in chapter 24. Elsewhere in the remaining chapters one sees literary linkages with chapters 11 and 12. Though there is not space here to work out all of the connections in detail, suffice it to say that literary and theological associations with passages in Isa 1–12 and 13–23 suggest that 24–27 were in some sense positioned here to round off these two larger sections.

4.2.  Dating Isaiah 24–27 Arguably the most unresolved issue in the history of research on these chapters revolves around their date. The question of their date is interesting in its own right, but other issues are affected by this question, including their theological characterization and sociological coordinates. The chapters have attracted suggestions ranging from the eighth to the second centuries bce. What accounts for this broad spectrum of possibilities? First, the text is referentially ambiguous, even for a book like Isaiah that is replete with referentially ambiguous passages. Though historical entities like Moab (25:10), Assyria (27:12–13), and Egypt (27:12–13) appear, they prove largely unhelpful for assigning dates to the text. Second, the numerous references to an anonymous city (24:10, 21; 25:2; 26:1, 5; 27:10) point to the chapters being intentionally vague and ambiguous. A third complication arises from their redaction. While scholars agree that these chapters have been subject to redaction, there is no real consensus about the history or details of that redaction. As such, with some important exceptions, discussions about the date of this text tend to apply to the form of the text as it now stands, a situation dependent more on the historically ambiguous contents of the chapters than on a desire to privilege the text’s final form. Consequently, scholars have situated these chapters into a variety of historical contexts. What emerges as of more interest than the actual date interpreters assign various portions of the text are the criteria used to establish dates. Therefore, instead of simply cataloging the various dates scholars have proposed, a more interesting and instructive approach might be to survey the reasons exegetes have adopted particular dating schemes. 9  Collins, “Beginning,” 142.

10 Beuken, Jesaja 13­–27, 310–312.

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   83 Among those who date the text early, one important factor seems to be a desire to connect it in some way to the historical Isaiah of the eighth century bce.11 Some scholars have rejected claims that our chapters display differences in language and style from material that is more securely linked to the eighth-century Isaiah, thereby opening the door to assigning the chapters to Isaiah himself. Others regard the imagery of Isa 24 as reflective of the eighth-century earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:2 and Zech 14:5. Recently, William Barker has argued that the text constitutes a prophetic polemic for Yhwh’s cosmic kingship that takes up and recasts portions of the West Semitic mythic tradition associated with Ba’al.12 In his view, this necessitates an early date. Dates in the seventh century bce have also been proposed. For example, Heinrich Gratz proposed a setting in the seventh century bce based primarily on his view that the references to the city were to Nineveh and Psammeticus’s destruction of its wall.13 J. D. W. Watts argued for a date in the reign of Manasseh based on his interpretation of the history of this period and the language of these chapters.14 A more recent suggestion for a date in the late seventh century and early sixth century has been put forward by J. J. M. Roberts, who thinks the language, “tantalizingly vague” though it is, fits the Josianic era and its immediate aftermath well (but before Jerusalem’s destruction).15 A similar date has been proposed by C. Hays, who, in recent articles and a monograph, argues for the book’s Josianic-period origins based, in part, on his identification of the unnamed city with Ramat Rachel and on issues of Hebrew diachrony.16 The most common criterion used by interpreters to date most of these chapters, however, rests on attempts to determine the identity of the previously mentioned unnamed city. Several scholars read the texts about the destroyed city as reflective of a specific city’s destruction at a given historical moment. They then assign a date to the text corresponding to that identification (see below). The most common candidate mentioned in the commentary tradition is Babylon. However, identifying the city with this ancient Mesopotamian city does not offer a simple solution because Babylon was sacked or conquered on multiple occasions from the seventh through the fourth centuries, all of which have been suggested as possibilities.17 Hence, what we see is that merely identifying the unnamed city with Babylon provides no solid and sure criteria in the dilemma about the text’s date, since the general descriptions provided in the text present the exegete with several historical moments as viable candidates.18 11  Hayes and Irvine, Isaiah, 295–320; Oswalt, Isaiah 1–39, 23–8, 441–3; Beek, “Erdbeben”; van Zyl, “Isaiah 24–27.” 12 Barker, Isaiah’s Kingship Polemic. 13  Gratz, “Auslegung.” 14 Watts, Isaiah 1–33, 298–300, 310­–12. 15 Roberts, First Isaiah, 306. 16  Hays, “Date”; Hays, “Let It Make Peace with Me”. 17  The city was attacked, sacked, or conquered by Sennacherib (689 bce), Cyrus (539 bce), Darius (521 bce), Xerxes (482 bce), and Alexander (331 bce). For Babylon in 539 bce as a possibility, see Henry, Glaubenskrise, 17–34. For 485 bce, see Lindblom, Jesaja-Apokalypse, 110. For 331 bce, see Rudolph, Jesaja 24–27, 62–63. 18  This is true not only when exegetes identify the city with Babylon, but with Jerusalem or even Moabite cities. This period of ancient Near Eastern history is one of almost constant upheaval and conflict, often involving the same antagonists repeatedly.

84   J. TODD Hibbard A slightly different approach was taken by Jacques Vermeylen, who nevertheless appealed to Babylon as the fallen city as a key element in his dating proposal.19 He saw Isa 24–27 as comprising three successive literary strata, the growth of which was achieved through a process of relecture.20 The first stage, 24:1–13, 18b–20, completed by 26:8–9, 11–13, 16–18, 20–21, constituted an allusion to Xerxes’s destruction of Babylon in 485 bce and rounded off the Oracles against the Nations (Isa 13–23). He dated it to the quarter century following that destruction. The second stage (24:14–18a; 25:1–5, 9–12; 26:1–6, 7–18; 27:2–6), originated at the end of the fifth century or the beginning of the fourth and was the result of a re-reading of the earlier chapters based on a distinction between the “just” and the unfaithful Jews. Finally he isolated several later additions from the Greek era dealing with the Samaritan controversy (27:7, 8b, 9–11), eschatological conflict (24:16, 21–23; 27:1), a messianic banquet reflective of Jewish missionary activity (25:6–8), and the return of the exiled diaspora (27:12–13).21 Statements dealing with the death of the impious (26:14) and resurrection (25:8; 26:19) were probably also added at this point. So, while the identity of the anonymous city is the starting point for Vermeylen, he employs literary and theological criteria to understand the latter two stages. Still other criteria have been proposed for dating the text. William Millar championed prosodic analysis as the key to assigning a date and concluded that the text exhibited certain prosodic features that compared favorably with the anonymous author of Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40–55), which suggested a sixth-century date in his view.22 While not following Millar’s prosodic arrangement, Dan Johnson, too, has argued that the text’s composition should be dated largely to the sixth century. He argues for multiple stages of composition beginning in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 bce and continuing into the restoration period following Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon in 539 bce.23 Hence, his criteria are largely historical. Beuken and Donald Polaski date the text to the Persian period, though for different reasons. Polaski, following Sweeney, dates the text to the Persian period based on two primary factors.24 First, he reads Isa 27:8 as a reflection on the exile. Second, he adopts Sweeney’s understanding of the final form and purpose of the book. Based on this, he concludes that these chapters fit best sometime between the end of the exile and the time of Ezra’s mission. Beuken, on the other hand, dates the text to the Persian period on the basis of his reconstruction of the book of Isaiah’s textual development and Isa 24–27’s place in that development.25 Others who have dated the text to the era of the Second Temple have tended to do so based on either theological criteria, especially this text’s 19  Vermeylen, “La composition”; Vermeylen, Isaïe, 349–381. 20  Vermeylen’s reading of Isa 24–27 is consistent with his overall interpretation of the book’s development. In his view, the book’s growth occurs through a process of redaction and relecture (rereading) that continued until the third century bce (Isaïe, 2–3). 21  Interestingly, Plöger read the theme of reunification of all Israel and the return of the diaspora as indicative of an earlier period­—that of Ezra and Nehemiah. Once again, we see that this text permits many possible interpretations; see Plöger, Theocracy, 77–78. 22 Millar, Isaiah 24–27, 61, 117. Millar did not suggest common authorship between Isa 24–27 and 40–55. Blenkinsopp suggests that the text’s composition and redaction may have begun contemporaneously with Isa 40–48, though for different reasons. (Isaiah 1–39, 348). 23 Johnson, Chaos, 17. 24 Polaski, Authorizing, 58–59. 25 Beuken, Jesaja 13–27, 310–313.

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   85 alleged constellation of late theological ideas such as resurrection from the dead (see 25:8; 26:19; cf. Dan 12:2) and an apocalyptic worldview, or identification of late Second Temple political, social, and historical realia as the textual referents. On the latter, scholars have read the mythological monsters of Isa 27:1 as the Ptolemies and Seleucids26 or the fall of the Macedonian empire and the rise of Rome.27 Others have seen later Second Temple sectarian conflicts as well as the sorts of theological ideas found in Daniel (i.e., resurrection of the dead).28 However, the lower end of the historical continuum was first proposed by Duhm in his seminal commentary, where he argued that the original layer of this text stems from the time of Antiochus Sidetes (ca. 135 bce) and the latest portion, 25:9–11, belongs to the time of Alexander Jannaeus (ca. 103–76 bce), with other layers in between.29 While Duhm’s hypothesis must have seemed plausible at the time, the discovery of the many Isaiah manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the complete 1QIsaa, has rendered his suggestion practically impossible, since the earliest of these manuscripts dates to the second century bce. What I hope to have demonstrated in this selective discussion is the wide variety of proposals for how and when to date this material. Given the diverse approaches noted here, it seems unlikely that any consensus regarding their date is on the scholarly horizon.

4.3.  Literary Issues: Structure, Form, and Redaction Though this section of Isaiah comprises only four chapters, several challenging literary issues confront the interpreter. The chapters exhibit a diversity of literary forms that has prompted much discussion among scholars. Additionally, scholars are divided over the structure and redaction of these chapters. The form-critical, redactional-critical, and structural questions posed by these chapters are some of the most complex in the book.

4.3.1.  Literary Forms Over a century ago, Duhm distinguished between songs (Dichtungen) and apocalyptic oracles in chapters 24–27. While the identification of the oracles with the apocalyptic has essentially been abandoned, scholars have generally continued to see two kinds of literature in these chapters.30 Nearly all exegetes affirm the existence of songs 26 Kaiser, Isaiah 13–39, 178–179. 27 Procksch, Jesaia, 306. 28 Plöger, Theocracy, 53–78, esp. 77–78. It should be remembered that Plöger assigns this text to the same period as Zech 12–14 and Joel, a conclusion certainly not accepted by everyone. 29 Duhm, Jesaia, 172. 30 Duhm, Jesaia, 172. He identified the oracles, the older of the two groups, in 24:1–23; 25:6–8; 26:20–27:1, 12, 13; the songs (also identified as Dichtungen) are found in 25:1–5, 25:9–11; 26:1–19 + 25:12; and 27:2–5.

86   J. TODD Hibbard in 25:1–5; 26:1–6;31 and 27:2–5. The first of these uses language drawn from hymns (25:1: (‫יהוה אלהי אתה ארוממך אודה שמך‬, and the example from Isa 26 is specifically called a song (‫)יושר השיר הזה‬. The argument for identifying a song in 27:2–5 is based largely on its relationship to the earlier “Song of the Vineyard” in Isa 5:1–7, even though formal elements associated with songs are lacking. Other songs have sporadically been identified. The material labeled oracular by Duhm and others is also generally agreed upon, though the precise delimitation of the oracles is also debated. That the opening oracle of Isa 24, whether extending to verse 3 or verse 6,32 is a prophetic oracle appear clear given verse 24:3b: ‫כי יהוה דבר את הדבר הזה‬. One finds prophets pronouncements as well in 24:16b–20; 25:6–8 (which also concludes with ‫)כי יהוה דבר‬, and 25:9–12. Isa 24 concludes with the first of seven ‫“ ביום ההוא‬on that day” addenda (24:20; 25:9; 26:1; 27:1, 2, 12, 13), which introduce oracular material (24:20), hymnic content (26:1), or eschatological additions (27:13). Isa 27:7–11, some of the most difficult content in these chapters, do not, in my opinion, neatly conform to any biblical Gattungen. Isa 26:7–21 is also somewhat enigmatic form-critically. Most scholars are inclined to describe much of it as a lament,33 although they do not all agree on how far it extends. The problematic Isa 26:19 has been described by many as a Heilsorakel that answers the preceding prayer (particularly v. 14).34 The verses that remain have generally eluded form-critical classification.

4.3.2.  Structure and Redaction The diversity of opinion about form-critical matters in these chapters is matched by the general diversity of views on the question of structure. This has been driven largely by an attempt to find some unity in the chapters, a situation based in part on the lack of agreement in form-critical matters. J. Lindblom offered a creative reading of the chapters when he argued that the core composition consisted of a cantata performed at a festival in the Jewish community.35 While others have noticed liturgical elements in Isa 24–27, most scholars have not accepted Lindblom’s argument that these chapters comprise a cantata, given our lack of knowledge about liturgical matters in the Second Temple pe­riod.36 William Millar attempted to describe the overall structure of these chapters somewhat differently. He looked to the Ugaritic Baal Cycle and its thematic pattern of threat, war, victory, and feast and argued that they provided the proper structural and thematic context in which to place Isa 24–27. He divided the four chapters into six units,37 each of which contained at least some portion of the stated 31  Scholars disagree about the delimitation of the song in Isa 26. Proposals include 26:1–6 (the dominant view), 26:4–6 (Henry, Glaubenskrise, 31), 26:1–14 (Lindblom, Jesaja-Apocalypse, 40–52), and 26:1–19 (Duhm, Jesaia, 40–46). 32 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 350; Clements, Isaiah 1–39, 200. 33 Plöger, Theocracy, 64–68; Lindblom, Jesaja-Apokalypse, 40–46. 34 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 368; Lindblom, Jesaja-Apocalypse, 63. 35 Lindblom, Jesaja-Apocalypse, 69. 36 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 346. 37  Isa 24:1–16a; 24:16b–25:9; 25:10–26:8; 26:13–15; 26:16–27:6; 27:12–13.

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   87 pattern. In fact, he identified the two middle sections of the pattern, war and victory, in every section, but only 24:16b–25:9 and 26:16–27:6 contained every element within the ­pattern.38 In my view and in the view of many others, the fact that Millar is able to uncover the complete pattern only twice out of six textual units diminishes the strength of his proposal and, consequently, calls into question the structural divisions he makes in the text. Moreover, the thematic structure he outlines depends on several textual emendations to Isa 24–27 that he proposes, many of which are presented to justify his accompanying prosodic analysis.39 This tends to undermine the value of his prosodic, structural, and thematic analyses. In an attempt to retain some sense of the text’s unity, Johnson suggests a tripartite division of the text, each part of which is related to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 bce.40 According to Johnson, the first section corresponds to 24:1–20 and originated on the eve of Jerusalem’s final devastation. The second section, by far the longest, comprises 24:21–27:1 and was composed during the exile. The final section, 27:2–13, was also composed in the exilic period, but after the ascent of Cyrus. The key elements in the three sections respectively are lament and return to chaos, Yhwh’s imminent victory, and the reunification of Israel. Another method for assessing the text’s structure was proposed by a group of Dutch scholars, who devoted considerable attention to the delimitation of textual units within Isa 24–27 as a key to its structure. H. J. Bosman uses a method that pays special attention to the “syntactic and text-syntactic phenomena that bring cohesion to the text.”41 It results in a text whose structure is divided along syntactic lines—that is, into clauses, sentences, and paragraphs. Harm W. M. van Grol, however, employs a more conventional method, analyzing the verse by means of meter and rhythm.42 His prosodic analysis is based on divisions into cola, verse lines, strophes, and stanzas, and pays special attention to stress and accent within each line. Neither scholar’s analysis appeals to the more traditionally defined form-critical categories. These two studies make the point that no “assured results” exist when it comes to the consideration of this text’s individual units. What this brief, and by no means exhaustive, survey of discussions about the structure of Isa 24–27 has demonstrated is the lack of agreement that exists in this area. The similarity in each of these discussions is the belief that the text is a unified composition in some sense, whether that unity is liturgical (Lindblom),43 thematic (Millar), syntactic (Bosman), or related to the same historical experience (Johnson). Whether this is true, 38  See his summary chart, Millar, Isaiah 24–27, 70–71. 39  For instance, Isa 27:7–11 does not fit with the kind of prosody that he attempts to uncover, so it is conveniently expunged from his textual analysis. This kind of hypothetical and arbitrary treatment of the text offers no real solution. 40 Johnson, Chaos, 16–17. 41  Bosman, “Syntactic Cohesion.” 42  Grol, “Analysis.” In many ways, his methodology mirrors Millar’s prosodic analysis but not his discussion of structure (Isaiah 24–27, 23–64), the primary difference being Grol’s reticence to produce an emended text. Millar, on the other hand, emends the text often in order to match his scansion, and this diminishes the value of his study in my opinion. More will be said about Millar’s analysis later. 43  Although recall that in Lindblom’s argument he eliminated several texts as Zusätze, most notably 26:15–19.

88   J. TODD Hibbard however, turns out to be an open question. The idea that the four chapters represent a tight literary or conceptual unity has been challenged altogether by Blenkinsopp.44 Even those who find some level of literary unity in the text do not insist that the entire text was composed by the same author. Rather, nearly all exegetes maintain that the text bears signs of a redactional history. This redaction has been described in several ways, many of which have been noted above in the section 1 above, on the text’s date. Other suggestions include the Wachstumhypothese presented by, among others, Wildberger45 or through a process of relecture as described by J. Vermeylen. Both of these suggestions find the growth of the text to be an exegetical undertaking that reads existing layers of the text in new contexts and giving rise to new textual creations. While these and others mentioned earlier constitute interesting suggestions, it appears that the precise details of the redaction of this text will continue to evade us.

4.4.  Critical Interpretive Issues Several important interpretive issues confront the reader of these four chapters as well. While exegetical difficulties abound in Isaiah, this section of the book presents interpreters with several questions unique to this material. Space permits only a limited discussion of the most important of these in the history of interpretation of Isaiah 24–27.

4.4.1.  Identity of the Anonymous City Of all the issues that have vexed interpreters throughout the history of interpretation of Isa 24–27, nothing seems to have elicited as much comment as the identity of the unnamed city. References to it occur in each of the four chapters, demonstrating its interest for the author(s) and prompting several questions (24:10, 12; 25:2; 26:1, 5; 27:10).46 Does each mention have the same city in view? Do the two different terms used for “city” (‫עיר‬, ‫ )קריה‬signify any difference in meaning? Does any real historical city stand behind any of the references, or should “the city” be interpreted symbolically? Answers to these and related questions vary. As I mentioned earlier, the most often mentioned candidate for the unnamed city is Babylon.47 Scholars adopting this view have not all argued for the same historical moment, however; some argue for Babylon circa 539 bce, some for 485 bce, and 44 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39. He writes: “The four chapters comprise a number of loosely connected passages of uneven length, the sequence of which manifests no immediately obvious logical order” (p. 346). 45 Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, 450–451. 46  The identity of these cities apparently confounded early translators of Isaiah. See van der Kooij, “Cities of Isaiah 24–27.” 47 Henry, Glaubenskise, 17–34; Rudolph, Jesaja 24–27, 61–64; Lindblom, Jesaja-Apokalypse, 72–84; Otzen, “Traditions.”

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   89 still others for 331 bce. Others have argued the case on literary rather than historical grounds, noting connections with the specific references to Babylon in Isa 13 and 14.48 A second candidate is Jerusalem, though arguments in its favor prove quite diverse.49 Some see the text’s touchstone as the destruction in 586 bce; others argue for Jerusalem on more symbolic or literary grounds.50 A third group of scholars argues that the references to the unnamed city apply to several different cities; that is, they do not all have the same city in view. Suggestions include Babylon, Samaria, Jerusalem, or a Moabite city.51 Finally, other scholars have eschewed historical interpretations altogether, opting instead to interpret the references symbolically or literarily.52 As one can see, the unnamed city is sufficiently vague to permit any number of interpretive methods and conclusions. Because of this, certainty is elusive. Nevertheless, it seems unnecessary to conclude that all mentions refer to the same city, given that most of the portrayals are quite negative but at least one is quite hopeful (26:1).

4.4.2. Covenant Isa 24:5 makes reference to a ‫ברית עולם‬, an “eternal covenant” in a passage documenting how the inhabitants of the earth (or land) have transgressed. In addition to the covenant, one reads of violations involving ‫ תורות‬and ‫חק‬. Given that this text claims that this covenant has been broken (‫)הפרו‬,53 exegetes have wondered if the phrase has any covenant in so referenced in the Hebrew Bible in view. Elsewhere, ‫ ברית עולם‬is identified with Yhwh’s promise not to destroy the earth by inundation (Gen 9:16 [P]); Yhwh’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:7, 13, 19 [P]; Ps 105:10//1 Chron 16:17); the covenant of Sabbath (Exod 31:16 [P]; Lev 24:8); and the covenant with David (2 Sam 23:5). Additionally, the phrase is used several times in the prophetic literature to imagine a future covenant that Yhwh will make with his people as part of the expectation of restoration (Isa 55:3; 61:8; Jer 32:40; 50:5; Ezek 16:60; 37:26). Is Isa 24:5 an echo of any of these texts or traditions? Blenkinsopp thinks that the passage is drawing on this and other traditions from Gen 1–9 in whatever form it then existed to imagine a reversal of creation via the abrogation filtered through Noahic/flood texts.54 Johnson draws attention not only to the covenantal texts (primarily P) noted here, but also to ways in which Isa 24 might also allude to the Mosaic covenant, specifically as noted in Deuteronomy.55 Polaski goes further and 48  Vermeylen, “La composition,” 5–38, esp. 6–8. 49 Hanson, Dawn 314; and Millar, Isaiah 24–27, 15–21. 50 Scholl, Elenden, 173; Doyle, Apocalypse, 44–45; and Redditt, “Once Again.” 51 Kessler, Gott, 173; Johnson, Chaos, 17, 29–35 (he never explicitly deals with the city in 27:10); and Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39, 312, 317. 52 Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, 50; Clements, Isaiah 1–39, 198–199; Plöger, Theocracy, 56; Kaiser, Isaiah 13–39, 185; Biddle, “City of Chaos.” 53  The oddity of claim that an “eternal covenant” has been broken has not gone unnoticed by commentators, some of who think the claim is nonsensical. Because of this, some exegetes have attempted to understand ‫ עולם‬differently here (e.g., as “ancient,” or “covenant in perpetuity”). 54 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 351–352. 55 Johnson, Chaos, 27–29.

90   J. TODD Hibbard finds in the reference an “active negotiation” with several other covenantal traditions, including P, Deuteronomy, and the Davidic covenant.56 Elsewhere, I have attempted to chart an inner-Isaianic discourse about covenant that takes account of the other texts in Isaiah that mention the ‫ברית עוֹלם‬.57 What is clear from these attempts to understand the reference to covenant here is that the author is likely using the phrase to capture several different ideas about covenant in describing the cause of divine judgment being depicted. In other words, several covenantal ideas are bound up in the text’s use of ‫ברית‬ ‫עולם‬, and it brings together multiple notions of covenant that are useful for imagining the people’s transgressions.

4.4.3. Apocalyptic Since the time of Smend and Duhm, scholars have referred to Isa 24–27 as the “Isaiah Apocalypse.” This designation has been based largely on a denoting of the characteristics of apocalypses and then finding them in the chapters, most notably, an eschatological orientation. However, this labeling turns out to be problematic on several counts, at least. First, scholars do not agree about what constitutes the characteristics of an apocalypse or apocalyptic writing. Second, even when scholars agree about such characteristics, they do not always agree about their presence in Isa 24–27. Finally, there is the need to distinguish more clearly between apocalypse as a literary genre, apocalyptic eschatology as an idea, and apocalypticism as a feature of sociologically defined groups.58 In more recent years, many scholars, myself included, find themselves in agreement with the description put forward by Collins and others that sees an apocalypse as a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.59

It is clear based on this definition that Isa 24–27 is not an apocalypse. Hence, in my view, the “Isaiah Apocalypse” designation for these chapters should be dropped once and for all. Rejecting the genre designation of apocalypse for these chapters still leaves open the question of whether they display apocalyptic elements. Hendel, among others, has cautioned against drawing a sharp distinction between the prophetic and the apocalyptic because the seeds of the latter are found in the former in a variety of ways.60 Indeed, since apocalyptic texts (e.g., Daniel) construct their literary worlds from preexisting prophetic texts we should expect to find resonance between the two. Put differently, prophecy is one textual fund from which apocalyptic writers draw to build their own textual and intellectual worlds. It is not incorrect, then, to think of a continuum between 56 Polaski, Authorizing, 94–145. 57  Hibbard, “Breaking.” 58 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 2. 59 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 5. 60  Hendel, “Isaiah”; see also Barton, Oracles of God, 200; and Clements, “Interpretation.”

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   91 the two. Are there aspects of Isa 24–27 that point toward the apocalyptic end of the continuum? I would suggest three elements in particular: the cosmic tapestry of divine action (e.g., 24:21–23), use of mythic tropes or images (e.g., 25:6–8; 27:1), and language about resurrection (26:19).61 None of these on its own would be sufficient to label our text as apocalyptic. The appearance of all three in such a small textual world, however, pushes the reader in that direction of what will, eventually, come to be called apocalyptic. So while it would be anachronistic to label our text apocalyptic in its origin, it is suggestive of the literary and intellectual trajectory that will eventuate in inter alia, Daniel and 1 Enoch. In that sense, the label is fitting.

4.4.4. Resurrection Isa 26:19 has been put forward as a text stating perhaps the earliest expression of resurrection in the Hebrew Bible. This text is sometimes also read in association with 25:7 which depicts Yhwh swallowing Death. The text of Isa 26:19 reads: Your dead (‫ )מתיך‬shall live, Their corpses (rd: ‫)נבלתם‬62 shall rise Those who dwell in the dust Awake and sing! For your dew is radiant dew And the earth will give birth to the dead (‫)רפאים‬

Does this text present a clear notion of individual resurrection? Earlier generation of scholars were inclined to answer in the affirmative, in part because they linked the text with apocalyptic thought.63 If so, this would constitute the earliest notion of resurrection in the Hebrew Bible and serve as an important antecedent to Dan 12:2 (usually adduced as another early such reference). However, the text must be read as part of the lament preceding it, in which 26:14 helps to elucidate the meaning here. In verse 14, the author notes that the dead shades of the enemy will not live, because Yhwh has punished them. Additionally, verses 16–18 speak to the expected revival of the community, an expectation that has apparently failed to materialize (note the imagery of failed birth). By contrast, in verse 19, the author affirms that all appearances to the contrary, the community, metaphorically the “dead,” will, in fact, become alive once again (see Ezek 37:1–14).64 If this reading is correct, it seems to suggest that the author is unconcerned with individual ­resurrection; 61  The reader will note that I have not included an eschatological orientation among the items in Isa 24–27. Though it is sometimes said that these chapters possess this characteristic, it is unclear to me what that means. I imagine that those taking this view have in mind something like the “on that day” texts in these chapters, but I am unconvinced these are truly eschatological. At any rate, given the ubiquity of these statements in Isa 1–39 generally, I hesitate to list this as a quality unique to Isa 24–27. 62 MT: ‫ ;נבלתי‬suggested emendation ‫ ;נבלתם‬LXX reading for this verse is an interpretive recasting. 63  E.g., Puech, La croyance, 66–73; Nickelsburg, Resurrection, 30–31. 64  Beuken, “Toten.” A communal interpretation has recently been put forward by Kleger, who bases his argument on his understanding of the literary unity and structure of Isa 24–27. See Kleger, “Struktur.”

92   J. TODD Hibbard rather, the imagery and language offer hope to the community about its future. This is not to say the text is eschatological; on the contrary, the reconstituted community appears to be anticipated rather soon. Whether the author would have affirmed individual resurrection or not is impossible to know because that is not the issue to which he speaks.

4.4.5. Intertextuality Finally, scholars have drawn attention to Isa 24–27 for their intertextual character. Intertextuality as a mode of analysis has been ascendant since the turn of the millennium, and these chapters have not escaped notice for their purported quotations, allusions, and echoes of other texts in the Hebrew Bible.65 Important connections have been made with other texts in the Isaiah corpus as well as to other texts across the contents of the Hebrew Bible. Analyses that attend to this quality of the text have had to contend with methodological questions about how best to make persuasive cases for such connections, particularly given the difficulties in dating these chapters. Indeed, this way of reading the text is not without its critics, who argue that the project is in many respects too subjective and based on a tenuous stratification of texts in many instances. Nevertheless, according to those who see intertextual connections, the purpose of drawing on earlier textual traditions was to situate these chapters within an emerging body of authoritative literature and to reinterpret or extend those textual traditions into later contexts (historical, social, hermeneutical).66 Elsewhere, I have categorized these intertextual connections along four lines: universalization of judgment, universalization of salvation, responses to perceived unfulfilled prophecies, and offering contributions to inner-Isaianic thematic discussions.67 This conclusion rests, in part, on taking stock of the cosmic and universal canvas that several examples of intertextuality paint on, as well as the Isaian tradition that the author(s) of the chapters inherit. The recognition of the intertextual character of the chapters also points to their essential scribal nature (though in a way that differs from Isa 56–66). To the degree that this conclusion has merit, it suggests this approach to understanding these chapters might offer essential clues to the later stages of the Isaiah scroll’s development.

Bibliography Barker, William D. Isaiah’s Kingship Polemic: An Exegetical Study of Isaiah 24–27. FAT II/70. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. Barton, John. Oracles of God: Perception of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1986. Beek, Martinus A. “Ein Erdbeben wird zum prophetischen Erleben.” ArOr 17 (1949): 31–40. Berges, Ulrich. Das Buch Jesaja: Komposition und Endgestalt. HBS 16. Freiburg: Herder, 1998. 65  See, e.g., Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, 465–466; Day, “Case”; Sweeney, “Textual Citations”; Polaski, Authorizing; and Hibbard, Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27. 66 Polaski, Authorizing, 49–70. 67 Hibbard, Intertextuality 24–27, 216.

Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse   93 Beuken, Willem A. M. “ ‘Deine Toten werden leben’ (Jes 26,19): ‘Kindliche Vernunft’ oder reifer Glaube?” In Schriftauslegung in der Schrift: Festschrift für Odil Hannes Steck zu seinem 65. Geburtstag, edited by Reinhard Kratz, Thomas Krüger, and Konrad Schmid, 139–152. BZAW 300. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000. Beuken, Willem A. M. Jesaja 13–27. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herders, 2007. Biddle, Mark E. “The City of Chaos and the New Jerusalem: Isaiah 24–27 in Context.” PRSt 22 (1995): 5–12. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 1–39. AB 19. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. Bosman, Hendrik Jan. “Syntactic Cohesion in Isaiah 24–27.” In Studies in Isaiah 24–27: The Isaiah Workshop, edited by Hendrik Jan Bosman and Harm W. M. van Grol, 19–50. OtSt 43. Leiden: Brill, 2000. Cho Kang-Kul, Paul, and Janling Fu. “Death and Feasting in the Isaiah Apocalypse (Isaiah 25:6–8).” In Formation and Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27, edited by J. Todd Hibbard and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, 117–142. SBLAIL 17. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2013. Clements, Ronald E. “The Interpretation of Prophecy and the Origin of Apocalyptic.” In Old Testament Prophecy: From Oracles to Canon, 182–188. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996. Clements, Ronald E. Isaiah 1–39. NCBC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980. Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 20163. Collins, John J. “The Beginning of the End of the World in the Hebrew Bible.” In Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy: On Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, 137–155. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015. Day, John. “A Case of Inner-Scripture Interpretation: The Dependence of Isaiah xxvi.13–xxvii.11 on Hosea xiii.4–xiv.10 (Eng. 9) and its Relevance to Some Theories of the Redaction of the ‘Isaiah Apocalypse.’ ” JTS 31 (1980): 301–319. Doyle, Brian. The Apocalypse of Isaiah Metaphorically Speaking. Leuven: Peeters, 2001. Duhm, Bernhard. Das Buch Jesaia. HAT 3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892. Gratz, Heinrich. “Die Auslegung und der historische Hintergrund der Weissagung in Jesaia Kap. 24–27.” MGWJ 25 (1886): 1–23. Grol, Harm W. M. van. “An Analysis of the Verse Structure of Isaiah 24–27.” In Studies in Isaiah 24–27: The Isaiah Workshop, edited by Hendrik Jan Bosman and Harm W. M. van Grol, 51–80. OtSt 43. Leiden: Brill, 2000. Hanson, Paul. The Dawn of Apocalyptic: The Historical and Sociological Roots of Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1979. Hayes, John  H., and Stuart  A.  Irvine. Isaiah: The Eight Century Prophet. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1987. Hays, Christopher B. “The Date and Message of Isaiah 24–27 in Light of Hebrew Diachrony.” In Formation and Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27, edited by J. Todd Hibbard and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, 7–24. SBLAIL 17. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2013. Hays, Christopher  B. “Let It Make Peace with Me”: Isaiah 24­–27 as Josiah’s Overture to the North. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Hendel, Ronald S. “Isaiah and the Transition from Prophecy to Apocalyptic.” In Birkat Shalom: Studies in the Bible, Ancient Near Eastern Literature, and Postbiblical Judaism Presented to Shalom  M.  Paul on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, vol. 1, edited by Chaim  H.  R.  Cohen, Victor Avigdor Hurowitz, Avi  M.  Hurvitz, Yochanan Muffs, Baruch J. Schwartz, and Jeffrey H. Tigay, 261–279. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2008. Henry, M.-L. Glaubenskrise und Glaubensbewahrung in den Dichtungen der Jesaja-apocalypse. BWANT 86. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1967.

94   J. TODD Hibbard Hibbard, J. Todd. “Breaking an Eternal Covenant: Isaiah 24:5 and Inner-Isaianic Discourse about Covenant.” In Covenant in the Persian Period, edited by Richard Bautch and Gary Knoppers, 195–209. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015. Hibbard, J. Todd. Intertextuality in Isaiah 24­–27. FAT II/16. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006. Hibbard, J. Todd, and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, eds. Formation and Intertextuality in Isaiah 24–27. SBLAIL 17. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2013. Johnson, Dan G. From Chaos to Restoration: An Integrative Reading of Isaiah 24–27. JSOTS 61. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1988. Kaiser, Otto. Isaiah 13–39. Translated by Richard  A.  Wilson. OTL. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1974. Kessler, Werner. Gott geht es um das Ganze: Jesaja 56-66 und Jesaja 24-27. BAT 19. Stuttgart: Calwer, 1960. Kleger, Roland. “Die Struktur der Jesaja-Apocalypse und die Deutung von Jes 26,19.” ZAW 120 (2008): 526–546. Kooij, Arie van der. “The Cities of Isaiah 24–27 According to the Vulgate, Targum, and Septuagint.” In Studies in Isaiah 24–27: The Isaiah Workshop, edited by Hendrik Jan Bosman and Harm W. M. van Grol, 183–198. OtSt 43. Leiden: Brill, 2000. Lindblom, Johannes. Die Jesaja-Apokalypse. Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1938. Millar, William R. Isaiah 24–27 and the Origin of Apocalyptic. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1976. Nickelsburg, George  W.  E. Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism and Early Christianity. HTS 56. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah 1–39. NICOT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. Otzen, Benedict. “Traditions and Structures of Isaiah XXVI–XXVII.” VT 24 (1974): 196–206. Plöger, Otto. Theocracy and Eschatology. Translated by Sean Rudman. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1968. Polaski, Donald. Authorizing an End: The Isaiah Apocalypse and Intertextuality. BIS 50. Leiden: Brill, 2001. Procksch, Otto. Jesaia. Vol. 1. KAT 9. Leipzig: Scholl, 1930. Puech, Émile. La croyance des Esséniens en la vie future: Immortalité, résurrection, vie éternelle? Histoire d’une croyance dans le judaïsme ancien? EBib 21. Paris: Gabalda, 1993. Redditt, Paul L. “Once Again, the City in Isaiah 24–27.” HAR 10 (1986): 317–335. Roberts, J. J. M. First Isaiah. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015. Rudolph, Wilhelm. Jesaja 24–27. BWANT 9. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1933. Scholl, Reinhard. Die Elenden in Gottes Thronrat. BZAW 274. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–39: With an Introduction to the Prophetic Literature. FOTL 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Sweeney, Marvin  A. “Textual Citations in Isaiah 24–27: Towards an Understanding of the Redactional Function of Chapters 24–27 in the Book Isaiah.” JBL 107 (1988): 39–52. Vermeylen, Jacques. Du prophète Isaïe à l’apocalyptique. Vol. 1. Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1977. Vermeylen, Jacques. “La composition littéraire de l’apocalypse d’Isaïe (Is., XXIV–XXVII).” EThL 50 (1974): 5–38. Watts, John D. W. Isaiah 1–33. Vol. 1. WBC 24. Waco, TX: Word, 1985. Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 13–27. Translated by Thomas  T.  Trapp. CC. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1997. Zyl, A.  H.  van. “Isaiah 24–27: Their Date of Origin.” In New Light on Some Old Problems: Papers Read at the 5th Meeting Held at the University of South Africa, Pretoria 30 January–2 February 1962, edited by A. H. van Zyl, 44–57. Potchefstroom: Pro Rege, 1962.

chapter 5

The Na r r ati v e s a bou t Isa i a h a n d Their R el ationship w ith 2 K i ngs a n d 2 Chron icl e s Shelley L. Birdsong

5.1. Introduction The thrice-told story of Hezekiah and Isaiah in 2 Kgs 18–20, Isa 36–39, and 2 Chron 32 is a treasure trove for literary and historical-critical investigation. In recent decades, experts have agreed that the most innovative interpretations must utilize both approaches.1 Therefore, my aim is to explore these three stories as distinct literary and theological creations while simultaneously discussing their developmental interrelationship.2 The discussion will move forward chronologically from the historical events mentioned in these texts to their creation, development, and final canonical placement. Throughout, I will demonstrate that the writers/redactors of Kings, Isaiah, and Chronicles all used and refashioned multiple sources in order to fit them into unique contexts, which resulted in distinct portrayals of king and prophet. Together, they create a multivocal and dialogic Bible, which invites readers to continue re-imaging its characters in new spaces and time.

1  Joel Anderson, “Rise.” 2  Following Ackroyd, “Historians and Prophets.”

96   Shelley L. Birdsong

5.2.  What Happened? Little consensus has materialized regarding the events during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (ca. 727–687 bce),3 despite the fact that scholars have unearthed a substantial amount of literary and archaeological evidence from Judah, Babylon, and Assyria. The invasion of Judah by Sennacherib in 701 bce causes the most debate. Consequently, only details corroborated by both biblical and nonbiblical sources have earned unanimity. These include the following: (a) King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah advancing toward Jerusalem; (b) he destroyed multiple cities along the way; (c) he returned home and was killed; and (d) at some point, Hezekiah paid Sennacherib tribute. All other details are given disparate weight, which has led to wildly dissimilar conclusions. But the questions remain: Did Sennacherib ever go to Jerusalem? Were troops deployed? Was the city blockaded or besieged? Did the kings dialogue via messenger, changing the course of events? Why did Sennacherib go home? Did Hezekiah pay Sennacherib one tribute, or did he pay him multiple tributes, and if so, when and how? Such mysteries will continue to captivate historians for the foreseeable future.4

5.3.  Sources as Reflections on “What Happened” Although we are not completely certain about every detail concerning the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 bce, we can be sure that the biblical authors had their own versions to tell. To do so, they consulted an array of sources, borrowing and refashioning them at their own discretion.5 Questions about when, how, and why redactors reformulated their sources stimulate another scholarly debate.

5.3.1.  The Source Debate Critics have been trying to carve out the original sources used to create Isa 36–39 and 2 Kgs 18–20 since the late nineteenth century.6 The traditional breakdown is into two major parts and two-subparts: A = 2 Kgs 18:(13)14–16 [14–16 not present in Isa 36–39] B = 2 Kgs 18:17–19:37//Isa 36–37 3  We are not even certain about his dates. 4  For the most recent investigation, including the history of scholarship, see Matty, Sennacherib’s Campaign. 5  2 Kgs 20:20 and 2 Chron 32:32 mention other sources. 6  Chronicles is generally left out of the source debate because it is a decidedly different retelling of events. It will be taken up separately.

Narratives about Isaiah   97 B1 = 2 Kgs 18:17–19:9a, 36–37//Isa 36:1–37:9, 37–38 B2 = 2 Kgs 19:9b–35//Isa 37:10–367

Opinions on where these sources precisely begin, end, and reconnect has kept the discussion alive since Bernhard Stade first laid out the subdivision of B in 1886.8 Critical issues include where to put 2 Kgs 18:13, which source is most historically reliable, why B1 lacks an ending, and how many smaller insertions are included within. The main proponents of and interlocutors with this traditional theory include Brevard Childs,9 Ronald Clements,10 Paul Dion,11 Christof Hardmeier,12 and Francolino Gonçalves.13 Klaas Smelik14 and Christopher Seitz15 have provided the most well-known critiques. Although the discussion surrounding these sources remains active, the central assumptions have arguably grown stagnant.

5.3.2. A  New Source and Redaction Proposal Sometimes, when the discussion appears stuck in a theoretical eddy, it is useful to offer a novel alternative to prompt reconsideration of the reigning assumptions. In this spirit, I would like to propose a new set of sources and their redactional development (including 2 Kgs 20//Isa 38–39) with an eye toward characters, terminology/language, and narratological coherence.16 I also have a second, and perhaps more practical, purpose. I want to suggest to contemporary Bible readers that we should see ourselves as part of a longer history of interpretation, in which readers, like redactors, have the power to reform characters and their meaning by placing them in new contexts. With these aims in mind, I will lay out a brief sketch of my alternative sources and their redactional development. Although much more could be said about each source/redaction and its dating, for the sake of space, I will limit my discussion to their literary features and address each development in the order I believe it occurred.  Source S (Sennacherib Source): 2 Kings 18:13; 19:9–19, 35–36//Isa 36:1; 37:9–20, 36–37 Source S is a cohesive unit that uses Sennacherib’s name rather than simply his title as “king of Assyria” (2 Kgs 18:13//Isa 36:1; 2 Kgs 19:16, 36//Isa 37:17, 37).17 The themes ­center on kings and their gods, including Hezekiah’s reliance on the God of Israel 7  2 Kgs 20//Isa 38–39 is often relegated to a secondary status in the source debate. 8  Stade, “Miscellen.” For a quick layout of the discussion that has followed, see Hess, “Hezekiah,” 30–36. 9 Childs, Isaiah; Assyrian. 10 Clements, Isaiah; Jerusalem. 11  Dion, “Sennacherib.” 12 Hardmeier, Prophetie. 13 Gonçalves, L’expédition. 14  Smelik, “Distortion.” 15 Seitz, Final Destiny. See also Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39, 460–485. 16 Evans, Invasion, 39–85, also put forth a fresh proposal for similar reasons. Our analyses lead to different formation theories, which ultimately supports his concluding reflection that source-critical hypotheses are a subjective art, which may produce more pitfalls than advantages for biblical exegesis. 17  There is one other use of Sennacherib’s name in Isa 37:21; however, it is part of Isaiah Redaction One, which deliberately uses language from Source S and Source R to bring all three narratives together.

98   Shelley L. Birdsong (2 Kgs 19:10–19//Isa 37:10–20). Both Sennacherib and Hezekiah, rather than their officials, are the main characters. They communicate via “messenger” (‫ ;מלאכים‬2 Kgs 19:9, 14//Isa 37:9, 14), and neither Sennacherib nor his forces ever reach Jerusalem.  Source R (Rabshakeh Source): 2 Kings 18:17–36; 2 Kings 19:8//Isa 36:2–36:21; 37:8 Source R is an episode consisting principally of a speech by the Assyrian Rabshakeh. It is bookended by an inclusio concerning the king of Assyria, the Rabshakeh, and Lachish. The characteristics of R (particularly in contrast to Source S) include the lack of a name for the Assyrian king and the inclusion of the Rabshakeh, Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah as representatives for their kings (who largely do not act in the narrative). The Assyrian army comes to Jerusalem. Concepts of note include the repetition of the king of Assyria being referred to as “the great king” (‫ ;הגדול המלך‬2 Kgs 18:19, 28//Isa 36:4, 13), Judah’s reliance on Egypt as well as on God, and the use of “master” (‫ )אדון‬and “servant” (‫ )עבד‬language (2 Kgs 18:23, 26–27//Isa 36:8, 11–12).  Redaction I1 (Isaiah Redaction One): 2 Kings 18:37–19:7, 20–34, 37//Isa 36:22–37:7, 21–35, 38 The next stage of development is a redactional inclusion of Isaiah and his prophecies concerning Sennacherib’s demise and thus the deliverance of Jerusalem.18 The two prophetic blocks do not make up their own cohesive unit, per se; rather, they were likely separate prophetic sayings that were simultaneously written/edited and woven into the two larger narratives of S and R. Redactional seams are present at 2 Kgs 18:37–19:2//Isa 36:22–37:2 and 2 Kgs 19:20//Isa 37:21, and the prophecies borrow language from both S and R. For example, they include the use of Sennacherib’s name from S, “master” and “servant” language from R, the named servants of Hezekiah and the Rabshakeh from R, and borrowed terminology such as “hearing” (‫ )שמע‬and the “mocking” (‫ )חרף‬of God in S. It is uncertain whether the redactor inserted R into S while simultaneously fusing in I1, or whether the earlier two sources were already combined.19 Regardless, the I1 redactor addresses the Rabshakeh’s taunt, the Assyrian king’s message, and Hezekiah’s personal prayer to Yhwh from a prophetic perspective not present in the two earlier sources. Moreover, while S clearly narrates the demise of the Assyrian army and Sennacherib’s return home, what ultimately happens to Sennacherib is still open for question and is thus addressed by these additions. The prophecy of Sennacherib’s death is given in an inserted prophecy in 2 Kgs 19:7//Isa 37:7, and its fulfillment is added at the very end, in 2 Kgs 19:37//Isa 37:38. 18  I have chosen to label the redactional additions to the earlier “sources” as such because they are not necessarily independent, preexisting texts appended to the source block. Generally, they are smaller pieces seamed in or perhaps written into the narrative. In this way, I understand redactors to be authorial rather than minor editors. See Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39, 13. 19  If R was inserted into S between 2 Kgs 18:13//Isa 36:1 and 2 Kgs 19:9//Isa 37:9 before reaching the hands of the redactor of I1, R-S would still be a cohesive narrative.

Narratives about Isaiah   99  Redaction I2 (Isaiah Redaction Two): 2 Kings 20:1–11// Isa 38:1–6, 21–22, 7–8 Redaction I2 was attached to the fused composite text of R, S, and I1. It shares many features with I1, including the character Isaiah and his prophecies, the giving of a sign, and the literary structure of two separate prophecies enclosing a prayer from Hezekiah.20 However, the content and setting of the prophecies are different. Instead of focusing on the king of Assyria and the deliverance of Jerusalem, I2 gives two personal and contradictory pronouncements to the king—he will die from his sickness, and then that he will recover and live for another fifteen years.  Redaction I3 (Isaiah Redaction Three): 2 Kings 20:12–19//Isa 39:1–8 Redaction I3 is a short piece that also includes Hezekiah and Isaiah; however, it introduces the new characters of Merodach-Baladan and his envoys. It also includes a prophecy, but it is severe and has no contradictory word of salvation. The redactor of I3 attaches the appendix “seamlessly” by alluding to Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery in the previous episode.  Source HP (Hezekiah Psalm): Isa 38:9–20 [no parallel in Kings] Most have agreed that the Hezekiah Psalm in Isa 38:9–20 was added after the narrative block had been inserted into Isaiah. It was an independent psalm that the redactors felt worked with the king’s sickness and near-death experience, as well as with the Isaian context. Its placement within I2 in Isaiah gives rise to some text-critical issues. It particularly results in an ordering of the text that is different from that in Kings. Evidence from 1QIsaa substantiates that Isaiah manuscripts suffered from transmission issues with the verses surrounding the psalm.  Source A 2  Kings 18:14–16 [no parallel in Isaiah] The plus of 2 Kgs 18:14–16 dubbed Source A still stands. It is a composite text. Clues include the following: each verse has Hezekiah doing a different form of obeisance; all the verses give different accounts of how much gold or silver was sent (or not sent); the terminology for the temple shifts (v. 15: “house of Yhwh,” ‫ ;בת־יהוה‬v. 16, “temple of Yhwh,” ‫ ;)חיכל יהוה‬Hezekiah is called “king of Judah” (‫ )מלך יהודה‬in verses 14 and 16 but not in verse 15;21 and a new time formula appears in verse 16. All this evidence suggests that Source A is not a cohesive whole purporting one historically accurate version of what happened.22 Moreover, it was likely added after the narrative had already been inserted into the book of Kings. 20  Isa 39 only has two prophecies, whereas Kings has three. 21  He is also called the king of Judah in v. 13. Scholars regularly point out that Hezekiah’s name is spelled differently in vv. 14–16. 22  Critics have spent considerable time and energy deciding whether or not these three verses are the most historically reliable. The recent trend has been to question the earlier assumption that they are.

100   Shelley L. Birdsong Conclusion The formation of the Hezekiah and Isaiah narratives (henceforth HIN) was a complex process, but this evolution never destabilized the text’s unity or ability to produce meaning. The document actually solidified into a chorus as the layers of voices (sources, redactions) were put into harmony with preexisting ones. This polyphonic view of the HIN affirms the diachronic development of the text(s) without forsaking its literary coherence at every stage.23 It also paves the way for the larger polyphonic dialogue between Kings, Isaiah, and Chronicles. Finally, it invites new interpreters to follow the redactors’ lead and add their own voices to the chorus.

5.4.  The “Original” Context Much of the source and redaction debate relies on whether or not the HIN are original to the book of Kings or the book of Isaiah. Because of the overwhelming similarity between the two, most scholars have assumed that one must have borrowed from the other. In general, Kings has been given priority ever since Wilhelm Gesenius first proposed that Isa 36–39 was taken from Kings and appended to Isa 1–35 in 1821.24 Some of his reasons include the following: (a) the end of Jeremiah was brought over from Kings; so, too, this text was brought over from Kings into Isaiah; (b) the large plus in Isa 38:9–20, as well as other text-critical issues, suggests that Isa 36–39 is later and therefore secondary; (c) the prose style flows better with Kings as a narrative than with the poetic text of Isaiah.25 There are a few dissenters, including Peter Ackroyd,26 Klaas Smelik,27 Christopher Seitz,28 and Joel Anderson and Pieter Venter,29 who have challenged each of Gesenius’s claims. First, the comparison between 2 Kgs 25/Jer 52 and 2 Kgs 18–20/ Isa 36–39 is weak. It is more appropriate to compare Isa 36–39 to Jer 37–45, since these texts are prophetic narratives with extended dialogue rather than narratorial historiography. Second, Gesenius’s text-critical conclusions are over-simplistic and leave his argument wanting.30 Thorough analysis reveals both pluses and minuses in each book, which points toward independent development of each tradition rather than a primacy for Kings. Third, the conclusion that Isa 36–39 does not fit in a book of poetic prophecy is incorrect. There are several narrative components throughout Isaiah that make chapters 36–39 unexceptional, not to mention that much of the prophetic narrative includes Isaiah’s poetic oracles.31 Finally, there are thematic links in the chapters surrounding 23  Cf. Evans, “Hezekiah-Sennacherib.” Evans and I share similar views of the characters in the HIN as polyphonic, although our perspectives on the redactional element differ. 24 Gesenius, Commentar, 932–939. 25  I have borrowed this condensed version of Gesenius from Carr, “What Can We Say,” 585. 26  Ackroyd, “Historians and Prophets,” 18–54. 27  Smelik, “Distortion,” 70–93, esp. 71–74. 28 Seitz, Final Destiny, 96–116. Seitz is in conversation with Smelik throughout these pages. 29  Anderson, “The Rise,” 156–158; Anderson and Venter, “Isaiah.” 30  Anderson, “The Rise,” 156–157; Anderson and Venter, “Isaiah,” 51. 31 Seitz, Final Destiny, 103. Smelik argues that the inclusion of a latter prophet (Isaiah) in the Deuteronomistic History is more unusual, making the priority of Kings suspect (p. 72).

Narratives about Isaiah   101 Isa 36–39 that could point to the priority of Isaiah over Kings. These counterpoints put all Gesenius’s conclusions into question. So what is the original context for the HIN? A suggestion usually proposed but rarely taken up in earnest is that neither book is the original context.32 As my proposal in the previous section suggests, the HIN make up a composite text that developed independently of Isaiah and Kings; only later was the block added to each book, where it also underwent editing.33 This theory takes the pluses and minuses in each version seriously.34 It also explains why it can simultaneously fit in each context and the variant ordering works in each narrative framework. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it allows each text including the sources to maintain their value, rather than being relegated to a derivative status. That said, though their value remains equal, their meaning inevitably changes when placed into a variant context. It is to these distinctions that I now turn.

5.5.  Kings 18–20 in Context The story of Hezekiah in the Deuteronomistic History could have easily survived without 2 Kgs 18:13–20:19. It would have portrayed Hezekiah positively, stressing his religious reforms, commitment to God’s commands, and rebellion against Assyria, all of which are part of his divinely conferred prosperity (2 Kgs 18:1–8). Hezekiah’s list of accolades would have stood in stark contrast to the deeds of Hoshea, the king of Israel, whose story interweaves with his own. Unlike Hezekiah, Hoshea did not listen to God, and so an Assyrian king came up against him and ultimately destroyed Samaria (2 Kgs 18:9–12). But then redactors intervened. The HIN and Source A were included, and they changed the shape of the king’s legacy. No longer would Hezekiah be the perfect king, doing only what was right in the sight of Yhwh. Instead, he evolved into a complex character who experienced episodic moments of weakness (illness, doom) and of strength (recovery, salvation) presaged by the prophet Isaiah.35 Consequently, Hezekiah and Isaiah become intertextual links in the chain of rulers and prophets within the Deuteronomistic History. When read in its literary context, 2 Kgs 18:13–20:19 demonstrates that Hezekiah is not much different than the failed kings of Israel. In 2 Kgs 18:13, instead of being contrasted with Hoshea, Hezekiah begins to parallel him. Like Hoshea, Hezekiah is attacked by an Assyrian king, which implies that Hezekiah must have veered from his commitment to Yhwh; that is why Hoshea was attacked and destroyed (v. 12). Source A (2 Kgs 18:14–16) reinforces the insinuation. Hezekiah exemplifies his rejection of Yhwh when he gives 32  E.g., Anderson and Venter, “Isaiah,” 51. See also Clements, Jerusalem, chaps. 7–10, who follows Stade’s sources but not his view of the primacy of the account in Kings. 33  Cf. Seitz, Final Destiny, 104, 141, 185–191, who argues that various chapters were crafted for Kings or Isaiah and then transferred and edited for the other context. 34  I follow Seitz, Final Destiny; Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39; Raymond Person, “II Kings”; and Childs, Isaiah, in proposing that the HIN underwent their own textual development once in Kings and Isaiah. For thorough text-critical notes, see Roberts, First, 445–466, 476–477, 487–488. Cf. Root, “Scribal.” 35  Cf. Becking, “Realpolitiker,” who views Hezekiah as ideal exemplar in Kings despite the multiple redactional layers that produce his polyphonic character.

102   Shelley L. Birdsong his allegiance to Sennacherib. He repents to his political suzerain (v. 14), takes the treasure of Yhwh, and gives it to a foreign king (vv. 15–16). This reversal of Hezekiah’s depiction interrupts all notions of him as a righteous king. To make matters worse, Hezekiah’s obeisance to Sennacherib intertextually aligns him with two other monarchs who paid tribute to Assyria—Menachem and Ahaz. Menachem assassinated the Israelite king who preceded him (2 Kgs 15:14), attacked his own town and “ripped open all the pregnant women” (2 Kgs 15:16), and paid the king of Assyria to “turn back” so that he could maintain his power (2 Kgs 15:19–20). Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, also paid off the Assyrians to protect himself and did so using treasure from the house of Yhwh, just as his son had (2 Kgs 16:7–9).36 Such intertextual alignments debase the presentation of Hezekiah. Thus, when the interpreter reads the Rabshakeh’s speech to Hezekiah’s people in 2 Kgs 18 little doubt is cast on his words about Hezekiah’s potential weaknesses. When the Rabshakeh condemns Hezekiah for his reliance on Egypt, it underlines his negative association with Hoshea, who naively trusted in Pharaoh (2 Kgs 17:4). It also foreshadows the terrible consequences Judean kings will face when they engage Egypt, including the murder of Josiah (2 Kgs 23:29) and the capture of Jehoahaz (2 Kgs 23:33–34). Hezekiah’s character grows more complex as he begins to interact with Isaiah. Their scenes together intertextually link them to numerous other king-prophet narratives in the Deuteronomistic History, some of which include the stories of Saul and Samuel, David and Nathan, Jeroboam and Ahijah (and the man of God from Judah), Ahab and Elijah (and other prophets), Jehoram/Joram and Elisha, and Josiah and Huldah. In all of these narratives, the kings are presented as complicated personas, rather than caricatures, and receive both positive and negative prophetic words regarding their kingdoms or personal destinies. The following table outlines the strongest intertextual connections.  


The king does evil but is not punished personally; receives a prophecy that his child(ren) will suffer. 2 Kgs 20:12–19: Hezekiah shows Babylonian envoy treasure houses; Isaiah prophesies that all of the treasures and the sons of Hezekiah will be taken to Babylon; Hezekiah calls the prophecy good because there will be peace in his days.

The king responds to a negative circumstance with act of humility (usually tearing clothes and/ or prayer), and prophet/God responds positively, changing the circumstance. 2 Kgs 19:1–7, 35–37: Hezekiah tears clothes after Rabshakeh’s speech; he puts on sackcloth and goes to the temple; Isaiah proclaims that the king of Assyria will hear a rumor, return home, and fall by the sword; king returns and dies. 2 Kgs 19:9–37: King of Assyria sends a threat to Hezekiah; Hezekiah goes to temple, prays, and Isaiah prophesies that the Assyrian king will not attack Jerusalem but return home; he returns and dies. 2 Kgs 20:1–11: Hezekiah is ill and is told he will die; Hezekiah prays; he receives prophecy of an added 15 years to his life and the protection of Jerusalem.

36 Seitz, Final Destiny, 57–59, has previously made the connection between Hezekiah and Ahaz in their capitulation to Assyria.

Narratives about Isaiah   103 Other kings David


2 Sam 12:1–15: David has sex with Bathsheba and has Uriah killed; Nathan tells him he has sinned and the sword will never depart from his house, but he will not die, instead his child shall die.

1 Kgs 12:25–13:10: Jeroboam makes two golden calves and places them at Bethel and Dan; he offers incense at the altar; a man of God from Judah prophesies against the altar, and Jeroboam tries to seize him and his hand withers; king entreats the man and the favor of God; man of God prays for him, and he is restored.



1 Kgs 13:33–14:16: Jeroboam continued to do evil; Jeroboam’s son Abijah becomes ill; Jeroboam sends his wife to Ahijah, who proclaims that because of the sins of Jeroboam every male in his house will be cut off and die, including the child.

1 Kgs 21:20–29: Elijah prophesies that Ahab’s house will be cut off like Jeroboam’s; Ahab tears clothes and is dejected; word of yhwh comes to Elijah that Ahab will not see disaster because he humbled himself.

Ahab 1 Kgs 21:1–29: Ahab covets Naboth’s vineyard; Jezebel plots to kill Naboth; after he dies, Ahab takes his vineyard; Elijah prophesies that his house will be cut off like Jeroboam’s; Ahab tears clothes and is dejected; word of Yhwh comes to Elijah that Ahab will not see disaster because he humbled himself, instead it will come to his sons.

Jehoram 2 Kgs 5:1–14: King put in difficult position by the king of Aram, who requests that he heal his army commander, Naaman, who has leprosy; Jehoram tears his clothes, so Elisha heals the man. 2 Kgs 6:24–7:20: Ben-hadad besieges Samaria, and the city is starving; women admit to eating a child; Jehoram tears his clothes, revealing sackcloth, and makes an oath; he goes to Elisha, who prophesies that Samaria will be free again tomorrow; later, Yhwh causes the Arameans to hear the sound of a great army, so they flee, and Samaria is free. Josiah 2 Kgs 22:8–20: Josiah hears book of the law, tears his clothes, and has his officials inquire of Yhwh concerning the matter; they come to Huldah, and she says God’s wrath will come; however, since Josiah has a penitent heart, humbled himself, tore his clothes, and wept, yhwh heard his prayer; Huldah tells him he will die in peace.

The overlap of the HIN with these other kings and prophets is telling. To begin, Hezekiah is not in great company. Ahab and Jeroboam are the worst kings of Israel according to the Deuteronomistic History, and the prophets usually censure them. Moreover, several of these kings bring on generational punishment for their sins, which will negatively affect their descendants. For Hezekiah, the consequences are the broadest, resulting in the exile of all his people.37 However, in these vignettes, some form of prophetic or 37  Josiah may appear to be an exception, as he is generally free of culpability for the conflict in the story. However, the prophecy that he would die in peace does not actually come to fruition; instead, he is inexplicably murdered.

104   Shelley L. Birdsong divine pardon arises. Jeroboam, Ahab, Jehoram, Hezekiah, and Josiah all have a moment of humble penitence, which secures a positive change in their circumstances. David, Jeroboam, Ahab, and Hezekiah all avert the terrible disaster that they had personally instigated. That is not to say that their escape is cause for celebration; it is not, since the disaster is only delayed. But a modicum of peace is given to these kings, which complicates how readers should interpret them. What does all this mean for Hezekiah in Kings? It indicates that though Hezekiah may have begun as “the good guy” in the first few verses of 2 Kgs 18, that all changed once 2 Kgs 18:13–20:19 was added. The inserted text, in light of its context and intertextual connections, irreversibly soils Hezekiah’s character. He has become a human king in a monarchical saga in which prophets and narrators unwaveringly point the finger at kings for later suffering, particularly the exile. The weight of all the kings’ sins far exceeded their instances of virtue, and so—even though they got moments of respite— their descendants paid the price.

5.6.  Isaiah 36–39 in Context The HIN in Isa 36–39 play out differently than they do in Kings. The absence of Source A, the presence of Source HP, and the prophetic context rather than a monarchical one lighten the condemnation of the king, though he does not, as many previous scholars have posited, escape unscathed.38 Instead, Hezekiah serves as a warning to the returning exiles that even the restored and redeemed can still make mistakes. To avoid that, they need to curb false senses of security, steer clear of relationships with foreigners, and listen to the prophets. All these exhortations were already present in First Isaiah, but the redactors wanted to be clear that the ancient prophetic words still applied, even to those as righteous as Hezekiah. So they tempered the optimism that was coming in Second Isaiah with Hezekiah’s short cautionary tale. In this way, I follow a host of other scholars who see the HIN as a bridge or transition between First Isaiah and Second Isaiah, which primarily functions as a typological exhortation to the exilic and post-exilic communities.39 Isa 36–39 functions as a bridge because Hezekiah’s story and the prophecies he receives from Isaiah embody the hardship of war and death (Isa 1–33), as well as the hope of healing and new life (Isa 40–55). As such, it is a tale from the past that serves as an example for future generations—namely, the returning exiles. In Isa 37–38, Hezekiah’s actions exemplify how the righteous should respond in times of trouble. When Assyria 38  Those who find Hezekiah’s character wholly positive or significantly idealized in Isaiah include Bostock, Portrayal; Seitz, Final Destiny; Sweeney, Isaiah 1–4; and Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39. Those who hold a more nuanced view include Sehoon Jang, “Hezekiah”; Archibald van Wieringen, “Diseased”; and Song-Mi Park, Hezekiah. 39  See, e.g., Melugin, Formation; Smelik, “Distortion”; Ackroyd, “Interpretation”; Ackroyd, “Isaiah 36–39”; Clements, “Unity”; Clements, Jerusalem; Seitz, Final Destiny; Wagner, “Salvation.” The latter four spend time on Hezekiah as typological exemplar for the (post-)exilic context.

Narratives about Isaiah   105 was invading his nation, Hezekiah sent to Isaiah to pray (Isa 37:2–4) and prayed himself (Isa 37:15–20) for God’s intervention. As a result, God rewards Hezekiah’s righteousness with a prophecy of doom for Sennacherib and one of salvation for Jerusalem and its “remnant” or “band of survivors” (Isa 37:32). Similarly, when Hezekiah grows so sick that he might die, he cries out to the Lord asking him to remember the king’s faithfulness and righteousness (Isa 38:2–3). God heeds the request and heals Hezekiah. In virtuous response, Hezekiah lifts up a prayer of thanks (Isa 38:9–20). In this final episode, Hezekiah exemplifies what the healed and restored should do; they must give thanks and worship Yhwh in the temple (Isa 38:19–20). Unfortunately, Hezekiah also demonstrates what one should not do. Instead of fully depending on God at all times, he supplemented his religious hopes with foreign ­alliances. First, he Hezekiah looked to Egypt when Assyria moved toward Judah, despite Isaiah’s repeated condemnation of doing so (Isa 30:1–3; 31:1–3). Isaiah says their help will be “worthless and empty” (Isa 30:7), and the Rabshakeh claims that Egypt will injure Hezekiah rather than provide him with support (Isa 36:6). Isaiah and the Rabshakeh are proven correct. Egypt does not save Hezekiah. Instead, God does, decimating the Assyrians (Isa 37:36). This miraculous salvation provides Hezekiah with a second chance to show his faithfulness to God. Yet instead of learning his lesson, Hezekiah befriends the Babylonian envoys and reveals his own great wealth to them (Isa 39:1–2).40 Despite all that Yhwh had done for Hezekiah, he neglected his psalms of praise and exalted himself, trusting in his foreign relationships. Consequently, God chooses no longer to intervene, and Isaiah foretells the exile of Hezekiah’s children to Babylon (Isa 39:5–7). Thus the king, who had shown himself to be so faithful previously, fails this time, and it has substantial consequences. His story reveals that divine deliverance is not necessarily perpetual; it must be earned continually. The meaning underlying Hezekiah’s failed second chance is apropos for the returning exiles. Though their ancestors had allied themselves with foreign nations, they were being given an opportunity to behave differently. Yhwh saved them from Babylon, just as God had saved Hezekiah from Assyria. Now the exiles must ask themselves if they will welcome the next “Babylon,” as Hezekiah had done in his moment of false security. The story implores the reader not to make the same mistake. Reliance on God is the only option. That is what provides salvation; that is what heals and restores. The didactic message of the redactors is also undergirded by the intertextual dialogue created between Hezekiah and Ahaz. Putting Hezekiah in dialogue with his father allows the exiles to reflect on prophetic signs and the consequences of generational sin. The HIN in Isaiah have strong intertextual links back to Isa 7–9, where Ahaz interacts with Isaiah at the same place where the HIN begin (Isa 7:3; 36:2). Like Hezekiah, Ahaz receives signs from the prophet. But Ahaz refuses the signs, whereas Hezekiah accepts them gladly and even asks for them. The contrast elevates Hezekiah over his father as the more righteous king. However, Hezekiah will still pay the price for Ahaz’s self-righteousness. The prophecies given to Ahaz come to pass during Hezekiah’s reign. It is on his watch that the king of 40  “His” (3ms suffix) appears five times in v. 2.

106   Shelley L. Birdsong Assyria comes like a flood into Judah (Isa 7:8). Furthermore, Hezekiah could have become the righteous “Immanuel” prophesied to Ahaz, but he fell short because he eventually made the same mistake. Just like his father, he becomes self-righteous, not only when he entertains the Babylonians, but also when he breathes a sigh of relief that the consequences will not affect him personally (Isa 39:1–2, 8). His pride and self-absorption maintain the generational sin, and his descendants would suffer for his wrongdoings. For those very descendants, reading Hezekiah’s story in the book of Isaiah had to strike a chord.41 The returnees needed to stop the cycle of sin. If they wanted their children to live in the land in peace, then they had to right the wrongs of their ancestors Ahaz and Hezekiah. They must remain humble and trust the words of the prophets, including Isa 36–39.

5.7.  Chronicles 32 in Context Scholars generally agree that the Chronicler had access to multiple sources when he recrafted the history of Judah, including some version of the HIN. However, the Chronicler did not follow his sources strictly, as the redactors of 2 Kgs 18–20 and Isa 36–39 did. Thus, the retelling of Hezekiah’s story is quite different in Chronicles, and its context drastically alters his presentation. On the whole, Hezekiah is portrayed much more positively in Chronicles, a fact on which almost all scholars agree.42 First, Hezekiah receives longer treatment in Chronicles even though it features little dialogue, a diminished account of Sennacherib’s invasion, and no prophecies from Isaiah. Such omission of potentially tarnishing material is typical of the Chronicler.43 Moreover, to control the story, the Chronicler recounts events in a third-person omniscient form and puts extensive emphasis on Hezekiah as the ideal king. He enacts religious reforms, prepares the temple and priests for their duties, invites all of Judah and Israel to Passover, and more (2 Chron 29–31). He prays multiple times, including making an appeal for the healing of his people (2 Chron 30:18–20), an entreaty for salvation from Assyria (2 Chron 32:20), and a supplication for his own healing (2 Chron 32:24). God always answers. Hezekiah is repeatedly called “faithful,” and the narrator summarizes the time of his rule as the greatest since the time of Solomon (2 Chron 30:26). In addition, he is a wonderful military leader, who encourages the troops (2 Chron 32:7–8) and personally sees to the preparation for the battle against Assyria (2 Chron 32:1–6). These are vivid contrasts to the presentation of Hezekiah in Isa and Kings, where he mainly communicates through his retinue and is rarely seen except with Isaiah. In Chronicles, he is a king of the people, and he needs no intercessor, politically or religiously. Second, the Chronicler exalts Hezekiah via contrast by placing his story right between the stories of Ahaz and Manasseh, who are reportedly evil (2 Chron 28:1; 33:2). 41  I presume the HIN had a significant impact on earlier generations as well before the narrative was inserted into Isaiah for an exilic and post-exilic audience. Jehoiachin certainly would have felt the weight of this story if he had been aware of it (Clements, Jerusalem, 121). 42  See, e.g., Becking, “Realpolitiker,” 191–194; Japhet, Chronicles, 974–998; Klein, Chronicles, 456–470. 43  Throntveit, “Relationship.”

Narratives about Isaiah   107 Their depictions play out in relationship to the God of Israel and the king of Assyria. When Ahaz is under attack by Aram as a result of his religious sins, he tries to get help from Assyria. Instead of giving Ahaz aid, the king of Assyria oppresses him (2 Chron 28:20). The Chronicler directly correlates the horrible results with Ahaz’s plundering of Yhwh’s temple to pay tribute to Assyria (v. 21). Similarly, Assyria attacks Manasseh because he ignored the righteous callings of God (2 Chron 33:11). Hezekiah stands in relief to these two kings. Assyria does come up against him, but not because of an act of unfaithfulness (2 Chron 32:1). On the contrary, Hezekiah is presented as a righteous victim, who did nothing to incite such military action.44 His righteousness is further displayed when Hezekiah prays to the Lord and trusts fully in divine protection, unlike Ahaz and Manasseh. As a result, Hezekiah is saved. These contrasts are more polarized than the complex correlations made in Kings and Isaiah, and they put more emphasis on Hezekiah as a zealous religious figure than a complex political one. Finally, the Chronicler connects Hezekiah intertextually with several other kings who pray. After the captive Manasseh is brought to Babylon, he humbles himself and entreats Yhwh (2 Chron 33:12–13). God hears Manasseh’s prayer and restores him to his kingdom, where he enacts religious reforms. Similarly, Hezekiah has a moment of weakness and pride (2 Chron 32:25), but like Manasseh, he quickly humbles himself, thereby keeping God’s wrath at bay. The two other kings who most frequently pray in Chronicles are David and Solomon.45 Like these preeminent kings, who offer righteous supplications to Yhwh, especially in relationship to the temple (1 Chron 17 and 2 Chron 6), Hezekiah is presented as a religious man who cares for the temple and exalts the Lord in prayer. In Chronicles, Hezekiah’s intertextual connections to other prayerful kings elevate him in contrast to his connections to evil monarchs in Kings, who pray only in desperation. Although Hezekiah has a brief lapse of pride in Chronicles, it gives him the opportunity to be repentant and righteous. The debacle with the Babylonian envoy in Kings and Isaiah is further presented in Chronicles as a mere test in which he prospered (2 Chron 32:30–31). Essentially, all aspects of Hezekiah’s character that could have been viewed poorly before are rewritten or omitted in Chronicles, thus making Hezekiah an ideal king.

5.8. Conclusion Just as Jeremiah is understood as a rolling corpus, so, too, are Kings, Isaiah, and Chronicles, especially in their relationship to the HIN.46 The traditions of kings and prophets were myriad, and the process of their gathering, combining, and editing 44  Contra Kings, where it is explicitly noted that he rebelled. 45  Many have commented on the correlation of Hezekiah with David and Solomon in Chronicles. See Japhet, Chronicles, 998; Throntveit, “Relationship.” 46 McKane, Jeremiah, uses this concept to explain how the unwieldy book of Jeremiah came to be. See also Park, Hezekiah, who refers to the development of Hezekiah’s character as one of “rolling development” and a collage of voices.

108   Shelley L. Birdsong occurred over hundreds of years and through a tumult of political and theological shifts. Somewhere along the way, the various parts of Hezekiah and Isaiah’s stories came together and were deemed worthy enough to be used multiple times by various redactors, and so the smaller rolling corpus was subsumed into larger rolling corpuses that were taking on the shape and message of each new context. Such a conceptualization has much to contribute to the conversation about textual meaning and its ability to be transformed by both editors and readers throughout time. The diachronic process reveals a great truth to contemporary audiences, namely, that readers are essentially redactors; they can update the text in their own historical moment by putting it into new contexts. Presenting the biblical texts and their authors/­interpreters in this way helps deconstruct the myth that the Bible is an untouchable monolith. Instead, it is a living and changing document, which can continually adapt to its environment, producing multiple and dialogic meanings.

Bibliography Ackroyd, Peter R. “An Interpretation of the Babylonian Exile.” SJT 27 (1974): 328–352. Ackroyd, Peter R. “Isaiah 36–39: Structure and Function.” In Von Kanaan bis Kerala: Festschrift für Prof. Mag. Dr. Dr. J. P.M. van der Ploeg O.P. zur Vollendung des siebzigsten Lebensjahres am 4. Juli 1979: überreicht von Kollegen, Freunden und Schülern, edited by W. C. Delsman and J. P. M. van der Ploeg, 3–21. AOAT 211. Neukirchen-Vluyn and Kevelaer: Neukirchener and Butzon & Bercker, 1982. Ackroyd, Peter R. “Historians and Prophets.” SEÅ 33 (1968): 18–54. Anderson, Joel E. “The Rise, Fall, and Renovation of the House of Gesenius: Diachronic Methods, Synchronic Readings, and the Debate over Isaiah 36–39 and 2 Kings 18–20.” CurBS 11, no. 2 (2013): 147–167. Anderson, Joel E., and Pieter M. Venter. “Isaiah 36–39: Rethinking the Issues of Priority and Historical Reliability.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 65, no. 1 (2009): 49–55. Becking, Bob. “Between Realpolitiker and Hero of Faith: Memories of Hezekiah in Biblical Traditions and Beyond.” In Remembering Biblical Figures in the Late Persian Period and Early Hellenistic Periods, edited by Diana V. Edelman and Ehud Ben Zvi, 182–198. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Bostock, David. A Portrayal of Trust: The Theme of Faith in Hezekiah Narratives. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2006. Carr, David M. “What Can We Say about the Tradition History of Isaiah? A Response to Christopher Seit’s Zion’s Final Destiny.” In Society of Biblical Literature 1992 Seminar Papers. edited by Eugene H. Lovering, Jr., 583–597. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1992. Childs, Brevard. Isaiah. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2000. Childs, Brevard. Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis. SBT 2/3. London: SPCK, 1967. Clements, Ronald E. Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem. JSOTS 13. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1980. Clements, Ronald E. Jerusalem and the Nations: Studies in the Book of Isaiah. HBM 16. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011. Clements, Ronald E. “The Unity of the Book of Isaiah.” Int 36 (1982): 117–129. Dion, Paul E. “Sennacherib’s Expedition to Palestine.” Eglise et Théologie 20 (1989): 5–25.

Narratives about Isaiah   109 Evans, Paul S. “The Hezekiah-Sennacherib Narrative as Polyphonic Text.” JSOT 33 (2009): 335–358. Evans, Paul S. The Invasion of Sennacherib in the Book of Kings: A Source-Critical and Rhetorical Study of 2 Kings 18–19. VTS 125. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Gesenius, Wilhelm. Philologisch-kritischer und historischer Commentar über den Jesaia. Leipzig: F. C. W. Vogel, 1821. Gonçalves, Fancolino J. L’expédition de Sennachérib en Palestine dans la littérature hébraïque ancienne. EBib 7. Paris: J. Gabalda, 1986. Hardmeier, Christof. Prophetie im Streit vor dem Untergang Judas: Erzählkommunikative Studien zur Entstehungssituation der Jesaja- und Jeremiaerzählungen in II Reg 18–20 und Jer 37–40. BZAW 187. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1990. Hess, Richard S. “Hezekiah and Sennacherib in 2 Kings 18–20.” In Zion, City of Our God, edited by Richard S. Hess and Gordon J. Wenham, 23–41. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. Jang, Sehoon. “Is Hezekiah a Success or a Failure? The Literary Function of Isaiah’s Prediction at the End of the Royal Narratives in the Book of Isaiah.” JSOT 42 (2017): 117–135. Japhet, Sara. I & II Chronicles: A Commentary. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster, John Knox Press, 1993. Klein, Ralph W. 2 Chronicles. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2012. Matty, Nazek Khalid. Sennacherib’s Campaign against Judah and Jerusalem in 701 B.C.: A Historical Reconstruction. BZAW 487. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016. McKane, William. Jeremiah: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary. 2 vols. ICC. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986–1996. Melguin, Roy F. The Formation of Isaiah 40–55. BZAW 141. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976. Park, Song-Mi Suzie. Hezekiah and the Dialogue of Memory. Emerging Scholars. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015. Person, Raymond F., Jr. “II Kings 18–20 and Isaiah 36–39: A Text Critical Case Study in the Redaction History of the Book of Isaiah.” ZAW 111 (1999): 373–379. Roberts, J. J. M. First Isaiah: A Commentary, edited by Peter Machinist. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015. Root, Bradley. “Scribal Error and the Transmission of 2 Kings 18–20 and Isaiah 36–39.” In Sacred History, Sacred Literature: Essays on Ancient Israel, the Bible, and Religion in Honor of R. E. Friedman on His Sixtieth Birthday, edited by Shawna Dolansky, 51–60. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2008. Seitz, Christopher R. Zion’s Final Destiny: The Development of the Book of Isaiah. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991. Smelik, Klaas A. D. “Distortion of Old Testament Prophecy: The Purpose of Isaiah xxxvi and xxxvii.” In Crises and Perspectives: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Polytheism, Biblical Theology, Palestinian Archaeology and Intertestamental Literature. Papers Read at the Joint British-Dutch Old Testament Conference, held at Cambridge, U.K. 1985, edited by Adam S. van der Woude, 70–93. OtSt 24. Leiden: Brill, 1986. Stade, Bernhard. “Miscellen 16: Anmerkungen zu 2 Kö. 15–21.” ZAW 6 (1886): 156–189. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–4 and the Post-Exilic Understanding of the Isaianic Tradition. BZAW 171. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1988. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–39. FOTL 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Throntveit, Mark A. “The Relationship of Hezekiah to David and Solomon in the Book of Chronicles.” In The Chronicler as Theologian: Essays in Honor of Ralph W. Klein, edited by M. Patrick Graham, Steven L. McKenzie, and Gary N. Knoppers, 105–121. London: T & T Clark International, 2003.

110   Shelley L. Birdsong Wagner, Thomas. “From Salvation to Doom: Isaiah’s Message in the Hezekiah Story.” In Prophecy and Prophets in Stories: Papers Read at the Fifth Meeting of the Edinburgh Prophecy Network, Utrecht, October 2013, edited by Bob Becking and Hans M. Barstad, 92–103. OtSt 65. Leiden: Brill, 2015. Wieringen, Archibald L. H. M. van. “The Diseased King and the Diseased City (Isa. 36–39) as a Reader-Oriented Link between Isa. 36–39 and Isa. 40–66.” In “Enlarge the Site of Your Tent”: The City as Unifying Theme in Isaiah, edited by Archibald L. H. M. van Wieringen and Annemarieke van der Woude, 81–93. OtSt 43. Leiden: Brill, 2001.

chapter 6

Isa i a h 40 –55 Katie M. Heffelfinger

6.1.  History of Formation Despite the widely acknowledged recent increase of interest in final form oriented studies of the book of Isaiah and portions thereof,1 there remains general scholarly interest in the question of editorial work on the various component sections.2 Chapters 40–55 (hereafter Second Isaiah) have both been the subject of redaction-critical studies and figured prominently in studies of the formation of the whole of Isaiah.3 In what follows, I will describe some elements of the history of redaction-critical study of Second Isaiah and then describe some of the possibilities for composition study opened up by recent inquiries into poetics and oral culture.

6.1.1.  Redaction Criticism Rainer Albertz observes that “redaction criticism approached Deutero-Isaiah much later and more slowly than the other prophetic books.”4 Nevertheless, a variety of significant redaction-critical proposals for these sixteen chapters appear in the literature. Many such proposals are available, and “no consensus has emerged.”5 As Blenkinsopp puts it regarding the “process of formation . . . practically every conceivable position has 1  I wish to express my gratitude to Collin Cornell for his assistance in accessing sources needed to write this article and to Patricia K. Tull for her insightful comments on an early draft. 2  Regarding the rise of interest in whole-book studies, see Melugin, “Isaiah 40–66,” 142–194; regarding the composition of Second Isaiah, Tate, “Book of Isaiah,” writes that “it is probable that Second Isaiah is the product of a redactional history” (p. 31). 3  See Albertz, Israel, 381–392, for a helpful overview of recent redaction-critical proposals. Williamson, Book, gives a prominent position to these chapters in his argument about the growth of the book of Isaiah. 4 Albertz, Israel, 381. Berges, Book, 300, comments similarly. 5 Mettinger, Farewell, 18, n. 26. Childs, Isaiah, 291, comments similarly.

112   Katie M. Heffelfinger been adopted in the modern period.”6 The Servant Songs, Hymns, and framing devices for sections and for the whole have figured heavily in studies of the composition of this portion of the book of Isaiah. As this survey will demonstrate, despite agreement about the importance of these features, scholarly reconstructions based on the observation of these components vary widely. The contention that the so-called Servant Songs represent an interpolation into the book goes back to Bernhard Duhm.7 As Childs comments, Duhm “laid the foundation for later redactional analysis that sought to interpret a portion of Second Isaiah independently of the corpus as a whole.”8 This approach to the Servant Songs has exerted considerable influence over studies of Second Isaiah’s composition. Scholars who treat the Servant Songs as a separate strand in their compositional studies include Hans-Jürgen Hermisson and Claus Westermann. Hermisson isolates the Servant Songs from the earliest layer of text in Second Isaiah, treating them as a separate collection, added to the earliest layers prior to the addition of layers typified by interest in expectation of imminent salvation and the idol makers.9 Westermann treats the Servant Songs as “a separate strand.”10 He proposes that most of the text and the primary arrangement of the oracles go back to the prophet Deutero-Isaiah himself, but indicates a number of later additions, including the Servant Songs, an insertion within the Cyrus oracle, the passages concerning the creation of idols, “occasional admonitions and accusations,” and what he refers to as “Amen glosses.”11 Trygvve Mettinger agrees with Westermann about the importance of the hymns, but draws from them very different conclusions about the composition of Isa 40–55.12 Indeed, treating the hymns as primary evidence for his composition study, Mettinger concludes that the Servant Songs are integral to the whole of these chapters.13 He points out the extent to which the independent status of the Servant Songs has influenced Westermann’s interpretation of the evidence, noting that Westermann differentiates between the hymns that follow Servant Songs and those that do not, and treats the ­former as later additions.14 He comments, “If Westermann’s attention had not been dominated by the idea of the ‘Servant Songs,’ he would scarcely have arrived at this understanding of the function of the hymns.”15 In contrast, Mettinger demonstrates that hymns play a role “bracket[ing]” three significant passages “set[ting] them

6 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, 73. 7 Duhm, Buch, 284. 8 Childs, Isaiah, 291. 9  Hermisson, “Einheit,” 309–311. He notes that his proposal is a preliminary one and that a number of questions remain (p. 310). 10 Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, 29. 11 Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, 28–30. Interestingly, Westermann thinks the first three Servant Songs were written by the prophet Deutero-Isaiah but added to the book at a later date (p. 29). 12  See Westermann, Forschung, 161, on the importance of the hymns. 13 Mettinger, Farewell, calls them “the best point of departure for an analysis of the composition in ch. 40–55” (p. 18). 14 Mettinger, Farewell, 19. Mettinger concludes that Duhm’s excision of the “Servant Songs” is disproven on “linguistic, form critical, compositional, and contentual” grounds (p. 45). 15 Mettinger, Farewell, 19.

Isaiah 40-55   113 in high relief.”16 He thus describes the structure of Isa 40–55 as exhibiting key passages ­highlighted by the hymns that frame them. The central one of these, 49:1–12, he concludes, “both separates and unifies the two parts of the book” (i.e., 40–48 and 49–55).17 The other two of these highlighted sections occur at “approximately the middle of each half of the book.”18 Importantly for Mettinger’s project, two of these three highlighted sections are among the group of “Servant Songs” delineated by Duhm. Mettinger’s work, though it does not primarily aim at a full compositional analysis, constitutes an important shift in thinking about the place of the Servant in Second Isaiah and has opened up new lines of inquiry, particularly an increase in readings that consider the relationship between the Servant and Zion.19 Another proposal that treats the hymns as key evidence but draws significantly different conclusions about composition is that of Ulrich Berges. Also drawing on what he identifies as the major structural devices—that is, the hymns and instructions to depart—Berges identifies four primary layers of development in chapters 40–55.20 He considers the hymns “the most obvious structural features within chaps. 40–55,”21 and indicates that the “Exodus commands” structure the chapters in “three parts (40–48; 49–52; 54–55).”22 His proposal assigns to “exilic tradents” the compiling of the “oracle materials” from the “exilic prophet,” which results in a version of chapters 40–48 punctuated by hymns.23 This composition is then further developed by the returned exiles in the “first Jerusalem redaction” to incorporate 49–52 and 40:1–5, 9–11.24 A “second Jerusalem redaction” attaches 54–55 and 40:6–8 as a response to the “delayed salvation.”25 Berges understands the fourth servant song as a separate addition.26 Interestingly, the primary structural devices that Berges identifies (hymns, commands to depart) are assigned to multiple hands in his redactional proposal.27 Similarly, the Servant Songs, while “an integral part of the textual corpus,” derive from multiple redactional layers.28 Rainer Albertz’s work also draws together observations about the role of the hymns and the incorporation of the Servant Songs. He sees two conclusions to the work as ­indications of two main redactional stages, and views the use of eschatological hymns as 16  Mettinger, 20. 17  Mettinger, 24. 18  Mettinger, 21. 19  On the limits of his study, see Mettinger, Farewell, 26. See, e.g., Sawyer, “Daughter,” 89–107; and Schmidt, “Servant and Zion.” 20 Berges, Book, 385. He indicates “to a lesser extent the verses of the ‘pious vs sinners’ theme . . . function as markers.” 21 Berges, Book, 306. 22  Berges, 385. 23  Berges, 335. 24  Berges, 386. 25  Berges, 386. 26  Berges, 377. 27  The “golah redaction” includes the command to depart in 48:20–21. See Berges, Book, 344. But, Berges notes, the command in 52:11–12 appears to belong to the “first Jerusalem redaction” (pp. 353–354), and the final departure text, 55:12, belongs to the portion of the book that he identifies as the “second Jerusalem redaction[’s]” composition (pp. 360, 376). Similarly, while Berges presents the “golah redaction” as incorporating hymns into its shaping of 40–48 (p. 335), other hymnic passages he identified (e.g., 52:9–10) fall outside the range of chapters attributed to the “golah redaction” (p. 306). 28 Berges, Book, 316. Berges indicates that the Servant Songs “themselves hardly play a structuring role” (p. 310). As noted above, Berges treats the fourth Servant Song as an addition made chronologically later than the “second Jerusalem redaction” (p. 377). However, he gives the “golah redaction” credit for the placement of the first Servant Song (p. 335), and considers that the “first Jerusalem redaction” placed the second Servant Song (p. 344).

114   Katie M. Heffelfinger framing devices as an indicator of early redactional incorporation of the elements framed by them.29 Because one of the Servant Songs appears inside such a frame, he concludes that “at least the Servant Song in 49:1–6* was an indispensable part of the very first edition of the book of Deutero-Isaiah.”30 As the foregoing survey demonstrates, despite agreement that the hymns function as significant structuring devices, scholars have differed on what their importance means for the history of the composition of the book. Among scholars who agree that the hymns play a compositionally structuring role, there remains wide divergence about the number of redactional layers and the place of the Servant Songs within the development of the corpus.

6.1.2.  Other Approaches Redaction criticism, as this discussion has shown, has played a significant role in the study of Second Isaiah. It is, however, not the only possible approach to the composition of these chapters and their relationship to the whole.31 As Claire Mathews helpfully points out, “The images that we use to talk about the book of Isaiah grow out of our presuppositions concerning the text, and either limit, or enlarge our understanding of it.”32 Mathews employs “a musical metaphor,” referring to Isaiah as “a prophetic chorus,” one she describes as “polyphonic.”33 Similarly, Goldingay and Payne emphasize Second Isaiah’s “spiral . . . character” and compare it to “a symphony or suite.”34 Such conceptions take account of important features within the text. Features that merit increased consideration in further work on the composition of Isa 40–55 include the poetic character of these chapters and the probable oral mode of delivery. Attention to a style and level of cohesion that is typical of biblical Hebrew poetry in general, and of Second Isaian poetry in particular, points toward caution in assigning discontinuities and tensions to different editorial hands. While conceptual and stylistic inconsistencies have featured as important factors in the construction of redaction­critical approaches to these chapters,35 interestingly, Hermisson, who works within a redaction-­critical model, helpfully sounds a note of caution about employing the technique in ways that smooth out theological complexities or treat poetry in prosaic ways.36 As Roy F. Melugin noted, “wider reading in literary criticism . . . might result in a significant lowering of confidence in the kinds of redaction-historical analysis currently in 29 Albertz, Israel, 393–394. 30  Albertz, 394. 31  Goldingay and Payne, Isaiah 40–55, 1:7, enumerate a number of reservations about the method. 32 Mathews, Defending Zion, 179. 33  Mathews, 179. 34  Goldingay and Payne, Isaiah 40–55, 1:19. 35  Childs, “Retrospective Reading,” and Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” both point out the extent to which “allegedly conceptual tensions” (Childs, 368) and “thematic incoherence” (Couey, 3) have been employed as a redactional criterion. 36  Hermisson, “Einheit,” 292. See also Williamson, Book, 22, who discusses Hermisson’s various cautions about compositional reconstructions.

Isaiah 40-55   115 vogue among many biblical scholars.”37 This has indeed proven to be the case among some interpreters. Melugin’s proposal that we might allow “poetry [to] function with its own kind of referentiality,” has pointed toward a divergent perspective on the relationship of Second Isaiah’s component poems.38 As Goldingay and Payne helpfully indicate, “the assumption that poets and prophets aim at or achieve succinctness and consistency is gratuitous.”39 Indeed, recent studies of biblical Hebrew poetry have emphasized that such poetry frequently employs a non-narrative style which is governed more by juxtaposition than by thematic evenness.40 Isa 40–55 is arguably dominated by such poetry.41 Second Isaiah employs sudden shifts of speaker and theme, and ideas and motifs regularly appear in tension with one another.42 That is, Second Isaiah arguably employs tension and juxtaposition as a mode of poetic meaning-making.43 If this is the case, it should lead to particular caution in assigning materials to different redactional hands based on their apparent discontinuity with their immediate contexts.44 Indeed, regarding Duhm’s position on the Servant Songs, Tull Willey appropriately comments that “hyperbole and paradox, and the logical tensions that result from them, permeate not only this character, but the entire text of Second Isaiah, and are not easily resolved on a rational level.”45 Each of these observations, in its own way, points to the need to treat discontinuity and tension as redactional criteria with particular caution. Such characteristics appear typical of Second Isaian style. This observation does not rule out the likelihood of redactional activity, as Couey has insightfully argued.46 It does, however, make it somewhat more complicated to reliably discern.47 Indeed, appreciation of discontinuities and tensions as meaningful elements of the text’s mode of proclamation, though complicating composition study, may open fruitful lines of interpretive inquiry. A second matter related to the poetic character of these chapters that has a bearing on both compositional and interpretive questions is the relationship between poetry, ­persuasiveness, and prophetic activity. Richard Clifford, for example, contrasts his own approach to “lengthy” units and a conception of the prophet as “orator” with that of the 37  Melugin, “Recent Form Criticism,” 57. 38  Melugin, “Recent Form Criticism,” 57. E.g., regarding First Isaiah, Couey, Reading, observes that traits often regarded as compositional markers, such as “shifts in theme or style” are features that “occur frequently in poetry” (p. 19). 39  Goldingay and Payne, Isaiah 40–55, 1:7. 40 Dobbs-Allsopp, Biblical Poetry, 10, describes the minimal presence of narrative verse in the Hebrew Bible. His chapter “The Idea of Lyric Poetry in the Bible,” 178–232, describes significant features of nonnarrative Hebrew poems and articulates the interpretive significance of these characteristics for poems that exhibit them noting that “prophetic verse, even when it moves most decisively away from any kind of strong lyric sensibility, nonetheless holds much in common with the lyric poetry of the Bible” (p. 228). See also Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” 4. 41  See Heffelfinger, I Am Large. 42 Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 63–65. Melugin, Formation, comments, “in Deutero-Isaiah verses and strophes break in without any apparent relation to the context” (p. 6). 43 Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 66–67. 44  Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” 4. 45  Tull Willey, Remember, 177. 46  Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” 4. 47  Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” notes that “redaction is not the only, or always the best, explanation for such discontinuities” (p. 4).

116   Katie M. Heffelfinger “author as lyric poet.”48 However, poetics and persuasiveness are not mutually exclusive.49 At least as far back as Muilenburg’s work, the term “rhetorical” has been used in the discussion of these chapters by various scholars and in a variety of ways.50 Clarification in this area is to be desired as work on these chapters continues. In addition to poetics, orality is a significant consideration that should be borne in mind in assessing the composition of these chapters. Goldingay and Payne helpfully point out that the methods and materials that are known from the period of composition ought to play a role in our expectations of how the text might have come together. They describe the redactional approach as “presuppos[ing] a process” which is “difficult to conceive in the age of the scroll.”51 Many redaction-critical proposals allow for an oral stage for these chapters. Berges, for example, uses language of the “exilic prophet’s preaching” and treats the core of 40–48 as going back to that figure, and being later collected and compiled by the exiles.52 However, studies that focus on the nature of compilation of oral prophecy represent a potential area of future further focus in composition studies of Second Isaiah. It seems highly likely that these chapters were presented to their original audience as oral poetic prophecy. Whether written for oral performance or performed orally and later recorded in writing, the likelihood that the exiles were a largely “oral culture” is quite high, making primarily written dissemination of the prophecies unlikely.53 Interestingly, Second Isaiah differs from many other prophetic collections within the Hebrew Bible, because the explicit markers of the compilation process familiar in such collections are notably absent from these sixteen chapters.54 In comparison with other prophetic collections, most particularly Isa 1–39, Second Isaiah lacks the markers one might expect to find. These include both “historical notices” (e.g., Isa 6:1; 7:1; Amos 1:1) and headings announcing the word (hadābār, e.g., Isa 2:1; Jer 7:1; 11:1; cf. dĕbar Ezek 6:1; 7:1; 12:1; Joel 1:1), a vision (ḥăzôn, e.g., Isa 1:1; cf. without ḥăzôn Amos 7:1, 4; 8:1), or an utterance (massaʾ, e.g., Isa 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1, 11, 13; 22:1; cf. a similar phenomenon without the term massaʾ in Jer 48:1; 49:1, 23, 28).55 This absence of formal markers presents a distinctive set of problems for compositional analysis. It has the potential to suggest that the final redactors intended the work to be read as a unified whole, and particularly in light of the oracles preceding and connected by more formal means to the prophetic ministry of Isaiah of Jerusalem.56 48 Clifford, Fair Spoken, 4. 49  See further, Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 23–26. 50  Heffelfinger, 9–10, n. 28. 51  Goldingay and Payne, Isaiah 40–55, 1:7. A similar critique is leveled by Baltzer, “Book,” 262. 52 Berges, Book, 334–335. 53  See, e.g., van der Toorn, Scribal Culture, 10–11. Interestingly, van der Toorn considers DeuteroIsaiah part of a “ ‘scribalization’ of prophecy,” and likely written (p. 203). 54  Melugin, “Isaiah 40–66,” treats Second Isaiah as “the work of a collector of earlier speech-units” (p. 144). Melugin, Formation, comments that “in its final form the collection has deliberately eradicated any indicators of the process of growth” (p. 175). 55 Melugin, Formation, discusses the absence of “narratives and brief historical notices characteristic of other prophets” (pp. 176–177) and highlights the particular contrast with Isa 1–39 in this regard. 56 Melugin, Formation, 177. Similarly, Seitz, “Book of Isaiah 40–66,” claims that reading 40–55 “as an extension of the vision of Isaiah” means “reading this material on something of the terms those who preserved it meant for us to” (p. 321).

Isaiah 40-55   117 As Dobbs-Allsopp indicates, scholarly work with poetic texts “now needs to be ready to temper or reframe its governing assumptions and preferred technologies of criticism in light of the requirements of a potentially very different kind of literacy and textuality forged at the interface of a deeply informing orality.”57 As with assumptions about consistency, tension, and thematic unity, such a shift in expectation about the means and mode by which texts were produced can only have a significant impact on the models of composition that are offered when scholars operate from such assumptions.

6.2.  Function in the Book of Isaiah as a Whole The book of Isaiah is distinctive among the Major Prophets because it spans the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian periods.58 Chapters 40–55 stand as the primary exilic period voice in the sixty-six chapter whole. Although the chronological distance between the events recounted in chapter 39 (the Babylonian visit to Hezekiah during the period of Assyrian dominance) and the widely held date for the announcement of comfort (539/540) could lead to an expectation that these sections of the book would offer distinct messages, it has become increasingly clear that there is some relationship between the parts of the whole. However, scholars differ on the nature of that relationship.

6.2.1.  Approaches to the Whole One highly influential work in this discussion is H. G. M. Williamson’s The Book Called Isaiah.59 Williamson presents a case for influence in two directions between First Isaiah and Second Isaiah. He argues that the exilic prophet understood his own work as “an integral continuation”60 of the work of Isaiah of Jerusalem. Williamson argues on the basis of a number of thematic and lexical connections between passages in the two b ­ odies of work that Second Isaiah knew an early version of First Isaiah.61 He further claims that Second Isaiah understood himself to be announcing the time of deliverance anticipated in the work of the eighth-century prophet, especially in light of the ­references in the former’s work to “the writing down of his words under secure ­conditions so that they may

57 Dobbs-Allsopp, Biblical Poetry, 5. 58 McEntire, Chorus, 7, comments on Isaiah’s similarity to the Book of the Twelve in this regard. Schramm, Opponents of Third Isaiah, 50, also notes that Isaiah spans these historical periods. 59  See Williamson, Book, esp. his summary of his argument (pp. 240–241). 60 Williamson, Book, 113. 61 Williamson, Book, notes “Deutero-Isaiah must have read an earlier form of the work and been influenced by it sufficiently to adopt a considerable number of its themes and modes of expression” (p. 93).

118   Katie M. Heffelfinger act as a witness in future, more hopeful days.”62 He contends that the exilic prophet intentionally appended his work to that of the eighth century prophet and edited the earlier work in light of his own.63 Williamson’s approach to the development of the whole book gives a prominent role in the shaping of the book to the exilic prophet.64 However significant Second Isaian work might be to the composition of the whole, Williamson’s proposal does not give the exilic prophet the final hand in composition. He treats some passages as elements of further redaction and sees 56–66 as being both later than and the likely cause of some further redaction of 1–55.65 Although the field has largely rejected a position, associated with Duhm and his followers, that the three sections of the book of Isaiah were composed separately and only later joined,66 Williamson’s approach is not the only way of viewing a compositional relationship and unity among these parts.67 Rendtorff, for example, also notes a discernible and intentionally created unity among the sections, as well as the significant place of chapters 40–55.68 However, his approach differs from Williamson’s emphasis on the development of Isa 40–55 out of 1–39, and he gives a dominant hand to those responsible for chapters 56–66 in unifying previously distinct materials.69 Rendtorff ’s observations highlight the extent to which overlapping themes and terminology are used in distinctly differing ways in 1–39 and 40–55 and are unified with the whole in passages that he understands as forging links. For example, he views chapters 1, 12, and 35 as drawing connections to chapter 40 and he articulates the ways that justice (mšpṭ), righteousness (ṣdq/ṣdqh), and salvation (both nouns and verbs from the root yšʿ) are used in particular pairs (righteousness with justice as a human obligation in 1–39; and righteousness with salvation as a divine action in 40–55), which are brought together in 56:1.70 Rendtorff ’s analysis indicates specific disjunctions of thinking between 1–39 and 40–55, which the author of 56:1 “is fully conscious of ” and “combin[es] in this verse for the first time.”71 That is, whereas Williamson’s observations of shared themes and vocabulary led him to postulate the intentional development of Second Isaiah out of First, Rendtorff ’s analysis leads him to propose that there was more original distinction between these materials that were linked by a later hand. Rendtorff ’s approach treats Isa 40–55 as the first unified component of the book, a part he calls “the heart of the present composition.”72 He leaves open the question of whether chapters 1–39 come together independently or entirely as part of the formation of the book.73 Regarding 56–66, he sees it as “hardly conceivable that . . . [it] ever had an independent existence.”74 His position points to a process of formation that brought together chapters 1–39 and 56–66 around an exilic core.

62  Williamson, 106–107 (citation 106). 63  Williamson, 240–241. 64  Williamson, 240–241. 65  Williamson, 20. 66  See Hays, “Book of Isaiah,” 550. 67  See Tull, “One Book, Many Voices,” 284–289, for a useful overview. 68 Rendtorff, Canon, 155, 167. 69  Rendtorff, 168–169. 70  Rendtorff, 150–55, 162–164, 184. 71  Rendtorff, 184. 72  Rendtorff, 167. 73  Rendtorff, 168. 74  Rendtorff, 169.

Isaiah 40-55   119

6.2.2.  Shared Vocabulary, Themes, and Formal Features Second Isaiah shares vocabulary and themes with passages in both chapters 1–39 and 56–66.75 Additionally, its contribution to a book that exhibits a kind of unity extends to its theological outlook and the way the form of writing conveys that outlook. Isaian texts emphasize the particular grandeur, holiness, and incomparability of Israel’s God (e.g., Isa 2:17; 6:5; 33:5; 40:12–26; 46:9; 57:15; 63:11, as well as the frequent use of the epithet qĕdôš yiśrāʾēl, “the Holy One of Israel,” e.g., Isa 1:4; 5:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 43:14; 45:11; 47:4); the reliability and majesty of Yhwh’s word (e.g., Isa 9:8; 24:3; 40:8; 55:11; 66:5); and the deity as one who controls the past, the future, and the fate of nations (e.g., 2:2–4; 10:5–11; 14:24–27; 42:8–9; 43:18–19; 44:6–8; 46:8–11; 60:4–7; 65:17).76 Together these themes offer a vision of the deity that is irreducible and beyond human categorization. While the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah convey their message through a mixture of prophetic poetry and prose, chapters 40–55 present an intensification of the frequency of the poetic mode of discourse. Couey has helpfully described the prophetic poet’s “voice” in First Isaiah as “by turns sarcastic, antagonistic, erudite, heartbroken, confident, hopeful—in short, as complexly constructed as the poems themselves.”77 Second Isaiah, standing juxtaposed to the collection of eighth-century-oriented texts, moves its focus away from the human prophetic voice and relies much more heavily upon the speaking voice of the deity.78 That voice employs a similar range of tones. Like the collection that preceded it, its “poems frequently call attention to their status as speech,”79 not inappropriately for a corpus that conveys the power of the divine word, and exhibits a “significant sense of disconnect among the parts.”80 These features convey a theological perspective that glorifies the deity and does so through literary forms that emphasize Yhwh’s majestic speaking presence and rejection of limitations imposed by human expectations. Juxtaposition and nonnarrative movement become the norm after chapter 39, driving home the message that Israel’s experience emerges from the hand of the God whom no human controls or determines. The similarity of First and Second Isaiah in this regard is striking. Regarding a First Isaian passage, Couey describes this complex theological orientation, noting that “it may simply be that Isaiah expected Judah to experience divine 75  See, e.g., Williamson, Book, esp. 92–94. 76  The repetition of reference to the divine word in chapters 40 and 55 is widely commented upon. See, e.g., Goldingay and Payne, Isaiah 40–55, 2:378. Concerning the emphasis on Yhwh’s word, see also the discussion of distinctive Isaian introductions to oracles in Williamson, Book, 79–81. Regarding “Holy One of Israel,” Williamson, Book, comments on the “unprecedented density of usage of the phrase in the book of Isaiah” indicating that “any attempt to explain its usage in the later chapters without reference to the fact that it is distinctively characteristic of the book as a whole would be perverse” (p. 43). 77 Couey, Reading, 206. 78 Melugin, Formation, also employs the language of chapters 39 and 40 having been “juxtaposed” (p. 178). Regarding voices in Second Isaiah, see further, Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 161–166; and Tull, “Who Says What,” 157–168. 79 Couey, Reading, 206. 80  Couey, 205.

120   Katie M. Heffelfinger action in such inconsistent, if not outrightly contradictory, ways over the course of the crisis of 701 bce.”81 In a later theological crisis, that of exile, Second Isaiah takes up a parallel position and stands juxtaposed to Isaiah of Jerusalem’s proclamation. Links between these two sections resonate poetically via echoes produced by references to the former things and the presentation of the speaking deity.82 Rather than looking for a narrative progression between the sections of the book, a move complicated by a wide historical gap, the text’s own presentation offers the possibility of treating the relationships on analogy with poetic parataxis.83 That is, prophetic materials from distinct historical situations stand juxtaposed in the present text, inviting the reader to find resonances as well as dissonances between them.84 There is, of course, a temporal progression between these sections, but no “narrative” relating these distinct historical periods of prophetic activity overtly ties the sections, and the disjunction between chapters 39 and 40 is more prominent than is continuity in this regard. Indeed, the poetic opening words of Second Isaiah break into a previous narrative context regarding an earlier period without explanation or introduction. This juxtaposition is not merely the successive adding on of later prophetic texts.85 Rather, as Schramm points out, “the growth of the book cannot be conceived as having arisen from the simple juxtaposition of the three major blocks of material. It appears, rather, that at each successive stage in the book’s growth the earlier material was reshaped by the concerns of the later material.”86 Instead, conceiving of the relationships between 1–39, 40–55, and 56–66 in light of poetic considerations means employing “nonnarrative strategies of reading, where fragmentation and the accommodation of fragmentation” are part of the readerly response to what stands as a likely intentional development by an editorial hand.87 In an Isaian poetic mode, the exilic voice takes up images and theological claims and re-presents them in a new voice to a new crisis.

81  Couey, 185. 82 Williamson, Book, 67–77, details a proposal for the development of the “former things” and “latter things” motif by Second Isaiah out of a First Isaian passage. 83  See the proposal of Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” who argues for reading “the textualized Book of Isaiah as a collection of . . . poetic sequences” (p. 5). For a helpful discussion of parataxis, see Dobbs-Allsopp, Biblical Poetry, 199–200. 84  This approach builds upon the insights of Melugin, Formation, 87–89, who argues that the arrangement of units within Isa 40–55 works on “analogy” (p. 87) with the form “inside the genre unit,” noting that within “the individual genre unit language is not used discursively.” Melugin’s approach applies the mode of cohesion of individual units to the arrangement of Isa 40–55. Such an approach expanded to the relationship between larger bodies of text, 1–39, 40–55, 56–66, is suggested here. As with Melugin’s proposal, such an approach does not minimize the importance of editorial hands. Rather, with Melugin, one might say that “the method assumes the likelihood that the arranger, sharing something of the spirit of the poet understood that he was dealing with the language of poetry and arranged his material in artistic fashion also” (p. 89). 85  As Hays, “Book of Isaiah,” notes, “As more and more attention is drawn to the interconnections among the book’s sections, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine that the authors and tradents of the book’s later strata worked without paying close attention to the earlier strata” (p. 550). 86 Schramm, Opponents of Third Isaiah, 50. 87  Dobbs-Allsopp, “Poetry, Hebrew,” 555.

Isaiah 40-55   121 Isa 40–55 appears even more closely bound to Isa 56–66. From a literary perspective the style of Isa 40–55 is more similar to Isa 56–66 than to Isa 1–39. It has become common to disparage the poetic quality of Isa 56–66 in comparison with that of Isa 40–55.88 However, Sommer quite rightly highlights a significant number of similarities in poetic style throughout Isa 40–66.89 Similarly, Baltzer comments on the immediate impression of Isa 56–66’s “poetic qualities” gleaned from the first chapter.90 Historical narratives and narratives about the life of the prophet remain absent. The prophet continues to be anonymous. Parataxis continues between units (e.g., 58:14/59:1; 59:21/60:1; 62:12/63:1) as do refutations of implied quotations (e.g., 56:3, 12; 58:3). Some favorite terminology from Second Isaiah continues (e.g., grass 66:13; marriage imagery 62:4–5, birth imagery 66:7), as do apparent allusions to First Isaian materials (e.g., 59:3/1:15; 65:25/11:6-8).91 Some of Second Isaiah’s characteristic poetic techniques disappear or diminish in these chapters, for example, participial chains extolling the deity (though note 56:8). Contrasts between judgment and comfort continue; however, these are given a more obvious temporal progression than had been common in Second Isaiah (though note 54). Distinctive themes emerge in this portion of the book that merit attribution to a somewhat different rhetorical setting (e.g., Temple, though note 44:28), and there is further development of motifs that are familiar from Second Isaiah here (e.g., birth and maternal imagery become more frequent). A concern about Yhwh’s servant continues from Isa 40–55 into 56–66. As Willem Beuken has noted, however, although within 40–55 the servant references are singular until 54:17, within 56–66 they are plural.92 Each of these shared features point toward a close connection between 40–55 and 56–66.93 Third Isaiah, if it is a separately authored unit at all, appears to have been written drawing upon other Isaian materials, including Second Isaiah, sharing themes and imagery with them but developing them in a discontinuous and tensive way, one not out of harmony with Second Isaiah’s internal tensions and movement.94 It is clear that the variety of proposals regarding the composition of the whole of Isaiah, as well as studies oriented toward the interpretation of the whole, reserve an important place for Isa 40–55. It appears that such study will be a focus of work on these chapters for some time to come.95 88  E.g., Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56–66, says of Isa 56–66: “At no point is it informed by purely aesthetic considerations, and thus, where a pleasing effect is obtained, it is more by accident than by design” (p. 37). Hanson, Dawn, refers to a portion of Isa 60 as having “a grotesque mixing of metric patterns” (p. 59). 89 Sommer, Prophet Reads, 188–189. 90  Baltzer, “Book,” 270. 91 Emmerson, Isaiah 56–66, refers to the female personification of Zion as “one of the most striking themes serving to link Second and Third Isaiah” (p. 42). Gruber, “Motherhood,” 353, notes the distinctiveness of “maternal expressions” in Isa 40–66. Williamson, Book, regarding Third Isaiah, refers to “numerous citations of and allusions to both earlier parts of Isaiah” (p. 19). 92  Beuken, “Main Theme,” 67–87; see also Seitz, “Book of Isaiah 40–66,” 318. 93  Beuken, “Main Theme,” presents the servant observation as an element in “an argument for the idea that the three principal parts of BI were not composed independently of one another” (p. 67). 94 Schramm, Opponents of Third Isaiah, 21, urges caution about rejecting the idea of single authorship of 40–66, noting that stylistic differences and apparent contradictions are not in themselves determinative. See also Sommer, Prophet Reads, 191–192. 95  See further, Melugin, “Isaiah 40–66,” 142–194.

122   Katie M. Heffelfinger

6.3.  Key Messages Second Isaiah offers, above all, an encounter with Yhwh through the deity’s voice.96 This encounter reflects the crisis of exile and forges relational renewal through a number of poetic and thematic devices. Tension and juxtaposition are key to the way this body of materials, however compiled, ultimately makes meaning.97 Interwoven motifs, departure commands, refutation, and compelling personification contribute to a message that offers a realistic comfort, one that takes account of the audience’s apparent sense of abandonment. Its message of comfort, restoration, and reconciliation is one that wears away audience resistance poetically. It does not aim solely to move the audience to a specified action, such as return, though that is certainly one aspect of its intended outcome. Rather, it works intensely and affectively, re-establishing trust, and realigning loyalties.98 Comfort is a significant theme that has played a dominant role in many assessments of the message and meaning of Second Isaiah.99 Yet the opening proclamation of comfort stands in tension with numerous indictments, refutations, and expressions of divine wrath (e.g., 42:14–25; 43:22–28; 45:9–25; 48:1–11; 50:1–3).100 Yhwh’s voice, in which the majority of the text’s lines are presented, speaks with confident grandeur throughout, and the attitudes this voice adopts toward the audience include both consolation and anger.101 A poetic paratactic style characterizes the movement between units. That is, the poetry exhibits sudden shifts of topic, theme, or mood, without explanation or narrative development.102 Concepts and motifs stand in contrast, paradox, and even open contradiction to one another (e.g., “remember the former things,” Isa 46:9; “do not remember the former things,” Isa 43:18 NRSV). These elements, when read as a meaningful final form, are aspects of these chapters’ poetic mode of meaning-making. Typical of Second Isaian style is the picking up of thematic threads and developing them in divergent ways. Cosmic creation images, water, fire, the wilderness, birth, and 96  Kapelrud, “Main Concern,” referring to Second Isaiah’s exilic-period audience, writes, “To reach them with the words of God, the only real God, was his primary concern” (p. 51). See also Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 161–166, 275–276. 97  Cf. Clifford, Fair Spoken, who points to the “persistent use of five contrasted concepts” (p. 39). 98  See further, Heffelfinger, I Am Large; “Servant”; and Tull, “Who Says What,” 159. 99 Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, refers to “Comfort, comfort my people” as “the words which serve to summarize the prophet’s whole proclamation” (p. 13). Muilenburg, “Book of Isaiah,” calls “comfort” a “major theme throughout” (p. 403). Goldingay and Payne, Isaiah 40–55 (pp. 53–54) describe the restoration of Jerusalem in “comfort” language as the third of five elements of Second Isaiah’s “theological perspective” (p. 49) that they delineate. 100  See, e.g., Kapelrud, “Main Concern,” on “harder and harsher” elements (p. 52). 101  See further Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 175–274. Such a mixture leads Kapelrud, “Main Concern,” to conclude: “The usual designation ‘prophet of consolation’ may thus contain some truth, but not the whole and probably not the most important truth” (p. 52). 102  For a definition of parataxis, see O’Connor, “Parataxis and Hypotaxis,” 879; for discussion of such features in biblical poems see, e.g., Dobbs-Allsopp, Lamentations, 13.

Isaiah 40-55   123 marriage, among other themes, appear and reappear in different combinations and with different aims.103 In places, passages appear remarkably similar (e.g., Isa 49:14–26 and 54) yet on closer inspection convey somewhat divergent perspectives and emphases.104 The chapters offer comfort, explicitly, repetitively, and emphatically, but they do not do so through an unmitigated stream of consoling language. Rather, by juxtaposing consolation and wrath, the poetry intensifies the appeal of the offered comfort and underscores the sovereign right of Yhwh to claim the title “Comforter.” The homecoming motif has attracted attention and has been central in some influential readings of the prophet’s proclaimed message. Clifford, for example, states his interpretation with exemplary clarity writing, “Second Isaiah, in a few closely argued speeches of considerable length urges his fellow Judahites to join him in that act through which they will become Israel.”105 It is evident in context that Clifford means to associate “becom[ing] Israel” with “the new Exodus-Conquest,” a motif he calls “the central idea of Second Isaiah.”106 Return and reconciliation are indeed key elements of this work’s proclamation of comfort, and yet the passages that command the exiles to depart Babylon do not stand alone as the clear and single aim of this text’s prophetic message. They present one mode through which reconciliation can be envisioned and realized in the exiles’ experience. Geographic restoration,107 as envisioned in Isa 48:20; 52:7–12, pairs with relational reconciliation (e.g., marriage imagery in Isa 54:1–17),108 the obliteration of fear and shame (e.g., 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8; 51:7; 54:4) and the abandonment of divine wrath (48:9; 54:8–9) to illustrate a “comfort” that addresses the crisis of exile on multiple levels. Another feature that merits consideration in determining overall message is the citation and rebuttal of complaint. In two places the divine speaking voice cites the voices of figures who represent the audience or are closely associated with them (Jacob and Zion) and 103  Cf. Clifford, Fair Spoken, who notes regarding Second Isaiah: “The core of his thought he often only alludes to; he counts on the tradition to be so deeply ingrained in his audience’s heart and head that mere hints suffice for the whole to be called up” (p. 38). Clifford sees the message as conveyed through “the use of paired ideas or polarities” (p. 5). For a list of repeated images, see Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 285–286. 104  The two passages share a feminine personification, the theme of the multiplication of her children, and apparent references to rebuilding. However, in Isa 49:14–20, there is a rebuttal of Zion’s complaint (vv. 15–21), a contrast between her apparent forgetfulness and the divine memory (vv. 15, 21), and an emphasis on the continuity of the divine concern for her (vv. 15–16). In chapter 54, the tone directed at the barren woman is overwhelmingly consoling, and the admission of momentary abandonment (vv. 7–8) contrasts with the promise of continual attention in 49:16. 105 Clifford, Fair Spoken, 5. 106  Clifford, 5. 107  See Tiemeyer, Comfort, for an argument in favor of “a Judahite provenance” for Second Isaiah (p. 2). 108  See Moughtin-Mumby, Sexual and Marital Metaphors, esp. 23–30. Moughtin-Mumby indicates problems with scholarly reference to “the marriage metaphor,” particularly that not all such language “is inherently related to marriage” and the tendency to imply that “such metaphorical language is homogeneous” (p. 24). In observing the explicit references to “husband” in Isa 54:5, Moughtin-Mumby comments on “the rarity of an explicit marital metaphor in the prophetic books” (p. 132) and indicates that “the tendency of traditional scholarship to find ‘the marriage metaphor’ everywhere has desensitized many to the potential impact of 54:5. Thus, paradoxically, where a marriage metaphor finally appears, its significance is passed over” (p. 133).

124   Katie M. Heffelfinger refutes their charges of divine forgetfulness or abandonment (Isa 40:27–31; 49:14–50:3).109 Tull emphasizes the rhetorical power of such passages, writing that “these represent, and seek to enact, the conquest of views presumably found in the audience’s own world.”110 These passages point both to the perspective to which the poems are likely addressed, and the centrality of the Yhwh-Israel relationship to the work’s overall concerns. Recent scholarship has widely recognized the extent to which these chapters develop their message through allusion. Key studies by Tull Willey, Sommer, and Linafelt have highlighted the extent to which the exilic prophet-poet drew upon other Israelite literature to convey the text’s message.111 These include Jeremiah, Psalms, and First Isaiah.112 The book of Lamentations also contributes vital context for these chapters’ proclamation.113 While Lamentations complains against an apparent divine silence and Zion’s lack of a comforter, Second Isaiah thematically announces divine comfort and does so emphatically in the divine voice, breaking any such silence with its announcement of comfort.114 Thus, Second Isaiah’s message of relational reconciliation between Yhwh and Israel addresses concerns voiced by other biblical texts and bolsters its own message’s claims through heavily allusive language.115 Second Isaiah develops its message of relational renewal through compelling personifications. Much attention has been devoted to the “Servant,” both in studies of the text’s composition and in interpretive work. Tull Willey offers the illuminating insight that the juxtaposition of the Servant with Zion is an element of Second Isaiah’s intertextual relationship with Lamentations.116 In Lamentations, Zion dominates and “the man” appears as the somewhat more hopeful element in chapter 3.117 Second Isaiah juxtaposes the two repeatedly, and through the Servant’s progressively increasing identification with Yhwh and the explicit refutation of Zion’s complaint and somewhat negatively tinged characterizations, works to realign audience loyalty from Zion to Yhwh’s work through the servant.118 Thus, working alongside the encounter produced by the dominance of 109  Kapelrud, “Main Concern,” 56. 110  Tull, “Who Says What,” 168. 111  Tull Willey, Remember; Sommer, Prophet Reads, and Linafelt, Surviving Lamentations. 112  On Second Isaiah’s relationship with Jeremiah, Psalms, and Pentateuch, see, e.g., Tull Willey, Remember, 267–269. Sommer, Prophet Reads, 167–169, highlights both Jeremiah and portions of First Isaiah, and also notes the use of Psalms and some Pentateuchal texts. Williamson, Book, 113, as noted, argues for a literary relationship with First Isaiah. By contrast, Tull Willey, Remember, states that in Second Isaiah, “substantive signs of influence by the eighth-century prophets Isaiah, Micah, Amos and Hosea are not easily found” (p. 270). 113  See further Tull Willey, Remember, 265–266. 114  On divine silence in Lamentations, see Linafelt, Surviving Lamentations, 39. Regarding Second Isaiah’s response see Tull Willey, Remember, 130–132; Heffelfinger, “ ‘I Am He”; Heffelfinger, I Am Large, 98. 115  See Sommer, Prophet Reads, who sees this use of allusion as “a means of persuasion” (p. 159). Tull Willey, Remember, 263–264, also discusses the rhetorical impact of this feature. 116  See Tull Willey, Remember, 105, 218. 117  Tull Willey, Remember, notes that “just as Second Isaiah seems to have reemployed Daughter Zion from Lam 1–2, likewise the poet seems to have recollected the figure of Lam 3, casting him in the role of Yhwh’s servant” (p. 218). 118  Heffelfinger, “Servant.”

Isaiah 40-55   125 Yhwh’s speaking voice, these personifications develop Second Isaiah’s rhetorical aims of urging the audience toward reconciliation and acceptance of divinely offered comfort.

6.4. Conclusion Isa 40–55 stands as the main exilic voice in the larger book of Isaiah. Discussion will undoubtedly continue about how it came to be in the form in which it now stands, and about what role it played in the formation of the book as a whole. Similarly, discussion about the key messages of these chapters is far from closed, and it is to be hoped that continued work will further unpack the richness of their message and meaning. Application of new insights and approaches, such as attention to poetics, clarification of understandings of persuasiveness, and appreciation of scribal and oral practices, as well as integration of these with older models offer significant promise.119

Bibliography Albertz, Rainer. Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century b.c.e. StBibLit 3. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2003. Baltzer, Klaus. “The Book of Isaiah.” HTR 103 (2010): 261–270. Berges, Ulrich F. The Book of Isaiah: Its Composition and Final Form. HBM 46. Translated by Millard C. Lind. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2012. Beuken, Willem A. M. “The Main Theme of Trito-Isaiah ‘The Servants of Yhwh.’ ” JSOT 47 (1990): 67–87. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 40–55. AB 19A. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 56–66. AB 19B. New York: Doubleday, 2003. Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001. Childs, Brevard S. “Retrospective Reading of the Old Testament Prophets.” ZAW 108 (1996): 362–377. Clifford, Richard J. Fair Spoken and Persuading: An Interpretation of Second Isaiah. Theological Inquiries. New York: Paulist Press, 1984. Couey, J.  Blake. “Poetry and Redaction in the Book of Isaiah.” Paper presented at SBL Formation of Isaiah Section. Boston, MA, November 18, 2017. Couey, J.  Blake. Reading the Poetry of First Isaiah: The Most Perfect Model of the Prophetic Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Dobbs-Allsopp, Fred W. Lamentations. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2002. Dobbs-Allsopp, Fred W. On Biblical Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Dobbs-Allsopp, Fred W. “Poetry, Hebrew.” In New Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, edited by Katharine Sakenfeld, 550–558. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2009. Duhm, Bernhard. Das Buch Jesaja. HAT 3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1914. 119 Rendtorff, Canon, 171, comments on the possibilities offered by divergent methods. Couey, “Poetry and Redaction,” also points to the potential that “historical and literary approaches . . . could mutually inform one another” (p. 2).

126   Katie M. Heffelfinger Emmerson, Grace I. Isaiah 56–66. OTG. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1996. Goldingay, John, and David Payne. Isaiah 40–55. 2 vols. ICC. London: T&T Clark, 2006. Gruber, Mayer I. “The Motherhood of God in Second Isaiah.” RB 90 (1983): 351–359. Hanson, Paul D. The Dawn of Apocalyptic. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975. Hays, Christopher B. “The Book of Isaiah in Contemporary Research.” Religion Compass 5, no. 10 (2011): 549–566. Heffelfinger, Katie M. “ ‘I Am He, Your Comforter’: Second Isaiah’s Pervasive Divine Voice as Intertextual ‘Answer’ to Lamentations’ Divine Silence.” In Reading Lamentations Intertextually, edited by Brittany Melton and Heath Thomas. LHBOTS. Bloomsbury T&T Clark, forthcoming. Heffelfinger, Katie M. I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes: Lyric Cohesion and Conflict in Second Isaiah. BIS 105. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Heffelfinger, Katie M. “The Servant in Poetic Juxtaposition in Isaiah 49:1–13.” In Biblical Poetry and the Art of Close Reading, edited by J.  Blake Couey and Elaine  T.  James, 184–198. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Hermisson, Hans-Jürgen. “Einheit und Komplexität Dueterojesaja: Probleme der Redaktionsgeschichte von Jes 40–55.” In The Book of Isaiah/Le livre d’Isaïe: Les oracles et leurs relectures unité et complexité de l’ouvrage, edited by Jacques Vermeylen, 287–312. BETL 81. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1989. Kapelrud, Arvid S. “The Main Concern of Second Isaiah.” VT 32 (1982): 50–58. Linafelt, Tod. Surviving Lamentations: Catastrophe, Lament, and Protest in the Afterlife of a Biblical Book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Mathews, Claire R. Defending Zion: Edom’s Desolation and Jacob’s Restoration (Isaiah 34–35) in Context. BZAW 236. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995. McEntire, Mark. A Chorus of Prophetic Voices: Introducing the Prophetic Literature of Ancient Israel. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2015. Melugin, Roy F. The Formation of Isaiah 40–55. BZAW 141. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976. Melugin, Roy F. “Isaiah 40–66 in Recent Research: The ‘Unity’ Movement.” In Recent Research in the Major Prophets, edited by Alan J. Hauser, 142–194. RRBS 1. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008. ­­­­­Melugin, Roy  F. “Recent Form Criticism Revisited in an Age of Reader Response.” In The Changing Face of Form Criticism for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Marvin A. Sweeney and Ehud Ben Zvi, 46–64. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003. Mettinger, Tryggve  N.  D. A Farewell to the Servant Songs: A Critical Examination of an Exegetical Axiom. Translated by Frederick  H.  Cryer. Scripta Minora. Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1983. Moughtin-Mumby, Sharon. Sexual and Marital Metaphors in Hosea, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. OTM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Muilenburg, James. “The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66: Introduction, and Exegesis.” In Interpreters’ Bible, vol. 5, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, edited by George Arthur Buttrick, 381–773. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1956. O’Connor, Michael Patrick. “Parataxis and Hypotaxis.” In New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, edited by Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan, 879–880. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. Rendtorff, Rolf. Canon and Theology: Overtures to an Old Testament Theology. Translated by Margaret Kohl. OBT. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993.

Isaiah 40-55   127 Sawyer, John F. A. “Daughter of Zion and Servant of the Lord in Isaiah: A Comparison.” JSOT 44 (1989): 89–107. Schmidt, Uta. “Servant and Zion: Two Kinds of Future in Isa 49.” In “My Spirit at Rest in the North Country” (Zechariah 6.8): Collected Communications to the XXth Congress of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, Helsinki 2010, edited by Hermann Michael Niemann and Matthias Augustin, 85–91. BEATAJ 57. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011. Schramm, Brooks. The Opponents of Third Isaiah: Reconstructing the Cultic History of the Restoration. JSOTS 193. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1995. Seitz, Christopher R. “The Book of Isaiah 40–66: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.” In New Interpreters’ Bible, vol. 6, Introduction to the Prophetic Literature, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, edited by Leander E. Keck et al., 307–552. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2001. Sommer, Benjamin D. A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66. Contraversions. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. Tate, Marvin E. “The Book of Isaiah in Recent Study.” In Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve in Honor of John  D.  W. Watts, edited by James  W.  Watts and Paul R. House, 22–56. JSOTS 235. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55. VTS 139. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Toorn, Karel van der. Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. Tull, Patricia K. “One Book, Many Voices; Conceiving of Isaiah’s Polyphonic Message.” In “As Those Who Are Taught”: The Interpretation of Isaiah from the LXX to the SBL, edited by Claire Mathews McGinnis and Patricia K. Tull, 279–314. SBLSymS 27. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Tull, Patricia K. “Who Says What to Whom: Speakers, Hearers, and Overhearers in Second Isaiah.” In Partners with God: Theological and Critical Readings of the Bible in Honor of Marvin A. Sweeney, edited by Shelley Birdsong and Serge Frolov, 157–168. Claremont, CA: Claremont School of Theology Press, 2017. Tull Willey, Patricia. Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of Previous Texts in Second Isaiah. SBLDS 161. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1997. Westermann, Claus. Forschung am Alten Testament: Gesammelte Studien. Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1964. Westermann, Claus. Isaiah 40–66: A Commentary. Translated by David M. G. Stalker. OTL. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969. Williamson, H.  G.  M. The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994.

chapter 7

Isa i a h 56 – 66 Andreas Schüle

7.1.  History of Research The technical term “Third Isaiah” (or Trito-Isaiah) was coined in the late nineteenth century by the Swiss scholar Bernhard Duhm, who was at the time one of the leading experts in the field of prophetic literature.1 According to Duhm, the book of Isaiah owes its existence to three individual prophets: the historical Isaiah of Jerusalem, who lived in the second half of the eighth century bce; a nameless prophet (“Second Isaiah”), who witnessed the downfall of the Babylonian Empire and the return of the exiled Jews to their homeland; and a student of this Second Isaiah, who prophesied to the generations after the return from exile. While Duhm supports a one-prophet hypothesis for Isa 56–66, he also recognizes the particular character of these chapters as a literary composition. More specifically, he sees two sections: Isa 56–60* and Isa 61–65(66)*.2 The first begins with the famous promise of salvation for foreigners and eunuchs and ends with the great vision of people streaming to Zion in Isa 60. The broadening of the perspective, along with the possibility of expanding the people of God to include individuals and groups that do not belong to Israel by genetic descent, frames this composition, at the center of which stands the critique of Israel (Isa 57–59). The second section opens with the appearance of the messianic spirit-bearer (Isa 61:1–3) and closes with the announcement of the new heaven and the new earth (Isa 65–66). Again, salvation history is the frame, this time around Israel’s confession of sin (Isa 63:7–64:11). In their own ways, both compositions emphasize the contrast between the divine promises and Israel’s dubious suitability as the people of God. Those who followed Duhm kept his perception of two sections, but these sections were increasingly viewed diachronically.3 A different approach was presented by Claus Westermann and Odil 1  For an overview of this, see Moser, Prophetie, 93–96. 2 Duhm, Jesaia, xv, xx, 390. 3 Moser, Prophetie, 96–98.

Isaiah 56–66   129 Hannes Steck, which is widely regarded as the standard model today.4 The starting point for this model is the dependence of Third Isaiah on Second Isaiah, which Steck sees as centered in Isa 60–62.5 In view of this dependence, he concludes that these chapters originally served as a new ending for Isa 40–55.6 However, Isa 60–62 was then sandwiched between materials of different genres and theological content. What was initially seen as a conclusion to Isa 40–55 thus came to be perceived to be the core of its own literary structure. This relative independence is further illustrated by a framework, which Steck recognizes primarily in Isa 56:1–8 and 65 (with Isa 66 as an ending designed for the book of Isaiah as a whole).7 A critical examination of these models cannot be given here.8 The problem with Steck’s approach may be that it offers a hypothesis that is plausible for the origin of Isa 60–62 but less so for the surrounding texts. Furthermore, it raises the question of why Isa 56–66 follows the development model of independent book with a core and a frame, though for Steck, in contrast to Duhm, Third Isaiah was never an independent piece of literature.

7.2.  Two Core Compositions If one examines Third Isaiah for elements of structure and arrangement, duplications become readily apparent.9 For example, there are two passages in which (eschatological) salvation is discussed: Isa 60–62 and Isa 65–66. These two passages parallel each other in that they both connect the final salvation events with Zion. The final age of the world dawns on Mount Zion, which has with repercussions for the whole cosmos. Furthermore, it is striking that there are not only two sections that deal with salvation expectations but also two that deal with Israel’s guilt. Even with a prevailing hope that Israel will finally find peace in Zion, no attempt is made to disguise the insight that Israel does not (yet) deserve it. In Isa 58:1–59:21, this is expressed in the form of prophetic criticism of both social and cultic issues. In Isa 63:7–64:11, this criticism is articulated in the form of a prayer of repentance by the people, who lay out their failures and insufficiencies before God. Viewed in the context Isa 56–66, the passages of criticism and promise form two theologically consistent compositions:   Criticism Promise Composition 1 Isa 58:1–59:21 (prophetic criticism) Isa 60:1–62:12 (messianic age) Composition 2 Isa 63:7–64:11 (self-accusation) Isa 65:1–25; 66:1–24 (new heaven and earth) 4  Cf. the research summary of Höffken, Jesaja, 91–100. 5 Steck, Studien, 14–19. 6  Steck, 17. 7  Steck, 36. For the frame of Third Isaiah in particular, see Stromberg, Exile, 40–72. 8  For a recent overview and critique of current research, cf. Tiemeyer, “Continuity,” 13–40. 9  For the following, cf. also Schüle, “Prophetische Kritik,” 225–246.

130   Andreas Schüle Interestingly, Steck already recognized that the promise of a new heaven and a new earth in Isa 65 should be understood as God’s answer to Israel’s prayer of repentance.10 The prayer of repentance is a form of self-accusation to which God (not uncritically) reacts. This raises the question as to whether one should understand chapters 58–62, too, as such a composition. For reasons that are peculiarly protestant, this approach has rarely been considered. Already Duhm had judged that Third Isaiah showed a marked tendency toward a “works righteousness” and, thus, was a theological step backward from Second Isaiah. According to Duhm, in Third Isaiah, salvation must be earned and purchased, as opposed to the free grace of Second Isaiah.11 Since then, this assessment has been represented in various forms. According to this understanding, Isa 60–62 contains an unconditional promise of salvation, whereas the announcements of Isa 58–59 are conditional.12 This divergence is seen as so fundamental that one cannot assume these to be part of a unified planned composition. And yet, what has been seen as “works righteousness” since Duhm could be the actual point of Isa 58–62: Israel should change its ways in order to be ready for the coming salvation, which is exactly what the “headline” in Isa 56:1 says: “Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come and my deliverance be revealed” (NRSV).13 Overall, it is noteworthy that there are some “red threads” that connect Isa 58–59 and Isa 60–62. Criticism and promise are united by the light-dark metaphor that is characteristic of Isaiah as a whole. Israel’s state is seen as grasping in the dark and as a state of confinement and death (Isa 59:9–10):14 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead.

This self-evaluation positively correlates the image of light with the healing that will come with God’s (final) revelation, when the people finally put an end to their injustices (Isa 58:8): Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

What are here juxtaposed as analysis of the present and promise for the future becomes an expression of fulfillment in Isa 60:1–2: Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 10 Steck, Studien, 38. 11 Duhm, Jesaia, 389. 12 Steck, Studien, 18, 28–30; Stromberg, Exile, 12–13; Smith, Rhetoric, 164–186. 13  Schüle, “Build,” 90–102. 14  Biblical quotes are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise indicated.

Isaiah 56–66   131 Salvation will come and even now already announces itself. Yet for Third Isaiah, it is also critical that Israel takes its role in the salvation event seriously, through appropriate cultic and ethical measures. In other words, piety and orthopraxy are integral components of salvation.

7.2.1.  The First Composition: Isaiah 58:1–62:12 With this in the background, we can take a closer look at the critical prophecies from Isa 58–59 and Isa 63–64.  Isaiah 58–59 In Isa 58–59, one gets the impression that the repercussions of the Babylonian era are still being felt: the temple lies in ruins, and the city is not yet truly habitable (Isa 58:12). More important is the atmosphere conveyed. Although the exile was in fact over, there had not yet been any real experience of salvation. The political situation had certainly changed; the Persians may have been more tolerable overlords than their predecessors; yet neither in its internal nature nor its external form was Israel more than a province on the margins of the Persian Empire. Israel had not become any holier since the time of the exile; its sense of righteousness was not more pronounced, and its vulnerability to the worship of foreign gods no less alarming than in earlier periods (this impression is particularly conveyed in Isa 57:3–13). This realistic and self-critical view of the situation is found in Isa 58–59 and explains the qualitative leap between the here and now and the hoped-for salvation depicted in Isa 60–62.15 The project of a “new beginning” after the exile had not yet reached its goal. Furthermore, the prophecy of Third Isaiah contains a very clear sense of self-expectation. Precisely because the true Israel is not just any people, it must not resign itself to the abuses and flaws of what some (or even most) perceive to be “normal.” In Isa 58:1, someone, presumably a prophet, is charged with reproaching Israel for its apostasy: “Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.” Following that, the gap between pious gestures and moral actions, as seen in the indifference to the poor and needy, is denounced (Isa 58:4–7): Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 15  Williamson, “Jacob,” 225.

132   Andreas Schüle Although this may sound like the social criticism of the book of Amos, there is a ­difference. Here, it is particularly about ritual and worship seeming to have no real meaning for or impact on ethics. This is shown first in terms of fasting. Fasting (in the sense of regulated rituals of self-denial and repentance) seems to have arisen in the exilic/post-exilic periods (see, e.g., the fast days in Zech 8:18–19).16 Third Isaiah makes the accusation against his audience that, though they hold to the practice of fasting, their actions contradict the spirit of these rituals. Someone who truly recognizes and regrets their transgressions and, thus, fasts cannot subjugate others but should take care of the needy. The other example that Third Isaiah addresses in this context is Sabbath observance (Isa 58:9b–12, 13–14): If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Sabbath as a weekly holiday is a central identity marker to the exilic/post-exilic community. As with fasting, it goes to the core of the emerging Jewish identity during these periods.17 Just as fasting is a rite that should have a real effect on one’s attitude and behavior toward one’s neighbor, the Sabbath is a rite that is meant to honor God (Isa 58:13). Here, too, Third Isaiah’s audience falls short as they go about their everyday activities or engage in empty talk (Isa 58:14). Thus, the prophetic criticism is primarily directed at themes of Jewish identity and, more precisely, the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Third Isaiah acknowledges that his audience does indeed seek after God (Isa 58:2). The criticism, however, is that this does not give rise to the appropriate ethical attitudes and behavior or to true fear of God. Unlike in the books associated with the eight-century prophets, Third Isaiah does not announce God’s judgment against Israel as a result of these grievances. The consequence of Israel’s failure is not punishment but instead delayed salvation. Deportation, loss of 16 Lux, Prophetie, 22–26. 17  For the role of Jewish identity markers (particularly the Sabbath), see Barstad, “Isaiah 56–66,” 53–61.

Isaiah 56–66   133 land, and the destruction of the temple are no longer threats, presumably because the people had already experienced this and, in some sense, it was already in the past. The observation and evaluation of the social and cultic deficits continues into Isa 59, although the conclusions are different. Here, too, one finds the picture of a people that lags behind what it should be. Particularly memorable is the picture of Israel’s sins hiding God’s face (Isa 59:1–2): See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

It is worth noting several things about these verses. There is no threat of God’s wrath or judgment; rather, it is argued that Israel has obstructed their relationship with God through their own behavior.18 The relationship between the people and God is broken and with it, also, the prospect of salvation and healing. This motif of disruption or separation is expressed with the verb ‫( בדל‬hiphil), “to divide, separate.” This verb is firmly anchored in the priestly concept of order. God divides and differentiates the different parts of the world from one another and, in so doing, establishes them (Gen 1:4, 6, 7, 14, 18). This notion corresponds with instructions found in the Holiness Code that deal with the separation between the sacred and the profane (Lev 20:25–26). In Isa 59:2, this priestly terminology is taken up and turned upside down. With its sin, Israel creates a separation precisely where it should not exist, namely between God’s ear and the prayers of Israel. Here the text could take the turn that we know from Isa 58—namely, encouraging and exhorting Israel to turn from its sins and toward its God. That is not what happens here, though. Instead, following the confession of sin, all hope for change is transferred entirely to God (Isa 59:9).19 Thus, God arrives on the scene and takes on the role of the sole savior: He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle. (Isa 59:16–17)

In the context of Isa 59, this narrative passage is understood as God’s reaction to Israel’s confession of sin.  Isaiah 60–62 Viewed in its larger context, Isa 60–62 envisions the salvation that awaits Israel once they have taken the prophetic admonition in Isa 58–59 to heart. Recent research has 18  The penitential prayer (Isa 63–64) stands in tension to this; here exactly the opposite is said— namely, that God caused the people to turn away from God (Isa 63:17). 19  Cf. Bautch, Glory, 2.

134   Andreas Schüle shown that these three chapters are likely not of one mold.20 Isa 60 is a prophetic oracle for Mount Zion as the recipient of God’s grace. However, Zion’s salvation appears to be something almost otherworldly, because it requires no less than a complete makeover of the world as one knows it: sun and moon will be retired, since the only source of light in this world-to-come will be God’s own glory (Isa 60:2, 19). In the political realm there will be a dramatic shift: no longer will Israelites be the ones who offer tribute to foreign nations; rather, the nations, in a ceaseless stream, will come and pay homage to the God who resides on Mount Zion (Isa 60:3–16; cf. Isa 49:17–26). Yet even in this blatant triumphalism, Isa 60:21 seconds the general sense in Isa 58–59 that Israel has yet to become a righteous people. There is a significant change in perspective and sentiment as one transitions from Isa 60 to 61. Here, a prophetic figure announces the good news of liberation and healing to a group of people who are described as imprisoned and suffering (Isa 61:1; cf. Isa 42:22). But whereas Isa 60 envisions the return of Zion’s scattered children from the far ends of the world, the addressees in Isa 61 appear to be the people who are living among the ruins of Jerusalem, waiting for the desolation to come to an end (Isa 61:4), which connects with the view of the destroyed city in Isa 58:12. Interestingly, Isa 61:2 seems to employ the idea of a “year of release” (“a year of Yhwh’s favour”) that ends the time of servitude to foreign nations. It is quite conceivable that Isa 60 was written with the different diaspora groups in mind, whereas Isa 61 addresses the Judean population that had remained in the country. Isa 62:1–9 may well be an intentional synthesis of Isa 60 and 61, since here the prophetic voice (apparently the same as in Isa 61) returns to Zion’s fate and rejoices in her impending restoration. There is also a slightly different, less triumphalist and more modest, perspective on the foreign nations; they are not cast in the role of vassals of Zion but instead appear as bystanders who witness Zion’s righteousness and glory. Similarly, the redemptive experience of Zion’s children is not that they will finally become the suzerain but that they will be able to enjoy their own produce rather than having to surrender it to other nations (Isa 62:8–9). Looking at Isa 58–62 from a sociological point of view, one notices that Israel is presented as a largely monolithic society. All the people are targeted by the prophetic critique in Isa 58–59, and they are all the recipients of the salvific promise in Isa 60–62. This may not reflect the differences between the various groups that subsequently came together in the Persian province Yehud after the exile, but it does reflect that such differences had not yet led to solidified divisions between these groups. The operative distinction is Israelites versus foreign nations, “us” versus “them.” This distinction, however, changes, in the second composition of Third Isaiah.

20 Spans, Stadtfrau, 63–67; for a recent proposal to read Isa 60–62 (with the rest of Third Isaiah) as a unity, cf. Abalodo, Structure, 115–185.

Isaiah 56–66   135

7.3.  The Second Composition Turning to the second composition of Third Isaiah, one encounters several literary genres that one would not ordinarily expect to find in a prophetic book. In particular, this second composition is characterized by the “people’s prayer of repentance” (Isa 63:7–64:11) and the divine response to this prayer (Isa 65:1–25).

7.3.1.  The Prayer of Repentance Recently, a lot of work has been done on this particular genre.21 It seems that this form was defined, if not first developed, in the post-exilic period and, as such, captures the religious self-identity of Israel during this period.22 The prayer of repentance is divided into roughly two parts:23

1. Retrospection: the memory of God’s earlier miracles—Isa 63:7–14 2. Introspection: the confession of their own guilt before God—Isa 63:15–64:11

The first part, the retrospection, looks back to the time of the exodus and the desert wandering up through the entry into the land, where God “brought the people to rest” (Isa 63:14) as expressed here in Deuteronomistic language. This phase, “the days of old,” has a three-part structure that is reminiscent of the pattern of historical interpretation known from the Deuteronomistic History (e.g., in the so-called judges cycle).24 In Third Isaiah, the drama of history is described in three acts: (a) God finds God’s people in need and saves them out of love and mercy (Isa 63:8–9); (b) the people turn away from God (Isa 63:10), whereupon God hands them over to their enemies; and (c) Israel remembers its prehistory, Moses, and the salvation from Egypt and, thus, is finally brought to rest by God’s spirit (Isa 63:14). This pattern is then applied by the community to its own present situation. Again, it is recapitulated that God has rejected his once-beloved but now, as before, rebellious and disobedient people (Isa 63:17): Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you? Turn back for the sake of your servants, for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage. 21  Boda, “Confession,” 21–27; Balentine, “Ready,” 11–16. 22  Bautch, “Lament,” 98. 23  A more detailed outline than can be developed here is offered by Bautch, “Lament,” 86–87. 24  Many have observed that the prayer of repentance uses Deuteronomistic language and thought forms (cf. Bautch, “Lament,” 88–90). This does not need to be understood as Deuteronomistic theology, however, but may rather be a critical reflection on whether the Deuteronomistic view of history can apply to the current situation. This may also apply to the priestly theology represented in Ezra 9 and Neh 10 among other passages (cf. Boda, “Confession,” 34–43).

136   Andreas Schüle Apparently, this ties into the expectation from the prayer that God will once again, as in “the days of old” reclaim his people and bring them to rest (Isa 63:19a): “We have long been like those whom you do not rule, like those not called by your name.” This rescue is still to come. Israel finds itself, as it has before in its history, at the point where the turn toward salvation is expected to happen but has not yet occurred (Isa 64:7–12): There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. After all this, will you restrain yourself, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely?

This is where the prayer ends, which begs the question of whether the old pattern still applies, whether the third step—God’s mercy—will come through once again. The fact that God had not yet intervened and the temple remained in ruins raised the possibility that the relationship with God had been ultimately and irreversibly severed. It is interesting that here, unlike in Isa 58 and 59, evidence of Israel’s guilt apparently does not (any longer) require a prophet. The prophetic criticism has become Israel’s self-accusation. That Israel calls upon its God for salvation can be found in all the stages of the formation of the Old Testament, but the self-accusation and admission of their sin is only in the later layers, to which Isa 63–64, Neh 9, Ezra 9, and Dan 9 most likely belong.25 In Third Isaiah, the prayer of confession is directed toward God (Isa 64:15) and addresses God as “father” (Isa 63:17; 64:7).26 This is the only such occurrence in the Old Testament. In all other uses of God as “father,” it is said that God is Israel’s father (Deut 32:6) or God expresses disappointment that Israel does not (or not rightly) call upon God as father (Jer 3; 4:11; 31:19). Thus the prayer of repentance can be read as Israel finally doing what it had failed to do before—supported by the hope that God would still be willing to accept the role of father.27

25  An important aspect of the literary form of the prayers of repentance is the density of intertextual references, which suggests that the ideas presupposed by these prayers already exist in a wide swath of parts of the Old Testament. Cf. Boda, “Confession,” 46–49, and specifically on the book of Isaiah as a whole, Gärtner, “Why,” 156–162. 26  For this theme as a whole, see Böckler, Gott, 185–219. 27  The designation of God as father can be seen in the new definitions of kinship relationships that Third Isaiah chooses as an expression of identity; cf. Bautch, Glory, 96–98.

Isaiah 56–66   137

7.3.2.  God’s Answer to the Prayer of Repentance God’s reaction makes it clear that in Third Isaiah the prayer of repentance is not just a confession of sin28 but is, in a narrow sense, an address to God that expects an answer. Thus, Third Isaiah creates space for a critical perception of this prayer of repentance insofar as God’s answer is not exactly what the prayer of repentance hopes for. This becomes clear in comparing Isa 63–64 with Neh 9. In Nehemiah the prayer of repentance is not followed by a divine speech but by the voluntary agreement of the people to obey the Torah (Neh 10). This voluntary agreement, in turn, suggests that a new beginning is possible. In Neh 9, the possibility is open for Israel as a collective to become what it always should have been, provided that it takes the Torah of its God to heart. For Neh 9, the self-purification of the people of God is decisive in enforcing internally the definition of the Torah and externally the separation from all foreign influences. The situation in the divine speech in Isa 65 is different.29 There is no (longer a) promise that God will have mercy on God’s people as a whole but only on those who prove to be true and faithful.30 The pattern of the past is adopted in Isa 65, but at the same time, a new election is announced. This innovation lies in the opening, with its difficult language (Isa 65:1–2): I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.

It is unclear at this point whether the statement “I let myself be found by those who did not want to know anything about me” refers to the time of the first revelation of Yhwh to Israel—that is, in the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Sinai—or to the whole of the history of Israel from the beginning through the exilic period. It is clear, however, that God’s perception of the past is completely different from that expressed in the people’s prayer of repentance. It is not the dramatic relationship cycle of initial affection, the people’s apostasy, and the subsequent reconciliation. Isa 65, contrary to this depiction, provides a summary in which Israel collectively was never really interested in God (“I let those who never asked for me seek me”). In this way, the actual theme of the divine speech is the question of who will be God’s people in the future. 28  For the form-critical connection between penance and confession, see Bautch, “Lament,” 90. 29  Rom-Shiloni, “Setting,” 67, shows that Israel’s prayer of repentance established the “orthodox” form of belief and pushed back on other, less-orthodox forms, such as the “lament of the people” in the post-exilic period, at least within certain groups. This is how Neh 9, particularly, should be characterized. Because of the divine speech, however, Isa 63–64 would then be seen as a critical take on this orthodoxy. The fact that God does not accept this prayer as the foundation for a new covenantal relationship but creates an image of the true servants of God should be seen as evidence of the religious diversity of post-exilic Judaism. 30  Cf. Gärtner, “Why,” 152.

138   Andreas Schüle Third Isaiah illustrates this new beginning with the image of the vineyard, as is typical of the book of Isaiah as a whole (Isa 65:8): Thus says the Lord: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.

The statement “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing/could be a blessing in it” is probably a proverb that generally urges caution against discarding things too quickly, because one can never know if there is some good in it.31 Third Isaiah connects this proverb with the image of the vineyard, in which something good could still be found. Thus, this image of the vineyard stands in contrast with that of Isa 5:1–7 and Isa 27:2–6, particularly with the fact that God does not reject the vineyard as a whole (Isa 5) or rebuild it all together (Isa 27). Instead, God seeks the good within the vineyard. The good juice is to be preserved while the pulp is to be discarded. This image, in turn, also calls to mind the image of Yhwh as the one pressing the grapes under his feet in Isa 63:1–6. This image is applied to the true servants of God in Isa 65:9, that is, to those who are to come forth from Jacob/Israel just as the new wine comes forth from grapes: I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there.

The idea is that this people of God does not yet exist but is just now emerging. Verse 9 marks a new idea: God will (pf. cons.) bring forth descendants of Jacob who shall inherit the land. The Gola is not referred to alone or even primarily here. For Third Isaiah, unlike Ezra/Nehemiah, there is no group predestined for God’s work of salvation. Thus Isaiah speaks of “progeny” (seed) but not with the addition of “holy” as in Ezra 9:2. For Ezra/Nehemiah, there is indeed something like a DNA of the true Israel that begins with Abraham, whose “rest” is in the Gola, and it is from this nucleus alone that the postexilic new beginning will be formed. In contrast, for Third Isaiah, the true servants are those who act according to the will of God, as expressed in Isa 66:2–5, who “tremble” before the Word of God.32 Viewing God’s answer within the social and historical context of Yehud naturally raises the question of whether Third Isaiah identified particular groups of his time with the “servants of God” in contrast to other groups that did not belong to this category. In this regard, there are three possibilities: (a) One can think of the different groups that developed a sense of their Jewish identity in the Persian period in potentially conflicting ways: the non-exilic Jews, the Babylonian Gola, and diaspora groups in other parts of the world (e.g., Egypt).33 Perhaps the conflict between Jerusalem and the Samaritans also played a certain role here. (b) The “servants of God” and their opponents refer 31  Cf. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah, 276, with the note on Deut 9:26. 33 Schramm, Opponents of Third Isaiah, 112–172.

32  In contrast, see Ezra 9:4; 10:3.

Isaiah 56–66   139 to ­different groups (or strata) within a particular societal framework. Thus, current research considers the possibility that Third Isaiah belonged to Levitical circles that rebelled against the Zadokite priesthood.34 (c) It is finally possible that the new people of God, to whom a new heaven and a new earth are promised (Isa 65–66), was a collective movement made up of members of various groups within the Judean society.35 This new prophetic movement would have made societal boundaries permeable, since membership was not defined by birth or origin, but by choice and effort. In support of this third possibility, Isa 56:1–8 states that even foreigners and eunuchs are granted entry into this new people of God.

7.4. Conclusion Overall, one can observe characteristic shifts in the perception of prophecy within the two parts of the composition of Third Isaiah.36 We can now state that these shifts are primarily due to an altered understanding of the historical relationship between God and people. The first composition is based on the paradigm of the history of judgment and salvation found in Second Isaiah. The periods of Israel’s history, old Israel, the exile, and the return, form the episodes of an overall narrative arch that would reach its ­conclusion in a final and irreversible period of salvation. Yet this process came to a standstill, and it is just here that the prophecy of Isa 57:14–62:12 begins. The criticism of Israel has as its goal to regain the momentum of salvation history. The emphasis of Isa 63:7–65:25 is different. Here, too, the paradigm of salvation history is initially called upon in the form of the prayer of repentance, but it is thoroughly refuted by the divine response. The somewhat revolutionary prophetic message is that God was now collecting his people anew and from those who are truly God’s “servants.” Thus, belonging to the people of God would be a question of self-determination and self-commitment to the will of God. Making this clear, with all its consequences (cf. Isa 66), is the final task of prophecy.

Bibliography Abalodo, Sebastien. Structure et Théologie dans le Trito-Isaïe: Une contribution à l’unité du Livre. Tesi Gregoriana 208. Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2014.

34  This view was pioneered by Hanson, Dawn of the Apocalyptic, 95–96. 35  Schüle, “Who Is the True Israel?,” 174–176. 36  What had to be neglected here are the connecting pieces that connect the two parts of the composition (Isa 63:1–6) or establish the connection with Second Isaiah (Isa 56:1–8, 9–12; 57:1–13). Neither was the relationship between Isa 65 and 66 specifically dealt with. In Isaiah research since Duhm, Isa 66 has been considered to have been composed as the conclusion of the whole book of Isaiah.

140   Andreas Schüle Balentine, Samuel. “I Was Ready to Be Sought Out by Those Who Did Not Ask.” In Seeking the Favor of God, vol. 1, The Origins of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, edited Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney Alan Werline, 1–20. SBLEJL 21. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Barstad, Hans. “Isaiah 56–66 in Relation to Isaiah 40–55: Why a New Reading Is Necessary.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer and Hans Barstad, 41–62. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Bautch, Richard. Glory and Power, Ritual and Relationship: The Sinai Covenant in the Postexilic Period. LHBOTS 471. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. Bautch, Richard. “Lament Regained in Trito-Isaiah’s Penitential Prayer.” In Seeking the Favor of God, vol. 1, The Origins of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, edited by Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney Alan Werline, 83–99. SBLEJL 21. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 56–66. AB 19B. New York: Doubleday, 2003. Böckler, Annette. Gott als Vater im Alten Testament: Traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Entstehung und Entwicklung eines Gottesbildes. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2000. Boda, Mark  J. “Confession as Theological Expression: Ideological Origins of Penitential Prayer.” In Seeking the Favor of God, vol. 1, The Origins of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, edited by Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney Alan Werline, 21–50. SBLEJL 21. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Duhm, Bernhard. Das Buch Jesaia. HKAT III/1. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19143. Gärtner, Judith. “ ‘Why do you let us stray from your paths . . .’ (Isa 63:17): The Concept of Guilt in the Communal Lament Isa 63:7–64:11.” In Seeking the Favor of God, vol. 1, The Origins of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, edited by Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney Alan Werline, 145–163. SBLEJL 21. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Hanson, Paul D. The Dawn of the Apocalyptic: The Historical and Sociological Roots of Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975. Höffken, Peter. Jesaja: Der Stand der theologischen Diskussion. Darmstadt: WBG Academic, 2004. Lux, Rüdiger. Prophetie und Zweiter Tempel: Studien zu Haggai und Sacharja. FAT 65. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009. Moser, Christian. Umstrittene Prophetie: Die exegetisch-theologische Diskussion um die Inhomogenität des Jesajabuches von 1780 bis 1900. BThS 128. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2012. Rom-Shiloni, Dalit. “Socio-ideological Setting or Settings for Penitential Prayers?” In Seeking the Favor of God, vol. 1, The Origins of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, edited by Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney Alan Werline, 51–68. SBLEJL 21. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Schramm, Brooks. The Opponents of Third Isaiah: Reconstructing the Cultic History of the Restoration. JSOTS 193. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995. Schüle, Andreas. “Build Up, Pass Through: Isaiah 57:14–62:12 as the Core Composition of Third Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah.” In Enduring Questions Answered Anew, edited by Richard Bautch and J. Todd Hibbard, 83–110. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014. Schüle, Andreas. “Von der prophetischen Kritik zum Bußgebet des Volkes: Der Abschluss der Prophetie in Tritojesaja.” In Denkt nicht mehr an das Frühere! Begründungsressourcen in

Isaiah 56–66   141 Esra/Nehemiah und Jesaja 40–66 im Vergleich, edited by Maria Häusl, 25–46. BBB 184. Bonn: Bonn University Press, 2018. Schüle, Andreas. “Who Is the True Israel? Community, Identity, and Religious Commitment in Third Isaiah (Isaiah 56–66).” Int 73, no. 2 (2019): 174–184. Smith, Paul Allan. Rhetoric and Redaction in Trito-Isaiah: The Structure, Growth, and Authorship of Isaiah 56–66. VTS 62. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Spans, Andrea. Die Stadtfrau Zion im Zentrum der Welt: Exegese und Theologie von Jes 60–62. BBB 175. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015. Steck, Odil Hannes. Studien zu Tritojesaja. BZAW 203. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1991. Stromberg, Jacob. Israel after Exile: The Author of Third Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book. OTM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. “Continuity and Discontinuity in Isaiah 40–66: History of Research.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer and Hans Barstad, 13–40. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Williamson, H. G. M. “Jacob in Isaiah 40–66.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer and Hans Barstad, 219–229. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014.



chapter 8

The N eo -Assy r i a n Con text of First Isa i a h C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays

8.1. Introduction “First Isaiah”, or Isaiah 1–39, includes texts from a number of different historical periods, but the core of these chapters is associated with the prophet Isaiah ben Amoz (or, Isaiah of Jerusalem), who lived and worked in the eighth century bce. Isaiah ben Amoz seems to have had a lengthy career. Isa 6:1 refers to a vision that took place in “the year King Uzziah died,” that is, 742 bce. Other early sections of the book contain prophecies about political events over a number of years, from the Syro-Ephramite War of 734–731 bce (e.g., Isa 7), to the Ashdod Affair of 714–712 bce (Isa 20), to the siege of Sennacherib in 701 bce (e.g., Isa 10; 22:8–11; 36–37). While it is possible that the prophet’s career began earlier or extended later than these dates, or both, it is not demonstrable. Because the Babylonian and Persian periods will be addressed in greater detail in the chapters 9 and 10 of this volume, this chapter focuses on the Neo-Assyrian period in which Isaiah of Jerusalem was active. After a discussion of the passages in Isa 1–39 that are the most likely to stem from this period, we will examine how the message of these texts may have been impacted by the experience of Assyrian hegemony over the kingdom of Judah and the literary role that Assyria plays in the book.

146   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays

8.2.  The Book of Isaiah in the Neo-Assyrian Period The initial stages of the formation of Isaiah should be understood in light of what we know about the compilation and editing of Assyrian prophecies.1 In the Sargonid royal courts, prophetic oracles were preserved in daily records, later compiled for special occasions. Whether Isaiah’s prophecies were initially recorded by court scribes or by Isaiah and his disciples (8:1, 16), the book’s existence makes it clear that at some point they were viewed as having been validated by subsequent events and that it was for this reason that they were collected together and preserved. That this original eighth-­ century collection of oracles underwent further later editing and expansion en route to becoming the extant book of Isaiah is undisputed, but the extent and nature of this editing is a matter of significant contention. Some limit the surviving work of Isaiah ben Amoz to a handful of verses. It is likely, however, that large portions of chapters 3–23 and 28–31 are attributable to Isaiah ben Amoz. The corpus of such passages is sometimes called “Proto-Isaiah.” A number of these passages are discussed below. The reign of Josiah in the late seventh century may have been another important period for the book’s formation, if suggestions that waning Assyrian power prompted an anti-Assyrian redaction are correct.2 The material associated with this period has been variously identified, but the best theory is that it sought to accentuate positive aspects of Isaiah of Jerusalem’s prophecies, augmenting them during a period in which Jerusalem and Judah enjoyed relative peace and prosperity.3 Assyria’s withdrawal from the Levant near the end of the seventh century would have contributed to an optimistic mood in Judah, thanks to greater political and religious autonomy. Isa 32 and 33 may be from this time; their vision of Jerusalem as “an immovable tent whose stakes will never be pulled up” (33:20) makes more sense prior to the city’s destruction in 586 bce than after. It also seems likely that the book underwent a double redaction analogous to that of the Deuteronomistic History, in which a late seventh-century version was supplemented during the exile or just afterward; the insertion of chapters from 2 Kings, only lightly revised, in chapters 36–39 reflects the concerns of the second of these. Presumably, these prose narratives were inserted to explain Isaiah’s place in the history of the nation. Isa 34 and 35 appear to be from the same period as Second Isaiah. A final issue concerning the date of material in chapters 1–39 is presented by Isa 1 and 2, each of which has its own superscription. Both superscriptions refer to “Judah and Jerusalem,” using a formulation characteristic of Chronicles and Ezra. Isa 2 has much in common with 40–55, while chapter 1 is redolent with images typical of chapters 56–66. Both chapters were most likely added to the book as part of the addition of these later sections. 1  De Jong, Isaiah. 2 Barth, Jesaja-Worte; Sheppard, “Anti-Assyrian.” 3 Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39; de Jong, Isaiah; Hays, Origins of Isaiah.

Isaiah and the Neo-Assyrian Background   147

8.3.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire and Its Impact on the Kingdom of Judah The Neo-Assyrian Empire expanded rapidly across the ancient Near East between the ninth and seventh centuries bce. Assurnasirpal II (r. 883–859 bce) is usually considered the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, building a kingdom that reached from the Taurus Mountains to the Euphrates. He established a new capital city at Kalhu, an impressive city built on taxes, trade, and tribute payments from vassal nations. This “yoke of Aššur” was a great burden to smaller client states. The empire began a westward expansion in the middle of the eighth century, the effects of which were felt most acutely in the northern territories of Aram and Israel. Ahab of Israel came into conflict with Shalmaneser III (r. 858–824 bce), as a federation of western kings attempted to throw off Assyrian control. According to Shalmaneser’s Kurkh Monolith, Ahab led one of the larger contingents of the coalition, mustering ten thousand soldiers and two thousand chariots. Although the outcome of these clashes is unclear, Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk records the receipt of tribute from Jehu of Israel just a few years later. Assyria stagnated for much of the next century, though the period saw the rise of the queen Shammuramat, the wife of Shamshi-Adad V (r. 823–811 bce) and the basis of the later Greek legends about Semiramis. In the mid-eighth century, Tiglath-Pileser III (r. 744–727 bce) brought new energy to Assyria’s imperial ambitions. He re-subdued Babylonia and Urartu and campaigned into Syria-Palestine, including taking tribute from Menahem of Israel (r. 746–737 bce). The heavy taxation that was the price of Assyria’s support for Israel’s kings would have been costly and therefore controversial; tiring of Assyrian domination, Israel joined an anti-Assyrian coalition akin to that of Ahab, hoping to replicate the relative success of similar coalitions in the ninth-century. Ahaz of Judah, however, refused to join the coalition. This set the stage for the greatest historical conflict between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms: Israel’s coalition attacked Judah in 734 bce in the Syro-Ephraimite War, intending to replace Ahaz with a ruler more sympathetic to its goals (2 Kgs 16:5–9; Isa 7). Judah weathered the assault, however, and Tiglath-Pileser wiped out the coalition in his western campaign of 734–731 bce. Israel’s king, Pekah (r. 734–731 bce), was killed and replaced with Hoshea (r. 730–722 bce). Tiglath-Pileser also removed some of Israel’s territory and made it into Assyrian provinces, leaving just the area around Samaria as a vassal state. Hoshea soon sought the support of Egypt, and Assyria therefore besieged and destroyed Samaria in 722–721 bce. This is remembered in Isa 28:1–4. Sargon II turned the kingdom into the province of Samerina and claimed to have deported more than 27,000 Israelites; surely many others fled, some to Judah and others elsewhere. Until this point, Judah’s location and lesser significance had largely shielded it from the direct impact of Assyrian power. That came to an end with the destruction of Samaria. Following the dissolution of the Northern Kingdom, the new provincial territory of Samerina was directly on Judah’s doorstep, mere miles from Jerusalem.

148   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays Rebellions in Philistia then prompted another Assyrian campaign and the formation of the province of Ashdod in 712 bce, bringing Assyria closer also on Judah’s western flank. In his Great Summary Inscription, Sargon claims that he summoned all the western kings to attend the dedication of the city of Dur Sharrukin in 706 bce. Though not explicitly named, it is possible that Hezekiah and other members of the royal court of Judah were among those present. Sargon met his end on the battlefield in 705, a uniquely awful fate for an Assyrian king. It likely prompted a celebration in Judah (Isa 14), and it certainly prompted Hezekiah (r. 715–687 bce) to repeat the by now familiar pattern of forming an anti-Assyrian coalition and withholding tribute. Sargon’s successor, Sennacherib (r. 704–681 bce) was not free to campaign to the west until 701 bce, but the consequences were disastrous: his annals record forty-six Judahite cities that had been pillaged and claim that he took more than two hundred thousand people and animals as spoil. The city of Lachish was destroyed, and Jerusalem was probably besieged. Surprisingly, Judah survived as a client state and Hezekiah was allowed to remain on the throne, though he was forced to pay heavy tribute and Judah was stripped of its western territories. Isaiah compared it to “a shelter in a cucumber field” (1:8)—that is, the only thing still standing. The reasons for this are disputed. By the turn of the seventh century, Assyrian control over the southern Levant had largely been solidified. Although Sennacherib was killed in a palace coup, he was succeeded by his designated successor, Esarhaddon (r. 680–669 bce), who was able successfully to fend off other brothers who were vying for the kingship. These events are referred to very briefly in 2 Kgs 19:36–37 and Isa 37:37–38, which report that the murderers fled to “Ararat”—that is, Urartu. Esarhaddon’s diplomatic skill allowed him to pacify his existing empire, then campaign successfully in Egypt between 675 and 671 bce. This expansion was furthered by his son Assurbanipal (r. 668–631 bce). By 664 and 663 bce, Assurbanipal had campaigned as far as Thebes, whose plunder was memorialized by the prophet Nahum (3:8–9). The rapid conquest of Egypt stands in contrast to the more gradual Assyrian expansions through the eighth century. But the Assyrians’ control over Egypt required multiple campaigns to achieve and was never very thorough; it was mostly oriented toward the extraction of wealth and carried out through the operations of local Egyptian agents, including Assyrian-installed puppet kings. From Judah’s perspective, the seventh century was largely peaceful or, at least, unmarked by military interventions; most vassals had learned the hard way that rebellion was not worthwhile. For example, Esarhaddon seems to have faced only a single uprising during his reign. Manasseh of Judah (r. 698–644 bce) is recorded by the Assyrian annals as a dutiful vassal who made regular tribute payments. Tribute payments for the palace at Nineveh are specifically mentioned; representatives from Judah may have taken these items all the way to Nineveh.4 Assyria disappears from the biblical narrative after Sennacherib’s death, but that does not reflect historical reality. A long reign such as Manasseh’s (r. 698–644 bce) would not have been possible without the Assyrians’ tolerance. It is also hard to imagine that 4 Leichty, Royal Inscriptions, 23.

Isaiah and the Neo-Assyrian Background   149 Assyria could have pressed so far south, even into Egypt, had they not been in firm control of the Levant. Indeed, a Judahite troop contingent appears on the lists of vassal troops provided for the Assyrians’ Egyptian campaigns. Recent excavators of Ramat Rahel, four kilometers outside Jerusalem, have argued that the site served as an imperial center, which places Assyrian political and military representatives in close range of the Judahite capital itself.5 Despite occasional unrest, usually in conjunction with the death of an Assyrian king, the upper hand in the southern Levant was clearly Assyrian. Assyria’s grasp on the region created an imperial sphere of influence in which immediate concerns about political subordination could give way to economic and cultural matters. Radiating out from these imperial centers, this influence extended to most aspects of life in provincial and vassal territories, from national politics to material goods.6 Assyrian ceramic wares, or local imitations of them, for example, are found in almost every Iron Age site in the region, and Mesopotamian iconographic influences are recognizable across the southern Levant. Despite Assyria’s fearful reputation in Israel and Judah, its culture was quite influential, including its literature, art, and architecture. Assyrian culture was not typically imposed, but spread primarily through prestige and emulation, as the story of Ahaz copying an altar from Damascus indirectly illustrates (2 Kgs 16:10–16). Assyrian activity in the west was also designed to control the lucrative trade routes between Philistia and Arabia, as well as the passageway to Egypt. The military ensured political stability by quelling rebellions, so that Assyria could supplement its imperial wealth by exploiting regional economies. The interconnectedness of military and economic activities is seen in the fact that many Assyrian military garrisons doubled as trading outposts. Imperial highways and extensive support staff made the military and communications networks more effective. The proceeds of increased trade benefited Assyria via tribute payments made to the empire, as well as through conventional commercial trading activities by which Assyrian elites gained access to goods produced elsewhere. Judah was known even in central Assyria as a major grain producer.7 The same geography that made Judah a political battleground also positioned it to benefit from these Assyrian-driven commercial activities. The oracle in Isa 19:23–24 envisions that “there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria . . . On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth.”8 It appears that the royal and trading classes profited from the increased trade.9 This new wealth production may also have led to intrasocietal tensions in Judah between the palace and the landowners who felt the pinch of taxation most acutely.10

5  Lipschits et al., “Palace and Village”; Hays, Origins of Isaiah. 6  Blakely and Hardin, “Southwestern Judah”; Crouch, Making of Israel. 7  Faust and Weiss, “Judah.” 8  Although this passage is often considered a utopian vision of a late period, its earliest form is quite plausibly rooted in the geopolitics of the eighth or seventh centuries. 9  Dalley, “Recent Evidence”; Holladay, “Hezekiah.” 10 Seitz, Theology in Conflict, 42–51.

150   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays Esarhaddon sought to ensure a smooth succession and continuity of Assyrian control over these territories by making his vassals and his own people swear loyalty to his son Assurbanipal (r. 668–627 bce). These oaths concerning the succession are often compared to biblical covenants, especially Deuteronomy.11 Assurbanipal himself had a long and seemingly successful reign, albeit plagued at home by a civil war with his brother Shamash-shum-ukin, whom Esarhaddon had appointed to rule Babylonia. The Assyrians seem to have held Babylonia in high esteem for its venerable cultural and religious traditions, according it special status and relative independence, but the relationship was frequently an uneasy one; Sennacherib, too, had fought a brutal war to keep Babylonia under Assyrian control. In this instance, Assyria was able to quell what was essentially an internal uprising, brother against brother, though it took four years. By that time, Egypt had again thrown off Assyrian rule, this time for good. Assyrian politics become murkier in the last third of the seventh century bce. Like other very long reigns in ancient Near Eastern history, Assurbanipal’s likely led to contention over succession and the stagnation of imperial systems. Historians frequently remark on the mystery of the empire’s seemingly rapid decline. Unfortunately, the Assyrian records more or less disappear after 639 bce, a reflection of weakening Assyrian power both at home and abroad. The period of Assyria’s decline also saw an upswing of Babylonian power, and historians are mostly reliant on Babylonian sources. Indeed, joined by the Medes and the Scythians, Babylonia began to attack Assyrian cities in 615 bce. It appears that the Assyrians were taken by surprise by the sudden need to defend their heartland, overextended across a sprawling empire and defensively unprepared at home. Key central cities such as Kalhu and Nineveh were built with an eye to concerns such as display, access, and water use, rather than defense, because the Assyrian philosophy of warfare was to attack preemptively.12 Awareness of Assyrian vulnerability was no doubt responsible for the efforts of several vassals to reassert their independence, especially after the fall of Nineveh to the Babylonians in 612 bce, after a siege of only three months. Their major cities in ruins, the remnants of the Assyrian court and military apparently fled westward, where they survived for a while with Egyptian support. Most of the western rebellions eventually failed in the face of these Egyptian exertions. Remarkably, no account of the Assyrians’ final extinction has yet come to light in surviving documents, even those of the Babylonians who vanquished them. Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–562 bce) appears to have employed an Assyrian scribe or two at his court, as Babylonian documents from 603 and 600 bce have been found in the Neo-Assyrian dialect.13 But overall, Assyria was simply swallowed up by the Neo-Babylonians, never to re-emerge. The crumbling of Assyrian power was felt in Judah, even though Egyptian influence the quickly filled vacuum. There are no records of Assyrian presence in Palestine after 645 bce,14 and Assyrian control was certainly over by 630 bce. In this context Judah began to reassert its political independence, albeit not immediately. Josiah’s reforms, probably 11 Crouch, Israel and the Assyrians. 13  Brinkman, “Unfolding the Drama.”

12  Melville, “New Look.” 14 Stern, Archaeology, 4.

Isaiah and the Neo-Assyrian Background   151 based on some version of the Deuteronomic laws, have often been thought to be a program meant to subvert Assyrian hegemony. If this was the case, these assertions were indirect; the Assyrians did not impose their religion on their vassal states, so any Assyrian tendencies in Judah’s religious practice had been taken on voluntarily, as a form of elite emulation.15 It has recently been argued that Assyria’s fall was reflected in Isa 24–27, and that the “fortified city” with its “palace of foreigners” (25:10) that is repeatedly described in those chapters as ruined refers to an Assyrian administrative complex near Jerusalem at Ramat Rahel. On this view, the retreat of Assyrian governors and soldiers back to the homeland occasioned celebration in Judah, in which a victorious Yhwh (25:1–3) was imagined as hosting a victory feast on Mount Zion (25:6–8), and the fallen Assyrian outpost was contrasted with the still-invincible “strong city,” Jerusalem (26:1). Josiah, speaking for Yhwh, closes the section by inviting the territory of the ­former Northern Kingdom to reunite itself with Judah now that the Assyrians are gone (“make peace with me”: 27:5).16

8.4.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire and Its Impact on First Isaiah The Assyrian Empire serves numerous functions in the prophetic texts associated with Isaiah ben Amoz. From Judah’s perspective, Assyria’s role changed even during the eighth century. Assyria saved Judah from a Syro-Ephraimite coalition in the 730s, only to return and destroy much of Judah thirty years later, in 701. Thus, in Isa 7, the prophet advises Ahaz, the king of Judah, not to fear the Syrians and Ephraimites and describes the Assyrians as saviors. God summons the Assyrians (7:18) to save Judah, and they are literally “God with us” in 8:8 (Hebrew: Immanuel). But in the text as it now stands the Assyrians are also described as a punishment (8:6–7) and a devouring pestilence (7:19, 23–25). This may be interference from a later and more negative perspective on the Assyrians; for example, the sweeping “up to the neck” (8:8) may evoke Sennacherib’s campaign of 701 against Judah, in which only Jerusalem survived. That same campaign is reported in Isa 36–37, a passage imported almost verbatim from 2 Kgs 18–19. The tensions introduced by the redaction of the book are apparent. This negativity is visible also in the book’s most dominant image of Assyria—namely, the empire as the epitome of terror and an earthly manifestation of divine wrath. Byron’s poem “The Destruction of Sennacherib” aptly reflects Assyria’s reputation: The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold, And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea, When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee. 15  Berlejung, “Assyrians”; “Shared Fates.”

16 Hays, Origins of Isaiah; Sweeney, Isaiah 1–39.

152   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays Despite the fact that Assyria was an advanced civilization, this terrorizing, militaristic image matches its self-portrayal and surely reflects a significant aspect of the empire’s historical reality. Isa 5:26–28 offers a vivid description of the military prowess of this “people from the ends of the earth”: Here they come, swiftly, speedily! None of them is weary, none stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps, not a loincloth is loose, not a sandal-thong broken; their arrows are sharp, all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind.

The Assyrians are similarly portrayed—as a nation too powerful to resist, even with military help—in Isa 20’s oracle against Egypt and Kush: “The king of Assyria will lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians as exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot” (20:4). A pact with Egypt is condemned in Isa 28:15, 18 as a “covenant with death”; not even with Egyptian help will Judah be able to resist Assyrian might. Assyria introduced itself to smaller nations through terror as an intentional part of its “diplomacy.” In the Rabshakeh’s speech at the wall of Jerusalem (Isa 36), for example, the Assyrian representative comes to the Judahites with threats intended to induce despair: You cannot rely on words; you cannot rely on allies; you cannot repulse a single one of my captains; even your god has deserted your cause. When the Jerusalem court officials ask him to speak not in Hebrew but in Aramaic, so that the common people will not understand, the Rabshakeh—far from complying—continues in Hebrew and turns up the volume on his threats: “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?” (v. 12). Understood naturalistically, as a reflection of the conditions of a city under siege, this threat is awful enough; understood as a reference to a view of the afterlife in which the unattended dead are thought to eat feces and drink urine—as, for example, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead—it is even worse.17 The Rabshakeh threatens nothing less than death to those who resist Assyrian domination. One should not doubt that the biblical rendering of this interchange sheds light on historical Assyrian practices. The story shows at its core “a clear knowledge of Assyrian officialdom and techniques of war, and the definite impress of Assyrian power.”18 That these warnings were no hollow threat may be seen in the claims of violent conquest made by Assyrian kings in their inscriptions, filled with vocabulary of destruction and  death. Typical methods of dealing with rebellious cities are recorded in one of Tiglath-Pileser’s inscriptions: I smashed Bit-Šilani completely, like a pot. Sarrabanu, their great royal city, I laid waste as though ruined by the flood, and I despoiled it. Nabu-ušabši, their king, I impaled 17  Xella, “Sur la Nourriture.”

18  Machinist, “Rab Šāqēh,” 166; Machinist, “Assyria.”

Isaiah and the Neo-Assyrian Background   153 before the gate of his city and exposed him to the gaze of his countrymen. His wife, his sons, his daughters, his possessions, the treasure of his palaces I despoiled.19

When Assyrians came to conquer a rebellious city, they typically spoke of “demolishing,” “destroying,” and “burning” (napalu, naqaru, ina isati saraptu). There is a strong component of psychological warfare involved in such actions.20 Indeed, they function as a warning to anyone considering resisting Assyrian dominance in the future. The explicitly public nature of the impalement of enemy leaders under successive Assyrian kings, from Tiglath-Pileser III to Sennacherib, exemplifies this intention: exposing the impaled bodies in the sight of the general population demonstrated the consequences of resisting Assyrian power and served as a public warning to anyone tempted to imitate them. What might at first seem to be pure cruelty had a specific imperial function, namely, to discourage future opposition to Assyrian dominance.21 Although the general population could be considered guilty for its role in a kingdom’s failure to submit—thus justifying the collateral damage to which they were subject when their kings failed to comply with Assyrian wishes—the most extreme violence was targeted at kings and other leadership figures whose persistent rebelliousness was considered the paramount obstacle to Assyrian domination. From the Assyrian perspective, this violence was a necessary response to smaller kingdoms’ resistance to Assyrian authority. Those who submitted immediately suffered less; by contrast, those who had previously submitted to Assyrian authority, only later to attempt to throw off the Assyrian yoke, were subject to violent repercussions. The moralizing of war violence is apparent in the Assyrians’ own inscriptions, which describe Assyrian violence as a response to the “sinfulness” or “wickedness” of rebel kings and kingdoms.22 The ideological conflation of these categories is visible in Assyrian terminology: ḥīṭu signifies both a sinful person and a rebellious person, while lemnu and bēl lemutti simultaneously denote both the “enemy” and one who is “wicked, evil.” It is possible that these royal inscriptions, including their accounts of rebellions, the sieges of foreign cities, and the aftermath of these cities’ defeat, were read out to ­tribute-bearing visitors to the Assyrian capitals, or that certain episodes were narrated ad hoc by palace officials, guiding foreign delegations past graphic depictions of these events on the walls of the royal palaces. All this amounted to a form of psychological warfare intended to induce submission. Oppenheim, usually a defender of Mesopotamian culture, sums it up: The terrifying mask that was deliberately turned toward the outside world was undeniably effective. The Old Testament reflects in numerous poignant passages the fear 19 Tadmor, Inscriptions, 122–123. 20 Oded, War; Saggs, The Might. 21  Notably, the intended audience of these performances of conquest shift under Esarhaddon, from the conquered to native Assyrians in the homeland, reflecting Esarhaddon’s precarious claim to the throne. Crouch, War and Ethics, 140–141. 22 Oded, War; Crouch, War and Ethics.

154   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays inspired by Assyrian military might and by the ruthless aggressiveness directed against all those nations that found themselves in the path of Assyrian expansion.23

There have been some recent efforts to rehabilitate Assyria’s reputation, or at least to better understand the ways in which the imperial machine grounded its acts of extreme violence in ideological and theological foundations.24 Nevertheless, there remains a great gulf between Assyria’s self-image as a universalizing purveyor of order and peace and its enemies’ image of it. The brutal manifestation of Assyrian military power exposed the prophets to unforgettable atrocities of war that echoed through their im­agery. Thus, for example, Isa 5:25: “The anger of Yhwh was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them; the mountains quaked, and their corpses were like refuse in the streets.” Despite the negativity with which the Assyrians are presented in Isaiah, the empire is conceived as serving a crucial purpose in Judah and Israel’s histories as an instrument of divine justice. In the oracle of Isa 10:5–6, God reveals Assyria to be his weapon against unrighteousness: Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger— the club in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

Although earlier prophetic traditions, including Amos’s vision of the Day of the Lord and Hosea’s warnings about the consequences of Israel’s unfaithfulness, imply that Yhwh’s punishment may be effected through the rampaging of foreign nations against Israel and Judah, First Isaiah is the first extended exploration of this notion with reference to a single, specific foreign nation. Isaiah’s contributions on this point would later be elaborated by Jeremiah and Ezekiel as they unfolded the theological implications of the Babylonians’ conquest of Jerusalem. If Isaiah’s declaration of Yhwh’s authority over foreign kings and their armies is not remarkable enough, he then takes the point even farther. The Assyrian king’s involvement in the divine plan is completely unwitting: But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few. (10:7)

With such assertions Isaiah directly undermines the Assyrians’ claim to divine ­authority—either from their own gods or from their enemies’ gods—for their c­ onquests. 23  Oppenheim, “Neo-Assyrian,” 133–134.

24 Oded, War; Crouch, War and Ethics.

Isaiah and the Neo-Assyrian Background   155 In defiance of the Rabshakeh and the theology that he represents, Isaiah declares that it is Assyria that is in the dark theologically and that its assumptions concerning the divine will are incorrect. Indeed, Isaiah attacks a classic element of Assyrian theological justifications for its military devastation when he describes the Assyrian army as the “mighty waters of the river” that Yhwh “brings up” against Rezin (Isa 8:6–7). Whereas the Assyrian tradition conceived of its king as being entrusted with the weapons of Marduk, the royal warrior god of Enuma Elish, including his flood-weapon, Isaiah claims power over the waters for Yhwh alone.25 Assyria’s subordination to Yhwh’s will is also expressed by passages that warn of the consequences when Assyria goes beyond its commission. The oracle in Isa 10 promises that Assyria’s domination has a definite limit: “When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride” (v. 12). The poem ends with rhetorical questions that reinforce the opening lines: Shall the ax vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood! (10:15)

This attribution of Assyria’s ultimate accountability to Yhwh likely reflects the sense that the might of the empire is too great for historical redress; only God can overcome it. Isaiah’s portrayal of Assyria as God’s unwitting tool not only undermines Assyrian theological claims, but lays the foundations for monotheism much earlier than is usually observed.26 The Assyrian emperor used titles such as “king of the universe,” and “ruler of the four corners (of the earth)”—and Isaiah responded with the declaration that Yhwh alone was king of the universe. Baruch Levine has therefore argued that monotheism developed as a reaction to the universalizing claims of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.27 Besides Isa 10:5–15, this idea is implicit in 14:24–27 (“Yhwh of hosts has planned, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”). The assertion that Yhwh controls the shape of world history is effectively “an explicit statement of Isaiah’s monotheism.”28 Following on from this conception of Yhwh as in control of world history is a conviction that Assyria will receive its judgment in due course. At the end of Isa 30, Yhwh the divine warrior strides forth in wrath against a terrified Assyria, striking it with a rod just as it struck Israel and Judah (30:27–33). The vanquished Assyrian king will not rest in peace but will be burnt to a crisp (30:33). This and the death threats of the Rabshakeh are 25 Crouch, War and Ethics. 26  Explicit monotheism (the denial of the existence of other gods) is more commonly thought to be the innovation of Second Isaiah; a few recent scholars have, however, explored the theme in Ezekiel. 27  Levine, “Assyrian Ideology,” 411–427, building on Machinist, “Assyria,” 719–737; Machinist, “Rab Šāqēh at the Wall of Jerusalem,” 151–68. See also Aster, “Image of Assyria.” 28  Levine, “Assyrian Ideology,” 423.

156   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays both examples of Isaiah’s use of a rhetoric of death inspired by the words and actions of the Assyrians. Similarly, Isaiah declares that the deceased Sargon II, slain on the battlefield on a western campaign, will not receive a proper burial and welcoming into the afterlife but will be mocked by the other dead kings and made to sleep forever in a bed of maggots and worms (14:9–11).29 A native official named Shebna is likewise threatened with an ignominious afterlife and told he will be cast out from his luxurious individual tomb (Isa 22). Eventually, Assyria becomes the second of many nations (Egypt being the first) to represent the prototypical foreign imperial power that is judged by God. Later, this role would be usurped by Babylon, in which form it was taken to universalizing extremes; in Daniel, Babylon stands in for Persia or Greece, and in Revelation it stands for Rome. The shadow of the Neo-Assyrian Empire also hangs over Isaiah in ways that go beyond its direct military and political impact. Judah’s status as a client state to Assyria, for example, carried heavy financial obligations (cf. 2 Kgs 15:19–20). This economic burden was not shared equitably among all social classes as the eighth-century prophets repeatedly testify. Isaiah condemns those who “join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land” (5:8). This reflects a situation in which farmers lost their land due to taxes and debts which they could not repay.30 The consequences of the “yoke (tax) of Assyria” was arguably one of the key provocations of Isaiah’s emphasis on social justice. Last but not least, the Assyrians function in Isaiah’s message as part of the book’s meditations on kingship, and the Assyrian kings are often presented as negative examples of the institution. In Isa 10, the Assyrian ruler is unaware of the real shape of history and goes beyond the will of Yhwh. In Isa 14, his aspirations to power and hopes for the afterlife are drastically undermined. At the ends of Isa 30 and 31, the Assyrian king is humiliated and punished by God. These contrast with the positive images of Davidic kingship in Isa 9, 11, and 32.31 In the most extended episode contrasting kings, Sennacherib appears as the foil to Hezekiah in Isa 36–37. He sends his messengers to Jerusalem with haughty, boastful rhetoric, claiming in part that Yhwh has given the city to him because of his displeasure with Hezekiah. But Hezekiah humbles himself and seeks Yhwh in the temple (Isa 37), and thus receives a word of assurance from the prophet. Afterward, the Assyrian forces are said to be wiped out at the walls of Jerusalem; the assassination of Sennacherib is reported as if it had followed these events immediately, though it did not take place until 681 bce. The storyteller has telescoped history to draw a contrast between the two kings. 29  On the identification of Sargon II in Isa 14, see Hays, Death. 30  Houston, “Social Crisis.” 31  This is not to suggest that the book takes a strictly ethno-nationalist view of kingship. Ahaz is also presented as a faithless ruler (Isa 7), and even Hezekiah is criticized for his policies (Isa 22:8–11); the latter is eventually portrayed as a short-sighted fool (Isa 38–39).

Isaiah and the Neo-Assyrian Background   157

8.5. Conclusion The Neo-Assyrian Empire constituted the domineering historical and political backdrop to the prophetic activities of Isaiah ben Amoz. Assyria’s military power, its extraction of the economic resources of vassal states, and its theological interpretation of these activities as the will of the Assyrian gods deeply impacted the theology of the eighthcentury prophet, as well as the subsequent bearers of his traditions. In defiance of Assyrian claims to the contrary, Isaiah declared that Yhwh alone was the king and ruler of world history.

Bibliography Aster, Shawn Zelig. “The Image of Assyria in Isaiah 2:5–22: The Campaign Motif Reversed.” JAOS 127 (2007): 249–278. Barth, Hermann. Die Jesaja-Worte in Der Josiazeit: Israel und Assur als Thema einer produktiven Neuinterpretation der Jesajaüberlieferung. WMANT 48. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1977. Berlejung, Angelika. “The Assyrians in the West: Assyrianization, Colonialism, Indifference, or Development Policy?” In Congress Volume: Helsinki 2010, edited by Martti Nissinen, 21–60. VTS 148. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Berlejung, Angelika. “Shared Fates: Gaza and Ekron as Examples for the Assyrian Religious Policy in the West.” In Iconoclasm and Text Destruction in the Ancient Near East and Beyond, edited by Natalie Naomi May, 151–174. Oriental Institute Seminars 8. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2012. Blakely, Jeffrey  A., and James  W.  Hardin. “Southwestern Judah in the Late Eighth Century b.c.e.” BASOR 326 (2006): 11–63. Brinkman, John A. “Unfolding the Drama of the Assyrian Empire.” In Assyria 1995: Proceedings of the 10th Anniversary Symposium of the New-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Helsinki, September 7–11, 1995, edited by Simo Parpola and Robert M. Whiting, 1–16. Helsinki: NeoAssyrian Text Corpus Project, 1997. Byron, George Gordon, Lord, The Complete Poetical Works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1905. Crouch, C. L. Israel and the Assyrians: Deuteronomy, the Succession Treaty of Esarhaddon, and the Nature of Subversion. ANEM 8. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2014. Crouch, C. L. The Making of Israel: Cultural Diversity in the Southern Levant and the Formation of Ethnic Identity in Deuteronomy. VTS 162. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Crouch, C. L. War and Ethics in the Ancient Near East: Military Violence in Light of Cosmology and History. BZAW 409. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2009. Dalley, Stephanie. “Recent Evidence from Assyrian Sources for Judaean History from Uzziah to Manasseh.” JSOT 28 (2004): 387–401. Faust, Avraham, and Ehud Weiss. “Judah, Philistia, and the Mediterranean World: Reconstructing the Economic System of the Seventh Century bce.” BASOR 338 (2005): 71–92. Hays, Christopher B. Death in the Iron Age II and in First Isaiah. FAT 79. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.

158   C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays Hays, Christopher B. The Origins of Isaiah 24–27: Josiah’s Festival Scroll for the Fall of Assyria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Holladay, John S., Jr. “Hezekiah’s Tribute, Long-Distance Trade, and the Wealth of Nations ca. 1000–600 bce: A New Perspective.” In Confronting the Past: Archaeological and Historical Essays on Ancient Israel in Honor of William G. Dever, edited by Seymour Gitin, J. Edward Wright, and J. P. Dessel, 309–331. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006. Houston, Walter. “Was There a Social Crisis in the Eighth Century?” In In Search of Pre-exilic Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar, edited by John Day, 130–149. JSOTS 406. London: T&T Clark, 2004. Jong, Matthijs J. de. Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets: A Comparative Study of the Earliest Stages of the Isaiah Tradition and the Neo-Assyrian Prophecies. VTS 117. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Leichty, Eric. The Royal Inscriptions of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680–669 BC). RINAP 4. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011. Levine, Baruch. “Assyrian Ideology and Biblical Monotheism.” Iraq 67 (2005): 411–427. Lipschits, Oded, Yuval Gadot, Benjamin Arubas, and Manfred Oeming. “Palace and Village, Paradise and Oblivion: Unraveling the Riddles of Ramat Raḥel.” NEA 74 (2011): 2–49. Machinist, Peter. “Assyria and Its Image in the First Isaiah.” JAOS 103 (1983): 719–737. Machinist, Peter. “The Rab Šāqēh at the Wall of Jerusalem: Israelite Identity in the Face of the Assyrian ‘Other.’ ” Hebrew Studies 41 (2000): 151–168. Melville, Sarah C. “A New Look at the End of the Assyrian Empire.” In Homeland and Exile: Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honour of Bustenay Oded, edited by Gershom Galil, Mark J. Gellar, and Alan R. Millard, 179–202. VTS 130. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Oded, Bustenay.War, Peace and Empire: Justifications for War in Assyrian Royal Inscriptions. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1992. Oppenheim, A. Leo. “Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires.” In The Symbolic Instrument in Early Times, edited by Harold  D.  Lasswell, Daniel Lerner, and Hans Speier, 111–144. Propaganda and Communication in World History 1. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1979. Saggs, H. W. F. The Might That Was Assyria. Great Civilizations Series. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1984. Seitz, Christopher R. Theology in Conflict: Reactions to the Exile in the Book of Jeremiah. BZAW 176. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1989. Sheppard, Gerald T. “The Anti-Assyrian Redaction and the Canonical Context of Isaiah 1–39.” JBL 104 (1985): 193–216. Stern, Ephraim. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. Vol. 2, The Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Periods, 732–332 bce. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 1–39: With an Introduction to the Prophetic Literature. FOTL 16. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Tadmor, Hayim. The Inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994. Xella, Paolo. “Sur la Nourriture des Morts.” In Death in Mesopotamia: Papers Read at the XXVIe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, edited by Bendt Alster, 151–160. Mesopotamia 8. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1980.

chapter 9

Isa i a h a n d th e N eo -Ba by l on i a n Backgrou n d Joseph Blenkinsopp

9.1.  Prophecy and International Politics In the section on Prophecy in his Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Max Weber identified a  concern with social injustice as a major characteristic of Israelite prophecy. Viewed as a religious issue, social injustice within Israel served to explain why the wrath of the God of Israel was inflicted on his people, and why that came about more often than not through the agency of foreign nations. Weber therefore drew the further conclusion that “the primary concern of the prophets was with foreign politics, chiefly because it constituted the theater of their god’s activities.”1 The prophets, he  continued, communicated their urgent message about social justice and  injustice by means of vital, emotional preaching delivered either orally or in written form. In his study of Ancient Judaism, unfinished at his untimely death in 1920, Weber observed that the Israelite prophets to whom books are attributed would have appeared to their contemporaries as political demagogues or pamphleteers, and that this was a kind of prophecy which would not have been tolerated in the great Near Eastern empires contemporary with the prophets of Israel.2 One ­illustration of this last point that comes to mind is the execution, some would say 1 Weber, Economy and Society (Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft), 439–451. 2 Weber, Ancient Judaism, 267–269. Weber did not understand “demagogue” in the commonly accepted pejorative sense; he used the term to refer to one who espouses a cause and promotes it by addressing people in a public place, citing Socrates as an example. On Weber’s understanding of prophecy, see my History of Prophecy, 34–36, with references on pp. 30–31.

160   Joseph Blenkinsopp martyrdom, of the Judaean diaspora prophets Ahab ben Kolaiah and Zedekiah ben Maaseiah for speaking out against oppression under the Babylonian empire ruled by Nebuchadnezzar II (Jer 29:21–23). Weber’s thesis is supported by the abundance of polemic in the prophetic collections against foreign nations, in the first place, the great empires—Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Seleucid and, eventually, Roman. The category “oracles against foreign nations,” including those against the aforementioned imperial powers, is attested in most of the prophetic books, beginning with Amos and including Isaiah, as we shall see.3 The attitude toward empire was not, however, uniformly negative; witness the different positions and strategies vis-à-vis the Babylonian empire during the period preceding the fall of Jerusalem in 586 bce. The party in favor of actively pursuing independence from vassal status by open revolt is referred to in Jeremiah and the historical record as “the people of the land” (‫ ;)עם הארץ‬this is the same party that had put Josiah on the throne after killing the conspirators who had assassinated Amon his father (2 Kgs 21:23–24), and who some years later assured the succession of his son Jehoahaz (2 Kgs 23:30). These ardent nationalists and supporters of the dynasty were in alliance with prophets in Judah such as Hananiah ben Azzur, who made a high-risk and unsuccessful prophecy of independence from Babylon within two years, but then died following a successful prophecy of his death by Jeremiah (Jer 28). There were prophets of the same persuasion in the Babylonian diaspora who were denounced by Jeremiah (Jer 29:8–9), including the two executed by Nebuchadrezzar mentioned earlier. After the conquest of Jerusalem, sixty of these nationalistic “people of the land” were among the first to be executed by the Babylonian general Nabuzaradan (2 Kgs 25:19–21), confirming that they formed a recognizable faction. Leading the opposition to revolt was the powerful family of Shaphan, a high official during the reign of Josiah, a position the Babylonians gratefully acknowledged when they apppointed Shaphan’s grandson Gedaliah governor of the Babylonian province of Judah, perhaps as vassal king, a few years after the fall of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 25:22–26; Jer 40:5–6). Jeremiah was the spokesman for this faction, no doubt regarded by its opponents as the party of appeasement and collaborators with the Babylonian conquerors (2 Kgs 24–25; Jer 37–44). As a codicil to Weber, let us add that Babylon as the center of the Babylonian empire and residence of its powerful gods is reflected in the Genesis Tower of Babel story, a mythicized version of the building of the city and its temple Esagila, with its temple tower, or ziggurat (Gen 11:1–9). The story is perhaps dependent on the account of the founding of Babylon (Babel) in the epic Enûma Eliš (VI 60–62), but the Genesis version cleverly uses the phenomenon of linguistic differentiation as symbolic of noncommunication, dispersion, and collapse—in other words, a critique of empire. In real time, 3  Amos 1–2 (Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab); Obadiah (Edom); Nahum (Assyria); Zephaniah (Philistia, Moab, Nubia); Jeremiah 46–51 (Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Syria, Kedar, Hazor, Elam, Babylon); Isaiah 13–23 (Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia); Ezekiel 25–32 (Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Phoenicia, Egypt).

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   161 the establishment of the city was the work of Sargon I, founder of the dynasty of Akkad in the twenty-fourth century bce. In the biblical account of origins his counterpart is Nimrod in the land of Shinar (i.e., Babylonia), the proto-imperialist and mighty hunter before the Lord (Gen 10:8–12), and according to rabbinic tradition, the ruler under whom the builders of the city and tower worked.

9.2.  Babylon in Isaiah 1–39 Babylon is first named in chapters 1–39, the first major section of the book, in a series of ten prophetic oracles against foreign and hostile peoples (chaps. 13–23). The series is divided into two pentads, in both of which the first of the five deals with imperial Babylon as the successor to imperial Assyria (13:1–22; 21:1–10). A mocking lament for the death of a king of Babylon and his arrival in the Underworld—a somewhat unsubtle case of Schadenfreude—has been added to the first of these (14:1–23). Chapters 1–39 end with an account of a visit of a Babylonian delegation from Merodach Baladan (Marduk-apla-iddina) of Babylon to Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The apparent purpose of the visit was to convey the friendly greetings of the Babylonian king, then a vassal of Assyria, to his Judaean counterpart. The visit ends with Isaiah’s prediction of exile in Babylon (39:3–8), which then serves to link with the prophetic announcement of return from exile in the following section of the book.

9.3.  Oracles in Isaiah 13–23 It is commonly accepted that Isaiah 13–23 forms a distinct section of the book, “a single large unit constructed intentionally by a redactor.”4 Immediately preceding it, the psalm in Isa 12:1–6 rounds off the first subsection of the book, and the series of sayings against foreign peoples, each bearing the title ‫( משׂא‬oracle), is confined to Isa 13–23, the only exception anywhere in the book of Isaiah being Isa 30:6, an oracle dealing with something entirely different—lions, snakes, donkeys, and camels in the Negev. The distinctive character of Isa 13–23 is somewhat obscured by the profusion of eschatological additions in both chapters 13–23 and chapters 24–27 introduced with the familiar incipit “on that day” or something similar.5 On the other hand, the only foreign nation mentioned in Isa 24–27, a section often referred to as “the

4 Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, 1–2. 5  In Isa 13–23 (13:9; 17:4, 7, 9; 18:17; 19:16, 18, 19, 23, 24; 22:5, 8, 12, 20, 25); in Isa 24–27 (24:21; 25:9; 26:1; 27:1, 6, 12, 13).

162   Joseph Blenkinsopp Isaian Apocalypse,” is Moab (25:10b–11), but not presented as a distinct oracle.6 The ­oracle series is set out in two groups of five, both beginning with an anti­-Babylonian oracle. The first pentad begins with Babylon and ends with Egypt (Isa 19:1–15); the second begins with a saying bearing the textually uncertain title ‫ משׂא מדבר ים‬and concludes with the prediction by an unnamed ecstatic prophet of the imminent fall of Babylon (Isa 21:1–10).7 To the first oracle is attached an assurance of the return of Judaeans exiled in Babylon, not surprisingly since their repatriation depended on the overthrow of Babylon and with it the Babylonian empire. There follows a poem celebrating the fall of an unnamed tyrant (14:3–23). The description of this tyrant would apply to any one of several rulers during the Neo-Assyrian period, and may in fact have applied originally to one or other of them, but if so, it must have been seen to fit a king of Babylon, most probably the great Nebuchadrezzar II, conqueror of Jerusalem. The prediction of the defeat and undoing of the Assyrians in Yhwh’s land, following the Babylon oracle and the arrival of the king of Babylon in the Underworld (14:24–27), unaccountably breaks into the carefully structured oracle series and is chronologically out of place. It will bring to mind the account in Isa 36–37 of the failure of the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib to subdue Jerusalem, his withdrawal to his own country, and his death at the hands of his sons. But then we go on to note that the following saying, against the Philistines (14:28–31), is also set in the Assyrian period, specifically in the year of the death of king Ahaz (715 bce). The same for the other oracles in the first pentad of the series: Moab (15:1–16:11), necessarily involved in all Assyrian campaigns to the west; Damascus (17:1–3), part of the Assyrian province of Samerina since 722 bce; Egypt (19:1–15), the most formidable opponent of the Assyrians to the west and partner in antiAssyrian rebellions. All these oracular statements presuppose the Neo-Assyrian rather than the Neo-Babylonian period, thereby permitting the hypothesis that a first series of oracles dealing with Judah’s relations with other nations during the ascendancy of Assyria was expanded and updated during or after the rise and relatively brief duration of Babylonian imperial rule (626–539 bce). The change was brought about by simply adding oracular statements about Babylon at the beginning of both halves of the series (Isa 13:1–22; 19:1–15). It was, after all, Babylon rather than Nineveh that became the paradigm of imperial hubris, especially after the conquest of Jerusalem, and remained so

6  The title “Isaian Apocalypse,” commonly assigned to Isa 24–27, may go back to Bernhard Duhm, who remarked that Isaiah might as well have written the book of Daniel as Isaiah 24–27. See his Buch Jesaia, 172. 7  On the face of it, the title translates as “the wilderness of the sea” but other interpretations are on offer, too many to list and evaluate here. Since the oracle goes on to encourage Elamites and Medes to attack an unnamed city, and the passage ends with the announcement of the imminent fall of Babylon, the title may be an attempt to translate the Akkadian mat tam-tim or kur tam, the Sealand, i.e., the region inhabited by Chaldaean tribes in southern Mesopotamia near the Persian Gulf, including the island of Bahrain, now known as the Shatt al Arab, home to the Marsh Arabs. See my Isaiah 1–39, 324.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   163 until it was supplanted by Rome.8 The message conveyed by this structuring of the oracle series is that there is no essential difference between Assyrians and Babylonians. Both are empires, which, like all empires throughout history, embody injustice on a massive scale, in the first place by denying freedom to other peoples, a message that is easily understood in our postcolonial epoch. One important difference should, ­however, be mentioned. It appears that the Babylonians did not continue the Assyrian practice of cross-deportation, hence Jerusalem did not share the fate of Samaria, whose population was, to a considerable extent, replaced by foreign peoples (2 Kgs 17:24), thereby excluding the possibility of an eventual return. Judah, in contrast, as a vassal of Babylon, was shielded from the further expansion of the Edomites to the south, which was well underway by the reign of Nebuchadrezzar.9

9.4.  The Oracle on Babylon: Isaiah 13:1–22 The first of the oracles predicting disaster for Babylon consists of four stanzas (vv. 2–5, 6–8, 9–15, 16–22), only the first and last of which deal with real or imagined historical events, and only the last shows identifiable names: Medes, Babylon, Chaldaeans, and Arabs. The second and third stanzas present a vivid scenario of the end time, the “day of Yhwh,” prefigured in the fall of Babylon in much the same way as the final consummation is prefigured in the fall of Jerusalem in the eschatological discourse of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 24 and parallels). In Isa 13 the fall of Babylon is an event of cosmic significance; as John Skinner put it, “The air is alive with the demon cries of havoc and war.”10 The final stanza has generally been understood to refer to the conquest of Babylon by the Persian Cyrus II, in October 539 bce, but there are problems with this view. First, there is no record of the Medes, who certainly qualify as coming from “a distant land, a far horizon” (v. 5), taking part in the conquest. In the second place, the account of what happened to the city—depopulation, ecological degradation, a return to nature as the haunt of wild animals and satyrs/goat-like creatures of corrupt intelligence and malevolent will—is inconsistent with what we know from our primary sources—namely, the Cyrus Cylinder, the Nabonidus Chronicle, and the Verse Account of the reign of Nabonidus. These indispensable sources attest to a low-key entry of the 8  Edom, though not of imperial dimensions, served as an interim object of opprobrium, apparent in the fierce anti-Edomite rhetoric in Isa 34:1–17, 63:1–6, and elsewhere in post-exilic prophetic writings. Its role is acknowledged in the Targum on Isa 34:9, “The streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,” which reads “the streams of Rome shall be turned into pitch.” 9  Elias Bickerman, From Ezra, may have had Edom in mind in writing: “If Jerusalem had not been part of a Gentile empire, the nomads would have driven the Jews into the sea or swallowed up Palestine, and the rock of Zion would have been the foundation of an Arabian sanctuary a thousand years before Omar’s mosque” (p. 10). 10 Skinner, Prophet Isaiah, 114.

164   Joseph Blenkinsopp Persian troops into Babylon that was supported by influential elements of the Marduk priesthood, followed by continuity of rule under Cambyses, son of Cyrus.11 To this situation the Greek-language sources add little of value.12 However, Medes are often linked with and sometimes confused with Persians. According to Dan 9:1, the Persian monarch Darius was born a Mede, and in Jer 51:11 we are told that the spirit of the kings of the Medes was roused to attack and destroy Babylon. As for the lurid description of postconquest Babylon: it follows a familiar hyperbolic pattern that is similar to the scenario presented in Jer 50–51, which may have provided the model for Isa 13:1–22, and along the same lines as Isa 34:5–17 with respect to Edom, both with the same postdisaster animals left in possession—hyenas, ostriches, jackals, and wildcats.

9.5.  Isaiah 14:3–23: The King of Babylon in the Underworld This poem attached to the first of the oracles is called a ‫( משׁל‬v. 4a, mashal), a ­figurative and often enigmatic type of composition often translated as “parable.” The “parable,” however, is in reality a parodic lament or dirge, indicated by the mandatory initial ‫ איך‬introducing the two stanzas of the poem (v. 4b, “How the tyrant has come to nothing!”/v. 12, “How you have fallen from the sky!”). The closest parallels would be the mock lament over the city-state of Tyre in Ezek 28:11–19 and the assembly of “great powers” in the Underworld, including Egypt, Assyria, and Elam, in Ezek 32:17–32. Isa 14:3–23 is, in fact, a parody of empire and imperial pretensions. The empire is identified as Babylon only in the brief introduction (14:3–4a) and conclusion (14:22–23), perhaps to leave the poem applicable to any empire at any time in history beginning with Rome.13 The oppressor referred to in the first line also remains unidentified; the survivors of the obliterating attack on Jerusalem in 586 bce would naturally think of Nebuchadrezzar II, who died in 562 bce; but other Babylonian rulers fit the description of the tyrant who “in anger struck down peoples with unerring blows, who in fury trod nations underfoot with relentless 11  On the sources and their accounts of the event, see Beaulieu, Reign of Nabonidus, 219–232; Kuhrt, Ancient Near East, 656–661; Briant, Histoire, 50–55 = From Cyrus to Alexander, 40–44. For easy access to the sources in translation, see ANET (2nd ed., 1955), 308–316. 12  Xenophon (Cyropaedia VII 5, 20–30) presents Cyrus as a well-educated Hellenic gentlemanturned-soldier; Herodotus (1 190–191) places the conquest of Babylon in the spring rather than the autumn as in the inscriptions. He reports that it came about by draining the river that runs through the city to make it fordable, a strategy unknown to the Cyrus Cylinder, which states that the city opened its gates to the Persians. Herodotus also says that this was the first time Babylon was besieged and taken, which is certainly not the case. Josephus (C. Ap. 1:150) speaks of a pitched battle between Nabonidus and Cyrus which also contradicts our primary sources, unless he was referring to the battle at Opis on the Tigris, more a slaughter than a battle, mentioned in the Nabonidus Chronicle. 13  See, for example, Rev 17–18, which reproduces in its own idiom much of Isa 13–14 and 47.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   165 ­persecution”  (14:6 NEB).14 The reaction of the whole earth is a special feature of the poem. The earth relaxes and breaks out into song, and even the pine trees and cedars of Lebanon get to speak, expressing their pleasure that now no one comes to cut them down. We are reminded that the destruction of the Lebanon cedar forest was well under way by the collapse of the Assyrian empire toward the end of the seventh century bce, by which time, to take another example, the Syrian elephant had been hunted to extinction. If the Assyrians and Babylonians had been more ­technologically advanced, they would no doubt have done more damage to the flora and fauna of the Middle East. The dirge comes to its finale with the rousing of the long dead, kings and commoners, from their sleep, and their assembling to greet the newcomer and escort him to his sleeping quarters: you will have maggots for your mattress and worms for your blanket—welcome to the Underworld! The second stanza (14:12–21) uses an old myth, best represented by Phaeton son of Helios the sun god or, in another source, of Eos the dawn, who aspired to drive the chariot of Helios, lost control, and was struck by a thunderbolt of Zeus. Like other Greek myths, this one may have borrowed from a Phoenician-Canaanite source reproduced in a Ugaritic text, featuring the god Hêlēl son of Shaḥar (the Dawn), no doubt inspired by the rise of the planet Venus, the morning star, and its rapid disappearance at sunrise. This myth of the fall from grace of a rebellious deity is now recycled to designate the fate of a proud and overbearing ruler of the Babylonian empire. He is described in this stanza as having overweening ambition, striking down all the nations,15 destroying cities, refusing to allow prisoners to return to their homes (v. 17b), ruining his own land, slaying his own people, and, finally, being dishonored in death and cast out of his own grave (14:18–20). This last feature has proved the most stubborn obstacle to identifying the ruler in question. The candidates range from Tiglath-Pileser III, who also ruled Babylon (d. 727), to Nebuchadrezzar II (d. 562) and Nabonidus in the Neo-Babylonian period  (d. 538).16 My own preference is for Sennacherib (d. 681) as the original referent. He was murdered by two of his sons, as we learn from an inscribed prism of Esarhaddon his successor and from the biblical record.17 His titulature is especially grandiose, describing him as king of the universe and the four quarters of the world, his eight campaigns led to the defeat and often the destruction of numerous nations from Asia Minor to the Sealand.18 His assassination, which opened the 14  The description of the tyrant in both stanzas is not necessarily to be taken literally; for example, the maggots and worms of v. 11 do not necessarily imply that his body was left unburied. However, Nebuchadrezzar claimed in the Wadi Brisa rock relief in Lebanon to have torn down cedars with his bare hands, and we must assume that he did not allow his Judaean prisoners to go free and return home (v. 17b). 15 Reading ‫ כל גוים‬for ‫ על גוים‬at 14:12b with LXX, cf. ‫ כל מלכי גוים‬at 14:18a. 16  For Tiglath-Pileser III, see Hayes and Irvine, Eighth-Century Prophet, 227–289. On either Nebuchadrezzar II or Nabonidus as the most plausible candidates, see, inter alios, Clements, Isaiah 1–39, 140. 17  For Prism S, see Luckenbill, Ancient Records, 2:200–201; also 2 Kgs 19:36; Isa 37:37–38. 18 Luckenbill, Ancient Records, 2:115–59.

166   Joseph Blenkinsopp way for the succession of Esarhaddon, may well have led to the dishonoring of his corpse, though nothing is said of the disposal of his body or the bodies of any of the other candidates.19

9.6.  Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon: Isaiah 21:1–10 This oracle is the first in the second pentad, as noted earlier, and is followed by oracles against Duma (Edom?), Arabia, “the Valley of Vision,” and Tyre. In it, the seer speaks in his own name in announcing his “grim vision.” The title, “An Oracle: the Wilderness of the Sea” is the subject of a great deal of textual emendation and debate.20 As I noted earlier, a reference to the Sealand, the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia, the Shatt al Arab, which was the homeland of Chaldean tribes including the Bît Yakin and the seedbed of the royal Babylonian dynasty, is most probably intended. Also, the Negeb in Isa 21:1 refers to the same region south of the city Babylon, and not to the Negev in southern Judah. There are problems also with the unity and continuity of the oracle. The first section, 21:1–4, describes the unsolicited onset of a condition of ecstasy or mental dissociation that is well attested throughout history in many different cultures: bodily discomfort compared to labor pains in childbirth, convulsive movements, rapid heartbeat (cf. Jer 4:19), trembling and a sense of weakness (cf. Hab 3:16). In 21:8–9, however, it is a question of a solicited visionary experience. The seer is a watchman or lookout on his watchtower who is admonished to listen very hard—a quite different situation, therefore.21 Instead of viewing this as evidence that Isa 21:1–10 is composite, however, we might read it as follows: the seer has a vision of the attack on Babylon by Elamites and Medes, here as elsewhere probably meaning Persians, which will put an end to a distressful situation for many, including Judaeans forcibly expatriated (vv. 1–4). At this point (v. 5) the seer envisions what is going on meanwhile in the city, reproducing a tradition reported in Dan 5 about the banquet of Belshassar, son of Nabonidus, at which the participants make sacrilegious use of the sacred vessels from the Jerusalem temple. The tradition appears in more succinct form in Herodotus, who informs us that as the Persian army was approaching, in the city, “they were dancing and making merry at a festival which 19  Other options: Sargon II by Ginsberg, “Reflexes,” 49–53; Nebuchadrezzar II by Vanderhooft, Neo-Babylonian Empire, 128–129. An exhaustive survey of opinion to the time of writing can be found in Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, 40–77, though his proposal that “Babylon” is a symbolic name standing for the Persian Empire (p. 49) is hard to accept. It would be odd to use the name Babylon, the city conquered by the Persians, as symbolic of the victors. 20 LXX τὸ ὅραμα τῆς ἐρήμου (“the view of the wilderness”) and 1QIsaa‫“( מדבר דברים‬the wilderness of words/things”) are not any clearer. For details and references, see my Isaiah 1–39, 323–325. 21  For the prophet as watchman or lookout, a kind of antenna or early warning system for the community in which he functions, see Ezek 3:17; 33:1–9; Isa 52:8; 56:10; Jer 6:17.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   167 chanced to be toward, till they learned the truth only too well” (Hist. 1:191). At this point the seer is told to appoint a lookout and to give him his instructions (vv. 6–7). He does so, and the lookout sees messengers approaching in a chariot bringing the good news that Babylon has fallen and its gods, defeated by the God of Israel, lie smashed on the ground (vv. 8–9). The seer then turns and addresses his Judaean contemporaries who had suffered so much at the hands of the Babylonian empire, using an agrarian image signifying crushing, flailing, and pulverizing, which is what empires usually do. Looking back over these oracles, we would want to ask: For whom were they written? What was their intended use and function? If they were intended as anti-Babylonian propaganda, among which groups did they circulate? Perhaps a faction like the “people of the land” in the last decades of the monarchy? And how did they circulate? Are they a transcript of pamphlets for the use of demagogues in Weber’s sense of the term or a later written-up version of what the prophet as demagogue had said in public or what someone thought he might have said? We simply do not know the answers to these questions; we can only ask them.

9.7.  Isaiah 36–39 At some stage in the formation of the book of Isaiah, chapters 36–39 were attached to chapters 1–35. This final section contains an account in chapters 36–37, roughly parallel with 2 Kgs 18:1–19:38, of Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah (715–687 bce) under mortal threat from an Assyrian punitive expedition. The Assyrian campaign in Judah was probably a reaction to Judah’s participation in the revolt of the Babylonian king Mardukapla-idinna (Merodach Baladan in 39:1), nominally a vassal of Sennacherib, the Assyrian overlord.22 Isa 36–37 contains two versions of Isaiah’s intervention in public affairs during this punitive campaign of Sennacherib, the first solicited (Isa 36:1–37:7 = 2 Kgs 18:17–19:8), the second unsolicited (Isa 37:9–38 = 2 Kgs 19:9b–37). The second episode (Isa 38:1–22 = 2 Kgs 20:1–11) contains the following incidents: a serious illness for Hezekiah and the prophet’s prediction of imminent death, followed soon after by a reprieve of fifteen years; the miracle of the sun’s shadow on the palace steps; and the healing of the king by Isaiah, now in the guise of physician. The final episode (Isa 39:1–8 = 2 Kgs 20:12–19) describes a visit to the king, now convalescent, from envoys sent by Merodach Baladan. The visit was ostensibly to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery; an only slightly more plausible motivation for a journey of almost five hundred miles than scientific curiosity about the sun’s eccentric shadow on the palace steps suggested by the Chronicler (2 Chr 32:31). It is reasonably clear, however, that the envoys from Babylon were in Jerusalem to solicit Hezekiah’s participation in another attempt by Merodach Baladan to throw off the Assyrian yoke. The account of the visit ends with Isaiah’s prediction of the 22  2 Kgs 20:12 has berodach for Isa 39:1 merodach, but the latter is a disphemistic play on the name Marduk, principal Babylonian deity, a component of the king’s name, Marduk-apla-iddina.

168   Joseph Blenkinsopp deportation and exile of the royal family to Babylon (39:5–7 = 2 Kgs 20:16–18). Since we know from the Assyrian record of Sennacherib’s fourth campaign that the revolt of Merodach Baladan took place in 703 bce, about two years before the Assyrian campaign in Judah,23 the account of the visit must have been deliberately placed at the end of chapters 36–39, no doubt to conclude with Isaiah’s prediction of exile (39:5–8), thus linking with the anticipation of return from exile at the beginning of Deutero-Isaiah. We should add that since the narrative of the crisis in chapters 36–37 concludes with Sennacherib breaking camp, returning to Nineveh, and being assassinated by his two sons while at prayer in the temple of Nisroch, his god (Isa 37:36–38), it could not have been composed before 682 bce, the year of Sennacherib’s death, or maybe even at a later date. Isaiah’s message to Hezekiah assuring him that the Lord of Hosts will save his city, and that “from Jerusalem a remnant shall go forth and survivors from Mount Zion” (37:31, 35), will bring to mind passages about Zion as a safe place of refuge protected by the Lord of Hosts (4:2–6; 10:20–27), together with the apostrophes to Zion in Third Isaiah (59:15b–20; 62:1–5), which represent a mature stage in the formation of the Isaian collection.24

9.8.  Babylon in Isaiah 40–48 Babylon is named four times in Isa 40–48 (43:14; 47:1; 48:14, 20) and Chaldaeans is named another four times (43:14; 47:15; 48:14, 20), and neither term appears at all in chapters 49–55 and 56–66. Though the fall of Babylon had already been announced in the oracle series discussed in the previous section (Isa 21:8–9), there is a gap of almost a century and a half between the last events recorded or referred to indirectly in chapters 36–39—the death of Hezekiah in 687 bce (2 Kgs 20:6; Isa 38:5) and that of Sennacherib in 681 bce25—and the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus II in 539 bce, an event anticipated throughout chapters 40–48. The gap covers a period marked by events of the greatest importance: the fall of Nineveh to the Medes and Chaldaeans (Babylonians) in 612 bce celebrated by the prophet Nahum, the relatively rapid decline and fall of Assyria and its empire, and the founding of the Neo-Babylonian Empire with the accession to the throne of Nabopolassar in 625 bce. It is especially surprising that there is nothing about the disaster of the fall of Jerusalem, the events that led up to it, or the deportations that followed it. Perhaps it may have seemed to contrast too painfully

23 Luckenbill, Ancient Records 2:121–22. 24 Childs, Assyrian Crisis; Clements, Deliverance of Jerusalem; Blenkinsopp, “Hezekiah and the Babylonian Delegation,” 107–122. 25  The extension of Hezekiah’s life by fifteen years predicted by Isaiah is consistent with, and probably based on, the account of the reign in 2 Kgs 18:2, 13. For the events surrounding Sennacherib’s death at the hands of two of his sons and the succession of Esarhaddon, see the inscriptions in Luckenbill, Ancient Records, 2:199–203.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   169 with the rescue of Jerusalem/Zion over a century later.26 The linkage between chapters 1–39 and 40–48 is therefore made at the literary level and not at all at the historical level. After the addition of Isa 36–39 to the book, Isaiah’s prediction of exile during the reign of one of Hezekiah’s descendants (39:5–7) connects with the anticipation of return from exile in Isa 40. Absent these four chapters, the theme in Isa 35 of the pilgrim highway, the via sacra, creates a more direct link with the call addressed to prophets to prepare a highway for the return of the expatriates.27 But once the temple was destroyed and rendered uninhabitable, their God was exiled with them, and he returned from exile with them; witness the call at the beginning of the section to prepare “a highway for our God” (Isa 40:3, 9; also 52:8).28 As strange as this idea of a god being exiled and returning from exile may sound to us today, it fits a pattern well attested at that time; for example, on his famous cylinder, Cyrus claims to have repatriated the gods of Sumer and Akkad, who had been exiled by the impious Nabonidus, by bringing them back to their own cities. In parallel, Isa 46:1–2 maintains that the Babylonian deities Bel and Nebo (Marduk and Nabû) were destined for exile. We see, then, how the rebuilding of the temple and resumption of the temple liturgy were implicit in the anticipation of a return from Babylon.

9.9.  Babylon in the Context of the Theological Politics of Isaiah 40–48 From the Isaian perspective, the conflict between Judah and the imperial power of Babylon was, in the first instance, a conflict between deities; hence the polemical tone in evidence throughout this section of the book, the prevalence of rhetorical questions, and the use of judicial genres and terminology. The central issue in these chapters is the claim made by the prophet on behalf of Yhwh to sponsor the conquests of the Persian king Cyrus II, which would lead to the fall of Babylon to the Persians and the dismantling of the Babylonian empire, and therefore to the repatriation of deported Judaeans, the rebuilding of the temple, and the restoration of the temple cult. In the context of 26  For Berges, Buch Jesaja, 325–328, explaining and coming to terms with the disaster had to give way to the prospect of a new future full of hope for Jerusalem/Zion. He finds an explanation in Isa 51:17–23: Jerusalem has drunk from the cup of Yhwh’s wrath after having to offer its back to those who beat it, parallel with the fate of the Servant of the Lord (Isa 50:6). 27  On chapter 35 as a bridge to chapter 40, see Wildberger, Jesaja 28–39, 1330–1341; Steck, Bereitete Heimkehr. It is well known that Charles Cutler Torrey, one of the enfants terribles of biblical studies, argued that chapters 34–35 and 40–60 form a single work from one author, a writer of the highest genius; revisit his Second Isaiah, 53–67 and 279–301. 28  The exile of the “Glory” (‫ )כבוד‬in stages is described in Ezek 9:3; 10:4, 18–19; 11:22–23; Ezekiel attests to its presence in the chariot throne vision in the Babylonian diaspora (Ezek 1:4–28); and he witnesses in vision the return of the ‫ כבוד‬that once again fills the temple (Ezek 43:1–5), as it did after the building of Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 8:11).

170   Joseph Blenkinsopp that time—let us say from the successful revolt of the Persian tribes led by Cyrus against Astyages king of the Medes in 550 to the fall of Babylon to Cyrus in 539—the claim may be viewed as a refutation of the commissioning of Cyrus by the Babylonian supreme deity Marduk announced on the propagandistic Cyrus Cylinder: He (Marduk) scanned and looked through all the countries searching for a right­ eous ruler . . . He pronounced the name of Cyrus king of Anshan, declaring him to be ruler of all the world . . . he ordered him to march against his city Babylon.29

The claim is supported in the first place by presenting Yhwh God of Judah as cosmic creator and therefore as incomparably superior to the Babylonian gods, including Marduk (Bel), supreme among them. The creation theme is in evidence throughout Isa 40–48: it is rare and quite different in emphasis in Isa 49–55, and appears in Isa 56–66 only with reference to the creation of a new heaven and new earth (Isa 65:17).30 In 40–48 the description of creation is at first reading similar enough to the Genesis version (Gen 1:1–2:4a) to convince several scholars that it is dependent on it, an understandable conclusion but one that ignores the differences. Both use the ­standard creation term ‫ברא‬, but the Isaian text uses other terms not used by the Genesis version, for example ‫יצר‬, characteristic of the alternative Genesis creation narrative (Isa 43:10; 45:7, 9, 18, cf. Gen 2:7, 8, 19), and ‫( צולה‬hapax) in place of ‫“( תהום‬the Deep,” Isa 44:27 cf. Gen 1:2). The scenario is also different in significant respects.31 A difference of a more substantial theological nature appears in the statement of Yhwh in Isa 45:7: I form light and create darkness, I bring about well-being and create woe; It is I, Yhwh, who do all these things.

In the P creation narrative, Yhwh God separates light from darkness but creates only light while insisting at each stage on the goodness of creation.32 Here, both darkness and light, woe and well-being are created by Yhwh. 29  ANET, 315. On the Cyrus cylinder and other texts relating to the fall of Babylon, see Ilya Gershevitch, Cambridge History, 2:532–61; Dandamaev, Political History, 47–53; Briant, Histoire, 1:50–55. 30  In Isa 40–48: 40:12–17, 21–22; 43:10; 44:24; 45:9–12, 18; 48:13. In 49–55: 51:9–10 presents the Combat Myth often associated with the creation of the world; 54:5 speaks of Yhwh as “God of all the earth” but not in a creation context (54:5). It is clear that this parody of the Babylonian cult of images is a wilful misrepresentation of their real meaning for those engaged in the cult. See Dick, “Mesopotamian Cult Statue,” 43–67. 31  For more on this issue, see my essay “Cosmological,” 493–499. 32  The creation of both light and darkness is often explained against the background of early Zoroastrian doctrine, but it is doubtful that such a clear formulation could be expected as early as the reign of Cyrus. See Duhm, Buch Jesaia, 342, and, more recently, Dykesteen Nilsen, “Creation”; Herbert Haag, “Ich mache Heil”; and DeRoche, “Isaiah xlv 7,” 11–21.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   171 The features peculiar to the version of creation in Isa 40–48 can best be accounted for as a kind of mirror-imaging of the standard Babylonian mythic and cultic text Enûma Eliš (“When on high . . .”) recited on the fourth day of the great spring akitu festival. This text, written in seven columns, was composed and recited to the greater glory of Marduk, supreme ruler over the gods and sponsor of the Babylonian imperial enterprise. It presents the creation of the world and its inhabitants as a byproduct of conflict among the gods, reflecting in their sphere the violence endemic to imperial rule in the human sphere. It is extremely repetitive, no doubt due to its use in the cult in which repetition is to be expected, but it may be briefly summarized as follows. At the beginning there was only the male deity Apsu, representing the abyss of sweet water, and his female counterpart Tiamat, representing the ocean’s salt water. Their intercourse, the mingling of the waters, produced the other gods. In the course of time these gods rebelled against the rule of Apsu, who decided to kill them because they disturbed his rest. One of them, Ea, god of wisdom, took preemptive action and by applying magic killed Apsu instead. Tiamat then waged war against the gods to avenge her partner and appointed one of eleven monsters, Kingu, to lead the attack. Terrified, the gods persuaded Marduk, son of Apsu, to lead them, and he agreed to do so on condition of being proclaimed supreme among the gods. Marduk emerged victorious and, after a grisly account of the slaying of Tiamat, he created the earth and sky out of her dismembered body and the inhabitants of the earth out of the blood of Kingu. In gratitude to Marduk, the gods built for him the great temple complex Esagila in Babylon, with its ziggurat. The story ends with the proclamation of Marduk’s kingship and the recital of his fifty titles.33 In responding to the theology of Enûma Eliš, and therefore the theology implicit in the akitu festival, the Isaian author rejects, in the first place, the idea of cosmogony as a sequel to theogony, that is, the idea that human beings appear on the scene as actors in a narrative already in progress, one which they do not own and over which they have no control: Before me no god was formed and there will be none after me. (43:10) There is no god apart from me, a god who overcomes and saves; there is none but me. (45:21)

The incomparability of Yhwh God, one of the great themes of Isa 40–48 (40:18, 25; 43:11), may be read as a rejection of the same claim made on behalf of Marduk in Enûma Eliš: “No one among the gods can equal him” (VII 14, 88); hence the polemic against the manufacture and veneration of images of deities, a special feature of Isa 40–48. We recognize, of course, that this polemic is a deliberate misrepresentation of the place of the cult image in Babylonian religion.34 Space permits only one example of the ­mirror 33  For the text of Enûma Eliš, see Heidel, Babylonian Genesis, and for a summary and comments, see Saggs, Babylonians, 330–338. 34  Dick, “Mesopotamian Cult Statue,” 43–67.

172   Joseph Blenkinsopp i­maging of the Marduk theology in the book of Isaiah. We saw earlier that, unlike the Genesis account of creation, in Isa 45:7 Yhwh creates darkness and woe, as well as light and ­well-being (cf. Deut 32:7). Marduk likewise commands destruction as well as creation (VI 131), but in doing so requires the assistance of the god Ea, who is famous for wisdom. Yhwh, on the contrary, acted alone: Who has advised him as his councillor? With whom did he consult to be enlightened? (Isa 40:13–14, cf. Enûma Eliš VI 38).

9.10.  Queen Babylon Dethroned (Isaiah 47:1–15) We come now to a poem that presents Babylon, capital city of the Neo-Babylonian empire, as a queen splendid and proud, adept at the magical arts, but now dethroned, humiliated, and reduced to slavery. The poem has no title, but the 3–2 meter, the “limping measure,” belongs to the category of the lament (qînāh), but in this case obviously a mock lament, either anticipating or celebrating the fall of the city. Division into stanzas, of somewhat unequal length, is indicated by the imperatives addressed in peremptory fashion to the subject: “get down from your throne” (v. 1), “sit in silence” (v. 5), “listen to this” (v. 8), “persist in your spells” (v. 12). Feminine personification of cities is quite common, for example, with Nineveh (Nah 3:4–7), Sidon (Isa 23:12), Tyre (23:15–16), and, of course, Zion/Jerusalem. The description of her fate no doubt reflects what only too frequently happened to female prisoners in Babylon’s many brutal wars. Reduced to slavery and to the hard task of grinding meal at the hand mill would often be their lot,35 and being exposed naked would have been common, as with the woman Nineveh, also a “mistress of sorcery” (Nah 3:4–5). The fate of Queen Babylon is for the most part attributed to her necromantic and magical practices designed to predict the course of the future and ward off danger.36 The prejudicial nature of these comments is obvious. They should be contrasted with the more balanced attitude to the intellectual culture of Babylon in the story about Daniel and his companions at the court of the great Nebuchadrezzar. After enrollment in a three-year curriculum in “the literature and language of the Chaldaeans” (Dan 1:4–5), they acquired a high level of 35  The verb ṭāhan (grind) can have a sexual connotation. Job swears that if he has ever seduced a woman, “let my wife grind for another, and let other men kneel over here” (Job 31:10). The condemnation of Samson to grinding grain in prison, typically a task for female slaves, was intended as a kind of symbolic emasculation (Judg 16:21). 36  The reuse of Isa 21:9 with reference to Rome, the new Babylon, in Rev 14:8 and the more ample development in Rev 18:1–24 dwells on prostitution (porneia) rather than divination and magic.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   173 competence in “every aspect of literature and wisdom” (1:17), not excluding skill in the interpretation of dreams and heavenly phenomena.37 Though immigrants were forced to expatriate, they were about to profit by an education and culture more ancient and sophisticated than any other in the Near East, including that of Israel. In the Isaian context what is most significant about this mock lament is the parallelism in contrasting what is said about Queen Babylon with the Woman Zion. Whereas Babylon is to get down from her throne and sit in the dust, Zion is told to get up from the ground and ascend the throne (52:2). Babylon is forced to expose herself, but Zion is told to put on fine garments (52:1). Babylon is shamed, but there will be no more shame for Zion (54:4). Babylon is now a captive, but Zion, who had once been sold into slavery, is now redeemed from captivity (52:3–6). Babylon is widowed and childless (47:8–9), but Zion has many children.38 If this last analogy is pursued further, it will be seen that Marduk, head of the Babylonian pantheon, is the husband of Queen Babylon; and in fact, Marduk’s claim to preeminence and incomparability is echoed by his spouse: “I am, and there is none other” (Enûma Eliš VII 14, 8, cf. Isa 47:10). The claim notwithstanding, her husband was shown to be unable either to give her children or rescue her.

9.11.  A Footnote As always, many issues remain to be addressed, many questions to be answered. One issue lurking behind those the chapter has already addressed is what the authors of the different kinds of material in Isaiah really knew about Babylon and the Babylonians, their intellectual, judicial and legal culture, their religious beliefs and rituals, not to mention their long and distinguished history from the time of the great Hammurapi. These questions have generally been reduced to the issue of the location of the authors at the time of writing, whether in Judah or in expatriate communities in Babylonia. This issue is still sub iudice and the arguments cannot be rehearsed here but, in any case, the location makes little difference to our understanding of what the Isaian prophets actually have to say about Babylon.39

37  The wisdom in question (‫ )חכמה‬which allegedly led Queen Babylon astray (Isa 47:10) has a more restricted reference in the poem. One of the best accounts of the intellectual culture of Neo-Babylonian Babylon with respect to religion, literature, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine is that of Saggs, Babylonians, 283–391. 38  Isa 49:2–21; 54:1–4; 60:4, 8–9; 66:7–9. 39   The main lines of the debate about location can be followed in Barstad, Babylonian Captivity; Tiemeyer, Comfort; and Blenkinsopp, “Continuity-Discontinuity,” 77–88.

174   Joseph Blenkinsopp

Bibliography Barstad, Hans  M. The Babylonian Captivity of the Book of Isaiah: “Exilic” Judah and the Provenance of Isaiah 40–55. B-Skrifter 102. Oslo: Novus forlag, 1997. Beaulieu, Paul-Alain. The Reign of Nabonidus King of Babylon 556–539 b.c. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989. Berges, Ulrich. Das Buch Jesaja: Komposition und Endgestalt. HBS 16. Freiburg: Herder, 1998. Bickerman, Elias. From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees: Foundations of Post-Biblical Judaism (1949). New York: Schocken, 1962. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Continuity-Discontinuity in Isaiah 40–66: The Issue of Location.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer and Hans  M.  Barstad, 77–88. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “The Cosmological and Protological Language of Deutero-Isaiah.” CBQ 73 (2011): 493–499. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Hezekiah and the Babylonian Delegation: A Critical Reading of Isaiah 39:1–8.” In Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context: A Tribute to Nadav Na’aman, edited by Yairah Amit, Ehud Ben Zvi, Israel Finkelstein, and Oded Lipschits, 107–122. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. A History of Prophecy in Israel. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 19962. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 1–39: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 19. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Briant, Pierre. From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Translated by Peter T. Daniels. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2002. Briant, Pierre. Histoire de l’empire perse de Cyrus à Alexandre. Vol. 1. Leiden: Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten/Paris: Fayard, 1996. Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis. SBT 2/3. London: SCM, 1967. Clements, Ronald E. Isaiah 1–39. NCBC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980. Clements, Ronald E. Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem. JSOTS 13. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1980. Dandamaev, Muhammad  A. A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire. Translated W. J. Vogelsang. Leiden: Brill, 1989. DeRoche, Michael. “Isaiah xlv 7 and the Creation of Chaos.” VT 42 (1992): 11–21. Dick, Michael B. “The Mesopotamian Cult Statue: A Sacramental Encounter with Divinity.” In Cult Image and Divine Representation in the Ancient Near East, edited by Neal H. Walls, 43–67. ASOR 10. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2005. Duhm, Bernhard. Das Buch Jesaia übersetz und erklärt. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19224. Dykesteen Nilsen, Tina. “The Creation of Darkness and Evil (Isa 45:6C–7).” RB 115 (2008): 5–25. Gershevitch, Ilya. The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 2. The Median and Achaemenian Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Ginsberg, Harald L. “Reflexes of Sargon in Isaiah after 715 b.c.” JAOS 88 (1968): 49–53. Haag, Herbert. “Ich mache Heil und schaffe Unheil (Jes 45,7).” In Wort, Lied, und Gottesspruch. Festschrift Joseph Ziegler, vol. 2, edited by J. Schreiner, 179–185. FB 1–2. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1972.

Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background   175 Hayes, John H., and Stuart A. Irvine. Isaiah the Eighth Century Prophet: His Times and His Preaching. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1987. Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 19512. Kuhrt, Amélie. The Ancient Near East c. 3000–330 b.c. Vol. 2. London: Routledge, 1995. Luckenbill, Daniel D. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Vol. 2. London: Histories and Mysteries of Man, 1989. Saggs, Henry W. F. The Babylonians. A Survey of the Ancient Civilisation of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. London: Macmillan, 19882. Skinner, John, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah Chapters I–XXXIX. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19152. Steck, Odil Hannes.Bereitete Heimkehr: Jesaja 35 als redaktionelle Brücke zwischen dem Ersten und dem Zweiten Jesaja. SBS 121. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1985. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55. VTS 139. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Torrey, Charles Cutler. The Second Isaiah: A New Interpretation. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1928. Vanderhooft, David S. The Neo-Babylonian Empire and Babylon in the Latter Prophets. HSM 59. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999. Weber, Max. Ancient Judaism. Translated and edited by Hans H. Gerth and Don Martindale. London: Collier Macmillan/New York: The Free Press, 1952. Weber, Max. Economy and Society. Berkeley: Universsity of California Press, 1968. Weber, Max. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 19564. Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 13–27. Translated by Thomas  H.  Trapp. CC. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1997. Wildberger, Hans. Jesaja 3: Jesaja 28–39. BKAT 10. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1982.

chapter 10

The Book of Isa i a h: Persi a n/Hel l en istic Backgrou n d Kristin Joachimsen

10.1. Introduction Produced over centuries, the book of Isaiah is embedded in the broader historical, political, social, and religious context of the ancient Near East.1 This chapter focuses on the Persian and Hellenistic background of the book’s texts that relate to the fifth to third centuries bce. The depiction of the Persian king Cyrus as a rising power in Isa 44:28 and 45:1 has been considered an especially significant marker for the earliest dating of these texts. Isa 40–55 generally is taken to reflect a historical setting around the time of Cyrus’s conquest of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, in 539 bce. Many scholars locate the historical and geographical context of Isa 40–48 in Babylon and of Isa 49–55 in Yehud. These texts are taken to mirror the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the emerging Achaemenid Empire. Isa 56–66, also located in Achaemenid Yehud, has been placed slightly later, after the temple construction, which is conventionally dated early in the reign of Darius (520–515 bce). Although the majority view among scholars is that the main final edition of the book of Isaiah took place during the Persian era, some have suggested that further additions were made during the Hellenistic period. Topics scholars have associated with the Persian context of the book of Isaiah concern Cyrus, creation, monotheism, and universalism. These are often viewed as relating, in one way or another, to Achaemenid imperial ideology. Texts that appear to offer current historical allusions or that are related to literary features associated with what is labeled proto-apocalyptic (e.g., Isa 18–23; 24–27; 56–66) 1  Many thanks to Prof. Diana Edelman for valuable comments to and suggestions of improvements of this study.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   177 are dated to the Hellenistic period by some scholars.2 A Hellenistic reception of the book of Isaiah can be illuminated by Hellenistic variants of the book, such as Old Greek Isaiah and Qumran 1QIsa. Apart from a flattering portrayal of Cyrus as a benign ruler and foreign benefactor of the Yehudites in Isa 41–48, there are no explicit references to the Achaemenid Empire in Isaiah; no other kings, such as Darius, for instance, are mentioned. The texts do not seem to be concerned with the central or local leadership and administration of empires; no governors, high-ranking officials, or judges are mentioned by name, and no army or taxation is closely identified.3 The texts are prophecy, poetry, and religious rhetoric addressing the centrality of Israel, Jerusalem, and the people of Yhwh in the divine plan, including the role of the peoples. Scholars have used terms such as drama,4 dreams and fantasies,5 vision,6 and utopia7 to describe the divine intervention in Isaiah. At the same time, religion and politics are intertwined; deities and rulers overlap. A significant aspect of the prophetic discourse concerns identity formation when there has been the loss of monarchy, land, and, for a while, also temple. It further relates to the experience of exile and return, including the reconfiguration of land, community, and temple, as well as Torah, cult, and an orientation toward the future. Isa 56–66 reflects divergent views of the temple restoration: although some texts support the temple project (60:1–3, 13–15; cf. 57:5–10; 65:1–7), other texts depict it as unnecessary, because Yhwh does not need a humanly constructed dwelling place on earth (66:1–6). It is important to be aware of the marginality of Yehud within the Achaemenid Empire. The text reflects various versions of center and periphery, with, for instance, Yehud, exile, or the broader Achaemenid Empire as points of view.

10.2.  Prophecy in Persian Yehud To approach the Persian and Hellenistic background of Isaiah, it is important to bear in mind what kind of texts we are dealing with, and by extension, what we can expect to learn about historical, political, social, and religious realities from such “highly poetic, 2  Even though redaction-critical models of Isaiah are not the main focus of this chapter, it should be noted initially that many redaction-critical studies deal exclusively with text-internal or intratextual readings, with no or few considerations of an external world/context. One recent example of this type of study is Stromberg, Isaiah after Exile. Other redaction-critical models, however, such as those of Kratz and Albertz, seem to imply that the texts are scrutinizing certain historical-political situations. More on this in sections 10.4, 10.8 and 10.9. 3  However, the downfall of kings and rulers in general is mentioned; see nn. 14 and 23, as well as influx of ‫“ חיל גוים‬the wealth of the peoples” (60:5, 11; 61:6) and, ‫כבוד גוים‬, “the wealth of the peoples” (66:12). 4 Baltzer, Deutero-Isaiah; Watts, Isaiah 34–66; Tiemeyer, Comfort. 5  Blenkinsopp, “Second Isaiah.” 6 Quinn-Miscall, Reading Isaiah. 7  Ben Zvi, “Yehudite Collection,” 158–159; Linville, “Playing.”

178   Kristin Joachimsen open ended literature.”8 Just as religion, ethnicity, propaganda, and book have been used as analytical categories to study the book of Isaiah, prophecy, too, is a scholarly construct, defined as a form of mediation of divine knowledge. The transcription of oral prophecy into text requires a community that repeats, adapts, interprets, and reinterprets the prophetic message according to its own purposes. The attention paid in present scholarship to the transmission, recontextualization, and extension of the prophetic process differs from previous foci, where scholars regarded the earliest material as the most authentic and considered the later additions to have lesser value. How and why prophecy came to be written down, reapplied, and extended is related to the context of scribal culture. Scribes are commonly associated with the palace (king) or the temple (priest) or said to have worked independently; in any case, they are often considered part of an elite. After 587 bce there was no king and for a while no temple, and during the Persian period, control was in the hands of the Achaemenid Empire. At the same time, many scholars take the Persian and early Hellenistic periods to be the most productive time spans for scribal activity in Yehud, including a shift from a concern with individual prophets to a focus on prophetic writings as cultural productions.9 The diversity of the prophetic material suggests that the scribes behind the texts were not spokespersons for a single political or religious view. The material has been depicted as both multivoiced and as “shared, integrative discourse” without dissecting the various voices into different “schools” or “circles.”10 One recent trend is to regard the prophetic discourse as written by and for Jerusalem-based and temple-centered literati in the late Persian and early Hellenistic periods, who are more or less the same scribal elite who also produced the Pentateuch and the so-called Deuteronomistic History.11 There is disagreement among scholars about what those who shaped Isaiah were doing, as well as about who they where and why they did it. Certainly, scholars also debate whether historical prophets lie behind Second Isaiah and Third Isaiah or whether the texts were produced by collective authorship, such as, for instance, Levitical ­singers.12 Rainer Albertz claims that the prophetical books were made public: in the case of Second Isaiah (40:1–52:12*), he suggests that it was being read in the ‫סוד‬, which he identifies as “the gathering of all the men of a settlement that takes place every evening.”13

10.3.  Isaiah and Empire The prophetic discourse of the book of Isaiah related to empire and the experience of imperial domination. In Isaiah, the relationship of both Yhwh and Israel with foreign 8  Linville, “Playing.” 9  Edelman and Ben Zvi, Production. 10  Ben Zvi, “Towards an Integrative Study,” 25. 11  Cf. Edelmann and Ben Zvi, Production. 12 Berges, Book of Isaiah. 13  Albertz, “Public Recitation,” 105.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   179 nations, such as Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Persia (and in some scholars’ interpretations, also the Ptolemaic and the Seleucid rulers), is composite, expressing a whole range of attitudes, including loyalty, ambivalence, and opposition to empires. These great powers serve Yhwh in the deity’s dealing with Israel. They are also becoming arrogant, leading to their own downfall. The roles of the foreign kings, both as allies of Yhwh (if not of Israel, upon whom they are inflicting calamity) and as enemies of this deity, are characterized by ambiguity. While Babylon is mentioned in different ways,14 and Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sheba are depicted as ransomed peoples (43:3–4), Cyrus is not called Persian. Instead, this foreigner is incorporated into Yhwh’s plan; the Persian king’s conquest of Babylon delivers the people of Yhwh. Isaiah ends with a new world order of Yhwh, where the deity shall make new heavens and a new earth (66:22).15 In this vision of the future, when all shall acknowledge Yhwh, foreign peoples are included alongside Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel. In an imperial vision of Yhwh’s reign, there shall be a steady influx of tribute and peaceful pilgrimage to Zion by people from all parts of the world (60:1–16) as well as the defeat of its enemies (66:24). The relationship of text and history is one of the cruxes in biblical scholarship in general, including Isaianic studies. The prophetic discourse is certainly embedded into broader historical, political, social, and religious contexts. At the same time, James Linville refers to a tendency among Isaiah scholars to pursue “patterns of coherence between the worldview apparently espoused in a text and the historical circumstances that are considered to lie behind.”16 Joseph Blenkinsopp, for instance, identifies 41:25 with some of Cyrus’s concrete campaigns (cf. also 41:2–5).17Also, Albertz’s redactioncritical model applies the anonymous oracles—which have been identified as referring to Cyrus—to Darius (42:5–7; 45:11–13*; 48:12–15). Albertz assigns these texts to the first edition of Second Isaiah, which he dates to 520 bce.18 Such attempts to tie the prophetic text to detailed historical events risk historizing the poetry and metaphors by blending the world in the text with constructions of what is regarded to be the historical and social background of the text. Apart from paying attention to the genre and language of Isaiah, the linguistic turn has also taught us that the relationship between text and the external world is not a one-to-one correspondence.19 Even though it is impossible to identify concrete historical references in the texts, the texts are certainly products of encounters and dynamics of cultural threads.

14  In the present context, note the depictions of the devastation of Babylon and the humiliation of its deities—versus Cyrus—in, e.g., 43:14; 45:1–2; 46:1–2 (more on the Babylonian deities Bel and Nebo to follow); 47; 48:14–15. Babylon/Chaldeans are elsewhere mentioned in 13:1, 19; 14:4, 22; 21:9; 39:1, 3, 6, 7; 48:20. 15  Cf. Israel becoming “a light to the nations” in 49:6; cf. 2:2–5; 45:14; 60:1–16; 66:18–23. 16  Linville, “Playing,” 287. 17 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, 206. When it comes to Isa 45:1, however, Blenkinsopp stresses: “It would be hazardous to assume that it refers to specific occasions” (p. 249). 18  This is based on Albertz’s support and adjustment of Kratz’s redaction-critical model, in which Cyrus is central. See Albertz, “Darius.” See more on Kratz’s redaction-critical model in n. 56. 19 Clark, History.

180   Kristin Joachimsen

10.4.  The Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 bce) The emergence of the Achaemenid Empire began with the defeat of the Median king Astyages by the Persian king Cyrus II the Great (559–530 bce), in Ecbatana around 550 bce. Cyrus went on to conquer the Lydian kingdom in the 540s and the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 after defeating the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus (555–539 bce). Cyrus also conquered tribes in Central Asia, where he was killed in 530. His son Cambyses conquered Egypt in the 520s, and his successor, Darius I (521–486 bce), added northwestern India to the empire. The Achaemenid Empire reached its climax under Darius I and his son Xerxes I (486–465 bce), when it extended from the Indus River Valley to Northern Greece and encompassed parts of the Balkans, all of Egypt and Libya, and the Aegean islands. The extensive empire lasted until it was defeated by the Macedonian Alexander III the Great (336–323 bce) and its final ruler, Darius III, was murdered (336–330 bce) in 330 bce. When the Persian king Cyrus defeated the Babylonian king Nabonidus and took over his dominion in the west, the region of the former kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Yehud) that had for decades been part of the Neo-Babylonian Empire became Achaemenid. When, sometime later, the former Neo-Babylonian Empire was divided into the provinces of Babylonia and Ebir-Nari, Yehud and Samaria became part of the latter.20 The Achaemenid Empire was characterized by diversity—multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural—and was influenced by the policies of the earlier Assyrian and NeoBabylonian Empires.21 While Achaemenid historiography in general has been criticized for both Hellenocentrism and Iranocentrism, one might likewise ask whether there have been Judeocentric or bibliocentric interpretations of Achaemenid policy and religion among biblical scholars. When scholars study Persian Yehud from perspectives taken from the biblical texts, there is a risk that they will overestimate the significance of Yehud in Achaemenid imperial policy, as well as of the movement from exile to restoration. Whatever material we are dealing with, however, must be understood on its own terms and within its own cultural context. This sounds obvious but is not always taken sufficiently into consideration. It is not unusual to criticize various materials for being “biased” or not “authentic,” but this material has never claimed to satisfy historical­critical needs. It suits its own ends. A more critical evaluation of the different sorts of material has led to greater attention being paid to local variations and genre differences instead of assuming a universal Achaemenid imperial ideology. This matter will be further illuminated in sections 10.6 and 10.7. 20  Wiesehöfer, “Acahemenid Rule,” 171. Wiesehöfer further suggests that this division took place in the first year of Xerxes I, i.e., 486 bce (p. 181). 21  Gates-Foster, “Achaemenids.”

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   181

10.5.  Cyrus in the Book of Isaiah Allusions to Cyrus are scattered throughout Isa 41–48. Although there is no consensus in the scholarship about which texts allude to the Persian king, the following texts often are considered: Isa 41:1–4 (5–7), 21–29; (42:5–9); 44:24–28; 45:1–7 (8), 9–13; 46:(5)9–11; 48:12–15 (16a). Cyrus is depicted as an instrument in Yhwh’s hand and as his anointed (45:1), whose mission is to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple to Yhwh (44:26, 28), to release the exiles (45:13),22 and to subdue peoples, kings, and cities on Yhwh’s behalf.23 Cyrus is called by name by Yhwh (45:4), labeled a shepherd (44:28) and Yhwh’s friend (48:14) and is designated “a bird of prey” from the east (46:11, cf. 41:2) and northeast (41:25), one who did not know Yhwh (45:4) as well as one who shall summon Yhwh’s name (41:25). Since Isa 40–55 has few references to the Davidic dynasty and its potential restoration (55:1–5), some scholars claim that the responsibility of the Davidic kings to build the temple is passed on to Cyrus. Thus Yehud, rather than the Davidic dynasty, will enjoy Yhwh’s eternal covenant.24 Lisbeth Fried claims that the historical prophet Second Isaiah legitimizes the contemporary Cyrus as “the Davidic monarch, heir to the Davidic throne,” and illustrates this claim with counterparts in Egypt and Babylon: “Like Udjahorresnet in Egypt and the priests of Marduk in Babylon, Deutero-Isaiah handed over to Cyrus the royal Judean title of ‘Yhwh’s anointed’, as well as the entire royal Judean court theology associated with it.”25 Contrary to most scholarly interpretation of the role of the Persian king Cyrus as a liberator of the returned exiles, Philip Davies underlines that Cyrus is a conqueror and that the material in Isa 40–55 is propaganda for the Persians. As such, Cyrus is depicted as a divine agent for creating the world order, while Yhwh is a universal deity, dressed as a Persian deity, like Marduk and Ahuramazda. In 22  The ingathering is depicted as taking place not only from Babylon but from the east, west, north, and south (i.e., a version of merism) etc., cf. 43:5–6; 49:12; 60:4, and from the ends of the earth in 41:9. For more ingathering motifs, see 11:12; 40:11; 43:16–21; 44:1–5; 49:5, 8, 17–21; 54:2–3, 7, 11–14, 18; 56:8. 23  On the defeat of Babylon, see n. 14. In Second Isaiah, it is not only Babylon that shall become subdued but also idol makers (41:29; 44:9–20; 45:16), peoples, and kings (41:2–3; 45:1; 49:7 [and ‫מׁשלים‬ “rulers”]; 22–23; 52:15), ‫“ רוזנים‬rulers” (40:23), ‫“ רוזנים‬governors” (41:25) as well as 45:14: “Egypt’s wealth and Nubia’s gains and Sabaites, long of limb, shall pass over to you and be yours. Pass over and follow you in fetters, Bow low to you and reverently address you: ‘Only among you is God, There is no other god at all!’ ” The term ‫“ גוים‬peoples” in Isa 40–55 is a designation for those who are not called by the name of Israel, in 40:15, 17; 41:2; 42:1, 6; 43:9; 45:1, 20; 49:6, 7, 22; 52:10, 15; 54:3; 55:5. Further, pl. ‫עמים‬ occurs as a designation of the nations in 49:22 as a parallel to ‫גוים‬, and as a contrast to ‫ עם‬in 51:4–5. In 42:5, the meaning might be less specific: “Thus says God, Yhwh, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to ‫‘ עם‬the people’ upon it and spirit to those who walk in it.” Cf. 40:7 and “daughter of Babylon.” 24 Perdue, Israel and Empire, 98. 25  Fried, “Cyrus as the Messiah,” 390. This comparative material will be further commented upon in section 10.6 and 10.7. Fried dates Second Isaiah between the return of exiles under Sheshbazzar and the dedication of the temple in the sixth year of Darius. This dating means that the predictions of Cyrus’s rise were made sometime after it in fact happened.

182   Kristin Joachimsen this “Yahwistic ideology of world empire, . . . the Judaean national god ensures the wellbeing and triumph of his own nation by means of benevolent world empires which he controls.”26 Jon Berquist regards Cyrus’s depiction as the anointed one with God-given authority to rule Yehud in Isa 44:24–45:8 as Persian imperializing ideology.27

10.6.  Achaemenid Imperial Policy: King, Deity, and Local Norms Within the broader context of the Achaemenid Empire, we may associate Cyrus’s execution of Yhwh’s kingship over Jerusalem with the Achaemenid kings’ adaptation of the title and status of local monarchs of the past. Conquering kings offered support and received local acceptance. A few illustrations of this follow:28 In the Udjahorresnet inscription in Egypt (dated early in the reign of Darius I), the Achaemenid king Cambyses is given Pharaonic titles.29 This Egyptian scribe, priest, and naval officer, who had formerly served at the temple of Neith in Sait, praises Cambyses for learning about the gods of this local temple of Neith. The conquering Achaemenid king is presented as appropriating local Egyptian royal court traditions, and in this way becoming Pharaoh and legitimating his rule over Egypt. Additionally, Cambyses supports the restoration of the local cult. It should be emphasized that this inscription reflects local Egyptian concerns, and that the situation cannot be generalized to reflect something that happened in the entire Achaemenid Empire. The Cyrus Cylinder (dated to 539 bce) tells how the Babylonian deity Marduk uses the Achaemenid king to restore his sanctuaries and how the conquering king appropriates local Babylonian royal court traditions. The context of the text is Cyrus’s conquest of the city of Babylon. The Cyrus Cylinder has been central in discussions of the transition from the Neo-Babylonian Empire to the Achaemenid Empire and of the dating of the book of Isaiah. Many scholars claim that the Cyrus Cylinder was promulgated after Second Isaiah or the main part of it (between 550 and 538 bce).30 In the Cyrus Cylinder, the Persian king boasts that Marduk has ordered him to go to Babylon and restore the worship of Marduk, which the Babylonian king Nabonidus had neglected (lines 5–10). Nabonidus is said to have carried away the gods of the Babylonian temples before the 26  Davies, “God of Cyrus,” 220. 27  Berquist, “Postcolonialism,” 22. While it is common to highlight the ideological character of the Cyrus Cylinder, Davies and Berquist seem to confirm that the presentation of Cyrus in Isaiah was based on this cylinder. More on this in section 10.7. 28  The comparative material referred to is not exhaustive but offers some illustrations of how Achaemenid imperial ideology has been applied to illuminate the presentation of the Persian king Cyrus in Isaiah. 29  For an English translation of the Udjahorresnet inscription, see Kuhrt, Persian Empire, 117–122. 30  Cf. Blenkinsopp, “Theological Politics,” 138. By placing the author prior to the fall of Babylon in 539 bce, he might anticipate the events.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   183 conquest by the Persian king (ll. 32–33). Marduk has singled out Cyrus as a ruler of special righteousness, awarded him victories and royal power, and acknowledged him as a ruler over all—Babylon, Sumer, and Akkad (ll. 11–12; 20–21). In Amelie Kuhrt’s seminal article from 1983, she stresses the ideological character of the cylinder. She also claims that the presentation of Cyrus as a builder and restorer of sanctuaries and as the one who returns deities to their local places has its forerunners in the scribes of the Assyrian king Assurbanibal and his father, Esarhaddon, who had applied this ideology in legitimating their rule in Babylon.31 In an updated study, Kuhrt argues that “each motif in the Cyrus Cylinder was drawn from a repertoire of traditional Mesopotamian themes, used by earlier claimants to the Babylonian throne to legitimize their rule.” They share the same interests as their predecessors, related to conquest, effective domination, and the collection of taxes. These conventional traits are regarded as royal, political, and religious propaganda.32 Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley highlights that the circumstances of the various instances of Persian benevolence toward local sanctuaries are very different and that there are not enough examples to support a claim that the Achaemenids executed a universal imperial policy: “The politics reflected in the Cyrus Cylinder must remain restricted to our discussion of Babylonian cities that, as the Assyrians had learned, were well capable of resistance and rebellion and hence careful handling.”33 In addition to the differences in genre, it is of uttermost significance to take the “Babylocentric” perspective of the royal Cyrus Cylinder into account and, likewise, the “Yehudocentric” perspective of the poetic prophecy about Cyrus. In both instances, we are dealing with individuals who are elected to the kingship by the local deity, the Babylonian Marduk and the Yehudite Yhwh respectively. The local(-universal) deity grants Cyrus victory over the previous ruler, Nabonidus/Babylon, and the conquering Cyrus is presented as the ally of the local deities and the benefactor of the local population, supporting the restoration of the local cult and encouraging a return of deportees to their former homes. Whereas the Cyrus Cylinder concerns the relationship of Marduk and the Babylonians only, the prophetic text concerns the relationship of Yhwh and the Yehudites. To put the comparison into perspective, we might add that in Isaiah, the Babylonian deity Marduk is among Yhwh’s rivals.34 Marduk is not mentioned by

31  Kuhrt, “Cyrus Cylinder.” 32  Kuhrt, “Ancient Near Eastern History,” 110. Other texts, where Cyrus is presented as restoring local temples and the cult, are the Nabonidus Chronicle (English trans. in Kuhrt, Persian Empire, 50–53) and the Verse Account of Nabonidus (English trans. in Kuhrt, Persian Empire, 75–80). 33  Fitzpatrick-McKinley, “Continuity,” 149, with further references to Machinist and Tadmor, “Heavenly Wisdom.” 34  In this regard, both Yhwh’s uniqueness (cf. such utterances as “There is no other than Yhwh” in 43:11–13; 44:6–8; 44:22–25; 48:14–16, as well as statements that Yhwh is “the first and the last” in 41:4; 43:10–11, 13; 44:6, 8) and the polemics against other deities (cf. 40:18–20, 25–26; 41:5–7, 21–29; 43:9–13; 44:6–20; 46:1–2, 5–9; 48:3–5) are part of the broader prophetic discourse.

184   Kristin Joachimsen name but is present in a satire of Babylonian deities in 46:1–2, where the weaknesses of Bel and Nebo are portrayed before their fall.35 Among Achaemenid historians, classicists, and biblical scholars, the Achaemenid Empire has had a reputation for religious tolerance and support of the restoration of cities and temples, which owes partly to depictions of Cyrus’s support of local deities and the cult. In addition to Isaiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zech 1–8 talk about how Persian rulers allowed those who had been exiled to return to Yehud and sponsored the restoration of the city of Jerusalem, the Yhwh temple, and its cult.36 In Ezra 1:2–4 and 6:3–5, Cyrus is mentioned as the author of a decree that permits the return of exiles from Babylon to Yehud.37 The term “tolerance” has, however, been criticized for being both inappropriate and anachronistic. Various other interests have been offered as explanations for practices related to this attitude. Mary Brosius, for example, explains the assumed tolerance as part of the empire’s attempt to control potential revolt by subjects who may have felt oppressed.38 Heleen ­Sancisi-Weerdenburg states: “In the polytheistic mind every god, even the god of the most hated enemy, can exist and have power, and it is therefore better to remain on good terms with every god.”39 Michael Kozuh also nuances this by claiming that when “locals lent their gods and language of liberation to the Achaemenids, this is more a factor of local power dynamics than of any Achaemenid ideology or policy.”40 I shall now take a closer look at this dissolution of binary opposition between ruler and ruled by considering a more subversive potential of the presentation of Cyrus in Isaiah.

35  In response to scholars who relate this passage to the Babylonian controversy of Nabonidus and Cyrus in the Cyrus Cylinder, Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, in accordance with others, comments: “This is, perhaps, to put too much confidence in what is a flagrantly propagandistic document” (pp. 250–267). 36  Gruen, “Persia,” shows how depictions of Persian kings in both Ezra and Nehemiah, 1 Esdras, Dan 6, the Greek additions to Daniel, and Esther likewise contain mocking elements. See more on Gruen’s analysis of this material as Jewish appropriation in section 10.6. 37  There has been some discussion in biblical scholarship about whether the Cyrus edict referred to in the book of Ezra is authentic or not; see Grabbe, “Persian Documents.” What I would like to emphasize in this regard is that this “edict” must be read on its own terms, related to the rhetorical role of documents in the book of Ezra in general. This relates to Davies, “Biblical Studies,” 57, who stresses how a focus on more rhetorical and fictive elements in a text implies neither that it is being regarded as “divorced from reality or fraudulent” nor that it is without historical significance. Rather, it shows that historical referents are not needed to validate a narrative. Cf. the role of Cyrus in the book of Isaiah in section 10.7. 38 Brosius, Persians, 1–3, 48–51. Likewise, the invitation to rebuild the temple may reflect the use of temple buildings as places for tax collection. 39  Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “Colloquium,” 279. Cf. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “Yauna,” 234–237. In other presentations of Cyrus, this Persian king is depicted as less tolerant: see Kuhrt, “Achaemenid”; “Ancient,” 117. Cf. Kratz, “Nabonidus to Cyrus,” who also treats more composite presentations of Nabonidus found in various materials. 40  Kozuh, “Torture,” 292.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   185

10.7.  Cyrus as the Other: Resisting Imperial Hegemony Scholars have highlighted the undermining potential in how Cyrus is placed under the authority of the deity of Israel. According to Eric Gruen, the presentation of Cyrus seems to be “more subversive than supportive,”41 while Göran Eidevall speaks about “suppressed opposition”42 and Ehud Ben Zvi highlights how the terminology applied to Cyrus has much in common with ( and much that is different from) Jacob/Israel/the servant and Abraham, which he explicates as an appropriation and reshaping of imperial memory in Isa 40–55.43 Cyrus is used to provide (additional) legitimacy to Yhwh and Yehud, in which the power of the Persian king is not imperial power but comes from Yhwh (and not Marduk one might add), while the center of the prophetic discourse is Yehud and Jerusalem (and not Susa). In this prophetic rhetoric, Yhwh constantly proves that he is the one and only one; the deity who has power in creation, history, and predictions of the future. As part of the broader picture, Cyrus carries out Yhwh’s will; he will perform the deity’s purpose (44:26; 46:10; 48:14). In recent scholarship, the imperial context of the prophetic discourse has been illuminated by perspectives taken from postcolonial studies. Such studies have contributed to more refined analyses of what might be called “work from within the system.” Postcolonial studies is a common name for cultural studies of former colonies, emphasizing the power relationship between the previous colonizers and their colonies, between rulers and the oppressed and marginalized. Even though postcolonial theory is developed using material and situations that in many ways differ from what underlies Isaiah, biblical scholars might benefit from consideration of its theoretical underpinnings related to identity, othering, the execution of power, marginalization, and ideology, as well as accommodation and resistance to empire. One concept that has proven fruitful in this regard is James Scott’s “hidden transcript” as a response of resistance to empires. Scott applies this concept in scrutinizing how subordinate groups employ strategies of resistance that go unnoticed by superordinate groups. He explains that a hidden transcript is “always present in the public discourse of subordinate groups” but remains beyond the reach of the powerful, because the messenger is either anonymous or disguised.44 Using the concepts of “hybridity” and “mimicry” (which are interwoven), the cultural critic Homi Bhabha challenges the dichotomies that might be embedded in identity discourses. He rejects the simplistic polarizations of, for example, “us” and “them,” empire and colony, superior and subordinate, and center and periphery, speaking instead of hybridities of cultures.45 No culture remains static but is interrelated and embedded in 41  Gruen, “Persia,” 72. 42  Eidevall, “Propagandistic,” 113. 43  Ben Zvi, “Yehudite Collection,” 157–158, n. 39. 44 Scott, Domination, 19. 45 Bhabha, Location, 112.

186   Kristin Joachimsen a dynamics of reformulation, owing to conquests, migration, and cultural encounters. A hybrid identity within imperial hegemony has been articulated as an identity that both accommodates to and resists the empire. Additionally, by speaking of mimicry, Bhabha seeks to explicate how the colonized might establish a counternarrative that works to deconstruct the imperial narrative by seeming to imitate the imperial culture but, in fact, rejects it through mockery and derision.46 This terminology about cultural responses to imperial domination might illuminate an analysis of the interplay of Yehudite and imperial narratives, in which a presentation of Cyrus—the Persian king and foreigner—in the book of Isaiah might allow for the adoption, adaption, and alteration of some roles within the empire. Whereas in the Cyrus Cylinder this Persian king attributes his victory to the Babylonian Marduk, in Second Isaiah he is Yhwh’s instrument. Cyrus’s success in dismantling the Babylonian empire (41:1–5, 25–29; 43:14; 45:1–7, 13; 46:11; 48:14–16) is due to Yhwh and for the benefit of the Yehudites. Cyrus’s conquest of the Medes, Lydians, and Ionians is not at stake here and, in fact, the rebuilding and repopulation of Jerusalem took place after his reign. While Yehud is marginal within the Babylonian and Achaemenid empires, it is the center of Cyrus’s activity in Isaiah. As opposed to the Cyrus Cylinder, where the Persian king is speaking himself, in Isaiah, Cyrus is not quoted but only depicted and exclusively so from the perspective of Yhwh worshippers. When Cyrus undertakes the responsibility to rebuild and maintain the temple, this foreign monarch fits within the Yehudite world view. The Persian king has become “Yehudized,” acting in favor of Yhwh, Jerusalem, and the Yehudites. Cyrus resembles an insider; his outsider image becomes blurred with his Yhwh-istic traits as the builder of Yhwh’s temple, yet he is not a stereotypical insider either. Additionally, he differs from other foreign monarchs—no one else is “Yehudized” like him.47 The presentation of Cyrus in Isa 41–48 is interwoven in a prophetic discourse in which the other is neither part of a strategy of exclusion within a system of binary opposition nor part of a strategy to unambiguously portray him as being outstanding. Both the portrayal of Persian Cyrus as a savior and the presence of polemics against and the mockery of other deities and their worshippers might be described as significant “­others”, whose task in the poetic prophecy is to uncover who Yhwh and Israel are. Berquist interprets the conspicuous silence regarding Persia in large parts of the Hebrew Bible as a theological justification for a colonial Yehud.48 It is more accurate to regard the texts as neither anti-Babylonia nor pro-Persia but pro-Yhwh, with Israel in a more ambiguous position: at a time when the political independence of Yhwh’s people has disappeared, Israel expresses doubt in Cyrus and lack of trust in Yhwh (45:9–13).

46  Bhabha, 86. 47  Eidevall, “Propagandistic,” shows how the book of Isaiah both upholds and undermines the Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian empires, with a blend of loyalty, ambivalence, and opposition. 48  Berquist, “Postcolonialism and Imperial Motives,” 22.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   187

10.8.  “I Who Form Light and Create Darkness”: Creation and Cosmology Creation is one of the characteristic topics of Isaiah, which is said to owe to Persian influence. It is furthermore often related to Achaemenid imperial ideology, including a connection to Zoroastrianism. Davies, for instance, locates the composition of Second Isaiah in Yehud in the fifth century bce, “reflecting the ideology of a newly re-founded cult of a universal single high god, worshipped without images, and thus modelled on Ahura Mazda.”49 He claims that the local god is identified with the imperial god, and that in this way, Yhwh becomes the universal high god and the god of the empires, residing in the temple in Jerusalem. While commenting on the lack of consensus about whether the cult of Yhwh in Jerusalem was influenced by Zoroastrianism, Davies lists several aspects that have been referred to as influential, including monotheism, a ban on icons in the cult, angelology, the sovereign spirit/deity of evil, belief in resurrection, and an increased concern about purity.50 Isa 45:6c–7 is one text that he and others relate to Zoroastrianism: “I am Yhwh and there is no one else, I who form light and create darkness, I bring wellbeing / prosperity (1QIsaa “good”) and create woe/disaster; I, Yhwh, do all these things.” The only direct link between Zoroastrian creation myths in the material that dates to the third century ce at the earliest and Achaemenid religion and imperial ideology is the name of the deity Auramazda. This name represents a main deity in Achaemenid royal inscriptions, and the foremost benevolent Zoroastrian god is also called Ahura Mazda. The claim that the Achaemenids were Zoroastrians is ­contested, however, because it relies on later texts. Using later Zoroastrian material to construct Achaemenid religion and ideology assumes continuity from the fifth and fourth ­centuries bce to the third century ce at the earliest, which is methodically unsound.51 Reinhard Kratz likewise analyses Isa 45:6c–7 within a context of Achaemenid royal ideology, claiming: “Documentation of the ideology and practice of Achaemenid rule is

49  Davies, “Judahite Prophecy,” 204. 50  Davies, “Judahite Prophecy,” refers to neither Zoroastrian sources nor secondary literature related to the discussion, nor does he give any references to Achaemenid material. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, 250, argues that Isa 45:7 is a polemic against Zoroastrianism, while in a later study, “The Cosmological and Protological,” 499, n. 21, he refutes that. Nilsen, “Creation in Collision,” claims that 45:7 is directed against Babylonian rather than Zoroastrian dualism. 51  No Zoroastrian text is dated earlier than the Sasanian period, that is, the third to seventh centuries ce. Kratz, “Isaiah and the Persians,” n. 26, claims that among Iranologists, the dating of Zoroaster and his teaching range from the second millennium bce to the Achaemenid time or later, referring to Boyce and Grenet, History of Zoroastrianism, vols. 2 and 3; Boyce, “Religion of Cyrus the Great,” Stausberg, Die Religion Zarathustras, 26–31; 157–186; and Zarathustra. Kratz discusses whether Isa 45:6–7 can be compared with the Gathas (Yasna 44), but concludes that, because of the uncertainties with the dating of the Zoroastrian material, the dualism in 45:6–7 cannot be ascribed to Zoroastrian influence. Likewise, on his discussion of monotheism, see n. 59 below. I am grateful to Prof. Kratz for providing me with a copy of his article prior to publication.

188   Kristin Joachimsen only attested from Darius onwards.”52 Significantly for Kratz, the statements of creation related to the figure of Cyrus in Isa 42:5; 45:12; 48:13 (cf. also 44:24; 45:7) differ from those statements of the creation of Israel, of salvation and from other world-creation statements that he locates in Isa 40–48*—that is, in what he defines as the earliest writing in his redaction-critical model. What is new in the Cyrus texts, according to Kratz, is that the notion of creation of the world serves to provide the space for a universal, political world order . . . [i]n which a royal figure (Cyrus) is instituted as the earthly representative of the divine world order for the salvation of Israel and of all nations, as a “covenant of the people (of mankind)” and as “light of the nations,” as stated in Isa 42:6 (in allusion to and reformulation of Isa 49:6).53

Kratz compares statements associated with Cyrus about the creation of heaven and earth with what he regards as a stable, constituent element of creation in Achaemenid imperial ideology. He considers a characteristic feature of this ideology to be that the god Ahura Mazda is placed at the top of the Persian pantheon, as the creator of earth and heaven. Kratz relates this to Yhwh, who “in Isa 42:5; 45:12 and 48:13, created earth and heaven (usually in this order!), the people on earth and the blessings for the people, and finally, called and appointed the Persian king (DNa 1–5).”54 Kratz claims that this Achaemenid ideology started with Darius I. In support, he refers to Darius’s tomb inscription at Naqs-iRustam (DNa 1–5) and Darius I’s Bisitun Inscription (DB 6–8), in which the Persian king establishes and enforces a universal political world order and law set down at creation and made subordinate to him by Ahura Mazda.55 Thus, Kratz’s redaction-critical model of Isaiah is based on his construction of Darius’s ideology, in which the influence of this version of an Achaemenid imperial ideology is a terminus a quo for Second Isaiah.56 Kratz criticizes scholars who read a one-to-one correspondence between the depiction of Cyrus in Isaiah and in the Cyrus Cylinder from 539 bce, as deriving historical 52  Kratz, “Isaiah and the Persians,” writes: “The few inscriptions, which are written in the name of Cyrus, are considered by experts to be retrojections from the Darius era” (p. 5). He does not give any references to this. Kratz concludes that since “the memory of Cyrus the Great lived on in Babylon, Egypt, Iran and Greece long after 539 bce” (p. 7), he regards a dating of both Isa 40–48* and what he regards as the Cyrus supplement to after 539 bce as possible. More on Kratz’s redaction-critical model in n. 56. 53  Kratz, “Isaiah and the Persians,” 12 (quote). 54  Kratz, 9. 55  For English translations of Darius’s tomb inscription at Naqs-iRustam, see Kuhrt, Persian Empire, 502–503, and for the Bisitun inscription, 141–158. 56  In Kratz’s redaction-critical model of Isaiah (Kyros, 175–191), he detects five different redactional levels. He dates the third level, called the Cyrus supplement, to the reign of Darius I, 520–515 bce. The two basic criteria for his distinction between different redactions are shifts of grammatical persons and conceptual inconsistency. In support, Kratz offers a meticulous analysis of Isa 45:1–7, in which he differentiates between two conceptions of Cyrus: the basic layer and the Cyrus supplement. In the earlier layer (45:*1, 2, *3, 4, 6, 7), Cyrus is called as Yhwh’s anointed, whose task it is to conquer Babylon and to liberate Yhwh’s servant Jacob/Israel. In the Cyrus edition (45:*1, 3b, 5ab), Cyrus is identified as Yhwh’s servant, whose deliverance of Jacob/Israel serves as a light to the nations.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   189 reality from the imagined literary situation. From a historiographical point of view, however, his own reading does not seem to be fundamentally different from those that he criticizes. Like other scholars, he also attempts to identify references in the texts to specific historical events. Whether one dates the texts to 539 or 520 bce, there is no principal difference when it comes to the relation of the text to external reality. Additionally, one also needs to consider the difference in genre between biblical poetic prophecy and the Achaemenid royal inscriptions. Again, we touch on the challenge that pervades the entire discussion of the historical background of prophetic discourse—namely, the scholarly risk of historizing the poetry and metaphors by blending the world in the text with constructions of what is regarded to be the historical and social background of the text. Kratz’s comparison of the texts by combining a creation topic with Cyrus in Isaiah and Achaemenid royal inscriptions is at risk of offering a reductionist and simplistic analysis. As we have seen in several previous instances, one cannot assume a straightforward grafting of external influence. Should a broader cultural context be taken into account, it is unsound to convey such a one-dimensional, isolated interpretation; the topic of creation is part of an ongoing process that cannot be scrutinized with such meticulous precision without also considering broader Neo-Assyrian and Babylonian traditions, as well as previous Hebrew traditions.57 Other scholars, who do not share Kratz’s redaction-critical model, emphasize that the topic of creation must not be distinguished from other statements about Yhwh as the unique creator, the creation of Israel, the creation of salvation, or other types of worldcreation statements in Isa 40–55. Moreover, in Second Isaiah creation motifs are juxtaposed with literary motifs that depict Yhwh as having power over Israel, Babel, and Cyrus. Instead of constructing an entire story on the basis of “earth and heaven,” I prefer to highlight poetic features, such as the clusters of parallelisms and merisms in the Cyrus oracle of 44:24–45:7, the density of repetitions, paradoxes, and elaborations in this pe­ric­ope, as well as its broader literary context.

57  Blenkinsopp, “Cosmological and Protological,” states: The exaltation in Isaiah 40–48 of the God of Israel as supreme and incomparable, cosmic creator and controller of the course of history including the career of Cyrus can be constructed as a kind of mirror image of the ideology expressed in dramatic form in the akitu new year festival, and in the literary form of Enuma Elish, the myth recited and perhaps enacted on the fourth day of this ritual of renewal. (p. 506) Likewise, Nilsen, “Creation in Collision?” argues that utterances of Yhwh as the unique creator in Isa 40–48 might be seen as both adaptions and refutations of Babylonian creation traditions. In terms of both these comparative studies, I would like to stress that in any kind of comparison, the differences are as interesting—and as significant—as the assumed similarities. Crouch, “Adapting the Cosmological Tradition,” examines how Isa 40–55 adapts pre-exilic traditions of Yhwh as warrior, king, and creator but without the previous interconnectedness of the motifs. In this study, the Cyrus texts are interpreted on the same literary level as the other creation motifs.

190   Kristin Joachimsen

10.9.  “I am Yhwh, there is no other”: Monotheism Monotheism also is regarded as one of the characteristic topics of Isaiah and has been explained as having resulted from Persian influence.58 As we have already seen, Davies lists monotheism as one aspect of Zoroastrianism that might have influenced the cult of Yhwh in Jerusalem.59 Kratz claims that “the exclusive monotheism of Deutero-Isaiah is closely associated with the figure of Cyrus.” This claim stems from his redaction-critical model. In what he labels the first written stratum of Isa 40–48*, he argues that the “trial speeches against the nations and their gods” emphasize Yhwh’s uniqueness.60 Cyrus, a foreign king, is appointed for the sake of Jacob-Israel (45:4) and as proof of Yhwh’s uniqueness (45:7). Kratz relates this statement to the Babylonian controversy over Nabonidus and Cyrus, in which “the DeuteroIsaianic texts follow the position of the Babylonian priest of Marduk to a certain extent.”61 In comparison, Yhwh takes the place of the supreme god, instead of Sin (Nabonidus’s favored deity) or Marduk (the deity who uses Cyrus). While Sin and Marduk are the highest among many gods, Yhwh is the only deity.62 Kratz argues that exclusive monotheism is something that has developed “from the biblical tradition itself,” in which “the imperial vision in Isa 40–48 changes into an eschatological vision of the universal rule of Yhwh.”63 58  For a brief overview of the discussion of the contested category of monotheism, with special attention to Isaiah, see MacDonald, “Monotheism and Isaiah,” without, however, any particular view to the Persian background. 59  Davies, “Judahite Prophecy.” Kratz, “Isaiah and the Persians,” offers two arguments for why an assumed Zoroastrian monotheism is not relevant for a comparison with Isaiah. His discussion relates to Isa 46:1–2 but could in principal be extended: when Achaemenid inscriptions after Darius mention Ahura Mazda as the only god, these statements have to do with the literary form of the inscriptions. This form lends itself to the presentation of Ahura Mazda as a dynastic and imperial god. He is, however, not presented as the only one. Rather, other inscriptions present him alongside other gods, including local deities. See more on Zoroastrianism in n. 51. 60  Kratz, “Isaiah and the Persians,” 13 n. 29: “Whether the trial speeches and the Cyrus oracle led an independent existence before the basic writing (Grundschrift) seems doubtful to me now; both could have been drawn upon then and there for the composition.” Cf. the polemics against other gods in the trial speeches in 46:1–2 (see n. 34). 61  Kratz, “Isaiah and the Persians,” 13. 62  Kratz, 14, adds: “This being the first time in the history of religion of Israel and Judah.” 63  Kratz, 17. In contract, Smith, God in Translation, 149–185, explains Israelite monotheism as a response to the imperialistic claim of a Mesopotamian concept developed from Enuma Elish and Ludlul bel Nemeqi, i.e., “a theism in which the deities are regarded as aspects or functions of a chief god, with political power often key to its expression” (p. 169). Second Isaiah responds with a counterclaim on behalf of Yhwh (45:5), which Smith dates to before the emergence of the Achaemenid Empire (p. 177). Olyan, “Isaiah 40–55,” argues that there is no monotheism in Second Isaiah. Expressions that have been interpreted as such are to be understood instead as claims about Yhwh’s incomparability and unique power and agency. Olyan concludes: “If there is anything radical and unprecedented about Isaiah 40–55, it is rather the poet’s rhetoric, which seems to suggest a new meaning and more restricted use for the word ‘god’ (‫( ”)אלהים‬p. 190).

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   191

10.10.  The Hellenistic Dating of Isaiah Due to Literary Features and Historical Allusions A Hellenistic context has been identified for texts within the book of Isaiah that are related to certain literary features or regarded as offering historical allusions to known events in that period. The literary features are associated with such terminology as eschatological and apocalyptic, whose definitions are contested. Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer offers an overview of the discussions concerning Isa 18–25; 24–27; and 56–66;64 others also relate Isa 13–14 and 34–35 to the Hellenistic period. Tiemeyer stresses that the prophetic eschatology and proto-apocalyptic terminology applied in this regard denote sets of ideas and motifs but do not constitute a literary genre, and shows that Isa 24–27; 34–35; and 56–66 are often considered to be proto-apocalyptic.65 John Collins distinguishes between this-worldly eschatology (national restoration, e.g., Isa 11) and cosmic eschatology (e.g., Isa 24–27). He shows how both topics appear in preexilic and post-exilic literature and thus cannot be used as an argument for Hellenistic dating.66 Since it obviously is difficult to date such literary motifs with precision, scholars who opt for a Hellenistic dating add arguments based on historical allusions. Blenkinsopp is a good example; he claims that the oracles against the nations in Isa 18–25 were continuously updated into the Hellenistic era, in response to changed historical situations.67 Odil Steck is a scholar who has argued most prominently for a Hellenistic dating of parts of the book of Isaiah. He assumes that parts of Isa 56–66 (Third Isaiah) deal with what he labels a final universal judgment (universales Weltgericht). This idea presupposes that the texts are a response to the breakup of the Persian Empire and its fragmentation by the Diadochi and the Syrian wars in the Hellenistic era. In Steck’s view, the final text of the book of Isaiah was written between 312–311, and the final redaction of the book as a whole took place between 302/301 and 270 bce.68 He interprets the lament 64  Tiemeyer, “Prophetic Texts.” 65  Tiemeyer, 263–264. 66  Collins, “Prophecy, Apocalypse and Eschatology,” 49. He further claims that the difference between prophetic and apocalyptic eschatology cannot be described as a contrast between this-worldly eschatology and cosmological eschatology. In his view, the decisive distinction between prophetic and apocalyptic eschatology relates the judgment of the dead in Enoch and Daniel. In terms of Isa 24–27, Collins, “Beginning of the End,” 145, says: “Proposals range from the eighth century to the second, although the later extreme is shown to be untenable by the discovery of the scrolls of Isaiah at Qumran.” He adds that the majority of scholars dates all these chapters to the Persian period. 67  See, for instance, Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 343–345, on words against Phoenicia in Isa 23: “Since 5 seems to interrupt the flow rather sharply, it may have been slipped in with reference to Alexander’s seven-month siege of Tyre in 332 on his way to Egypt” (p. 343). He also supports the growing consensus that the use of the term apocalypse to describe Isa 24–27 should be abandoned (p. 346). 68 Steck, Studien zu Tritojesaja, 30–40, 192. Steck’s precise datings follow the five Syrian wars that took place in 274–271, 260–253, 246–241, 221–217, and 201–200/198 bce.

192   Kristin Joachimsen in Isa 63:7–64:11 [12] as a response to the capture of Jerusalem by Ptolemy I in 302/301, and 65–66 as utterances of condemnation of Hellenistic cults. Since Isa 56–66 refers to neither historical events nor historical individuals, and since statements about political or social conditions are metaphorical, Steck’s precise datings have met with extensive criticism.69

10.11.  Hellenistic Variants: Old Greek Isaiah and Qumran 1QIsa The reception of the book of Isaiah in a Hellenistic context can be illuminated by preserved Hellenistic variants of the text in which the prophecy is repeated, adapted, and interpreted. For many scholars, the Old Greek Isaiah, dated to the second century bce, has been valuable primarily as a witness to the underlying Hebrew Vorlage and its reception in later texts. As such, this textual variant has played a secondary role and has been seen to have little value on its own. However, there is an increasing tendency to read the Greek variant in its own right as a Hellenistic document intended for a Hellenistic audience and characterized by what has been labeled “Septuagint hermeneutics.”70 Studies of 1QIsaa add yet another dimension of the transmission and reshaping of Isaianic prophecy. In the Qumran caves, twenty-one copies of the book of Isaiah have been found. 1QIsaa is the oldest known manuscript of the book, for which C14 dating has given a range from 335–122 bce, while the writing is dated to circa 100 bce on the basis of paleographic arguments.71 Årstein Justnes shows how 1QIsa has been regarded as a “biblical” text of Isaiah, and often evaluated first and foremost as textual witnesses to the “original” work.72 He asks whether the “time has come to write a commentary on 1QIsaa that deals with the preserved text, in its own right, interpreted in its historical and cultural context.”73 A focus on Old Greek Isaiah and Qumran 1QIsa as part of the Hellenistic context of the book of Isaiah might point to a significant perspective that has recently been highlighted in biblical scholarship: the pluriformity and polysemy of texts, where there is no dividing line between production and reception. While the transmission of text, implying repetition, adaption, interpretation, and reinterpretation, is neither an original nor a new idea in biblical studies, insights from reception studies might contribute to more nuanced analyses in our field.74

69 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56–66, 57–58; Tiemeyer, “Prophetic Texts,” 269–272. 70 Wagner, Reading the Sealed Book. 71  Justnes, “Great Isaiah Scroll,” 98. 72  Justnes, 93. 73  Justnes, 108. 74  Cf. Breed, Nomadic Text, 15–51, who criticizes how biblical scholars seem to operate with the concept of an original or “ideal” text and adjacent original (or “ideal”) contexts.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   193

10.12.  The Future Direction of the Debate What can we expect to learn about Persian and Hellenistic historical, political, social, and religious realities from the book of Isaiah, a composition that uses prophecy, poetry, and religious rhetoric to address the centrality of Israel, Jerusalem, and the people of Yhwh in the divine plan, including the role of the nations? As we have repeatedly seen, a fundamental challenge that runs throughout the discussion of the historical background of prophetic discourse is the risk of blending the world in the text with constructions of what is regarded as the historical and social background of the text. This challenge can be scrutinized from different perspectives; I will highlight two: the role of comparison and the role of interdisciplinarity. As we have seen, many scholars study Yehud within the broader context of Achaemenid imperial policy: Berquist (sec. 10.5), Davies (secs. 10.5, 10.8) and Kratz (sec. 10.8), for instance, filter the texts about Cyrus in Isaiah through scholarly constructs of such an ideology. When does a comparison work and when does it not? While we have seen many attempts to identify references in the texts to specific historical events, in other instances, scholars claim it would be too “hazardous to assume that it refers to specific occasions,” or they warn against putting “too much confidence in what is a flagrantly propagandistic document.”75 As regards the Persian, Hellenistic, or other proposed cultural contexts of Isaiah, it is necessary to pay attention to the different “genres” of material being compared. Without taking literary genre into consideration, we risk offering reductionist and simplistic analyses. The straightforward grafting of an external influence onto the text leads to one-dimensional and isolated interpretations. As Fitzpatrick-McKinley reminds us: “Persian use of Babylonian cultural symbols and Cyrus’ self-representation as the king of Babylon who fulfilled all the functions of native kings was not something innovative, and the expertise seen in Persian ­propaganda in how to use native culture as a means to legitimate foreign rule was most likely based on traditions about the policies of some earlier Assyrian kings.”76 Various material shows how the conquering Persian kings offer and receive local acceptance, and these instances must be connected to the specific local context, whether Egyptian, Babylonian, or Yehudite. The material that has been applied to illuminate this topic is characterized by great diversity, regarding genre and local variations and, by implication, also different interests. This diversity, in turn, means that we cannot assume that we are dealing with a uniform Achaemenid royal ideology. Although scholars are pursuing historical allusions and influence,77 Linville states: “The point of most comparative 75  Quotations from Blenkinsopp referred to in nn. 17, 35. 76  Fitzpatrick-McKinley, “Continuity,” 140. 77  This is especially prominent in Kratz’s redaction-critical model on Isaiah, based on his construction of Darius’s ideology. Cf. section 10.8, as well as Steck’s precise datings of what he regards as the Hellenistic text of the book of Isaiah, cf. section 10.10.

194   Kristin Joachimsen religion is not to force similarities between traditions or events, but to gain some new perspectives.”78 This approach provides a bridge to the next aspect, interdisciplinarity. Recent cultural studies have contributed to an orientation toward reflexivity, including a critique of representation and dichotomization.79 Furthermore, postcolonial studies have proven fruitful in analyzing questions of identity and power and have also supplied an increased understanding of cultural dynamics, with foci on constructions of “others” and of boundaries. This approach encourages less one-dimensional and atomistic interpretations. It should be repeated that, even though it is not possible to identify concrete historical references in the texts, the texts are certainly products of encounters and dynamics of cultural threads. However, the prophecy of Isaiah certainly does not scrutinize the broader international political situation; it might tell us something about Yehud but much less about the broader Achaemenid Empire. Finally, it is my hope and wish that scholars continue to read the poetry of the texts. Rather than smooth away the “otherness” of the text at the expense of domesticating it to fit one’s own categories or make the text “one-dimensional” to fit one’s own ways of thinking, we need to be challenged and surprised by its “strangeness.” Through its metaphors and imagery, the prophetic discourse transmits, preserves, interprets, challenges, and undermines. By its otherness, the voice of the text also is a valuable, knowledgebased resource in our multicultural time of differences!

Bibliography Albertz, Rainer. “Darius in Place of Cyrus: The First Edition of Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40.1–52.12).” JSOT 27 (2003): 371–383. Albertz, Rainer. “Public Recitation of the Prophetical Books? The Case of the First Edition of Deutero-Isaiah (Isa. 40:1–52:12*).” In The Production of Prophecy: Constructing Prophecy and Prophets in Yehud, edited by Diana V. Edelman and Ehud Ben Zvi, 96–110. London: Equinox, 2009. Bachmann-Medick, Doris. Cultural Turns: New Orientations in the Study of Culture. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016. Baltzer, Klaus. Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40–55. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001. Ben Zvi, Ehud. “On Social Memory and Identity Formation in Late Persian Yehud: A Historian’s Viewpoint with a Focus on Prophetic Literature, Chronicles and the Dtr. Historical Collection.” In Texts, Contexts and Readings in Postexilic Literature Explorations into Historiography and Identity Negotiation in Hebrew Bible and Related Texts, edited by Louis C. Jonker, 95–148. FAT II/53. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2011. Ben Zvi, Ehud. “Towards an Integrative Study of the Production of Authoritative Books  in  Ancient Israel.” In The Production of Prophecy: Constructing Prophecy and Prophets in  Yehud, edited by Diana  V.  Edelman and Ehud Ben Zvi, 15–28. London: Equinox, 2009.

78  Linville, “Playing,” 276.

79 Bachmann-Medick, Cultural Turns.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   195 Ben Zvi, Ehud. “The Yehudite Collection of Prophetic Books and Imperial Contexts: Some Observations.” In Divination, Politics and Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by Alan Lenzi and Jonathan Stökl, 145–169. ANEM 7. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2014. Berquist, Jon  L. “Postcolonialism and Imperial Motives for Canonization.” Semeia 75 (1996): 15–35. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture (1994). London: Routledge, 2004. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “The Cosmological and Protological Language of Deutero-Isaiah.” CBQ 73 (2011): 493–510. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 40–55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 19A. New York: Doubleday, 2002. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Second Isaiah—Prophet of Universalism.” JSOT 41 (1988): 83–103. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “The Theological Politics of Deutero-Isaiah.” In Divination, Politics and Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by Alan Lenzi and Jonathan Stökl, 129–143. ANEM 7. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2014. Boyce, Mary. “The Religion of Cyrus the Great.” In Achaemenid History III: Method and Theory, edited by Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg and Amelie Kuhrt, 15–31. Proceedings of the London 1985 Achaemenid History Workshop. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1988. Boyce, Mary, and Frantz Grenet. A History of Zoroastrianism. Vol. 2, Under the Achaemenians. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Leiden: Brill, 1982. Boyce, Mary, and Frantz Grenet. A History of Zoroastrianism. Vol. 3, Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman rule. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Leiden: Brill, 1991. Breed, Brennan  W. Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. Brosius, Mary. The Persians: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2006. Clark, Elizabeth A. History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Collins, John J. “The Beginning of the End of the World in the Hebrew Bible.” In Thus Says the Lord: Essays on the Former and Latter Prophets in Honor of Robert  R.  Wilson, edited by John J. Ahn and Stephen L. Cook, 137–155. London: T&T Clark, 2009. Collins, John  J. “Prophecy, Apocalypse and Eschatology: Reflections on the Proposals of Lester Grabbe.” In Knowing the End from the Beginning: The Prophetic, Apocalyptic, and Their Relationship, edited by Lester L. Grabbe and Robert D. Haak, 44–52. JSPS 46. London: T&T Clark, 2003. Crouch, C. L. “Adapting the Cosmological Tradition in Isaiah 40–45.” SJOT (2011): 260–275. Davies, Philip R. “Biblical Studies: Fifty Years of a Multi-Discipline.” CurBS 13 (2014): 34–66. Davies, Philip R. “God of Cyrus, God of Israel: Some Religio-Historical Reflections on Isaiah 40–55.” In Words Remembered, Texts Renewed: Essays in Honour of John F. A. Sawyer, edited by Jon Davies, Graham Harvey, and Wilfred G. E. Watson, 207–225. JSOTS 195. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995. Davies, Philip R. “Judahite Prophecy and the Achaemenids.” In Assessing Biblical and Classical Sources for the Reconstruction of Persian Influence, History and Culture, edited by Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley, 203–215. Classica et Orientalia 10. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015. Edelman, Diana V., and Ehud Ben Zvi, eds. The Production of Prophecy: Constructing Prophecy and Prophets in Yehud. Bible World. London: Equinox, 2009. Eidevall, Göran. “Propagandistic Construction of Empires in the Book of Isaiah.” In Divination, Politics and Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by Alan Lenzi and Jonathan Stökl, 109–128. ANEM 7. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2014.

196   Kristin Joachimsen Fitzpatrick-McKinley, Anne. “Continuity between Assyrian and Persian Policies toward the Cults of Their Subjects.” In Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire: Emerging Judaisms and Trends, edited by Diana  V.  Edelman, Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley, and Philippe Guillaume, 42–84. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 17. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016. Fried, Lisbeth S. “Cyrus as the Messiah? The Historical Background to Isaiah 45:1.” HTR 95 (2002): 373–393. Gates-Foster, Jennifer. “Achaemenids, Royal Power and Persian Ethnicity.” In A Companion to Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean, edited by Jeremy McInerney, 175–193. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2014. Grabbe, Lester L. “The ‘Persian Documents’ in the Book of Ezra: Are They Authentic?” In Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period, edited by Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming, 531–570. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006. Gruen, Eric. “Persia through the Jewish Looking-Glass.” In Jewish Perspectives on Hellenistic Rulers, edited by Tessa Rajak, Sarah Pearce, James K. Aitken, and Jennifer M. Dines, 53–75. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. Justnes, Årstein. “The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) and Material Philology: Preliminary Observations and a Proposal.” In New Studies in the Book of Isaiah: Essays in Honor of Hallvard Hagelia, edited by Markus Zehnder, 91–113. Perspectives on Hebrew Scriptures and Its Contexts 21. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2014. Kozuh, Michael. “On Torture and the Achaemenids.” JAOS 129 (2009): 287–293. Kratz, Reinhard  G. “From Nabonidus to Cyrus.” In Ideologies as Intercultural Phenomena, edited by Antonio Panaino and Giovanni Pettinato, 143–156. Melammu Symposia 3. Milan: Università di Bologna & IsIao, 2002. Kratz, Reinhard G. “Isaiah and the Persians.” In Imperial Visions in the Book of Isaiah, edited by Reinhard G. Kratz and Joachim Schaper. FRLANT. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, forthcoming. Kratz, Reinhard G. Kyros im Deuterojesaja-Buch: Redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Entstehung und Theologie von Jes 40–55. FAT 1. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1991. Kuhrt, Amelie. “The Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550–330 bce): Continuities, Adaptions, Transformations.” In Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology and History, edited by Susan E. Alcock, Terence N. D’Altroy, Kathleen D. Morrison, and Carla M. Sinopoli, 93–123. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Kuhrt, Amelie. “Ancient Near Eastern History: The Case of Cyrus the Great of Persia.” In Understanding the History of Ancient Israel, edited by H. G. M. Williamson, 107–127. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Kuhrt, Amelie. “The Cyrus Cylinder and the Achaemenid Imperial Policy.” JSOT 25 (1983): 83–97. Kuhrt, Amelie. The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period. Vol. 1. London: Routledge, 2007. Linville, James R. “Playing with Maps of Exile: Displacement, Utopia, and Disjunction.” In The Concept of Exile in Ancient Israel and Its Historical Contexts, edited by Ehud Ben Zvi and Christoph Levin, 275–293. BZAW 404. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010. MacDonald, Nathan. “Monotheism and Isaiah.” In Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches, edited by H. G. M. Williamson and David G. Firth, 43–61. Nottingham, UK: Apollos, 2009. Machinist, Peter, and Hayim Tadmor. “Heavenly Wisdom.” In The Tablet and the Scroll: Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William W. Hallo, edited by Mark E. Cohen, Daniel C. Snell, and David B. Weisberg, 145–151. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1993.

Isaiah and the Persian/Hellenistic Background   197 Nilsen, Tina Dykesteen. “Creation in Collision? Isaiah 40–48 and Zoroastrianism, Babylonian Religion and Genesis 1.” JHS 13 (2013): 1–19. Nilsen, Tina Dykesteen. “The Creation of Darkness and Evil (Isa 45:6c–7).” RB 115 (2008): 5–25. Olyan, Saul M. “Is Isaiah 40–55 Really Monotheistic?” JANER 12 (2012): 190–201. Perdue, Leo  G. Israel and Empire: A Postcolonial History of Israel and Early Judaism. With Warren Carter. Edited by Coleman A. Baker. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. Quinn-Miscall, Peter D. Reading Isaiah: Poetry and Vision. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, Heleen. “Colloquium Early Achaemenid History.” Persica 9 (1982): 274–284. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, Heleen. “Yauna by the Sea and Those across the Sea.” In Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity, edited by Irad Malkin, 323–346. Center for Hellenic Studies Colloquia 5. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University, 2001. Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990. Smith, Mark S. God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World. FAT 57. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. Stausberg, Michael. Die Religion Zarathustras: Geschichte, Gegenwart, Rituale. Vol. 1. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2002. Stausberg, Michael. Zarathustra und seine Religion. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005. Steck, Odil Hannes. Studien zu Tritojesaja. BZAW 203. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1991. Stromberg, Jacob. Isaiah after Exile: The Author of Third Isaiah as Reader and Redactor of the Book. OTM. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55. VTS 139. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. “Will the Prophetic Texts from the Hellenistic Period Stand Up, Please!” In Judah between East and West: The Transition from Persian to Greek Rule (ca. 400–200 bce), edited by Lester L. Grabbe and Oded Lipschits, 255–279. London: T&T Clark, 2011. Wagner, J.  Ross. Reading the Sealed Book: Old Greek Isaiah and the Problem of Septuagint Hermeneutics. FAT 88. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013. Watts, John D. W. Isaiah 34–66. WBC 25. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005. Wieserhöfer, Josef. “Achaemenid Rule and Its Impact on Yehud.” In Texts, Contexts and Readings in Postexilic Literature, edited by Louis C. Jonker, 171–186. FAT II/23. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.

Pa rt I V


chapter 11

g od’s ch a r acter i n isa i a h Patricia K. Tull

11.1. Introduction To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? (Isa 40:18) This quotation from the beginning of the exilic portion of Isaiah captures a central question about God’s characterization in the book—and in scripture and theology in general.1 How can human language, which is founded on metaphorical comparisons, presume to describe a being claimed to be fundamentally incomparable? Yet the prophet known as Second Isaiah set out to do just that, alongside the other theologians who contributed to the vast book of Isaiah, choosing likenesses to describe God and God’s activities in order to fuel audiences’ theological imaginations. In turn, Isaiah presents a microcosm of the Bible’s complexity concerning God’s character. In Isaiah, as in most of the Hebrew Bible, God is presented not as capricious, but as intentional, initiating events and responding to human behavior. This does not mean, however, that God’s depiction is either consistent or agreeable to modern sensibilities. Isaiah’s first chapter confronts us with an image of God as a parent who severely beats those who disobey. The assumption that further beatings should improve Israel’s behavior would not be well received by many today. Although differences with the prophets do create reading problems for modern people, contemporary assumptions that align with those of the ancient writers may obscure readers’ vision even more. Biblical writers’ characterizations of God are so vivid and specific, and have been so widely accepted by Christians and Jews since, that readers can easily overlook the constructive nature of these portrayals. The writers clearly used imagination when creating portraits of humans who might or might not have been 1  I would like to express my gratitude to Katie Heffelfinger for her comments on an early draft of this essay.

202   Patricia K. Tull ­ istorical figures. Even more imagination was required to build portrayals of a God h who, according to most biblical writers, could not be seen and refused to be represented visually. Not only the self-evident metaphors, but all language about God is imaginative and metaphorical. This language constructs the unseen world of religious experience— projects “the way things really are” beyond visible events—and can only do so on the basis of the world its users know.2 In that light, it is not surprising that a God whom we first glimpse in scripture as a mysterious spirit who “hovered over the face of the deep” is most often described in human terms, doing things that humans do. Acknowledging the human constructs embedded in all speech about God can help readers maintain a distinction between human attempts to describe God and whatever ineffable divine reality exists. Thus readers need not become entangled in questions such as, “Why did God behave so violently in ancient times?” or “Why did God speak inconsistently?” but, instead, can ask what the ancient authors intended in their own settings and what we may learn from that. Divine character is conveyed not only through the many names, metaphors, and adjectives Isaiah employs, but also through the intents, speeches, and actions that are imputed to God. Nearly all of these develop a single root idea: that God is a singular superhuman “person”—not multiple deities nor simply a force or principle—who stands in relationship to humans. From this understanding flow other, more specific, descriptions of divine behaviors. The following broad characteristics are shared more or less across the biblical canon in various hues, including in Isaiah:

1. A personal God—both in the sense of being a “person” and in the sense of being personally related to humans (as kin, friend, ruler, etc.); 2. A God who desires certain things for—and from—the created world, especially humans; 3. A God who communicates those desires in speech transmitted through human intermediaries, often prophets; 4. A God who acts powerfully on humans and the natural world to realize those desires;3

2  As McFague, Metaphorical Theology, put it, “We who attempt to speak about God are social, cultural, and historical beings with particular perspectives influenced by a wide range of factors. . . . [The Scriptures] were written by limited people who expressed their experiences of divine reality in the manners and mores of their historical times” (p. 3). Fretheim, Bible, 116–118, affirmed that biblical characters, including God, are literary constructs, and warned against either identifying the “real God” who transcends human texts with the deity embodied in the Bible, or denying any relationship between the reality of God and the textual God. 3  Scholars have less frequently tried to identify the metaphors that are inherent in verbs than to note those among adjectives and nouns. Three exceptions are Brueggemann, Theology, 145; Patrick, Rendering, esp. 63–113; and Sternberg, Poetics, 322–325.

god’s character in isaiah  203 Isaiah’s beginning verses put all these attributes on display in relation to one another: The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. (1:1–3)

The first verse characterizes the poetry that follows as “the vision of Isaiah.” Thus it explicitly acknowledges that the words are funneled through the imagination of a particular human in a particular place and time. The second verse introduces God as speaking and plunges right into divine speech. God assumes the roles of parent to rebellious children and of husbandman to beasts who fail to respond intelligently. These two metaphors fund the depiction of a God who desires better from Israel, and begin to suggest consequent divine actions. As the first chapter of the book of Isaiah unfolds, the people are criticized as sinful, evil, corrupt, and estranged, and as persisting in these wrongs despite the punishment they have endured. Metaphorically, this punishment is described as a severe beating that results in a wounded body. The prophet points to the actual landscape—desolate ­country, burned cities—before claiming, still in the divine voice, that it was God who savaged the nation nearly to extinction. In short, a God who takes personally the behavior of Israelites toward their deity and toward one another communicates, in first-­person speech, divine desires and the actions needed to realize those desires, as well as frustration that the desired effect has not been achieved. This chapter will investigate the particulars of this framework in Isaiah. I will first survey the variety of names and presentations of God standing in relation to humans, usually as a “person,” though a few nonhuman metaphors appear as well. Second, I will describe the desires the God in Isaiah expresses for humans in general and Israel in particular. Third, I will examine the prophets’ presentation of God as speaker and, finally, the actions the prophets claim God carries out. Because of Isaiah’s length and complexity, this chapter cannot be comprehensive. But I hope it will offer a framework for thinking further about how God is presented in Isaiah and among the prophets. A word about organization: it is well known that Isa 1–39 finds its inception with Isaiah son of Amoz in the last third of the eighth century bce, but that it incorporates words of others spanning several centuries. Sorting these passages into distinct authors or times is not possible. Isa 56–66 likewise appears to be a composite work, with a textual order bearing little relationship to historical sequence. Only Isa 40–55 seems a relatively unified body of poems that are more or less associated with the mid- to late sixth century. Despite these complications, for the sake of order, I will generally proceed from First to Second to Third Isaiah in each section of the chapter.

204   Patricia K. Tull

11.2.  A Personal God Setting out to describe the divine character emerging in the Bible’s first six books, Jerome Segal quoted Epicurus, a Greek philosopher in the fourth century bce, who wrote of God, “The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favor.”4 Segal responded, “A god of that sort bears no relationship to the God we find in the Hebrew Bible.”5 Speaking specifically of the prophets, Julia O’Brien agreed: “The portrait of an impassive, impartial God is not biblical; the prophets in particular insist on a God passionately invested in human affairs and emotionally affected by their outcomes.”6 In Isaiah, God is anything but dispassionate. God may be hidden or inscrutable, as 45:15 notes, but remains deeply interested in human affairs. God is credited with a large number of names and roles in Isaiah that underscore divine personhood. The first chapter alone introduces nearly all the divine names found in the book: • Yhwh (1:2, 4, 10, 11, 20, 28). Usually translated “the Lord,” the name by which God was introduced to Moses in Exod 3:14–15, and shared across most of the Hebrew Bible. • Qədôš yiśrāʾēl (1:4). The “Holy One of Israel,” occasionally simply qādôš, “Holy One.” This designation appears more frequently in Isaiah than in all the other books of the Bible combined. If “the Holy One” seems to refer to God as “unapproachable in majesty,”7 the nearly ubiquitous qualifier “of Israel” implies a close bond with worshipers. Though it is rare otherwise, the designation appears in all sections of Isaiah, equally often in Second Isaiah as in First Isaiah. Third Isaiah employs it only in the deeply intertextual chapter 60, yet insists that God is one who both lives in heaven and dwells with the humble (57:15; 66:1–2). • Yhwhṣəbāʾôt (1:9, 24). Usually translated “the Lord of hosts,” another name found frequently in Isaiah, especially in chapters 1–39. • ʾĔlōhîm (1:10). “God,” often used with a possessive pronoun (“our God,” “your God,” etc.) or noun (“God of Israel,” “God of Jacob”), or in conjunction with Yhwh (“the Lord your God”). • Hāʾādôn (1:24). Found only in Isa 1–19, always preceding “the Lord of hosts”; generally translated as “Sovereign” or “Almighty” and thought to be related to pre-Israelite Jerusalem. See the related ʾĂdōnāy in the list of “other divine designations,” next. • ʾĂbîr yiśrāʾēl (1:24). “Mighty One of Israel,” found only here, but related to ʾăbîr yaʿăqōb, “Mighty One of Jacob” (49:26, echoed in 60:16).

4 Segal, Joseph, 81. 5  Segal, 81. 7 Mettinger, Search, 152.

6 O’Brien, Challenging, 123.

god’s character in isaiah  205 Other divine designations appearing in Isaiah are: • Ădōnāy (3:15 and frequently throughout). “The Lord”; in Isa 1–39 it often occurs alone but sometimes precedes Yhwh ṣəbāʾôt, particularly when attention is being drawn to startling divine speech or action. In Second and Third Isaiah it occurs only as Ădōnāy Yhwh, “Lord God.” • Haṣṣaddîq (24:16). “The Righteous One,” a term more often used for righteous humans. Related to it in 26:7 is another possible term, although the Hebrew syntax is unclear: yāšār, possibly “Just One.” • ʾĔlōhîm ḥay (37:4, 16). “The living God,” found only in a narrative section indebted to Deuteronomistic writers (see Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10; 2 Kgs 19:4, 16; Jer 10:10; 23:36). Like First Isaiah, Second Isaiah concentrates divine names and attributes in the initial chapters. The range of names employed in Second Isaiah is not as broad as that in First Isaiah, but it is made up for by a range of participial and adjectival descriptions of God, as well as an imaginative range of metaphors. Possessing names, of course, personalizes God. Beyond such names, many roles are imputed to God through nouns, participles, and images functioning as metaphors.8 The prophets rejected the practice of representing God visually through what First Isaiah called ʾĕlîlîm (“worthless things”) and Second Isaiah called pəsîlîm, images carved from wood or stone. But their mental landscape, unencumbered by visual aids, ranged freely in imaginative verbal images.

11.2.1.  Family Member God appears as a parent in Isa 1:2–4, disciplining children in vain. Parenthood is also implied in 30:1, 9, where Jerusalem’s leaders are called “rebellious children” and “faithless children.” In Second Isaiah, God is compared to both a father and a mother whose “children” (here Cyrus of Persia), the prophet claims, should not be second-guessed (45:10–11). God is also likened to a mother laboring (42:14), nursing (49:15), or comforting her child (66:13). God as father appears in 63:16 and 64:8. In 50:1 and 54:5–8, in im­agery responding to Jeremiah’s claim of divine divorce in 3:1, 8, God is presented as Zion’s husband, who once abandoned her but is now returning (cf. also 62:4–5, 12).9 The idea of God as redeemer-kinsman coming to the aid of distressed family members becomes a potent symbol in Second Isaiah, who may have been the first to adopt it as a metaphor for God as one who restores a “disturbed divinely sanctioned order.”10 The redeemer was obliged to help family members who were suffering a catastrophic loss of 8  For an extensive lexicon of divine titles and attributes found in Second Isaiah in particular, see Bonnard, Isaïe, 497–505, 520–546. 9  On the connection to Jeremiah in Isa 50:1, see Tull Willey, Remember, 200–204. 10 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, 201, 111.

206   Patricia K. Tull property (Lev 25:24–25), freedom (Lev 25:47–49), life (Num 35:10–27), or spouse (Deut 25:5–10). The particulars of such transactions seem less important to Second Isaiah than the claim that God is present as redeemer and helper (41:14), and thus has a claim on Israel (43:1; cf. also 44:6, 22–24; 47:4; 48:17, 20; 49:7, 26; 51:10; 52:3, 9; 54:5, 8). This identification of God with the redeemer-kinsman is also carried forward in parts of Third Isaiah (59:20; 60:16; 62:12; 63:9, 16). Sometimes paired with “redeemer” is another participle, “savior,” one who serves to defend vulnerable individuals or groups from human attacks, yet not necessarily as a family member (see in this regard Deut 22:27; 28:29; Judg 3:9, 15; 12:3). Although First Isaiah portrays God as sending a (presumably human) savior to deliver the Egyptians from oppressors (19:20), the word “savior” is not used in Second Isaiah to characterize Cyrus, who fills a similar function. Rather, “savior” is claimed solely as God’s role (43:3, 11; 45:15, 21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8).

11.2.2. Ruler Ordinarily, First Isaiah associates security with the reign of an ideal human ruler, as in chapters 9, 11, and 32. But God enters as king in unforgettable majesty in chapter 6. In the year the human king dies, Isaiah describes seeing God sitting on the divine throne, attended by heavenly beings who proclaim that God is “holy, holy, holy,” terrifying the prophet, who realizes he is standing in the divine king’s presence. But references to God as king otherwise remain muted and late in First Isaiah: 24:23 speaks of God reigning in Jerusalem, and 33:22 affirms God as judge, ruler, king, and savior. Royal language for God is emphasized much more in Second Isaiah, beginning with the image of God’s return as a triumphant warrior in 40:10 (cf. the repeat of this imagery in 52:7, accompanied by the announcement, “Your God reigns”). It becomes explicit in 41:21 (cf. 43:15; 44:6), where God is identified as Jacob’s king; and 45:23 (“to me every knee shall bow”). In 66:1, the poet imagines God calling heaven God’s throne. Associated with the vision of God as ruler come a handful of abstract nouns denoting a splendor or majesty that belongs rightly to God, and can be bestowed by God at will, but manifests itself as vain arrogance in humans who claim it for themselves. In 14:11 the humiliated emperor’s majesty is brought down to Sheol (see also 5:14; 10:34; 13:11, 19), while in 2:10, 19, and 21 God’s glorious majesty (two synonyms paired) terrifies the earth’s inhabitants, and in 60:15 God makes the recovering city of Jerusalem majestic forever.

11.2.3. Farmer God is often compared to a farmer, not only in 1:3, and not only tending oxen and donkeys, but elsewhere cultivating and destroying vineyards, lopping off branches, and processing grapes (5:1–7; 18:5; 27:2–5; 63:1–3). Each of these images involves a threat of destruction. Isa 28:23–28, in contrast, though it draws lessons from forceful farming

god’s character in isaiah  207 processes, claims that the land is ploughed and the grain threshed no more than is necessary for its own good. In 10:15 and surrounding text, imagery of God as a woodchopper appears. Isa 40:11 envisions God as a shepherd, gently leading sheep (see also 49:9–10); and Isa 44:3–4, as a farmer planting trees.

11.2.4. Creator God’s creation of the world in general and of Israel in particular appears especially in Second Isaiah. Metaphors of architecture (40:12); building or, more specifically, laying foundations (14:32; 28:16–17; 48:13; 51:13, 16; 54:11); spreading a tent (40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13, 16); or molding pottery (29:16; 45:9; 64:8) are employed to this end. Occasionally, God is also identified as “maker” (17:7; 29:6; 45:9, 11; 51:13; 54:5). Second Isaiah’s description of the God of Israel as creator of the world is frequently associated with an incipient notion of monotheism in Israelite theology, though scholars differ regarding the extent of this prophet’s monotheistic claims. See more in section 11.5 and subsections, on divine actions.

11.2.5. Warrior/Destroyer Prevalent throughout Isaiah is the metaphor of God as a warrior who destroys nations. At some points, God fights against Israel’s enemies, but at others, against Israel itself. Yhwh ṣəbāʾôt, “Lord of hosts,” is often connected with this imagery. See more in section 11.5 and subsections.

11.2.6. Guide Here and there, God appears as teacher or guide. This is most prominent in 2:2–4, where the nations come to Zion to learn the ways of peace (see also 42:4; 51:4, which likewise reflect on international divine teaching). Even amid the violent imagery of chapter 1, God’s speech is characterized as “teaching” (v. 10; see likewise 5:24). Isa 30:20–21 meditates on God’s teaching through affliction but preferring to guide graciously, saying to a responsive people, “This is the way, walk in it” (see likewise 29:24). Isa 48:17–19 reminds a later audience that God “teaches you for your own good”: had they responded, prosperity rather than destruction would have been theirs. Modeling receptivity, the servant figure in 50:4 describes being awakened daily to hear God “as those who are taught” in order to teach others (v. 5). The metaphor of God as teacher covers a wide range of events. It comes with the hope that experience will be kind but the recognition that it is sometimes harsh. Closely related is the metaphor of judge. In 2:2–4, God appears on Mount Zion not only as giving instruction but as arbitrating between nations. There is little distinction

208   Patricia K. Tull between judge and prosecuting attorney making accusations of injustice (3:13–14). Normally, the judge is understood as a vindicator (33:22), but not always (66:16). This is a role that human leaders could fulfill (1:17, 23, 26; 3:2; 11:3–4; 16:5; 59:4), but often do not. The image of God setting forth a case against other gods in court dominates early parts of Second Isaiah (41:21–29; 43:9–12, 26; 44:8–9), but no particular noun defines God’s role in these scenarios.

11.2.7.  Nonhuman Images Human images dominate, but nonhuman images also appear. God appears as a lion growling over its prey in 31:4, and in the very next verse, as birds hovering overhead to protect Jerusalem. In his prayer in 38:12, King Hezekiah likens God to a lion breaking all his bones. More often, nonhuman imagery for God invokes fire (connoting destruction) or rocks and shelter (connoting protection). Isa 10:16–17 presents the Holy One as a flame devouring Assyria. See, similarly, 26:11, and the devouring fire in 29:6. In four metaphors mashed together in 30:27–28, God’s tongue is like a devouring fire (see also vv. 30, 33), but God’s breath is like an overflowing stream “to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction, and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads them astray.” For other images of divine fire, see 6:13; 9:19; 27:4; 33:12–14; 42:25; 47:14; 64:2; 65:5; 66:15–16, 24. Some rock and shelter imagery resembles its frequent use in psalms, such as the everlasting rock in Isa 26:4 and refuge, shelter, and shade in 25:4. See likewise 30:29; 44:8; 51:1. But some of it appears ironic. In 8:14 God is described as sanctuary, and then as stone and rock that one strikes against or trips over, followed by trap and snare in quick succession, inverting imagery that normally would offer comfort into threats. In 17:10 God is a rock of refuge, but in a context that denies benefit, since the people have forgotten this.

11.3.  A God Who Desires As we have just seen, Isaiah’s portrayal of God’s radical disappointment with Israel dominates the book’s opening chapter. But it is not until verse 17 that what God wants to see is specified: “Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” These actions are presented as so fundamental to God’s wishes that no practices of worship will replace them. God’s desire for social justice is supported by behaviors that both reward and punish, as described in verses 19–20. If the opening chapter offers a potent negative view of human behavior, the beginning of chapter 2 offers the reverse: the prophet’s vision of a desirable relationship among God, Israel, and the nations, presumably reflecting God’s aims. In this vision, one of several Isaian descriptions of divine/human restoration, God guides and rules all people to

god’s character in isaiah  209 the end that peace may reign. Thus, divine desires are set forth from the book’s beginning in both negative and positive terms. In these chapters, the complex subject of God’s desire concerning other nations begins, ambivalently, to appear, as it will throughout all stages of Isaiah’s development. Throughout First Isaiah, judgments against human behavior are interwoven with visions of a desirable future, variously described. Isa 5:7 concludes the vineyard parable by spelling out what God wants: “he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” (v. 7). The section that follows in 5:8–23, and again in 9:8–10:4, describes undesirable behaviors: land grabbing, drunkenness, impudence, deceit, self-indulgence, bribery, leadership failure, and concocting of unjust legal statutes. Most of this material agrees with and illustrates other ethical discussions in Israel’s scriptures, suggesting that human social justice is inseparable from regard for God. Images of a restored world constructed according to God’s design also punctuate Isa 1–39. Isa 9:6–7 [Heb 9:5–6] once again projects peace with justice, this time not because of divine rule but rather because of the reign of a descendant of David. Isa 11:1–9 offers a catalogue of divine desires, envisioning a king who rules in wisdom, knowledge, and fear of the Lord, issuing judgments supporting the poor and meek against the wicked. So powerful is this king’s influence that peaceful coexistence extends even to animal predators and their accustomed prey. The chapter continues with hope for dispersed Israelites’ return and reconciliation with Judah (11:12–16). Further visions of restoration elucidate what other voices in Isaiah imagine God desiring: Isa 25:6–9 describes an eschatological feast hosted by God. Not only do guests enjoy rich foods, but God swallows up death and wipes the tears from all faces, satisfying long-awaited yearnings. Yet this passage, unlike its counterparts in chapters 2 and 11, is not followed by a vision of world order, but by a dreadful judgment against the neighboring nation of Moab, complicating the standing of other nations in God’s designs. Isa 27:2–6 returns to the vintner metaphor, this time imagining that Jacob and Israel will “fill the whole world with fruit.” Isa 30:23–25 employs somewhat ambiguous language to imagine an agricultural setting where God provides timely rain to produce a rich harvest and to satisfy farm animals. Isa 32:1–8 returns to the royal theme, envisioning human rulers reigning in righteousness and justice, providing protection for those who are otherwise vulnerable, and setting standards for wisdom and nobility. Further on in the chapter, the prophet imagines that “justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field” (v. 16), with the effect of peace, quietness, trust, and security. Some of these various images may proceed from the prophet Isaiah himself, while others arise much later. Some involve a distinct form of governance, while others do not. They are scattered throughout a text more often characterized by vivid portraits of poor human behavior that demonstrate what God deplores. The desires that God is said to hold for Judah and Israel are often characterized in First Isaiah as God’s “plan” (ʿēṣâ), which God has “planned” (yʿṣ) and which will surely be fulfilled (5:19; 14:24–27; 19:12, 17; 23:8–9; 25:1; 28:21). Second Isaiah reaffirms God’s plan in 46:9–11, employing a second, parallel term, ḥēpeṣ, which seems to be preferred (42:21; 44:28; 48:14; 53:10; 55:11).

210   Patricia K. Tull The desire for improved social order remains implicit in Isa 40–55. But this prophet more often voices God’s desire for divine/human reconciliation and exiles’ return to Jerusalem. God is portrayed as having both made and chosen Israel (41:8–9; 43:1, 7, 10, 15; 44:1–2; 49:7). Reconciliation with God entails recognizing and repenting of past sins (42:24–25; 43:24–25; 44:22; 50:2), repudiating other gods and their idols and relying on Israel’s incomparable God, the only deity capable of action (40:18–20; 41:21–29; 42:17; 45:9–11; 46:1–9; 48:5), and taking advantage of Cyrus’s advent to return and repopulate Jerusalem (40:11; 41:2–3, 25; 43:5–7; 44:14, 24–28; 45:13; 48:20; 52:8–12; 55:7). Other divine purposes will result: ecological healing (41:18–19; 43:19–20; 44:3; 55:12), the attraction of other nations to God’s and Israel’s sphere of influence (45:22–23; 44:5; 45:14; 49:22–23; 52:15; 55:5), and international justice (42:1–4; 49:6–7; 51:4). While Second Isaiah’s language flows with repetition, its vision of what God desires remains fairly consistent. Isa 56:1 forges a meeting point between First Isaiah’s and Second Isaiah’s messages.11 Whereas in First Isaiah God’s desire for human justice prevails, and in Second Isaiah God’s promise of divine justice takes center stage, this verse pairs the two, enjoining that the audience carry out human righteousness (ṣədāqâ) by maintaining justice, because soon divine righteousness (ṣədāqâ), manifested as salvation, will be revealed. God’s prioritizing of social justice becomes especially clear in chapter 58, which is reminiscent of the juxtaposition of worship and injustice in chapter 1. Here God is portrayed as responding to queries about the ineffectiveness of the people’s worship and fasting. God insists that an acceptable fast is a fast from inequity, with behavior that is fair to employees and generous to the hungry and homeless. While the insistence on social justice found in First Isaiah returns in Third Isaiah, themes of proper, nonidolatrous worship that were important to Second Isaiah reappear as well, especially in chapters 57 and 65. Visions of prosperity for Jerusalem are expanded. Not only do the prophets imagine God extending the community to those formerly on the margins, such as eunuchs and foreigners (56:1–8), and creating a city where lives are long and peaceful (65:17–25), but Jerusalem is imagined as the recipient of the wealth of nations (60:5–7, 11, 16; 61:5), served by foreigners and their kings (60:10, 12, 14; 66:5). These visions tend to collide with one another and may even threaten the relative consistency of the divine character seen up to this point in the book. Third Isaiah seems to represent an ideological battleground over the relationship between Jerusalem and the nations, as well as the status of the Jerusalem community overall. International relationships have been fraught throughout the book, but become intensely so in Third Isaiah.12 Chapters 60–62 proclaim a glorified Jerusalem served by all others, whereas chapters 56 and 65–66 imagine that any who serve God will be welcome, but rebellious members of the chosen nation will not. In either case, God is portrayed as desiring 11  Rendtorff, “Isaiah 56:1,” 181–189. 12  These relationships are described in ways that leave ambiguity about Second and Third Isaiah’s interpretations of God’s intentions toward the nations. Although commentators have traditionally seen something of a missionary intent in some of the passages concerning the nations, Croatto, “Nations,” 143–161, for instance, sees no such message.

god’s character in isaiah  211 ­ aximum participation in Yhwh’s community with resultant peace and prosperity. But m the mix of participants, Jewish and Gentile, depends on the ideology of particular contributors.

11.4.  A God Who Speaks Much of the Hebrew Bible presents God as a talking, acting participant in human drama. But when the eighth-century prophets begin to address their audiences in God’s name, they introduce a new genre of divine self-presentation: a God who powerfully speaks through a human intermediary, sometimes at great length. Biblical prophets often present God’s communiques in the third person. But they also offer their messages as actual words from God, in first-person speech in prose and, more often, poetry. Thus prophetic mediators show God speaking freely with humans. Stepping aside, as it were, to spotlight God’s own speech, the prophets vividly convey a God who expresses wishes for humans as a human ruler might for subjects. The prophets convey little struggle to discern God’s words; rather, the words appear to flow directly from heaven into their mouths. Their most evident struggles involve their dismay at understanding these words only too well. Amos, the earliest of the eighth-century prophets, begins with Yhwh roaring from Zion in a continuous stream for at least five chapters, before Amos narrates his own encounters with God. Hosea and Micah are likewise dominated by divine first-person speech. Isaiah’s first presentation of divine speech, cited at the beginning of this chapter, commences immediately after the superscription and prophetic introduction: “I reared children and brought them up…” (1:2). Nearly all of the chapter that follows appears as God’s speech, expressing frustration with a nation that has rebelled and is estranged. The prophetic voice is so deeply aligned with this voice that it is often unclear when it has taken over. Clues such as first- and third-person pronouns and the occasional “says the Lord” sometimes remind us, but at several points, here and elsewhere in Isaiah, it is difficult if not impossible to tell which speech is being presented as prophetic and which as divine. Based on Isaiah’s first chapter and on other eighth-century prophetic books, we might expect to find the same volume of divine speech throughout Isa 1–39. But most of Isaiah’s words present God’s desires and actions in the third person. Isaiah often reports God as having spoken to him or in his ears (5:9; 8:1, 3; 18:4; 21:6, 16; 22:14; 31:4), a prophetic locution not found in Second and Third Isaiah, though it is common in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.13 Only in chapter 6, where the prophet describes God in the temple, do we observe dialogue between God and the prophet. There Isaiah is given a dire, ironic message. To people who have thus far ignored divine words, God directs Isaiah to say, “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand” (v. 9). The apparent 13  An exception may be found in 49:3 on the part of the servant, not the prophet.

212   Patricia K. Tull intent is that they will die because they were being offered riddles instead of warnings. Yet in the very next chapter we find the prophet bringing King Ahaz not God’s baffling words but a different divine message, one of support encouraging trust (7:4–9). This juxtaposition raises questions about the nature of God’s words in chapter 6, and suspicions that this contrary message may not, in fact, contravene God’s efforts to encourage the nation’s healing. Rather, it may be designed, when straightforward communication has broken down, to goad the prophet’s audience to respond.14 Isaiah’s failure to argue for mercy as his predecessors Abraham and Moses did (Gen 18:20–33; Exod 32:7–14) may not show resignation or lack of nerve so much as recognition of this terrible message’s paradoxical intent to influence behavior. In the end, he essentially tells readers not “keep listening but do not comprehend” but instead, “I saw God, who sent me to say, ‘keep listening but do not comprehend,’ ” a more complex message. While divine speech can be found in all parts of Isaiah, the metaphor of God as a speaker is exploited to its greatest extent in chapters 40–55. Some 63 percent of its verses are identified as divine speech.15 Not only is God presented as the primary speaker from chapter 41 on, but God’s words are affirmed as vital and effective, beginning with 40:8, “the word of our God will stand forever,” and continuing to 55:11, where God’s word is said to “accomplish that which I purpose.” Other prophetic works begin with superscriptions introducing the prophet followed by lead-ins to the divine speech, such as Jeremiah’s “Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying . . .” (1:4). But 40:1 dispenses entirely with preamble: “ ‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Though the prophetic voice takes over and prevails in chapter 40, divine speech recommences forcefully in 41:1 and continues throughout with briefer, and always affirming, interjections by the prophet and other witnesses. The metaphor of God as one who can and does speak in human language is fully exploited in Second Isaiah to portray a God zealously desiring reconciliation with Israel and striving to persuade humans to cooperate. Isa 56–66 is as varied in divine speech as it is in authors. Chapter 56 begins with divine words that continue for eight verses. But this passage is followed by lengthy sections in chapters 56 and 57 that do not identify speakers. When the divine voice resumes in 57:11 and again in 58:1, it comes without introduction (see also 65:1). In chapters 60–62, even more than the poetry of Second Isaiah that these chapters echo, the divine voice weaves in and out among the human voices without introduction, resembling not a report of divine speech nor a dialogue between the prophet and God, but the prophet’s seeming to shift subtly in and out of the divine persona, making his point in whichever register best suits his purpose, in a monologue that verges on the antiphonal. For instance, chapter 62 begins, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,” and only at the end of verse 2 do we discover that the speaker is the prophet.16 After five verses, God interjects without introduction, “Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have 14  For further discussion, see Tull, Isaiah 1–39, 146–147. 15  For a full discussion, see Tull, “Who Says What,” 157–168. 16 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56–66, 233, demonstrated the difficulty of sorting these verses out when he noted arguments that the first verse may be divine speech, though he agreed with most commentators that it is human.

god’s character in isaiah  213 posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent” (v. 6). That verse does not end before the prophet joins in, saying, “You who remind the Lord, take no rest” (v. 6). The beginning of verse 8 introduces a divine oath, which occupies the remainder of the verse. A half-verse follows in the third person, followed by another half-verse in divine first person. Chapter 60 functions similarly, and chapter 61 provides clear-cut divine speech only in verse 8. Most, if not all, of the prophetic voices contributing to Isaiah do so by presenting God as speaker, sometimes the primary speaker. Second Isaiah offers the highest volume of divine speech, First Isaiah the lowest, and Third Isaiah wavers in between. Unlike in some prophetic books, Isaiah’s divine voice does not inspire the prophet’s protest, and even Isaiah’s mild questioning in chapter 6 remains understated. The divine plan communicated in Isaiah evidently stands firm, at least in the prophets’ views.

11.5.  A God Who Acts Above all, God is portrayed as one who acts powerfully to bring about divine desires. As we might expect, First Isaiah is laden with destructive, often violent divine actions, while Second Isaiah primarily communicates creative and restorative actions, and Third Isaiah is somewhat mixed.

11.5.1.  Destructive Actions Unsurprisingly in view of the wars of the times, we find the theme of God’s doing battle against opponents—sometimes Israel, sometimes enemies—throughout Isaiah, beginning in the first chapter. Isa 5:1–7 portrays God as a vintner who dismantles what he had built and planted because it failed to produce good fruit. Further on, in verses 26–30, this violence is described as carried out literally, as the prophet claims divine responsibility for military incursions. Following a series of woe oracles directed against unjust leaders in Israel and Judah, Isaiah describes God as signaling to a faraway nation, which comes when called, fierce and ready to fight. Isa 9:8–21, a continuation of the poetry begun in 5:8, claims that God has repeatedly, in anger, raised adversaries against Israel, and 10:5 explicitly describes God as having commanded Assyria to attack, and as pla­nning in turn to destroy Assyria for its arrogance (v. 25). If much of the destructive activity described in Isaiah 1–12 is couched in war language, the prophet also attributes more unusual punishments to God: terrorizing and humiliating all who exalt themselves (2:10–17); removing leadership so social chaos results (3:1–7); and afflicting wealthy women with scabs and removing their finery (3:17–24). Isa 13 and 14 turn divine violence outward. The target of the army that God is mustering is first identified as the whole earth (13:5, 9, 11). But when the army is specified (the Medes, v. 17), only Babylon is named as the victim (v. 19). Chapter 14 goes on to describe

214   Patricia K. Tull the death of a tyrannical king. Babylon’s presence here is difficult to explain, but the later empire may have been superimposed on a section that originally referred to Assyria (see 14:25). Where we might most expect divine violence, in the oracles about the other nations in chapters 15–23, violence is surprisingly muted, and the nations’ destruction is described in passive verbs that, with few exceptions (19:2–4, 14; 23:8–9), decline to declare an agent. At times, compassion is expressed toward other nations, as in 19:20, where God is said to defend and deliver Egypt. But God’s destructive activity returns with a vengeance in the proto-apocalyptic chapter 24, where the prophet describes God’s plan to make the earth desolate and scatter its inhabitants. Chapter 34 likewise describes divine violence against nations in general, and Edom in particular. The story of Jerusalem’s siege in Hezekiah’s time in chapters 36–37 features God’s angel striking down nearly two hundred thousand soldiers who are besieging Jerusalem, demonstrating that, contrary to the Assyrian Rabshakeh’s claims, Israel’s God is indeed more powerful than Sennacherib. God’s acts of violence return in Second Isaiah with a narrow scope. Here, God’s destruction of Jerusalem is acknowledged, but it is set firmly in the past (40:2; 42:24–25; 43:28; 48:10–11; 51:17–20), and it is sometimes metaphorized as testing to purify (48:10). Second Isaiah does not by any means contradict earlier portrayals of divine wrath, but instead views it as having been restrained and forsworn (48:9; 54:9).17 Destruction is now directed against Israel’s enemies. Salvation comes through war turned outward, as God leads Cyrus to destroy Babylon and set captives free (40:23–24; 41:2, 11–12, 15–16, 25; 43:14; 45:1–3; 46:1–2; 47:1–15; 48:14; 49:25–26; 51:8, 22–23). There are passages in Third Isaiah, too, that place God’s judgmental actions in the past, such as 57:17, and emphasize forbearance, healing, and comfort on God’s part (vv. 15–19; Isa 60–62). But emphasis on God’s continuing punishment returns in Third Isaiah. As in previous chapters, God’s violent strife against humans is sometimes directed against Israel, and sometimes against Israel’s enemies. Like previous sections, this one takes seriously the people’s sin and the barriers wrongdoing creates between God and humans. Isa 59 consists of a poignant poem decrying the prevalence of injustice. The divine response is portrayed as preparing to come as a warrior clothed in “­garments of vengeance” (v. 17) to repay enemies—who here are not foreign oppressors but whoever defies God. But a passage that stands as mirror to this one, directly on the other side of the central chapters 60–62, turns divine violence outward instead. In 63:1–6, not Judah but neighboring Moab is targeted. Despite the deployment of violence against the chosen and other nations alike, the nationalism seen in Second Isaiah still appears in parts of Third Isaiah, such as in chapter 60, in which foreign nations bring to Jerusalem not only returning exiles but also their wealth. “The nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish” (v. 12), underscoring Third Isaiah’s fraught treatment of foreigners. 17  According to Miles, God, in Second Isaiah, God “drastically transforms his own mood by strategic omissions, substitutions, and expansions and by the adoption of a tone of tender, almost maternal solicitude” (p. 220).

god’s character in isaiah  215 The ambivalence of Isaiah’s final form concerning the standing of other nations is especially striking toward the book’s end. In the final two chapters, following a lament over God’s past destruction of Jerusalem that appears to place blame on God for the people’s sin (63:17; 64:5, 7), the prophet draws a line between those in the community whom God will destroy and those who will be spared. Those who forsake God will be destined to the sword while God’s servants (here redefined to signify not the whole nation but only an elect few) will enjoy prosperity (65:12–15).18 This theme of destruction for some and salvation for others reappears in chapter 66, where, in the final two verses, “all flesh” come to worship God, while the dead bodies of rebels are found outside (66:23–24).19 Julia O’Brien has helpfully retraced the history-of-traditions path that scholars in the “Harvard school” delineated in the metaphor of the divine warrior. Although this path began in ancient Near Eastern stories of combat among gods, and shifted to claims of divine support for the Davidic kings, the prophetic books mark a new stage: the portrayal of God as fighting against evil both inside and outside the community.20 According to the prophets, including Isaiah, human injustice provokes divine anger, which in turn leads to vengeance against wrongdoers, whether within or without Israel. Divine violence reflects the perception that God cares about human ethics and about misbehavior’s victims.21 While modern readers tend either to defend divine violence for its passion for justice or to abhor it for its horrific effects, O’Brien suggested a more complex response, affirming the need for justice in societies both ancient and modern while critically examining specific ways divine justice is described.

11.5.2.  Creative or Restorative Actions A few redemptive actions are attributed to God in First Isaiah, such as restoring Jerusalem’s just leadership after violently purifying the city (1:26), providing a protective canopy after washing away Jerusalem’s stains (4:4–6), comforting the city after the wrath ends (12:1), delivering Egypt from oppressors (19:20–21), saving Jerusalem after allowing the surrounding nation’s destruction (chaps. 36–37), and healing Hezekiah after

18  For more on this strategy of redefinition and the passage’s negative response to the lament, see Tiemeyer, “Two Prophets,” 185–202. 19  Miles’s (God) ponderings over First Isaiah’s presentation of God’s thinking about other nations applies even more to Third Isaiah: “What are we to conclude?” he asks. “Does the Lord God want to defeat, humiliate, and punish the other nations of the world? Does he want to subordinate them to Israel in a new social order and a new creation? Or does he intend for them to join Israel as coequals in his service? Each of these sharply opposed views is expressed with equal, uncompromising rigor” (p. 216). 20 O’Brien, Challenging, 103. 21  As Heschel, Prophets, explained, “Justice, mishpat, is the measure of [God’s] anger. Divine sympathy for the victims of human cruelty is the motive of anger . . . God’s anger is not a fundamental attribute, but a transient and reactive condition. It is a means of achieving ‘the intents of [God’s] mind’ ” (vol. 2, pp. 68–69).

216   Patricia K. Tull t­ hreatening him with death (chap. 38). In First Isaiah what is said about God’s actions toward Egypt applies as a pattern overall: “The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and ­healing; they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their supplications and heal them” (19:22). That is to say, restoration can only come after divinely afflicted suffering. Most of God’s restorative actions seem to occur in sections of First Isaiah that are ­commonly thought to be appended to the original prophet’s sayings. First Isaiah rarely attributes acts of creation to God, going no further than occasionally calling God Israel’s “maker” (17:7; 29:6). But in Second Isaiah, by contrast, God is repeatedly described as creating. God creates the stars, the heavens, the earth, and humankind (40:26, 28; 42:5; 45:12, 18; 54:16); light and darkness, weal and woe (45:7); the natural landscape (41:20); the nation of Israel (43:1, 7, 15); righteousness (45:8); and unfolding events (48:7). Other verbs of creation in Second Isaiah move up and down the metaphorical register: making, forming, founding, stretching out, spreading out, and establishing. Divine actions that affirm, comfort, and restore are also repeatedly named. Most of the metaphors used of God, such as shepherd, builder, redeemer kinsman, mother, farmer, potter, and returning husband (all discussed earlier in the article) contribute to the message that God desires and is bringing about an enduring kinship with Israel. The whole earth’s maker is now recreating the lost nation and restoring the destroyed city, and will thereby comfort the descendants of those who suffered displacement and loss. God carries out a variety of constructive activities, such as comforting Zion (40:1; 49:13; 51; 51:3, 12; 52:9); choosing (41:8–9; 42:1; 43:10; 44:1–2; 45:4; 49:7) and redeeming Israel (43:1; 44:22–23; 48:20; 52:3, 9); helping (41:10, 13–14; 44:2; 49:8; 50:7, 9); saving (43:3, 11, 12; 45:15, 17, 21, 22; 46:4; 49:25–26; see also 44:17; 45:20; 46:7); freeing prisoners (42:6; 49:9; 51:12); creating paths for returning exiles (43:19) and bringing them home (43:5–6; 49:18–23); guiding, protecting, strengthening, and even carrying the nation (40:11, 29–31; 41:10; 42:16; 43:1–2; 46:3; 48:17; 49:10); renewing the landscape (41:17–20; 44:3); rebuilding the city (44:26) and the temple (44:28); inspiring justice (42:1); teaching right­eous­ness (42:4, 21; 48:17; 50:4; 51:4); sweeping away transgressions (43:25; 44:22); pouring out God’s spirit (44:3); and making Israel a witness before the nations (42:6; 49:6; 52:15; 55:5). Thematically summarizing the dramatic turn in divine activity, Second Isaiah announces on God’s behalf, “I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things” (45:7). Third Isaiah does not use the metaphor of creation as prominently as Second Isaiah does, except in 65:17 (“I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth”). But the language of restoration, especially in chapters 60–62, echoes Second Isaiah’s usage and sometimes extends it further. God gathers Israel, specifically eunuchs, foreigners, and “others besides them” (56:8; cf. 60:4, 7), and will gather all nations to see God’s glory (66:18). God will heal and comfort the contrite, whom God struck in anger (57:15–18); God will answer, guide, and restore the just (58:9–12). God’s glory rises upon the restored nation (60:1–2), causing other nations to bring Israelite children and the nations’ wealth to Jerusalem (60:3–7; 61:6; 66:20) and causing righteousness to spring up (61:11). Visions of divine restoration filled with symbolism continue through chapter 62 as God vindicates and delights in Jerusalem. In the final two chapters, as noted before, restoration is granted to God’s

god’s character in isaiah  217 “­servants” (65:9, 13–15; 66:14), but not to those who rebel. God will provide the servants with prosperity, happiness, and longevity in the restored city (65:13–25; 66:12–14).

11.6. Conclusion Where the prophets are concerned, desperate times call for desperate measures. For modern readers who have witnessed in history the abuses inspired by a God considered violent, the violent characterizations of the divine in much of Isaiah may seem ­deplorable.22 Yet for ancient audiences, for whom the possible encroachment of foreign invaders was a dreadful reality, claims that Yhwhremained in charge and acted not capriciously but for the nation’s ultimate salvation, though not comforting in any way we might recognize, may at least have made sense, preserving order and divine competence. The inconsistency of God’s portrayal over time can be perceived largely in the relative harshness and lenience attributed to God by various prophets who were interpreting various circumstances. And while the book of Isaiah shows divine engagement throughout, it offers hints of a perception of God’s receding from human view that will grow among subsequent writers in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament (see, for instance, 1:15; 8:17; 30:20; 40:27; 45:15; 54:8; 57:17; 58:3; 59:2; and, especially, the laments in 63:7–64:12). In their treatments of characterization, students of biblical narrative have by and large begun with E. M. Forster’s round and flat characters, fine-tuning definitions in various ways.23 Round characters display complexity, can change or grow, and are not necessarily consistent. As Robert Alter put it, there is “an abiding mystery in character as the biblical writers conceive it,” which contributes to their becoming “indelibly vivid individuals in the imagination of a hundred generations.”24 Such is the God of Isaiah. After striving for sixteen chapters to portray God to the sixth-century audience, Second Isaiah claims on God’s behalf, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (55:8). Even if they wavered or differed on specifics, those who variously contributed to Isaiah’s composite artistry imagined an incomparable deity fully engaged with Israel over the centuries of its tumultuous ­history. The prophets’ strategies for portraying the divine as a powerful speaking, acting “­person” communicating specific desires for humankind decisively contributed to the vivid yet mysterious character whom Christians and Jews call God. 22 O’Brien, Challenging, noted, “The one thing that most troubles people about the Old Testament is its violence. People regularly plead with me to say something positive about the violence of . . . God’s angry tirades in the Prophetic Books” (p. 101). 23 Forster, Aspects, 75. See in this regard, descriptions of characterization developed by Auerbach, Mimesis, 3–23; Alter, Art, 114–130; Berlin, Poetics, 23–42; and Sternberg, Poetics, 322–325. Although character is most often considered in narrative contexts, Brown, Wisdom, has shown that these insights can be applied to biblical poetry as well (pp. 5–9). 24 Alter, Art, 126, 114. Patrick, Rendering, agreed: “A persona who is perfectly consistent is not very lifelike” (p. 48).

218   Patricia K. Tull

Bibliography Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books, 1981. Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953. Berlin, Adele. Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative. Bible and Literature Series 9. Sheffield, UK: Almond Press, 1983. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 40–55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 19A. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 56–66: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 19B. New York: Doubleday, 2003. Bonnard, Pierre  E. Le second Isaïe: Son Disciple et leurs éditeurs: Isaïe 40–66. EBib. Paris: Gabalda, 1972. Brown, William  P. Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014. Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1997. Croatto, J. Severino. “The ‘Nations’ in the Salvific Oracles of Isaiah.” VT 55 (2005): 143–161. Forster, E. M. Aspects of the Novel. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1963. Fretheim, Terence, and Karlfried Froehlich. The Bible as Word of God in a Postmodern Age. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1998. Heschel, Abraham. The Prophets. 2 vols. New York: Harper Colophon, 1975. McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982. Mettinger, Tryggve N. D. In Search of God: The Meaning and Message of the Everlasting Names. Philadelphia: Fortress, 2005. Miles, Jack. God: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1995. OBrien, Julia. Challenging Prophetic Metaphor: Theology and Ideology in the Prophets. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2008. Patrick, Dale. The Rendering of God in the Old Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981. Rendtorff, Rolf. “Isaiah 56:1 as a Key to the Formation of the Book of Isaiah.” In Canon and Theology: Overtures to an Old Testament Theology, translated and edited by Margaret Kohl. OBT. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1993. Segal, Jerome M. Joseph’s Bones: Understanding the Struggle between God and Mankind in the Bible. New York: Riverhead, 2007. Sternberg, Meir. The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. “Two Prophets, Two Laments and Two Ways of Dealing with Earlier Texts.” In Die Textualisierung der Religion, edited by Joachim Schaper, 185–202. FAT 62. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009. Tull, Patricia K. Isaiah 1–39. SHBC 14A. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010. Tull, Patricia K. “Who Says What to Whom: Speakers, Hearers, and Overhearers in Second Isaiah.” In Partners with God: Theological and Critical Readings of the Bible, edited by Shelley Birdsong and Serge Frolov, 157–168. Claremont, CA: Claremont School of Theology Press, 2017. Tull Willey, Patricia  K. Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of Previous Texts in Second Isaiah. SBLDS 161. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1997.

chapter 12

Monotheism i n Isa i a h Matthias Albani

12.1.  Monotheism as a Controversial Concept In order to address the notion of monotheism in Isaiah, we must first clarify the term.1 Monotheism is generally regarded in research as differentia specifica of early post-exilic Judaism, and in general as a constitutive characteristic of the Jewish religion until our time. Scholars in both religious and Old Testament studies have, however, in recent years increasingly questioned whether monotheism is the appropriate term for the scientific description of religions, because it is usually implicitly or even explicitly linked to a negative evaluation of so-called polytheistic religions.2 A long-running debate on monotheism versus polytheism has arisen, particularly as a response to the Egyptologist Jan Assmann’s provocative theses regarding the essential potential of monotheism for violence.3 In much of the research that is carried out from the perspective of the history of religion, monotheism often appears as either the point of departure or the goal or culmination of the development of the studied religions.4 Monotheism is thus seen as the theological norm by which the intellectual and religious history of different cultures can be measured. The introduction of more nuanced terms, such as “monolatry,”5 “monotheiotitism,”6 “henotheism,”7 and “henolatry,”8 into religious studies testifies to 1   I would like to express my warmest thanks to Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, who translated my article from German to English(!). 2   For a discussion of monotheism, cf. Stolz, Monotheismus, 33–47; Ahn, Monotheismus, 1–24. 3  Assmann, Unterscheidung; Assmann, Monotheismus. 4   See also Ahn, Monotheismus, 1–10; Stolz, Monotheismus, 9–12. 5   Cf. Bertholet, Wörterbuch, 403; Hartmann, “Monotheismus,” 74–75. 6   Landsberger, “Eigenbegrifflichkeit,” 369. 7  Bertholet, Wörterbuch, 235; cf. also Hartmann, “Monotheismus,” 78 (Mesopotamia); and Horning, Der Eine, 233, 239–240, 241–242, 244, 249, etc. 8   Hartmann, “Monotheismus,” 78–79.

220   Matthias Albani the ­inadequacy of the reductionist “monotheism versus polytheism” scheme for reaching a differentiated understanding of ancient Near Eastern religions. Biblical conceptions of the divine, too, are historically more open and dynamic than is often assumed. Scholars today therefore speak of implicit and explicit forms of monotheism, exclusive and inclusive ideas, and evolutionary and revolutionary systems, and they differentiate between the singleness and the uniqueness of God.9 From a heuristic point of view, however, the somewhat schematic juxtaposition of polytheism and monotheism is still indispensable for reaching a more differentiated picture of the respective concept of God, whereby the concrete religious, cultural, and historical references become clear. In the present ­chapter, the term monotheism is thus to be understood in the traditional sense of belief in a single God, which, in contrast to monolatry and henotheism, basically excludes belief in the existence of other gods. This decision does not reflect any dogmatic or ­philosophical evaluations of monotheism or polytheism, but instead relates to the understanding of the germane texts from Isaiah and their religious-historical ­connections and backgrounds.

12.2.  Expressions of Monotheism in the Book of Isaiah When we look at the entire book of Isaiah, it is striking that clear monotheistic statements can be found only in Isa 40–55 (Second Isaiah), especially in Isa 40–48. Julius Wellhausen expressed this insight in his famous dictum about the hypothetical anonymous exiled prophet: Unser Prophet ist wie trunken von der Idee des Allmächtigen, der Hymnus von ihm rauscht in gleichmäßigem Gewoge durch alles, was er sagt. Er zuerst feiert ihn nicht bloß als Lenker der Weltgeschichte, sondern auch als den Schöpfer der Natur, des Himmels und der Erde, als den Ersten und Letzten, den Einzigen und Alleinigen.10

The following discussion will therefore focus on the texts in Isa 40–48 and ask about their historical and religious-historical contexts. Before that, however, I will outline the way God is conceptualized in the other parts of Isaiah. Despite the now complicated editorial history research situation, I employ the usual classification of the book of Isaiah as developed by Bernhard Duhm—namely, First Isaiah (1–39), Second Isaiah (40–55), and Third Isaiah (56–66).11

  See Stolz, Monotheismus, 4–6; Schmid, “Differenzierung,” 11–19; Ahn, “Monotheismus,” 1–10.  Wellhausen, Geschichte, 150–151. 11   See further, Tiemeyer, “Continuity”; Schmid, “Literaturgeschichte,” 97–101, 132–137, 164–164; Zenger, Einleitung, 440–451. 9


Monotheism in Isaiah   221

12.2.1.  Monotheism in First Isaiah and Third Isaiah First Isaiah—that is, the texts in Isa 1–39 attributed to the prophet Isaiah ben Amoz in the Neo-Assyrian epoch—does not convey an exclusive monotheism. It is, however, but a small step from the royal imagery associated with God, expressed by the Jerusalem prophet, to monotheism. According to Isaiah, the king of the heavenly hosts seated in Zion is at the same time the Lord of history, whose glory fills the whole earth (Isa 6:3), whose counsel extends “on the whole earth,” and whose hand is stretched out over “all peoples” (Isa 14:26). These texts express the universal power of the Jerusalem God, the Holy One par excellence. His works in history concern not only Israel but all nations, especially the proud empires, such as the Assyrian imperial power, that are humiliated or even destroyed by Yhwh Sabaoth (cf. Isa 10:5–19; 14:25). The portrayal of God in First Isaiah is not associated with a principled negation of the ancient Near Eastern world of gods, as is the case in Second Isaiah (cf. Isa 44:6–8; 45:5–7; 14:21–22). For the prophet Isaiah, the Assyrian deities hardly matter; his focus is on the unfettered historical efficacy of Yhwh Sabaoth rather than undertaking a theological reflection on Yhwh’s sole divinity. The heavenly court of the Holy One enthroned in Zion is, according to 6:2–7, surrounded by seraphim—that is, subordinate divine beings who apparently belong to the heavenly hosts of Yhwh Sabaoth (cf. 1 Kgs 22:19–22).12 Isaiah is still completely influenced by the royal temple theology of Jerusalem, found also in the royal ascent songs in the Psalter (Pss 93; 95; 97; 98; 99). According to Hans Wildberger, this historically oriented conception of God is reflected in the designations of God as “the Holy One of Israel,” “the Lord,” “Yhwh of Hosts,” and “the king.”13 This trice-holy God, enthroned in Zion, is judging his people for their many sins and passionately calling for the execution of law and justice in Israel, especially in Jerusalem as the “city of justice” (e.g., Isa 1:26; 5:7). If one wanted to classify this royal Jerusalem conception of God, then one could perhaps speak of a monolatry with a universal tendency, but one in which polytheistic ideas still resonate schematically. Isa 1–39 also contains some sections that must have been composed later. For example, what is usually referred to as the “Isaiah Apocalypse” (Isa 24–27) conveys an eschatological view of history that includes the entire world. The notion that Yhwh, as the judge of the whole world, is the only God powerful in history is not discussed here, as it is in Isa 40–55 (henceforth Deutero-Isaiah), but is instead a self-evident conviction. When Yhwh Sabaoth rules in Zion, he will punish the “powers in the heaven” and the “kings of the earth” (Isa 24:21–23), and the sun and moon will be ashamed. There is only one divine king who rules supremely over all powers and dominions in heaven and on earth. The stars revered by the other peoples as representatives of the highest divine powers are completely disempowered. This passage resonates both Deutero-Isaiah’s disempowering the celestial

  Cf. Keel, Jerusalem, 70–73.   13  See Wildberger, Königsherrschaft, 1:75–84.


222   Matthias Albani powers (Isa 40:25–26) and Isaiah’s temple vision, according to which the “whole earth” is filled with Yhwh’s glory (Isa 6:3). Even death is disempowered by Yhwh: But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. (Isa 26:19 NIV)

Of course, commentators debate whether this verse refers to the resurrection of the dead or merely to the restoration of the people of Israel.14 Whichever way you interpret the passage, however, the monotheistic Yhwh faith inevitably raises the question of whether the world of the dead can truly be distinguished from the sphere of power of the Almighty Creator and Redeemer God, as emphatically as it is in other places in the Hebrew Bible (see Isa 38:18; Ps 88:6). Whereas Isa 65:17–20 promises the righteous a long and fulfilled life in the era of new creation (Heilszeit), the much younger Isaiah Apocalypse speaks of the ultimate defeat of death at the end-time feast of joy in Zion (Isa 25:8). Here we encounter the final consequence of biblical monotheism: when all the powers against God are defeated, the last and toughest enemy of God—namely, death—must finally be overcome! The oracles of doom against the foreign nations (Isa 13–23) and the promises of salvation (Isa 33–35) also do not belong to the original layer of First Isaiah and are usually dated to the exilic/post-exilic period.15 These texts likewise speak of Yhwh’s unlimited power over history and the expectation of universal judgment, which will lead to Israel’s redemption. Even the sky and the stars are affected by Yhwh’s judgment (Isa 34:4–5). Yhwh’s all-cosmic rule can thus be understood in terms of monotheism even though there is no explicit monotheistic negation of the gods. Instead, the powerlessness of the “idols of Egypt” (Isa 19:1) and the perplexity of the Egyptian diviners (Isa 19:3, 12) are emphasized. These formulations in Isa 24–27 are reminiscent of and were likely inspired by Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Isa 47). Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheism is, likewise, taken for granted, and never explicitly addressed, in Isa 56–66. The various texts presuppose the end of the exile and the return of the exiles from Babylon, as they promise Zion’s end-time salvation (Isa 60–62; 65–66) up and against the sobering reality of the post-exilic community (Isa 56–58). Recent research has largely abandoned Bernhard Duhm’s conventional image of a single prophetic persona called “Third Isaiah,” in favor of seeing Isa 56–66 as a gradually grown body of texts.16 Nonetheless, these texts share a uniform monotheistic image of God: Yhwh is the almighty creator of the world (Isa 65:17–18; 66:1–2);17 he is Lord of History (Isa 60), who will create universal justice (Isa 59:15–21), to whose sanctuary in Zion all peoples will make pilgrimages (Isa 60–62; 66:18–24; contra 63:1–6). The

  Cf. Zenger, Einleitung, 448.   See Wildberger, Königsherrschaft, 2:149–153; Kreuch, “Jesaja,” sec. 5, “Zur Entstehung des Buches.” 16   See Tiemeyer, “Continuity,” 13–25.    17  Tiemeyer, 40. 14 15

Monotheism in Isaiah   223 expected ­coming salvation is cosmic in scope: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17). In view of this universally effective Creator God, any action of other deities is no longer conceivable and thus neither needs to be fought against polemically nor to play a role in the end-time redemption drama. A special feature of the monotheistic image of God in Third Isaiah is the explicitly maternal character of Yhwh: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isa 66:13a). As to the historical background of the Trito-Isaianic message of salvation and consolation, scholars usually argue for an early post-exilic date prior to the reconstruction of the second Temple (cf. Isa 66:1–4) at a time when the audience was distressed by the failure of Deutero-Isaiah’s exuberant promises of salvation to materialize. The message of salvation is thus being ­universalized and rendered valid for all humankind (see Isa 56:6–8).

12.2.2.  Monotheism in Second Isaiah As has been hinted at, overt monotheistic statements exist only in Isa 40–48 (the core of Deutero-Isaiah). This section contains statements on the “incomparability” and “uniqueness” of Yhwh, on the one hand, and on his “singleness,” on the other, which should be distinguished for the sake of conceptual clarity.18 Whereas the first two categories can also be found in hymnal praise of God in a polytheistic religion,19 “­singleness” applies only monotheism in a strict sense. Earlier biblical texts also contain “­incomparability statements,” but they explicitly assume the existence of other gods (cf. Exod 15:11; Ps 89:7–9).20 In Isa 40–48 it is nonetheless clear that the statements about Yhwh’s incomparability should be understood as monotheistic expressions, as evidenced by the incomparability statement of 44:7 (‫ )ומי כמוני‬situated between the singleness statements in Isa 44:6 and 44:8.21 Here Yhwh’s incomparability can be deduced by the fact that only he can predict what is “coming.” This ability to foretell the future is mentioned in the court proceedings in 41:22–29 as evidence of the gods’ “nothingness,” something which in turn implies Yhwh’s executive power. In Isa 46:9, too, the singleness statements are linked directly to the incomparability statement. Below are the relevant passages that explicitly address Yhwh’s incomparability and singleness: • Yhwh’s incomparability: Isa 40:18, 25; 44:7; 46:9–10 • Yhwh’s singleness: Isa 43:10–11; 44:6, 8; 45:5–7, 14, 18, 21–22

  See Wildberger, “Monotheismus,” 250–251.   See Stolz, “Unvergleichlichkeit,” 11–15; Labuschange, Incomparability, 33–63. 20   Cf. Müller, “Gott,” 307–311. 21   Cf. also Kratz, Kyros, 192–193. Regarding the monotheistic character of Deutero-Isaiah’s “incomparability” statements, see Stolz, “Unvergleichlichkeit,” 17–20, 23. 18


224   Matthias Albani The definition that the monotheistic understanding of God in principle excludes the existence of other gods identifies only a surface aspect of monotheism. In a sense, it is merely an empty frame, which must be filled with content. Notably, the monotheism of the Egyptian “heretic pharaoh” Akhenaten differs significantly from that of DeuteroIsaiah. With Akhenaten, the idea of Aton as the sole creator and preserver of the natural and social world is at the heart of the understanding of God. Aton is understood as the origin of all things, but not in the sense that he is a creator who is distinct from the world, as in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions. Instead, he is understood as an immanent deity who exposes all things to himself: “Du machst Millionen von Gestalten aus dir, dem Einen, Städte und Dörfer, Äcker, Wege und den Strom.”22 This monotheistic “Emanation Doctrine” of Akhenaten is thus distinctly different from Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheistic theology of creation, in which there is a marked difference between the creator and the creation. Another difference with Akhenaten’s monotheism is that the creation theology in Deutero-Isaiah is not an end in itself but the means to prove Yhwh’s power over history (see sec. 12.3. below). The following substantive aspects are important in view of Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheism.  The Aspect of Power Monotheism in Isa 40–48 conveys the belief in an almighty God who alone directs history (e.g., Isa 41:21–29; 44:6–11; 46:9–13.) and created the cosmos (e.g., 40:12–31; 44:24; 45:7). In contrast, several gods differentiate between their distinct areas of power. From a religious-phenomenological perspective, the notion of divine singleness is not, according to Gerardus van der Leew, primarily “eine Negation seiner Vielheit, sondern eine leidenschaftliche Affirmation seiner Gewaltigkeit.”23 Thus, the Almighty God is also the incomparable God. As expressed in Isa 40:18, 25, “With whom do you wish to compare God?” The question at stake here is that of power (see sec. 12.3.2). Yet the confession of Yhwh’s incomparable power stands in opposition with the experiences of historical reality of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile. DeuteroIsaiah’s monotheistic commitment to Yhwh as the sole director of history thus has a “counterfactual” character.  The Aspect of Singleness On the one hand, the existence of other gods seems to be fundamentally disputed in Isa 40–48. Isa 43:10b, for example, says: “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” (Isa 43:10 NIV) 24 On the other hand, Yhwh’s powerful effectiveness seems to be at the heart of the matter: Yhwh is the only effective God! As the trial speeches show, Deutero-Isaiah seems to reckon with other deities, yet they are i­ neffective and therefore

  Quote from pp. 115–117 of Akhenaten’s Aton-Hymn; cf. Koch, Geschichte, 339.   Quote from Wildberger, “Monotheismus,” 249. 24   Cf. Isa 44:6–8; 45:5–6, 18, 21–22; 46:9; 47:10; 48:11–12. 22 23

Monotheism in Isaiah   225 “void” (see, e.g., Isa 41:23–24), just as the nations and their rulers before God are “like nothing” (Isa 40:17–24).25 This polemical passage could, however, also be understood as merely an effective rhetorical figure, which is not necessarily based on a conviction that the other gods that are mentioned exist. Whether the prologue Isa 40:1–11 alludes to the heavenly council (cf. 1 Kgs 22:19; Isa 6) is disputed.26 Deutero-Isaiah apparently shuns anything that might give the ­former deities in the heavenly council a visible profile up and against Yhwh. After all, the prophet can still hear heavenly voices (Isa 40:3, 6) that do not come from Yhwh.27 The former deities, in a sense, thus remain in an “auditory existence” to serve as Yhwh’s mouthpiece. As divine beings, however, they are not worthy of attention, let alone worship. For Deutero-Isaiah, the crucial issue is that of effectiveness. Deutero-Isaiah concludes expressively with the words “your works are utterly worthless” (Isa 41:24, 29); they “accomplish nothing good.” It is possible to “choose” them, but “whoever chooses [them] is detestable” (Isa 41:24).28  The Aspect of Universalism As the only effective God, Yhwh is also the universal God. As the Israelite faith of God became detached from land, royalty, and temple, a spatial and temporal universalization of the conception of God took place. This universality of Yhwh (cf. Isa 40:15, 22) enabled his followers not only to worship him in any place and at all times, but also to develop a new religious identity in exile. For this reason alone, it is most likely that the Babylonian exile was the historical place for the formation of such a universal, unrestricted conception of God. Paradoxically, the theological demarcation from the ancient Near Eastern world of gods in Deutero-Isaiah led to the universal demarcation of the Israelite image of God.  The Aspect of Salvation Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheistic argument is not an independent theological topic but has a soteriological-pastoral “auxiliary function”: the demonstration of omnipotence, uniqueness, and universality enables the prophet to rebuild the exiles’ faith in Yhwh’s saving power (cf. Isa 40:27–31; 43:10–13). Israel can rely on him in almost triumphant confidence, because his power is total and his rule finds no limit in any other power.29 If the crucial aspect of Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheism is Yhwh’s universal effectiveness, Deutero-Isaiah’s audience must have found it particularly pertinent. The following section aims to substantiate this presumption, supported by the important monotheistic texts in Isa 40–48 and the religious-historical context during the Neo-Babylonian reign of Nabonidus.   Cf. Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 24.   Cf. Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 91; Cross, “Council”; Elliger, Deuterojesaja, 12; Baltzer, Deutero-Jesaja, 22; Seitz, “Divine Council”. 27   Cf. Koch, Propheten II, 124–125.   28  Schmidt, “Monotheismus,” 239. 29  Wildberger, Monotheismus, 254. 25


226   Matthias Albani

12.3.  The Justification of Monotheism in Second Isaiah Isa 40–55 falls into different compositional layers, and it is commonly assumed that the core layer in Isa 40–48 consists of the words of a prophet acting in Babylonian exile or a prophetic author group.30 This core includes, above all, the disputation words, the Cyrus oracles, the trial speeches, and possibly also the idol fabrication texts (often considered secondary).31 This article contends that Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheism is best understood as stemming from the historical and religious-historical context in Babylon during the latter part of King Nabonidus’ reign.32 As such, it is uncertain whether this fundamental change in the idea of God—so important in terms of religious history—is a purely intra-Israelite development, or whether there is evidence that the “theological thinker” Deutero-Isaiah33 also received theological impulses from his religious environment when he formulated the monotheistic concept of God. The monotheistic argument in Isa 40–48 is not an independent topic but serves, above all, to underpin the central historical message of hope—liberation by Cyrus and the triumphant return of life from exile. However, belief in the historical power of the Israelite god had been badly shaken by the events since 597 bce. As evidenced by the disputation words, Deutero-Isaiah’s good news therefore failed to elicit the positive response from the exiles. That is why the prophet had to make every argumentative effort to restore the confidence of the Israelites in the historical power of God.34 Yhwh had to be shown to be incomparably powerful, the one who confidently directs world history and thus is able to defeat an overpowering opponent like Babylon and its seemingly superior gods. Isa 46:1 mentions explicitly the divine king Marduk (Bel) and his divine son Nabu (Nebo), the two gods upon which Nebuchadnezzar II, the conqueror of Jerusalem, founded his reign.35 In Isa 40–48, two main arguments are put forward to show the incomparability and singleness of Yhwh, up and against the religion of the conquering Babylonian superpower: 1. Yhwh is incomparable and single, because he alone is able to predict and realize the “future” (“evidence of prophecy”—41:21–29, 25–29; 42:8–9; 43:8–13; 44:6–8; 45:21–22; 46:9–10).36 2. Yhwh is incomparable and single because he is the creator of the world (e.g., 40:12–26; 45:5–7, 18). 30   For source- and redaction-critical discussions, see, e.g., Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 26–43; Werlitz, Redaktion; for Deutero-Isaiah as the work of a group of prophets, see, e.g., Albertz, Religionsgeschichte, 431–446; Werlitz, Redaktion, 106–110; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 37–43. 31   See Werlitz, Redaktion, 221–237. 32   Cf. Albani, Gott; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 43–45.   33  Steck, “Deuterojesaja.” 34   Isa 40:12–31; 45:9–13; 46:5–11; 48:1–11; cf. Preuß, Deuterojesaja, 52. 35   For Nebuchadnezzar’s imperial ideology, see Vanderhooft, Empire, 23–51. 36   See, e.g., Steck, “Deuterojesaja,” 287–291; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 215–223.

Monotheism in Isaiah   227 Evidence of prophecy (Weissagungsbeweis) and statements about creation are two sides of the “monotheism coin,” so to speak, in Deutero-Isaiah. But to what extent could these two monotheistic arguments gain persuasiveness in the described exilic crisis ­situation? Was there any particular historical and creative theological impetus for this kind of argumentation in the late period of exile, or does it reflect a more retrospective interpretation from the perspective of the post-exile period?

12.3.1.  Monotheism and “Evidence of Future-Telling” Tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear . . . . Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know, or beforehand, so we could say, “He was right”? No one told of this, no one foretold it, no one heard any words from you. I was the first to tell Zion, “Look, here they are!” I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news. (Isa 41:23, 26–27 NIV)

Deutero-Isaiah’s argument that Yhwh alone can truly predict the “future”37 is formulated in direct polemics against the (Babylonian) gods38 and the divinations related to them (cf. Isa 44:25).39 Deutero-Isaiah locates the reason for the calamitous hubris of the Babylonians in their pride in divination and magical arts (cf. Isa 47:5): You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, “No one sees me.” Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” (Isa 47:10 NIV)

Yhwh is already described as a judging God, who humiliates the proud and powerful, in First Isaiah (2:17; 10:12). Babylon’s blasphemous claim to singleness must therefore challenge God’s reaction and is clearly at odds with Yhwh’s claim to singleness in Deutero-Isaiah (e.g., Isa 44:6; 46:9).40 This claim is the decisive theological reason for the judgment of Babylon (Isa 47), which, precisely under the last Neo-Babylonian ruler Nabonidus, relied ideologically on mantic knowledge (see secs. 12.3.6–12.3.7). The evidence of prediction, which speaks of Yhwh’s sole and universal power over both history and the future, speaks in favor of a Babylonian location of Deutero-Isaiah’s message in Isa 40–48. The art of divination was blossoming in Mesopotamia. The

37   See further, Preuß, Deuterojesaja, 47–48, 64–69; Steck, “Deuterojesaja,” 287–291; Kratz, Kyros, 163–168; Stolz, “Monotheismus,” 172–175; Klein, “Beweis,” 267–272; on OT prophecy and divination, see Koch, Propheten, 17–29, 53–63. 38   So also Elliger, Deuterojesaja, 316–317; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 216–219. 39   Cf. 41:23; 43:9; 44:7; 45:21; 48:14. 40   On the motif of Babylon’s hubris, see also Gen 11:1–9; Isa 14:12–20; Jer 51:53; Dan 4:25–30.

228   Matthias Albani belief that the gods determine the fate of humanity (šīmtu) and show them (especially kings) future events through all kinds of heavenly and earthly omens was one of the characteristic features of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion.41 From a quantitative point of view, omen literature was the most important genre of Akkadian literature; according to Leo A. Oppenheim, it accounts for about 30 percent of the Akkadian texts that are known to us.42 Beginning in the Neo-Assyrian period, at the latest, astral divination was the royal authoritative mantic practice (what Oppenheim called “royal art”),43 with which the results of all other divination practices had to coincide (cf. “Diviner’s ­manual”).44 Babylonian astrology was so highly regarded that it was also received by the Greeks and Egyptians.45 Therefore, Deutero-Isaiah shakes a cornerstone of the Babylonian “state religion” when it denies the Babylonian gods the power to foretell the future. The ability to foretell the future represented divine strength, and the one who possessed the “tablet of fate” (tuppi šīmāti) held the supreme divine power.46 But, in view of the success and the obviously superior imperial power of “daughter Babel,” where did the prophetic certainty—that it was not the Babylonian gods but Yhwh who possessed the sole power of destiny—come from?

12.3.2.  Yhwh versus Marduk—Who Is the Lord of Fate and Creation? There is clear evidence in Isa 40–48 that Deutero-Isaiah’s argumentation, with regard to both “prophecy evidence” and “proof of creation,” is oriented toward the Babylonian chief god Bel-Marduk (including his son Nabu47), whose cult had monotheistic tendencies. The two Babylonian main gods are named in Isa 46:1: Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. (NIV)

Tellingly, these are the only names of deities attested in Isa 40–55. The imagery of transporting the images of Bel and Nebo into “captivity” may be a polemical nod to the

  On the Babylonian concept of fate (šīmtu), see Lawson, Fate, 79–107, 127–128; contra RochbergHalton, Fate, 363–371. 42  Lawson, Fate, 128. 43  Oppenheim, Mesopotamia, 224; Pingree, Astral Omens, 18–19; Pongratz-Leisten, Herrschaftswissen, 26–46. 44   Oppenheim, “Manual,” 197–220; see also Koch-Westenholz, Astrology, 137–139. 45   See further, van der Waerden, Anfänge, 253–267; Pingree, Astral Omens, 21–29. 46   See further, Lawson, Fate, 24. 47   The scribal god Nabu is closely associated with the Marduk cult; for his importance in the New Year’s Festival ritual; see Black, “New Year Ceremonies,” 55–56; for a prayer, in which Nabu is designated “Carrier of the Tablet of Destiny,” see Lawson, Fate, 55–57. 41

Monotheism in Isaiah   229 ­ rocession of the gods during the Babylonian New Year.48 At this Babylonian main festip val, the universal power of Bel-Marduk was celebrated and impressively proclaimed for everyone.49 Deutero-Isaiah, however, depicts the images of the main two divine players of the festival bow down together and being loaded and transported into captivity. It thus makes sense to interpret Isa 46:1–2 as a parody of New Year’s Day.50 The only controversial issue in research concerns the historical situation of the text.51 Hans-Jürgen Hermisson aptly points out that the dramatic description highlights the theologically decisive moment in the fall of Babylon: the powerlessness of the gods.52 The main thing that matters is the recognition of the powerlessness of the Babylonian gods, so that the deportees may place all their hope on Yhwh. If the prophet wants to convince the exiled Israelites of the God of Israel’s supreme power over history, then he has to demonstrate the powerlessness of Bel-Marduk. As the king of the pantheon, Marduk owns the “tablet of destinies” and determines, together with his son Nabu, the fortunes every year at the New Year festival.53 Numerous omens concerning the country’s fate in the coming year were linked to the appearance of the Marduk statue at this festival.54 In the “Epic of Creation” Enuma Elish, retold on the fourth day of the New Year’s festival in honor of the king of the gods, Marduk captures the “tablet of destinies” (ṭuppi šīmāti) in the fight against Tiamat and her helpers, thereby becoming the royal ruler of the cosmos (Enuma Elish IV, 121–122).55 Even before the fight with Tiamat, Marduk presents the gods with the condition in the event of his victory: [L]let me ordain destinies instead of you. Let nothing that I shall bring about be altered, Nor what I say be revoked nor changed. (III, 120–122)56

World creation (or rather world design) and determination of destiny are two sides of the same coin in the Enuma Elish. The possession of the tablet of destiny gives Marduk universal creative ability and control over fate (mušîm šimâte). Lawson summarizes this notion as follows: “with the tuppi šimāti in his possession Marduk is able to do wondrous things: he constructs the form and substance of the universe and establishes the order for everything in it.”57 Marduk’s power of fate is also extolled in

48   Cf. Vanderhooft, Empire, 177–178; in contrast Werlitz, Redaktion, 223–224, connects the creation of the text with the idol-translations that Nabonidus carried out in 539 bce. See further, Albani, Gott, 79–80; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 446–449. 49   Cf. Pongratz-Leisten, Ina Šulmi īrub, 83–84, 90; Hutter, Religionen, 77. 50  Vanderhooft, Empire, 178–179; Preuß, Verspottung, 218. 51   See Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 446–449; Ehring, Rückkehr, 258–260. 52  Hermisson, Deuterojesaja, 102. 53   See Hutter, Religionen, 79; Black, “New Year Ceremonies,” 50; Lawson, Fate, 116–121. 54   Cf. Pongratz-Leisten, Ina Šulmi īrub, 257–265. 55   See Lawson, Fate, 19–23; Albrektson, History, 92.   56  Foster, “Epic of Creation,” 396. 57  Lawson, Fate, 23.

230   Matthias Albani hymns and prayers.58 Of all the Mesopotamian gods, Marduk is awarded the most epithets and characteristics in terms of determination of fate.59 According to Babylonian understanding, Bel-Marduk was regarded as the supreme power of fate and as God of history par excellence. Three Mesopotamian texts from different epochs illustrate this: the Marduk prophecy (twelfth century bce),60 the Babylon inscription of Esarhaddon (seventh century bce),61 and the Babylonian Nabonidus Stele (sixth century bce).62 All three texts offer theological interpretations of catastrophes in Babylon’s history, when the city was conquered and the Marduk statue was exiled to the enemies. Does Deutero-Isaiah in Isa 46:1–2 allude to these events? The destruction of Babylon by Sennacherib in 689 bce—a good hundred years before the destruction of Jerusalem—was probably still painfully present in the collective memory of the Babylonians at the time of the Deutero-Isaiah. This destruction, as well as the exile of the Marduk statue, was not understood as a testament to Bel-Marduk’s impotence, however, but as an expression of his anger: Marduk himself has ordered the demise of his city and sanctuary. The three texts thus convey a consistent historical theological interpretation! The Esarhaddon inscription also mentions the reason for the divine anger—namely, the sins of the Babylonians. The social offenses listed there could equally well appear in a prophetic oracle of doom. After a fixed time span, the Babylonian deity has anew compassion for his city and brings about a new period of peace. In the Babylonian inscription of Esarhaddon, this allotted period of devastation is seventy years—just as it is written about Jerusalem in the book of Jeremiah (Jer 25:11–12; 29:10)!63 According to this Marduk theology, the repeated destructions of Babylon throughout the centuries had thus led to an interpretation of history very similar to that found in the OT relation to the catastrophe of 587 bce. It can be assumed that the Judeans became aware of these traditions during the Babylonian exile. Thus, Marduk’s universal power of destiny and history prior to the Persian conquest of Babylon constituted a pressing theological challenge for the Israelite Yhwh worshippers in exile. The crucial question in the years after 587 was: who really determines the course of history—Bel-Marduk or Adonai-Yhwh?

  For examples, see Livingstone, Court Poetry, 7 (“Hymn of Assurbanipal,” 10–11); Lawson, Fate, 57–59.   See further, Lawson, Fate, 40–41.   60  Cf. translation TUAT II, 65–68. 61   Textual edition: Borger, Inschriften, 10–30.   62  Cf. the text section in TUAT I, 407. 63   See Albani, Gott, 86–87; for Esarhaddon’s Babylonian inscription with regard to Deutero-Isaiah, see Ehring, Rückkehr, 118–128. 58


Monotheism in Isaiah   231

12.3.3.  The Monotheistic Meaning of the Rise of Cyrus in Second Isaiah and Nabonidus’ Religious Politics Now, for Deutero-Isaiah, the decisive history-theological argument in his ­monotheistic evidence of prophecy is the triumphal march of the Persian king (Isa 45:1–7). Only Yhwh correctly predicted these events that have now arrived; he alone called Cyrus by name, and he set his armies in motion. Together, these events constitute proof to the prophet that the Babylonian deities are nothing and void (Isa 41:21–29), whereas Yhwh is the only effective God, the Lord of History and of the world: I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isa 45:5–6 NIV)

Interestingly, the Marduk prophecy contains a similar statement about the universal rule of the Babylonian king of the gods from the “rise of the sun to its downfall”: I am Marduk, the Great Lord. I am always watching, walking watchfully over the mountains, I watch, a watchman roaming the lands. I am he, who in all the lands— from sunrise to sunset—am constantly roaming. (obv. lines 7–12)64

The religious “competition” between the divine rulers Yhwh and Marduk becomes even more pronounced when we look at another prominent cuneiform text from the period of transition to Persian rule: the so-called Cyrus Cylinder depicts the victorious Persian king as Marduk’s tool (in contrast to Isa 45)! Since the publication of Rudolf Kittel’s 1898 essay “Cyrus and Deuterojesaja,” the parallels between the Cyrus Cylinder and DeuteroIsaiah’s Cyrus sayings have been well known.65 In it, Cyrus explicitly attributes his victorious campaign against Nabonidus to Marduk’s orders: By his own plan, he did away with the worship of Marduk, the king of the gods; he continually did evil against his (Marduk’s) city. Daily, [without interruption…], he [imposed] the corvée upon its inhabitants unrelentingly, ruining them all.66

Marduk therefore chose Cyrus to free Babylon from his sacrilegious king. It is clear from the well-known Nabonidus Chronicles that over the course of his reign, the last Neo-Babylonian king showed more and more interest in the cult of the moon god Sîn

  Quote from COS 1:480–410; see also Albani, “Monotheismus,” 197; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 402–403.   Kittel, “Cyrus,” 149–162.    66  Quote from COS 2:314–316.

64 65

232   Matthias Albani in Harran and, indeed, at the expense of Marduk.67 Thus, in the last inscription, known from the reign of Nabonidus, only Sîn is praised as the “King of the Gods” and “God of the Gods”: O Sîn, lord of the gods, king of the gods of the heaven and the underworld, god of the gods, who dwells in the great heavens, when you joyfully enter that temple, may you speak favourable words for the Esagil, the Ezida, and the Egišnugal, the temples of your great godhead.68

For the Babylonian Marduk priesthood, it must have been an egregious provocation that Esagila and Ezida, the temples of Marduk and Nabu in Babylon and Borsippa, are referred to in this text as the temple of the moon god. The usurpation of the temples of the king of the gods and his son Nabu was, according to Paul-Alain Beaulieu, a major component of the reform sought by Nabonidus. (The Nabonid stele is pictured in Figure 12.1,

Figure 12.1.  Nabonidus stele

  See further, Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 43–65; Lewy, “Cult of the Moon,” 405–489.  Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 61.



Monotheism in Isaiah   233

Figure 12.2.  Circular astrolabe

Nabonidus’ intention to seize the Marduk temple for Sîn is also testified in the so-called stanza poem, a diatribe of the Marduk priesthood against Nabonidus.69 Furthermore, in Nabonidus’ later inscriptions the epithets normally associated with Marduk are attributed to the moon god. The epithet “God of the Gods” (ilāni ša ilāni), used in the above-mentioned last inscription, known from the reign of Nabonidus , is particularly remarkable. According to Beaulieu, this is “probably the highest epithet ever given to a god in the Mesopotamian tradition. In the last years of his reign, Nabonidus was no longer hesitant to publicize his fanatical devotion to Sîn and his intention to

  See Beaulieu, 218–219; cf. 61.


234   Matthias Albani r­ elegate Marduk to nearly total oblivion.”70 In another of Nabonidus’ prayers, the moon god is praised as the supreme God who holds all divine offices in his hand: O Sîn, lord of the gods, whose name on the first day (of the month) is “crescent of Anu,” you who “obscure” heavens and shatter the earth, (who) gathers to himself Anu’s office, (who) controls Enlil’s office, who holds Ea’s office, in whose hands are grasped all heavenly offices, leader of the gods, king of the kings, lord of lords, who does not reconsider his order, and you do not utter your command twice, with awesomeness of whose great godhead heaven and earth are filled, in the absence of whose features heaven and earth are upset, without you who can do what?71

Beaulieu characterizes Nabonidus’ exuberant veneration of the moon god Sîn with the term “fanaticism.” His religious policies went well beyond what was common in a polytheistic society.72 One certainly cannot speak of monotheism, because the denial of the existence of other gods is not explicitly documented; yet based on what we know from Nabonidus’ inscriptions, the term “henotheism” is also inadequate.73 The planned usurpation of the temples of Marduk and Nabu for the moon god shows that Nabonidus’ “fanatical” worship of Sîn was not only a theoretical-theological matter, but also had far-reaching practical cultic and political consequences. The state religion of the Neo-Babylonian Empire was apparently to be subordinated to the Sîn cult and the entire empire united in the worship of the everywhere visible and revered moon god.74 From the extant textual evidence from Nabonidus’ reign, however, it cannot be determined whether Nabonidus—as Akhenaton once did in Egypt—sought a monotheistic, or, at least, a monolatric religion.

12.3.4.  Inclusive Monotheism in Marduk Theology and Babylonian Astronomy With his passionate veneration of the moon god, Nabonidus incurred the enmity of the mighty Marduk priesthood. Scholars have long noted the “monotheistic” tendencies in Marduk theology. In an essay from 1975, Wilfred G. Lambert brought the concept of monotheism back into discussion in Ancient Near Eastern Studies.75 He cites a text

 Beaulieu, 62.   71  Beaulieu, 60–61.   For the notion of “sins against Sîn,” see Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 64. 73  Bertholet, Wörterbuch, 235, defines henotheism as “Monotheismus des Affekts und der Stimmung.“ 74   See further, Lewy, “Cult of Moon,” 486–489. 75   Lambert, “Pantheon,” 191–199, see esp. 197–199. 70 72

Monotheism in Isaiah   235 (CT 24 50, BM 47406, obv.) that identifies various important gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon with Marduk: Uraš (is) Marduk of planting. Lugalidda (is) Marduk of the abyss. Ninurta (is) Marduk of the pickaxe. Nergal (is) Marduk of battle. Zababa (is) Marduk of warfare. Enlil (is) Marduk of lordship and consultations. Nabû (is) Marduk of accounting. Sîn (is) Marduk who lights up the night. Šamaš (is) Marduk of justice. Adad (is) Marduk of rain. Tišpak (is) Marduk of troops. Great Anu (is) Marduk of . . . Šuqamuna (is) Marduk of the container. [(is)] Marduk of everything.76

In Lambert’s view, this Neo-Babylonian text presents Marduk as a “monotheistic” deity, and other similar texts support this “extreme doctrine.”77 The various gods of the pantheon no longer represent individual beings but are regarded only as functional aspects or hypostases of the one God. Several scholars speak of “inclusive monotheism” with regard to this “equation theology,” which does not deny the existence of other gods but interprets them as different aspects of an exceptional deity such as Marduk.78 The acclamations at the end of Enuma Elish consist of a list of Marduk’s fifty names, “fifty” being Enlil’s symbolic number (the earlier head of the pantheon). These are the epithets of the various gods whose functions Marduk has taken over. With this inclusive identification of the gods as Bel-Marduk, the stripping of the gods’ power has reached its culmination. The gods must show Marduk, the “sun god of the gods” (Enuma Elish VI, 127), absolute obedience. One passages in the Enuma Elish shows that Marduk’s total power in the world of gods relates to his control of the stars. In a kind of “fitness test,” the hero of the gods proves his abilities to the other gods by making a constellation disappear and reappear (Enuma Elish IV, 17–28).79 He is then designated king of the gods. This idea is related to the fact

76  Lambert, “Pantheon,” 197–198; cf. Hartmann, “Monotheismus,” 64; Parpola, “Assyrian Cabinet,” 398–401. 77   Lambert, “Pantheon,” 198; cf. Hartmann, “Monotheismus,” 64. 78   Van der Toorn, “God (I),” 678; cf. Stolz, Monotheismus, 53–58; contra Hutter, Religionen, 38. 79   See Albani, Gott, 53–55.

236   Matthias Albani that the stars were regarded as “images” and “locations” of the great gods (Enuma Elish V.1). To deviate from one’s prescribed astral orbit was considered a “sin” (annu; Enuma Elish V.7). As his star Neberu-Jupiter, Marduk is conceived as the commander of the celestial armies. Marduk’s reign over stars and gods is also explicitly emphasized at the end of tablet VII: Marduk, in his appearance as Neberu-Stern, should: Let him fix the paths of the stars of heaven; Let him shepherd all the gods like sheep; Let him bind Tiamat and put her life in mortal danger. (Enuma Elish VII, 130–132)80

The constitution of the astral orders, on the one hand, and the destruction of the chaos power, Tiamat, on the other, are here presented as two sides of the same coin. The divine cosmos is thus manifested primarily by the firmament. The emphatic disempowering of the Babylonian gods in Marduk theology, which finds visible expression in the orderly regulated pathways of the “star sheep” on the firmament, is probably also connected with the upswing of Babylonian astronomy in the last third of the second millennium bce.81 Marduk’s rise in Enuma Elish, in any case, is associated with a strong dethronement of the other astral deities. The gods praise Marduk’s incomparability just before they call out his fifty names (Enuma Elish VI, 121–VII, 137): At the mention of his name, let us show submission! . . . Let his lordship be superior and himself without rival. (Enuma Elish VI, 102, 106)82

Today knowledge of the regularity of the movements of the stars is self-evident. At that time, however, this was a new discovery whose significance was almost unappreciated, which also changed the understanding of the gods represented by the stars! The astronomical compendium mul.apin features not only the regular movement of the stars, but also assigns the constellations to the gods of the pantheon.83 The circular astrolabe (“Three Stars Each”) from Mesopotamia is the visible expression of the notion of astronomical regularity.84 (illlustration 2: Circular astrolabe, Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, p. 156 or J. Evans, Ancient Astronomy, p. 10) When it is rotated, it can be used to simulate the heliacal risings of the monthly stars on the eastern horizon.85 Enuma Elish alludes to this idea by stating that when Marduk set up the calendar year,

  Lambert, Mesopotamian Creation Myths.   See further, Albani, Gott, 4–5, 61–68; depending on van der Waerden, “Wissenschaft,” 204–205, 240–252. 82   Lambert, Mesopotamian Creation Myths. 83   See the introduction by van der Waerden, “Wissenschaft,” 64–83; as well as the textual editions by Hunger and Pingree, mul.apin. 84   For the circular astrolabes, see van der Waerden, Anfänge, 62–63; Evans, “Ancient Astronomy,” 10–11. 85  Horowitz, Geography, 154–192. 80 81

Monotheism in Isaiah   237 he placed “three stars” for each of the twelve months (Enuma Elish V, 3–4). The mighty moon god must also follow the astronomic-calendrical law of Marduk (Enuma Elish V, 12–22); he is completely involved in the order of creation of Marduk “to mark the day (of the month) every month, without ceasing” (Enuma Elish V, 13).86 The Babylonian ­theology of creation, celebrated at the New Year’s festival, is thus essentially shaped by the idea that dominion over the heavenly bodies and the gods that they represent constitutes the foundation of the chief deity’s cosmic central power.87

12.3.5.  Monotheism and “Proof of Creation”: The Law of the Stars Given this religious-historical background, is it conceivable that Deutero-Isaiah’s monotheism was influenced by the newly sketched creative texts of Marduk theology in Babylon? There is some evidence of this: in the disputation word in Isa 40:25–26, the prophet asks his compatriots to whom the God of Israel can be compared and points them to the stars, which march daily in the sky like a disciplined army: “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. (Isa 40:25–26 NIV)

This divine sign of power in the night sky, visible to everyone, could in the Babylonian exile also refer to the newly sketched ideas of Marduk theology, according to which ­Bel-Marduk directs the courses of the stars—and the deities represented by them—and thus dominates the cosmos. For, especially in the night sky, according to Babylonian understanding, the incomparable power of the supreme God is manifested.88 It is unlikely that this cosmic claim to power would have escaped the notice of the Israelites living in Babylon, given the strong propagandistic quality of the Marduk theology.89 A ritual text for the New Year, in which Bel-Marduk is invoked as an incomparable “God of Heaven and the Earth” (“Dimmerankia”) can, for example, shed light upon Isa 40:26.90 The prayer invokes fifteen star-gods and ends with the words: “There is no other lord!”91

  Foster, “Epic of Creation,” 399.   See further Albani, Gott, 49–73; Rochberg-Halton, Laws of Nature, 30–34. 88   The vision of the chariot in Ezek 1 likewise has a Babylonian background. Cf. Uehlinger, “Ezekiel 1,” 140–171. 89   See further, Albani, Gott, 27–29, 78–82. 90   TUAT II, 217–218; for dating, see 212; for a discussion of content, see Albani, Gott, 69–73. 91  Cohen, Calendars, 445. 86 87

238   Matthias Albani Marduk’s universal claim of supremacy, recognizable in the stars, was an existential theological question for Israel in exile. The veneration of the stars in pre-exilic Israel (Deut 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kgs 21:3; 23:5, 11 etc.) and the fear of the “signs of heaven” (Jer 10:2) is clearly evidenced in some biblical texts from the Assyrian-Babylonian epoch and also reflected in iconography.92 Therefore, the perception of divine power in the night sky was in vogue even among Israelites at that time. According to Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40:26; 45:12), however, the view to the stars does not reveal Bel-Marduk’s sole dominion over the cosmos; rather it emphasizes the incomparable power of the God of Israel, who, as creator of heaven and earth, is the only God (Isa 45:18). In Isa 40:12–26, DeuteroIsaiah thus offers a kind of creative, theological counterdeclaration to the Babylonian New Year,93 when Enuma Elish was recited, and Marduk’s universal creative power proclaimed and celebrated. Above all, however, the creation statement in Isa 40:26 also supports Deutero-Isaiah’s decisive monotheistic argument in favor of Yhwh’s universal historical power—namely, the vocation of Cyrus and his triumphal march against Babylon (cf. Isa 41:2, 25–29; 45:1–7). Isa 45:12–13 formulates this heavenly and earthly command of Yhwh Sabaoth in a kind of “compendium” of Deutero-Isaiah’s message: It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty. (Isa 45:12–13 NIV)

Already, the disputation speech in Isa 40:21–26 emphasizes that the Creator God Yhwh (40:22), who created and commands the celestial powers (40:26), can also destroy the earthly rulers (40:23–24). The juxtaposition of “earthly rulers” and “celestial powers” in 40:23–24 and 40:26 is based on the ancient Near Eastern view that kings and stars are closely related. What the rulers on earth represent are the stars in the sky (cf. Isa 24:21), namely Beings of Power, which seem to determine the course of the world, but, according to Deutero-Isaiah, are in fact ruled by Yhwh.94 By means of astral divination, the Mesopotamian kings tried to fathom the will of the gods represented in the stars. The king appears together with the symbols of astral deities in numerous Mesopotamian illustrations, including of Nabonidus on different ­steles. The stars represent the visible manifestation of the divine guardian powers of Mesopotamian royalty. When Deutero-Isaiah points to Yhwh as creator and commander of the astral powers (Isa 40:26; 45:12) and, at the same time, ascribes to him the greatest possible cosmic sphere of action (“from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting”; cf. Isa 45:6), then this entails that the God of Israel can both give power to kings

  Cf. Keel and Uehlinger, GGG, 322–429.   See Albani, Gott, 78–82, 183; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 154–156.   94  See Albani, Gott, 153–156.

92 93

Monotheism in Isaiah   239 who are in his favor anywhere in the world (Cyrus, cf. Isa 41:25) and deprive kingdoms that have aroused his wrath (Babylon, cf. Isa 47) of their power. After the cosmic question of power has been clarified in principle in the “Overture” in Isa 40:12–31, the chapters from Isa 41 onward address the concrete historical con­ sequences of this theological decision. Isa 41:2 alludes to Cyrus coming from the east, who, as Yhwh’s tool, will subjugate the kings and peoples and turn them into dust and chaff (cf. 40:24). Just as Yhwh, as the heavenly commander in Isa 40:26, “calls” the stars by name when they rise, he also invokes his earthly “solar hero” Cyrus and his armies, who will rise from the east.95 The phrase ‫ קרא בשם‬in 40:26 and 45:3, 4 conveys a clear thematic correspondence:96 the Creator, who directs the vast cosmic cycle of the army of stars from east to west, is also able to guide the earthly victory run of the Persian and his armies, so that one can learn from east to west that there is no God apart from Yhwh (45:6). In Deutero-Isaiah’s “compendium,” Isa 45:11–13 expresses this heavenearth parallelism directly: the Creator God, who commanded heaven’s army (45:12), also awakened Cyrus in righteousness and paved the way for him to rebuild his city and free his prisoners (45:13).97 Yhwh, who created (‫ )ברא‬the stars (Isa 40:26), also creates salvation and calamity in history through his Messiah Cyrus: for Babylon calamity, for Israel peace. The Lord and Creator of the stars is thus at the same time the Lord and Creator of history. This idea is also represented in an analogous manner in Marduk theology: Marduk is both the creator of the order of the stars and the leader of the heavenly army (Enuma Elish V. 1–25; VII. 15–17,130),98 as well as the one who called “Cyrus, the King of Anjan,” “pronounced his name to rule over all space,” and ordered him to march to Babel with his “extensive troops” (Cyrus Cylinder).99 In parallel, the Esarhaddon stele tells us that the Babylonian Divine King, enraged by his sinful city of Babylon, marked the decided calamity for the city in the stars: the angry Marduk caused the stars on the celestial paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea to produce only ominous signs, whereupon the catastrophe fell upon the city. The premature pardon of Babylon is similarly written in the night sky, visible in the change of the courses of the heavenly bodies.100 The Babylonian stele of Nabonidus, which likewise attributes the fall of the city to Marduk’s wrath, also alludes to the events depicted in the Esarhaddon inscription about the destruction of Babylon by Sennacherib in 689 bce.101 In these Mesopotamian inscriptions, Bel-Marduk is thus the universal divine power, who guides the courses of the stars and the course of history, and thus brings about salvation or calamity for Babylon.

  Isa 41:2, 25; 42:6; 45:3–4; 48:15; for Cyrus as “hero of the sun,” see Koch, “Stellung,” 354–355; Albani, Gott, 237–239. 96   Cf. Hossfeld and Lamberty-Zielinski, “‫קרא‬,” 132. 97   Cf. Albani, Gott, 235–236; Hossfeld and Lamberty-Zielinski, “133–132 ”,‫קרא‬. 98   Cf. Albani, Gott, 53–68, 184–195, 230–239.    99 Cf. TUAT I, 408. 100   See Albani, Gott, 85–88. 101  Cf. TUAT I, 407; Albani, Gott, 88–90; Ehring, Rückkehr, 100–111. 95

240   Matthias Albani

12.3.6.  Monotheism in Isaiah 40–55 and the Babylonian Religious Conflict Notwithstanding the texts steeped in the Marduk theology tradition quoted here, Nabonidus’ “fanatical” veneration of the moon god Sîn as king of the gods clearly constituted a total affront to the Marduk cult. To a certain extent, Nabonidus’ elevation of the moon god to the status of king of the gods has to be understood as a “hostile takeover” of the divine functions of the Babylonian king of the gods. This probably also reawakened fatal memories among the Babylonians of the Babylon-hostile religious policy of the Assyrian king Sennacherib, especially since Nabonidus liked to portray himself as the successor of the Sargonids, especially Assurbanipal.102 Sennacherib thoroughly destroyed Babylon in 689 bce and deported Marduk’s statue to Assyria. Above all, through his theologians, he transferred Marduk’s functions as god king and world creator to Assur. All that remained was a strongly disempowered Marduk as an incantation god.103 In the Assyrian version of the Enuma Elish, Assur takes the place of Marduk. The Babylonian akītu festival and its associated cult topography were also transfered to Assur.104 Above all, Nabonidus’ religious policy had drastic practical and cultic consequences for the veneration of Marduk. During Nabonidus’ long-standing stay in Arabia in Tayma (553–539 bce), the New Year’s Festival in honor of the national god, Marduk, which was so important for the Babylonians, had to be canceled because of the king’s absence.105 Nabonidus himself justified his “Arab Exile” in an inscription by referring to the Babylonians’ lack of reverence for the Moon God.106 There is, however, some evidence that an “orthodox” Marduk opposition to the absent king’s religious policy was able to form during the reign of Nabonidus’s son Belshazzar’ interim reign. The religious conflict culminated after the return of Nabonidus from Arabia, when the king officially wanted to elevate the moon god Sîn that he revered to the head of the pantheon.107 The Marduk priesthood, together with the Babylonians allied with it, had already made contact with the Persians a few years before the bloodless conquest of Babylon and had engaged in pro-Persian propaganda in the king’s absence.108 The so-called Verse Account of Nabonidus, which in its present form dates back to Persian times, testifies to this.109 The poem was probably written to use as public propaganda against Nabonidus.110 Nabonidus’ opponents awaited Cyrus the coming liberator, who would

  Cf. Vanderhooft, Empire, 51–59, esp. 57–59.   See Frahm, Einleitung, 287–288.   104  Frahm, 285. 105   See Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 186; Black, “New Year,” 53–54. 106   See Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 62–63. 107  Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 203–219. 108   Cf. Smith, “II Isaiah,” 417–418. 109   Text edition in Smith, Capture and Downfall; Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 214–219. 110   Von Soden, “Kyros und Nabonid,” 64. 102 103

Monotheism in Isaiah   241 reinstate the old rights of the Marduk cult, as is later described on the Cyrus cylinder following the conquest of Babylon. The striking correspondence of Deutero-Isaiah’s Cyrus expectation with the statements on the Cyrus Cylinder probably should be understood against this background: an obvious explanation would be that Deutero-Isaiah joined this pro-Persian propaganda group of Marduk priests and expected that Cyrus would end their captivity.111 Yet, whereas the Babylonians saw the liberator Cyrus as the tool of their chief god, Marduk, who had been insulted by Nabonidus, Deutero-Isaiah saw in Yhwh alone the director of history, who had called Cyrus by his name. In this situation, there was apparent competition between Marduk and Yhwh. As in the case of the theology of creation, Marduk was considered the ultimate ruler of destiny. Deutero-Isaiah thus had to confront the Babylonian beliefs in this area112 to convince his compatriots of the historical power of Yhwh. In favor of Deutero-Isaiah’s argument, the fact that there appeared to be disagreement among the Babylonians with regard to the future role of Cyrus may have been of great importance.113 Nabonidus states in an inscription that he received in a dream at the beginning of his reign a prophecy from Marduk and the moon god Sîn regarding the Persian king, which clearly contradicted the expectations of Nabonidus’ domestic political enemies. One can assume that these inner-Babylonian political divergences strengthened Deutero-Isaiah’s conviction: the future revelations of the Babylonian gods are ineffective (cf. Isa 41:22–29) and the predictions of the Babylon diviners useless (see Isa 44:25; 47:11–15). In Nabonidus’ dream, Cyrus appears as Marduk’s “servant” (cf. Isa 42:1), as in the Cyrus cylinder, but he will intervene in Nabonidus’ favor to defeat the enemy Medes. It is also important that Marduk is the God who reveals the future events in the dream to Nabonidus at the beginning of his reign: In the beginning of my everlasting reign they (Marduk and Sîn) caused me to see a dream. Marduk, the great lord, and Sîn, the luminary of heaven and the underworld, were standing together. Marduk spoke to me: “Nabonidus, king of Babylon, carry bricks on your horse, build the Ehulhul and establish the dwelling of Sîn, the great lord, in its midst.” Reverently I spoke to the Enlil of the gods, Marduk: “(But) that temple which you told (me) to build, the Mede surrounds it, and his might is excessive.” Marduk spoke to me: “The Mede whom you mentioned, he, his country and the kings who march at his side will cease to exist.” (And indeed), when the third year arrived, he (Marduk) aroused Cyrus, king of Anšan, his young servant, who scattered the large (armies) of the Mede with his small army, and (who) captured Astyages, king of the Medes, and took him to his country as captive.114

  So Smith, “II Isaiah,” 417–418; 399; Kratz, Kyros, 165; Werlitz, Redaktion, 171.  Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 43–45; cf. Kratz, Kyros, 165.   113  Cf. Kratz, Kyros, 165. 114   Quote from Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 108; cf. Oppenheim, “Interpretation,” 202–206. 111


242   Matthias Albani In the dream, Nabonidus witnesses an encounter between Marduk and Sîn in their astral manifestation forms as Jupiter and Moon. During the reign of the last Babylonian king, astral divination played a central role.115 Nabonidus, however, is not dealing with the traditional form of astral omen science but with a peculiar synthesis of astrology and oneiromancy116 that served to give the usurper the means of political propaganda to legitimize his rule.117 For a king who promoted the cult of the moon god Sîn, the great significance of astral signs is not surprising. In the dream, the king is commissioned by Bel-Marduk to rebuild Sîn’s temple (Echulchul) that had been destroyed by the Medes in Harran. Nabonidus then points out to Marduk that the region around Harran is threatened by the Medes. Marduk, however, replies to the king that this danger will not last much longer. Finally, Nabonidus confirms Marduk’s prediction: after three years, Marduk raised “his young servant” Cyrus, who with “his small army” then beat the Medes and thus eliminated the danger for Nabonidus’ temple building project.118

12.3.7.  Deutero-Isaiah’s Prophecy versus Babylonian Divination Nabonidus thus saw in Cyrus a “Marduk’s servant,” as well as an ally of his policies, and was apparently sure that he had the Persian king under control. Nabonidus’ long stay in Arabia likewise suggests that he did not see Cyrus as a threat. This was a delusion that ultimately doomed him.119 The Nabonidus, who boasted about his mantic wisdom, had completely misjudged the political situation. There is some evidence that the Cyrus statements in Deutero-Isaiah are oriented toward Nabonidus’ astrology- and ­oneiromantancy-based propaganda regarding Cyrus’s role as “Marduk’s servant.” At the same time, the opponents of Nabonidus within the Marduk priesthood also regarded the Persian king Cyrus as Marduk’s tool, as is clear from, for example, the Cyrus Cylinder. Thus, the sparring Babylonian parties both maintained that Marduk was the one deity in charge of Cyrus’s destiny! Accordingly, Deutero-Isaiah used Cyrus as a polemic against Marduk theology to show that Yhwh is the only god powerful in history. According to Deutero-Isaiah, divination and magic are instruments of power in the service of Babylonian royal ideology,120 which had become a deceptive delusion of

  See Berger, Jesaja 40–48, 275–289.   Cf. Oppenheim, “Interpretation,” 202–206; Berger, Jesaja 40–48, 280. 117   See Beaulieu, Nabonidus, 110–113.   118  See Beaulieu, 108. 119   Cf. Berger, “Imaginäre Astrologie,” 285. 120   Parpola, “Mesopotamian,” defines “Mesopotamian wisdom” as “as an extension of Mesopotamian religion. It should be clearly recognized that with Mesopotamian science we are dealing with a sophisticated, well organised and comprehensive system of thought that had largely grown out of the necessity to advise and protect the king in his capacity as the god’s earthly representative” (p. 56). 115


Monotheism in Isaiah   243 omnipotence that contradicts Yhwh’s claim to singleness (Isa 47:10). Babylon’s ill-fated hubris as “queen of kingdoms” had its roots in its pride in its mantic arts (Isa 47:5). This misconception, according to Deutero-Isaiah, inevitably resulted in its judgment (Isa 47:11–15). Faith in Yhwh’s universal creative power and in Babylonian divination are incompatible (see Isa 44:24–25). The astrologers, in particular, are the targets of the prophetic criticism. Isa 47:13 states: All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month,121 let them save you from what is coming upon you. (Isa 47:13 NIV)

The astrologers are here called upon to come forward with their advice for preventing the imminent demise of Babylon, yet this is derided in the following verses as a futile undertaking. The astrologers will also perish, together with Babylon (Isa 47:14–15). Even astrology, as the highest form of divination art, can neither foresee nor prevent Babylon’s coming downfall. Since Nabonidus used his dream revelations and astrological wisdom as propaganda to legitimize his usurpation of the throne,122 it is likely that DeuteroIsaiah was aware of them. Deutero-Isaiah never mentions the name Nabonidus, but his fate seems to touch the Jews even centuries later, as the Aramaic Qumran text 4Q242 (= 4QPrNab ar/OrNab) shows.123 It tells us that the king, who was struck with a serious illness, came to know and glorify the only true God in Tayma. In Jewish tradition, Nabonidus became a “true monotheist.” The final phase of Nabonidus’ reign thus seems particularly plausible as a historical background to Deutero-Isaiah’s polemic against Babylonian diviners. As the last Babylonian king, trusting in his mantic wisdom, heads to his demise, Deutero-Isaiah increasingly sees Yhwh’s power over history as vindicated. Consequently, according to him, only Yhwh can reliably predict future events—above all, the triumphal march of the Persian king. In the confrontation between Israelite prophecy and Babylonian divination, the key question for Deutero-Isaiah is that of real divine power. We should thus agree with Reinhard Gregor Kratz when he writes: “Inspiriert vom Auftreten des Kyros und genährt von der Auseinandersetzung mit verschiedenen babylonischen Deutungen dieses Geschehens, stößt der Prophet somit—erstmalig—zu einer argumentativen Begründung des Monotheismus vor.”124

121   For an introduction to Babylonian astronomy/astrology, see Albani, Gott, 62–63, 108–109; Berges, Jesaja 40–48, 500; Hermisson, Deuterojesaja, 153–154. 122   See further, Berger, “Imaginäre Astrologie.” 123   See, e.g., García Martínez, Qumran, 116–136; Koch, “Gottes Herrschaft,” 95–101. 124  Kratz, Kyros, 167.

244   Matthias Albani

12.4. Conclusion The formulation of the exclusive monotheistic confession in Isa 40–48 is best understood in the historical context of Israel’s political and religious crisis situation in the late years of Babylonian exile. Above all, the proof of prophecy and the creation argument of Deutero-Isaiah can be interpreted in a meaningful way against the background of the imminent conquest of Babylon by Cyrus during the reign of the last Neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus. According to Deutero-Isaiah, Yhwh is unique and incomparable because he alone truly predicts the “future” (Isa 41:22–29)—currently, the triumph of Cyrus—which will lead to Israel’s liberation from Babylonian captivity (Isa 45), as was once the case during the Exodus from Egypt (see Isa 43:16–17). This “evidence” is directed against the Babylonian deities’ claim to possess the power of destiny and the future: predominantly against Bel-Marduk, to whom both Nabonidus and his opponents appeal in their various political assertions regarding Cyrus. According to Babylonian conviction, Bel-Marduk has the universal divine power, who, on the one hand, directs the course of the stars and thus determines the astral omens, and, on the other hand, directs the course of history, including the liberation of Babylon from Nabonidus’ rule (cf. Cyrus Cylinder). As an antithesis, however, Deutero-Isaiah proclaims Yhwh as the sovereign divine creator and leader of the both course of the stars in heaven and the course of history on earth: It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty. (Isa 45:12–13 NIV)

Moreover, the conflict between Nabonidus and the Marduk priesthood over the question of the highest divine power (Sîn versus Marduk) may have had a kind of “catalytic” function in Deutero-Isaiah’s formulation of the monotheistic confession. Whereas none of the Babylonian gods can be granted the supreme power over creation and history because their predictions of the future have been proven wrong, Yhwh alone has correctly announced the Persian king’s triumph against Babylon. The emergence of the exclusive monotheistic statements in Isa 40–55 in the transition phase from NeoBabylonian to Persian rule thus seems particularly likely.

Bibliography Ahn, Gregor. “Monotheismus, Polytheismus: Grenzen und Möglichkeiten einer Klassifikation von Gottesvorstellungen.” In Mesopotamica, Ugaritica, Biblica: Festschrift für Kurt Bergerhof zur Vollendung seines 70. Lebensjahres am 7. Mai 1992, edited by Kurt Bergerhof, Dietrich Manfried, and Loretz Oswald, 1–25. AOAT 232. Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker/NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener, 1993.

Monotheism in Isaiah   245 Ahn, Gregor. “Monotheismus und Polytheismus als religionswissenschaftliche Kategorien?” In Der eine Gott und die Götter: Polytheismus und Monotheismus im antiken Israel, edited by Manfred Oeming and Konrad Schmid, 1–10. AThANT 82. Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2003. Albani, Matthias. Der eine Gott und die himmlischen Heerscharen: Zur Begründung des Monotheismus bei Deuterojesaja im Horizont der Astralisierung des Gottesverständnisses im Alten Orient. Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte 1. Leipzig, 2000. Albani, Matthias. “Deuterojesaja Monotheismus und der babylonische Religionskonflikt unter Nabonid.” In Der eine Gott und die Götter: Polytheismus und Monotheismus im antiken Israel, edited by Manfred Oeming and Konrad Schmid, 171–201. AThANT 82. Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2003. Albertz, Rainer. Religionsgeschichte Israels in alttestamentlicher Zeit 1/2. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992. Albrektson, Bertil. History and the Gods: An Essay on the Idea of Historical Events as Divine Manifestations in the Ancient Near East and in Israel. Lund, Sweden: C. W. K Gleerup 1967. Assmann, Jan. Die Mosaische Unterscheidung: Oder der Preis des Monotheismus. Munich: Carl Hanser, 2003. Assmann, Jan. Monotheismus und die Sprache der Gewalt. Vienna: Picus Verlag, 2006. Baltzer, Klaus. Deutero-Jesaja: Kommentar zum Alten Testament. KAT 10/2. Gütersloh: Gütersloher, 1999. Beaulieu, Paul-Alain. The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon 556–539 B.C. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989. Berger, Paul-Richard. “Imaginäre Astrologie in spätbabylonischer Propaganda.” In Die Rolle der Astronomie in den Kulturen Mesopotamiens: Beiträge zum 3. Grazer Morgenländischen Symposion (23.–27. September 1991), edited by Hannes D. Galter, 275–289. Graz, Austria: RM Druck- & Verlagsgesellschaft, 1993. Berges, Ulrich. Jesaja: Der Prophet und das Buch. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2010. Berges, Ulrich. Jesaja 40–48. HThKAT. Freiburg: Herder, 2008. Berlejung, Angelika. Die Theologie der Bilder: Herstellung und Einweihung von Kultbildern in Mesopotamien und die alttestamentliche Bilderpolemik. OBO 162. Freiburg and Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Freiburg, Schweiz and Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998. Bertholet, Alfred. Wörterbuch der Religionen. Stuttgart: A. Kröner, 19854. Black, Jeremy. “The New Year Ceremonies in Ancient Babylon: ‘Taking Bel by the Hand’ and a Cultic Picnic.” Religion 11 (1981): 39–59. Borger, Rykle. Die Inschriften Asarhaddons, Königs von Assyrien. AfO.B 9. Graz, Austria: Selbstverlag des Herausgebers, 1956. Cohen, Mark E. The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1993. Cross, Frank. “The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah.” JNES 12 (1953): 274–277. Ehring, Christina. Die Rückkehr JHWHs: Traditions- und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Jesaja 40,1–11, Jesaja 52,7–10 und verwandten Texten. WMANT 116. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2007. Elliger, Karl. Deuterojesaja. BKAT 10/1. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1989. Evans, James. The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Foster, Benjamin R. “Epic of Creation.” In COS, 1:390–402. Frahm, Eckart. Einleitung in die Sanherib-Inschriften. AfO.B 26. Vienna: Institut für Orientalistik der Universität, 1997.

246   Matthias Albani García Martínez, Florentino. Qumran and Apocalyptic. STDJ 9. Leiden: Brill, 1992. Hartmann, Benedikt. “Monotheismus in Mesopotamien?” In Monotheismus im Alten Israel und seiner Umwelt, edited by Othmar Keel, 49–81. Biblische Beiträge 14. Fribourg: Schweizerisches Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1980. Hermisson, Hans-Jürgen. Deuterojesaja: (Jes 49,14–55,13). BKAT 11/7–12. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1987. Hornung, Erik. Der Eine und die Vielen: Ägyptische Gottesvorstellungen. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1971. Horowitz, Wayne. Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography. Mesopotamian Civilizations 8. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1998. Hossfeld and Lamberty-Zielinski, “‫קרא‬,” ThWAT VII (1993), 144–145. Hunger, Herrmann, and David Pingree. mul.apin:An Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform. AfO.B 24. Horn: Berger & Söhne, 1989. Hutter, Manfred. Religionen in der Umwelt des Alten Testaments I: Babylonier, Syrer, Perser. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1996. Kaiser, Otto, ed. Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments I–III (TUAT). Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1982–1997. Keel, Othmar. Jerusalem und der eine Gott: Eine Religionsgeschichte. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011. Keel, Othmar, Christoph Uehlinger, and Thomas H. Trapp. Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998. Kittel, Rudolf. “Cyrus und Deuterojesaja.” ZAW 18 (1898): 149–162. Klein, Hans. “Der Beweis der Einzigkeit Gottes.” VT 35 (1985): 267–273. Koch, Klaus. Die Propheten. Vol. 1, Assyrische Zeit. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1995. Koch, Klaus. “Die Stellung des Kyros im Geschichtsbild Deuterojesajas und ihre überlieferungsgeschichtliche Verankerung.” ZAW 84 (1972): 352–356. Koch, Klaus. Geschichte der ägyptischen Religion: Von den Pyramiden bis zu den Mysterien der Isis. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1993. Koch, Klaus. “Gottes Herrschaft über das Reich des Menschen: Dan 4 im Licht neuer Funde.” In Die Reiche der Welt und der kommende Menschensohn: Studien zum Danielbuch. (Gesammelte Aufsätze), edited by Martin Rösel, 77–119. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1995. Koch-Westenholz, Ulla. Mesopotamian Astrology: An Introduction to Babylonian and Assyrian Celestial Divination. Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Near Eastern Studies Publications 19. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 1995. Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. Kyros im Deuterojesaja-Buch. FAT 1. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1991. Kreuch, Jan. “Jesaja / Protojesajabuch.” 2015. Labuschagne, Caspar Jeremiah. The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament. POS 5. Leiden: Brill, 1966. Lambert, Wilfred G. “The Historical Development of the Mesopotamian Pantheon: A Study in Sophisticated Polytheism.” In Essays in the History, Literature, and Religion of the Ancient Near East, edited by Hans Goedicke and J. J. M. Roberts, 191–199. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975. Lambert, Wilfred G. Mesopotamian Creation Myths. Mesopotamian Civilizations 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Landsberger, Benno. “Die Eigenbegrifflichkeit der babylonischen Welt.” Islamica 2 (1926): 355–372. Lawson, Jack N. The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia of the First Millennium: Towards an Understanding of Šīmtu. OBC 7. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1994.

Monotheism in Isaiah   247 Lewy, Julius. “The Late Assyro-Babylonian Cult of the Moon and Its Culmination at the Time of Nabonidus.” HUCA 19 (1946): 405–489. Livingstone, Alasdair. Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea. SAA 3. Helsinki, Finland: Helsinki University Press, 1989. Longman, Tremper, III. “The Marduk Prophecy.” In COS, 1:480–481. Müller, Reinhard. “Der unvergleichliche Gott: Zur Umformung einer polytheistischen Redeweise im Alten Testament.” In Gott–Götter–Götzen, edited by Christoph Schwöbel, 304–319. VWGTh 38. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2013. Oppenheim, A. Leo. Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. Oppenheim, A.  Leo. “The Assyrian Cabinet.” In Vom Alten Orient zum Alten Testament: Festschrift für Wolfram Freiherrn von Soden zum 85. Geburtstag, edited by Manfred Dietrich and Otto Loretz, 379–401. AOAT 240. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1995. Oppenheim, A. Leo. “A Babylonian Diviner’s Manual.” JNES 33 (1974): 197–220. Oppenheim, A. Leo. “The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East.” TAPS 46, no. 3 (1956): 179–373. Oppenheim, A.  Leo. “Mesopotamian Astronomy and Astrology as Domains of the Mesopotamian ‘Wisdom.’ ” In Die Rolle Der Astronomie in den Kulturen Mesopotamiens: Beiträge Zum 3. Grazer Morgenländischen Symposion (23.–27. September 1991), edited by Hannes D. Galter, 47–59. Grazer Morgenländische Studien 3. Graz, Austria: RM Druck- & Verlagsgesellschaft, 1993. Parpola, Simo, Assyrian Prophecies. SAA 9. Helsinki, Finland: Helsinki University Press, 1997. Pingree, David Edwin. From Astral Omens to Astrology: From Babylon to Bikāner. Serie Orientale Roma 78. Rome: Istituto italiano per l’Africa et l’Oriente, 1997. Pongratz-Leisten, Beate. Herrschaftswissen in Mesopotamien: Formen der Kommunikation zwischen Gott und König im 2. und 1. Jahrtausend v.Chr. SAA 10. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1999. Pongratz-Leisten, Beate. Ina Šulmi īrub: Die kulttopographische und ideologische Programmatik der akītu-Prozession in Babylonien und Assyrien im 1. Jahrtausend v.Chr. BaF 16. Mainz: Zabern, 1994. Preuß, Horst Dietrich. Deuterojesaja: Eine Einführung in seine Botschaft. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1976. Preuß, Horst Dietrich. Verspottung fremder Religionen im Alten Testament. BWANT 92. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1971. Rochberg-Halton, Francesca. “Fate and Divination in Mesopotamia.” Archiv für Orientforschung Beiheft 19 (1982): 363–371. Rochberg-Halton, Francesca. “Where Were the Laws of Nature before There Was Nature?” In Laws of Heaven—Laws of Nature: Legal Interpretations of Cosmic Phenomena in the Ancient World, edited by Konrad Schmid and Christoph Uehlinger, 21–39. OBO 276. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. Schmid, Konrad. “Differenzierungen und Konzeptualisierungen der Einheit Gottes in der Religions- und Literaturgeschichte Israels.” In Der eine Gott und die Götter: Polytheismus und Monotheismus im antiken Israel, edited by Manfred Oeming and Konrad Schmid, 11–38. AThANT 82. Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2003. Schmid, Konrad. Literaturgeschichte des Alten Testaments: Eine Einführung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2008. Schmidt, Werner H. “Monotheismus II. Altes Testament.“ In TRE 23 (1994), 237–248. Seitz, Christopher R. “The Divine Council: Temporal Transition and New Prophecy in the Book of Isaiah.” JBL 109 (1990): 229–247.

248   Matthias Albani Smith, Morton. “II Isaiah and the Persians.” JAOS 83 (1963): 415–421. Smith, Sidney. Babylonian Historical Texts Relating to the Capture and Downfall of Babylon. London: Methuen, 1924. Soden, Wolfram von. “Kyros und Nabonid. Propaganda und Gegenpropaganda.” In Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte der Achämenidenzeit und ihr Fortleben, edited by Heidemarie Koch and David N. MacKenzie, 61–68. AMI.E 10. Berlin: Reimer, 1983. Steck, Odil Hannes. “Deuterojesaja als theologischer Denker.” Kerygma und Dogma 15 (1969): 280–293. Stolz, Fritz. Einführung in den biblischen Monotheismus. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1996. Stolz, Fritz. “Jahwes Unvergleichlichkeit und Unergrundlichkeit: Aspekte der Entwicklung zum alttestamentlichen Monotheismus.” Wort und Dienst 14 (1977): 9–24. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. “Continuity and Discontinuity in Isaiah 40–66: History of Research.” In Continuity and Discontinuity. Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer and Hans  M.  Barstad, 13–40. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Toorn, Karel van der. “God (I).” In DDD, 352–365. Uehlinger, Christoph. “Ezekiel 1. Babylonian Cosmological Scholarship and Iconography: Attempts at Further Refinement.” ThZ 57 (2001): 140–171. Vanderhooft, David Stephen. The Neo-Babylonian Empire and Babylon in the Latter Prophets. HSM 59. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999. Vorländer, Hans. “Der Monotheismus Israels als Antwort auf die Krise des Exils.” In Der einzige Gott: Die Geburt des biblischen Monotheismus, edited by Bernhard Lang, Morton Smith, and Hermann Vorländer, 84–113. Munich: Kösel, 1981. Waerden, Bartel Leendert van der. Erwachende Wissenschaft: Ägyptische, babylonische und griechische Mathematik. Bd. 2, Die Anfänge der Astronomie. Wissenschaft und Kultur 23. Basel: Birkhäuser, 1980. Wellhausen, Julius. Israelitische und jüdische Geschichte. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1921. Werlitz, Jürgen. Redaktion und Komposition: Zur Rückfrage hinter die Endgestalt von Jesaja 40–55. BBB 122. Berlin: Philo, 1999. Westermann, Claus. Das Buch Jesaja: Kapitel 40–66. ATD 19. Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1968. Wildberger, Hans. “Der Monotheismus Deuterojesajas.” In Jahwe und sein Volk: Gesammelte Aufsätze zum Alten Testament: Zu seinem 70. Gebrtstag, edited by Hans  H.  Schmid and Odil H. Steck, 249–273. Theologische Bücherei 66. Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1979. Wildberger, Hans. Königsherrschaft Gottes: Jesaja 1–39. Vol. 1, Das Buch Der Prophet Jesaja und seine Botschaft. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1984. Wildberger, Hans. Königsherrschaft Gottes: Jesaja 1–39. Vol. 2, Die Nachfahren des Propheten und ihre Verkündigung: Der Text. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1984. Zenger, Erich. Einleitung in das Alte Testament. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 20169.

chapter 13

Si n a n d Pu n ish m en t i n the Book of Isa i a h Blaženka Scheuer

13.1. Introduction The fall and destruction of the two biblical kingdoms, Israel in the late eighth century bce and Judah in the early sixth century bce, are two events in history that elicited a great deal of literature in the Hebrew Bible (HB). Biblical authors, redactors, and editors sought to explain the logic of these fateful events in accordance with the norms of their time: the destruction was God’s punishment for the sins of the people.1 As the only prophetic book of the HB, Isaiah covers the downfall of both kingdoms, and not deviating from the norm, presents a comprehensive and vivid assessment of the depravities that caused such a horrific punishment. Yet in line with many of the books of the HB, the book of Isaiah does not merely explain but also instructs. Editing the collection, the authors/redactors of fifth- and fourth-century Yehud were not primarily in need of elucidating events long passed, but required clarification of the realities of their present, as well as of their future. One particular piece of that clarification concerned the reliability of the deity they swore by. Living with the dire consequences of the downfall of the two kingdoms, amid an empire that served many gods, the authors/redactors of Isaiah offered a theodicy, justifying Yhwh’s actions, and thus declaring Yhwh to be the only god they could trust and must serve.2 Such a propensity for theodicizing is clearly present in the varied expositions of the connection between punishment and sin throughout the book of Isaiah, but it is also quite explicit in the frame of the book, comprising Isa 1 and Isa 65–66, ­completed at

1  For a comparison with the ancient Near East traditions, see Berlejung, “Sin and Punishment.” See also van der Toorn, Sin and Sanction. 2  As noticed by Eichrodt, “Faith,” 31–32. See also Crenshaw, “Theodicy.”

250   Blaženka Scheuer the last stages of the redactional growth of Isaiah.3 Isaiah opens with a grand scene depicting a lawsuit held before the heavens and the earth, when Yhwh presents charges against the Israelites: the Israelites rebelled against their God; they rejected Yhwh’s authority and broke off their commitment to him (Isa 1:2). The word used to describe this break up is ‫פשע‬, the most common word in the HB for depicting actions of rebellion against a ruler, divine or human.4 This word describes a violation against an established relationship and is, when used in reference to the acts of the Israelites against Yhwh, one of the main words for sin in the HB. The word is also the last word for sin used in the book of Isaiah and proclaims the ultimate judgment of those who persist in their rebellion against Yhwh (Isa 66:24). Thus, as they collected and arranged the texts, the authors/redactors seem to have found in the Israelite rejection of Yhwh an answer to the all-commanding query of their time: What reasons did Yhwh have to bring his people down, and more importantly, what reasons does he have to keep them down still? Bracketed within this principal view, the three parts of Isaiah exemplify the ways in which such rejection became concretized in politics, society, and a cult.

13.2.  Sin in Isaiah 1–39 The book of Isaiah introduces its rhetoric of rebellion through the metaphor of a dysfunctional family: “Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me” (Isa 1:2).5 The subsequent chapters in Isaiah disclose the identity of the accused: they are the leaders of the society, those in power making political and military decisions, the men in command of the legal system, prophets and priests, and the king himself (Isa 1:23; 3:12; 5:23; 7:12–13; 9:15–16; 10:1–2; 28:7–8). The accusation concerns the abuse of the power and authority vested in the nobles of the society. Isaiah argues that, despite their good upbringing, the sons of Yhwh grew up to be ignorant, lawless, and corrupt (Isa 1:3–4). Isaiah identifies three general areas in which these men stand accused of ignorance: social justice, cultic practices, and military/political alertness.

3  For a survey of shared themes of Isa 1 and Isa 65–66, see Sweeney, Isaiah 40–66, 378–379. See also Olley, “No Peace,” 363; Boda, Severe Mercy, 191. 4  Rolf Knierim emphasizes the concrete action of turning against, falling away from, breaking up, rather than a psychological attitude of rebellion. As such, accusations of rebellion are at home in juridical contexts. See Knierim, Hauptbegriffe, 176, 180. See also Roberts, First Isaiah, who says that it is “primarily a political term and shows again that the prophet is thinking in legal categories” (p. 20). Not so Darr, Isaiah’s Vision, 59. Cf. Williamson, Isaiah 1–5: “rebelled against parental authority” (p. 34). 5 Darr, Isaiah’s Vision.

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   251 First, Isaiah is clearly of the opinion that social injustice is a rebellion against Yhwh (Isa 1:23, 28; 3:13–15; 32:6–7; cf. the ways of the righteous in Isa 33:15). The leaders of the community oppress their people through injustice, corruption, theft, murder, and deceit (Isa 1:16–17, 21–23; 5:8, 20, 23; 30:12). Amid injustice, they indulge in excessive partying, drinking, and the acquiring of goods (Isa 5:11–13; 28:1–14) and cannot therefore fulfill their duties as leaders, prophets, or priests. As a deity who defends the poor and oppressed, Yhwh takes this neglect as a personal offense and responds in order to save the oppressed from unmitigated injustice (Isa 3:13–15; 5:15–16, 25; 29:19–21; 30:18).6 Second, Isaiah forcefully claims that worship of Yhwh is inseparable from social justice. The men of Judah have blood on their hands. They steal and commit murder. They take bribes at every opportunity. And all the while, they are relentlessly attentive to their cultic practices (Isa 1:10–17). For Isaiah, the corruption of the society and the exploitation of the weak obliterate the very essence of the cult. Cultic offerings amid gross cruelty and injustice are an outrage, an abomination (‫ )תועבה‬before Yhwh (Isa 1:13). Isaiah is not critical of the cult itself, but of the cult administered by corrupt criminals who have blood on their hands.7 Not realizing this connection, the leaders demonstrate remarkable ignorance about the character of Yhwh. In addition, once corruption and social injustice take hold of the society, the worship of other gods occurs simultaneously, and Isaiah accuses his people of making themselves idols to worship beside Yhwh (Isa 1:29; 2:6–8; 31:7). Third, a significant number of the accusations in Isaiah concern pointless political alliances with other nations, such as Egypt or Assyria (Isa 30:1–7; 31:1–3, cf. Isa 7:10–17). The main point of this critique is that turning to other powers of the day demonstrates a rejection of Yhwh: “Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help . . . but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” (Isa 31:1). In Isaiah’s view, the Israelites have the greatest source of power and protection right there among them, a fact that eliminates any need to form alliances with the military powers of their day. Looking for help elsewhere, besides being worthless, is a sin that ultimately leads to destruction (Isa 30:12–14). Notable among the indictments against the male elites of the society are the accusations against the prominent women of Jerusalem (Isa 3:16–24; cf. also 32:9–20). These “daughters of Zion” are self-confident, proud, and seductive. The prophet lashes out at them in indignation: their rich adornments shall be stripped off, and their beauty shall be replaced by shame (Isa 3:24 reading with 1QIsaa).8 It is a regular feature of prophetic speech to address a city or a country as a woman, particularly in accusations and condemnations, and Isaiah is no exception (Isa 1:21; 17:10–11; 23:8–17). However, the daughters of Zion in Isa 3:16–24 are not metaphorical women but real ones. They are wealthy 6  For the responsibilities of gods in ancient Near Eastern societies as defenders of the oppressed, see Fensham, “Widow.” 7 Eidevall, Sacrificial Rhetoric. 8 Stiebert, Construction of Shame, argues that shame, a recurring idea in Isaiah, “pertains to an unsound moral condition, to the disapproved of practice of idolatry and to a dysfunctional relationship between humanity and deity” (p. 108). As such, shame is not impressed upon women in particular.

252   Blaženka Scheuer and beautiful, and they know it as they flirt and indulge in their prosperity. Isaiah’s reason for condemning this behavior is obscure, which has incited scholars interpreting this passage to generously offer details of the sins implied in this otherwise rather harmless conduct.9 Motivated, no doubt, by the changes of norms in their own society, scholars of the turn of the millennium stressed the obvious fact that to punish haughtiness with humiliation, poverty, shame, and sexual assault is to punish in excess of what must be considered appropriate or just for Isaiah’s time. Bäckersten argues that the whole passage serves as a metaphor of the political hubris of Judah and as an illustration of Judah’s arrogance and consequent punishment.10 In a similar manner, Williamson sees here a condemnation of arrogance, yet in his view, the women stand themselves accused of “unnatural self-elevation.”11 Yet it is important to separate two questions that are often confused in scholarly discussion. The question, “What is the sin of these women?” is different from the question, “Why are they punished?” Cheryl Exum describes this text as just another prophetic example of female sexuality being branded a sin.12 However, no words for sin are used, merely the introductory reference to the women as high/noble or proud (‫)גבה‬. John Strong argues that pride is not in itself a bad thing because it can be an indicator of “an appropriate estimation of one’s social status or worth vis-à-vis the community.”13 However, Isaiah seems to be saying that such pride is unseemly amid the looming demise of the kingdom state. In this literary context, any display of one’s worth is bound to lead to disgrace and shame before long (Isa 2:11; 5:15). In this respect, the inappropriateness of the noble women’s behavior is comparable to their husbands’ overindulgence in drinking and acquiring riches.14 The punishment of these women, I would argue, does not primarily have to do with their conduct. The reason these women are punished is that they are possessions of their husbands. In the HB, men’s success is often measured by the beauty and status of their women—as is their failure.15 The humiliation and sexual assault of their women demonstrate the ultimate downfall of the prominent men of Judah, as revealed in the universal judgment of Isa 13:16: “Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered, and their wives ravished.” The punishment of noble women in Isaiah is merely a means to an end—another dimension added to the many punishments of the corrupt and ignorant noblemen of Judah.

9  For a survey of such discussions, see Davies, Double Standards, 55–56. 10 Bäckersten, Isaiah’s Political Message, 191. 11 Williamson, Isaiah 1–5, 289. 12 Exum, Plotted, 114. 13  Strong, “Sitting,” 57. 14 Davies, Double Standards, 56. 15  The same principle is at work in the idea that Yhwh was brought into disrepute in the world through the destruction and shaming of his “wife” Jerusalem and the consequent deportation of her children into the exile (Isa 48:11; 52:4–6).

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   253

13.3.  Punishment in Isaiah 1–39 Yhwh’s response to the sins of the Israelites is one of war and destruction. The terminology of military violence is abundant: the people will be struck down (Isa 5:25), devoured by the sword (Isa 3:25; 5:26–30), broken and crushed (Isa 1:28; 30:13), destroyed, and consumed by fire (Isa 1:25). The Israelite men will be punished through a violation of their belongings, their houses, their women, and they themselves will be taken to exile (Isa 5:13–14). Yhwh’s reaction is expressed through words such as “reckon” (‫ ;פקד‬Isa 10:12; 13:11; 24:21) or “repay” (‫ ;שלם‬Isa 59:18; 65:6–7), and through the image of Yhwh’s hand stretched out in anger (Isa 5:25; 9:16; 14:26–27; 63:10) to crush and destroy (‫ ;שבר‬Isa 1:28; 14:25; 30:11, 13). This is a punishment that pushed the land further into the chaos of injustice that the leaders so willfully practiced (Isa 9:19–21). Particularly interesting is the logic of punishment declared in Isa 6:10–11. It seems that Yhwh’s punishment of the Israelites is the almost complete annihilation of their nation and land through war (Isa 6:11), yet this punishment is facilitated by an act of God. In a calculated tranquility, Yhwh makes a decision that has bewildered readers and scholars of Isaiah ever since, right up until the present day: Yhwh takes away the basic preconditions required for an individual to make decisions—her ability to comprehend and calculate her options— and thereby takes away her chance of evading the disaster hovering above her. The surprising fact is that, aside from the general statement about “people of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5), Isa 6 does not specify any sins that could explain such an extreme act by Yhwh. To explain the rationale of the punishment in Isa 6, the authors/redactors needed the forceful accusations in the preceding chapters. The people there are accused of not seeing, not caring, and not wanting to understand or acknowledge the works of Yhwh (Isa 1:3; 5:12).16 Instead, they are boastful of their own understanding, might, beauty, and superiority (2:11; 3:16; 5:18–19). The punishment for such pride, which verges on hubris, seems simply to be to leave the individuals in that same state of hubris, forcing them to suffer the negative consequences of their ignorance and wrongdoing.17 In a way, Isa 6 summarizes the main point of Isa 1–39— namely, the sequence of sin and punishment has now reached a point of no return.

13.4.  Sin in Isaiah 40–55 The second major part of the book of Isaiah starts in chapter 40, with a declaration that the wars of Jerusalem have now ended and that the debts are paid in full. This fact has significant consequences for the way that Isa 40–55 presents ideas of punishment 16  Beale, “Isaiah 6:9–13,” argues that punishment in Isa 6 is executed on account of idolatry among the Israelites. 17  Hayes, “Spirit,” reads Isa 6:9–10 against the wisdom language recurrent in Isa 1–39, concluding that Yhwh is not merely exposing delusion in this text but also instilling it.

254   Blaženka Scheuer and sin. First, Isa 40–55 continues to view the exile through the metaphor of a family, a family that has been shattered and dispersed yet is now being regathered and reunited (Isa 43:5–7; 45:11–13). Isa 40–55, too, claims that the downfall and consequent exile of Judah was Yhwh’s punishment for the rebellion and obstinacy of the Israelites (Isa 42:25; 43:22–28; 48:18; 50:1). However, Isa 40–55 does not specify these transgressions in terms of the social injustice of the leaders in the past. It is as if the sins relevant for the audience of Isa 40–55 were those that directly endangered their relationship with Yhwh, forcing Yhwh to abandon them as demonstrated through the tragedy of the Babylonian exile. Second, and following on from the above, the sins of the exilic generation primarily concern their ignorance: they have a mistrust of, and a reluctance to reunite with, Yhwh. The Israelites are accused of acting as if they have no knowledge of Yhwh’s power (Isa 40:21). They have an unwillingness to hear and be alert to what is being said about Yhwh, notwithstanding that they are fully capable of understanding (Isa 42:20). Instead, they speak misguidedly, complaining about Yhwh against their better judgment (Isa 40:27), and invoking him in a fraudulent way (Isa 48:1). The conclusion seems to be the only possible one: the Israelites are still rebels (‫)פושעים‬, who, undeterred of the horrors of the exile, seem to have learned nothing (Isa 42:25).18 A particularly targeted category of sinners in Isa 40–55 is that of the hypothetical transgressors usually identified as “those who” do such and such. The nature of sins that these individuals are charged with is that of apostasy among the Israelites of the exilic generation: those who choose idols (Isa 41:24; 44:9–11), speak of idols as their gods (Isa 42:17), bear witness for the idols (Isa 44:9), or pray to idols (Isa 45:20). All these individuals are blind to the absurdity of idol worship. Among these hypothetical transgressors are also those who question Yhwh’s deeds, plans, and decisions (Isa 45:9–10). There is no reason to assume that Babylonians would ever question anything that Yhwh does, and the Babylonians’ worship of their gods was not considered wrong, only pointless (Isa 47). The Israelites are the target of these charges (Isa 40:18–20; 46:5; 48:5). These texts, deliberately imprecise, aim at shaming or even intimidating the Israelite idol-lovers out of their infatuation and back to Yhwh to whom they belong (Isa 42:17; 55:6–7).19 While such stern accusations of sin in attitude (distrust) and in deed (idolatry) would in Isa 1–39 bring forth a flood of horrors of approaching judgment, Isa 40–55 takes a different approach and speaks of salvation instead.

13.5.  Punishment in Isaiah 40–55 The ideas of punishment in Isa 40–55 are unique in some aspects not only to the book but also to the HB in general. Isa 40–55 argues that those who choose the gods of the nations may enjoy the benefits of that choice now, but they will soon also share their 18  For an analysis of the accusations against the Israelites in Isa 40–55, see Scheuer, Return, 32–59. 19  For an argument for the subversive nature of these texts and of aniconic ideology in ancient Israel, see Levtow, Images of Others.

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   255 ­ isgrace (Isa 42:17; 44:9; 45:24), implying a view of punishment as an inevitable cond sequence of a bad choice. At the same time, this part of the book does not stipulate any punishment for the sins of the present generation of the Israelites. Rather, their transgressions—their ignorance, doubt of Yhwh, and reluctance to listen—serve as the basis for the calls for repentance (Isa 44:21–22; 55:6–7). The direct correlation between sin and punishment seems to be broken or, at least, on hold in Isa 40–55. It is rather remarkable, then, that here we find one of the most disturbing views on sin and punishment in the HB. Isa 52:13–53:12 offers an accumulation of words and images that speak of punishment for sin: stricken (‫)נגוע‬, hurt by God (‫)מכה אלהים‬, afflicted (‫)מענה‬, pierced (‫)מחלל‬, crushed (‫)מדכא‬, and attacked (‫)הפגיע‬. The punishment, however, did not fall upon the guilty, but upon an innocent party (Isa 53:5–6), upon “a Servant.” This idea of the vicarious endurance of punishment in Isa 53, which has been extensively discussed in scholarship,20 can be understood as Yhwh’s way of solving the problem of sin, in a context in which the traditional options—through the cult or prophetic ­intersession— were no longer available.21 Punishment in this text can also be seen in legal terms as the removal of the guilt caused by the sins of the people. Guilt or debt, expressed in Isa 53:10 in the word “guilt offering” (‫)אשם‬, indicates that the Servant becomes a sacrifice required for the atonement of the Israelites.22 Seen within its historical context, Isa 53 seems to rationalize the Israelite defeat through the Babylonian exile by claiming that it was Yhwh’s plan all along, and expressing reconciliation between the exilic community of Babylon—the Servant—and the Israelites of Yehud.23 Either way, the correlation between sin and punishment in Isa 53 seems to indicate that punishment here becomes a matter of principle, not justice.

13.6.  Sin in Isaiah 56–66 While Isa 40–55 hints at a risk of a group of Israelites rejecting Yhwh for other gods even after the end of the exile, Isa 56–66 is very explicit on this matter; it clearly identifies groups among his own people who reject Yhwh in thought, word, and deed. The metaphor of a family reaches its peak in the last part of Isaiah when the Israelites assert that Yhwh is their father (Isa 63:16), but also when the breach between the children is complete (Isa 65–66).24 Only two passages in this part of Isaiah speak of the past sins of the Israelites (Isa 57:14–21; 63:7–14), confirming the view of the two preceding parts of Isaiah, that the punishment through exile was a reaction to the sins of the Israelites. These sins are ­specified 20  For a survey, see Sweeney, Isaiah 40–66, 217–218. For a survey of the reception history of Isa 53 in Jewish and Christian traditions, see Janowski and Stuhlmacher, Suffering Servant. 21  Spieckermann, “Conception.” 22  Janowski, “He Bore Our Sins.” 23 Hägglund, Isaiah 53. 24  For the discussion of the genre of this text, see Sweeney, Isaiah 40–66, 350–352.

256   Blaženka Scheuer not only in terms of provocation and rebellion against Yhwh, but also in terms of social injustice. Specifically, it was a desire for unjust personal gain that caused Yhwh’s fury in the past (Isa 57:17). Unjust gain is a sin of corruption and bribery, a profit made through violence or theft (Isa 33:15), and as such is a particular sin of the leaders of the Israelites (1 Sam 8:3; Jer 8:10; 22:17). The present sins of the Israelites attract particularly sharp scolding in Isa 56–66, especially in regard to distrust in Yhwh’s good intentions and power: “Your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa 59:2). These iniquities are those of the leaders of the people: they are blind and careless, and love to drink and be idle (Isa 56:9–12), they oppress the weak, do not feed the hungry, and do not give shelter to the homeless. Instead, they pervert justice, bring violence, and are useless in everything they do (Isa 59:1–8, 13–14). Further, Isa 56–66 makes a direct connection between social injustice and the corruption of the cult, forcefully asserting that social injustice is not compatible with worship of Yhwh (Isa 58:1–14). However, the critique of Isa 56–66 is more explicit, identifying a neglect of Shabbat, of Jerusalem, and of keeping dietary laws as particular problems of the Israelites (Isa 58:13–14; 65:4, 11–16; cf. Isa 56:1–8). In a similar manner, Isa 56–66 is more explicit about worship of other gods than previous parts of Isaiah are. He calls these people “the children of a sorceress” (Isa 57:3), explicitly targeting those who worship their gods through abhorrent practices, such as sexual perversion and the sacrifice of children (Isa 57:5, 9).25 In the last two chapters of Isaiah, the statements about sins of groups among the Israelites seem to intensify, as the divide between the sinners and the righteous ones among the Israelites deepens. In the last chapter of the book, the degree of depravedness has reached the heart of the Israelite worship of Yhwh, miserably entangled with social injustice, ritual impurity, and idol worship (Isa 66:1–4; 66:17). These sinners hate and banish those who revere Yhwh’s word (Isa 66:5), separating themselves from the family of Yhwh.26 The last chapter of Isaiah corroborates this separation: “These have chosen their own ways, and in their abominations they take delight” (Isa 66:3). In his choice of word, ‫שקוץ‬, “a detestable thing, an idol,” Isaiah revisits the ideas of sin presented in Isa 1–39—namely, that cultic offerings amid social injustice are detestable to Yhwh (‫תועבה‬, “an abomination,” Isa 1:13). In this manner, Isaiah reinforces his view that morally repulsive deeds, cultic neglect, and idolatry are cognate sins.

25  For a description of the Canaanite practices possibly intended in Isa 57, see Ackerman, Every Green Tree. 26 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56–66, 83.

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   257

13.7.  Punishment in Isaiah 56–66 The major problem that the audience of Isa 56–66 had to deal with was the fact that the expected restoration of the land, the temple, and the leadership of Judah simply failed to materialize. Yhwh’s explanation for this is that the people do not live according to his will (Isa 56:1; 59:1–9). Although Isa 56–66 does not mention explicit punishment for such a distrust, a consequence akin to punishment can be discerned in the promise that if they stop sinning, they will be blessed (Isa 58:11), their city will be rebuilt (Isa 58:12), and they will inherit the land (Isa 57:13; 59:20). The rhetoric of punishment escalates toward the end of Isaiah. Initially, Isa 56–66 declares that those who worship other gods will not inherit the land and will not come into possession of the Temple Mount (Isa 57:12–13). Isaiah, as if provoked by their indifference to his admonishment, has another outburst against the idol worshippers, asserting that Yhwh will bring upon them their worst fears (Isa 66:4)—they shall be slaughtered, hungry, and thirsty; they will be put to shame; and they will howl from pain and from their broken spirit (Isa 65:12–16; 66:5). Ending the book, a redactor of Isaiah reinforced, one last time, the destiny of the rebels: punishment will haunt them into their deaths. The ferocity of these statements discloses a great portion of frustration. The authors/redactors of Isaiah, identifying themselves with the trembling ones, the ones expelled, oppressed, and powerless, fought to keep their beliefs in Yhwh’s redemption alive in a context that threatened the very foundations of their existence. Against the background of relative political stability of the Persian Empire, Isa 65–66 relocates the punishment of the sinners to the eschatological future.

13.8.  Sin and Punishment of the Nations in the Book of Isaiah The book of Isaiah speaks recurrently of large empires of the time, such as those of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, but also of smaller nations around Judah, such as Philistia, Edom, Nubia, Tyre, and Sidon. These nations play an important part in the sinpunishment nexus in the book, primarily as agents for the punishment of the Israelites. The agent, however, fell victim to hubris, exceeding the limits of its mission. Assyria developed into an empire characterized by injustice, cruelty, and oppression. When Yhwh’s punishment descends like a “wielding whip” (Isa 10:26), Assyria will be shattered (Isa 14:25), devoured by sword and fire, and fade away like a sick person (Isa 10:16, 18). Babylon, too, exceedingly proud and boastful exclaims, with hubris, that “no one is like me” (Isa 47:8). Babylon’s punishment matches Assyria’s; Yhwh himself will fight against her until she experiences the complete decline of her power and is given over to evil, disaster, and ruin (Isa 13:19–22; 47:7–8).

258   Blaženka Scheuer Although powerful empires of the time are punished for hubris, those that are less powerful stand accused of pride. So the punishment for Tyre and Sidon (Isa 23:8–9), and Moab (Isa 16:6–7) will be downfall through fear, starvation, and war. The punishment of these nations substantiates Isaiah’s claim that military alliance with these states is worthless. The case of Egypt illustrates this point well. Without obvious reason, such as reference to a particular transgression or even pride and hubris, Isaiah declares that Egypt will be punished by a despotic ruler, through natural disasters, and through the mental incapacity to make wise decisions (Isa 19:1–17). In fact, a punishment of Egypt is a punishment of the Israelites by proxy: if the Israelites trust in Egypt, then Egypt’s fate will be theirs.27 The nations are also accused of hubris through their kings and leaders. Isaiah addresses Sennacherib (Isa 37:22–29; cf. 10:12) for mocking Yhwh, and the king of Babylon (Isa 14:3–22) for being a merciless oppressor, a king who destroyed his own land. His punishment is utter disgrace even in death: he will have no burial place, and his dynasty will end with him.28 Thus, pride, hubris, and the oppressive deeds that emanate from them are the main problem of the nations in the book of Isaiah. It is important to stress is the fact that Isaiah never condemns the nations for worshipping their gods. Idolatry is a sin only for the Israelites. The nations are not punished for the worship of their gods—they are punished in spite of it (Isa 16:12).29

13.9.  Vocabulary and Metaphors for Sin Sin in the Hebrew Bible has been studied in primarily two ways: through a focus on the etymology of particular words, and through a study of images and metaphors that denote sinful behavior. Thus, Rolf Knierim’s classic study focuses on the etymology and use of the three words most commonly used for sin in the HB: ‫פשע‬, “to rebel to transgress,” ‫חטא‬, “to commit sin, to do wrong,” and ‫עון‬, “iniquity, guilt.”30 These words are well represented in Isaiah. As the encompassing idea of sin in Isaiah, rebellion is expressed in a variety of other words such as ‫מרה‬, “be disobedient” (Isa 1:20; 3:8), ‫סרר‬, “be stubborn” (Isa 1:23; 30:1), ‫“ נאץ‬despise, scorn” (Isa 1:4; 5:24; cf. 52:5), ‫עזב‬, “forsake, leave” (Isa 1:4; cf. 41:17; 55:7). Moreover, Isaiah uses other words for sin in terms of doing evil, such as ‫רעע‬, “be evil” (Isa 3:11; 14:20; 31:2) and ‫רשע‬, “wicked, criminal” (Isa 3:11; 48:22; 55:7). In cases where Isaiah wishes to express the totality of human sin, he uses an accumulation of words, as exhibited in Isa 1:4: “Ah, sinful (‫ )חטא‬nation, people laden with iniquity (‫)עון‬,

27  Hamborg, “Reasons.” 28  On the opposite side, Cyrus is held in high regard as the servant of Yhwh through whom Yhwh will save his people (Isa 45:1). Isaiah does not mention Persia at all. 29 Scheuer, Return. 30 Knierim, Hauptbegriffe.

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   259 offspring who do evil (‫)רעע‬, children who deal corruptly (‫ )שחת‬who have forsaken (‫)עזב‬ Yhwh, who have despised (‫ )נאץ‬the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged (‫”!)זור‬31 Sins resulting from pride and hubris are prominent in Isaiah as a serious problem for both the Israelites and the nations. It is important to stress the difference between pride, which refers to one’s self-esteem, and hubris, which is an exaggerated form of selfesteem, an attempt to usurp “roles and positions that should be solely ascribed to the gods.”32 Hubris is viewed as a sin by all ancient Near Eastern societies. The Israelites, just as the smaller nations around them, are charged with pride (Isa 2:11; 3:16; 9:8; 28:1).33 Pride, though not a sin in itself, seems to keep the Israelites blind to their social ­depravity and political mistakes. Thematic patterns and metaphors used to describe the idea of sin as well as its consequences in the HB is another fruitful area of research.34 In order to understand the ideas of sin in the HB, scholars must understand the metaphors that convey them. Joseph Lam asserts that metaphors establish a “rhetorical framework for talking about the intersection of notions of sin, guilt, and punishment.”35 He identifies four general metaphors of sin in the HB, metaphors that can be traced in the book of Isaiah as well. First, sin is described in terms of a “burden” carried by the sinner, who is thus described as “being heavy with sin” or heavy with the guilt caused by the sin (Isa 1:4). Likewise, sin is a burden that Yhwh also carries and that makes him weary (Isa 1:14; 7:13; 43:24). Second, sin is an “account” of transgressions, which is kept by Yhwh, who repays them through an act of retribution (Isa 53; 65:6–7; cf. Isa 43:25). Third, sin is described as a “path” on which one walks, particularly when walking away from Yhwh or when following one’s own path (Isa 9:16; 53:6; 65:2). Fourth, sin as a “stain” upon, or impurity of, the sinner occurs throughout the book (Isa 1:15–17, 18–20, 25; 4:4; 59:3; 64:5).36 Isaiah speaks of uncleanness caused by sin and injustice (Isa 1:21–26), but also personal insight of one’s impurity before Yhwh (‫ ;טמא‬Isa 6:5; 64:5). Likewise, the corruption and defilement (‫ )חנף‬of the Israelites are manifest in their lies about Yhwh, which in turn lead to the corruption and exploitation of the weak in society (Isa 32:6; 33:14).37 Isaiah states that everyone among the Israelites is profaned in this way (Isa 9:16; 10:6), but also that human ignorance and rejection of the divine laws resulted in the pollution of the whole earth which now faces an apocalyptic judgment (Isa 24:5). The judgment in this part of Isaiah takes on a ­specific

31  See also Isa 59:12, where the Israelites confess the full extent of their sins before Yhwh, and Isa 6:7, where Isaiah is cleansed with coal from the altar. 32  Strong, “Seat of God,” 55–81. 33  In the HB, pride is expressed through words such as ‫ גאוה‬,‫רום‬, and ‫גבה‬, yet there are no particular Hebrew words for hubris. 34 Anderson, Sin: A History; DiFransico, Washing Away Sin; Lam, Patterns. 35 Lam, Patterns, 14. 36  Lam, xi, 14–15. 37  While the word ‫ טמא‬refers to both ritual and moral impurity, ‫ חנף‬refers only to moral impurity. See Barton, Ethics, 196. For comparison with the cultures of Mesopotamia, see van der Toorn, Sin and Sanction.

260   Blaženka Scheuer form due to its genre, which by default makes the questions of sin and punishment into a transworldly event involving both earthly and cosmic judgment.38

13.10.  Punishment in Isaiah: Natural Consequence or Divine Retribution? The correspondence between sin and punishment in the HB has been discussed in terms of either divine retribution for sin39 or the natural consequence of sin.40 Punishment as a divine retribution for sin is seen as a direct act of Yhwh, initiated and executed by him as a personal response to a violation of legal or moral law. Punishment as a natural consequence of sin does not require a deliberate act but is a cause and effect process merely supervised by Yhwh. Koch argues that Yhwh’s role in prophetic texts is not to act as a judge, but to make sure that a deed results in its corresponding consequence.41 Engaging critically with Koch, Barton argues that the HB “bears witness to both an automatic and an interventionist way of understanding the nexus between guilt and punishment.”42 Yhwh not only supervises the punishment, but also personally executes the judgment, which is, in turn, often based on universal moral laws shared by all humans.43 The appeal to common sense is evident in Isaiah’s introductory plea contrasting the absurdity of the Israelite ignorance with the knowledge and intelligence of animals (Isa 1:3). This tendency to see punishment as a common-sense reaction is further corroborated throughout the book: in Isaiah’s parable of the unproductive vineyard (Isa 5:1–6), in Isaiah’s arguments against idol-worship (Isa 40:18–26), and in Yhwh’s argument against the total annihilation of the Israelites (Isa 65:8).44 Punishment in Isaiah can be seen in terms of a satisfaction or a repayment of a debt created by the sins,45 in terms of purging46 and purifying47 the Israelites (Isa 1:21–26;

38  The sins of the inhabitants of the earth are described in a general manner as not following the ordinances and laws, which in turn are deeply rooted in religion and in the understanding that the deity is the lawgiver and keeper of righteousness in the country. This is the sin that is often condemned by the prophets (Amos 5:3; 6:9–10; Isa 6:11–13). See Roberts, First Isaiah, 314. 39  Eichrodt, “Faith.” 40  Koch, “Vergeltungsdogma.” 41  Koch, “Vergeltungsdogma.” 42 Barton, Ethics, 212–221, 217. 43  Barton, “Natural Law.” 44  Krašovec, “Doctrine,” 83; cf. Bäckersten, Political Message. Thus, also Avrahami, “Foul Grapes”: “Part of the punishment decreed for the ‘stinking grapes’ is, therefore, rotting and withering, which stand for destruction, infertility, and instability” (p. 354). 45 Anderson, Sin: A History. Anderson argues that the idea of debt portrays the sins of the Israelites as an obligation “that must be repaid or ‘satisfied’ by means of the exile” (p. 73). This understanding of sin came to be reconceptualized in Jewish and Christian traditions, in which sin was a debt that the sinner was required to repay, often by enduring suffering of some kind. 46 Boda, Severe Mercy. 47 DiFransico, Washing Away Sin.

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   261 4:2–6; 48:10), but can also be seen as simply an outburst of Yhwh’s anger and wrath (Isa 47:6; 57:17) and a demonstration of his power (Isa 33:10; 45:23–24). Yhwh punishes because he turned the Israelite sinners into his enemies (Isa 63:10; 66:14), and he is utterly annoyed by their pretence (Isa 65:5–6). The book of Isaiah demonstrates a variety of reasons and ways for Yhwh to punish sin, yet his punishment is always related to the nature of the sinful deed and is therefore always justified (Isa 29:19–21; 30:18). Miller concludes that in making these connections between sin and punishment, “the prophet focuses the attention of addressee(s) and all others who listen in on the character of the sinful deed by announcing a punishment like unto it.”48

13.11.  Sin and Punishment in the Book of Isaiah The ideas of punishment involve hindsight. Making bad choices and forming bad alliances are deeds that are bound to bear consequences, and social injustice will always lend itself to criticism, particularly after a breakdown of such society. However, a corrupted society can bloom for a long time and the outcome of political alliances can be evaluated only after some time and with all the facts at hand. The authors/redactors of Isaiah had both time and facts. These they interpreted according to their needs, rationalizing the choice of Yhwh as the god for the Israelites, in a context where other gods seem to prevail, upheld by the military and political triumph of their worshippers. In spite of its complexity, and its historical situatedness, the book of Isaiah presents quite sophisticated views on sin and punishment, timeless notions to ponder. First, Isaiah stresses ignorance as a serious problem throughout the book. The ignorance does not concern religious matters but social ones having to do with one’s knowledge of one’s responsibilities in the society. Swearing by the God of heavens and earth, the God who controls history, might be an easy rhetorical strategy for any people in search of religious restoration to use, yet swearing by a deity who demands social justice and moral obligations requires something in return. Attempts to excuse injustice with religious piousness are abhorrent and relentlessly condemned. Second, in all the fierce condemnations and punishments of sin, Isaiah gives voice to the human experiences of unjust punishment. When the Israelites in a lament (Isa 63:15–19) address Yhwh as their father (Isa 63:15–16), they boldly reproach Yhwh as the one who causes them to sin. They ask Yhwh to repent, to change his ways and behave as the father and sovereign he is (Isa 63:18–19). In an echo of Isa 6, this text evokes the unfairness of the punishment that has been inflicted on them for sins that they cannot help committing.49 The answer that the tragedy and consequences of the exile were 48 Miller, Sin and Judgment, 137. 49  McLaughlin, “Their Hearts”; Gärtner, “Why Do You Let Us”; Scheuer, “Why Do You Let Us.”

262   Blaženka Scheuer s­ imply a punishment for people’s sins is not enough, as human inadequacy cannot be the final justification of her suffering. Thereby, Isaiah moves toward the rationale of sin and punishment that will dominate later wisdom literature, particularly in the book of Job.

Bibliography Ackerman, Susan. Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in 6th-Century Judah. HSM 46. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1992. Anderson, Gary A. Sin: A History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. Avrahami, Yael. “Foul Grapes: Figurative Smells and the Message of the Song of the Vineyard (Isa 5:1–7).” VT 67 (2017): 341–356. Bäckersten, Olof. Isaiah’s Political Message: An Appraisal of His Alleged Social Critique. FAT II/29. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. Barton, John. Ethics in Ancient Israel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Barton, John. “Natural Law and Poetic Justice in the Old Testament.” JTS 30 (1979): 1–14. Beale, Gregory K. “Isaiah 6:9–13: A Retributive Taunt against Idolatry.” VT 41 (1991): 257–278. Berlejung, Angelika. “Sin and Punishment: The Ethics of Divine Justice and Retribution in Ancient Near Eastern and Old Testament Texts.” Int 69 (2015): 272–287. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Isaiah 56–66: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 19B. New York: Doubleday, 2003. Boda, Mark J. A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament. Siphrut 1. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009. Crenshaw, James L. “Theodicy and Prophetic Literature.” In Theodicy in the World of the Bible, edited by AnttiLaato and Johannes C. de Moor, 236–255. Leiden: Brill, 2003. Darr, Katheryn Pfisterer. Isaiah’s Vision and the Family of God. Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994. Davies, Andrew. Double Standards in Isaiah: Re-evaluating Prophetic Ethics and Divine Justice. BIS 46. Leiden: Brill, 2000. DiFransico, Lesley R. Washing Away Sin: An Analysis of the Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and Its Influence. Leuven: Peeters, 2016. Eichrodt, Walther. “Faith in Providence and Theodicy in the Old Testament.” In Theodicy in the Old Testament, edited by James L. Crenshaw, 17–41. Issues in Religion and Theology 4. London: Fortress, 1983. Eidevall, Göran. Sacrificial Rhetoric in the Prophetic Literature of the Hebrew Bible. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2012. Exum, J. Cheryl. Plotted, Shot, and Painted: Cultural Representations of Biblical Women. JSOTS 215 / Culture, Gender, Theory 3. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1996. Fensham, F.  Charles. “Widow, Orphan, and the Poor in Ancient Near Eastern Legal and Wisdom Literature.” JNES 21 (1962): 129–139. Gärtner, Judith. “ ‘. . . Why Do You Let Us Stray from Your Paths . . .’ (Isa 63:17): The Concept of Guilt in the Communal Lament Isa 63:7–64:11.” In Seeking the Favor of God: The Origins of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, edited by Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney A. Werline, 145–163. SBLEJL 21. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2006. Hägglund, Fredrik. Isaiah 53 in the Light of Homecoming after Exile. FAT II/31. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

Sin and Punishment in Isaiah   263 Hamborg, Graham  R. “Reasons for Judgement in the Oracles against the Nations of the Prophet Isaiah.” VT 31 (1981): 145–159. Hayes, Katherine  M. “ ‘A Spirit of Deep Sleep’: Divinely Induced Delusion and Wisdom in Isaiah 1–39.” CBQ 74 (2012): 39–54. Janowski, Bernd. “He Bore Our Sins: Isaiah 53 and the Drama of Taking Another’s Place.” In The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources, edited by BerndJanowski and PeterStuhlmacher, translated by Daniel P. Bailey, 48–74. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. Janowski, Bernd, and Peter Stuhlmacher, eds. The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources. Translated by Daniel P. Bailey. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. Knierim, Rolf. Die Hauptbegriffe für Sünde im Alten Testament. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1965. Koch, Klaus. “Gibt es ein Vergeltungsdogma im Alten Testament.” ZTK 52 (1955): 1–42. Krašovec, Jože. “Is There a Doctrine of ‘Collective Retribution’ in the Hebrew Bible?” HUCA 65 (1994): 35–89. Lam, Joseph. Patterns of Sin in the Hebrew Bible: Metaphor, Culture, and the Making of a Religious Concept. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Levtow, Nathaniel  B. Images of Others: Iconic Politics in Ancient Israel. Biblical and Judaic Studies 11. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2008. McLaughlin, John L. “Their Hearts Were Hardened: The Use of Isaiah 6, 9–10 in the Book of Isaiah.” Biblica 75 (1994): 1–25. Miller, Patrick D. Sin and Judgment in the Prophets: A Stylistic and Theological Analysis. SBLMS 27. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982. Olley, John W. “ ‘No Peace’ in a Book of Consolation: A Framework for the Book of Isaiah?” VT 49 (1999): 351–370. Roberts, J. J. M. First Isaiah: A Commentary. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2015. Scheuer, Blaženka. The Return of Yhwh: The Tension between Deliverance and Repentance in Isaiah 40–55. BZAW 377. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008. Scheuer, Blaženka. “Why Do You Let Us Wander, O Lord, From Your Ways?’ (Isa 63:17): Clarification of Culpability in the Last Part of the Book of Isaiah.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40–66, edited by LenaSofia Tiemeyer and Hans Barstad, 159–174. FRLANT 255. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Spieckermann, Hermann. “The Conception and Prehistory of the Idea of Vicarious Suffering in the Old Testament.” In The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources, edited by BerndJanowski and PeterStuhlmacher, translated by Daniel P. Bailey, 1–15. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004. Stiebert, Johanna. The Construction of Shame in the Hebrew Bible: The Prophetic Contribution. JSOTS 346. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2012. Strong, John  T. “Sitting on the Seat of God: A Study of Pride and Hubris in the Prophetic Corpus of the Hebrew Bible.” Biblical Research 56 (2011): 55–81. Sweeney, Marvin A. Isaiah 40–66. FOTL. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016. Toorn, Karel van der. Sin and Sanction in Israel and Mesopotamia: A Comparative Study. SSN 22. Assen, Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1985. Williamson, H. G. M. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 1–27. Vol 1, Isaiah 1–5. ICC. New York: T&T Clark, 2006.

264   Blaženka Scheuer

Further Reading Janowski, Bernd. Ein Gott, der straft und tötet? Zwölf Fragen zum Gottesbild des Alten Testaments. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2013. Klawans, Jonathan. Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Krašovec, Jože. Reward, Punishment, and Forgiveness: The Thinking and Belief of Ancient Israel in the Light of Greek and Modern Views. VTS 78. Leiden: Brill, 1999. Lindström, Fredrik. God and the Origin of Evil: Contextual Analysis of Alleged Monistic Evidence in the Old Testament. ConBOT 21. Lund: C. W. K Gleerup, 1983. Mein, Andrew, Else K. Holt, and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, eds. Concerning the Nations: Essays on the Oracles against the Nations in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. LHBOTS 612. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015.

chapter 14

J erusa l em /Daughter Zion i n Isa i a h Frederik Poulsen

14.1. Introduction The fate of Jerusalem is a central issue in the book of Isaiah. As Jacob Stromberg states, “Zion’s destiny is arguably the most pervasive theme in the book.”1 The immense interest in this place is already obvious in the introductory title of the scroll: “The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” (1:1). Scholars often refer to the eighth-century prophet, who is thought to be responsible for the oldest core of material in the book, simply as Isaiah of Jerusalem. Counting the occurrences of its names alone demonstrates the significant and extensive role of this city and its people in the prophetic book as a whole. The name “Jerusalem” occurs no less than forty-nine times, and the poetic synonym “Zion” is mentioned forty-seven times.2 The terms do not only refer to the physical city or the geographical location of the Temple Mount (e.g., 2:3; 10:12; 30:19), but also to the inhabitants who live there (e.g., 51:16) or to the personification of the city, existing in­de­pend­ently of its population (e.g., 1:27; 49:14; 52:1). Regarding the latter, the expression “Daughter Zion/Jerusalem” (rather than “the daughter of Zion/Jerusalem”), in p ­ articular, pictures the city as a woman (e.g., 1:8; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11). What is of initial s­ ignificance is Yhwh’s

1 Stromberg, Introduction, 62. 2  “Jerusalem” often parallels “Zion” (see Isa 2:3; 4:3; 30:19; 31:9; 40:9; 41:27; 52:1; 62:1; 64:9). Some scholars take the two terms to be synonymous. Barry Webb, “Transformation,” for instance, claims that “Functionally, . . . the two terms are synonymous and the variation in their usage is not, in itself, semantically significant” (p. 68, n. 1). In contrast to this view, Goldingay, Theology, argues that “whereas ‘Jerusalem’ can be used as a down-to-earth geographical term, ‘Zion’ is always a more dominantly religious or theological term for the place where Yahweh lives” (p. 111).

266   Frederik Poulsen special relation to this place and its people: “Yhwh Sebaot dwells on Mount Zion” (8:18); “Yhwh has founded Zion” (14:32); “Mount Zion, the place of the name of Yhwh Sebaot” (18:7); and “Yhwh Sebaot will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem” (24:23). Jerusalem is the city of God, a center of salvation and wisdom for the people of Yhwh and for all the nations of the world.

14.2.  Theological Tradition and Literary Theme It is customary to refer to the complex of theological motifs associated with Jerusalem as the “Zion tradition.”3 The basic features of this tradition are that Yhwh has chosen Jerusalem as his holy residence, and that he, as its divine king, will protect the city against attacking enemies. Until the 1980s, scholars mostly focused on the religious and ­tradition-historical background of this alleged tradition, insofar as the idea of the holy mountain where the main deity lives and manifests his rule is widely attested in the cultures of the region, for instance, in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In his influential study of the most important Zion psalms (Pss 46; 48; 76), Edzard Rohland, a student of Gerhard von Rad, listed four central characteristics of this motif; Hans Wildberger subsequently added a fifth one: (a) Zion is the highest mountain; (b) a river goes out from Zion; (c) Yhwh’s victory over the chaos waters on Zion; (d) Yhwh’s victory over hostile kings and nations on Zion; and (e) the pilgrimage of the nations to Zion.4 There are obvious extrabiblical parallels to several of these elements, for instance, in the poetic cycles from Ugarit.5 A basic assumption for Rohland, von Rad, and others of their time was that the idea of Jerusalem as the chosen and protected dwelling of the deity existed prior to the Israelite conquest of the city as part of the Jebusite-Canaanite cult. Accordingly, the Old Testament psalms adopted and developed this pre-Israelite tradition. While Psalms regard Yhwh’s choice of Jerusalem and battle against its enemies on the holy mountain to be a mythological reality referring back to the past (e.g., Pss 46:2–8; 132:13), the p ­ rophets were largely seen to reinterpret the mythic tradition as an eschatological reality. With regard to the relationship of the “Zion tradition” to the prophet Isaiah, Gerhard von Rad, for instance, claimed that the eighth-century prophet drew extensively on an existing tradition of Yhwh’s choice and protection of Jerusalem (like the one contained in Pss 46; 48; 76) and readdressed it to his own time of the Assyrian crisis.6 In other words, the prophet Isaiah was thought to actualize or demythologize a theological idea

3  See the reviews in Dekker, Zion’s Rock-Solid Foundations, 283–318; Poulsen, Representing Zion, 2–10. 4 Rohland, Erwählungstraditionen, 141–142; Wildberger, “Völkerwahlfahrt.” 5  See Smith, “Mythmaking.” 6  Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 155–169.

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   267 rooted in the ancient traditions of Israel. Similarly, John H. Hayes saw the origin of the tradition of Zion’s inviolability in pre-Israelite traditions, but argued that Isaiah radically changed it in two ways.7 First, the prophet called for faith in Yhwh as a condition of salvation and protection (7:9; 30:15; 31:6). Second, he placed the attack on Jerusalem within the arena of Yhwh’s activity and work, insofar as destruction is directly assigned to Yhwh (29:1–8), or to Assyria as his rod of punishment against the city for its sin and infidelity (10:5–6). Other tradition-historical studies that are more recent include Jaap Dekker’s exhaustive exegesis of the Zion text of Isa 28:16 in the preaching of the eighthcentury prophet and the extent to which he was dependent on an already existent Zion tradition.8 Nevertheless, this approach to the theme of Jerusalem/Zion in Isaiah has important drawbacks. The object of study is often reduced to the motif of divine protection of the city against hostile forces (e.g., 1:4–9; 14:24–32; 17:12–14; 29:1–8; 31:4–9). Furthermore, the examined material is in practice limited to Isa 1–39 and, in particular, to those passages that historical-critical scholars deem to be or contain authentic words of the eighth-century prophet.9 In accordance with the general shift of interest from the pristine preaching of Isaiah of Jerusalem to the entire book assigned to him, recent studies of Jerusalem/Zion have stressed the centrality of this theme for the literary composition as a whole. In the words of Ulrich Berges, “The book of Isaiah is a ‘drama of Zion’ in which the readers or hearers witness the transformation of Jerusalem from a place of judgement into a place of eschatological salvation for the people of God and the nations.”10 Antti Laato likewise argues that the fate of Zion undergirds the final edition of Isaiah.11 To him, the failed attempts by the Assyrians to conquer Jerusalem in Isa 1–39 form an ideological-historical paradigm that highlights Yhwh’s ability to save his city from defeat and humiliation—and his willingness to do so again as proclaimed in Isa 40–66. Furthermore, Maggie Low has attempted to demonstrate that the metaphor of Mother Zion in Isa 49–54 draws extensively on the Zion theology of Isa 1–39.12 An early example of this final-form approach is the essay by Barry Webb.13 His thesis is that the transformation of Zion is the key to both the formal and the thematic structure of the book of Isaiah. Initially, visions of the transformation of sinful Jerusalem into a salvific and eschatological reality frame the composition (Isa 1; 65–66) and there is a sustained focus on the city throughout all the parts of the book. In Webb’s view, Isa 36–39, which forms the transition between the two major parts of the book, is surrounded by six units (1–12; 13–27; 28–35; 40:1–51:11; 51:12–55:13; and 56–66), each of which ends with praises of Yhwh being uttered in or on the way to the new Zion.14 Furthermore, a central element in the overall message of Isaiah is purifying judgment and the concept of a faithful and purified remnant. While the identification of the ­remnant is not 7  Hayes, “Tradition.” 8 Dekker, Zion’s Rock-Solid Foundations. 9  Otto, “‫ צִ ּיֹון‬ṣîyôn,” 348–349. 10 Berges, Isaiah, 24. 11 Laato, About Zion; “Zion Theology.” 12 Low, Mother Zion. 13  Webb, “Transformation.” 14  Webb, 81.

268   Frederik Poulsen c­ onsistent—a pious remnant on Zion in Isa 1–39, the returning exiles in Isa 40–55, and the righteous servants of Yhwh in Isa 56–66—the production of this remnant illustrates the salvific transformation of Jerusalem and, directly related to this, the transformation of the cosmos. As noted, scholars such as Berges, Laato, and Webb have focused on the transformation of Jerusalem as it develops throughout all the sixty-six chapters of Isaiah. In contrast to these works that roughly follow the literary flow of the book itself, I will approach the issue thematically by grouping the textual material into different motifs. My assumption here is that Isaiah contains several divergent images of Jerusalem/Zion.15 Some texts depict Jerusalem as a secure place that Yhwh defends against attacking enemies, whereas other texts portray Jerusalem as a conquered and devastated city that Yhwh is about to restore and repopulate. The next three sections thus examine certain aspects of Jerusalem according to the vision of Isaiah, including Yhwh’s protection of the city and the surviving remnant of people, the restoration and glorification of the destroyed city, and Jerusalem as a worldwide center for peace, wisdom, and worship.

14.3.  Yhwh’s Protection of Jerusalem and the Holy Remnant Isaiah broadly interprets the enemy attack on Jerusalem as Yhwh’s judgment against his people. It is the punishment for their sin and transgression consisting in political disloyalty, social injustice, and religious infidelity. This event is thought to be defining; it is a day of judgment. Enemies will attack “on that day” (5:30; 7:18), and King Hezekiah refers to the time of the Assyrian attack as “a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace” (37:3). The description of the approaching army—“a nation far away”—in 5:25–30 is truly frightening. The arrival of this terrifying and supposedly invincible army serves one distinct purpose: to make the imminent danger of invasion as critical as possible. There is no escape unless Yhwh changes his mind. The opening of the book (1:2–9) roughly sketches the structure of this thought. Yhwh urges heavens and earth to be witnesses that his people have rebelled against him. They do not know him and refuse to recognize him as God. Therefore, punishment will come. Foreigners have invaded the land and its cities and burned the fields all the way to the capital. In the middle of this inferno, Daughter Zion is left like a guarded, or besieged 15  Recent studies have drawn attention to the abundance of diverse and even contrasting images of Jerusalem/Zion in the Old Testament as a whole (e.g., Dow, Images of Zion, 43–110), and in Psalms in particular (Körting, Zion in den Psalmen). My own book on Jerusalem/Zion in the prophets (Poulsen, Representing Zion) investigates what I consider to be two main motifs regarding the fate of this place. These two motifs stand in structural tension with each other. The classical Zion motif designates the inviolable city and Yhwh’s defeat of the city’s enemies, while the dynamic Zion motif designates the dynamic development and transformation of the city: it is destroyed and abandoned, yet eventually rebuilt and repopulated.

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   269 (‫)נצורה‬, city—like an island of safety in a sea of hostility and death (cf. Ps 46). The inhabitants of the city quietly recognize that if Yhwh had not left a few survivors, Zion would have become like the entirely annihilated cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen 19). After the ravage of enemies, Zion appears as the only undamaged place. Another central element in the opening section is the idea of a remnant of people who survive while everything else is being extinguished. The motif of Yhwh’s protection of Jerusalem against invading enemies is scattered throughout the book. The turning point of Isa 29:1–8 is precisely Yhwh’s sudden and unexpected intervention to save his city. Initially, however, he is pictured as the great attacker. He will besiege Jerusalem with towers and raise ramps against it; foreigners and tyrants will conquer it. Nevertheless, Yhwh himself unexpectedly intervenes and slaughters the enemies. As readers are informed, this is the fate of everyone who fights against Mount Zion. A similar moral lesson concludes Isa 17:12–14 after the multitude of roaring nations have been forced away: this is the fate of those who attempt to despoil and plunder the people of Yhwh. In both passages, the enemies—the agents of Yhwh’s punishment against his people—have surrounded Zion and inspired its inhabitants with fear and panic, but in an instant, suddenly, divine salvation replaces judgment. Yhwh’s way of acting appears to be thoroughly ambivalent. On the one hand, he assembles and leads enemies to attack Zion; on the other, he saves the city from imminent dangers of defeat and invasion. The enemies thus play a double role; they are both a tool of Yhwh’s anger and an object of his judgment. Isa 10:12 reflects this tension: when Yhwh has finished all his works on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem (namely, to judge his own people), he will visit and punish the enemies. This is also the case in Isa 14:24–27, according to which divine punishment does not only concern the attackers, but all the nations as such. The hand formerly raised against the people of Yhwh has now been turned against their enemies. It shall become a place of refuge for the poor and needy, where they can lie down and rest in safety (14:30, 32). As noted above, John H. Hayes has argued that the idea of Zion’s inviolability is radically altered in Isaiah by the introduction of a condition for the salvation of his city.16 In Psalms, Yhwh’s protection is solely dependent on his free and sovereign will (e.g., Pss 2 and 46), but some texts in Isaiah suggest that the attitude of the people is of significance. This is, at least, a possible reading of Isa 31:4–9 and its imperative call to turn to Yhwh: Yhwh can save Jerusalem, but he will only do so if the unfaithful inhabitants repent. The people have to turn away from their rebellious and arrogant way of acting, the behavior that caused the presence of enemies in the first place. Alternatively, they must turn to Yhwh because they have survived the attack.17 As noted, Yhwh’s protection of his city in Isa 1–39 is portrayed in a certain historical context. This is obvious already in the initial heading of the book (1:1) which places the narrated events of the book in the second part of the eighth century bce and the danger of invasion by Assyria, the great empire of this century. Since the middle of the ninth century, this empire had extended its power and territory. The ascension of T ­ iglath-Pileser 16  Hayes, “Tradition,” 425–426.

17 Goldingay, Theology, 118.

270   Frederik Poulsen III in 745 bce added weight to this development. According to Isaiah’s interpretation, the Assyrians are in the service of Yhwh (7:17–25; 8:5–8; 10:5–19, 24–27). They are his punishing tool in the judgment against the haughty people of Jerusalem. Facing the threat of total extinction, the people must realize in what they trust. Do they hope for Yhwh? Or do they put their trust in military equipment and political alliances with foreign states? Two ways of acting with regard to this divine test are revealed in two of the book’s key narratives: the story about the unfaithful King Ahaz (Isa 7) and the story about his son, the faithful King Hezekiah (Isa 36–37). Formal and stylistic features relate the two stories to each other.18 Both are introduced by an indication of time (7:1; 36:1), and both take place at the same geographical location (7:3; 36:2). Nevertheless, the two protagonists respond very differently to the prospect of invasion. Ahaz panics and is afraid to trust in God, whereas Hezekiah keeps calm and enters the temple to seek advice and courage from Yhwh. As father and son, they are opposite characters. The supposed historical background for the Ahaz story in Isa 7:1–17 is the SyroEphraimite Crisis in 734–732 bce. To protect themselves against Assyria’s expanding empire, the Syrians (Aram) and the Northern Kingdom of Israel attempt to force the Southern Kingdom of Judah and its king, Ahaz, into a military coalition. When Ahaz and his nation refuse, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel attack Jerusalem to put pressure on them. Although the kings do not conquer the city, Ahaz nevertheless trembles in fear. The prophet Isaiah, who acts as his political adviser, meets him “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field” (7:3). The surprisingly detailed description of this location indicates that Ahaz is there to inspect Jerusalem’s water supplies because of the enemy siege. The prophet’s son Shear-Yashub, whose name means “a remnant shall return,” accompanies him. The message of Isaiah is simple. Ahaz must return to Yhwh and trust him alone (cf. 28:16; 30:15). He shall neither prepare for battle nor seek help from the Assyrians. Yhwh’s famous statement in 7:9 summarizes this message: “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” In other words, Yhwh will only save Jerusalem if the people cease to fear and begin to believe firmly in their God. Nevertheless, Ahaz is apparently unwilling to do so, so the prophet urges him to ask for a sign. Again, Ahaz refuses, but Yhwh himself then presents the sign of the Immanuel-child, a sign that as a formulation of hope points beyond the present distress. The meaning of the name Immanuel (‫“—)עמנו אל‬God is with us”—points to the child as a visible sign of Yhwh’s protective presence. Within the book of Isaiah, it is tempting to interpret this promised child as Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, who in stark contrast to his father remains loyal to Yhwh. “Immanuel” might also suggest a subtle play on the refrain in Ps 46 about Yhwh Sebaot who “is with us” (‫ ;עמנו‬46:8, 12). The account of the miraculous deliverance from Assyrian invasion in Isa 36–37 renders the idea of the inviolability of Jerusalem in a narrative form (cf. 2 Kgs 18–19). The alleged background of the story is the Assyrians’ siege of Jerusalem in 701 bce. At the opening of the story, it is significant that the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, 18  Webb, “Transformation,” 69–70.

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   271 sends his army to the capital after the conquest of all the fortified cities of Judah (cf. Isa 1:7–9). In other words, Jerusalem appears to be the last bastion of the Davidic kingdom. The Assyrians mock the inhabitants of the city for relying on Yhwh alone, and their leading officer, the Rabshakeh, arrogantly asks: Do you really think Yhwh can save Jerusalem from my hand? After this threat, Hezekiah covers himself with sackcloth, enters the temple, and humbly prays for help. Yhwh promises to crush the enemies and to leave some survivors. A divine promise frames the announcement of salvation in Isa 37:33–34: Sennacherib shall not come into this city! During the night, Yhwh’s angel sets out and kills 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian camp. When the inhabitants of Jerusalem awake, there are only dead bodies. Interestingly, Yhwh’s deliverance of Jerusalem also happens “for the sake of my servant David” (Isa 37:35). An explicit link is thus established between the salvation of the city and the preservation of the Davidic monarchy, including King Hezekiah as its representative (cf. 2 Sam 7; Pss 2; 132). A central element in Yhwh’s protection of Jerusalem is the concept of a remnant of survivors (1:9; 7:3, 22). The “remnant” (‫ ׁשארת‬or ‫)ׁשאר‬, that is, the remains, are the few among the sinful people who have escaped the purifying judgment of Yhwh. Now they will blossom anew. In Isa 10:20–23, after the ravage of the Assyrian king, the remnant of Israel and the survivors of Jacob will return to Yhwh in faith. At last, so it seems, a remnant responds to the call for faith and repentance (7:9; 28:16; 30:15; 31:6). Yet only a small portion of the great people of Israel shall return; everyone else is lost without hope. Isa 37:30–32 envisions the future of this pious group of survivors. They are the root from which a new and faithful people shall sprout. Similar metaphors of fertility occur in the description of the remnant in Isa 4:2–6. The branch of Yhwh will be glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. Yhwh will purge the remainders in Jerusalem with a spirit of judgment and burning, and they shall be called holy. The creation of a cloud by day and shining of fire by night over the entire site point to Yhwh continuous and protective presence on Mount Zion. Implicit in the concept of a pious remnant is the radical separation between the right­ eous and wicked, the latter of whom must be extinguished to purify the city and restore its justice. The language of purifying judgment pervades Isa 1:21–28. Jerusalem, which has been turned into a whore filled with murders, shall be transformed into a faithful city again: “Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by right­ eous­ness. But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake Yhwh shall be consumed” (1:27–28). Deliverance here implies the removal of “internal” enemies—corrupt leaders and haughty inhabitants—who threaten the order of social life. A further vision of a purged Jerusalem appears in Isa 33:14–24. A devouring fire will remove all the sinners in Zion. Only those who embody the moral ideal of justice will enjoy protection and provision on the holy mountain (cf. Pss 15; 24). Jerusalem shall be a city of festival, and the waters will flow as calm streams in the city. The iniquity of the people who live there will be forgiven. There is no illness, no anxiety for the future: “Yhwh is our king; he will save us” (33:22).

272   Frederik Poulsen

14.4.  The Destruction and Restoration of Jerusalem Visions of restoration and repopulation dominate Isa 40–66. What is striking in Isaiah as a whole is that the destruction of Jerusalem is never spelled out. Unlike other prophetic books that explicitly announce and depict the fall of the city and the people’s deportation to Babylon in the early sixth century bce (e.g., Jeremiah and Ezekiel; cf. 2 Kgs 24–25), the latter part of Isaiah simply seems to presuppose that these traumatic events have taken place. At the center of the book, where readers would expect to hear about the catastrophe, there is just an empty space. The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile thus hide in a “black hole” between Isa 39 and 40.19 Perhaps an account of these events has been left out deliberately to warrant the theological idea of Zion’s i­n­vi­o­la­bil­ity.20 Nevertheless, from a literary point of view, this gap constitutes an anticlimax in the prophetic book. Nothing is there. No vision, no light. The gap represents a desolate and ruined Zion, insofar as the place of life and salvation has collapsed into nothingness. It has become silent and dark. Although there is no explicit account of the devastation of Jerusalem, there are hints of it throughout the book. At the end of the commission of the prophet in Isa 6, a proclamation of divine judgment sounds: Jerusalem and its surrounding land shall be completely destroyed and the surviving remnant shall be removed to remote locations (6:11–13). The only thing that will remain in the land is vast emptiness. Furthermore, the pronouncement of the doom of Jerusalem in Isa 22:1–14—as part of Yhwh’s larger judgment against all nations (Isa 13–23)—shows no signs of hope. Enemies will crush the city, and its self-confident inhabitants will die without having been forgiven for their sins. No one can escape divine judgment, and the prophet desperately laments the future destruction of “my people’s daughter” (22:4)—that is, Jerusalem. Finally, the visit of foreign emissaries in Isa 39 points forward to the deportation of treasures and peoples to Babylon and the end of the Davidic monarchy, and “nothing shall be left” (39:6). There shall be no remnant at all. Jerusalem will be emptied of life, wealth, and significance. As noted, Isa 40–66 presupposes defeat and deportation. References to this critical situation mostly occur in the context of visions of restoration: the empty Jerusalem shall be inhabited, the ruins of Judah’s cities shall be raised, and the temple shall be rebuilt (44:26, 48). The devastated land shall be raised, and the waste and desolate heritages apportioned and crowded with inhabitants (49:8; 19). Yhwh will turn all the waste places of Zion and her desert into a fertile garden, and the ruins shall burst into songs of joy (51:3; 52:9). The ancient ruins and former devastations shall be rebuilt, and people will repopulate the desolate towns (54:3; 61:4). It is of significance that several of these passages contain terminology and motifs from the central prediction of ruination in

19  See Poulsen, Black Hole.

20 Berges, Isaiah, 47.

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   273 Isa 6:11–13.21 Within the book as a whole, these latter reflections certainly suggest that a complete destruction of Jerusalem and the land as foreshadowed in this key passage came true. There is further evidence of a thorough execution of divine punishment in the communal lament in Isa 63:7–64:11. This psalm-like text looks back on past calamities and mourns the destroyed and humiliated state of the holy city: “Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation” (64:10). Again, all this is supposed to have taken place in the gap between Isa 39 and 40. Female imagery is a powerful means of depicting a destroyed and empty Jerusalem.22 The comparison of the capital city to a woman opens for a series of associations and images that add strong emotions and drama to the portrait of the city’s fate. Other prophetic texts use female imagery extensively in their descriptions of Yhwh’s punishment of Jerusalem and its loss of social status (e.g., Jer 2–3; Ezek 16; 23). In Isaiah, most of the cases that portray Jerusalem as a personified woman contain negative connotations (see, however, the positive image of the fearless and independent Zion in 37:21–29). At the opening of the book, Daughter Zion is isolated and surrounded by the ravages of her enemies (1:8–9). Yhwh mourns the critical state of his city, which is full of sin: “How the faithful city has become a whore” (1:21). An example of the citizens’ transgressions is present in the judgment against the haughty daughters of Zion in 3:16–4:1. The latter verses of this passage present Yhwh’s threat against Lady Jerusalem. Because of her loss of men and warriors in battle, “her gates shall lament and mourn; ravaged, she shall sit upon the ground” (3:26). The image of a mourning woman sitting on the ground is close to that in Lamentations (e.g., Lam 1:1). According to Isaiah, Jerusalem shall be ravaged or, better, emptied (‫ )ונקתה‬of her inhabitants, who will be carried off or killed. Despite of the hints of the coming humiliation of Lady Jerusalem, a lengthy description of her desolation and degradation simply disappear in the gap between Isa 39 and 40. Nevertheless, the downfall of Lady Babylon in Isa 47 can be read as a description of what had happened to Jerusalem earlier, insofar as the fortunes of both are to be reversed. While Babylon shall enter a disgraceful state of public derision, Jerusalem will regain her former honor as the wife of Yhwh. The humiliation of Lady Babylon thus offers a glimpse of how Yhwh might have treated Lady Jerusalem in the silent gap at the center of the book. At the opening of Isa 40, Jerusalem is in great need of consolation and redemption (40:2), yet Zion will soon be called to bring good news of liberation to others (40:9; 41:27). The capital shall be restored and filled with divine salvation (44:26, 28; 46:13). These brief announcements of restoration anticipate the extended development of this theme in Isa 49–66.23 In these chapters, two central female images illustrate the suffering and abandonment of Jerusalem: a wife who has lost her husband and a mother who has lost her children (e.g., 49:14–21; 50:1–3; 51:17–21; 52:1–6; 54:1–10; 62:1–5; 66:7–13). Significantly, the loss of children and the state of widowhood are exactly the two miseries that will strike 21 Williamson, Book Called Isaiah, 51–55. 22  Compare my extended treatment of this theme in Poulsen, Black Hole, esp. chap. 7. 23 Goldingay, Message, 318.

274   Frederik Poulsen Lady Babylon in 47:8–9, emphasizing the intertwined fates of Babylon and Jerusalem. Both types of women, which are essential in the poetry of Lamentations, are in a socially vulnerable position, with no male protectors (husband, children) to guard their honor. Lamentations is also of relevance here, especially regarding Isa 49–54, because of intertextual links between these biblical books in their shared focus on desolate Jerusalem. While Lamentations depicts the city as an abandoned and childless woman, Isaiah addresses this woman with divine promises of marriage and innumerable children.24 Zion’s complaints about abandonment and social isolation frame the portrait of the desolate city in Isa 49:14–21. The passage opens with bitter accusations that Yhwh—the heavenly king and protector—has forsaken and forgotten his city. The first claim may be true (cf. 3:26; 6:11–13; 50:1; 54:6; 60:15; 62:4); but Yhwh counters the second one. He will never forget his beloved city. As a mother takes intimate care of her child, he will pay continuous attention to Jerusalem. Certainly, the plans for the future restoration of the city and its walls are inscribed on the palms of his hands. Soon the children of Zion, the exiled inhabitants, will return and repopulate their mother city. It is interesting to notice that in this passage Zion appears to be set over against her returning citizens. The city is portrayed as a mother who has lost her children; she is alone and barren, and her places and land are desolate and wasted. The image of Zion here is really that of an empty city that has been entirely destroyed and bereaved of its inhabitants. However, now Zion shall simply lift up her eyes and passively observe the returning people coming to her from all the corners of the world (cf. 11:11–16; 27:12–13; 35:1–10; 43:5–7; 49:9–12; 51:9–11). The returnees shall be ornaments of the restored city, a motif indicating that Lady Zion is seen as naked, uncovered by the removal of her inhabitants. The enemies of Zion have stripped off her garments and left her in a humiliating and shameful state of nakedness. A similar thought is present in 52:1–2, where Daughter Jerusalem is urged to dress up attractively and replace her bonds of subjugation with beautiful garments. The mention of ornaments also suggests an idea of splendor, comparable to the vision in 54:11–12, where the restored city shall be rebuilt with malachite and sapphires and covered with precious stones. Isa 49:14–21 culminates in Lady Zion’s self-perception as a bereaved and infertile woman: “I was left all alone.” The trope of social isolation and complete solitude is rather close to the opening verses of Lamentations 1. Nevertheless, implied or hiding behind Zion’s complaint is a divine promise to reverse her fate. Once again, Yhwh will take her as his wife, and she will be full of people once more. The description of Jerusalem as a bereaved and barren mother recurs at the opening of Isa 54:1–10. A prophetic voice urges a feminine addressee to burst into joyful singing. Implied in this command is a call to change the mode of lamentation into one of joy. Like famous women in the history of Israel, Lady Jerusalem is unable to have children and must suffer from public humiliation. However, just as Yhwh enabled them to c­ onceive 24  Recent studies devoted to intertextual matters have attempted to show that the author(s) of Isaiah 49–54 deliberately reused language and images from Lamentations to respond to its dire laments and theological issues. See, e.g., Tiemeyer, Comfort, 347–361; Tull Willey, Remember, 48–50, 86–89. As Patricia Tull Willey claims, “Attention to the language and motifs of Lamentations reveals a deeply contrapuntal relationship between the two books” (p. 89).

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   275 and give birth to healthy sons, so shall Jerusalem become the mother of innumerable children. It is not clear, however, whether numerous children will return from banishment to their mother city and fill her, or whether desolate Jerusalem herself as the barren matriarch is thought to give birth to a new population. In favor of the latter option is the vision of the miraculous birth of children in Isa 66:7–13, a passage that likely draws on material from earlier chapters of the book. The initial verse states: “Before she was in labour, she gave birth; before her pains came upon her she delivered a son.” Mother Zion conceived a child even before the beginning of birth pangs—that is, before any clear indication that a birth would occur. As in 54:1, there is a note of surprise; the birth of a son appeared suddenly and unexpectedly. In an instant, the new Jerusalem shall rise from the ashes to be populated by a new people. All who formerly mourned the destiny of the city shall rejoice with her. A clear distinction is set up between Zion herself and her inhabitants (cf. 49:14–21). Yhwh will turn Jerusalem into a fertile and abundant place of life, wealth, and joy—the city shall become a center of divine consolation. Returning to 54:1–10, the designation of the city “desolate” (‫ )ׁשוממה‬is ambiguous; presumably, it points both to Jerusalem as a barren woman who suffers from childlessness and social isolation and to Jerusalem as a physical city that suffers in the aftermath of defeat and destruction.25 Nevertheless, the imminent restoration of city will result in an expansion of great measure. The inhabitants will need more space (cf. 49:20), and they will possess and repopulate the surrounding land. The imagery then shifts from that of a childless mother to that of a forsaken wife. Yet the past humiliations of Yhwh’s abandonment of Jerusalem shall end. As redeemer and restorer, he will remarry his beloved city and restore its honor. Yhwh will call his beloved one back like an inconsolable woman who has been forsaken or a young wife who has been cast off. Both similes point to the re-establishment of the broken relation between God and his city. The metaphor of marriage occurs in Isa 62:4–5 too. Jerusalem is portrayed as a bride at a royal wedding (cf. 49:18). The city will receive a new name and thereby a new status. Previously, Jerusalem has been called “Forsaken” and her land “Desolate” to illustrate the shame of divine banishment and the severe consequences of this punishing act; now, the city shall receive the name “My Delight Is in Her” (‫ )חפצי־בה‬and her land will be called “Married” (‫ )בעולה‬to illustrate Yhwh’s renewed concern for her fate (cf. 62:12). In 54:7–10, Yhwh intensely promises that despite his past abandonment and anger, he will choose Jerusalem again and show his city-wife great love, devotion, and compassion. Yhwh’s promise is outstanding: “For the mountains may move and the hills may tremble, but my steadfast love shall never move from you, and my covenant of peace shall never be shaken” (54:10). The allusion to famous Zion psalms is subtle. Yhwh’s love for his city is as steadfast as Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken despite the trembling of mountains and peoples (Pss 46:3, 6–7; 125:1). It will endure forever.

25  Cf. Low, Mother Zion, 138–144.

276   Frederik Poulsen

14.5.  Jerusalem as a Center for All Peoples The inclusion of foreign nations in Yhwh’s salvific realm is a central theme in Isaiah.26 A key element in this theological thought is that Jerusalem will become a center for all peoples of the world. It expresses a profound hope for a bright and peaceful future without war, destruction, and death. The visions of worldwide pilgrimage to Jerusalem thereby form a kind of response to those texts that portray the nations and foreign peoples as attacking enemies (e.g., 5:25–30; 17:12–14; 29:1–8). Formerly, Yhwh raised “a signal for distant nations” (‫ )נס לגוים מרחוק‬to judge his people (5:26). Now, he shall raise “a signal for nations” (‫ )נס לגוים‬as a sign of salvation (11:10, 12; 49:22; 62:10). The nations shall recognize the futility of their own gods and turn to Yhwh as the only true God (45:22–25). They shall assist the exiles in their return to Jerusalem (14:1–2; 49:22–23; 66:20), but will also themselves enjoy the benefits of divine salvation (42:1–9; 49:1–6; 51:4–6). Jerusalem becomes a universal symbol for the foreigners’ participation in the worship of Yhwh. The restored temple on the holy mountain shall be “a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:1–8). Yhwh will gather foreigners and bring them to worship him in Jerusalem. “Foreigners and exiles have the same status; they are all people whom Yahweh is ‘gathering.’ ”27 A prominent illustration of the nations’ pilgrimage to Jerusalem is the vision of Isa 2:2–4. “In days to come,” the nature of the mount of Yhwh’s house will change ­dramatically—it will be established as the highest mountain of the world. All nations will be drawn to it by its exaltation. They will come of their own free will and go up to the house of the God of Jacob to glorify Jerusalem. Yhwh’s mountain will become a center for wisdom and instruction that shall stream out to the world. Yhwh’s torah here serves the same cosmos-creating function as the temple source in the visions of other prophets (Ezek 47:1–12; Joel 4:18; Zech 14:8; cf. Gen 2:10–14; Ps 46:5). Just as the life-giving river flows out from Zion to the infertile and barren regions of the surrounding land, the teaching of Yhwh goes out to all peoples who are thirsty for wisdom. The vision of peace parallels that of worldwide understanding. Weapons will be beaten into farm implements, and no one will learn the arts of war anymore. The metaphor of light is dominant in the pilgrimage of foreigners in Isa 60. The light and glory of Yhwh will illuminate Jerusalem in such a way that the city, like a magnet, draws foreign kings and nations to itself. The exalted city will become a bright spot in darkness and the foreign peoples who are covered by thick darkness will stream to it to see its light and vindication (vv. 1–3). The final verses of the chapter even indicate that the sun and moon will no longer be the primary sources of light, because Yhwh himself will be an everlasting light for Jerusalem (vv. 19–20). In contrast to Isa 2:2–4, however, the nations appear largely as subservient to the people of Jerusalem (cf. 14:1–2; 26  See Poulsen, God, His Servant, and the Nations, 198–205. 27 Goldingay, Theology, 123.

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   277 49:22–23); those who refuse to serve will perish. They shall carry wealth to the city and assist the scattered Israelites in their return from the Diaspora. Even those who previously despised Jerusalem and oppressed it shall bow down and call it “the City of Yhwh, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (v. 14). In this manner, the foreign peoples restore the glory of Jerusalem, both by bringing gifts and by acknowledging it as the holy place from which light and blessing go forth.28 According to the concluding vision in Isa 66:18–24, Yhwh will gather all the peoples, and they shall come and see his glory. He will send missionaries to areas far away that have not heard about him, and they shall come to Jerusalem, bringing the kindred of the exiles as an offering to Yhwh on his holy mountain. Everyone (“all flesh”) will unceasingly come to worship before Yhwh. Perhaps even the foreigners will serve in the temple as priests and Levites (cf. 56:1–8).29 In any case, Jerusalem becomes a sacrificial center for all who turn to Yhwh and recognize him as the only true God. The contrast set up in the final two verses between the faithful who enjoy the blessings of the temple and the rebels outside it who must suffer from eternal punishment accords with the contrast between the righteous remnant and the wicked in earlier parts of Isaiah (e.g., 1:27–28). In the end, the proper relationship to Yhwh is not defined by nationality or ethnicity, but by individual confession and ethics.30 The idea of Jerusalem as a center for worldwide peace is also present in the marvelous vision of Isa 11:6–9. Here, the envisioned harmony does not concern the relation between peoples (2:4), but is more fundamental in nature: man and beast will dwell peacefully together. There is neither cruelty nor destruction on the holy mountain of Yhwh, and the wisdom and knowledge of Yhwh cover the earth. Reading this passage in light of Gen 3 suggests that Zion is not only the place where the original state between man and animals shall be re-established, but also the place where the disrupted relationship between God and man shall be restored.31 Again, “knowledge of Yhwh” (‫)דעה את־יהוה‬ will fill the world (cf. 2:2–4). As mentioned, the holy mountain is the location of Yhwh’s victory over the forces of chaos, hostility, and death in the mythological hymns of ancient days (Pss 46:3–4, 7; 48:5–7; 76:4, 6–7). At this very place, Yhwh will ultimately bring death to an end. According to Isa 25:6–10a, the divine king will invite all peoples for a festival banquet of rich food and delicious wine, an immensely life-giving and blessed meal. On his mountain, plausibly Mount Zion in Jerusalem (cf. 24:23), Yhwh will destroy the shroud or sheet that is spread over all nations—a poetic figure for lamentation and loss. He will swallow up death forever and thus wipe away the tears on all faces. On his holy mountain, there shall be no more mourning, no more death. The concluding praise catches the joy and ecstasy of this event: “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is Yhwh for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (25:9). For the hand of Yhwh—his presence and protection—will rest on this mountain! 28 Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, 361. 29  Westermann, 426. 30  Webb, “Transformation,” 79. 31  See, however, the cautious remarks in Childs, Isaiah, 103–104.

278   Frederik Poulsen

Bibliography Berges, Ulrich F. Isaiah: The Prophet and His Book. Translated by Philip Sumpter. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012. Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001. Dekker, Jaap. Zion’s Rock-Solid Foundations: An Exegetical Study of the Zion Text of Isaiah 28:16. OtSt 54. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Dow, Lois K. D. Images of Zion: Biblical Antecedents for the New Jerusalem. NTM 26 Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011. Goldingay, John. The Message of Isaiah 40–55: A Literary-Theological Commentary. London: T&T Clark, 2005. Goldingay, John. The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. Hayes, John H. “The Tradition of Zion’s Inviolability.” JBL 82 (1963): 419–426. Körting, Corinna. Zion in den Psalmen. FAT 48. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006. Laato, Antti. “About Zion I Will Not Be Silent”: The Book of Isaiah as an Ideological Unity. ConBOT 44. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1998. Laato, Antti. “Understanding Zion Theology in the Book of Isaiah.” In Studies in Isaiah: History, Theology and Reception, edited by Tommy Wasserman, Greger Andersson, and David Willgren, 22–46. LHBOTS 654. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017. Low, Maggie. Mother Zion in Deutero-Isaiah: A Metaphor for Zion Theology. StBibLit 155. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. Otto, Eckart. “‫ צִ ּיֹון‬ṣîyôn.” In TDOT 3:333–365. Poulsen, Frederik. God, His Servant, and the Nations in Isaiah 42:1–9: Biblical Theological Reflections after Brevard S. Childs and Hans Hübner. FAT II/73. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. Poulsen, Frederik. Representing Zion: Judgement and Salvation in the Old Testament. Copenhagen International Seminar. London: Routledge, 2015. Poulsen, Frederik. The Black Hole in Isaiah: A Study of Exile as a Literary Theme. FAT 125. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019. Rad, Gerhard von. Old Testament Theology: The Theology of Israel’s Prophetic Traditions. Vol. 2. Translated by David M. G. Stalker. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1965. Rohland, Edzard. “Die Bedeutung der Erwählungstraditionen Israels für die Eschatologie der alttestamentlichen Propheten.” PhD diss., University of Heidelberg, 1956. Smith, Mark S. “Myth and Mythmaking in Canaan and Ancient Israel.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 3, edited by Jack M. Sasson, 2031–2041. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1995. Stromberg, Jacob. An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah. T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies. London: T&T Clark International, 2011. Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia. For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55. VTS 139. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Tull Willey, Patricia. Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of Previous Texts in Second Isaiah. SBLDS 161. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1997. Webb, Barry G. “Zion in Transformation: A Literary Approach to Isaiah.” In The Bible in Three Dimensions: Essays in Celebration of Forty Years of Biblical Studies in the University of Sheffield, edited by David J. A. Clines, Stephen E. Fowl, and S. E. Porter, 65–84. JSOTS 87. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield University Press, 1990.

Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah   279 Westermann, Claus. Isaiah 40–66: A Commentary. Translated by David M. G. Stalker. OTL. London: SCM Press, 1969. Wildberger, Hans. “Die Völkerwallfahrt zum Zion: Jes. ii 1–5.” VT 7 (1957): 62–81. Williamson, H. G. M. The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994.

Further Reading Maier, Christl M. Daughter Zion, Mother Zion: Gender, Space, and the Sacred in Ancient Israel. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2008. Seitz, Christopher R. Zion’s Final Destiny: The Development of the Book of Isaiah. A Reassessment of Isaiah 36–39. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991.

chapter 15

Dav idic K i ngship i n Isa i a h H. G. M. Williamson

15.1. Introduction The book of Isaiah shows a greater interest by far in Davidic kingship than do those of any other of the prophets. The reason is simple. The prophet himself worked in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, in the second half of the eighth century bce. This was the seat of the Davidic dynasty, and for whatever reason, Isaiah clearly had easy access to the kings under whose reigns he lived. The earlier prophets in whose names we also have books, Amos and Hosea, spoke mainly to the inhabitants of the northern kingdom of Israel, and part of the traditional raison d’être for that kingdom was precisely that it had established itself in rebellion against the Davidic monarchy. It is thus likely that the positive references to David and his descendants in those books (e.g., Amos 9:11–12; Hos 3:5) reflect either tangential or later viewpoints. Isaiah’s near contemporary Micah was a Judean, but his concerns reflect more those of the country than of the city dwellers. Later on, Jeremiah and Ezekiel worked under the impact of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and the removal from power of the Davidic monarchy, so that, again, their outlook will inevitably have been different. In this respect, therefore, Isaiah stands out as distinct. A second distinctive feature of the book that has an impact on our topic is that different parts of it are very clearly addressed to different audiences, in quite distinct settings. In addition to the parts that relate to the ministry of Isaiah over a period of some thirtyfive years, the second part of the book, beginning in chapter 40, relates to the circumstances at the end of the Babylonian exile as Cyrus the Persian, mentioned by name at 44:28 and 45:1, came to establish the Persian, or Achaemenid, empire. The third main part of the book, beginning at chapter 56, seems to reflect the period after the return of some of the exiles from Babylon to Judah and the rebuilding of the temple. This simplified summary, amplified elsewhere in this handbook, overlooks the further point that

Davidic Kingship in Isaiah   281 these three main sections are not watertight. They show some considerable diversity within themselves (especially the first part in chapters 1–39), giving rise to many different theories about the composition history of the book. The precise details of authorship need not concern us here. What matters is that within the one book we find reflections of periods when there were Davidic monarchs within the sovereign kingdom of Judah, as well as of situations when there were no such kings nor any realistic possibility of their immediate restoration. It is therefore imperative that we ask not only what the first author meant by his presentation but also how that was understood in the following centuries when the kings had ceased to reign. There is a subtle depth to the book because of its long period of composition, and it is important to be aware that this dimension may have influenced the final form of the work as we now have it.

15.2.  Davidic Kingship in History It may be simplest to start this survey with some words that were clearly not written by Isaiah but that recount an incident in which he was one of the major players—namely, Isa 7:1–17. The setting is the so-called Syro-Ephraimite crisis, when, around the year 734 bce, the kingdoms of Syria and Israel (“Ephraim”) invaded Judah in an attempt to coerce her into joining a coalition that they were putting together to resist the advance of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III. They were unsuccessful in both aims: Judah did not join, and both Syria and Israel, along with several others of the petty Levantine states at the time, suffered defeat. The main strategic Assyrian goal of opening a direct route to Egypt was achieved. As the story is recounted in Isa 7, however, by no means all this background is mentioned. To understand the author’s main concerns in writing, it is important to focus on what is actually written, not on knowledge we derive from elsewhere (a mistake into which too many commentaries involuntarily fall). The focus in the narrative as given is not on Assyria (which is mentioned only right at the end as a separate threat), nor on the desire to bring Judah into some coalition, but rather on the aim of the invading parties to replace the present king of Judah, Ahaz, by an otherwise unknown Tabeel (v. 6). Furthermore, though we can see historically how this plan might have been the means whereby the coalition desired to bring Judah on board, so to speak, it is presented in the text more as a threat to the Davidic dynasty as a whole than just to Ahaz as an individual. In the introductory verse 2 we are told of the alarm of “the house of David” at the news of the Syro-Ephraimite advance. In verse 13 the famous Immanuel prophecy is explicitly addressed, not to Ahaz, as we should expect, but to “the house of David” (and all the associated verbs are plural, not singular). In the last verse of the passage, while the address is directly to Ahaz, he is associated there with “all your father’s house.” Finally, the concluding saying of the first half of the passage, the famous “If you do not stand firm in faith, you will not stand at all,” is again cast as a plural, so that we should probably assume that it, too, is addressed to the house of David as a whole rather than just the

282   H. G. M. Williamson individual king. In addition, its wording seems to echo part of the dynastic promise from Nathan to David in 2 Sam 7:16 and its later reiterations, so further underlining the importance of this whole complex of ideas for the author of this passage. Given that this narrative was obviously written some time after the events it describes, it is tricky to be sure whether this emphasis on the dynasty derives from Isaiah himself or from the later author. As we shall shortly go on to see, it is likely that Isaiah shared these sorts of concern but used them to emphasize a different point. Here, our author seems initially to have developed this concern in the direction of an assurance that the promise to David that one of his descendants would always rule in Jerusalem could be relied upon, as underlined by the reassurance that the first half of the passage gives to Ahaz in face of the threat to have him deposed in favor of an unknown (but probably Aramaean) puppet of the coalition. That changes radically in the second half of the passage, however, when, in view of Ahaz’s lack of faith, Isaiah turns away from him and the Davidic house in order to announce the advent of a quite separate royal figure (this being the most probable interpretation of the Immanuel figure). Inasmuch as this sort of sentiment is very close to what we find in Jer 22:30 with 23:5–6, we may tentatively conclude that our author, too, was reflecting on the impact of the fall of Jerusalem and the deposition of its king in the light of the original promise through Nathan. He stresses equally the assurance of the promise to provide continuity and the radical discontinuity of turning from the established Davidic line in a new and unexpected direction. I conclude from this passage, therefore, that the Isaiah of history had a firm interest in Davidic kingship and that over time this was taken further than he himself envisaged, away from practical concerns for the rule of God over his people in the direction of more radical future hopes. In many ways, this narrative passage is linked with the more extended narratives in Isa 36–39 (which have a close parallel in 2 Kgs 18–20). While Isa 7 treats the faithless Ahaz’s confronting an invader, chapters 36–39 treat the later faithful Hezekiah, who also confronted an invader, this time the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Parallel scenarios and phraseology unite the two passages, often by way of contrast. Although there is not so marked an emphasis on the Davidic dynasty in these later chapters, the theme is not wholly absent. The promise to defend the city in 37:35 and the promise to heal Hezekiah from his mortal sickness in 38:5 are both linked with David (as in the parallel Kings passages). To the extent that these prose narratives that include references to David’s house and dynasty and to the promises that were vested in him relate to specific historical events, however strongly interpreted, we may conclude that Isaiah himself and the book that developed from his initiation treat the theme of Davidic kingship as a given for preexilic Judah. For the kings in Jerusalem and for their subjects, this all afforded a sense of stability in a God-given institution on which they could rely in times of crisis. (I note here in passing that, despite later Christian appropriation, the reference to the “key of the house of David” in 22:22 is made mainly to elevate the status of Eliakim, who will carry it, and that from our present narrow point of view, it serves only to underline the importance of the Davidic house in the social values of its contemporaries.) The time

Davidic Kingship in Isaiah   283 would come when that crude confidence came to be challenged by the overthrow of the dynasty, but before we proceed to consider that we should turn next to see what Isaiah the prophet and poet made of this theme. Does it coincide with the view of the historians, or does he present his own perspective?

15.3.  Davidic Kingship in Isaiah’s Poetic Compositions A proverb is cited in Isa 32:1 (similar in many ways to Prov 8:15–16), which neatly encapsulates Isaiah’s understanding of the purpose of kingship, whether Davidic or other: A king should reign so as to bring about righteousness, and princes rule so as to maintain justice [my translation].

This pairing of justice and righteousness comes about a dozen times in the first half of the book, often also in connection with “truth.” As this is not language we commonly use today, it needs some further unpacking. By observing uses in context, including topics with which these values are contrasted, we soon learn that this goes far beyond just the administration of the criminal legal system (though that is included). It speaks instead of the need for probity, including compassion, in all walks of social and political life; we might even go as far as to gloss it with the phrase “social justice.” This may have taken quite different forms in antiquity than it does today, but the general area is one of obviously continuing need at various levels of local, national, and international life. According to Isaiah’s presentation, these qualities had once been characteristic of Zion in what he portrays as the golden era of Davidic rule, even though things have declined seriously since (1:21–23). He concludes his famous parable of the vineyard by asserting that God still looks for these qualities in the present time, but that he finds instead only their opposite—bloodshed and the cry of oppression (5:7, with the clever use of word play). However, he is confident that they will once again characterize the restored Zion of the future, as pictorially God, as builder of the new city, declares: “I will make justice the line and righteousness the plummet” (28:17). These qualities characterize God’s own rule and activity (5:16; 28:6, 17); they were distinctive of Zion’s golden age, and will be so again when God restores her (1:21–26; 28:17; 32:16–17; 33:5); he looks for them still and regularly exhorts the people to that end in the present or condemns their absence or perversion (1:17; 3:10; 5:7, 23; 10:1–2). Although several of the references just listed come from the hand of later editors, they demonstrate that the later tradents were fully in accord with the fundamental tenets of Isaiah’s own theology. This clearly was a central concern to the authors of the first part of the book, and indeed the perversion of justice and righteousness was a significant cause of the judgment that Isaiah anticipated.

284   H. G. M. Williamson What we shall now see as something distinctive to Isaiah is that in his poetic oracles about the Davidic king, he added a concern for the maintenance of justice and right­ eous­ness to the inherited assumption of God’s promise to the dynasty and the national security that it implied. The promise and the security were not ends in themselves, for either the dynasty itself or even a nationalistic sense of superiority among the people. Rather, they provided a position of stable security from which the Davidic king could serve his people. In an inversion of the standard feudal model, in which those at the ­bottom of the pile work to resource those at the top, the concept in Isaiah is that in an admittedly hierarchically organized society, those at the top—supremely the Davidic king—should serve those over whom they rule to ensure social justice. Thus, in the well-known oracle at the start of chapter 9, there are three short amplifications explaining how and why the darkness in which the people have been walking has turned to light. The third, in verses 6–7,1 announces the birth of a royal child as a gift of God to his people. The child’s status is clear not only from the exalted names he carries but also from the fact that he is associated with “the throne of David and his kingdom.” In his reign there will be endless peace. Looking back on the preceding sections of the poem, we may regard this as applying to peace from external threat and oppression. Looking forward, however, it also clearly relates to circumstances within the kingdom, to social peace and well-being. The syntax at this point does not delay on the prosperity of the throne and kingdom but sees their whole purpose as being “to uphold and establish it with justice and with righteousness.” I regard it as disappointing that a standard English translation like the nrsv starts a new sentence at this point, as if to give equal weight to both parts of the statement. In fact, the prophet indicates that the whole of the privileged status of this child is assured precisely so that he might be better positioned to inaugurate and maintain justice, righteousness, and peace within his dominion. Questions have been raised, of course, as to whether this can possibly have been a hope the eighth-century prophet entertained or whether it is a much later messianic type of hope. In my opinion there is good reason to maintain that it indeed comes from Isaiah. Given that, as we shall see, the later part of the book takes a radically different approach from this kind of expectation, it is difficult to see how it could belong with that material. Its focus on the birth of a child of the dynasty as a source of joy seems to have its most natural setting in the days of the monarchy, and its concern to stress the centrality of justice and righteousness fits well with what we know from elsewhere of Isaiah’s main concerns. The language (especially when we realize that the names are theophoric) is no bar to courtly celebration, as some of the royal psalms also show. And, as a whole, the first part of the poem certainly includes, at least, an interest in the deliverance of the northern kingdom from its current oppression (darkness), a concern that is of no ­interest to much later writers.

1  Where verse numbers differ between the Hebrew text and English translations, I consistently follow the translations.

Davidic Kingship in Isaiah   285 Why then, it may be asked, has it come to be so firmly linked with more eschatological messianic hopes? The reason is not what it says in itself but, instead, the position it has been given in the course of the developing growth of the book. In brief, it follows on now from a short series of much later additions to the first-person material by Isaiah in ­chapter 6 and the first part of chapter 8. Once 8:19–20, and 8:21–9:1a had been added, the oppressive darkness from which the poem describes deliverance is no longer just the partial subjugation of the northern kingdom following the Syro-Ephraimite debacle discussed earlier but a more universal distress and darkness, initially, perhaps, as experienced in the later Babylonian exile and then expanding in even more universalistic directions. To read the poem in that new and wider context obviously entails expanding the horizons of its applicability as well. Comparable considerations improve our understanding of the other great passage relating directly to Davidic kingship—namely, 11:1–9. This passage is in two main sections. The first, in verses 1–5 (which, of course, seem directly to continue 10:33–34), speaks of a royal figure being endowed with the Spirit of God in order the better to judge the poor with righteousness: He will not judge according to what his eyes see, nor reach a judicial decision according to what his ears hear, but rather he will judge the case of the needy with righteousness, and reach a judicial decision in the case of the poor of the land with equity; and he will smite the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips; and righteousness will be the girdle around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins [my translation].

The rare expression that “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him” occurs only twice elsewhere, at Num 11:25–26 and 2 Kgs 2:15. Unlike the more vigorous verbs used for the endowment of the charismatic judges with the Spirit, this gentler term seems from these contexts to speak rather of succession in office, with an emphasis on administrative ability. And that ability is required precisely to undertake the kind of judicial role in relation to righteousness, especially for the poor and needy, that we have seen earlier. The only really new element here is the apparently violent removal of the ruthless and wicked. If we limit our view to these verses alone, there is no reason they should not come, like the passage in chapter 9, from the time of Isaiah. It has sometimes been objected that verse 1 presupposes the fall of the dynasty at the hands of the Babylonians, so that this has to be a post-exilic oracle. The objection is not well founded, however. If 10:33–34 originally represented a threat against all that is proud in the land, our verse would refer not so much to a restoration after foreign invasion as to the hope of a fresh beginning after God has purged his people by some unstated means. The language here is chosen partly out of consideration for the immediately preceding context (trees, etc.); partly by the fact that the destruction is of royal (and perhaps wider) hubris, quite unrelated to

286   H. G. M. Williamson military prowess; and partly by a desire to present the vision of a totally new start in the judicial and civic spheres without that necessarily presupposing the complete loss of all that had gone before. There is a close parallel in 28:16–17, where the establishment of a new or renewed Zion speaks of a foundation stone without commentators necessarily drawing the conclusion that the old Zion has been physically razed to the ground. This looks like the image of a return to pure origins (hence the reference to Jesse rather than David; the use of “Bethlehem” in Mic 5:2 is comparable) with the use of colorful rhetoric rather than a description of military defeat and extermination. In both cases, the need for such imagery certainly implies strong criticism of the prevailing status quo. In neither, however, is there any necessary implication that the institution in question is already a matter of the past. When we turn to 11:6–9, however, we find ourselves in a different world indeed. There is a move from the hope for a king who will administer justice in a good way (a prominent hope of Isaiah himself) to a utopian vision involving a transformation of the natural order. The contrast between the presentation in verse 4 of the forceful imposition of justice and the vision of idyllic peace in verses 6–8 is patent; according to verse 4, the ruthless animals should be eliminated, not transformed into peaceloving creatures. If, therefore, we conclude that verses 6–9 have been added later to the original core in verses 1–5, we may conclude that it is the joining up of these two sections of the poem that has led to the later dominant messianic interpretation of verses 1–5. Just as the later positioning of 9:1–7 led from a celebration of a royal birth, with all the hopes invested in that circumstance, to what may be called a messianic hope, so too with 11:1–5 + 6–9. The hopes for sound judicial and social administration expressed in the new Davidic king envisaged at the start of the passage become a utopian and hence inevitably distant future hope for an even greater son of Jesse.

15.4.  Other References to David in Isaiah 1–39 The other references to David in the first part of the book of Isaiah are somewhat obscure and it is doubtful that we should make too much of them. Isa 29:1–8 is introduced by the interjection “Ah, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped!” (and see, too, the comparable reference in verse 3, if a popular emendation is adopted). Why Jerusalem should here be called Ariel is much discussed, as is the following passage that it introduces. More relevant, however, is the observation that nowhere else, including especially in the account of David’s capture of Jerusalem in 2 Sam 5:6–10 and 1 Chron 11:4–9, is there any indication that David ever “encamped” there (or, indeed, besieged it). All we can conclude is that Isaiah was aware of some (oral?) traditions about David that have since been lost to us. The impact on the theme of kingship seems minimal, however.

Davidic Kingship in Isaiah   287 Similarly, in the middle of an oracle concerning Moab, we find the generally overlooked promise that When the oppressor is no more … . . . then a throne shall be established in steadfast love in the tent of David, and on it shall sit in faithfulness a ruler who seeks justice and is swift to do what is right. (Isa 16:4­b–5; NRSV)

It is probable that these verses come from a time well after Isaiah himself. On the one hand, we may note that the author has clearly picked up on the main theme we have already discerned with his talk about seeking justice and doing what is right. When that is combined with establishing a throne and referring to David without the title “king,” it looks as though 9:7, especially, lies in the background of our passage. On the other hand, the remainder of the oracle is more or less unprecedented. The “tent of David” occurs only here, for instance, and we cannot be sure what is in mind; the sanctuary is sometimes called a tent, and the words translated “seek” and “swift” are both used in relation to Ezra (see Ezra 7:6 and 10). Is there, perhaps, an attempt to bring together royal and priestly or scribal elements in the characterization of this figure? Certainty eludes us, but as a late addition to the work, it clearly cannot have a major bearing on our analysis of the main theme in the book as a whole. To sum up this discussion of the first half of the book, as soon as we move beyond the simple acknowledgment that the Davidic dynasty exercised kingship over Judah during Isaiah’s lifetime, we find that the prophet put his own distinctive gloss on it. Whether now or in imminently future expectation the whole purpose of kingship was the maintenance of “justice and righteousness.” The divine promises of security were not an end in themselves but a sure standpoint from which the king might serve his people for their benefit. Failure to do so would end in judgment, and as time wore on, this came to be identified in quite a number of later small glosses in the text as referring to the Babylonian conquest of Judah and Jerusalem and the exile of most of the leaders of the nation to Babylon.

15.5.  The Democratization of the Davidic Ideal In the second half of the book we find that in many respects things have changed, though there is an underlying element of continuity that we shall also need to take into account. So far as the terminology of kingship is concerned, we find that it is focused exclusively on God, who is mentioned as “the king of Jacob” (41:21), “the king of Israel” (44:6),

288   H. G. M. Williamson and “your [i.e., Israel’s] king” (43:15). In addition, the expression “your God reigns [as a king]” occurs at 52:7. By contrast, there is no reference to the human king of Israel or Judah whatsoever. There is only one mention of David, and that is equally significant because of the radically new perspective that it brings. In Isa 55:3b God is reported as saying: I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love for David.

There are sufficient striking verbal parallels to guarantee that the covenant here referred to is God’s covenant with David, as inaugurated in the oracle of the prophet Nathan in 2 Sam 7 and echoed, as we noted earlier, in many subsequent passages in the historical books, the Psalms, and some of the prophets. The promise that David’s family would always rule in Jerusalem had been dealt a harsh blow, of course, by the Babylonian conquest and destruction of much of the capital city. Zedekiah, the last Davidic king, was tortured and taken captive to Babylon (2 Kgs 25:7), as had Jehoiachin before him (2 Kgs 24:12, 15; 25:27–30). How the biblical authors responded to this severe theological dissonance varied, of course, but none came up, at least in so forthright a manner, with the remarkable suggestion presented here. Like many other languages, but unlike modern English, Hebrew is able to distinguish between singular and plural “you.” In the verse under consideration the “you” is plural. The effect, in other words, is to transfer the promise to David as an individual to the ­plurality of readers of this part of Isaiah. Though these readers are not explicitly identified here, it seems likely that they include those labeled “Jacob/Israel” in chapters 40–48 and Zion/servant in chapters 49–55. Whether a narrower group within these large entities is envisaged is debated but is somewhat anachronistic. We tend to speak of a “faithful remnant” or an “ideal Israel,” or words to that effect, but that may mean little more than our attempt to accommodate the prophet’s address to our categories of thinking. Whatever we conclude, however, the case seems clear that a group, a community, whether large or small, is here taking the place in God’s program that was once filled by David and his successors. And just as in the past, David was (again, ideally) Israel’s “leader and commander” and God’s “witness” to them that he was “the Holy One of Israel,” so now Israel, in turn, as a collective adopts that same role in relation to the other nations (55:4–5). Obviously, there are ways in which the people cannot function as a king in relation to the nations, but some important aspects of the role can, so to speak, be transferred to them, and that will form an important part of the continuity between the first part of the book and this second one. Once we grasp the scope of what is here envisaged, we can readily begin to appreciate the way the prophet, in his addresses to his collective audience, sometimes uses terminology that was previously typically used for royalty. For instance, the encouragement to “fear not” in the face of difficult circumstances was directed to both Davidic kings in the first part of the book: to Ahaz in 7:4–9 and to Hezekiah in 37:6. Now, in the second part, the expression occurs regularly in oracles addressed to Israel, for example, 41:8–13,

Davidic Kingship in Isaiah   289 14–16; 43:1–7; 44:2–5. Similarly, the frequent references in these chapters to the fact of God “choosing” Israel probably has its origins in the distinctive application of the language of election to the Davidic king. And finally, there are indications that the prophet was influenced in several respects by the royal Psalm 89, and it may be from this source that he derived his notion of the people of Israel as God’s servant (see at least, and without controversy 41:8, 9; 43:10; 44:1, 2, 21; 45:4; 48:20), just as there the king had been (cf. Ps 89:3, 20, 39).

15.6.  The Royal Servant Who Brings Forth Justice With all this as background we may now turn to a passage that in my opinion helps to draw many of these strands together: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench, he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the islands wait for his teaching. (Isa 42:1–4)

This passage has, with some justification, from early times received a messianic ­interpretation; that should not, however, prevent us from asking first about a historical reading in its present literary context. Parts of the language used about this servant are extremely close to what is said about God’s servant Israel in the preceding chapter, especially 41:8–9. There is, therefore, scarcely room to doubt that in the present context, the same must be true of the servant in our passage as well. The servant addressed in chapter 41 is now presented to the wider world in chapter 42. It is true that Israel as the prophet currently sees her is in need of encouragement to have faith in God, and many oracles in these chapters are concerned with addressing that issue, but that need not mean that Israel is not expected to take the “royal” role that we expect based on 55:3. This conclusion is strongly supported by the list of attributes of the servant as detailed in the first few lines of the poem. Several offices, such as priest and prophet, as well as king, are designated as that of a servant elsewhere in the Old Testament, but the only one

290   H. G. M. Williamson to whom every attribute is also applied elsewhere is the king. Obviously, therefore, the servant is here presented as a royal figure, in line with what we have by now come to expect. The more important question in many ways is that of what task he is expected to perform. Astonishingly, in the space of just four verses, we are told three times that his role is to “bring forth justice to the nations” or the equivalent. Commentators have stumbled badly over the significance of the word “justice” here, glossing it as, for instance, “­religion,” “truth,” “the principles of true religion,” “issue a decision,” and “revealed law.” Anyone reading this passage in the light of the passages about the king in the first half of the book will have no doubt, however, that this is the same as in the expression “justice and righteousness.” Just as the Davidic king in the pre-exilic period was responsible for the maintenance of social justice in the community, so, too, the transfer of that role to Israel in its new status implies that it will bear a similar responsibility in the wider world of the nations. It is a remarkable vision. And it will not be achieved, apparently, by “grandstanding,” with public noise and show, but rather in discreet ways, by means of witness and example. Davidic kingship in Isaiah as a whole, therefore, is less about status and more about a necessary role in society, whether that society be national or international.

15.7.  An All-Encompassing Figure In the third part of the book (Isa 56–66) there is no reference to David at all, and the references to “king” and related terms are not relevant for our present subject: gentile kings are referred to at 60:3, 10, 11, 16; 62:2, while the “kingdom” in 60:12 is also gentile. At 57:9 the word rendered “king” in some translations is taken by others as a reference to the deity Molech. Even if it is indeed “king” (e.g., “and thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thine ambassadors far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell,” rv), the reference is obscure. Because of the preceding context most regard it as a reference to a pagan deity. The minority who refer it to a human king agree that it must be a foreign king, whether of Persia or of some other power. Finally, at 62:3, Zion is told that she will be “a royal diadem in the hand of your God,” a striking image from which we can hardly deduce anything about the socio-­ ideological status of the community. Despite this lack of direct evidence, it may be suggested that the famous passage at the beginning of Isa 61 at least contributes to the theme that we have been tracing. The first few lines of the poem are full of expressions that recall those in chapters 40­–55 who were to be used by God for the deliverance of his people. Nobody can miss the echo in the first line, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me,” of part of 42:1 (and see, too, 11:2), “I have put my spirit upon him,” which we have just been discussing; the same royal servant is here by implication. The continuation “because the Lord has anointed me,” however, recalls Cyrus in 45:1, the only other character is the book who is said to be anointed. Then again,

Davidic Kingship in Isaiah   291 “he has sent me to bring good news” reminds us of those heralds of good news who feature in 40:9; 41:27; and 52:7. And so on. It looks as though in some idealized form the prophet here is gathering together and reaffirming as still valid all the promises of deliverance and salvation that had been adumbrated earlier and that had not, perhaps, turned out to be so immediately fulfilled as might initially have been hoped. If so, the question then arises as to what task is expected of this figure. Although the answer is spelled out in fuller detail than the simple couplet “justice and righteousness,” it can be seen at once that it is moving in very much the same circles: the addressees in view are “oppressed” and “broken hearted”; they “mourn,” are in “ashes,” and are of a “faint spirit”; and like the community depicted in such passages as 42:7; 49:24–25; and 52:2, they include “captives” and “prisoners.” Though the political and social circumstances have changed beyond all recognition, the task of this character is the same, mutatis mutandis, as that of the Davidic king in the first part of the book.

15.8.  Messianic Hope For many readers, the passages primarily discussed in this chapter will be most familiar from their liturgical use, with a clear messianic interpretation, during Advent. And this has long been the approach shared (albeit differently applied) by both Judaism and Christianity. It follows from our approach that this can be simultaneously affirmed and qualified. It is obvious that Jesus, born into a socially modest family and living under Roman occupation, could not act with the sovereign freedom of a Davidic king in Jerusalem. Nor were his circumstances the same as those in the Babylonian exile or the early period of restoration thereafter. Yet it was not coincidental that, according to the account in Luke 4:16–21, he read the passage from Isa 61 at the start of his public ministry and declared: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was patently not saying that such fulfillment meant that this scripture had no further relevance, any more than when some of the other passages are quoted elsewhere in the Gospels. Rather, he was proclaiming that the role envisaged in all the passages, which had to be variously applied to fit the changing circumstances at the times of their first delivery, would also shape the pattern of his ministry. In his very different world he, too, would be concerned for justice and righteousness without discrimination for those in need of it. But of course, that did not exhaust the prophetic vision. The messianic application has therefore to be qualified in the sense that such necessary work as was first entrusted to the Davidic kings remained as a manifesto for the community which followed later, as well as for individuals, and to that extent, it remains open-ended for communities and individuals who ­follow after them, no matter how changed their circumstances may be.

292   H. G. M. Williamson

Bibliography Heskett, Randall. Messianism within the Scriptural Scroll of Isaiah. LHBOTS 456. New York: T&T Clark, 2007. Leclerc, Thomas L. Yahweh Is Exalted in Justice: Solidarity and Conflict in Isaiah. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001. Schmid, Konrad. “Herrschererwartungen und -aussagen im Jesajabuch: Überlegungen zu ihrer synchronen Logik und zu ihren diachronen Transformationen.” In Prophetische Heilsund Herrschererwartungen, 37–74. SBS 194. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2005. Wegner, Paul. An Examination of Kingship and Messianic Expectation in Isaiah 1–35. Lewiston, NY: Mellen Biblical Press, 1992. Williamson, H. G. M. Variations on a Theme: King, Messiah and Servant in the Book of Isaiah. Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1998.

chapter 16

Ex ile i n th e Book of Isa i a h Dalit Rom-Shiloni

16.1. Introduction One could say that, in its received form, the book of Isaiah “saw” the implementation of exile and “took part” in the (partial) return from it.1 In its long history of literary evolution from the eighth to the fifth centuries bce, this prophetic collection could potentially have reflected on the Neo-Assyrian deportations, theoretically from both Israel and Judah (Isa 1–39; taking 733 bce to be the year of the commissioning of Isaiah son of Amoz, Isa 6:1), down to the Neo-Babylonian exiles (as reflected in editorial elaborations, e.g., Isa 37). The prophetic authors of the later units could have experienced exile in Babylon. Some of them could also have anticipated and possibly also participated in the return from the Babylonian exile; thus they could have been writing from Yehud in the early Persian period (e.g., the anonymous prophetic voices in Isa 24–27; 34–35; 40–66). Moreover, the final formulation of the book of Isaiah stretches on through an even ­longer period; the book is said to have been completed by the third century bce, long after the authors of its later sections had re-established themselves in their homeland (e.g., passages in Isa 24–27 and 56–66). This long span of time generates both the great opportunities and the immense difficulties scholars of the book of Isaiah face when considering the references to exile in this prophetic book. The one thing scholars seem to agree on is that the theme of exile in Isaiah does not take the central stage it could (or should) have taken. Hence,

1  I thank Francis Landy, Shalom Paul, and Hugh Williamson, who read previous versions of this chapter. The comments they each expressed in writing were of great value to me, required rethinking and, at times, even significant revisions of my arguments. Obviously, any faults in this study are my own. I further thank Dr. Ruth Clements for her insightful comments on style and thought.

294   Dalit Rom-Shiloni scholars debate such questions as, Is exile (in terms of both deportation and return) an aspect of the historical circumstances against which the prophecies of Isaiah son of Amoz, or those of Second (and Third) Isaiah, should be read? And, if this “historical” path is taken, which stages (“waves”) of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian deportations receive attention in this heterogeneous book? Or, is exile a theme for theological reflection, written long after the fact of any exile and return as an ex eventu reflection on historical memory, as a metaphor, or even as a historical fantasy made up for the sake of diverse theological, ideological, and sociological agendas? The study of the book of Isaiah has seen all treatments, and exile in Isaiah remains one of the great riddles of this prophetic collection.2 This scholarly ambiguity stems from the fact that this book, in its various units and as a whole, leaves readers with only fragmentary information about the effects on Israel and Judah of one of the most influential facets of imperial policy in the entire ancient Near East of the first millennium bce. For reasons that will become clear, I tend to understand allusions to exile in Isaiah as reflecting historical circumstances in both the eighth and the sixth centuries bce. Nevertheless, I do recognize that throughout this book’s long history of composition, the theme of exile in Isaiah has also become a focus of theological reflection, confronting realities, or their cultural memories, time and again in the course of three hundred years (and possibly more). Hence, this chapter has four main goals. First, I hope to set out all the information we have on exile and on possible exilic setting(s) in Isaiah, focusing the discussion according to the book’s main literary units (chaps. 1–39 [i.e., 1–23; 36–39],3 chaps. 24–27; 34–35; 40–48, 55; 49, 56–66); thus, the rubric of “exile” refers both to waves of deportation and to waves of return. Second, I will note biblical and extrabiblical elements grounded in history, imperial ideology, and theology that may shed light on the Isaiah materials. Third, I will explore the notion of exile as metaphor, distinguishing between the connotations of exile as tenor and exile as vehicle. Fourth, throughout, I will evaluate scholarly treatments of exile in Isaiah. These fall mainly in the categories; that is, on the one hand, the understanding of references to exile in Isaiah (to both deportation and return) as embedded in historical events, which are the focus of theological reflection in later prophetic proclamations, and, on the other hand, the understanding that language of exile in Isaiah is purely metaphorical, retrospectively employed in the prophecies for a variety of reasons.

2  This is the point of departure for Poulsen, Black Hole; see the up-to-date bibliography there. 3  For reasons of convenience, I use Isa 1–39 to designate “First Isaiah”; though, obviously, even chaps. 1–23 and 36–39 are literarily complex and include passages from the eighth to at least the sixth centuries bce. See, for instance, Clements, Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem; and “Prophecies of Isaiah,” 421–436; Williamson, “Isaiah 6,13,” 119–128.

Exile in Isaiah   295

16.2.  Deportation as a PoliticalMilitary Strategy of Subjugation in Isaiah The practice of deportation is documented in diverse Assyrian and Babylonian records that date mainly from the ninth to the sixth (and then the fifth) centuries bce. NeoAssyrian sources expose the imperial points of view. As records left by subjugators, they tell of the royal initiatives and the administrative operations required to handle complicated policies of dislocation.4 Neo-Babylonian records attest only rarely to the specifics of imperial deportation policy; but they also include direct and indirect sources and archives relating to the deportees who resettled in Babylonia.5 Hebrew Bible (HB) sources—historiography, prophetic literature, and psalmody—suggest the other side of the coin. Almost uniquely among contemporary literary corpora, they set forth reflections by the subjugated peoples, by those who had suffered as the targets of these imperial policies. The book of Isaiah is even more special within the HB because of its reflections on the phenomenon of exile in all its phases—deportation, life in exilic setting(s), and return. The study of Isa 1–39 has given rise to many publications on Judah’s vassal status under Assyria.6 Significantly less attention has been given to explicit (and implicit) references to Neo-Assyrian (or Neo-Babylonian) deportations in this part of the book. For example, Oded mentions only five passages in Isa 1–39 that refer to these Neo-Assyrian deportations (Isa 5:13; 6:11–13; 10:13–14; 11:11–12; and chaps. 36–37).7

16.2.1.  Unpacking Exile in Isaiah: Deportation in Seven Points The available information about deportation in Isaiah may be categorized under seven points that unpack the experience of exile. As has long been recognized, all the biblical and extrabiblical evidence taken together gives only limited historical pictures of each of the waves of deportation from Israel and Judah. Moreover, these sources are particularly limited in what they say about the social, psychological, cultural, and even i­deological 4 Oded, Mass Deportations; War; Babylonian Exile, 27–84, 99–124; Fales and Postage, Imperial Administrative Records, xiii–xxxv. 5  On the deportation policy, see Vanderhooft, Neo-Babylonian Empire; Oded, Babylonian Exile, 125–196. References on Yahwistic deportees in Babylon, see Zadok, “Nippur Region”; “Early History”; Earliest Diaspora; and “Onomastics from Yahūdu”; Abraham, “West Semitic”; “Negotiating Marriage”; Jursa, Economic History; Pearce, “Continuity and Normality”; Pearce and Wunsch, Documents; Berlejung, “Social Demarcation Lines.” 6  E.g., Machinist, “Assyria and Its Image”; “Assyrians and Assyria”; “Order and Disorder”; and “Ah, Assyria”; de Jong, Isaiah; “Window”; Abernethy, “Eating”; Aster, Reflections. 7 Oded, Babylonian Exile, 31–32, 37, 71–72, 104.

296   Dalit Rom-Shiloni and theological dimensions of the experiences endured by the Israelite and Judean communities (among other peoples of the ancient Near East). Among the sections of the book, Isa 1–39, not surprisingly, has the most complete range of information on the subject, and these chapters form the basis of the discussion that follows; unpacking the experience of deportation in each of the book’s units in turn also highlights the lacunae we face on some of these points, and accentuates the questions left open for further investigation.  Circumstances of Deportation As an aspect of Neo-Assyrian imperial policy, deportation was the last step in taken in wars against rebelling vassal kingdoms. Following a defeat by the fierce imperial enemy, and by the order of the emperor, conquered royals, officials, artisans, and laypersons (men, women, and children) were forced into exile (see, e.g., 2 Kgs 15:29; 17:5–6; 25:11–12, etc.).8 Yet in biblical theological reflections on war, Yhwh is often considered the agent of deportation (e.g., Deut 28:36; 2 Kgs 17:18, 23; 25:20).9 Judgment prophecies against Israel and Judah in Isa 1–39 refer to human military invasion, siege, and devastation. According to the prophetic theological point of departure, these political-military attacks are carried out under divine initiative. Yhwh is seen as either the sole agent of annihilation (Isa 1:19–20, 29–31; 3:1–15 and 3:25–4:1; 5:1–7, 8–10; 8:11–15; 28:1–13, 23–29; 29:1–12, 13–14; 31:1–3, 4) or as the one who has summoned the enemy troops against his own people (1:7–8; 5:25–30; 8:5–8; 9:7–11; 10:1–4; 29:1–10, 11–12; retrospectively in the consolation of 30:18–26). The prophetic passages that present the military campaigns as coming through the initiative of the human enemy are the exception (7:1–9 [Aram and Israel]; 9:1–6; 10:24–26 [Assyria; in this instance, Yhwh is to summon others against the attackers, 26]; 31:5 [Yhwh is to protect Jerusalem from unspecified enemy]; 36:1–2 [Assyria]). All these passages attest to the horrors of subjugation to the Assyrian regime in the conquered land (9:1–4[6], 7–20[10–11]; 10:20–23[21], 24–26[24]; 36:1); some also mention the existence of Assyrian provinces in the land (e.g., 8:19–23). However, none speak of deportation as a part of this suffering. Explicit references to deportation as the culmination of a campaign of war are relatively few in the judgment prophecies of Isa 1–39 (5:11–17[13]; 6:11–13[12]; 7:10–16[17], 18–25[20]; 8:1–4[4]; 10:5–7[6], 8–10; 17:9–11; 22:1–14[3, 8]; 36:16–20[17]; 39:6–7). These passages use verbs denoting exile, either with the human enemies as the active agents, or with the people of Judah as the (active/passive) object: ‫( אסר‬bind), ‫( ברח‬run away), ‫( גלה‬deport), ‫( נדד‬flee, wander about), ‫( הסיר‬remove), and ‫( עזב‬leave, abandon). Only once is Yhwh specified as the agent of exile: ‫“ ורחק יהוה את האדם‬for the Lord will banish the population” (Isa 6:12). Deportation includes taking away humans, armory, goods, and booty in general (using ‫“ בז‬plunder” and ‫“ שלל‬capture, rob,” e.g., 10:6). Far more numerous than references to exile per se are more general references to oppression by 8  On the deportation of entire families, see Fales and Postage, Imperial Administrative Records, 153, 167, 170–174, and p. 109, fig 18; Becking, Fall of Samaria. 9  Rom-Shiloni, “Deuteronomic Concepts.”

Exile in Isaiah   297 the Assyrian ­overlords (at least thirty-two passages in comparison to only eleven passages to deportation). This relatively minor attention to exile is also apparent in proclamations of assurance and consolation addressed to Israel (e.g., Isa 10:27–32; 29:5–8), which forecast release from Assyrian bondage, but do not mention either previous deportation(s) or a possible return from them. A similar relative absence of a notion of exile is at play in the prophecies against the nations (PaN). Yhwh acts against his people’s enemies, yet deportation is not part of the judgment against them (8:9–10; 10:12, 15–19, 20–23, 24–26; 13:14–16, 19–22; 14:24–27, 28–32; 15:1–9; 16:6–12, 13; 17:12–14; 18:1–6[5b–6]; 19:1–4, 5–10, 11–15; 31:5, 8–9; note in reference to the day of Yhwh, 2:6–22; and the triple consolation of Israel, Egypt, and Assyria, 19:16–25). The PaN that do end in exile are those addressed to Moab (16:1–4[2]) and to Damascus and Ephraim (17:1–6[1, 5–6]), where the verbs ‫( עזב‬leave, abandon), ‫( הסיר‬remove), and ‫( נדח‬be scattered) recur. These overall observations are significant and may lead to several quite different conclusions. From a historical point of view, we might deduce from these data that subjugation to a foreign power—first the Assyrians and subsequently the Babylonians—was experienced as the most difficult challenge, more difficult than the challenges of dislocation, or, alternatively, that dislocation was experienced as part of this broader challenge. Alternatively, from a sociological perspective, we might interpret the emphasis on subjugation in Judah as representing an orientation of prophetic voices from within the land rather than from the exiled populations; in this case, Isa 1–39 would represent the voices and viewpoints of communities that had remained in Judah, from the eighth, ­seventh, and/or sixth centuries bce.  Aftermath of War and Deportation: An Empty Land, yet a Remnant War that culminates in exile is portrayed in the sources as utterly destructive, leaving the stricken land empty of inhabitants. Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions relate that the king and the imperial army took away all the inhabitants of the conquered lands.10 HB sources imply the same total deportation; note, e.g., 2 Kgs 15:29: “He captured . . . the entire region of Naphtali”; 17:6 (cf. also 17:23): “He deported the Israelites to Assyria.” This dynamic is further implicit in 17:24–40, which details the transfer of other conquered populations into the territories of the Northern Kingdom, which await, empty (v. 27). The same portrait is painted in reference to Judah, e.g., in 2 Kgs 25:21, 26; and often in prophecy, for example, Jer 33:10. Only rarely do biblical sources mention a remnant of the people left behind in the land (e.g., 2 Kgs 19:30–31). Furthermore, in reference to the Neo-Babylonian deportations (597 and 586 bce), the historiographical report accentuates the downtrodden social status of this remnant (2 Kgs 24:14b; 25:12, 10  See, for instance, Sargon II’ s Khorsabad (Dur Sharukin) Summary Inscription on the fate of Yamani king of Ashdod, Fuchs, Sargon II, 196–198, 219–222, ll. 90–112; and the conquest of Samaria, Gadd, “Inscribed Prisms,” 179–180, cols. iv, ll. 25–49.

298   Dalit Rom-Shiloni 22–26); in any event, even this remnant is said to have fled to Egypt (2 Chron 30:5–6, 10; 35:17–18). However, explicit and implicit references in the HB, as well as extrabiblical evidence, indicate that waves of deportation have always left a remnant in the land.11 Deportation in Isa 1–39 is portrayed as total depopulation, yet several prophecies recognize the existence of a small remnant of Yhwh’s people (Isa 1:7–8; 4:2–6[2, 3]; 6:11–13; 7:10–16[16]; 28:5; 32:9–14; 37:4, 31, 32).12 (a) This selected, even holy, entity within the land contains the seeds of continuation: ‫פליטת ישראל‬, “the survivors of Israel,” is defined as ‫קדוש יאמר לו‬, “Shall be called holy,” Isa 4:2–6[2, 3]); (b) This one-tenth of the Judean population designates the trunk from which the trees/the people will revive (“stumps are left even when they are felled: its stump shall be a holy seed,” 6:11–13); (c) The repeated personal name ‫“( שאר ישוב‬Shear-jashub,” in 7:3) and the passage that elaborates on this name, 10:20–23, indicate that this remnant is pious and loyal to Yhwh. Except for 6:11–13, these other passages do not mention deportation in any explicit way; nor do they refer to an ingathering of the dispersed or to a return of deportees. Rather, the remnant is dependent on its subjugators (as could be gathered from the future hope: ‫על מכהו‬ ‫ להשען‬. . . ‫לא יוסיף עוד‬, “shall lean no more . . . upon him that beats it,” Isa 10:20), and seems to have resided in the land. While scholars debate the identity of this remnant, along with the possible historical setting of Isa 37:4 and verses 31, 32, the one clear thing is that this remnant has never left the land (i.e., in the previous wave[s] of deportation), and is therefore considered the object of a continuing divine promise. This tendency in Isa 1–39 stands, then, in contrast to the single passage in this part of the book, Isa 11:11–16 (11, 16), where ‫( שאר עמו‬New Jewish Publication Society: “the other part of His people”) designates the dispersed peoples of Israel and Judah (v. 12), that is, a group of exiles gathered from many different diasporas. Identifying the remnant with these returnees, and diminishing the status of those who had remained in the land, is well documented in reference to the Neo-Babylonian deportations, found in 2 Kings, Ezekiel, the editorial strands in Jeremiah, and Second Isaiah.13 Isa 1–39 may be considered, therefore, either as earlier than the shaping of this Babylonian exilic ideological position or as clearly reflecting a different conception of exile (closer to Deuteronomy, e.g., Deut 4:25–28), where dislocation equals calamity, and therefore survival and national-religious continuity may develop only among those who remain in the land. In any event, this latter conception informs the native Judean observation on the phenomenon of war and deportation (presented in sec.  Social Dimensions of Deportation The information in both the HB and Neo-Assyrian records is very incomplete in relation to this aspect, and thus leaves open the following questions: What types of people were deported in the different waves of the Neo-Assyrian (733 and 720 bce) and Neo-Babylonian exiles (597, 586, and 582 bce)? Was each group of deportees made up of a specific elite social stratum or a mix of different social circles? Who remained in 11 Oded, Mass Deportations. 12  Heaton, “Root ‫שאר‬.” 13 Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity, 104–120.

Exile in Isaiah   299 the homeland? What was the nature of the relationship between homeland and diaspora communities? Isa 1–39 contributes only minimal information that might help to answer such questions. Chapters 36–39, which refer to the crisis of 701 bce do not designate any specific social groups (or strata) as under threat of exile. Rather, the Rav-Shakeh’s speech targets the entire people of Jerusalem (37:12–20[17]). In contrast, the prophecy against Hezekiah (39:1–8), focuses on the royal family and predicts its deportation to Babylon (vv. 6–7), hence, this passage tells us only about the fate of this delimited group. An exceptional and enigmatic passage in Isa 1–39 is “The Valley of Vision” prophecy (22:1–14). Following a battle, the officers have been chained together and driven into exile (vv. 2b–4, 8; note the semantic field of exile: ‫[ אסר‬bind], ‫[ גלה‬deport], ‫[ נדד‬flee, wander about]). Instead of the mourning expected after such a calamity (vv. 4, 12), verses 13–14 refer to joy in Jerusalem, celebrations by those that remained in the city. Is this merely the joy of relief following the Assyrian withdrawal from Judah in 701? Or does it also denote the he­don­is­tic joy of the lay remainees, for having been spared from that partial deportation of officials and leaders? In reference to the relationship between homeland and diaspora communities, I have already noted the very different dynamic of 11:11–16, where “remnant” denotes those who were sent into exile; this passage does not mention any people who remained in the land.  Destinations of Deportation According to HB sources, deportees are either sent to specific places (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:6) or scattered “to the wind”—namely, to many different places (e.g., Jer 49:32, 36). Isa 1–39 does not make any clear reference to the destinations to which Judean ­deportees were to be taken. The Rav-Shakeh’s speech (36:16–20) calls the people of Jerusalem to surrender and promises life and resettlement in a land “like your own” (v. 17). Although Isaiah’s prediction to Hezekiah (39:1–8[6–7]) specifies that the royal ­family will be taken to the Babylonian royal court, it has nothing to say about the destinations of other deportees.  The Nature of the Journey Extra-biblical records shed some light on the long and life-threatening, months-long journeys that deportees endured, as they travelled across the Fertile Crescent to reach Assyria, Babylonia, or any of the more peripheral regions.14 Quite remarkably, HB sources refer hardly at all to this distressing aspect of exile. Rather, general cliché phrases are used, e.g., ‫“( ויגל את ישראל אשורה וישב אתם בחלח‬He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah,” 2 Kgs 17:6; 2 Kgs 24:15). 14  Assuming that deportees (as armies) could not be led through the deserts, the walking distances from Judah to Assyria and Babylon are estimated to be 1,000 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers respectively, walking over the nourished Fertile Crescent trade routes. Ezek 33:21 is often mentioned to designate the five-month trip from Judah to Tel Aviv; a minimal calculation of a 25-km walk per day brings to about seventy days of walk (Israel Ephal, oral communication).

300   Dalit Rom-Shiloni This cliché style appears once in Isa 1–39, in the Rav-Shakeh’s speech, with the phrase ‫“( ולקחתי אתכם אל ארץ כארצכם‬and take you away to a land like your own,” 36:17). Only three passages in this book unit furnish a bit more information about the journey: (a) In Isa 5:11–17, the verb ‫( גלה‬sent to exile), followed by descriptors of hunger and thirst (with no reference to siege or destruction), denotes the judgment against the exaggerated drinking and feasting in Jerusalem (v. 13; see also Amos 6:4–8). This sequence strengthens the possibility that the hunger and thirst in 5:13 describe the horrors of the journey into exile. (b) Isaiah is ordered to perform the symbolic act of walking naked and barefoot for three years (20:1–6, a prophecy against Egypt)15 in order to illustrate the poor conditions and the shameful destiny of Egypt and Kush when they are led into captivity (v. 4; see 2 Chron 28:15; in Amos 2:16, nakedness designates defeat, not exile). This symbolic action also threatens the Philistines of Ashdod and implicitly Judah by hinting at their own upcoming fates (Isa 20:6). (c) Isa 21:13–15 proclaims an oracle against Arabia, in which caravans of Dedanites and residents of Teima are called to assist ‫­“ נדד‬wanderers”—that is, refugees of war—with water and bread.  Deportation and Continuity Can life in exile be a continuation of life before the dislocation of deportation (e.g., Jer 29:1–7)? Or should deportation only portend additional calamity and disruption (e.g., Lev 26:33, 36–39; Ezek 5:2, 10, 12; Deut 4:27–28)? Isa 1–39 gives two opposing answers to these questions. (a) As an element of imperial propaganda, the Rav-Shakeh promises those to be deported a smooth continuation of the life they have always known, resettled in a land “like your own” (Isa 36:17). (b) The “Vision of Babylon” (Isa 13:1–14:32) contains several passages on the Day of Yhwh. Isa 13:14–16 illustrates the results of those wrathful divine actions that affect the world (‫תבל‬, v. 11; the land, ‫הארץ‬, vv. 9, 13, 14) and the individual nations. Those who have been deported will flee, returning to their respective homelands, only to suffer additional calamities there (rather experience a restoration of continuity with the past; vv. 15–16).  Relocation and Resettlement We may think about relocation from at least two angles, that of the deporting empire,16 and that of the deportees themselves.17 Among the questions only partially answered in extra-biblical sources, are: how and where were the deportees relocated, and what was their legal, economic, and political status within the Neo-Assyrian, the Neo-Babylonian, and then the Persian empires? HB sources clarify hardly any of those aspects. In Isa 1–39, only the Rav-Shakeh speech refers to the fate of deportees after arrival in their new settlements; he promises that they will be able to continue the cultivation

15  For prisoners led naked and barefoot, see Fales and Postage, Imperial Administrative, 106, fig 17. 16  Eph’ al, “Western Minorities”; “Political and Social Organization”; Oded, Mass Deportations; Babylonian Exile; Berlejung, “Social Demarcation Lines.” 17  Zadok, “Nippur Region”; “Early History”; Pearce and Wunsch, Documents.

Exile in Isaiah   301 of grain and vines (36:16–20). In a personal judgment addressed to Shebna (22:15–22), though, deportation means disgrace, loss of social status, and death (vv. 17–19).

16.2.2.  Deportation in Other Units of the Book  Isaiah 24–27 This unit does not mention any of the seven components that demarcate the experience of deportation. God’s warlike actions are directed against the whole world (‫הארץ‬, in 24:1–6; ‫האדמה‬, in 24:21, etc.); targeting all the nations (24:12–17, 21–23; 25:1–5; 25:6–12); leaving anonymous cities destroyed (24:10, 12; 25:2). The description of vast destruction includes ecological catastrophe (24:3, 18–20), agricultural disaster (24:4, 7, 13), and cessation of joy (24:8–11); but there is no mention of a dislocation of peoples. Within this portrayal of destruction in Isa 24:1–20 we do find some references to people who remain in the land, a population substantially decreased in number (v. 6 ‫“ ונשאר אנוש מזער‬And but few men are left”; v. 13, see the discussion of this theme in sec. In Isa 27:7–11, the land is presented as having been left empty (v. 10), yet there is no mention of exile. Isa 24:11–12, on the other hand, does use the language of exile and remnant, but only in a metaphorical sense (see sec. 16.5.1 below). It seems sound to conclude that the authors of Isa 24–27 are aware of the phenomena of deportation (see sec. 16.3 below), although they do not present deportation as the last step in eschatological war.  Isaiah 34–35 These chapters contrast the fates of Edom and Zion.18 Colossal destruction awaits Edom and its capital, Bosra, which will affect its entire ecological system (34:9–10) and bring profound desolation upon it (34:11–15). Yet deportation does not figure in the divine chastisement of Edom; whereas return from exile is presented as the comforting future of Zion (see sec. 16.3).  Isaiah 40–66 This section is governed by the theme of return. Nevertheless, there are some reflections on deportation that reveal (at least) an acquaintance with this tactic as the last stage in war, and as a divine judgment (see sec., see 42:22–25 (v. 22, ‫עם בזוז ושסוי‬ ‫והוא‬, “Yet it is a people plundered and despoiled”); and 50:1. In a prophecy of reversal, in 45:14–17[14], it is said that Israel will subjugate and lead others as captives; and in 46:1–3, deportation will be the punishment of Babylon. Compare these passages, however, to references to subjugation as the ultimate divine punishment, with no explicit mention of deportation (43:22–28; 47:6–7).

18 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 450–451.

302   Dalit Rom-Shiloni

16.2.3. Summary While deportation is not a major element in portrayals of judgment in the book of Isaiah, this study showcases the extent to which this theme was utilized in Isaiah for the various needs of prophecy. References within Isa 1–39 suggest a familiarity with the phenomenon of exile, presented by prophetic authors of the Judeans who remained in the land (from the eighth and/or the sixth centuries bce). Reflections on deportation from the point of view of its immediate victims are rare in these chapters. Thus, working through the units of the book validates the longtime scholarly consensus on the NeoAssyrian setting for the bulk of Isa 1–39 (with some later elaborations up to the early Neo-Babylonian period). The later units of the book (chaps. 24–27, 34–35, and 40–66) seem either almost to avoid the mention of deportation, or to focus on the return. This observation accords with the (early) Persian period contexts of these units and pri­ma­ rily reflects the experience of those who returned to the land from deported communities, a phenomenon to which we now turn.

16.3.  Return from Exile in Isaiah: An Actual Experience or a Theological Expectation Construct? Isa 40–48/55 and 49/56–66 show a clear emphasis on the return, whereas the passages of consolation in Isa 1–39 (11:11–16; 14:1–2; 27:12–13) yield only scattered references to the return. Lexical and thematic similarities in these passages to the second part of the book have led scholars to treat them as reflecting “the perspective of the restored post-disaster community”—interpolated into the earlier section by later editors.19 The theme of the return in Isaiah has also spurred two scholarly approaches: one that situates the prophecies within the sixth/fifth centuries, spoken to exilic and post-exilic Judean communities;20 and another that understands the return as a theme, metaphor, theological concept, divorced from the historical circumstances of both deportation and resettlement, and conceived and developed during the later Persian period by Jews long resettled in Yehud, thus could be termed “posthistorical” in the distant historical circumstances it reflects.21

19 Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 281, on Isa 14:1–2. 20  See, e.g., Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39; Isaiah 40–55; Albertz, Israel in Exile. The discussion below addresses also the scholarly suggestion that the return in Isa 40–55 is observed by nonexiled Judeans (see sec. 16.4, “Exilic Settings”). 21  Landy, “Exile”; Becking, “We All Returned”; “In Babylon”; Halvorson-Taylor, Enduring Exile; Poulsen, Black Hole.

Exile in Isaiah   303

16.3.1.  Unpacking Exile in Isaiah: Return to the Homeland in Seven Points Trying to unpack the experience, or the literary portrayal, of the return in Isaiah is even a bigger challenge than that of dealing with deportation, a challenge that requires consideration of (at least) two points about the sources at hand. From a comparative perspective, any information we have concerning a return from exile is largely drawn from the HB itself, with hardly any data from extrabiblical sources (except for the very general information in the Cyrus Cylinder).22 Moreover, on the one hand, Babylonian archives confirm the ongoing residence of Judeans in Babylon throughout the Persian period; and on the other, archaeological evidence in Jerusalem (and more generally in Yehud) for this era is interpreted as the remains of a radically small Judean population in the city and in its surroundings.23 The following discussion asks what can be gleaned about the concrete phenomena of the return from indications in the book of Isaiah.  Circumstances of Return Quite different from deportation as the last step of war in prophecies of judgment, and unlike the historiographic report on the Cyrus edict (Ezra 1:1–4; 2 Chron 36:22–23), prophecies of consolation, particularly in Isa 40–66, portray the return as solely a matter of divine initiative (40:6–8, 10–11, 27–31; 41:8–13, 17–20[17, 20]; 42:14–17; 43:1–7; 16–20; 44:24–28; 48:20–22; 49:1–6[5b, 6], 8–13, 14–21[18–20]; 51:4–8, 9–11; 55:6–13[12–13]; 57:14–19[15, 18]; 59:15b–21; 60:10b; in a universalistic vision, Yhwh gathers all nations to his holy mountain in Jerusalem, 66:18aβ–24[20]).24 Clusters of epithets for Yhwh accumulate in this part of the book, among them ‫“ מלך‬king” (e.g., 43:15; 44:6); ‫ בורא‬or ‫יוצר‬, “creator” of his people (e.g., 43:15; 44:24); the one who chose Jacob/Israel to be his people (e.g., 41:8–13). But the most dominant epithets are ‫ מושיע‬and ‫“( גואל‬savior,” e.g., 41:14; 43:11, 14; 44:6; 45:15; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7, 26; 52:9; 54:5, 8; 59:20; 60:16; 3:9, 16). Furthermore, in leading the repatriates, Yhwh himself returns to Zion/Jerusalem (e.g., 40:9–10; 52:7–10, 11–12; 59:20; as also 35:4). Human involvement in deliverance from exile is rare, and limited to the roles that Yhwh has commanded them to take: (a) the nations are to be Yhwh’s agents to bring back Zion’s sons and daughters (49:22–26); and (b) unique to Isaiah, Cyrus is glorified as God’s “anointed one” (44:24–28[28]; 45:1–8, 9–13), acting under Yhwh’s instructions (45:2–5). The community addressed is that living in Babylon. Yhwh has roused Cyrus from north and east to deliver them (41:25). More broadly, Yhwh delivers Jacob/Israel from the “end(s) of the earth” (41:9; 43:5–6 [the four corners of the earth]; 49:6[6]; 62:10–12[11]). 22  For the Cyrus Cylinder, see Cogan, COS, 2:315–316. 23 Lipschits, Fall and Rise, 134–184; Finkelstein, “Jerusalem,” 501–520. 24  The return as a divine initiative appears further in Deut 30:3–5. Compare those presentations of the return to the portrayal of deportation as the last step of war in prophecies of judgment, as also in to the historiographic report on the Cyrus edict (Ezra 1:1–4; 2 Chron 36:22–23). Those sources usually portray Yhwh as summoning the human enemy against his people, see above.

304   Dalit Rom-Shiloni Repeatedly the prophecies present Yhwh himself as returning to his land and city, leading the repatriates (e.g., 40:5, 9–11). In this configuration, Yhwh left Jerusalem with the exiles (49:14; 54:7); he was with them in their foreign abode (52:5, 12); and is now expected to return with them (52:8: ‫בשוב יהוה ציון‬, and 12; 59:19–20). Return as a purely divine initiative is found also in a few passages in Isa 1–39 (11:11–16; 14:1); Isa 24–27 (26:4; 27:12); and Isa 35 (4, 10).  Aftermath of Return Other HB texts (Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra-Nehemiah) tell of gradual and partial waves of return from Babylon to Yehud (throughout 538–520, and then on through the mid-fifth century bce), or focus on the continuing diasporic life within the Persian empire (the book of Esther). While extrabiblical information is partial, Babylonian sources confirm that Judeans remained in Babylon and gradually spread to other diaspora communities (e.g., the Al-Yahudu documents, the Bit Murashu archives, and more). In contrast to these indications, yet in accord with the book’s portrayals of deportation as an all-encompassing event, the return in Isa 40–55 is portrayed as a single, general event, affecting the entire community of Judean exiles. This impression may be gathered from the inclusive designations of the addressees of these prophecies as “Jacob”/”Israel” (e.g., 40:27–31; 41:8–13(8); 43:1, 14–15; 49:1–6; see sec. 16.4.3 below); or “my people,” ‫לאומי‬/‫( עמי‬e.g., 51:4–8; 52:1–6[3–4], 7–10, 11–12; 55:1–5, 6–11). In addition, Zion/Jerusalem, the cities of Judah, and the land all await, eager and empty, for the returnees (e.g., 40:9). Zion mourns that she had been left alone by Yhwh and long forgotten, empty of residents (49:14–21[14]; 54:1–10[1]; 54:11–17[11–12]; 62:1–9[4–5]; 62:10–12[12]). The return means a reversal of this situation (49:18–21; 54:2–4; 62:2b–4, 6), the restoration of deserted lands (49:8–13). In all these prophecies, nothing is said of any remnant of the community left behind, found within the land upon the return. The desolation and emptiness of the land are also highlighted in Isa 35, which speaks of the transformation of the landscape (vv. 1–2; the ways through the desert, 6b–8). Human transformation is restricted to the people in exile (vv. 3–6a), and the repopulation of Zion will take place only with the return of the redeemed exiles (vv. 9–10).  Social Dimensions of the Return Scholars struggle to understand the sociological makeup of the returnees. Were they descendants of the Jehoiachin exiles, or of the 586 and 582 exiles? Were they from particular social strata among the exiles? The book of Ezra-Nehemiah does not supply such information, apart from the fact that from the authors’ perspectives, the core leadership of the exilic community remained in Babylon. Consequently, the Babylonian returnees (‫ )שבי הגולה‬are continuously considered peripheral to the main Babylonian exilic community; they are accused by them of improper religious behavior (e.g., Ezra 9–10; Neh 5–7:5, 8–10, 13).25 25  See Bedford, Temple Restoration; “Diaspora:Homeland,” 147–166; Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity, 34–41.

Exile in Isaiah   305 Isa 40–66 leaves most of these questions unresolved. While there is no identification with any specific Judean community of deportees, a very powerful and inclusive Babylonian exilic ideology governs this unit of Isaiah, whether written in Babylon or later by Babylonian-Repatriates back in Yehud. As mentioned above (sec., the deportees are the targets of messages of consolation, called “Jacob/Israel” and “my ­people”; Isa 49–55, 60–62 identify the returnees with Zion/Jerusalem (49:14–21; 51:1–3, 9–11, 17–20, 21–23; 52:1–6, 7–10; 54:1–10, 11–17; and 62:1–9). Passages such as 49:22–26 draw connections between these various group designations, and in 51:12–16, “Zion” is identified as “my people.” Furthermore, the prophecies apply national traditions to the repatriated exiles, invoking the blessing of Abraham and Sarah for descendants (51:1–2); the concept of “Jacob/Israel” as the chosen people (e.g., 41:8–13); Exodus traditions (to portray return from exile as a second exodus; e.g., 43:16–21). Reinstitution of the cult in the Temple seems to be restricted to the community of repatriates and those foreigners that will attach themselves to Yhwh, whose epithet is ‫“( מקבץ נדחי ישראל‬Who gathers the dispersed of Israel,” Isa 56:1–8[8]). The diverse authors in chapters 40–66 construct the exclusivity of the Babylonian exiles and then the repatriated exiles as continuing the people of Yhwh over against other Yahwistic groups and, in particular, those who remained in Judah following the Neo-Babylonian deportations. These authors employ three basic strategies to denigrate any “others”: The first is that the land, following the deportations, is portrayed as empty (Isa 40–55 and 60–62), devoid of any inhabitants and waiting for the returnees to refill it (see sec. above). Second are the hierarchal distinctions between the Babylonian repatriates and those who remained. Although the exact definitions of the opposing groups in Isa 56–66 are not always clear, the internal struggle seems to be one of legitimizing the claims of the returnees to be the true people of God over the claims of all other groups. The repatriates, stereotypically evaluated as pious and devoted to Yhwh (e.g., 51:7; 54:17; 60:21; “my servants” and “my chosen ones,” 65:13–14, 15–16; “my ­people,” “my chosen ones,” and “an offspring blessed by Yhwh,” 65:22–23; 66:5–9), are pitted against “others” who are disobedient, immoral, etc. (e.g., 50:10–11; 57:3–14; 65:1–7; those “who forsake Yhwh,” 65:11–12; 66:1–4).26 The prophetic speaker(s) in these chapters may plausibly be identified as member(s) of this community of Babylonian repatriates back in Judah.27 And the third is assimilation to the repatriate community. Sporadically in 56–66, we hear of “the foreigners who attach themselves to the Lord” (56:3, 6), a phrase that appears to designate individuals or groups who assimilate into the repatriate community by meeting its standards for membership. Within chapters 24–27, Isa 26:1–6 portrays the return of the highly esteemed “right­ eous nation [. . . a nation] that keeps faith” (v. 2), which is to return to the empty cities in the land of Judah. In Isa 34–35, the exilic community is first designated as ‫“( נמהרי לב‬anxious of heart,” 35:4), a group that needs strengthening and encouragement. But then, they are 26  Rofé, “Isaiah 66:1–4”; Schramm, The Opponents. 27 Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity, 99–136; challenged by Tiemeyer, “Review.”

306   Dalit Rom-Shiloni t­ ransformed as well; they arrive in Zion in a state of eternal joy and are now called ‫גאולים‬ and ‫“( פדויי יהוה‬redeemed . . . the ransomed of the LORD,” vv. 9, 10; and see 51:11).  Destinations of the Return The targets of return are generally specified as the homeland, Judah/Israel; Yhwh’s city, Zion/Jerusalem; and the cities of Judah (e.g., Zech 1:7–17; Ezra 1). This is also the case in Isa 40–48, 49–55, 60–62 (40:1–2, 9–11; 44:24–28; 46:8–13[13]). Interest in the ­re-­establishment of Jerusalem grows in chapters 49–66 (49:14–21; 51:1–3[3], 9–11; 61:1–9[3]; 62:1–9[4], 10–12; 65:19–25[21–22, 25]); the highland vegetation (55:12–13); the desolated lands (49:8–13); and even the local deserts (40:3–5) are enlisted as transforming into fertile lands, assisting the returnees’ resettlement. Yet, many consolation prophecies in chapters 40–55 do not announce the destination of the return, and rather seem to focus on the journey itself (40:27–31; 41:17–20[18, 19]; 42:14–17; 43:16–20; 48:20–22; 57:14–19, see sec. The earlier chapters of the book contain just a few references to the return (11:11–16; 14:1–3), and in another two of the book’s units (chaps. 24–27 and 34–35), references to the return in fact close the unit. Isa 24–27 ends with a description of how Yhwh will gather the people from Assyria and Egypt one by one (27:12), to serve him on “the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (v. 13b). Isa 34–35 ends with a reference to Zion as the target of the return (35:10).  The Nature of the Journey In contrast to the almost total lack of descriptions of the journeys of dislocation in Isa 1–39, Isa 40–55 portray in vivid colors the journey out of Babylon and back to Judah. While this journey is long and tiring, Yhwh empowers Jacob with swiftness (40:27–31[29–31]) and with the ability to overcome thirst and hunger (41:17–20; 49:8–13); and yet, leaving Babylon is not to be hurried, as if running away (52:11–12; and Jer 50:8, in contrast to the haste in Isa 48:20; Jer 51:45). Famous for their beautiful portrayals of nature, prophecies in Isa 40–55 emphasize that God will profoundly transform the ecological conditions in order to allow deliverance. Large deserts turn into landscapes of flowing waters, which dramatically affect flora and fauna, to ease the journey back (40:3–5; 41:17–20; 42:14–17; 43:16–20; 48:20–22; 49:8–13).28 Theologically, these prophecies proclaim that restoration from the Babylonian exile is sure to take place, and it requires a profound change of entire biological systems. It is, therefore, for God to take care of and to re-form. This could be one reason those prophecies do not address the final target of the return, and hardly present transformation of the land of Judah itself (see sec. 16.4 below, item 6.). In Isa 35 (vv. 5–9) the journey back includes the transformation of humans (disabilities are instantly overcome, vv. 5–6); nature (desert turns into flowing waters, v. 7); and risky roads become safe (vv. 8–9). 28  Compare these passages to two passages (57:14–19[14]; 62:10–12) where anonymous addressees are called to take action and prepare the way back. See Rom-Shiloni, “Nature Imagery, “ 202–208.

Exile in Isaiah   307  Return and Continuity Return is portrayed as the hoped-for conclusion to the period of distress. Isa 40–55 emphasizes language that proclaims Yhwh’s commitment to re-institute the covenant relationships with his people: Yhwh has chosen Jacob/Israel (43:8–13[10], 16–21[20b]; 44:1–5), and presently strengthens his people (e.g., 40:27–31); the formula ‫ אל תירא‬is repeated (41:8–13, 14–16; 43:1–7).  Relocation as Return The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, as well as Ezra-Nehemiah, attest to some of the difficulties, such as struggles with drought and economic distress, that the returnees had to face upon their resettlement in the land of Israel (e.g., Hag 1:3–11). It is remarkable to note that neither Isa 40–55 nor 56–66 reflect any of those difficulties. Rather, chapters 49–55 and 60–62 refer to the restoration of Zion/Jerusalem when it becomes packed with returnees (49:14–21; 51:1–3, 9–11; 52:1–6, 7–10; 54:1–10, 11–17; 60:1–4, 5–17; 61:1–9). Isa 56–66 reveal struggles that may be contextualized entirely within the realm of the reinstitution of life in Jerusalem, for example, observance of the Sabbath; establishment of cultic personnel in Yhwh’s mountain and temple (56:1–8[8]); ­denigrated leadership (56:9–12); admonitions of the adversaries (whoever they might be) concerning their religious (cultic and moral) behavior (57:3–14; 58; 59; with communal lament and confession of sins, 59:9–15a; 65:1–7).29

16.3.2. Summary Can we evaluate more uniformly the portrayal of return in Isaiah, and distinguish the “historical” from the “a-historical” references? The parallel points, and even more the differences, between the portrayals of deportation and return, suggest that in fact the book of Isaiah includes both types of material—indications of the historical experience of exile (deportation and return), and not least reflections on these experiences long after the fact. The common denominator that seems to govern portrayals of both deportation and return from all angles is the theological perspective. It is Yhwh that has expelled his people, and that likewise promises return. Framing exile theologically may thus explain this constant tension between contemporary experience and later theological reflection. One clear difference between portrayals of deportation and return in Isaiah is the attitude toward the remnant. While in Isa 1–39 (apart from 11:11–16; 14:1–2; and chaps. 24–27, 34–35), the remnant designates those remaining in the land—that is, those who were never deported—Isa 40–66 (as also those late passage and units in 1–39) consider

29  Of special note is the long communal lament of 63:7–64:11, which focuses on past divine salvation and the people’ s sinful history, and laments the current continuous distress confronting Jerusalem and Judah’ s desolation (64:8–10), but throughout has no mention of exile, deportation, or return.

308   Dalit Rom-Shiloni the remnant to be those who have returned from exile, and completely ignore the ex­ist­ ence of other Yahwists in the land.

16.4.  Exilic Settings: Geography and Sociology Isaiah’s several literary units illustrate not only a progression in theme (from destruction to restoration), and in time (from the eighth to the fifth centuries), but also changes in location: from Jerusalem and Judah to Assyria (possibly to peripheral regions of the Assyrian Empire), in Isa 1–39; and from Babylon back to Persian Yehud, in Isa 40–66 (as also in Isa 24–27, 34–35). While the first two changes (of theme and time) are under wide scholarly consensus, the change of location has been contested. The present discussion comments only on the geographical (and thus sociological) setting(s) of Isaiah 40–66 and brings forth comments on this scholarly debate. To answer two questions—first, can we validate a Babylonian context for the prophecies in Isa 40–48/55; second, do Isa 49/56–66 reflect a Babylonian exilic ideology, even if they were written by the repatriates, back in Yehud—the following observations should be taken into consideration: (1) Isa 40–48 exhibits broad familiarity with Babylonian culture—that is, political culture, religious practices, literary compositions, and language. Scholars have long pointed out similarities of phrasing and themes to Babylonian royal inscriptions;30 Babylonian votive inscriptions (40:19–20);31 divination, especially the use of omens (e.g., 44:25, reading ‫ ברים‬for bārû (diviners); 47:8–15[9b, 12–13]);32 the manufacture of idols (41:6–7; 44:9–20; 46:5–8);33 processions of gods (46:1);34 and more.35 (2) These chapters likewise show an acquaintance with Babylonian recent history and are familiar with its capital’s fame and the life in it: The city walls (‫הדורים‬ from dūru “city walls”) opened before Cyrus (45:1b–2a);36 its wealth (45:3); and its luxurious lifestyle (47:1, 8). (3) Isa 40–48, 49–55 contain explicit calls for the people to leave Babylon (48:20; 55:12; compare to 52:11–12, which may be localized already in Yehud); Isa 49–66 features anonymous calls to build the highway for the repatriates (57:14–19[14]; 62:10–12), as well as metaphoric descriptions of their return from afar like migrating birds (60:8–9), or as released prisoners (61:1).

30  Kittel, “Cyrus”; Behr, “Deutero-Isaiah”; Paul, “Deutero-Isaiah”; Williamson, “Isaiah 40,20.” 31  Eph’ al, “Linguistic and Cultural Background.” 32 Paul, Isaiah 40–66, 246. 33 Koole, Isaiah III, 1:13. 34  Koole, 1:13. 35 Paul, Isaiah 40–66, 19–22. 36  Williamson, “Setting,” 259–261.

Exile in Isaiah   309 (4) Isa 40–48, 49–55, and 56–66 (as also 35:4) have explicit announcements of Yhwh’s return to Zion/Jerusalem (see above). (5) The Jacob/Israel prophecies in Isa 40–48 address the Babylonian exilic community in Babylon; and while Jerusalem seems to be the setting of chapters 49–55, 56–66 (e.g., 52:11), the addressees are designated as ‫שביה בת ציון‬/‫( שבי ירושלים‬e.g., 52:2), and Yhwh’s epithet is ‫“( מקבץ נדחי ישראל‬Who gathers the dispersed of Israel,” 56:8). Hence, prophetic messages build in-group identity of the exilesrepatriates according to themes of continuity, annexation of national traditions, and entirety; and likewise, though implicitly, exclude the out-group of any others (see sec. above).37 (6) Isa 40–48 illustrate familiarity with Babylonian landscapes and flora.38 The term ‫( המסכן‬musukkannu) was clearly unfamiliar to a Judean transmitter(/editor), who glossed it as ‫( עץ לא ירקב‬in 40:20);39 and ‫ בבין חציר‬probably stands for a green bīnu (tamarisk) tree, retaining its Babylonian name.40 Moreover, these chapters furnish mixed evidence from the perspective of geography, as they describe the journey back as a magnificent transformation of desert landscape and large water flows on the way (see secs. and 16.5.1 below), but have almost nothing about the arrival to the land and its physical state (see sec. This raises the possibility that the authors of Isa 40–48 were primarily familiar with the landscape characteristics of Mesopotamia, rather than with those of Yehud. However, Isa 49–55 and Isa 56–66 focus on Jerusalem and Judah, yet, surprisingly, only relatively few passages portray the city’s physical or geographical restoration (49:14–21; 51:1–3[3]; 54:11–17; 60:16–17; 61:3–7; 62:1–9[4]) and, again, hardly any pay attention to the more profound and comprehensive need to revive the land from its desolation (cf. Ezek 36:6–15).41 (7) Prophecies of return in Isa 40–48, 49–55, and 56–66 portray the land as awaiting empty for Yhwh’s people to return (see above). This empty land language, that thus continues while back in the land, serves as an important marker for the Babylonian exilic ideology shared and continuously held by the repatriates. (8) Returning to Zion (and to the cities of Judah) is seen as the destination for the redeemed exiles (see above). This “land/city orientation” is a well-­recognized feature in other prophetic presentations of consolation within the Babylonian exilic ideology.42 37 Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity, 99–121. 38  Koole (Isaiah III, 1:13) added two other examples: transport of goods by ships on the rivers (43:14); irrigation systems for agriculture (47:2). Yet, though they clearly refer to a Babylonian context, these two are doubtful; compare to Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, 225–226; Paul, Isaiah 40–66, 213–215, 290–291. 39  Williamson, “Setting,” 261–265, esp. 263, and references there; with the possibility that ‫ תרומה‬is another loan word coming from tarīmtu(m) “levy, gift,” (p. 264). 40  Williamson, “Setting,” 265–266. 41  Isa 62:8 and 65:21–22 reverse curse traditions, e.g., Deut 28:30–33, 49–51, or employ Isa 11:1–10. 42 Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity, 270.

310   Dalit Rom-Shiloni All of these features support the idea that chapters 40–48 were composed in Babylon for the exilic community there, and that the bulk of the remainder of chapters 49–66 could indeed be called the “Jerusalem chapters,” composed in Yehud for the repatriate community (as proposed by Haran, Paul, and others).43 Both sections (40–48 and 49–66 [or still subdivided into chaps. 49–55, 56–66]) tie the two Babylonian communities of deportees and then repatriates together as sharing the same exilic ideology, crafted by deportees in Babylon and brought back with them to Persian Yehud.44 A different approach has been advocated by Mowinckel, Barstad, Seitz, and Tiemeyer, who have each argued that Isa 40–66 represent the voices of authors who never experienced deportation themselves. Rather, they spoke about Babylon from a distance (cf. Isa 43:14; 48:20; 52:11), and were part of the community that remained in Judah under subjugation to the Mesopotamian empires (Babylon and then Persia).45 The use of different Israelite traditions (specifically, the Exodus traditions) testifies, according to Barstad to the high quality of this poetry, but there is no reason to assume a place of composition outside of the land of Judah;46 for Barstad, this nineteenth-century scholarly paradigm is unsound, and has misled Isaiah scholarship.47 Tiemeyer argued that the merely superficial knowledge of Babylonian (Akkadian) language, religion, literary style, and customs cannot represent more than the influence of the successive Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian subjugation and control of the Levant. Both Isa 40–55 and 56–66 were composed in Judah, focused on Jerusalem, and are close in theology to Lamentations.48 This approach is based on the recognition that Zion/Jerusalem is of great interest in Second/Third Isaiah,49 and that the physical aspects of relocation and the day-to-day challenges involved in both Babylonia and then back in Yehud are barely addressed in this collection. Both points are valid, although I challenge their interpretation. As I have indicated, I am persuaded by arguments for the Babylonian background of chapters 40–55 (and possibly also 60–62), and by the proposition that theology and ideology developed in Babylon by the exilic community was brought back to and developed in Yehud by those anonymous prophets of chapters 49/56–66. Yet, several substantial questions concerning the Babylonian contexts of chapters 34–35, 40–66 (or at least 40–48) seem still to await answers.50 For example, in relation to location: were the Judean deportees resettled (together) in the city of Babylon, or were any of the communities represented here settled in any of the peripheral cities about which we now know much more? In relation to sociology: were the deportees of Isa 40–66 remnants 43  Haran, “Literary Structure,” 127–55; Between Ri’ shonot and Hadashot, 29–32; Paul, Isaiah 40–66, 6–8; Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40–55, 42–54, 114–115; and see Williamson, “Jacob,” 219–229; “Setting,” 253–267, for his arguments to distinguish between chaps. 40–48 and 49–55, and again 56–66. 44 Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity, 134–136. 45  Mowinckel, “Komposition,“ esp. 244 and n. 1; Barstad, “So-Called Babylonian Influence”; Way; Babylonian Captivity; Seitz, Reading and Preaching; and Tiemeyer, Comfort; Tiemeyer, “Imperial Influence”; “Continuity.” 47 Barstad, Babylonian Captivity. 46 Barstad, Way; Babylonian Captivity. 48 Tiemeyer, Comfort; “Imperial Influence.” 49 Seitz, Reading and Preaching, 117, argued this for First Isaiah as well. 50  These same questions might also be relevant to Isa 24–27 and 34–35.

Exile in Isaiah   311 of the 597, or of the 586 (and 582) waves of deportation? Does this collection of prophecies reveal any specific group identities, or does it rather construct an inclusive exilic ­orientation? In relation to ideology, were the deportees closer in their theological and ideological orientation to Jeremiah (and his followers/editors) or to Ezekiel (and his followers/editors)?

16.5.  Metaphors for Exile, and Exile as Metaphor The theme of exile in the book of Isaiah has often been discussed through the lens of metaphor theory. Two quite different approaches have been employed, framed by different understandings of tenor, vehicle, and their interaction.51

16.5.1.  Metaphors for Exile (Deportation and Return) As a traumatic experience of dislocation, exile plays the role of tenor in metaphors that utilize diverse vehicles throughout Isaiah. The common denominator of these metaphors is the emphasis on dislocation as tantamount to annihilation. In them, it is therefore often difficult to distinguish between military devastation and exile. Deportation is dramatized through human metaphors; for example, the shaving off and disposing of human hair are likened to death resulting from dislocation (7:20). Family and legal metaphors of divorce and commercial transactions portray Yhwh as the agent of expulsion (50:1). Harvesting grain and olives, gathering most of the crops, recognizes the vast disaster exile brings, and scant quantity of remnant left in its aftermath (17:5–6). More common among these metaphors is nature imagery.52 The phenomenon of birds nesting upon the ground (10:14), where abandoned eggs may be easily collected by passersby with no resistance from the parent birds (v. 14b), illustrates the ease with which the Assyrian emperor can dislocate the peoples under his rule.53 The finality of Moab’s exile is conveyed through the image of migrating birds and their nestlings driven away, leaving their nests empty (16:2, evoking Deut 22:6–7). The horrors of exile as the last stage in conquest are illustrated through the image of fleeing gazelles and abandoned sheep (13:14). Metaphors for the return are taken either from the human realm of imprisonment, celebrating the release of captives (61:1); or again from nature imagery—the repatriates are like birds migrating back to their nesting places (60:8–9). Most common are nature 51 Halvorson-Taylor, Enduring Exile, 11–21; Poulsen, Black Hole, esp. chaps. 4–7. 52  Rom-Shiloni, “Nature Imagery,” 189–215. 53  Rom-Shiloni, 194–197.

312   Dalit Rom-Shiloni images that demonstrate Yhwh’s agency in the return, as a caring shepherd who gathers his flock (40:9–11; and implicitly in 11:12), and as transforming creation for the benefit of the journey back. The latter image may be found in sixteen passages in chapters 35 and 40–66, which mix imagery of water sources and landscape characteristics in two patterns. First, the transformation of these natural entities affects flora and fauna and enables the journey back (e.g., 35:1–9; 41:17–20). The entire natural arena participates in this profound transformation to allow a safe, pleasant, and joyful return (e.g., 51:9–11), testifying to Yhwh as the sole agent of the return. Second, transformations of landscape and water construct the theme of creation, with no explicit reflection on the return, but with an emphasis on Yhwh’s control over his entire world (e.g., 44:21–23; 45:1–8). Eleven such passages (in both patterns) conclude with explicit theological statements that proclaim or reflect recognition of Yhwh as the agent of salvation (e.g., 41:20; 42:16; 49:13); as re-creator (e.g., 45:8b; 50:2a); and as recommitted to his people (e.g., 44:23b; 51:16b).

16.5.2.  Exile as Metaphor Landy asserted, “Isaiah is all about exile—but in a way it is not about exile at all.”54 This seeming inconsistency in the representation of exile in Isaiah led Landy to consider exile as vehicle to various tenors—that is, death, grief, distress, coping with catastrophe, trauma—to the point that “Zion itself is a place of exile”;55 the ambiguity of ‫ שוב‬as both “return” and “repent,” allows exile to designate survival. In parallel, the return in Second Isaiah for Landy is a “bliss,” a utopia, “which is never quite accomplished.”56 While this is a reasonable list of associations, it seems to me that there is no sound way to distinguish reactions toward exile from reactions to any other event of defeat and destruction. Such observations raise methodological questions concerning possible criteria for classifying exile as metaphor (i.e., as vehicle).57 Halvorson-Taylor suggested that distinctions of time and space between the arenas of exile and the arenas of the author(s) led them to reflect upon exile from afar, to treat it as metaphor, and to transfer it from the historical political arena to the theological sphere.58 Accordingly, by the time of the Babylonian deportations, exile could stand for divine anger, leading to “discontents, sufferings, and alienations.” In addition, exile functions to convey “a sense of alienation from God,”59 which required confrontation with theodical questions.60 HalvorsonTaylor focused only on chapters 40–55 of Isaiah, where she found portrayals of God as redeemer (‫)גאל‬, and thus “exile now becomes a metaphor for economic servitude.”61 All those points (and others presented in the study) are valid theological themes and

54  Landy, “Exile,” 241. 55  Landy, 250. 56  Landy, 247. 57  By way of comparison, an example of a metaphoric usage of exile (as vehicle) is found in Isa 24:11bα–12 ‫ נשאר בעיר שמה ושאיה יכת שער‬.‫גלה משוש הארץ‬. Here, “joy” is deported away, and “desolation” and “ruins” remain in town. 58 Halvorson-Taylor, Enduring Exile, 11–13. 59  Halvorson-Taylor, 11. 60  Halvorson-Taylor, 15. 61  Halvorson-Taylor, 41.

Exile in Isaiah   313 e­ motions to consider, but I do not see them restricted to the phenomena of exile in Isaiah (see secs. 16.2 and 16.3 above). More focused on experiences of exile (“forced labour, imprisonment, worldwide scattering, spiritual disorientation, and abandonment”), Poulsen read the entire book of Isaiah through lenses of exile as metaphor. In his overall portrayal, Poulsen pointed out the thematic-theological prevalence of restoration from exile in Isaiah, that is, the reversal of fortunes by which “images of divine redemption, gathering, guidance, and restoration often eclipse those of past and present suffering.”62 The foregoing discussion hopefully established the concrete and the theological uses of exile (deportation and return) in Isaiah, much beyond its assumed metaphorical secondary uses.

16.6. Summary The many different prophetic authors represented in the book of Isaiah present exile from a theological perspective (as elsewhere in the HB and in other ancient Near East sources). Isaiah portrays God as the agent of exile for both deportation and return. Yet, behind these theological perspectives, authors in all units of the book are familiar with the political phenomena, observed mostly by those afflicted by deportation. Whether based on actual experience, or on more distant memories, the book of Isaiah adds unique dimensions on exile. As Seitz pointed out history, theology, and literary complexity are profoundly intertwined in Isaiah.63 This chapter has suggested a variety of approaches to one particular historical-political phenomenon that was reflected in this rich prophetic literature composed during the events and in their aftermath, for theological, ideological, and sociological reasons.

Bibliography Abernethy, Andrew T. “Eating, Assyrian Imperialism, and God’s Kingdom in Isaiah.” In Isaiah and Imperial Context: The Book of Isaiah in the Times of Empire, edited by Andrew T. Abernethy, Mark G. Brett, Tim Bulkeley, and Tim J. Meadowcroft, 35–50. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013. Abraham, Kathleen. “Negotiating Marriage in Multicultural Babylonia: An Example from the Judean Community in Al-Yahūdu.” In Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context, edited by Jonathan Stökl and Caroline Waerzeggers, 33–57. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015. Abraham, Kathleen. “West Semitic and Judean Brides in Cuneiform Sources from the Sixth Century bce: New Evidence from a Marriage Contract from Al-Yahūdu.” AfO 51 (2005–6): 198–219. Ackroyd, Peter R. “An Interpretation of the Babylonian Exile: A Study of 2 Kings 20, Isaiah 38–39.” SJT 27 (1974): 329–352. 62 Poulsen, Black Hole, 412–413.

63 Seitz, Reading and Preaching, 19–20.

314   Dalit Rom-Shiloni Albertz, Rainer. Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century b.c.e. Translated by David Green. StBibLit 3. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2003. Aster, Shawn Z. Reflections of Empire in Isaiah 1–39: Responses to Assyrian Ideology. Ancient Near East Monographs 19. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2017. Barstad, Hans M. The Babylonian Captivity of the Book of Isaiah: “Exilic” Judah and the Provenance of Isaiah 40–55. Oslo: Novus: Instituttet for sammenlignende kulturforskning, 1997. Barstad, Hans M. “On the So-Called Babylonian Literary Influence in Second-Isaiah.” SJOT 2 (1987): 90–110. Barstad, Hans M. A Way in the Wilderness: The “Second Exodus” in the Message of Second Isaiah. JSSM 12. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester, 1989. Becking, Bob. The Fall of Samaria: A H