What’s New in Isaiah? A Review article of Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, editor, The Oxford Handbook of Isaiah (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).
A Denver Journal Review Article by Denver Seminary Professor Dr. Richard S. Hess
This impressive work opens with an introduction by the editor who reviews all the chapters and their contribution to the study. The first two chapters then address questions related to the formation of the book of Isaiah, with James Stromberg’s initial contribution of a reading of the final form of the book. Beginning with a note about how the book was received as a whole work, Stromberg proceeds to work through the first part of the book, noting how chs. 6-9 relate to the Hezekiah narrative of chs. 36-39. The opening section is then compared with chs. 13-27 and the manner in which the defeat of the Assyrians becomes a type with universal significance in 14:26-27. Chapters 28-35 has centrally located 32:1 where the king who reigns in righteousness also refers to the subsequent Hezekiah narrative. Even the prohibition of a violent animal going up on their highway (35:8-10) has verbal parallels with Sennacherib’s inability to enter Jerusalem. Chapters 40-55 begin and end with the efficacy of the divine Word. Chapters 56-66 emphasize light as a hope for the future. There are also intentional parallels between the first and second halves of the book. As Isaiah meets Ahaz on the highway (chs. 7-8), so there is the call in ch. 40 to prepare a highway for our God.
Uwe Becker looks at the composition history of Isaiah, focusing on the history of multiple authorship theories and then moving to a comparison between English and German scholarship in recent decades. Although many begin the theory of Isaiah’s multiple authorship with Duhm, some had already accepted Second Isaiah, so he actually suggested a Third Isaiah. Earlier, Archbishop Lowth had hypothesized two authors between chs. 1-39 and chs. 40-66. Becker surveys canonical and literary approaches that emphasize the unity of the book. In the last 50 years, European scholars have looked at the sense in which the original core of Isaiah of Jerusalem contributed to texts that would become part of Second and Third Isaiah. The development of the tradition in the later writers contributed to texts in Isaiah 1-39 as well as Second and Third Isaiah. Thus, there emerged two different compositional views. One sees chs. 1-39 and 40-66 as more or less separate compositions. The second sees Second Isaiah providing a bridge in ch. 35 (and 11:11-16). Williamson saw Second Isaiah as a literary expansion of 1-39 with editorial and redactional additions to chs. 1-39. Third Isaiah begins with a core of chs. 60-62 on the glorification of Zion and preserving material most like Second Isaiah. This was expanded by chs. 56-59 that provided conditions of salvation, and then by chs. 63-66 that emphasized a lament of God’s people and a response to that lament. This concludes by returning to Isaiah 1, but now the division of peoples is not open to repentance. Beuken and Berges argue for elimination of the traditional division between Second and Third Isaiah, that 60:1-14 was present before ch. 55. This emphasis on intertextuality has also led many scholars to find very little in the first 39 chapters of the original Isaiah of Jerusalem. Indeed, such ongoing discussion is very useful for the intertextual connections across all of Isaiah that enrich the meaning of each passage so connected. However, they provide very little of certainty about any diachronic development of the book.
Part II, Key Parts of the Book of Isaiah, begins with Hyun Chul Paul Kim’s important study of the Oracles Against the Nations (= OAN), especially chs. 13-23. Isaiah 14:28-32 and chs. 17-20 are widely regarded as original to Isaiah. A later “Babylonizing” editorial contribution added much of chs. 13 and 14, especially 14:24-27 which “eclipses an anti-Assyrian oracle with an anti-Babylonian oracle” (p. 60). Here Sweeney notes that the destruction of the “arrogant oppressor” of God’s people is a theme common to both. A Zionizing edition emphasizes the end of Babylonian tyranny (e.g., 13:2; 14:1-2) with the restoration of Egypt, Assyria, and Tyre. Much of the remainder deals with reconstructed post-exilic Yehud and the struggles of the poor and oppressed over against the wicked and arrogant. In comparison with chs. 1-12, 1:1 and 1:2 resemble 13:1 as Uzziah’s death note (6:1) resembles the death note of Ahaz in 14:28. Further, the hubris of the Babylonian king (chs. 13-14) echoes the king of Assyria (10:5-19). Both sets of chapters emphasize the sovereignty of Yahweh. Many see chs. 24-27 as an extension of chs. 13-23 with further “apocalyptic” judgment on cities and nations. Parallel patterns of threats by Assyria (chs. 36-37) and Babylon (ch. 39) compare with related OAN texts. The anti-Babylonian texts of chs. 46 and 47 may also be compared including nouns and names such as Shebna and Eliakim. While Isaiah 13-14 begins with Babylon’s sin and judgment, Moon Kwon Chae notes how Jeremiah’s OAN concludes the book with hope for the people of God in the prophesied destruction of Babylon (chs. 50-51). If ch. 2 introduces the nations, chs. 13-23 form another introduction with an emphasis on the fates and fortunes of the nations. This latter point is true but overlooks the focus of chs. 1-12 on the judgment of God’s people and leaders. The OAN argue that Yahweh is the true king of all the nations. The OAN demonstrate the promise of a pax Yahweh, and condemn without hope the hubris of Babylon (chs. 13-14, 21), while retaining glimmers for the other nations. Yahweh’s controls the blessing of food but also its destruction as judgment on the Babylonians and other nations (13:15; 14:19; 16:8-10; 17:5-6; 18:4-6; 21:5), as well as Jerusalem (22:12). Kim finds the OAN forms rooted in ancient cultic war oracles and motivated by prophetic cries against abusive power. Each generation adapted them for their own purposes. Perhaps, but perhaps the core indictment was already present.
J. Todd Hibbard’s chapter on the enigmatic “Isaiah 24-27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse,” notes how it begins with Yahweh about to lay waste the land. An unnamed city is characterized by death and destruction. Yahweh will reign in Jerusalem. Chapter 25 proclaims his wonderful acts and how he will swallow Death. It concludes with the humiliation of a proud Moabite city as ch. 26 introduces praise of a strong city found in Judah. The poor and needy trample the humiliated city. In the longest unit in this section (26:7-19) the community pleads for the intervention of Yahweh. In the 27th chapter Canaanite mythic traditions are seen through the experience of Israel, Israel as a vine is to bear fruit or face destruction, and Yahweh will regather exiles from Assyria and Egypt. While exhibiting a diversity of voices and non-biblical allusions, the chapters have a congruency in themes and language that resembles other parts of Isaiah. Various theories on textual layers and their dating (8th to 6th centuries) have achieved no consensus. William Millar likened these chapters to six units repeating all or part of a threat, war, victory, and feast set of themes similar to the Ugaritic Baal Cycle. However, his units do not all exhibit these elements. There is a lack of agreement so that Blenkinsopp has challenged the view that these chapters form a unity. Hibbard address some specific issues, noting that there is not a lot of consensus. The anonymous city has been identified by most as Babylon, Jerusalem, or a combination of these and others. “Eternal covenant” collects various covenantal ideas and identifies the sins of the people. The work is not apocalyptic but does contain elements of cosmic vision, mythic imagery, and resurrection language that will feed into the emergence of apocalyptic. Isaiah 26:19 does not describe an individual resurrection in its context. Rather, it identifies the revival of the community from a metaphorical death. Intertextual connections exist in the universalization of judgment and salvation, responses to unfulfilled prophecies, and development of inner-Isaianic themes.
Shelley L. Birdsong’s chapter on “The Narratives about Isaiah and Their Relationship with 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles” reviews the traditional sources of the Sennacherib attack recorded in 2 Kings as identified by Stade: A as 2 Kings 18:(13)14-16 (not in Isaiah); B1 2 Kings 18:17-19:9a, 36-37 (Isaiah 36:1-37:9, 37-38); and B2 2 Kings 19:9b-35 (Isaiah 37:10-36). She then proposes a complex set of seven sources and redactions. The question of the original location of this account is often decided in favor of 2 Kings but Birdsong seems to think that neither locus is original. The material in 2 Kings changes the portrayal of Hezekiah as a king with failures: attacked by Assyria, pays off Assyria, relies on Egypt, and opens his secrets to the Babylonians. Birdsong points out that other failed kings did each of these. In Isaiah the context suggests that even the restored and redeemed err by relying on a false sense of security, relating with foreigners, and failing to listen to the prophets. These problems all may be directed to postexilic Jerusalem. The pride and self-absorption of Ahaz leads to Assyrian attacks in Hezekiah’s day. The same sins of Hezekiah lead to Babylonian attacks in the day of the Exiles. The account of the Chronicler is more positive, not mentioning Hezekiah’s sin but contrasting him with Ahaz and Manasseh who precede and follow the righteous king.
Katie M. Heffelfinger discusses “Isaiah 40-55.” There is no consensus regarding the formation of these chapters. Duhm long ago saw the Servant Songs as an interpolation. Mettinger identifies key passages highlighted by hymns that frame them. Isaiah 49:1-12 lies at the center in this approach and divides these chapters into two parts. Heffelfinger surveys other approaches and comes to agreement with Roy Melugin who observes that wider reading in literary criticism might reduce confidence in so much redaction critical analysis of Isaiah 40-55. Heffelfinger, noting the absence of characteristic historical notices and headings (such as 1:1; 2:1; 13:1; etc.), suggests oral poetic prophecy. She considers H. G. M. Williamson’s The Book Called Isaiah, already mentioned, where he argues that chs. 40-55 form an integral continuation of the earlier chapters. Chapters 40-55 also might also have been redacted with the composition and addition of chs. 56-66. Rendtorff would see more distinction between chs. 1-39 and 40-55. He suggests that chs. 40-55 were the first unified component around which the rest of the scroll formed. Heffelfinger suggests that each section, as it was added, resulted in the earlier material being edited. She notes, nevertheless, that Second Isaiah is closer to Third Isaiah, using grass, marriage, and birth imagery. Many themes are developed through juxtaposition and reappearance in different contexts. Homecoming, complaint, and renewal through compelling personifications such as the Servant are all part of the picture.
Andreas Schüle concludes this section with a chapter on “Isaiah 56-66.” Duhm argued that for Third Isaiah salvation must be earned and purchased. Israel must participate in God’s salvation through cultic and ethical means. Chapter 58-59 forms the center of the first composition of Third Isaiah, with a sense of the effects of the Babylonian exile still felt. The new beginning had not fully gotten under way. Observing the Sabbath and fasting do not evince the spirit of the renewal. Israel’s failure here is not to be punished but it delays the coming salvation. Israel has obstructed its relationship with God. God’s grace and glory dominate Mount Zion in the prophetic oracle of ch. 60. The nations will pay homage. Chapter 61 turns to consider the imprisoned and suffering, promising salvation and healing. In ch. 62 God will restore Zion to enjoy its own produce. The second “composition” of Third Isaiah begins with the people’s prayer of repentance, remembering God’s earlier miracles (63:7-14) and confessing their guilt (63:15-64:11). Schüle makes the important point that in the entire Old Testament only in 63:17 and 64:7 does Israel address God directly as “Father.” Thus, we find “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” (p. 136). As God answers this expectation of response, ch. 65 opens with a statement that Israel never really was all that interested in God. Rather, the true servants are those who obey and tremble before God’s Word (66:2-5). Choice and effort, rather than birth and origin, defines membership. Thus 66:1-8 sees even foreigners and eunuchs joining the redeemed people of God.
Part III considers the world behind the text, beginning with C. L. Crouch and Christopher B. Hays on “The Neo-Assyrian Context of First Isaiah.” After introducing how Assyrian prophecies were preserved in daily records and then compiled, the authors suggest that Isaiah’s prophecies were collected and preserved after being validated by events subsequent to the prophecies. Ahab is the first Israelite king to have contact with an Assyrian ruler, in this case Shalmaneser III in a battle (Qarqar, c. 853 BC) where he could field ten thousand soldiers and two thousand chariots to join the coalition to defeat the Assyrian. Not many years later, however, king Jehu offered tribute to the same Assyrian king. After a lengthy period of quiet, Assyria arose again to power under its king Tiglath-pileser III. He took a large sum of tribute from Menahem of Israel (746-727). Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria were involved in an anti-Assyrian coalition. When Assyria was no longer an immediate threat, they turned against Ahaz king of Judah who did not succumb to their assault. Instead, Tiglath-Pileser returned and destroyed the coalition, killing Pekah in 731 BC and replacing him with Hoshea. Only a small area of Samaria remained to Hoshea as Assyria took the rest of the land. Hoshea’s attempts to ally with Egypt were quashed by Shalmaneser V and Sargon II. The later ended the independence of Samaria and deported some 27,000 Israelites. The defeat of the Philistines and the creation of the Assyrian province of Ashdod in 712 BC brought the enemy to the western doorstep of Judah. Hezekiah of Judah joined an anti-Assyrian coalition and revolted against Sennacherib in 701 BC. Judah survived but not without losing much tribute and land. Hezekiah’s successor, Manasseh (698-644 BC), remained loyal to Assyria. Ramat Rahel, a few kilometers southwest of Jerusalem, may have become an Assyrian administrative center. It is identified by the Hays as the “fortified city” with its “palace of foreigners” in 25:30. This expedited trade so that Judah became a major producer of grain for the Assyria center. After 639 BC, however, extant Assyrian records virtually cease. Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612 BC with some of the leadership holding on for a few years more.
In the book of Isaiah, the authors identify the “sweeping up to the neck” of 8:8 with Sennacherib’s invasion (p. 151). They review the psychological warfare perpetrated by the Assyrians to strike fear into would-be rebels. Nevertheless, Isaiah 10:5-6 has Israel’s God as using Assyria for his own purposes of discipline toward his people. Verse 7 goes on to suggest that God does this without the Assyrian realizing that he is so used. The authors record Baruch Levine’s suggestion that Isaiah’s strong monotheism emerged as a reaction to the claims of the Assyrian king to be “king of the universe.” No doubt this refined Isaiah’s thought and understanding. The authors apply the satire of an Assyrian king entering Sheol to Sargon II at his death on the battlefield in 705 BC. Finally, they reflect on how the severe taxation and consequent impoverishing of the common people of Judah led to Isaiah’s emphasis on social justice.
The well-known late scholar, Joseph Blenkinsopp, considers “Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background.” He identifies the “people of the land” as a political party at the time of Jeremiah who favored revolt against Babylon and who, in the end, suffered at the hands of the victorious Babylonians. In First Isaiah Babylon appears as a successor to Assyria (chs. 13 and 21), and forms the conclusion when Hezekiah entertains a Babylonian delegation’s visit. In ch. 14 we encounter a mocking lament of the death of the king of Babylon. Among the oracles against the nations, two groups of five oracles are found in chs. 13-23. There an oracle against Babylon introduces each group. Blenkinsopp notes that Babylon did not continue the “cross-deportation” policy of Assyria and so Jerusalem did not share the same fate as Samaria. There are four stanzas in the oracle on Babylon (13:1-22), in which the second and third (vv. 6-8 and 8-15) focus on the end time. Blenkinsopp argues that 14:3-23 and the description of the descent of the king of Babylon into the underworld where maggots and worms will provide bed coverings. Blenkinsopp identifies multiple layers here with an initial oracle addressing a king of Assyria (he believes this was Sennacherib whose body may have been dishonored after being murdered by his sons) which was then transformed into one against a Babylonian king. He mentions the Ugaritic god Helel, son of Shachar (the Dawn) who rebelled and disappeared suddenly, like Venus, the morning star which vanishes as dawn. “This myth of the fall from grace of a deity is now recycled to designate the fate of a proud and overbearing ruler of the Babylonian empire” (p. 165). The fall of Babylon in Isaiah 21:1-10 begins with an address to “the Wilderness of the Sea.” Blenkinsopp takes this to be the Shatt al-Arab water way that empties into the Persian Gulf and was the birthplace of the Chaldean tribes that produced the royal Babylonian dynasty. In Isaiah 36-39 Merodach-Baladan seeks to enlist Hezekiah’s aid in another rebellion against Assyria. Babylon and Chaldeans are each named four times in Second Isaiah. There is nothing in Isaiah about the fall of Jerusalem, a topic which Blenkinsopp suggests was too emotional. Isaiah 45:7 suggests that God creates both good and disaster. The author of Isaiah (43:10; 45:11) explicitly rejects the view of Enuma Elisha that humans are created after the gods and that they have no ownership or control. Blenkinsopp notes the humiliation of Queen Babylon in ch. 47 and the manner it resembles Babylon’s female prisoners. He also notes the direct contrast and parallelism between Queen Babylon’s dethronement and Woman Zion’s exaltation in 52:1-3 and what follows.
Kristin Joachimsen’s “The Book of Isaiah: Persian/Hellenistic Background” suggests that chs. 56-66 were added in Babylon along with earlier additions stressing Cyrus, Creation, monotheism, and universalism. Proto-apocalyptic additions in chs. 18-32 24-27, and 56-66 were made in the Hellenistic period. These periods were taken as the most productive for the biblical literature; and yet Joachimsen does not discuss why virtually no extant texts have been found. After reviewing the major dates for the Persian Empire, Joachimsen notes that there is no consensus concerning allusions to Cyrus in Isaiah 40-48. Cyrus is an instrument in Yahweh’s hands and his anointed (45:1). For Lisbeth Fried, the contemporary Cyrus is heir to the Davidic throne. For Philip Davies it is propaganda for the Persians. The Darius era Udjahorresnet inscriptions has an Egyptian priest and military officer praising Cambyses (successor of Cyrus) as the new pharaoh. In the Cyrus cylinder, two decades earlier, states that the Babylonian deity Marduk sets Cyrus on the throne of Babylon to restore sanctuaries which King Nabonidus of Babylon had left to languish. It seems there is not sufficient evidence to support the claim of a common and universal Achaemenid policy of restoring local sanctuaries, although Joachimsen does not indicate how much evidence would be required.
Ehud ben Zvi has argued that the terminology applied to Cyrus had much in common with Jacob/Israel/the servant, and Abraham. Cyrus provides additional legitimacy to Yahweh and Yehud. In the Bible no other outside figure is Yehudized as much as Cyrus. Joachimsen suggests that these texts are neither anti-Babylonian nor pro-Persian but rather pro-Yahweh. Davies and others have argued that monotheism in the Bible emerged from the view of a universal single high god, worshipped without images, and modelled on Ahura Mazda. But we know almost nothing about the religion of the early Achaemenids other than Ahuramazda’s role as a chief deity in the Iranian pantheon. No Zoroastrian text is dated earlier than the Sassanian Period (3rd to 7th centuries AD). Rather than using Achaemenid royal inscriptions as a source to compare creation in the Bible, Crouch and others suggest that Isaiah 40-55 draws on pre-exilic traditions of Yahweh as warrior, king, and creator (p. 189). But even Ahura Mazda is portrayed alongside other deities, something that never occurs with Yahweh. Rather, the monotheism of these chs. in Isaiah developed from within the Israelite tradition.
Parts of Isaiah 56-66 formed with the conquest of Jerusalem by Ptolemy in 302/301. This was supplemented by the condemnation of Hellenistic cults in the final few chapters. Both elements could be found in chs. 56-66. Joachimsen emphasizes the study of 1QIsa and of the old Greek for understanding the Hellenistic context of Isaiah. Cyrus’ use of Persian propaganda to legitimate his foreign rule in Babylon was likely based on the policies of earlier Assyrian kings. Isaiah tells us something about Yehud rather than the empire of which it was a part.
Chapter 11 takes us to Part IV, Themes and Literary Motifs Spanning the Book of Isaiah. Patricia Tull addresses the first one, “God’s Character in Isaiah.” Tull wants to understand what the ancient authors intended in their own setting. She finds a personal God who desires thing from humans and communicates with them, acting powerfully on their behalf. In the opening verses of the book God appears as a parent dealing with rebellious children. That this punishment is a severe beating is a metaphor. Tull reviews the names of God used in Isaiah such as Yahweh, Qadosh Yisrael, Yahweh Sebaot, Elohim, Ha’adon, ’Abir Yisrael, Adonay, Hatstsaddiq, and Elohim hay. Yahweh is not only a parent in Isaiah. He appears as a laboring, nursing, and comforting mother, and as a father. He is a savior, ruler, farmer, creator, warrior, teacher/guide, and also as fire, birds, and rocks. God’s judgment against humans in First Isaiah are combined with visions of a desirable future. Peace, justice, return, and God swallowing death while giving judgment against Moab. Isaiah 56:1 combines the need for human justice in 1-39 with the promise of divine justice in chs. 40-55. Chapter 58 desires a fast from inequity and fairness of employees as well as the hungry and homeless.
As God speaks his warnings in ch. 6 are perhaps designed to goad the people to respond (p. 212). In chs. 40-55, 63 per cent of the words are divine speech. God’s words are vital (40:8) and they stand forever (55:11). Isaiah 5 portrays a vinedresser who as God is able to dissemble what he built. Chapters 13-23 mute violence against other nations but exercise vengeance in ch. 24. Third Isaiah moves God’s judgment into the past. Chapter 59 has a warrior clothed in garments of vengeance to repay the enemies. God fights evil both outside of and inside the community. Tull observes how 2nd Isaiah portrays God as a healer more than any other part of the book. Thus, God’s character is revealed but, like many other biblical characters, remains an ongoing mystery.
In chapter 12 Matthias Albani examines “Monotheism in Isaiah.” Albani begins by defining monotheism as a belief in a single God and not in the existence of other deities. Although explicit monotheism exists only in Second Isaiah, ch. 6 already depicts a God of glory whose hand is stretched out over “all peoples.” Chapters 24-27 include judgment on the nations of the world. In Isaiah 26:19 the almighty God can even reach into the world of the dead. Yahweh’s unlimited power over history and the promise of universal judgment become clear in chs. 13-23 and 33-35. In chs. 56-66 God is ultimately the Creator of the world and the Savior of the world. Yahweh’s singleness occurs in Isaiah 40-48 (e.g., 43:20). He is incomparable (chs. 40-48) and able to foretell the future (41:22-29), rendering the other gods as nothingness. Unlike the “Emanation Doctrine” of Akhenaten of Egypt the Creator and the created world are clearly distinct. Yahweh is also a universal deity. The promise of Israel’s liberation by Cyrus and triumphant return of God’s people from the Exile are used to support this claim. In Babylon the gods determine human fate. However, the God of Israel is powerful to liberate. In Babylonian religion Marduk has universal sovereignty and the ability to form and construct the universe and to establish harmony in it (p. 220). Marduk’s rise to power created the pressing question of who was the true deity in control of the future: Marduk or the LORD.
Nabonidus, the last ruler of Babylon, spent many years in Tayma, and plotted to dispossess the Babylonian temples of Bel and Sin. Albani reviews Lambert’s 1975 publication of a text that connects the various deities of Babylon as manifestations of the one true deity, Marduk. Central power went to Marduk in the inclusive monotheism. Isaiah 40:12-26 may be a polemic against the reading of Enuma Elish during the New Year’s festival in Babylon. Yahweh calls the stars by name, and he calls Cyrus (40:26; 45:3-4). Yahweh commands heaven’s armies (45:12). These have parallels in Enuma Elish and elsewhere where Marduk calls Cyrus to be king. While Nabonidus was absent from Babylon for many years, the Marduk priests whom the king insulted by not taking the hand of Marduk at the annual New Year’s festival, made alliance with the Babylonians to aid them. Isaiah 47:14-15 indicates that the astrologers had no power and were unable to save. Both the accurate prediction of the future, along with creation, suggest the truthfulness of Yahweh.
Blaženka Scheuer examines “Sin and Punishment in the Book of Isaiah.” The frequent word for sin, peša‘, describes actions of rebellion against one’s neighbor. The book of Isaiah finds the picture of dysfunctional family in Isaiah 1:2). Social sin is addressed as taking hold of society and, with it, the worship of other gods (1:26; 2:6-8). Women are punished in order to humiliate and destroy the kings. Isaiah 6:11-12 describes the terrible judgment coming for sin, and the inability to make good judgments. In Isaiah 40-55 the family has been shattered. The parents don’t have the ability to teach their children at this point. The coveting for unjust personal gain brought Yahweh’s judgment (Isaiah 57:17). Yahweh’s judgment can be found in Third Isaiah (66:4). The nations are also accused of hubris and their destruction will demonstrate the worthlessness of alliances. For Barton the Hebrew Bible sees both an immediate and an interventionist way of the connection between guilt and punishment. Isaiah stresses that the ignorance of social sins shows the basis for punishment. Isaiah also emphasizes the unjust punishment that is part of human experience.
Frederik Poulsen writes on “Jerusalem/Daughter Zion in Isaiah.” In addition to the introductory verse of the book indicating the overall concern for Judah and Jerusalem, Poulsen notes the 49 occurrences of Jerusalem and 47 of Zion. The term, Zion tradition, has as its basic assumptions that Yahweh has chosen Jerusalem as his royal residence and that he will protect it from all enemies. Early critics thought of this view of Jerusalem as existing in the pre-Israelite Jebusite cult. Poulsen argues that the book of Isaiah provides the drama of Zion where the city goes from an object of judgment to one of eschatological salvation for its own people and for the nations. Judgment comes upon Zion but in an instant the destroyers are destroyed and a remnant is delivered. Yahweh will provide salvation but only if there is repentance. Although the destruction of Jerusalem is never explicitly described, it is prophecied in chs. 1-39 while the second half of the book describes a return from humiliation. The language of destruction in 6:11-13 is used as restoration (chs. 49, 51, 52, 54, 59, 61, 62). The downfall of Babylon in ch. 47 can be understood as a description of what happened earlier to Jerusalem. In Isaiah 49-66 Jerusalem appears as a wife who has lost her husband and as a mother who has lost her children. This will lead to God’s choice once again of Jerusalem (54:7-10) and of returnees coming from all parts of the world (49:9-12; 51:9-11) as well as the miraculous birth of children (66:7-13). This leads to the third emphasis in which the earlier raising of a standard for distant nations to judge Israel (5:26) becomes a standard for nations that serves as a sign of salvation (11:10, 12; 49:22; 62:10). Poulsen compares the cosmos-creating function of torah (2:2-4) with the equivalent role of the temple in other prophets (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Joel 4:18; Zechariah 14:8). Light is also a significant symbol in the pilgrimage (Isaiah 60), as with Yahweh an eternal light for Jerusalem (60:19-20). At the conclusion of the book (66:18-24), “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 and the wicked in earlier parts of Isaiah (e.g., 1:27-28)” (p. 277).
H. G. M. Williamson discusses “Davidic Kingship in Isaiah.” He notes that Isaiah shows much more interest in Davidic kingship than do any of the other prophets. The heart of 7:1-17 concerns the threat to the Davidic dynasty created if Ahaz is deposed and a non-Davidide set in his place. The verbs of promise tend to be plural emphasizing that this is not only about Ahaz but also other kings in the line. Faithless Ahaz contrasts with faithful Hezekiah in whom the promise to defend the city (37:35) and the healing of Hezekiah (38:5) are both linked with David. The king is to bring about justice (32:1). The royal leadership is responsible for the maintenance of social justice (9:6-7). In 11:1-5 the royal figure will be endowed with the spirit so at to better judge those in need with righteousness. Like the foundation stone of 28:16-17, the reference to Jesse emphasizes a return to pure origins. In the first part of Isaiah both Ahaz (7:4-9) and Hezekiah (37:6) are told to “fear not.” In the second part of the book this is regularly addressed to Israel (41:8-13, 14-16; 43:1-7). In 42:1-4 the servant repeatedly brings justice to the nations of the earth. Although chs. 56-66 have no direct reference to David, 61 opens with the Spirit of the LORD upon the servant as in 42:1 (and 11:2). The mission of proclaiming good news recalls the heralds with this responsibility in 40:9; 41:27; and 52:7. The task is summed up as “justice and righteousness.” This resembles that given to the Davidic king in the first part of the book.
Dalit Rom-Shiloni considers “Exile in the Book of Isaiah,” a theme reflecting historical circumstances in the 8th and 6th centuries. Only the Hebrew Bible contains reflections on exile by the subjugated people. For Isaiah, Yahweh is the agent of the exile as judgment against his own people. Isaiah 1-39 describe a holy remnant possessing the seeds of continuation, and which has never left the land. Chapters 1-39 do not clarify where the Judean refugees will be deported, except for the royal family who will be taken to the court in Babylon. The exiles are described with pictures of hunger and thirst, and, like Isaiah in ch. 20, barefoot and naked. Elsewhere in Isa. 27:7-11 the land is empty, yet the exile is not mentioned. The latter half of Isaiah avoids mention of the deportation, but has some focus on the return. Yahweh gathers all the nations to Jerusalem, and they will bring back Zion’s children (49:22-26). In this latter part of Isaiah the return is a single event, with no mention of anyone left behind in Babylon (unlike Ezra and Nehemiah). The empty land means that the returnees are the true people of God and others will join them. The destination of the return is to Judah/Israel, Yahweh’s city, and Zion/Jerusalem. The journey will heal disabilities, restore life to the desert, and make the roads safe for travel. Although Ezra/Nehemiah and Haggai/Zechariah see drought and economic distress, this is not mentioned in the second half of Isaiah. In the first half of Isaiah the remnant remain in the land; in the second half they return from exile. Rom-Shiloni makes multiple arguments to demonstrate that Isaiah 40-48 and 49-55 were written from the perspective of someone in Babylon, while subsequent chapters were written from the perspective of post-exilic Jerusalem. Others, such as Mowinckel, Barstad, Seitz, and Tiemeyer argue that all of chs. 40-66 were written from the perspective of Jerusalem. Rom-Shiloni concludes with metaphors found in Isaiah (human hair, divorce, harvest, shepherd, abandoned eggs), while also noting how the exile itself becomes a metaphor.
Ulrich Berges considers “The Servant(s) in Isaiah,” begins with a review of the history of this study from Duhm’s identification of the Servant of Yahweh Songs in 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12. In the fourth Servant Song, the singular and plural interchange, with a fluidity between the anonymous servant and Israel, and an inclusion so that everyone “who testifies to YHWH’s renewed salvific activity, initiated by the appointment of Cyrus as shepherd and anointed one, is, in fact, God’s servant” (p. 321). Because the servant proclaims Yahweh’s plan of salvation, he meets increasing opposition in post-exilic Zion/Jerusalem. However, this is not the actual death of Deutero-Isaiah or anyone else from that time. Had that been the case, those who recorded Isaiah 53 would certainly have identified the figure by name. The Servant seeks acknowledgement of his suffering for the sins of the many from those who had not been deported in the post-exilic community. Otto Kaiser and others have argued that this Servant Song describes salvific service to the nations. Berges objects because he finds no evidence for this role among the people of God to the nations. Back in ch. 6 God would harden the hearts of Israel (v. 10). Now the faithful confess the healing in the form of removal of hardness of heart (53:5), and thus become part of the servant community (53:10; 54:3). The “many” of 52:14 and 53:11-12 should be understood as the majority in Israel. The “we” are the offspring of the Servant and Lady Zion. As the servant is exalted and being beaten and bruised, so Lady Zion will be exalted after humiliation (ch. 54). Both the servant and Zion are a “literary” individual and a collective. The exhaustion of the Servant in 50:4-5 refers to the failure to bring more of Israel back to God. The Servant and Zion actualize God’s covenant is such a way that it will become a light for the nations. Marvin Sweeney identified the manner in which the themes of Isaiah 49-54 alternate between the Servant and Zion in announcing salvation for Zion. Chapters 55-66 go on to exhort Israel to fulfill the conditions for participation in the covenant and to join the restored Israel. The servants are the offspring of the Servant and Zion. They do not receive land but God’s help and protection (49:8; 58:14; 63:17). The first mention of the plural “servants” is in 54:17b at the end of the alternation between the Servant and Zion. 1QIsa marks this verse with the beginning of a new line. Chapter 55 is a bridge with closer connection with what follows. These servants are a minority in post-exilic Jerusalem. As the servants move into a community the figure of David in 55:3 exemplifies one who no longer conquers but receives strangers and foreigners into the community. As the returnees received God’s Spirit for their mission (42:1; 45:3; 48:16), their descendants receive divine strength to restore Jerusalem (61:1). Their priestly role (61:6) receives back a double portion of land and the wealth of the nations (61:6-7). In chs. 65-66 the entire land of Israel is available to them. That which is chaotic and hostile is banned. The offspring of the servant (53:10) are the children of Zion (66:8) (p. 330).
Andrew T. Abernathy writes the chapter on “Wisdom in Isaiah.” It was Johannes Fichtner who observed that, even though the prophet criticizes sages (3:1-3; 5:21; 29:14), he draws on wisdom forms and vocabulary. Because Yahweh is exalted by Isaiah, he is also the source of all wisdom. In Second Isaiah Yahweh is the Creator God involved in history with his people. The Servant will be satisfied by his understanding (Isa. 53:11) that God gives meaning to his life through interpreting the course of history. He gives judgment via Cyrus upon Babylon and then on the release of the captives and God’s ongoing work with Israel. The Servant of Isaiah 53 is willing to die for the message, confident in God’s commitment to establish justice. Others have identified the role of God as Creator or that of the Davidic king and the Servant as central to wisdom. Comparisons have been made with Job and Ecclesiastes, but without convincing conclusions. Nevertheless, the vocabulary for wisdom in chaps. 1-39 begins with Israel not knowing and understanding as the animals (1:3) and continues with all nations coming to knowledge (2:3). It is the sense of Yahweh’s exaltation that gives all society and the world a place that is ordered and subordinate (p. 336, quoting Williamson). Abernathy finds much of the mythic ideas of Job in Second Isaiah, although the summons to buy and eat in 55:1-2 draws upon Wisdom’s invitation to a banquet in Prov. 9:1-6. The new word of wisdom that the Servant possesses in Isa. 53:11 gives life meaning. God’s work behind the scenes with the coming of Cyrus and the judgment of Babylon may be compared with Job 38:1–42:6 and God’s work behind the scenes. The Servant’s willingness to die without fighting back is due to his trust in God to bring about justice. Abernathy regards these and other comparisons with the Wisdom literature as inconclusive. While Israel will see the knowledge, justice, and peace of Yahweh’s rule come about, chs. 13-23 describe the fall of other proud nations. Chapters 24-27 extend the divine judgment to the whole world. In Second Isaiah God’s wisdom to grant the exiles justice contrasts with the folly of other nations (and of Israel) to worship false gods, the greatest example of the lack of knowledge and wisdom. Yahweh seeks to save in order to increase knowledge of who Yahweh is. Even Third Isaiah begins with the rebellious as those who do not know (56:10-11). In both Second and Third Isaiah divine wisdom goes beyond what can be observed. Throughout these chapters there is a critique of leaders, both civil (chs. 1-39) and religious (44:26).
In ch. 19 Soo J. Kim considers the subject of “Eschatology in Isaiah.” The difficult ambiguities of defining eschatology, whether as a form of theology or as a type of literature, is surveyed. Kim argues that eschatology in Isaiah should be connected with three adjectives: universal, ultimate, and radical. He divides between dystopia as the ground for transformation and utopia as the projected future transformation. Yet both have been and are active in the view of Isaiah. The present judgment of the exile is not so long that some of the same generation will experience the return. This comes as they transform themselves into a faithful servant. The “day of the Lord” is one of judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. It is a necessary purification. While the punishment of Babylon draws on eschatological and apocalyptic image in ch. 13:10-13, and the judgment on Edom (ch. 34) is final, that of Assyria and Egypt is such that they will survive and ally with Israel (19:23-25). While God’s mercy is extended to his own people for some survival (1:8-10), Babylon will not avoid the shaking (Kim – “uprooting” p. 360) of creation (13:2-22). Edom’s destruction uses language of sulphur, smoke, and fire from Sodom and Gomorrah (30:33; 34: 6-17). The image of a wilderness without water, shade, and life (1:7, 30; 19:5-6; 22:18) applies to Jerusalem and all of Israel as a symbol of abandonment. The king of Babylon’s descent into Sheol in ch. 14 envisions a place of torture (5:14) as well as one that Yahweh will reverse by swallowing death (25:8). The Babylonian king seeks the highest Mount of Assembly (14:12-14) but winds up in Sheol (14:15-20). Other kings rest but the Babylonian king wanders (14:9, 14, 18).
The utopian imagery looks to the restoration of Judah and Jerusalem (1:26-27) and the ideal vision of the city at the center of the universe (ch. 2). The fourth chapter introduces the “remnant” who will journey through the book and to the end, where hope (66:22-23) and judgment (66:24) are juxtaposed. With Yahweh’s swallowing of Sheol (Death) in 25:8, all destinies are reversed and Yahweh has complete control over Death. The restoration of Jerusalem and hope of the remnant provide what Kim sees as two points around which the eschatological language will focus. The new Jerusalem will become a source of light (60:1-4) that God will protect and that will transform the world into a paradise, a well-watered garden (58:10-12) and a restored vineyard (27:2-6). The remnant are a holy people (4:3) open to any person who joins Yahweh, mourns in their heart, and fears the word of God (56:3; 66:2). For Kim, the editing of Isaiah represents the unending dialogue between generations of authors and editors. And Kim ends by returning to the indictment that the people do not understand Torah (1:2-4). The discovery of Torah will take place in Israel and beyond to the whole world (2:3).
J. Blake Couey introduces the fifth major part of the book, The Book of Isaiah as Literature, with a discussion of “The Poetic Structures in Isaiah.” Couey notes that the poetry involves repetition and variation. In an interesting observation on 1QIsa the author notes that col. 50, lines 8-22, which contain 61:10-62:9 do contain small spaces that divide the text into poetic lines, lines that are joined through parallelism or dependency. These divisions are similar to modern ones (indeed Bishop Robert Lowth in his famous 1753 lectures concluded the same line divisions for 62:5), suggesting a measure of confidence in the poetic scansion of the remainder of the book. Free verse seems to be the “rule,” rather than an observed meter. Not surprisingly, lines with multiple verbs result in an “enhanced dynamism” (p. 379; not sure who needs to know this). Lines with imperatives establish urgency (e.g., Isa. 40:1, “Comfort! Comfort!”). Shorter lines, as in 56:9-57:2, present a faster pace whereas longer lines, as in 14:26 identify God’s control into every area. While single lines are uncommon, normally as titles or subscripts at the beginning or end of a poem, as in most Hebrew poetry groups of lines appear in two’s and occasionally in three’s. The term enjambment refers to a minority of bicola where the second line completes the first line with a clausal element or is subordinate to the first line. This is often found where the first line introduces a quotation and is followed by a succeeding line or lines that contain the quotation. Clusters of triplets can be emphatic (cf. e.g., Yahweh’s uniqueness in 45:5-7). Larger poetic units often exhibit A/B/A’/B’ parallelism. Biblical poetry tends to have paratactic relationships between couplets. However, prophetic poetry uses syntactic markers more frequently (thus, because, just as, therefore, and now). Inclusio examples occur, of which the most extensive is the oracle against Tyre in Isa. 23:1, 14. Chiasm is less common but occurs in Isa. 28:15-18. Anaphora occurs, where lines begin and end with the same word or with the same morphological feature (e.g., 1cs suffix). Verbal repetition of the same word occurs, as in “to bear” in 46:1-7. Also, related terms are used, as for roadways in 59:7-8. A repeated couplet occurs in 9:7 (English 9:8) – 10:4. Couey looks at various examples of poem connections in chs. 1, 24, and 55. There are inclusios for the entire book (ch. 1 and chs. 65-66), as well as sections within the book. The book takes on poetic, structural characteristics: non-narrative discourse, associative logic, and parataxis (p. 391). Its similarity to the Psalms is argued by Couey. Both have an opening chapter that serves as the book’s intro, sequences of poems occasionally appearing, narrative/superscription elements to contextualize, and a succession of endings that may have been added over time. The latter two are not as apparent and the genres are different; but Couey is correct in noticing similar characteristics of poetic structure between Isaiah and the Psalms.
Francis Landy, a veteran scholar in Hebrew poetry, writes on “The Poetic Vision of Isaiah.” Landy argues that Hebrew poetry should be read imaginatively with close attention and tentativeness. Parallelism is “infinitely flexible” (p. 394). He builds on Robert Carroll’s description of “blindsight” to understand Isaiah 6 and the charge of promoting “miscommunication.” The vision of the prophet has access to alternate states of consciousness. The poem is not a sequential whole but the book has many beginnings and endings. Landy finds a patriarchal family romance, wherein the female (Zion/Israel) is alternatively presented in the extremes of misogyny and idealization. Daughter Zion appears already in 1:8. Along with the sons, she provides a picture of Israel’s relationship with God. Estrangement is found in the corruption of the Temple courts (1:10-15; p. 400). Landy identifies pictures of Zion or females: a prostitute (later transferred to Tyre in ch. 23) whose earnings are holy to Yahweh, Torah (2:2-4), a widow (3:25-26), and death or Sheol (5:14, although this female representation is not of Zion). Yahweh accompanies Israel from the womb (49:1). Landy insists that the female and male imagery of Yahweh is not because he is beyond gender but because he transcends gender.
Göran Eidevall discusses the important literary topic of “Use of Metaphors” in ch. 22. He begins (p. 409) with a definition quoted from Janet Soskice’s Metaphor and Religious Language (p. 15): “Metaphor is that figure of speech whereby we speak about one thing in terms which are seen to be suggestive of another.” Using “Life is a journey,” Eidevall identifies such metaphors as fundamental in terms of culture. Eidevall emphasizes the importance of describing the two domains of the thing itself and the metaphor used. Interestingly, he contends that there is little importance to distinguishing between metaphor and simile “since the same process of cross-domain mapping or (re)structuring is at work in both” (p. 410). Especially in Isaiah 40-66 the difficulties of defining the discourse topic may make it almost impossible to identify what is metaphor and what is literal. Noting that metaphor is one of the major features of biblical poetry, Eidevall begins with the vegetation imagery of 5:26-11:16. Such metaphors expand through the book of Isaiah, often describing sinful Israel. Such metaphors serve to represent the editorial framework of the book. Other expressions, Assyria and Israel as ill people or as forests ravaged by fire. Egypt is a “helpless helper” (p. 413). Babylon is queen made into a slave. Assyria is a tool used by Yahweh. Throughout the text both Zion and Yahweh are mothers. The feminine imagery increases in chs. 40-66. Yahweh is described as a lion and as fluttering birds (31:4-5). While Yahweh is never likened to a tree, the dependence of a tree on divine nourishment becomes a useful picture for people and nations. Likewise, 40:6-8 images people and all flesh as grass, subject to perishing easily. Israel is a vine in ch. 5, a poem Eidevall finds originally connected to the Northern Kingdom. Images of Yahweh as king (ch. 6) include metaphors of judge (2:4; 33:2; 41:21), shepherd (40:11; 49:9b-12), and warrior (52:7-10; 63:1-6). God is the perfect parent with rebellious children. God is called father, redeemer, and potter, especially in 63:7-64:12 [Heb. 11]. Yahweh is never explicitly called, “mother” (p. 420). 42:13-14 present the images of a shouting warrior and of a crying mother in labor. Yahweh cannot forget his children, as a good mother (49:14-15). God is the husband of his people, the husband of Zion in chs. 40-66. 51:17-20 presents Zion as traumatized by the loss of children, while 52:1-2 exhorts her to put on fine clothes and celebrate the end of servitude. 54:1-6 moves Zion to becoming a mother of many children and a beloved wife. Zion reaches her climax of praise, suckling of citizens, and even comparison to God in ch. 66.
A dramatic change of content and perspective is found in Part VI, Isaiah in Select Textual Traditions. George J. Brooke writes on “Isaiah in the Qumran Scrolls.” At Qumran, there are 22 copies of the book of Isaiah that have been identified and discovered. The most famous copy, that of 1QIsa, preserves more the 2,600 textual variants from the Medieval Masoretic Text version of Isaiah. Nevertheless, there are seven manuscripts that are especially close to the Masoretic Text. 1QIsb is one such manuscript. Of the more than 44 out of 66 chapters of Isaiah preserved in the scroll, Brooke might have added that only six full words were added and five dropped in comparison with the Masoretic Text. The remainder are less significant elements such as copulative waws and pronominal suffixes. In fact, Brooke does admit that the Qumran scrolls do not contain the major variants as found in Jeremiah. An example of an interesting variant is in 52:14, where 1QIsa has mšḥty “I anointed,” in place of Masoretic mšḥt “marred.” There are no sectarian-driven variants in the Isaiah manuscripts. The pesharim that refer to Isaiah seem to have used the Isaiah scrolls. Thus, 4QpIsaa seems to have used 1QIsa. 1QIsa has a major division at the end of ch. 33 of Isaiah. Supported by the fact that the partial manuscripts of Isaiah all deal with chs. 1-33 or chs. 34-66, this suggests that the scroll of Isaiah was copied in two parts with a break midway, at the end of ch. 33. In terms of content, Brownlee proposed that each of these two major sections could be divided into seven smaller parts that correspond and parallel the seven parts in the other half of Isaiah. Brooke cites examples of other texts that used Isaiah. The Damascus Document juxtaposes Isaiah 58:13 beside rules on Sabbath observance (10.17-19). There are no rewritten texts of Isaiah (or of the Twelve), but it does receive pesher treatment. It may suggest an authoritative status to the book in comparison with Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Among the Hodayot praise poetry, 1QHa 16.5-17.36, the picture of planting (61:3), of a shoot from a stump (11:1), of a lament (53:1-4), and of a psalm of confidence (63:15) all appear as “a meditation upon various themes/motifs which occur in Isaiah 40-66” (p. 442). There are six commentaries at Qumran. These are, at least in part, different compositions. 11QMelch makes use of 61:1-2, suggesting among other things, that the passage was widely used in Judaism in addition to its appearance in Luke 4. Given that Qumran was no settled until the first quarter of the first century BC, the appearance of evolving editions of the Rule of the Community demonstrates that a text such as Isa. 40:3 may have not been used in the earliest form but then did occur in later editions, perhaps in preparation and after the community settled the Qumran site.
Abi T. Ngunga writes on “Isaiah in Greek.” The work has at the beginning a description of the variety of innovations from the original text employed by the translator, a list that could apply to many books translated from the Hebrew Bible (pp. 451-52). Noting Silva’s comment that there are about ninety places where the traditional text of Rahlfs and of the Göttingen edition of Ziegler differ, and that this is worthy of further study, Ngunga identifies the major German, Spanish, French, and English modern translations. The French is represented by La Bible d’Alexandrie, which is a commentary as well as a translation, but had not yet appeared. The English version that Ngunga chooses is NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint), where the text of Isaiah is based on Ziegler’s edition. Ngunga nowhere mentions the most recent translation of Sinaiticus, along with Greek text and commentary, that of Ken M. Penner, Isaiah (Septuagint Commentary Series; Leiden: Brill, 2020). Penner’s work is the only modern and substantial commentary on the LXX of Isaiah, providing the essential link between the Hebrew and the manner in which the New Testament (and other writers) understood the prophetic fulfillment in their time. Nor are the two other English language translations of the LXX mentioned: Rick Brennan and Ken M. Penner eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (2nd edtion; Bellingham: Lexham, 2019), based on Codex Vaticanus; and The Oxford Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), based on Rahlfs’ edition. See my review of The Lexham English Septuagint and a comparison with the other English editions, Denver Journal: An Online Review of Current Biblical and Theological Studies 23 (2020).
Ngunga’s review of the uncial codices includes the generally recognized fact that Vaticanus, unusually in the case of Isaiah, does not preserve a more reliable older text. This seems to be due to the presence of post-Origen Hexaplaric elements. There is a review of the translations/versions of Aquila (literal), Symmachus (literary), and Theodotian (free rendering of the kaige recension). The attempts to generalize about disputes between finding in LXX Isaiah either a theological rendering of something close to the proto-Masoretic Text or a literal translation of a Hebrew version of an Isaiah text distinct from the proto-MT lead Ngunga to settle on Van der Meer’s papyrological perspective, which he identifies but does not define. The history of interpretation includes something of a listing of citations and important allusions to Isaiah in Jewish Intertestamental literature, and in the New Testament and patristic literature. A briefer but concise and helpful summary of the subject of Isaiah in the Septuagint can be found in Arie van der Kooij, “6.3 Septuagint,” pp. 489-92 in Armin Lange and Emanuel Tov ed., Textual History of the Bible: The Hebrew Bible: Volume 1B: Pentateuch, Former and Latter Prophets (Leiden: Brill, 2017). A more complete and up to date introduction to the subject of all the LXX translations of Isaiah, with special emphasis on Codex Sinaiticus, can be found on pp. 1-42 of the already mentioned Penner volume.
William A. Tooman investigates “Isaiah in Aramaic.” He notes that the only complete translation of the book of Isaiah in Aramaic is found in Targum Jonathan. Events alluded to in the work include matters that are before the destruction of the Second Temple as well as later allusions in the early Christian centuries. Tooman suggests that the Targum originated in Palestine/Israel around the turn of the era and then was taken to Babylon where it was redacted and recognized as authoritative. From there, it spread across the world of the Jewish diaspora with additional changes subject to its location and time period. In 5th/6th century Palestine additions, glosses, and changes were made that constitute the Tosefta. The “Targumim were used not only in synagogue reading but in education and private study” (p. 472). Theologically, the exclusiveness of God allows for other deities but they in no way compete with God. Some anthropomorphisms are removed while others remain. Circumlocutions for God include memra, Glory, Shekhinah, and Holy Spirit. God’s judgment remains in Targum Jonathan, but it is only directed against other nations, not against God’s own people. In 63:15-64:11, God does not harden the people’s heart. The author of the Targum expresses more trust in God than does the author in the Masoretic Text. In Isaiah Abraham appears four times; but he is mentioned ten times in the Targum. Chapter 27 describes the return of Israel from diaspora and the fate of the nations who ruled over Israel. The Targum charges Zion with the failure to obey Torah and the prophets. The Targum has as much to say about Zion’s restoration as it does about the city’s destruction. Targum Jonathan intentionally seeks to relate the king messiah to that of the suffering servant. However, in Isaiah 53 the Servant does not suffer, but is a champion of the suffering. The Torah pious are those who will be resurrected in texts such as 26:19.
Chapter 26, “Isaiah in Latin,” is written by Anni Maria Laato. The pre-Jerome Vetus Latina was based on the Septuagint. These translations are grouped into the African and the European. Tertullian provides the earliest evidence of the Vetus Latina. He is followed by Cyprian of Carthage, Hilary of Poitiers, and Ambrose. Augustine regarded the LXX as authoritative but had no problem with various Latin translations. He was suspicious of Jerome’s work on translating the Hebrew. Jerome began this project c. 390, translating “sense for sense” (rather than word for word). Isaiah was sawn in half according to Tertullian and according to the Latin translation of the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah. For Isaiah, Jerome did his own creative exegetical work regarding texts and terms like the almah in 7:14 (p. 497). Except for the LXX, translators render it “young woman.” Nevertheless, using Punic, Jerome argues for a double meaning of “virgin” and “hidden away.” He applies both to the Isaiah text. Laato’s final three pages review the use of terms from the Latin of Isaiah to ridicule the Jews, the use of the “resting” mentioned in 11:10 to anticipate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and the use of the trisagion in 6:3 and its connection with Christian tradition of the Trinity.
Part VII of this volume contains five chapters that reflect on Isaiah In Select Religious Traditions. Antti Laato examines “Isaiah in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Traditions.” He notes that the earliest explanation of Isaiah outside the Bible occurs in Sirach 48:17-25 where it records that Isaiah prophecied the deliverance of Hezekiah’s Jerusalem and that the prophet spoke of the future. Sirach also quotes from the opening verses of Isaiah 61, something found in 11QMelch and 4Q521 from Qumran. Josephus also records how Isaiah did not fear the Assyrian threat but prophecied what God would do (Ant. 9.276). Ibn Ezra divided between chs. 1-39 as coming from Isaiah’s time and chs. 40-66 where Isaiah spoke of the time of Zerubbabel after the return from exile. Rabbinical interpretation understood Isaiah as the nephew of king Amaziah of Judah. Ahaz, the root of whose name means “seize,” was understood as one who seized synagogues and schools according to the Talmud (ySanh 10:2). Hezekiah was regarded a model of the coming Messiah but was not the Messiah because he did not give hymns of praise after the deliverance from the Assyrian army. The identification of Immanuel in 7:14 could not be Hezekiah because Hezekiah was 25 when he became king while his predecessor Ahaz ruled for 16 years (2 Kings 16:2; 18:2). Therefore, Hezekiah was born before Ahaz became king and his birth could not be in the future in 7:14. This Christian apologetic for Immanuel to point to Christ in the future was challenged by Rashi, ibn Ezra, and David Kimhi who linked 7:14 with 7:16 and the promise of the enemy land being destroyed while the boy was still young. The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, a Christian text containing older Jewish legends, maintains that martyrdom of Isaiah during the reign of Manasseh. The sawing in half of Isaiah with a wooden saw also appears in Rabbinic literature (e.g., ySan 28c; bYeb 49bp etc.). Isaiah was a major source for Jewish eschatology and for Messianic interpretation. 2:2-4 became one passage (along with Isaiah 60) for incorporation of the gentiles as Torah learners and proselytes.
Laato enumerates misunderstandings that have arisen regarding Isaiah 53 and Jewish tradition. Although the Haftarot for Jewish synagogue reading did not include Isaiah 53, other passages from Isaiah were also excluded, and so this does not prove an intentional avoidance. Rashi was not the first Jewish scholar to propose that Isaiah 53 referred to Israel or some other entity than the Messiah. Laato cites examples from the talmuds of identification with a righteous man, an ill person, Rabbi Akiba, the Messiah (bSanh 98b; RuthR 5:6), and Jeremiah. Origen had already identified a Jewish objection in his day that identified Isaiah as “the whole people,” i.e., Israel (Contra Celsum 1.54-55). A Jewish translation of Isaiah 53, such as Targum Jonathan, should not be seen as anti-Christian and avoiding the vicarious death. Laato seems to think that because Wisdom of Solomon 2-5 already avoided that topic in its adoption of words and phrases from Isaiah 52-54, this must prove that the vicarious nature of the sacrifice was not omitted. The conclusion is not demonstrated. Figures like Nahmanides demonstrate that Jewish thought could accept an identification of ch. 53 with the Messiah without believing in a vicarious death. More recently, the Chabd-Lubavitch movement regarded the death of Rabbi Schneerson in 1994 as necessary proof of the Rabbi’s messiahship on the basis of Isaiah 53. Laato concludes with brief notes on a variety of topics from Isaiah. Rabbinic exegesis referred to the figure of Isaiah 14 as the Babylonian king. The earliest connection with Satan may occur in the Life of Adam and Eve and in the Slavonic Enoch (29:4; 31:4). Laato finds is impossible to conclude whether this interpretation began with Judaism or Christianity. He does note the Nephilim of Genesis 6:1-4 and their connection with the Anakim (Num. 13:33) and the connection there with the Rephaim, mentioned in Isa. 14:9. This is related to the Hebrew root of Nephilim, npl “to fall,” which appears in Isa. 14:12. Laato notes that Ugaritic texts connect the Nephilim and Rephaim with the netherworld. He is correct about the Rephaim, but the Nephilim appear nowhere in the Ugaritic texts nor in any pre-Hellenistic texts outside the Hebrew Bible (cf. the review of literature in Jonathan Yogev, The Rephaim: Sons of the Gods [Culture and History of the Ancient Near East volume 121; Leiden: Brill, 2021]; and my review of Yogev in Denver Journal: An Online Review of Current Biblical and Theological Studies 24 ). Finally, it is of interest to note that Tisha b’Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, uses ten passages from Isaiah for Haftarot readings before and after this day. Isaiah 40:1-26 is read on the Sabbath immediately following Tisha b’Av.
In chapter 28 Steve Moyise turns to “Isaiah in the New Testament.” His work is thick with references to the NT and their relationship to LXX (usually), (proto-)Masoretic Text (sometimes), and even other versions of Isaiah in applying them to the text. John the Baptist’s ministry takes advantage of Isa. 40:3 with Luke adding vv. 4-5 in his emphasis on a universal mission (cf. Acts 1:8). Moyise turns to Jesus’ ministry without reference to key quotes surrounding his birth (e.g., Isa. 7:14). Jesus’ ministry lacks quotes from Isaiah 40 as that text dealt with the wilderness and not the Galilee where Jesus mainly worked. Worth quoting here is Moyise’s observations on the connection with the Servant Songs and Isaiah 61 (pp. 531-32):
Instead, the Gospels portray him as identifying with the servant of Isa 42:1-4 (Matt 12:18-21), the suffering servant of Isa 52:13-53:12 (Matt 8:17; Luke 22:37; cf. Mark 10:45), and the anointed prophet of Isa 61:1-2 (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Matt 5:3-4). The uncanny resemblance between the figure in the fourth servant song and the passion of Jesus led to seven of its verses being explicitly quoted in the New Testament (51:15; 53:1, 4, / 7-8, 9, 12). The exhortation to accept suffering just as Christ accepted suffering in 1 Pet 2:21-25 is virtually a gloss on Isa 53:4-12.
Moyise also notes how 52:14 was seen as a description of Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion; while 52:13 portrayed his resurrection and ascension (Acts 3:13). Jesus quotes Isa. 6:9-10 to describe how and why the crowds misunderstood his parables. The rebelliousness of Israel also uses Isa. 29:13 for its source, although the quote (Matt. 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7) uses the LXX more than the Hebrew of the proto-Masoretic Text. The miraculous healings that he enumerates in response to the question from John the Baptist have their origins in Isa. 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1 (cf. Matt. 11:3; Luke 7:19). The house of prayer of Isa. 56:7 is applied to Jesus’ overturning of the tables in the temple. Paul uses 28 quotations from Isaiah, twenty of them occurring in Romans. Romans 15:9-12 ends with a quote about the inclusion of the Gentiles as found in the LXX of 11:10. Israel’s failures are mentioned in Isa. 65:2 (Rom. 10:21) and 8:14 (Rom 9:33). The salvation after judgment is found in Isa. 52:7 and its quote in Rom 10:15. In Rom. 11:25-27 Paul follows the LXX use of “seed” instead of the Hebrew “survivor” (1:9; 41:8-10; 43:5; 4:2-3; 45:25; 65:9; 66:22). The redeemer will come from Zion (Rom. 11:27) not to Zion, as in the LXX of Isa. 59:20-21. However, “from Zion” occurs in other related texts (Ia. 2:3-4 for example). The promise of the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:54 may come from Isa 25:8 where Hebrew and Paul agree that God will swallow up death, against the LXX (as we have it) where death does the swallowing. Luke cites the hardening of Israel from 6:9 in Luke 8:10 with the full quotation from Paul’s mouth at the end of Acts in 28:26-27. In both Luke and Acts quotes from Isaiah appear at important junctures. Stephen’s speech ends with the Acts 7:48 quote from Isa. 66:1-2 which itself is not just a repudiation of the temple, but also a positive emphasis on the humble and contrite. Although lacking direct quotation from Isaiah, the book of Revelation does refer to the sharp sword from Jesus’ mouth (Isa. 49:2; Rev. 1:12-18), the title of the first and the last (Isa. 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:17), treading the wine press as an image of judgment (Isa. 63:2-3; Rev. 14:19-20; 19:13), striking the nations (Ia. 11:4; Rev. 19:16), and the new heaven and new earth (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1) to which the nations will come with their glory (Isa. 2:2-5; 60:3, 5; Rev. 21:24). Concluding with some additional observations of the texts of Isaiah used in the New Testament, Moyise notes Bruce Chilton’s observation that “contrary to the versions of Isa 6:10 quoted in Matt 13:14 and Acts 28:27…Mark uses a passive construction…as found in the Targum” (p. 540). Multiple texts of Isaiah were in circulation at the time of the writing of the New Testament.
The accomplished scholar of the Prophets, Marvin A. Sweeney, enters into the sobering subject of “Post-Shoah Readings of Isaiah.” In his discussion Sweeney makes frequent allusion to the abandonment of the Jewish people during their imprisonment, torture, and murder by Nazis. He makes the case that the German people did know what was going on but did not speak out, let alone resist. Where are we today? Will we respond to the enslavement of peoples and the destruction of nations? This part of Sweeney’s work needs to be read and appreciated for its own value. Sweeney characterizes God in Isaiah as turning against his people, actively campaigning for their destruction alongside Assyria and Babylonia, betraying his covenant with David by extending it to the entire nation of God’s people, and in the final verse of the book affirming that God has not succeeded in the enterprise that he began. The bodies of the dead indicate that the ideals are not realized. In a similar manner the declaration of Cyrus of Persia as Messiah and Temple Builder ends the promise of eternal Davidic kingship. God’s failure to ensure national security, with three assaults by Assyria leading to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the near total elimination of the South, means for Sweeney that humans cannot depend on God but must take responsibility in partnership with God. Sweeney reviews the narrative texts at the beginning of the book. The commission of the prophet in ch. 6 begins with a view from the colonnade at the eastern entrance of the temple. God’s garment represents the incense altars. The seraphim are images of the ten Menorot or candles sticks, and the proclamation on holiness suggests that priests singing.
Isaiah’s call on Ahaz to believe and to ask for a sign is explained in the context of the Syro Ephraimite war. However, Ahaz’s refusal to request a sign is best understood as a statement of piety. Sweeney identifies rape imagery with the description of how the Assyrians will spread their cloak over Judah and in terms of the waters of Shiloah that symbolize the Assyrian semen that will flood the land. This interpretation seems speculative and unsupported; perhaps more evidence could justify the negative characterization of God and his work. Yahweh’s punishment of Assyria (ch. 10) and of the other nations (chs. 13-23) is not enough. Further, the eternal covenant with the House of David is broken by the designation of Cyrus (44:28; 45:1), who is not in David’s line. Isaiah 56-66 constitute a prophetic exhortation to follow Yahweh’s covenant. Haggai and Zechariah, according to Sweeney, promised God’s overthrow of the Persian empire when the Temple was built. Perhaps Zerubbabel led a revolt against Persia and was killed or otherwise removed. This may explain the lack of any further mention of his name. Much of this, however well reasoned, would benefit by additional evidence. In no small measure it proceeds from the commissioning of the prophet in Isaiah 6 where, according to Sweeney, “a fundamental truth, YHWH commanded Isaiah to undertake an immoral task – namely, to render the people blind, deaf, and dumb, so that they would not repent and therefore would suffer the punishment that YHWH had in mind for them” (p. 556). Is this the likely reading of 6:9-13? Might it be better to see something similar here to God’s message for Nineveh through Jonah, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed.” Is not this the final shaking awake of a sleepy and unresponsive people so that at the last moment they might repent and throw themselves on God’s mercy before the judgment comes? See, e.g., Matitiahu Tsevat, “The Throne Vision of Isaiah,” in his The Meaning of the Book of Job and Other Biblical Studies: Essays on the Literature and Religion of the Hebrew Bible (New Yor: Ktav, 1980) 155-76.
Turning to John Goldingay’s “Canonical Reading of Isaiah,” one has the sense that this should be plural (“Canonical Readings”), as he provides a dozen different directions the Canonical Approach might take in his final paragraph. After a page or so discussing the rise of canonical interest at the end of the twentieth century (no mention there of Childs whom many would see as the best example of a founder of the approach[es] in Old Testament studies; one finds his first mention five pages into Goldingay’s 14-page chapter), Goldingay begins with Isaiah 40-66 and examples of its numerous connections with chs. 1-12. For example, the “Comfort! Comfort!” of 40:1 recalls 12:1 (“the ending of the first sequence,” p. 561) and its emphasis on God comforting his people and turning wrath from them. Again, Israel as deaf and blind in 42:18-25 recalls the charge to Isaiah in 6:9-10. One canonical approach is to see the reworking of passages in new contexts. Another is to see the biblical material as the result of God’s address to his people. Goldingay argues that chs. 40-66 also take up texts from Jeremiah (and Hosea and Lamentations) into a more clearly structured scroll. Without knowing the whole process by which the scroll of Isaiah achieved its final form, we can nevertheless argue that the prophet’s message(s) was/were deemed worthy of attention by future generations. For Goldingay, chs. 1-39 describe the community’s failure and the resultant collapse of Judah; chs. 40-55 promise that Yahweh will intervene to bring justice and righteousness; and chs. 56-66 develop that promise with a challenge to the community to implement it (p. 568). By the time of the New Testament, the scroll of Isaiah had a certain authority in a manner that provided for the New Testament to make more use of this book than any other in the Old Testament.
In what is arguably the most entertaining chapter, the late John F. A. Sawyer writes on “Isaiah in Art and Music,” a topic for which he is eminently qualified. This is the only chapter with illustrations. One could only wish for more as well as the presentation of them in color. The list of seven websites for artistic pieces that Sawyer has placed at the end of his bibliography goes some way in fulfilling this desire. In addition to the visual, the author also enumerates classical and modern music pieces. In terms of painting, Isaiah is portrayed alongside more scenes from the Gospels than any other prophet. The scene most frequently used is the vision of ch. 6 and the commissioning of the prophet. The prophet is also portrayed as moving across a desert (21:1), in the account of the destruction of the Assyrian king (chs. 36-37), at Hezekiah’s subsequent healing (ch. 38), in scenes from Hezekiah’s psalmic response (38:10-21), and in descriptions of his martyrdom where he was sawn in two, often while in a tree (so later tradition and Heb. 11:37). The earliest known portrayal comes from the catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome where a fresco of the second century AD shows the prophet beside the Madonna and Child, pointing to a star (Num. 24:17; Isa. 11:1). The most common portrayal from the text of Isaiah is the prophecy of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14. The prophecy sometimes appears in Hebrew letters (Cima de Conigliano, Annunciation , Hermitage Museum). Uniquely among the prophets Isaiah often appears as younger and clean shaven (e.g., Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling ). An image (other than Isaiah) that emerges from 11:1 is that of the Jesse tree, where David’s father often lies on his side and a tree emerges from his body. There are pictures of Christ the Warrior and of the winepress (63:1-6), the portrayal of the lamb of God (John 1:29) led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7), the beating of swords into plowshares (outside the UN building in New York and in public places in Jerusalem), and the peaceable kingdom (11:6-9). Jesus is also portrayed as the shepherd and as one measuring the world (chs. 11-26). In music, a selection of a few pieces from Sawyer’s list include: “O come, O come, Immanuel” (7:14; 59:20); Handel’s Messiah (1742); many of the songs in the Scottish Paraphrases (1781); John Newton’s “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” (23:20-21); Reginald Heber’s “Holy, holy, holy” (6:3); Godspell’s “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (40:3); and African American spirituals such as “Go tell it on the mountain” (40:9) and “I ain’t gonna study war no more” (2:4). Altogether, this is a wonderful review of some key art pieces and a significant tribute to the legacy of a wonderful scholar.
The final section of the volume addresses Select Ideological Readings of Isaiah. Sharon Moughtin-Mumby introduces the unit with “Feminist/Womanist Readings of Isaiah.” The reference to Zion as a female occurs only five times in Isaiah 1-39: “Mount Daughter Zion” (10:32; 16:1), “whore” (1:21), “Daughter Zion” (1:8), and “Virgin Daughter Zion” (37:22). Various views interpreting this last designation include: Anat the warrior goddess, a taunt song, vulnerability to rape, and headstrong and haughty. Each of these positions has one or more authors’ names attached. This illustrates Moughtin-Mumby’s approach throughout the chapter: identify a text of interest and give as many different views as possible. This piling on of interpretations is done without evaluation as to which is to be preferred or dismissed. The absence of critical engagement is also found in most cases in the other chapters of this section. The implication to be drawn is that there are a variety of different interpretations that are all possible. The same is true with the discussion of Zion in 2nd and 3rd Isaiah. Here other cities are also portrayed as feminine characters with evaluative contexts. The range of metaphors for Zion goes from exalted to humiliated. Moughtin-Mumby notes, however, that these roles are primarily related to those of a wife and a mother. Both Zion and the Suffering Servant suffer in Isaiah, but the latter in 49:1-6 is given a voice whereas Zion has only six words (v. 14). In Isaiah 47 Daughter Babylon is also treated as though Yahweh were “a warrior rapist” and commanded to sit in silence, similar to abuse victims. Yet, these images are not supported by explicit statements of rape or by the designation of an abused victim. Rather than listing many such adjectives, it would have been helpful to demonstrate how the language of the text establishes these facts. In chs. 56-66, and especially culminating in the final chapter, Zion’s female physicality is celebrated. She is a mother with a womb and breasts full of milk, as well as hips and knees on which the infant is carried or dandled. Moughtin-Mumby goes through Isaiah to review other descriptions of the feminine: women as a synecdoche for the guilty nation, as in 3:9-17 and 13:1; non-symbolic depictions of women, as in Isaiah the prophet’s “wife”; female voices as authors, especially in 2nd Isaiah where the voices may be female; female language describing God (27:11; 42:13; 45:10; 66:9, 12-13). Finally, consideration is given to Womanist readings that emphasize the poor treatment of children (ch. 4) and the connection of the suffering with the Suffering Servant.
Mark G. Brett contributes ch. 33, “Postcolonial Readings of Isaiah.” He considers primarily the effects of imperialism in the formation of biblical texts. Anti-imperial rhetoric is found, for example, in 10:14 against the king of Assyria. The later chapters of the book, however, are more complex in mimicking empires. Nevertheless, in modern campaigns of decolonialization in North America and in Australia the peaceable kingdom of Isa. 11 emerges (see Sawyer on this form in art in the UK and USA). Dating most of Isaiah to the Persian period, Brett argues that much of the teaching of Isaiah is compatible with the interests of the Achaemenid administration. Brett argues that Isaiah could embrace the non-Jews, unlike Ezra and Nehemiah. In both 4:2-4 and 42:4 the teaching (torah) is imperial in its scope, reaching out as a gift to the nations. The peaceful animal kingdom of Isaiah 11:1-9 and 65:17-25 contrasts with the Persian royal gardens stocked with wild animals to appease the cruelty of the emperors who would hunt them. Brett notes Stavrakopoulou’s argument that 56:-18 displaces the people of the land with eunuchs and foreigners. However, Brett refers to 56:3-4, where the eunuchs and others could include some of Zion’s exiled children. The “exiled” in texts such as 49:21 may be understood as those who have become exiles within their own lands. These texts of Isaiah are both anti-imperialist and assimilationist, “engaged in the dynamic of mimicry” (p. 631). This reader missed the important perspective of S. Z. Aster, who has contributed to the understanding of how the rhetoric of Assyria was copied and developed by the Hebrew prophets.
In ch. 34, Carol J. Dempsey looks at “Isaiah in Liberation Theology.” After a page or two introducing Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, and other major figures in the development of liberation theology since its putative beginning in 1968, Dempsey turns to consider how liberation theologians have used Isaiah, how biblical scholars have used Isaiah for liberation theology, and finally how ecological theologians have used the book. Gutierrez uses 51:9-10 to identify “one salvific act” in the creation and in the exodus. All humanity is a temple of God according to 2:2; 41:1-7; 45:20-25; 51:4; and 66:1-2. According to James Cone, the poor are God’s special possession in 1:16-17; 3:13-15; 33:22; and 37:35. The servant is to bring justice to the nations (42:1) when the sins of others are placed on him, and he brings justice to God (53). For Jon Sobrino, this Servant becomes the crucified people for whom no salvation is possible unless it includes the poor. Dempsey criticizes their “proof-texting,” their use of European philosophy, especially Marxism, and their lack of a female voice (this is now being addressed). George Koonthanam represents a biblical scholar who devotion to the Dalit community in India allows him to celebrate God in 3:12-15 as defender of the poor and accuser of oppressors, while leaders abdicate their duty. Dalits take the place of the widows, orphans, and other poor who experience various forms of injustice and abuse. This also includes orphans and their oppression as child laborers. Gilbert Lazano has Isaiah 40-55 address the downtrodden of Latin America and offer words of encouragement. Gregory Lee Cuellar takes aim at the Babylonian exile and Mexican immigration. He finds connections between 40-55 and musical folk ballads or corridos. Boff and Pixley argue that capitalism is one of the root causes of poverty. Evidently, they find this in the servant songs, although there is no distinction of crony capitalism from that which has controls placed on it to prevent excesses. No discussion is made of Venezuelan Marxist socialism and why people there have no health care or basic nutrition. Perhaps Liberation Theology doesn’t apply to the oppressed of states that have a favorable political ideology in the view of liberation theologians. Francois Kabasele Lumbala discusses terrible abuses against individuals in Africa; and Cyris Heesuk Moon describes tortures and murders during the Korean War against the minjung of Kwanglu. This latter could be easily confused as the Korean War is understood by many as an event of the 1950’s but the minjug movement did not emerge until the 1970’s and the protests in Kwangju that was put down by a brutal authoritarian government in South Korea took place in 1980. Still, this ongoing resistance by young Korean women factory workers has planted seeds that emerged in the resistance to the brutal Chinese oppression in Hong Kong last year and ongoing. Dempsey also considers the connection of Isaiah and Liberation Theology to ecological disasters that affect the poorest of people (pp. 648-49). Like so many other things, a careful study of what is actually happening reveals a picture significantly different from what the loudest (and most powerful elite) voices are shouting regarding the way forward in this area. In her concluding remarks, Dempsey stresses the connection between liberation theology and feminism, lauding the work of, among others, Irmtraud Fischer who “looks at all the female metaphors in the book of Isaiah to show how female sexuality is dehumanized, especially within the framework of patriarchal marriage” (p. 650). Given this cascade of scholars propounding how abusive lsaiah’s language is, it might have been helpful to consider just what effect this text had on ancient Israel. Is this how they read it? See, for example, the problematic nature of using an anachronistic category such as “patriarchy” for ancient Israel in Carol L. Meyers, “Was Ancient Israel a Patriarchal Society?” Journal of Biblical Literature 133 (2014): 8-27. For the life of children as very different from that portrayed by Dempsey, see Kristine Henriksen Garroway, Growing Up in Ancient Israel: Children in Material Culture and Biblical Texts (Archaeology cn Biblical Studies 23; Atlanta: SBL, 2018). See in the larger context of the Hebrew Bible and the archaeological world, Sandra L. Richter, “Rape in Israel’s World…And Ours: A Study of Deuteronomy 23:23-29,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 64 (2021): 59-76; and my “The Family in the Old Testament as a Theological Model for Covenant Community,” pp. 270-79 in A. T. Abernethy ed., Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018. Either Old Testament Israel knew nothing of Isaiah or they interpreted and applied the texts of the prophet in a manner significantly different from those interpreters in Dempsey’s chapter.
The penultimate chapter, written by Knut Holter, it titled, “Interpretive Context Matters: Isaiah and the African Context in African Study Bibles.” Recognizing that the subject of an entire continent’s approach to this key book of the Bible is far too diverse and complex to cover in a single chapter, Holter limits himself to a review of three study Bible that have appeared in the last twenty-five years. The African Study Bible (AB) is a Roman Catholic study Bible with two editors (one in Uganda and one in Italy) and 39 contributors. It uses the New American Bible as its base translation draws from African cultural and religious traditions to interpret the text. Holter pulls out examples where the notations deal with ethnic rivalry, sorcery, and injustice, as well as taking the mention of Cyrus to argue that people outside the church practice virtue and goodness. The work accepts the standard critical understanding of 3 Isaiahs separated by about a century and a half. The Pentecostal Prayer and Deliverance Bible (PDB) is the work of a Nigerian pastor with a church of more than 100,000 attending in a single meeting, Denail K. Olukoya. The Bible text is the KJV. There is a great deal of emphasis on countering demonic attacks and on spiritual warfare. Some Isaiah texts are used to connect the demonic with prostitution. The Africa Study Bible (ASB) uses the New Living Translation as its base. It employed 316 biblical scholars and church leaders from more than 50 countries, mostly African. It takes a conservative stance, opting for one author, Isaiah of Jerusalem, to the whole of Isaiah. Holden identifies the example of a date for the exodus as either 1445 or the 1200’s BC as “conservative or even precritical” (p. 663). Holden does not find examples of discussions of the text but does find examples of pastoral, sociocritical, and inculturation perspectives; similar to the AB in the use of comparative material. Each biblical book has an “article” working on a single point. Isaiah is used to discuss justice as a foundation for biblical peace, and comparing this with the similar Zulu word, ubuntu. Holden claims that the AB is the strongest of the three in explaining the original context of the biblical literature. This may be but it is not clear the extent to which his preference for the critical approach of the AB may affect this evaluation.
Maggie Low writes on “Reading Isaiah in Asia,” from her location as a Chinese Singaporean Christian. She provides a comparison with Confucian values. Her observation of method is very helpful: “So, on the one hand, I read with my cultural lens to identify facets of the text that resonate with my context and that might uncover meanings that would be overlooked from a Western or / androcentric perspective, and, on the other hand, I use the biblical text to evaluate my culture so that we can better reflect the image of God in our own context” (pp. 670-71). Her first point, God as Father (quoting 1:2), reflects on the Confucian value of the family and the harmony of family relationships. Low repeats the importance of calling God as Father (63:16). Low notes that the all-too-frequent Chinese practice of the father to exert a hierarchy in the family is challenged by a God who accepts and redeems his children unconditionally. Second, the role of God as mother (66:13 etc.) is different from the Chinese yin-yang or female-male, where this harmony also tends to become hierarchical. Rather than an aggressive form of “feminism,” the sexes should cooperate and complement. The laboring mother metaphor (42:14) sits alongside Yahweh as a mighty warrior (42:13). Yahweh as Holy is not a difficult characteristic for Asian thought to accept. The connection of the transcendent with morality cultivates respects for God’s holiness. That God should address his people gives us a dignity “hardly ever seen in the East and that no Western secular humanism, no technological progress, and no cosmic piety can guarantee” (p. 677). Low makes the crucial point here that “Yahweh’s followers are not called to be humanitarians but to be worshippers first” (p. 678). Low concludes with Isaiah’s teaching on God as the Universal Sovereign. While nationalistic texts revolve around Zion and Yahweh sovereignty over all countries, universalistic texts revolve around the Servant and the salvation extended to the nations. Low sees here a call for Chinese not to restrict their love only to their families and friends, but to see all humans as worthy of love. Although the essays in this volume reflect such diversity, the theological emphases and many of the applications that Low makes provide a conclusion to the work that includes observations for everyone.
This volume is the best example one can find of a single book that covers all the major areas of Isaianic scholarship and brings it up to date. For any students of Isaiah, it is well worth reading at least those chapters that represent their particular interests.
Richard S. Hess PhD
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages