- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Masoretic book of Isaiah is composed of two distinct sections written by two different authors at different times. The first section (chaps. 1–39, with the possible exceptions of chaps. 34 and 35; see below) was composed by Isaiah ben Amoz of Jerusalem (First or Proto-Isaiah), and the second by an anonymous prophet, referred to as Second or Deutero-Isaiah, whose prophecies (encompassing chaps. 40–66) were added to the opus of his predecessor. The melding of these two works into one book is quite ancient, as is evident from Sir 48:24 (composed ca. 190 BCE): "With inspired power he prophesied the future ([[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and consoled the mourners in Zion ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])," which clearly alludes to both Isa 2:1 and 61:2-3. Moreover, in the large Isaiah scroll discovered in Cave 1 of Khirbet Qumran (1QIsaa), dated to the mid-second century BCE, there is no sign of a separation between the two sections of the book. The present-day accepted division is based on many distinctive features, for example, differences in language (the second half of the book is characterized by Late Postexilic Hebrew and bears signs of Aramaic influence; see below, §11) and ideology, including his concept of universal monotheism, the incomparability and singularity of God, his fierce polemic against idol worship, the eternal covenant of God with the nation, his religious universalism, the future splendor of Jerusalem, and the sui generis idea of the divine servant (see below, §5). Special attention must also be paid to the different historical background reflected in his prophecies that distinguishes him from First Isaiah.
First Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem during the second half of the eighth century BCE, at a time when both the northern kingdom of Judah and the southern kingdom of Israel were still in existence, and when the nation was still in possession of its ancestral land (although the north was indeed destroyed in the latter days of his prophetic career). The monarchs referred to in Isaiah's prophecies are Uzziah (1:1; 6:1), Jotham (1:1), Ahaz (1:1; 7:1, 3, 10, 12; 38:8), and Hezekiah (1:1; and frequently in chaps. 36–39)—kings of Judah; Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel (7:1, 4, 5, 9; 8:6); and Rezin, king of Aram (7:1, 4, 8; 8:6; 9:10)—all of whom rule within this time frame. The Assyrians are the sole enemy mentioned (e.g., 7:17, 20; 8:4, 7; 10:12 [scholars acknowledge the prophecy against Babylon in chap. 13 to be a late addition]), serving as the rod of the divine wrath (10:5). Three of their kings are noted by name—Sargon (20:1), Sennacherib (36:1; 37:17, 21, 37), and Esarhaddon (37:38)—while the Babylonian monarch, Merodach-baladan, is presented in the positive light of a well-wisher, following Hezekiah's recovery from illness (39:1). The events described in chaps. 1–39 all occurred in this period, for example, the death of Uzziah, king of Judah (chap. 6); the war between Judah and the Syro-Ephraimite alliance (chaps. 7–8); the Assyrian conquest of Ashdod (chap. 20); and, above all, the capture of the Judean cities and the siege against Jerusalem in 701 BCE (chaps. 36–37).
In contrast, Deutero-Isaiah prophesied in the second half of the sixth century BCE, during the final years of the Babylonian exile and the beginning of the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. The kingdom of Israel had ceased to exist many years earlier (720 BCE), and the Judean monarchy had met the same fate in 586 BCE. The cities of Judah, foremost among them Jerusalem, and the Temple were in ruins, while the forlorn Israelites languished in the Babylonian exile. Babylon, itself on the brink of destruction, is depicted as full of sorceries (44:25; 47:9-15), riches (45:3), overweening pride ("I am, and there is none but me"; 47:8, 10), and possessed by an overblown sense of security and self-importance (47:1, 7, 8). The description of the deportation of its two chief deities—Bel (= Marduk, the head of the Babylonian pantheon) and his son, Nebo (= Nabû, the divine scribe; 46:1-2)—alludes to Babylon's imminent downfall. In the latter chapters, the prophet describes the domestic scene prevalent in Jerusalem, where pagan practices prevail and a discernible split is evident within the community itself (e.g., chaps. 65–66).
The only foreign monarch who appears in the prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah is Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BCE), who is mentioned by name (44:28; 45:1), alluded to explicitly (41:2-3, 25; 43:14; 45:2-6, 13; 46:11; 48:14-15), and referred to as "My shepherd" (44:28), "His anointed one" (45:1), and "the man of My counsel" (46:11). Cyrus appears on history's stage as a tool of God whose purpose is to free Israel from captivity and perform the divine will of rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem (44:28). The nation, in turn, is commanded: "Go forth from Babylon! Flee from Chaldea!" (48:20; and cf. 52:11). In contrast to First Isaiah, who predicts the ascension of a Davidic scion in the latter days (11:1-9), Deutero-Isaiah reinterprets these promises of the eternal covenant promised to David as applying to the nation as a whole (55:3-4)—an ideological revolution at odds with most of the historiographical and psalmic literature (e.g., 1 Sam 25:28; 2 Sam 7:4-17; 23:5; 1 Kgs 2:4; 8:23-26; 11:38; Ps 89:25-37; 132:10), as well as the prophetic literature (e.g., Jer 23:5-6; 33:14-18, 19-22, 26; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hag 2:23).
This bipartite division of the canonical book of Isaiah was first alluded to in Abraham Ibn Ezra's commentary (where he also quotes the Spanish sage Moshe ben Shemuel HaKohen ben Jaqtila, who lived in Cordoba at the beginning of the eleventh century CE), where he comments several times that chaps. 40ff. are prophecies of consolation delivered to the Babylonian expatriates, that is, to Deutero-Isaiah's contemporaries:
The first consolations from the second half of the book refer to the Second Temple, according to Rabbi Moshe Hakohen, may he rest in peace. And according to my opinion, they all refer to our exile. Nevertheless, issues of the Babylonian exile are spoken of in the book, along with mention of Cyrus, who freed the expatriates. At the end of the book, however, there are references to the future ... and he who is wise shall understand. (Ibn Ezra, commentary on 40:1)
Or it is a reference to the Babylonians, and that is correct.... Indeed, I have already hinted to you of the secret in the second half of the book. And according to many, the mention of "kings" (in his prophecies) refers, for example, to Cyrus. (Ibn Ezra on 49:7)
We have already said regarding this prophecy that it refers to the Babylonian exile. (Ibn Ezra on 52:1)
See also his remarks on, for example, 41:2, 6, 25; 43:14, 16; 44:25; 45:1; 46:11.
The distinction between the two parts of the book was rediscovered by J. Ch. Döderlein in 1776 in his Latin commentary to Isaiah and popularized by J. G. Eichhorn in 1783, and since then has become part and parcel of all scholarly research. One reason for combining the two sets of prophecies was their linguistic affinity, which was due to the influence of First Isaiah on this prophet (see below, §14)—though, as will be seen, Deutero-Isaiah was influenced just as much, if not more, by Jeremiah (see below, §15). Another likely motive for the combination of the two prophetic works was the desire to append prophecies of consolation and comfort to the impending exile prophesied in chap. 39. After Israel would serve their term of punishment, they would be redeemed. Compare Ibn Ezra's comment on 40:1: "This passage [i.e., chap. 40] comes next, since above [39:6-7] it was prophesied that all the king's treasure and his sons would be exiled to Babylon, and thus there follow prophecies of consolation." A narrative continuity spanning the three great empires of the ancient Near East — Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia—is thereby established.
(A) Isaiah 34–35
According to many commentators, chap. 34 and, in particular, chap. 35 should also be attributed to Deutero-Isaiah. Their claims are based primarily on the linguistic and thematic affinities between these two chapters and the prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah:
(1) Chapter 34
34:1-5; 66:15-16: A general trial against the nations. 34:6-17; 63:1-6: The specific mention of the destruction of Edom.
34:6: "The Lord has a sword; it is sated with blood.... For the Lord holds a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom"—63:1: "Who is this coming from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah?"
34:8: "For it is the Lord's day of vengeance, the year of vindication for Zion's cause"—63:4: "For I had planned a day of vengeance, and My year of redemption arrived"; cf. also 61:2: "And a day of vengeance for our God."
(2) Chapter 35
Ecological reversal—Water in the desert and the flowering of the wilderness: 35:1-2; 41:18-19; 43:19-20; 44:3; 49:10; 51:3. Note too 35:6-7: "For waters shall burst forth in the desert, streams in the wilderness. Torrid earth shall become a pool; parched land, fountains of water"—the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("torrid earth") appears only here and in 49:10; and the expression: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("fountains of waters") only in this verse and 49:10.
The revelation of the Lord's presence: 35:2: "They shall behold the Lord's presence"—40:5: "The presence of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh, as one, shall behold"; cf. 59:19; 60:1-2, 13; 61:6; 62:2.
The consolation and encouragement of Israel: 35:4: "Say ... 'Fear not! Behold your God!'"—40:9: "Fear not! Say ... 'Behold your God!' "
Revenge on the nations: 35:4: "Vengeance is coming, the recompense of God. He Himself is coming to give you triumph"—63:4-5: "For I had planned a day of vengeance, and My year of redemption arrived.... So My own arm wrought the triumph." For the bringing of God's "recompense" upon the nations, see also 59:18.
The return of the redeemed to Israel on a straight and level highway: 35:8: "And a highway shall appear there"—40:3: "Clear in the desert a road for the Lord! Level in the wilderness a highway for our God!" (cf. also 57:14; 62:10). This road shall be named "the Sacred Way" (35:8), or, alternatively, "the Lord's Road" (40:3). The image of a path or highway in the desert is reiterated in 42:16; 43:19; 49:9, 11; 57:14; 62:10.
35:10: This verse, "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come with shouting to Zion, crowned with joy everlasting. They shall attain joy and gladness, while sorrow and sighing flee," is repeated word for word in 51:11; and the expression [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("joy everlasting") appears again in 61:7.
The image of the blind and deaf: 35:5; 42:18-20.
The synonymous pair [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("to be glad/to rejoice") is found in 35:1; 61:10; 65:18-19; 66:10; and the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("exultation") appears only in 35:2; 65:18.
The expression "the glory of Lebanon" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is present only in 35:2; 60:13.
Compare also the terms [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("the redeemed"; 35:9; 51:10), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("the redeemed of the Lord"; 62:12), which appears again only in Ps 107:2.
Although it is not at all certain that chap. 34 was once part of Deutero-Isaiah's opus, it is entirely possible that chap. 35 was, since, as seen above, this chapter shares a fair number of features characteristic of his prophecies. Chapter 35 may have originally preceded chap. 40, prior to the addition of the historical chapters (Isa 36–39).
A major turning point in the study of this book was reached in 1892 with the publication of B. Duhm's commentary on Isaiah and his contention that chaps. 56ff. were the work of a different prophet, called "Trito-Isaiah." (He was preceded by the Dutch scholar Abraham Kuenen, who made similar claims in the 1880s.) Many scholars have accepted his opinion, although there is no basic agreement among them regarding the exact date of composition. Proposed dates range from the first years following the return from Babylonia, from the period of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (mid–sixth century BCE), from the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (mid–fifth century BCE), and some even date the opus as late as the third century BCE. Commentators also disagree about the unity of these chapters. Some posit that they were composed by one individual, while others claim that they are a disparate collection of prophecies from different periods. The various arguments for the division of chaps. 40–66 into two separate units are presented below, together with their respective refutations.
Beginning with chap. 56, there is an increased emphasis on the prophetic rebuke against the people's present conduct (e.g., 56:9-12; 57:3-13; 58:1-14; 59:1-18; 65:1-15; 66:1-9, 15-17, 24), as opposed to Deutero-Isaiah's concentration on the sins of the past (e.g., 42:18-21; 43:22-28; 50:1). However, there is ample proof of the prophet's calling the people to task also for their iniquities in the present (e.g., 46:8, 12; 48:4-11; 50:11; 51:13).
Some claim that one can deduce from some of the later chapters that both the Temple (56:5, 7; 60:7, 13; 62:9; 66:1, 6, 20, 23; cf. the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "My holy mountain," 56:7; 57:13; 65:11; 66:20) and the walls of Jerusalem were already rebuilt (49:16; 56:5; 60:10, 18; 62:6). This is cited as evidence of a later period, since the foundation of the Second Temple took place in 515 BCE (Ezra 6:15) and the walls of the city were rebuilt only in 445 BCE. This may be countered, however, by citing Isa 64:10 (properly part of Trito-Isaiah according to this theory), which explicitly states that "our holy temple" was still in ruins, and there is no indication whatsoever in the verses referred to above of the actual completion of the walls. All references are to the future when, for example, "Aliens shall rebuild your walls" (60:10). This is very similar to 44:28: "He shall say of Jerusalem, 'She shall be rebuilt,' and to the Temple, 'You shall be founded again' "; and 49:16: "Your walls are ever before Me," an obvious reference to the future, since none will argue that at the time of Deutero-Isaiah the walls had been rebuilt.
There is a difference in the geographical locus of the prophecies. The claim is made that the prophecies in chaps. 40–55 were delivered in a Babylonian milieu, whereas chaps. 56–66 were composed for a Jerusalem audience, in a different locus and therefore by a different prophet. Some, however, contend that chap. 49 is the turning point, wherein the Jerusalem background can be detected (e.g., 49:14-23; 51:1-3, 17-23; cf., as well, 52:11: "Depart from there," in comparison to 48:20: "Go forth from Babylon! Flee from Chaldea!"—the locus of the latter referring to the Babylonian captivity). The Babylonian setting of the first nine chapters (40–48) is blatantly clear (see especially 43:14; 46:1-2; 47; 48:14, 20). The reason for the shift in focus from Babylon to Jerusalem is not due to the appearance of a different prophet. Rather, it seems very likely that Deutero-Isaiah practiced as he preached and returned to Jerusalem with his compatriots, where he continued his prophetic career.
After chap. 48 there is no further mention of Cyrus, in contrast to his being previously mentioned specifically by name (44:28; 45:1) and by allusions (41:2-3, 25; 43:14; 45:2-6, 13; 46:11; 48:14-15), which leave no doubt as to his identity. However, this lack of concern regarding Cyrus in chaps. 49ff. does not point to a different author, but rather to the fact that after Cyrus's conquest of Babylon in 539 (see below, §3) the king was no longer of any interest to Deutero-Isaiah, since his importance in the eyes of the prophet was restricted solely to the role he played in helping to bring about the redemption of the nation and in serving as the agent for the Deity's plan for Israel.
Some claim that there is a dissonance between the earlier chapters and the later ones with regard to the redeemer and the redemption. According to chaps. 40–48, the redeemer is Cyrus, who shall put an end to the Babylonian hegemony, and thus redemption is understood in historical terms. Chapters 56–66 indicate, however, that the Lord is the sole redeemer, and that He alone contends on Israel's behalf (e.g., 59:16-20; 63:1-6; 66:16-17), and thus redemption is essentially eschatological. In the earlier chapters, Cyrus indeed stands tall on history's stage. All his actions, however, are initiated by the Deity, and he is no more than the instrument with which God implements His plan to bring about Israel's redemption (regarding the polemic against a foreign king as redeemer see 45:9-13). Thus Cyrus's role does not in any way contradict the assertion that God and God alone is Israel's savior (see 43:1; 44:22, 23; 48:20; 52:3, 9). Nevertheless, his conception of redemption did become eschatological and did become contingent on the nation's conduct (58:1-14). Redemption was shifted to the future since Deutero-Isaiah's earlier prophecies of redemption were not fully realized.
Excerpted from ISAIAH 40–66 by Shalom M. Paul Copyright © 2012 by Shalom M. Paul. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.