Isaiah's Vision of Peace in Biblical and Modern International Relations: Swords into Plowshares

Overview

The prophet Isaiah was privy to the most intimate secrets of government and diplomacy. An adviser at the royal court in 8th century BCE Jerusalem, he was familiar with international politics, marked by ideologies that vaunted war and conquest. Was his prophecy of a peaceful, disarmed world simply a Messianic parable unattainable in practice? Or was it a pragmatic response to the geo-political realities of the day? And does it have a practical value for today’s international relations? A multidisciplinary team of ...

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Overview

The prophet Isaiah was privy to the most intimate secrets of government and diplomacy. An adviser at the royal court in 8th century BCE Jerusalem, he was familiar with international politics, marked by ideologies that vaunted war and conquest. Was his prophecy of a peaceful, disarmed world simply a Messianic parable unattainable in practice? Or was it a pragmatic response to the geo-political realities of the day? And does it have a practical value for today’s international relations? A multidisciplinary team of experts investigates the puzzle of what Isaiah really meant.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Isaiah might be bemused by such attention almost three millennia later; but all of us will be enriched by the resultant collection of elegant essays, each on a specific theme, but all playing counterpoint to notions with surprisingly (or maybe not) contemporary timbres, among them the search for security, the plea for disarmament, the resistance to intimidation, the realization of peace though justice, the championing of human rights, and the crafting of a world order. Highly recommended, to students of the ancient world but also to those exploring the future through the past."— Jack M. Sasson, Werthan Professor of Judaic and Biblical Studies, Vanderbilt University

“The contributors represent a broad range of opinion on the interpretation of Isaiah 2:1-4 itself and the categories of contemporary thought that bear on the great issues of today. No thoughtful person, and especially no religious person who believes that the Bible retains, in whatever way, its transformative power in the contemporary world, can ignore the issues discussed here including human rights, the ethics of war (holy war, just war), globalization and internationalism.”— Joseph Blenkinsopp, John A. Brien Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, University of Notre Dame

“Cohen and Westbrook present a stimulating collection of essays that open an important dialog between experts in the fields of biblical studies and international relations.  Isaiah’s magisterial vision of peace has long been the subject of reflection by theologians, but its political ramifications—in both the ancient and modern worlds—have received little serious attention.  Much remains to be done, but readers will find here an important basis for discussion of a crucial issue in contemporary biblical theology and political thought.”—Marvin A. Sweeney, Professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University

“Cohen and Westbrook have gathered together a galaxy of important scholars to reassess Isaiah’s statement. As with their earlier successful volume on Amarna Diplomacy, the scholars represent both specialists in Bible and ancient history and political scientists, and they look at Isaiah both within the history of ancient Israel and the broader ancient Near East and in light of contemporary international relations and the scholarship on it.  The discussions are well-informed and wide-ranging, and underlying their diverse perspectives is the conviction that Isaiah was not a fantasizer, but a prophet rooted in the hard politics and cultural traditions of his day, whose prophecy is as valuable for its insight into these politics and traditions as it remains challenging to contemporary quests for a more stable international order. A most provocative and timely volume, and one highly recommended.”— Peter Machinist, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, Harvard University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

RAYMOND COHEN is Chaim Weizmann Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. His publications include Culture and Conflict in Egyptian-Israeli Relations and Negotiating Across Cultures. Together with Ray Westbrook he edited Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations. A resident of Jerusalem, he is fascinated by the history of the holy city. His latest book is entitled Saving the Holy Sepulchre: How rivals restored the Church of the Resurrection.

RAYMOND WESTBROOK is Professor of Ancient Law at the Johns Hopkins University. His publications include A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (ed.) and Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Law. Together with Raymond Cohen he edited Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations. His main research interests are the interrelationship between ancient Near Eastern and Classical law and the origins of diplomacy.

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Table of Contents

Introduction—Raymond Cohen and Raymond Westbrook
ISAIAH THE PHILOSOPHER * Isaiah's Prophecy and the Idea of "Classical Harmony"—Sasson Sofer
PEACE ORDERS ANCIENT AND MODERN * On Pax Assyriaca in the 8th-7th Centuries BCE and Its Implications—Frederick Mario Fales
• Swords into Plowshares in an Age of Global Governance—Andrew Hurrell
THE SEARCH FOR SECURITY
Let Other Kingdoms Struggle with the Great Powers: You, Judah, Pay the Tribute and Hope for the Best—Nadav Na'aman
• "You Have Heard What the Kings of Assyria Have Done": Disarmament Passages vis-a-vis Assyrian Rhetoric of Intimidation—Theodore J. Lewis
ISAIAH AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY * Is Isaiah an "Offensive Liberal"?—Benjamin Miller
• Is Isaiah a Social Constructivist?—Tal Dingott Alkopher
ISAIAH AND THE LITERARY TRADITION * Swords into Plowshares: The Development and Implementation of a Vision—Hugh Williamson
• World Peace and "Holy War": Two Sides of the Same Theological Concept: "YHWH as Sole Divine Power"—Irmtraud Fischer
RELIGION AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS * Isaiah's Vision of Human Security: Virtue-Ethics and International Politics in the Ancient Near East—Scott M. Thomas
• From Holy War to Holy Peace: Biblical Alternatives to Belligerent Rhetoric—Martti Nissinen
ETHICS AND INTERNATIONAL ORDER * "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!": A Realist Response to Isaiah's Irenic Vision—Adrian Hyde-Price
• Conclusion: Swords into Plowshares Then and Now

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