Monthly Archives: August 2012

Isaiah 40:1-11: A Dialogue?

I’ve been working more on Isaiah 40:1-11 (surprise, surprise!). I’ve been doing a poetic and semantic analysis of the text, which I hope turns out well enough to turn into a paper. And if it doesn’t, I suppose I’ve got some good blog fodder.

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about who exactly is speaking in this poem, the first eleven verses of 2 Isaiah. Frank Moore Cross wrote an article back in 1953 claiming that Isaiah 40:1-8 is a divine council scene, and his view has been scholarly consensus more or less since then. The speakers in this passage, then, are YHWH and three other members of YHWH’s council.

I’ve started to think, though, — pace Dr. Cross et al. — that Isaiah 40:1-11 isn’t a divine council scene so much as a dialogue between YHWH and a prophet, with echoes back to the call narrative of Isaiah 6. However, the poet isn’t the one receiving the call — he can’t be, since everything in the poem is in the third person; instead, the poet is narrating the divine call of some other prophet and the ensuing dialogue between YHWH and the third party.

Here’s the kicker: I think this third-party prophet is none other than Cyrus himself. Isaiah 40:12 ff. is clearly dependent on the Gathas, and Isaiah 44-45 are clearly in support of Cyrus as ruler. Moreover, Cyrus was manipulative. He had no problem casting himself as a worshipper of Marduk to win over the Babylonians (Cyrus, as a Persian, would most likely have been a Zoroastrian), so it is no stretch to say that he’d cast himself as a worshipper of YHWH, come to free the Judean captives, in order to win over the exiles.

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