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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Isaiah presents new ideas by invoking the past: Tradition used to support Innovation.

Tradition supports Innovation 

in Deutero Isaiah

Chapters 40 through 55 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah invoke “traditional” forms, authorities, themes, and cultural symbols in a hymnic appeal to an exiled people for a restoration of Zion.[1] Traditional motifs and heritage touch-stones are borrowed and combined in unique ways.  The author uses them as validation techniques to point to divine activity directed to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Isa. 40:1-2; 44:24-28.  The Prophet’s vision speaks to the disenfranchised, of the need to change, so as to re-empower their lives as a “light to the nations”.  Isa. 42:5-9
This unit is known as “Deutero Isaiah”.  The chapters provide an appealing message, in appealing forms familiar to readers, which draw out earlier prophesies of restoration made in the previous chapters of the book.  The Prophet launches a progressive series of arguments responding to doubts and fears about the restoration effort.  Abrahamic traditions, Mosaic symbols, and sacred scriptures of the tribe of Jacob, are invoked in support of these arguments.
Finally, the Prophet predicts the defeat of Babylon (which had already happened at the hand of Cyrus), and calls for the political restoration of Mother Zion and her daughter cities. In the last portions, the Prophet presents a vision of Jerusalem as a happy singing hostess at an akitu feast open to all who “leave aside folly”.  The people who attend bear witness and participate in the “new old covenant” where YHWH’s word bears fruit with the happy consummation of Mother Zion as the Bride of JHVH Husband.
The Forms are Familiar
The forms of the material are familiar to those who would remember the traditions and language of the Temple: A combination of versified narratives, oracles and hymns presented by a Prophetic Priest of the post-Davidic court during dispersion in the latter half of the eighth century BCE. [2]  On the other hand, it may not be clear exactly who the audience or reception is for the text.  While much can be inferred from the existence of the text, in numerous copies throughout the region, with Aramaic gradually replacing Hebrew, the text does not refer to any actual “school” or rabbinic community.
The work, and the call, is clearly addressed to more than a pious priesthood, and possibly to all willing to worship where “God is in thee”.  Many of the exiles had escaped or evaded captivity, were born into it, or made eunuchs, harem-ed in, or were otherwise acculturated. Some may interpret the language of the Call as inclusive and extended to the known world -- to all willing to worship.  45:14: “Thus saith the LORD: the labour of Egypt, and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine; they shall go after thee, in chains they shall come over; and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee: Surely God is in thee, and there is none else, there is no other God.” 
On the other hand, the new Zion is where “the uncircumcised and the unclean shall enter you no more”, suggesting a vague purgation or concern over purity.  Isa. 52:1-2.  The “circumcision” reference recalls Moses and Zipporah, where she circumcised their son when God threatened to kill Moses.  Exodus 4:24–ff.  Here, perhaps the same as the old Zion.
While Isaiah employs some uniquely beautiful and original phrases and imagery, the forms were widely-used in the Babylonian[3]  and Persian hymnic and wisdom literature.[4] This correspondance is relevant to the concept of “scripture” as the Word of God, where there is a competition between “traditions”.
The use of patterns of traditional or charged language forms functions even under some duress in a displaced setting.  Study of the forms of the creation, in turn explored by exegetical methods, can enable interpreters to understand the functions and effects of the communication.[5] 
The unit also employs rhetorical Questions and a dramatic “trial” trope. Isa.40:12, 41:1-13. These devices are familiar and effective because the audience would know the answers to the Questions “from tradition”.[6]  The argument is then strengthened by what the people know – the audience knows the narratives of Noah, the covenant with Abraham, the generations of the Exodus, the meaning of the wilderness, and can immediately connect to the everlasting power of a creator of the earth who does not “grow weary”.[7]  The Questions address the doubts and fears of the people and illustrate that YHWH is powerful. JHWH himself addresses the people in a  “court speech” – a form which elevates the listeners familiar with legal tradition which seats them in the role of being adjudicants, with a duty to attend in order to render a verdict.
The Call Home – the Covenant and the Highway
From the first, the invocation is intended to comfort the exiles, in place, during the diaspora: “40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.”  The Prophet then announces that Jerusalem’s punishment is completed; this is also comforting, although it never so much as hints what the punishment is for. Isa. 40:2:  “Bid Jerusalem take heart, and proclaim unto her, that her time of service is accomplished, that her guilt is paid off; that she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.”  The redemption lifts up and points to Jerusalem, in everyone’s memory. This calling theme is repeated throughout the unit, for example at 44:22.
The comforting assurance is reinforced by the reminder that the calling is from the Lord of the Covenant, and the traditions of King David: “55:3 Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”  This language expressly invokes the traditional narratives that Isaiah’s audience will recall.
The Prophet then calls the people to journey home.  He announces that JHVH is preparing, and calling the people to, a new path: “40:3 Hark! one calleth: 'Clear ye in the wilderness the way of the LORD, make plain in the desert a highway for our God.”  The summons by deity sanctifies the highway, and couples this invitation with the “protected in the wilderness” theme of Exodus.
In addition, the journey will be simplified, because not only will JHVH provide for the journey, but He will “straighten the curves” and “level the mountains”.  Isa. 40:3, 43:14. JHVH will enable the journeyers to pass through fires and “the flame will not consume you”.  Isa. 43:1-4. While these themes step beyond the traditional Exodus story, they frame an invocation of the Creation elements. 
The divine highway will “lead the people home to Jerusalem”,[8] as Professor Sweeney writes, and Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Isa.40:3, and “40:9 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: 'Behold your God!'  The highway heads home.
Calls for innovation by recalling earlier Prophesies and Miracles
The unit is tied in with the earlier prophecies made concerning the Assyrian period.[9]  For example, “38:6 And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city.”  And he was not shy in reminding them that his prophesy came true, and the miracle of the sun dial showing the power of the deity: “38:7 And this shall be the sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that He hath spoken:  38:8 behold, I will cause the shadow of the dial, which is gone down on the sun-dial of Ahaz, to return backward ten degrees.' So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.”
The importance of the treatment of “tradition” is raised by the fact that Deutero introduces unique and possibly unprecedented theological shifts.  For example, the text appears to raise unique sensibilities – gentler, not noisy, caring for the bruised reed. Isa. 42:3.  The announcement of a Covenant which includes “gentiles”(Isa. 42:6), and the people and the earth directly. Isa. 49:8.  The calling is to “many nations”. Isa. 52:15; 55.1. 
Two completely unprecedented innovations are (1) the return to Zion to rebuild the Temple (44:24 ff), (2) under the newly-anointed King Cyrus.  Isa. 41-48. This is innovative because neither Judah nor Israel ever had a gentile king, and it would not be a theocracy.
Deutero Isaiah introduces these innovations by using “traditions” – not only familiar forms and themes, but also by invoking Both Moses and Jeremiah as models for the “servant” of JHWH. Ch. 49.  The Davidic line is lost – neither JHWH nor the Prophet thought to draft a tribal leader for the return migration.  Without pausing on that lacuna, the Prophet places King Cyrus into the position.
The Introduction of a King and a Servant
Isaiah 41 presents King Cyrus as YHWH’s anointed King, and not incidentally retribution upon Babylon.  The Prophet asserts that Israel, or perhaps even Cyrus, is the “servant” of YHWH. These contentions are supported by the traditions of a covenant people, with YHWH expressly appealing to their past traditions. In the trial and court speeches, YHWH also exposes the foreign gods as weak, unable to protect Babylon or predict Cyrus’ successes, or control history. Isa.41:21-42:4. The stone gods remain silent while the priests chatter.
And after declaring his own Prophetic commission, the Prophet reintroduces the same theme—the restoration of Zion—as the duty of Israel as YHWY’s servant.[10] The traditions of YHWH in the covenants with Abraham (Is. 41:8), and as provider of water in the wilderness (41:17-20), support the court contentions.   The servant Israel will serve as a covenant people, carrying the light to the nations, and opening the eyes of all to the power of YHWH so clearly shown in the restoration of Jacob.[11]  Isa. 42.5-9.
The Master/Servant theme is shared with dialectic work composed since the early first millennium BCE among Mesopotamian scribes.[12]  This tradition appears in the Hebrew traditions from Ecclesiastes and throughout the Prophets.  Following the commission of the servant in Isaiah 42:1-9, the Prophet invokes praises to the Lord in Isaiah 42:10, using almost identical language found in Davidic Psalms 96 and 98 – traditional hymns of praise.
All Israel is called to be the Servant whose unwillingness and disbelief is overcome in a dialogue with YHWH. Isa. 49:3-5; repeating same point from 41:1-20, 41:21 ff; 48:1 ff. The nations will be astonished to see a people thought to have been annihilated, restored, and with a holy city and a Temple. 49:1-13.  
Interpreters disagree over the identity of the “suffering servant” portrayed in 52:13-15.  Was it the Prophet, or Cyrus, or Israel?[13]  The Servant dies in painful public humiliation, but saves the exiles. Neither scripture nor history are clear about the manner of death of Isaiah or Cyrus. The portrayal draws on the image of sacrifice and expiation of sin. Professor Sweeney refers to the dangers of such a theology “when it is used to justify the killing of Jews (or other groups)” as an act of divine will.”[14]  Textual opportunities to “miss the point” abound in such a vivid and wide-ranging text, but the Prophet’s real message is correctly stated in Isaiah 55 which asks the reader to “come, listen and seek” YHWH who is making an eternal covenant. While requiring adherence to Torah, the message is the opposite of a retributive execration.[15] 
Isaiah 55 employs addresses and rhetorical questions which function as an invitation to accept YHWH’s covenant. Again, Deutero invokes the Davidic tradition of Zion.  The language echoes passages from 2 Samuel 7, and Psalms 89, 110, 132. 
Yet no Davidic monarch is anticipated.[16]  Deutero simply illustrates how YHWH is acting in the world, and among his new deeds is the choice of Cyrus as a divinely chosen leader. Isa.. 48:12-16.  This action is embedded in the familiar recitals drawn from tradition concerning the creation of heaven and earth and all within it. 48:12-16. 
The Dialogue with Joshua and the Older Prophets
Isaiah 42:14-43:7 contends that YHWH has redeemed Israel from the punishment brought on by its failure to observe Torah.  The court speeches draw upon the traditions of the Exodus and wilderness to assert that YHWH will lead a restored Israel from Babylon through the sea and the wilderness. 
In referring to traditions, Deutero Isaiah has to confront the negative history – the cycles of Sin, where Israel goes deaf and blind, and readily adopts competing gods and impieties.  The Prophet confronts these frailties -- 42:18 “Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” Perhaps the Prophet offers a new and expanded invitation to overcome the hemerolopic and back-sliding “tradition” which hag-rides the human tribe.
For example, Deutero condemns liars, grouped with those who worship false gods and materialistic fools who think they have knowledge.  Isa. 44:25. This execration echoes the older Prophets, for example, “a sword is upon the liar” Jeremiah 50:36, liars are hated by JHVH Proverbs 6:19, and idolatry as an abomination in Josiah’s rule, 2 Kings 23:5.
The call to return to Zion communicated by Deutero Isaiah is an express dialectic with the Deuteronomistic and conditional theological language in the Joshua material:  If Torah is not observed, then the People are expelled from the Promised Land.  That expulsion was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity.  But Deuteronomy contains “saving clauses”.  Deuteronomy 28 and 30, start out with conditions but then clearly state a redemption opportunity:  When the People repent, God “will restore you to the land.”  Disobedience of deities is a traditional explanation for punishment and failure—an echo of Exodus 34:12, and Deuteronomy 7:2.  Redemption is a necessary step in restoration and happiness. Deutero announces the forgiveness, and trumpets the restoration.
This dynamic of Covenant-violation-redemption-restoration becomes one of the major issues for Jewish thinking throughout history, and as drawn from the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Deutero Isaiah’s summons to return to Zion is a restorative loop. Tradition is a whip of night and day, curse and hope, bounty and desolation – ranges which the Prophet uses as a guide. Compare the verbal echoes of the faithful lamenter in Lamentations 3:30, or the cheek given to the smiter in Isaiah 50:5-6.   The Prophet speaks as one shown the divine plan of punishment-restoration so that he can teach the exhausted aporetic people to worship and follow a comforting deity into a new period of light to be found in Zion. Isa. 51:1-8.
Making the Way Straight…for King Cyrus
In Isaiah 45:1, King Cyrus of Persia is expressly, and boldly, anointed by the Lord. “Thus saith the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden…”.  YHWH then boldly takes credit for the victories and enrichment of Cyrus as an enabler of his success:  “… to subdue nations before him, and to loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and that the gates may not be shut: 45:2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the doors of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; 45:3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places…”. 
King Cyrus encouraged the building of temples and cities, reversing the strategic policy of the Babylonians for burning, desecrating and carrying off.  The Prophet writes with an almost “architectural” appreciation for JHVH as creator – “Who measured the waters by the handful, measured the heavens with a span, meted the earth’s dust with measure, weighed the mountains with a scale and the hills with a balance?”  Isa. 40:12.  The Prophet attacks the idol-worshipers, pointing out that men create gods which are unstable and fall.  Isa. 40:2.  Deutero seems to have a “masonic” attitude, and it may be part of the Wisdom tradition dating back to Egypt.  For example, it certainly appears, with some similarity in the language in the Book of Job, at 28:25.  Such a King as Cyrus—known as a Builder -- would have appealed to Isaiah and his JHVH. A priest/prophet longing for the restoration of a Temple home would have looked favorably upon Cyrus, not only because he had defeated the Babylonian.  Isaiah sings of Cyrus as “the shepherd”, empowered to say the words “Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built’,” and “Temple, “Thy foundation be laid’.” Isa. 44:28. 
The anointing of Cyrus is followed by the admission that the King had not previously known the God of Israel. “For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel Mine elect, I have called thee by thy name, I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.”  The Prophet follows the introduction with the invocation of traditional monopoly monotheism – “45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, beside Me there is no God; I have girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.” 
Polemically, Deutero Isaiah shows that this offer is made by the only deity offering true salvation. Isa. 45:21 “Declare ye, and bring them near, yea, let them take counsel together: Who hath announced this from ancient time, and declared it of old? Have not I the LORD? And there is no God else beside Me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside Me.”  Repeated, 46:9, 47:10.  This is intense, exclusive monotheism, and it clears the room. There is no place for “Bel and Nebo”, idols dragged by cattle.  Isa.46.1.  Ishtar, the “daughter of Babylon”, is in the dirt. Isa. 47:1-3.
Within this dual theological innovation the Prophet hymnically invokes the wisdom of the ages -- “declared from ancient time”.  Isa. 45:21.  He embeds this invocation within prophetic proof: “  48:3 I have declared the former things from of old; yea, they went forth out of My mouth, and I announced them; suddenly I did them, and they came to pass….48:5 Therefore I have declared it to thee from of old; before it came to pass I announced it to thee.”  This appears to validate the new call by calling it ancient, while claiming the innovation to have been prophesied.
Deutero Isaiah argues against the animation and knowledge of wooden and stone idols, illustrating their powerlessness by the fact that they are man-made (Isa. 44, 45) and none of them  prophesied or prevented the fall of Babylon to Cyrus.  Isa 46, 47. The Prophet replaces Marduk with JHVH, and accepts Cyrus as the new King. Isa. 45.  This is one reason some commentators consider Deutero Isaiah as one of “the most engaging and theologically astute texts of the Hebrew Bible”.  Isaiah and the Book of Job share the distinction of being some of the most well-known and cited works.[17]
The Prophet faces world-shifting events, construes them as Acts of God, understands the fall of Babylon as the end of The Exile, and accepts the liberation as redemption and delivery. Deutero Isaiah mirrors the image of Moses leading the people out of the “captivity” of Egypt, using that tradition to bootstrap confidence in this restoration.
Cyrus and Religious Tolerance
Even though the Assyrians, were ruthless destroyers, they were also mercantile and concerned with “long-term” profits.  For example, they made huge investments in Olive Oil production in the Levant.[18]   They protected trade, and supported mercantile activity such as the large and perduring idol-manufacturing center of Harran. [19] Assyria apparently permitted people a degree of freedom to prosper.  The Assyrian Empire rose and fell in part of its extent, but from the founding by Ashur in 2000 BC, through the Middle Assyrian Empire with the rise of Ashur-uballit, to the Neo-Assyrian Empire segment from 934-609 BCE, they ruled over 1500 years.[20]  The Neo-Assyrian empire ended never to rise again in 612 BCE with the fall of its capital city Nineveh to invasions by the Chaldean Dynasty.  
Their conquerors, the Chaldeans (“Neo-Babylonians”) ruling from Babylon, only lasted 80 years.  The apparent ease with which Cyrus defeated Babylon, while it still maintained a large army “very skilled at fighting” (to quote Professor Sweeney), seems to speak volumes. While Babylon had a government, and kept cuneiform records, much of their administration was conducted by literate foreigners taken captive.  The Hebrews – particularly the authors of Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Deutero Isaiah, were clearly among these who were familiar with Babylonian “traditions”.  This includes the Babylonian cosmology, bold militarism, and the economic policies that were visibly devastating to the victims of their conquests.[21]
 Could the hostility and indifference to religious sensibilities have contributed to the late Babylonian susceptibility?  Since Temples were involved in the collection of tributes and taxes,[22] did the destruction of temples, including the one in distant Jerusalem, weaken Babylon?  Most historians agree that Babylon was focused on central authority and control from Babylon, and Jerusalem was but one of many cities and resources in the tributary territories destroyed by Babylon’s conquering and plundering armies.  
In the period when Deutero Isaiah was written, communities throughout the Middle East were seriously appraising the role of humans and their gods.  As the powers of Persia rose in the East, and literature was coming into a golden age in Greece, more than mere theodicy was at stake:  Crowns were supported by Priesthoods and the beliefs of people.
We also have the Babylonian stelae found at Harran. [23]    The mother of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, practically begs her son to honor the deities and build sacred spaces.  She expressly values qualities of paideia, integrity, and having “a good name”.  She was righteous and long-lived. However, she was apparently unable to pass this “tradition” on to the Babylonian Kings.
Not until the neo-Babylonian Chaldean throne was overthrown by King Cyrus of Persia was religious toleration again restored. We need not indulge speculation concerning the ancients, but along with all the other great shifts taking place in the region, it appears almost certain that King Cyrus adopted policies of religious toleration.[24]  Religious toleration encouraged Temple-building which was at the heart of rebuilding and restoring “beautiful” cities.[25]  King Cyrus implemented global religious tolerance, which is the watermark of Unitarian Universalism, one of the most ancient traditions of all.[26]  Deutero had the genius, perhaps the divine guidance, to take advantage of the open door.
The Bride and the Wedding Feast
Isaiah 44-48 expressly draws upon the imagery of the Babylonian akitu New Year festival which declared Cyrus king of Babylon in 539 BCE.[27]  Cyrus parades with the occult and osculating priestess and conducts the rituals in the Etemenanki Temple.[28]  In Isaiah 54, the Prophet completes what would be the familiar royal crowning and copulating ritual with a “wedding” invitation, and in Isaiah 55 with a “feasting” vision. Both visions involve theological innovation, or a shift in the “process” of evolving Yahwistic theology.[29] Israel is seen as the longed-for bride and YHWH as the new and curiously eager husband.
We have already seen that the Prophet invokes a Universalist theology in the anointing of Cyrus as King although he is neither Davidic, or even Semitic. The gentilic innovation is sealed with the expanded call to “the gentiles” in 49:22.  The call is universal, to the “ends of the earth”: 45:22 “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”  He expands those who will bow down to Cyrus, to include all “men of stature”.  45:14.
In Chapter 54, the expansion is sealed with the invitation to all who have been created to come to a visionary wedding: “For thy Maker is thy husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is thy Redeemer, the God of the whole earth shall He be called.”  After all, what does “there is no God else beside me” really mean?  JHVH is inviting everyone who wants to be the “Bride” to come to the wedding.   
And like any good Wedding, the food is free.  Isa. 55:1 “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye for water, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”  Wistful songs have been written about sex and food for free, ever since.
Restoration of the Temple
            The defeat of the Babylonian Empire, and the relatively peaceful seizure of Babylon by Cyrus (Hebrew “Koresh” [Kūruš]) was no doubt the most significant event in the region. Cyrus had united the Medes and the Persians, defeated the Empire which had destroyed Jerusalem and ignited the Diaspora, and then established the largest Empire the world had seen. His armies perfected siege tactics against walled cities, using underground sappers and building earthworks to breach the walls.
The historical record corroborates the bold summons of Deutero Isaiah at the same time that Cyrus set free the captives and permitted people to rebuild their Temples.  The Book of Ezra narrates a story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus, in which Cyrus boastfully proclaims: "All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah."(Ezra 1:2
Cyrus was known as “Father”, was depicted with four faces, and four wings, and like many others in the region, was called “the Messiah”.  Interestingly, history has no record of what “religion” Cyrus himself used.  Some scholars who examine the archeological and epigraphical records have concluded from the record, and omissions, that he was a rationalist Universalist Unitarian. [30]  Surely it is no coincidence that Temple-building and new developments in religion began to flourish, along with prosperity and reduced conflict, under the Aechemid Empire. Tolerance turns out to be a key to prosperity.
Isaiah anoints Cyrus as King.  Although this appears to be unilateral and uncorroborated, it is also possible that Cyrus approved the content with the Jewish Babylonian communities.[31]  The Prophet elides theological concern over the lack of a Davidic monarch, and the substitution with a fire-worshiping king fresh from a stone-worshiping mating ritual in the Entemenaki, is a bold concession to pragmatism: Cyrus was King of the known world of the Two Rivers to the Levant. And the chief socio-political characteristic of the Persian period was the pluralism that enabled and encouraged Temple-building.[32]
This is consistent with the polemic against all “other gods” – and Marduk and Ishtar begin to fade from history. The Prophet elides theological concern over the lack of a “Davidic” monarch, and the substitution by a fire-worshiping king in a stone-worshiping mating ritual, turns out to have “opened a divine highway” leading back to the restoration of Israel and the Temple. King Cyrus permitted Temple ritual, but the rebuilding did not immediately take place.  Not until Darius needed to secure his supply lines to launch an attack on Egypt, did the Temple get rebuilt, with subsidies from the Empire.  
 In supporting his arguments, Deutero-Isaiah appealed to the forms, authorities, and themes of both gentile and Hebrew “tradition”.  He, or she, did so in often creative and always inspired ways.  For example, Isaiah 40-55 is filled with Creation and Exodus images which illustrate a powerful deity (Creator – 45:18) protecting those who rise up and escape from bondage (Exodus – 48:20ff).  He contrasts the empowering Creator who makes everything, with gods made by humans falling to the dirt.  This polemic ontology stands in stark contrast with the Babylonian court, and the massive Etemenanki over which Marduk and Ishtar presided.
Exodus themes invoke the promise of devastations suffered by the oppressor, showing the power of YHWH against the Pharaoh, used as an example of what an active deity will use to overcome the Babylonian captivity. The Prophet proclaims that those who flee from Chaldea--  “with a shout of joy, proclaim it” – will be led through the wilderness by JHVH and will not thirst, because “he made water flow for them from the rock”.  Isa. 48:20-21.
The redemption theme—the announcement that the period of punishment is over—is also grounded in Creation and Exodus, and recalls the familiar pattern of punishment-restoration. This “salvation” is new, as is a salvific caring deity described as a Father calling his sons and daughters back to the family home.  Isa. 43:6-7.  And finally, the Prophet invokes fertility and gustatory traditions -- an eager JHVH Husband preparing a wedding feast for the Bride of Zion.



Berquist, Jon L. Judaism in Persia’s Shadow: A Social and Historical Approach. Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock Pub., 2003.

Clifford, Richard J., ed. Wisdom Literature in Mesopotamia and Israel. Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 36. Atlanta: Soc. of Biblical Literature, 2007.

Cobb, John. Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976.

McKenzie, Steven L., and Stephen R. Haynes, eds. To Each Its Own Meaning; an Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application. Louisville,KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

Perdue, Leo G. The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2008.

Pritchard, James B., and Daniel E. Fleming, eds. The Ancient Near East; an Anthology of Texts and Pictures. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Sweeney, Marvin A. Tanak: A Theological and Critical Introduction to the Jewish Bible, 2011. http://www.librarything.com/work/12075940/edit/133767278.

[1] Sweeney, Tanak, 284: Referring to Chapters 40-55, “It is designed to convince its readers that YHWH is acting to restore Zion.”
[2] Ibid., 270.
[3] Pritchard and Fleming, The Ancient Near East, 275–283. For example, two stelae found in Harran, express prophetic gratitude and temple–building themes expressed by one who “heeded the words” which the king of all gods “had spoken to me and I saw (them come true)” at 276, “The Mother of Nabonidus”; at 278, “Nabonidus and his God,” the deity come to him in a dream to rebuild the Temple; at 282, “Cyrus” inscription, with textual and referential correpondences to Isaiah: e.g. 276 rewarded for rebuilding Temple, 283 Marduk searching for a righteous ruler found Cyrus, and note reference to Bel and Nebo, Isaiah 46:1.
[4] Perdue, The Sword and the Stylus, 145: The location in Babylonia provided the exiles with knowledge of Babylonian literature, “particularly significant in the prophetic literature” of Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and esp. Second Isaiah.
[5] McKenzie and Haynes, To Each Its Own Meaning, 58.
[6] Sweeney, Tanak, 285.
[7] 40:28 “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? His discernment is past searching out.”
[8] Sweeney, Tanak, 269.
[9] Ibid., 284.
[10] Ibid., 285.
[11] Ibid., 286.
[12] Clifford, Wisdom Literature in Mesopotamia and Israel, 55, citing copies of a wisdom text circulated in two recensions, one Babylonian, one Assyrian, and compared to the Hebrew composition of Qohelet.
[13] Berquist, Judaism in Persia’s Shadow, 41.
[14] Sweeney, Tanak, 287.
[15] Ibid., 288.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Perdue, The Sword and the Stylus, 146.
[18] Professor Sweeney, classroom lecture, 11/08/2016
[19] Pritchard and Fleming, The Ancient Near East, 275, the “Mother of Nabonidus,” helped build the Temple of Sin in Harran, and was rewarded with long life and wealth.  There is no evidence, however, that the King of Babylon took his mother’s advice.
[20] Classroom Handout, Timeline “Mesopotamia 3500 BCE – 636 CE, showing Assyrian, Babylonian and Achaemenid Empires.
[21] Perdue, The Sword and the Stylus, 145.
[22] Berquist, Judaism in Persia’s Shadow, 26.  Also, Professor Sweeney lecture, 11/08/2016.
[23] Pritchard and Fleming, The Ancient Near East, 275–281, especially at 277.
[24] Berquist, Judaism in Persia’s Shadow, 24.The Edict of Cyrus accords with decrees encouraging return of religious objects and people to their homelands.
[25] Ibid., 140–141. Cyrus’ successor Darius actually funded the building and maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem, which attracted people and more stratified wealth.
[26] Unitarian Universalist symbols and flaming chalices have been found in Cave Painting sites, for example in Chauvet, and in the world's oldest hewn stone settlement structures in Gobekli Tepe. Of course.
[27] Sweeney, Tanak, 286.
[28] Pritchard and Fleming, The Ancient Near East, Plate 189.
[29] Cobb, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition.
[30] Berquist, Judaism in Persia’s Shadow, 31. “Cyrus seems to have accepted almost any religion at all within his empire,” and pointing out that "Isaiah 40-55 remains exclusivistically Yahwist."  Some commentators take Deutero himself as a “Prophet of Universalism,” citing Blenkinsopp.FN 22 cites.
[31] Ibid., 30–31. Citing Dandamaev in Note 20, page 43.
[32] Ibid., 182.