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863
ISAIAH


prophecies (chaps. xxix.-xxxiii.) point in the main to Sennacherib's invasion, 701 B.c., which evidently stirred Isaiah's deepest feelings and was the occasion of some of his greatest prophecies. It is, however, the vengeance taken by Sargon upon Ashdod (71 1) which seems to be preserved in chap. xx., and the striking little prophecy in xxi. 1-ro, sometimes referred of late to a supposed invasion of judah by Sargon, rather belongs to some one of the many prophetic personages who wrote, but did not speak like the greater prophets, during and after the Exile. It is also an opinion largely held that the prophetic epilogue in xvi. 13, 14, was attached by Isaiah to an oracle on archaic style by another prophet (Isaiah's hand has, however, been traced by some in xvi. 411, 5). In fact no progress can be expected in the accurate study of the prophets until the editorial activity both of the great prophets themselves and of their more reflective and studious successors is fully recognized.

Thus there were two great political events (the Syro-Israelitish invasion under Ahaz, and the great Assyrian invasion of Sennacherib) which called forth the spiritual and oratorical faculties of our prophet, and quickened his faculty of insight into the future. The Sennacherib prophecies must be taken in Connexion with the historical appendix, chaps. xxxvi.-xxxix. The beauty and incisiveness of the poetic prophecy in xxxvii. 21-32 have, by some critics, been regarded as evidence for its authenticity. This, however, is, on critical grounds, most questionable. A special reference seems needed at this point to the oracle on Egypt, chap. xix. The comparative feebleness of the style has led to the conjecture that, even if the basis of the prophecy be Isaianic, yet in its present form it must have undergone the manipulation of a scribe. More probably, however, it belongs to the early Persian period. It should be added that the Isaianic origin of the appendix in xix. I8-24 is, if possible, even more doubtful, because of the precise, circumstantial details of the prophecy which are not like Isaiah's work. It is plausible to regard v. 18 as a fictitious prophecy in the interests of Onias, the founder of the rival Egyptian temple to Yahweh at Leontopolis in the name of Heliopolis (Josephus, Ant. xii. 9, 7). III. Disintegralion Theories.-We must now enter more fully into the question whether the whole of the so-called Book of Isaiah was really written by that prophet. The question relates, at any rate, to xiii.-xiv. 23, xxi. 1-ro, xxiv.-xxvii., xxxiv., xxxv. and xl.-lxvi. The father of the controversy may be said to be the Jewish rabbi, Aben Ezra, who died /.D. 1167. We need not, however, spend much time on the well-worn but inconclusive arguments of the older critics. The existence of a tradition in the last three centuries before Christ as to the authorship of any book is (to those acquainted with the habits of thought of that age) of but little critical moment; the Séphefim, i.e. students of Scripture, in those times were simply anxious for the authority of the Scriptures, not for the ascertainment of their precise historical origin. It was of the utmost importance to declare that (especially) Isaiah xl.-lxvi. was a prophetic work of the highest order; this was reason sufficient (apart from any presumed phraseological affinities in xl.-lxvi.) for ascribing them to the royal prophet Isaiah. When the view had once obtained currency, it would naturally become a tradition. The question of the Isaianic or non-Isaianic origin of the disputed prophecies (especially xl.-lxvi.) must be decided on grounds of exegesis alone. It matters little, therefore, when the older critics appeal to Ezra i. 2 (interpreted by Josephus, Ant. xi. 1, I-2), to the Septuagint version of the book (produced between 260 and 130 B.C.), in which the disputed prophecies are already found, and to the Greek translation of the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, which distinctly refers to Isaiah as the comforter of those that mourned in Zion (Eccles. xlviii. 24, 25).

The fault of the controversialists on both sides has been that each party has only seen “ one side of the shield.” It will be admitted by philological students that the exegetical data supplied by (at any rate) Isa. xl.-lxvi. are conflicting, and therefore susceptible of no simple solution. This remark applies, it is true, chiefly to the portion which begins at lii. 13. The earlier part of Isa. xl.-lxvi. admits of a perfectly consistent interpretation from first to last. There is nothing in it to indicate that the author's standing-point is earlier than the Babylonian captivity. His object is (as most scholars, probably, believe) to warn, stimulate or console the captive Jews, some full believers, some semi-believers, some unbelievers or idolaters. The development of the prophet's message is full of contrasts and surprises: the vanity of the idol-gods and the omnipotence of Israel's helper, the sinfulness and infirmity of Israel and her high spiritual destiny, and the selection (so offensive to patriotic Jews, xlv. 9, ro) of the heathen Cyrus as the instrument of Yahweh's purposes, as in fact his Messiah or Anointed One (xlv. 1), are brought successively before us. Hence the semi-dramatic character of the style. Already in the opening passage mysterious voices are heard crying, “ Comfort ye, comfort ye my people ”; the plural indicates that there were other prophets among the exiles besides the author of Isa. xl.-xlviii. Then the Jews and the Asiatic nations in general are introduced trembling at the imminent downfall of the Babylonian empire. The former are reasoned with and exhorted to believe; the latter are contemptuously silenced by an exhibition of the futility of their religion. Then another mysterious form appears on the scene, bearing the honourable title of “ Servant of Yahweh, ” through whom God's gracious purposes for Israel and the world are to be realized. The cycle of poetic passages on the character and work of this “ Servant, ” or commissioned agent of the Most High, may have formed originally a separate collation which was somewhat later inserted in the Prophecy of Restoration (i.e. chaps. xl.-xlviii., and its appendix chaps. xlix.-lv.).

The new section which begins at chap. xlix. is written in much the same delightfully flowing style. We are still among the exiles at the close of the captivity, or, as others think, amidst a poor community in Jerusalem, whose members have now been dispersed among the Gentiles. The latter view is not so strange as it may at first appear, for the new book has this peculiarity, that Babylon and Cyrus are not mentioned in it at all. [True, there was not so much said about Babylon as we should have expected even in the first book; the paucity of references to the local characteristics of Babylonia is in fact one of the negative arguments urged by older scholars in favour of the Isaianic origin of the prophecy.] Israel himself, with all his inconsistent qualities, becomes the absorbing subject of the prophet's meditations. The section opens with a soliloquy of the “ Servant of Yahweh, ” which leads on to a glorious comforting discourse, “ Can a woman forget her sucking child, ” &c. (xlix. 1, comp. li. 12, 13). Then his tone rises, Terusalem can and must be redeemed; he even seems to see the great divine act in process of accomplishment. Is it possible, one cannot help asking, that the abrupt description of the strange fortunes of the “ Servant ” -by this time entirely personalized-was written to follow chap. lii. 1-12?

The whole difficulty seems to arise from the long prevalent assumption that chaps. xl.-lxvi. form a whole in themselves. Natural as the feeling against disintegration may be, the difficulties in the way of admitting the unity of chaps. xl.-lxvi. are insurmountable. Even if, by a boldvassumption, we grant the unity of authorship, it is plain upon the face of it that the chapters in question cannot have been composed at the same time or under the same circumstances; literary and artistic unity is wholly wanting. But once admit (as it is only reasonable to do) the extension of Jewish editorial activity to the prophetic books and all becomes clear. The record before us gives no information as to its origin. It is without a heading, and by its abrupt transitions, and honestly preserved variations of style, invites us to such a theory as we are now indicating. It is only the inveterate habit of reading Isa. xlix.-lxvi. as a part of a work relating to the close of the Exile that prevents us from seeing how inconsistent are the tone and details with this presupposition. The present article in its original form introduced here a survey of the portions of Isa. xl.-lxvi. which were plainly of Palestinian origin.

is now readily accessible elsewhere; in 188 I there was'an originality m this survey, which gave promise of a still more radical treatment

It is needless to reproduce this here, because the information