Isaiah's Political Message
An Appraisal of His Alleged Social Critique

By Olaf Backersten
September 2008
J.C.B. Mohr
ISBN: 9783161496370
231 pages
$110.00 Paper Original

Scholars have traditionally identified two fundamental, and somewhat separate, discourses in Isaiah 1-39. In what might be labelled the social-critical discourse, we supposedly encounter a prophet who condemns the Jerusalemite elite for their complacent attitudes and decadent life-style in general, and for their more or less systematic oppression of the less fortunate in particular. This lack of social justice, Isaiah emphasises, will indeed be punished by YHWH. In the discourse that might preferably be labelled foreign-political, scholars have found that the prophet repeatedly discourages Judahite participation in anti-Assyrian rebellions, since such strategies are offensive to YHWH and their plans will therefore come to nothing.

Olof Bäckersten presents an attempt to question the existence of a social-critical discourse in Isaiah 1-39. He argues that the texts that have been proffered as proofs for such a discourse relate instead, with surprisingly few although notable exceptions, to the critique of Judah's anti-Assyrian policy. The result of this investigation has implications for our understanding of the book of Isaiah as a whole. A social-critical emphasis can only be detected in Isaiah 1 and Isaiah 56-66, whereas Isaiah 2-39(55) provides variations on a foreign-political theme in the sense that the focus falls on the relationship between nations in general and Judah's position on the international arena in particular.

Series: Forschungen zum Alten Testament Series 2. No. 29

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