New Observations On The Date Of Isaiah -- By: John H. Walton

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:2 (Jun 1985)
Article: New Observations On The Date Of Isaiah
Author: John H. Walton


New Observations On The Date Of Isaiah

John H. Walton*

In this paper my principal aim is to suggest a new piece of evidence relating to the long-stagnant discussion of the date of Isaiah. The segment of Isaiah from which this evidence comes is the historical interlude of chaps. 36–39. Chapters 36–37 present an account of Sennacherib’s 701-B.C. campaign during which Jerusalem was besieged. It includes Isaiah’s forecast of deliverance and an oracle of judgment against Sennacherib. Chapters 38–39 tell of Hezekiah’s illness, which was to be fatal but led instead to a fifteen-year extension of his life. The chapters then relate to an incident in which Hezekiah is visited by the envoys of Merodach-Baladan.

Concerning this material I have three observations to make.

1. The events in Isaiah 36–39 are not in chronological order. Hezekiah’s illness and recovery and the subsequent visit by the envoys actually preceded Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem. Though this reversal is commonly accepted, I would like to present briefly the historical reasoning that supports this proposition.

Sennacherib acceded to the throne of Assyria in 704 B.C. His accession was met by rebellion both in Babylon and among the western vassal states, including Judah. Sennacherib’s first campaign was against Merodach-Baladan, who had seized the throne of Babylon for the second time. This campaign occupied most of 703 and resulted in the defeat and ouster of the renegade Chaldean. Merodach-Baladan then fled to his home territory southeast of Babylon where, despite local support, he was defeated again in 700 B.C.1

In Isa 39:1 Merodach-Baladan is called the king of Babylon, yet 703 was the last year he held that title. Since Sennacherib made Babylon his first military target, no siege of Jerusalem could have come when Merodach-Baladan was still the king of Babylon. The western alliance against Assyria, of which Hezekiah was a key party, is suspected of being coordinated by Merodach-Baladan to coincide with his own rebellion, which may have been the purpose of the visit recorded in Isaiah 39.

A final point here is that Isa 38:6, when speaking of Hezekiah’s recovery, mentions that Jerusalem will be delivered from the hand of the king of Assyria—thus suggesting that the 701 siege is still future. We therefore would suggest that Hezekiah’s illne...

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