Isa 6:9-13 In The Context Of Isaiah’s Theology -- By: Craig A. Evans

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 29:2 (Jun 1986)
Article: Isa 6:9-13 In The Context Of Isaiah’s Theology
Author: Craig A. Evans

Isa 6:9-13 In The Context Of Isaiah’s Theology

Craig A. Evans*

For several reasons Isaiah 6 has not been an easy passage for interpreters. The nature of the prophet’s vision, the time when the vision took place in the prophet’s career, various textual and literary uncertainties, and the meaning and extent of the fate-laden message itself encompass most of the difficulties. Recent studies have challenged critical orthodoxy’s understanding of (First) Isaiah’s eschatology and have made it possible to view Isa 6:9–13 in a new light. The present study, therefore, will attempt to clarify the theological context of the prophet’s call and for the sake of discussion will limit itself to those oracles accepted as those of Isaiah (i.e., particularly chaps. 1–33) by critical orthodoxy.

I. The Problem Of Isaiah’s Eschatology

The first and (I believe) fundamental issue that must be addressed is that of Isaiah’s eschatology. It is agreed by all that (First) Isaiah’s oracles were chiefly words of doom, but what is debated is whether the prophet foresaw salvation. The problem has been examined most recently by J. Jensen.1 He has argued against G. Fohrer’s position that there is no future deliverance foreseen by Isaiah2 since the early prophets understood Israel as always facing a decision either for or against God.3 Jensen summarizes Fohrer’s interpretation of Isaiah (and the other early prophets) in terms of “alternatives (Entweder-Oder) which the prophet offers the people, never as successive stages (Vorher-Nachher).”4 This understanding of Isaiah’s eschatology leads Fohrer to eliminate as in-authentic most passages that might be understood as proclaiming future deliverance after the judgment, a practice Jensen judges to be arbitrary.5 Nevertheless, among those passages that Fohrer is prepared to accept there are several that contain an element of hope in a coming restoration. As the best

*Craig Evans chairs the department of religious studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia.

example Jensen cites 1:21–26, in which it would appear that Yahweh’s judgment is designed to purify the city of Jerusalem. The following verses illustrate the point well:

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