Reading Isaiah 40:1-11 In Light Of Isaiah 36-37 -- By: Matthew Seufert
JETS 58:2 (June 2015) p. 269
Reading Isaiah 40:1-11 In Light Of Isaiah 36-37
* Matthew Seufert is a Ph.D. candidate in OT at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
I. Introductory Matters
This paper proposes reading Isaiah 40:1-11 against the narrative of chapters 36-37: the Assyrian dispossession of the cities of Judah, threat on Jerusalem, and the Lord’s destruction of Assyria and salvation for Israel. This backdrop fills in many of the blanks of the passage and offers new possibilities for the obscurities of the text.
The difficulties of Isaiah 40:1-11 have been well documented.1 The recipients of the plural imperatives are anonymous (vv. 1-2; נחמו, דברו, and קראו); there are possibly four parties involved in the first stanza (God, the intermediary, those addressed, and those who shall be addressed), only two of which are specified (God and those who shall be addressed, namely, Jerusalem). The two voices of verses 3 and 6 are also anonymous. Jerusalem’s transformation from those in need of comfort in verse 1 to those who comfort in verses 9-10 is left without explanation. And the general historical ambiguity of the text has resulted in various proposals for its provenance. In light of these observations, it is no surprise to find a wide range of opinions regarding many aspects of the passage.
II. Isaiah 40:1-11 In Recent Scholarship
The majority of scholars believe this text to be non-Isaianic, the classic consensus being that the exilic Deutero-Isaiah is its author. As such, it is read as a prologue
JETS 58:2 (June 2015) p. 270
to chapters 40-55 and interpreted against the background of the Babylonian exile, some 150 years after the Hezekiah/Isaiah events recorded in chapters 36-39.2
An organic result of the Deutero-Isaiah thesis is the interpretation of Isa 40:1-11 as a divine call narration. Just as Isaiah entered into the divine council and received his prophetic mandate (Isaiah 6), so now Second-Isaiah receives his orders from God and his heavenly attendants to address the exiles.3
Click here to subscribe