Consolation Or Confrontation? Isaiah 40-55 And The Delay Of The New Exodus -- By: Rikki E. Watts

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:1 (NA 1990)
Article: Consolation Or Confrontation? Isaiah 40-55 And The Delay Of The New Exodus
Author: Rikki E. Watts

Consolation Or Confrontation? Isaiah 40-55 And The Delay Of The New Exodus

Rikki E. Watts

I. Introduction

For most of this century Isaianic scholarship has largely concerned itself with form-critical analyses of either ‘first’, ‘second’ or ‘third’ Isaiah. In the last decade or so, however, and while not necessarily repudiating the fruits of earlier scholarship, there has been an increasing interest in the compilational motives that gave rise to the present form of the book as a whole.1 This paper proceeds from an attempt to synthesize the findings of both of these endeavours.

While chapters 1–39 pronounce judgement upon the nation they are not without a future hope for a purified remnant. However, although the opening verses of 40:1ff imply the imminent fulfilment of this hope, chapters 56–66 make it clear that the reality of the return left much to be desired. How is this to be explained? I would suggest that this ‘contra- diction’ is to be understood in terms of the content and distribution of the forms of speech used throughout chapters 40–55. On this basis chapters 40–48 explain how servant Jacob-Israel’s2 persistent ‘blindness and deafness’ led her to reject Yahweh’s announcement of deliverance, primarily because of his choice of Cyrus. Chapters 49–55 then describe how Yahweh’s New Exodus plan, although postponed as suggested by the speech forms, will be realized through the agency of a new, faithful and suffering servant ‘Israel’ who will deliver Jacob-Israel and execute Yahweh’s plan for the nations. Chapters 56–66 then

suggest a post-exilic setting where disappointment with the return is beginning to be felt but where nevertheless Yahweh’s promises concerning Jerusalem-Zion are re-iterated.

II. Consolation In Isaiah 40-55

Although there has been some debate over the exact nature and form of the compositional unity of chapters 40–55,3 recent commentators have recognized their thematic congruence.4 The most universally recognized characteristic of these chapters is the great quantity of salvation words. The contrast to the preceding chapters is such ...

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