Isaiah Versus “The Gods”: A Case for Unity -- By: Robert Vasholz

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 42:2 (Spring 1980)
Article: Isaiah Versus “The Gods”: A Case for Unity
Author: Robert Vasholz

Isaiah Versus “The Gods”: A Case for Unity

Robert Vasholz

The message of the prophet in Isaiah 40–48 includes polemic. The chief object of the prophet’s attack is the foreign gods. The prophet is aggressive to the point of ridicule. In Isaiah 44:14ff the prophet speaks of the man who cuts down a Cypress, uses part to warm himself, part to cook his food, and the remainder to make a “detestable thing,” an idol. The idolator is a worshipper of an inanimate block of wood. So how deluded can one be? “Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles” (Isaiah 46:7b).

The prophet’s attack, however, more often takes on the form of a “trial speech.”1 “Present your case” says Yahweh the plaintiff to the (foreign) “gods,” the defendants (Isaiah 41:21). If they are true “gods,” they are called upon to defend themselves. They must prove their divinity. This can be accomplished by the god’s ability to speak of an historical act in advance. For Yahweh has already shown His military supremacy in the past over these adversaries. The answer to the field commander’s question: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the King of Assyria?” is, of course, No! (Isaiah 37:18ff). The gods of Hamath and Arpad, the gods of Sepharvaim could not deliver from the hand of the Assyrians. But the prophet’s God can and did just as He foretold (Isaiah 33–37). Now these “gods” (or ones like them) are called upon again, not to save their admirers, for they failed in this, but to predict events of things to come. The prophet thus intends to rob “the gods” of all credibility.

The emphasis of this kind of challenge cannot be denied.2

The prophet repeats it over and over again at the expense of the foreign gods. “Let them (the idols) tell us what is going to happen…Declare to us the things to come that we may know that you are gods” (Isaiah 41:21–23). “Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know, or beforehand, so we could say, He was right” (Isaiah 41:26). It certainly was not the gods for they are “empty wind” (Isaiah 41:29). Rather it was Yahweh who said, “here they ...

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