Isaiah’s Herald -- By: Matthew Seufert

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 77:2 (Fall 2015)
Article: Isaiah’s Herald
Author: Matthew Seufert


Isaiah’s Herald

Matthew Seufert

Matthew Seufert is a PhD candidate in Old Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

I. Introduction

Isaiah is well known for his use of the Servant figure, and many scholars have written on the topic. Far less attention, however, has been given to another of Isaiah’s figures. In 1974 Robert W. Fisher observed, “Little if any notice has been given to … the herald of good news” (מבשׂר/מבשׂרת).1 Nearly forty years have passed since Fisher’s observation and, besides the essay which Fisher himself wrote, little has changed. In this article I attempt to contribute to change with two primary objectives in mind: (1) to provide a robust picture of Isaiah’s Herald by exploring his various appearances and his important precursors, and (2) to show that Isaiah employs the image of the Herald as a theological leitmotif to witness to Yhwh’s victory in war and his ability to speak, exalting him above foreign gods and providing comfort for his people.

1. Terminology

The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines leitmotif as “a frequently repeated phrase, image, symbol, or situation in a literary work, the occurrence of which usually indicates or supports a theme.”2 The book of Isaiah repeats the Herald-image to support the themes of Yhwh’s word (its sureness and existence), Yhwh’s superiority, and the comfort of his people.3

2. Method

Since Isaiah’s Herald has largely been unexamined, I first set forth a few items of background information, which are simply intended to illumine the figure. I survey the meaning of the root בשׂר, from which Isaiah’s Herald

(מבשׂר/מבשׂרת) comes, both throughout the ancient Near East and in the OT. After a brief look at the main context in which the Herald appears in the OT, the central portion of the study consists of an examination of the pertinent texts in Isaiah. I end the article with brief conclusions and suggestions for further study.

II. The Root בשׂר

The root בשׂר means one of two things, either “to bring good news” or “to bring news.” The consensus of scholarship, ar...

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